Merger panel member floats school plan with Weston Select Board

By Bruce Frauman
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Deb Lyneis, Weston representative to the Northshire Merger Study Committee, attended the Sept. 27 Weston Select Board meeting to seek advice on the committee’s Act 46 deliberations.

Deb Lyneis

Act 46 study committee member Deb Lyneis enters the Weston Select Board meeting to seek members’ views on school governance and consolidation. Photos by Bruce Frauman

Lyneis told the board that the committee is ready to “recommend a merger of our four towns of Londonderry, Landgrave, Peru and Weston with Manchester, Dorset, Sunderland, Mount Tabor and Danby.” All nine towns have grades 9-12 school choice. “We would be one district with one tax base, one budget and one school board” to form a new Regional Educational District.

The question for the Select Board was whether this new RED, as yet unnamed, should stay in the current Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, centered in Manchester, and “be 60 percent” of the BRSU along with the towns of Rupert, Pawlet, Winhall and Arlington or form a new supervisory union.

Lyneis said, “By law a supervisory union is headed by the superintendent and is responsible for all special education staffing and costs, all curriculum development, all transportation, all professional development, all business management.”

Lyneis added that a new Supervisory District just for the new RED would cost an additional $500,000 per year “in a budget of about $4.5 million” that would include new positions for a transportation coordinator and an instructional coach for teachers. “The advantage to that would be you would have a superintendent that is focused just on your issues.” The extra $500,000 would translate to about $0.032 increase on the tax rate.

Staying in the BRSU might slightly decrease the tax rate. Lyneis said the Merger Committee “did not see much effect on the kids one way or another.”

Board members Charles Goodwin, Annie Fuji’i and Jim Linville supported the plan for the new RED to stay in the BRSU. Board member Bruce Downer did not “condemn one or the other” plan because, “I am worried about entering a larger group without knowledge of actual benefits.”

The Merger Committee did not vote on the issue at its Sept. 29 meeting at Flood Brook Union School.

Annie Fuji'i Downer in foreground

Board member Annie Fuji’i speaking about the planning commission’s plans for the energy chapter of the town plan.

The Planning Commission has voted to send a new town plan to the Select Board for approval. Town Administrator Cheryl Barker has warned a public hearing to discuss the town plan for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 at at the Town Office. Goodwin noted that “the changes are minimal.”

Fuji’i expressed concern that the plan does not comply with new legislation that “if a town incorporates within their plan statements about large scale energy sitings, then the town will have more say vis a vis the Public Service Board.”

Fuji’i, who attended the most recent Planning Commission meeting, said that the legislation was passed after the plan was substantially finished and “we have to move forward… but in the future we can adjust this plan.” At that Planning Commission meeting, commission member David Reuss said they would work on the renewable section later.

Goodwin noted in the Select Board meeting that the ridges in Weston are too low for wind noting that if there are any projects, they would likely be solar. At Linville’s suggestion, the board will address the potential amendment to the town plan at its Oct. 25 meeting.

On May 10, 2016, the board approved a motion by chair Denis Benson to reduce the minutes to attendees, motions and votes with a description of discussion only as approved by the board. Barker admitted that she “never carried through with that,” but instead added some context to each motion.

Board members agreed with Fuji’i that “the summary accurately reflects what the actual discussion was,” so agreed to let the trial period of the motion to have limited minutes pass without an extension.

The board closed the meeting by going into executive session for the evaluation of a public official or employee. No actions were taken as a result of the session.

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