New Two Rivers SU readies to move to Fletcher Farm House

By Cynthia Prairie

The new Two Rivers Supervisory Union will begin operating this summer out of buildings at Fletcher Farm, 611 Vt. Route 103 in Ludlow. The new consolidated school union will be taking over the two-story, 3,360-square-foot Fletcher Farm House, which was renovated in 2007, and 800-square-feet of space in the Roost, one of two motel units on the property.

The Fletcher Farm House will be the new home of the new Two Rivers Supervisory Union. / Photo from Fletcher Foundation website.

The Fletcher Farm House will be the new home of the new Two Rivers Supervisory Union. / Photo from Fletcher Foundation website.

Business operations are set to begin in the new buildings on July 1.

The move from Chester was necessitated by the merger of the Windsor Southwest Supervisor Union with its neighbor to the north, the Rutland-Windsor Supervisory Union. In May of 2012, the Vermont State Board of Education had approved a proposal to merge the two supervisory unions, uniting the schools of Chester, Andover, Baltimore and Cavendish with those of Ludlow, Mt. Holly and Plymouth starting July 1, 2013. The new SU will serve about 1,050 students, about 10 percent more than under the previous union.

Several Windsor Southwest towns – Peru, Landgrove, Weston and Londonderry – became part of the Bennington Rutland SU.

Bruce Williams, the new superintendent for Two Rivers, said the Farm House will accommodate a staff of 11 including the superintendent, the associate superintendent, business personnel, administrative assistants and human resources. Williams, who has a 40-year career in education in Vermont and New Hampshire, had been superintendent of Rutland-Windsor SU.

At Fletcher Farm, the Roost is being gutted and renovated for an office conference room and the technology department, Williams said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that the cost of that renovation will be “a bit more than $50,000.”

This logo was created by students at Black River High School. On the cover, the logo created by Green Mountain Union High students.

This logo for the new supervisory union was created by students at Black River High School. On the cover, the logo created by Green Mountain Union High students.

However, the SU won’t absorb the complete cost of the Roost renovation. The SU lease is $1,500 per month for the Farm House and $500 per month for the Roost with a five-year, $300-per month “renovation charger,” according to Williams. That amounts to $18,000 that the SU will pay to further the Roost renovation.

Williams said, “The primary change is wiring for technology in the Farm House,” which he called “in excellent shape” from the 2007 renovation that included new floors and insulation.

To help with the consolidation, the state gave the SU $150,000. “It’s not gone, luckily,” Williams said, adding, “There are a lot of demands on it.” Some of those funds, he said, will go to wiring the Farm House. Also, “We’ll have to do a division of space,” which will mean hiring an office planner. Williams said there will likely be other consulting fees, and “the move itself – there will be costs associated with that” as well as “merging of data across schools” and “plenty of other smaller categories.”

While earlier reports had put the consolidation savings at $500,000, Williams said that number was off. “The savings are translated through the local budgets, so when you add those up school district by school district, you’ll get a savings of over $300,000” annually. He added that it “would be fair to say that the real savings is projected to be around $400,000 (but) we are concerned about the number of cuts at the supervisory union level” during the first year of consolidation, “so the savings will be around $330,000.”

Williams added, “We are going to do everything we can to be as fiscally conservative as possible on the SU level.”

Sharon Bixby, secretary for Fletcher Farm Foundation board, said that the foundation had been looking for a non-profit tenant for the Farm House since its renovation and the SU fit nicely with its education mission. “It’s a lovely building for them to have and it will unify both communities,” Bixby added.

You can take a virtual tour of the Farm House here.

The move will mean more than just combining supervisory offices. According to a Two Rivers press release, the old SUs have to be dissolved in a legal manner, a new website has been launched internally for testing, a unified technology plan is being developed and a common student communications system is being built. Students also created two logos for the new SU, curriculums are also being assessed and professional and staff development is being consolidated, among other work.

The final meeting of the Two Rivers SU transition board will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20 at the Fletcher Farm Dining Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Your point is a good one. We will try to find out. In the meantime, if any reader knows, please comment!

  2. anonymous says:

    What is going to happen to the former SU building in Chester? It can’t be good for the local economy to lose that many professionals. Sounds like the rosey picture sold to us at the time of the consolodation decision failed to consider a few cost aspects.