GM board adds new twist to transition fund flap Powden again recommends nursing cut; board says no

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The saga of the Act 46 transition fund grant took an unexpected turn at Tuesday night’s Green Mountain Unified School District meeting as one member asserted that splitting the funds between TRSU’s two districts was not justified because all the funds belong to Green Mountain. And the issue of cutting back on school nurses was revived — and rejected.

Board member Joe Fromberger explains his analysis of the transition fund grant. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

As the discussion of what to do with the remainder of a $150,000 grant that was an incentive in the Act 46 process aimed at covering transition expenses began, Joe Fromberger of Andover produced an email from Brad James of the Agency of Education saying that GMUSD had qualified for the grant, but the Ludlow-Mt. Holly Unified Union School District had not.

James, who serves as education finance manager for the AOE, wrote that GMUSD qualified for tax rate adjustments based on the six districts that merged to form it and it was eligible for the $150,000 transition grant. The merger of three districts into one to form the Ludlow-Mt. Holly district did not qualify for tax incentives unless it was formed as a side-by-side with the GM district.

Thus, as James wrote to Fromberger, “while that allowed the Ludlow-Mt. Holly UUSD to receive the rate adjustments, there was not another (net) $150,000 transition grant available since only one is allowed per side-by-side.”

Fromberger asked the SU for a detailed accounting of the money spent so far before the board decides how to spend the remainder. Superintendent Meg Powden who, for several months, has been proposing ways for the Two Rivers Supervisory Union to spend the money — and has already spent about $25,000 without approval of any board — again brought out a portion of Act 156 that she says justifies the SU spending the money on behalf of the districts. In a TRSU hand out, Powden asserts that there is $90,000 remaining.

Board member Doug McBride of Cavendish, attending by speaker phone, agreed with Fromberger’s take on the issue.

“I support Joe in this having reached a similar conclusion,” said McBride. “The (GM) district gets the $150,000 full stop.”

Tabling the discussion, board chair Marilyn Mahusky said that Powden should confer with legal counsel for an opinion and get an accounting of spending to date.

Board member Kate Lamphere of Cavendish raised the question of conflict of interest if the lawyer consulted represents both districts within the TRSU. Powden did not think that would be a problem.

Nursing cuts revisited

With the retirement of the part-time nurse at Cavendish Elementary and the resignation of the full-time nurse at Chester-Andover, Powden returned to the idea of reducing nursing staffs, which she had proposed and which the board rejected during the last budgeting cycle.

Superintendent Meg Powden explains that she has always recommended two rather than three nurses for the three GMUSD schools.

Last spring, the board approved having two full-time registered nurses for CAES and Green Mountain and a half-time licensed practical nurse at Cavendish. Last night, Powden asked the board to approve two full-time RNs for the three schools and training for school staff to handle medical issues in the absence of a nurse.

Citing meetings with state nursing authorities, she noted that the standard is one nurse for every 500 students. Powden said the three schools have a total of 640 students, but Lamphere asked if that took into account factors such as travel between schools.

Mahusky asked which nurses would be in which schools and when. Powden said that would be up to the lead nurse to determine based on the needs of the schools

Lamphere asked what had changed since the board approved the budget with two RNs and one half-time LPN.

“I always recommended two RNs,” said Powden, adding that the board could ask the three principals  at the meeting for their opinions on the issue.

CAES Principal Katherine Fogg told the board that the change made her nervous especially since the student body at CAES is increasing. Fogg suggested sticking with the board’s original decision for the year and evaluate how it works.

Lamphere said she was afraid that Cavendish would get the least time from the proposed RNs. Powden replied that coverage would be based on medical needs so if Cavendish was to have more medically challenged students in the future, it would get more attention.

The three GMUSD principals, from left,  Lauren Fierman, Debra Beaupre and Katherine Fogg express their concerns with the nurse staffing change.

CTES Principal Debra Beaupre said her staff would cope with whatever was needed, but if medical issues came up when no nurse was present, either she or the school secretary would fill in. “In my school that means nobody is looking at the door.”

And GM Principal Lauren Fierman said that while two nurses seems adequate for 600 students, “it would make me more comfortable to have three.”

Board member Deb Brown said she agreed and favored going with the approved model.

In the end, the board came to a consensus to stick with the three-nurse model. And it also voted to hire registered nurse Beth Randolph contingent on her interview with Powden and to look for an LPN.

Audit committee proposed

McBride suggested that – as is standard on most boards – an audit committee be established to thoroughly read and understand the annual audit and to meet with the outside audit firm to discuss audit issues and report to the board. He said that was a basic responsibility of the board. Mahusky suggested taking up the topic when the board looks at committee assignments at next month’s meeting.

The next meeting of the GMUSD board will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 at Green Mountain High, 716 VT-103 in Chester.

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