Pre-vote Act 46 discussion hits lots of topics at Andover meeting

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Andover School Board member Joseph Fromberger introduces the merger at Saturday’s meeting. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Just three days ahead of a vote on forming a Regional Education District — or RED — several members of the Andover community attending an information meeting at Andover Town Hall were more focused on Act 60 – the school funding statute – than on Act 46 – which sets out the rules and incentives for merging school districts.

Andover residents will vote on the proposed merger on Tuesday, May 2 at Andover Town Hall, 953 Weston-Andover Road, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Before Alison DesLauriers, a member of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee, had gone very far with a PowerPoint presentation that included a table of prospective tax rates resulting from the merger, Andover resident Gordon Payne said that the numbers were meaningless and that the thing to focus on was how much more Andover sends to the state education fund than it receives.

Payne also said that the vote would effectively eliminate town districts by relinquishing the town’s authority  to create a school.

According to Payne, this and several other aspects of the education statutes are unconstitutional. Andover School Board and Act 46 Study Committee member Joseph Fromberger asked Payne if he wanted the town to take on the expense of challenging Act 60 in the courts.  Payne said he did not and advocated for voting no and going back to the drawing board.

Andover resident Gordon Payne complains about the way Vermont schools are funded.

Payne’s comments also ranged from dissatisfaction with town school board representation based on population rather than the amount of education taxes a town pays to pre-school destroying families.

Andover resident Ray Mikul said that the place to challenge Act 60 is in the legislature and the courts and that what they were talking about was the merger. Mikul said that he believed there would be savings from the merger and that he was in favor of it.

Asked about Green Mountain Union High School’s low ranking in standardized tests, DesLauriers said that those tests have their faults including having questions about subjects like astronomy, which the high school does not offer.

Act 46 Study Committee member Alison DesLauriers explains the complexities of Act 46.

Responding to DesLauriers’ assertion that centralizing the transportation function would result in savings for the district, Andover resident Savannah Gramling asked that the transportation system be improved. She told the meeting her three children — ages 5,6 and 7  —  are the first kids on the bus in the morning and the last ones off at night.

“They have to be up at 5:30 to have breakfast before they’re picked up at 6:35,” said Gramling. “and they are on the bus until 7:30 (a.m.). They’ve been spit on and assaulted. I’m not blaming the bus drivers, they have to drive the bus, but they’re on the bus with high schoolers. Sometimes I wonder should I buy a Suburban and take all the Andover kids to school?”

Chester-Andover Elementary board chair Marilyn Mahusky said she had not heard this complaint, but took Gramling’s contact information.

Green Mountain High School board member Hank Mauti questioned the large increases in the Supervisory Union budget, saying that it was $1 million before TRSU was created and now it’s $6.5 million. DesLauriers reminded Mauti that the state had required that several large expense items be transferred from the district budgets to the SU budget. These include transportation, food service and special education.

Mauti lamented the lack of a public vote on the SU budget saying, “They do what they want.”

“You’ve been on the SU board, going through the budget,” replied DesLauriers, “and you have yet to vote no on it.”

As the meeting drew to a close Fromberger cautioned the audience about voting no to send a message. “If we do nothing, the state comes in and re-draws our boundaries and you go with whoever the state says you do,” he said.

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About the Author: Shawn Cunningham has written a number of subjects -- from food and wine to film, history, politics, zoning and development -- for the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, Museum News, The Westsider, The Chelsea/Clinton News, Menckeniana, Films in Review and the East Village Eye.

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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    If you don’t like Act 60, go see your state legislators. Don’t bog down public information meetings with subjects only tangentially related. It turns 15 minute meetings into 75 minute meetings, and is discourteous to other residents who attended the meeting to get information on the subject at hand.

  2. Stuart Lindberg says:

    As the meeting drew to a close Fromberger cautioned the audience about voting no to send a message. “If we do nothing, the state comes in and re-draws our boundaries and you go with whoever the state says you do,” he said.

    If the state had the authority to redraw our school boundaries, they would have done it already. Sending a message to the legislature and governor is exactly what needs to happen. We are citizens with rights, not subjects of a King to do as we are told.

  3. Susan Leader says:

    I hope Ludlow votes “No” to outsourcing its youth to Mill River in Clarendon every day, even if this is a logical decision for Mt Holly.

    Andover/Ludlow/Cavendish/Chester have the makings of a compatible, geographically logical new unified school district. I suggest a return to the drafting table and creating this as reality.

    If Baltimore votes to join in, that is great, although I see the eastern end of Baltimore, at least, as more logically orienting toward North Springfield. In addition, there are dozens of uncounted home schooled students in our 4 to 5 town area, and likely dozens more who might choose to move here given the right incentives.

    I see the home-school population as equivalent to at least one additional “invisible” town that we should be working to attract. Given the per head “bounty” our school budget receives, I propose that our schools invest in a professional homeschooler outreach staff that would support the right to homeschool by offering individualized mentorship and curriculum development support and draw these additional families into some sort of strong partnership with our local schools.

    Such a program could easily pay for itself financially while simultaneously enriching all parties involved.