GM board splits, but hires interim CTES principal 2 of 3 Cavendish reps vote no; board sends new budget to voters

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With two of three Cavendish members voting “no,” the Green Mountain Unified School District board voted on Tuesday night to hire Madeline Carlock — the sole remaining candidate — for the position of interim principal of Cavendish Town Elementary School.

Upwards of 30 people attended the GMUSD meeting on Tuesday night. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Also on the agenda was the consideration of a new budget to send to the voters who defeated their last spending plan on Town Meeting Day in March.

With a large audience in attendance, board chair Marilyn Mahusky told the meeting that with the time for public comment would be limited to 15 minutes, and opened the floor.

Cavendish resident Chris Marks asked for confirmation that one of the two candidates had dropped. Superintendent Meg Powden said that Joseph Smith had indeed pulled out.

Marks said he would be an advocate for re-opening the search for a permanent rather than temporary principal for CTES.

“It’s in the interest of the school to have a long-term principal,” said Marks who felt that Carlock was not the first choice of many Cavendish residents. “It would be a shame to settle.”

“Vermont Academy is coming off a year with an interim administrator and an interim is not vested in the long-term interest of the school,” said Marks who identified himself as a VA employee.

Cavendish parent Chris Marks asks to reopen the search for a permanent principal saying. ‘It would be a shame to settle.’

Sara Stowell called the administration’s decision to continue to look for an interim principal an “injustice” in the face of repeated requests from Cavendish residents to keep the job permanent. Stowell, a Cavendish resident, also pointed to issues of transparency that made it difficult to keep up with the issues, including multiple changes in Tuesday meeting’s agenda with no final draft on any of the school system’s websites. If that were the case, there would be a question of whether the meeting was invalid due to insufficient warning.

Before the board entered executive session, several members of the principal search committee asked to be included, not to be part of the deliberations, but to provide information on the process. Board member Kate Lamphere, who served on the search committee, supported the request, noting that the committee had made no recommendation.

“But you chose two finalists,” said Meg Powden, superintendent of Two Rivers Supervisory Union, which oversees GMUSD and the new Mt. Holly-Ludlow district.

“That’s a stretch,” said Lamphere.

“Why did you call them finalists?” asked Powden.

“We didn’t,” replied Lamphere.

Board member Kate Lamphere, left, told the panel that the search committee should be heard. Board chair Marilyn Mahusky, center, ruled that there were two board members on the committee to represent its work.

Members of the search committee felt that their role had been limited and that they had not been asked to make a recommendation or even to look at the public comment sheets collected from the well-attended public meeting with the candidates held on April 11.

“It’s important to hear from the committee,” said Lamphere. But Powden noted that Lamphere and board member Jeff Hance had been on the committee and could represent its work.

The board and Powden entered executive session – without other search committee members – just before 7:30 to interview Carlock who left the meeting at 8 p.m. Deliberations began after a short break and ended just before 10 p.m.

Returning to an open session with five audience members still present, Andover representative Joe Fromberger moved that the board hire Carlock as interim principal for the next school year starting July 1 at a salary of $80,000. Cavendish representative Fred Marin seconded the motion and the board voted 5 to 3 in favor. Cavendish representatives Lamphere and Doug McBride were joined by Chester representative Michael Studin in voting no. Two members were absent and one member did not vote.

After re-jiggering, another cut at a budget

Normally the vote on a second try after a budget is rejected by the voters would rate top billing, but last week the board had received a new spending plan that took into account several things the board wanted to see. The board then swapped a full-time “math interventionist” split between the elementary schools in favor of a full-time grade 3 or 4 teacher in Chester. It also nixed a part-time “transition coach” (to acclimate Black River students heading to Green Mountain High) for a part-time math interventionist for Cavendish.

The board also eliminated the “teaching dean” position from CAES, but added a full-time person to help with “student issues.” And it got the ball rolling —  albeit slowly — on adding foreign language in the elementary schools (equivalent to one day a week) and a STEAM program (equivalent to two days a week) for the district. STEAM is focused science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Much discussion revolved on whether the “reduction in force” notices sent to Title I teachers meant there would be no reading specialists or whether their hours would be cut next year. The notices, which – by contractual agreement – have to be sent out by March 15, tell teachers that they may not have a job in the upcoming school year due to cuts in federal Title I funding. Teachers might also face a reduction in their status from full time to part time. Title I is a program to help underprivileged children meet academic standards.

Superintendent Meg Powden and Assistant to the Business Manager Cheryl Hammond present the finalized numbers.

After a long explanation, Powden said that Linda Waite – who works with the federal grant program at the supervisory union – had made a “best estimate” of what the cuts would be and that had been factored into the budget to keep the teachers on full time. However, she said that if the cuts were deeper than anticipated, the supervisory union would return to the board. The SU should know by July.

Endorsing the budget on April 10, the board decided to wait on approving it until it saw what came out of a meeting of the full TRSU board intended to cut the SU budget on April 12. That session saw $88,000 in cuts which – when split with the Ludlow Mt. Holly district – translated to an additional $58,000 in savings for the GMUSD budget, bringing it in at $12,532,143 or $15,637 per pupil. By comparison, the budget voted on in March was $12,547,513 or $15,659 per pupil.  You can see the new version of the budget here.

In the end, the $15,370 savings from the first budget to the second is less than the cost of educating one pupil.

The board approved a warning for a vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 22 with an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16 in the Green Mountain Union High School auditorium.

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  1. Stuart Lindberg says:

    Every supervisory union in Vermont could float down the Connecticut River and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Vermonters would see an immediate positive outcome from such an event. We all would have a lot more money and student achievement would improve dramatically.

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