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Lebanon Pupil Left in Lurch

Teachers Vote to Pay Tuition, But Union Executives Say No

  • Lucien Vigneault, 8, plays in the sandbox during his after school program at the CCBA Witherell Recreation Center in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014.<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Lucien Vigneault, 8, plays in the sandbox during his after school program at the CCBA Witherell Recreation Center in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lucian Vigneault, 8, throws a paper airplane as his father, Edmund Vigneault puts away his backpack after picking him up from his after school program at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Lucian Vigneault, 8, throws a paper airplane as his father, Edmund Vigneault puts away his backpack after picking him up from his after school program at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lucien Vigneault plays in the pool at the CCBA's Witherell Recreation Center during the CCBA after school program in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Lucien Vigneault plays in the pool at the CCBA's Witherell Recreation Center during the CCBA after school program in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lucien Vigneault, 8, plays in the sandbox during his after school program at the CCBA Witherell Recreation Center in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014.<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Lucian Vigneault, 8, throws a paper airplane as his father, Edmund Vigneault puts away his backpack after picking him up from his after school program at the CCBA in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Lucien Vigneault plays in the pool at the CCBA's Witherell Recreation Center during the CCBA after school program in Lebanon, N.H., on April 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Lebanon — The Windsor father of a Hanover Street School third-grader vowed to continue the push to keep the 8-year-old enrolled in Lebanon until the end of the school year, despite another setback after what had been a promising beginning on Thursday.

“He keeps asking me if he can go back (after today),” Edmund Vigneault of Windsor said of his son Lucian Vigneault on Thursday night. “I keep telling him that I’m fighting for him.”

On Thursday morning, the president of the Lebanon teachers union contacted Vigneault to tell him teachers were discussing how to help the family pay the $3,000 in the tuition the district is demanding for Lucian to stay enrolled.

Union members learned of the boy’s plight on Thursday after reading a Valley News article about the School Board’s decision on Wednesday to support the school superintendent’s decision to decline a tuition waiver for Lucian, which means the boy won’t be able to return when classes resume on April 21 following spring break.

By Thursday night, however, the union’s executive board had overruled a majority vote by the rank-and-file — conducted by e-mail — in favor of using money from the union budget to pay Lucien’s decision.

“The issue was of how we use our funding,” Lebanon Education Association President Andrew Gamble said Thursday night. “It would have been unprecedented. We didn’t think there was enough time to explore this issue properly. We need to look at our bylaws and have a serious discussion. … It didn’t help that people were trying to get grades in for the end of the term, plus we all taught all day. We were trying to use technology to communicate, but often you need to have face-to-face meetings, which just couldn’t happen today.”

Lebanon High School teacher Mike Anikis, who was involved in discussions about helping the family, said Thursday night that some teachers are considering contributing money privately.

“I wondered, ‘Well, why don’t we take up a collection, see if the board would match it or something,” Anikis said. “I would certainly pitch in some money, depending on whether any momentum gets created by this idea. It’s an idea; I don’t know how practical it is.”

Lucian and his younger brother have been living in Windsor with Vigneault, a 1998 graduate of Lebanon High School, since last October. Lucian continued to attend Hanover Street after the move, and the school district did not raise the residency or tuition issue with Vigneault until he gained full legal custody last month.

After several weeks of back and forth, during which the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union rejected a request from Lebanon Superintendent Gail Paludi to cover Lucian’s tuition, Paludi alerted Vigneault that based on school-district policy covering nonresident students, Lucian would have to withdraw from Hanover Street after today unless his father pays the tuition.

Vigneault said on Thursday that he will get on the agenda for the school board’s April 23 meeting to make a formal appeal of the policy, which concludes with this statement: “The provisions of this policy may be modified on a case-by-case basis, as needed, pursuant to separate contracts, agreements and other binding arrangements.”

School board Chairman Jeff Peavey said Thursday night that he had not heard about the union leadership’s decision. Earlier in the day, he had said it would be a relief to see the issue resolved without the boy having to pull up stakes with two months left in the school year.

“I feel bad for the child to begin with, but it was our policy,” Peavey said. “It was a tough position to be put in. For everybody.”

The family division of Vermont Superior Court in Windsor County granted Vigneault full custody of his sons on March 6, more than 2½ years after he and the boys’ mother agreed in court to share parental rights. According to the order from family court, the mother underwent “a serious mental health crisis” in October, prompting the move of the brothers to Vigneault’s home in Windsor.

The order allows the boys’ mother, Kayla Herrick, of Lebanon, some conditional visitation rights. On Thursday, Herrick told the Valley News that she plans to appeal the court order, on the grounds that the court failed to consider information she submitted to show that she is healthy enough to regain custody of the boys. She said she did not know about Vigneault’s request for a waiver of tuition until she read a story about it in Thursday’s newspaper.

Herrick added that she will be glad if Lucian could remain at Hanover Street until year’s end. When she and Lucian and his younger brother moved from Newport to Lebanon midway through the 2012-2013 school year, she said, “the transition went really well” for Lucian.

Vigneault recalled Lucian crying when he was first told that he might have to change schools again — he spent kindergarten and part of first grade in Windsor before moving to Newport. Vigneault said he was ready to shed a tear himself on Wednesday night, after the School Board declined to let him make his case for a waiver of the tuition.

And after Thursday’s roller-coaster of emotions?

“They just want me to crawl in a hole and disappear,” Vigneault said. “But it isn’t over. I’m not going to give up.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304