New, consolidated supervisory union may be on horizon

by Rebecca Salem

Proposed combined supervisory union organizational chart. Click to enlarge.

In an effort to streamline operations to cut education costs by reducing the number of supervisory unions, the Rutland Windsor and Windsor Southwest supervisory unions have recommended merging.

A new SU would include the WSWSU towns of Chester, Andover, Baltimore and Cavendish and RWSU towns of Ludlow, Mt. Holly and Plymouth. The WSWSU towns of Peru, Landgrove, Weston and Londonderry recently voted to regroup into the Bennington Rutland SU.

According to Phillisa Jones-Prescott, a member of the WSWSU board, the merger was inspired by a desire to combine resources and by Act 153, which the state passed in 2010. It encourages supervisory unions and school districts to consolidate services at the supervisory level, and has put many of the state’s local school boards and SUs in a state of transition as they examine how to reorganize.

Virginia Walsh Mack, director of Human Resources for the WSWSU, said the state Board of Education has not yet addressed the recommendation, which you can read here. When asked about potential staff reductions, Walsh stressed that “the new SU Board will decide what the new SU will look like.”

When that merger would take place is unknown. While there is no hard number of staff reductions that can easily be discerned from the recommendation documents, a proposed organizational chart suggests that a new SU would eliminate duplicated positions, including superintendent, assistant superintendent and business manager. The documents indicate that there are about 20 full-time positions currently employed by the two SUs, while about 17 full-time employees would work for a combined SU.

Although there were initial blocks, such as differences in software used by the two supervisory unions, Prescott saidthat the SUs approached the consolidation effort in a spirit of cooperation.

The proposed merger and its uncertain timeline are adding another level of complexity for WSWSU as it tries to navigate how to handle Superintendent David Adams’ resignation, effective June 30, 2012. Adams will become superintendent of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union. Mack said that WSWSU Chair Alison DesLauriers will be speaking to the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Education about the best way to handle the vacancy.

The committee issuing the recommendation estimated that the merger will yield a savings of almost $500,000 in staffing costs while providing increased learning opportunities for students from all of the districts as well as a more efficient use of technology. Board members hope this will facilitate easier communication and cooperation between the schools that could support transferring curriculums and program models, such as a middle school drama club or strategies for working with higher need students.

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About the Author: Rebecca Salem lives with her family in Chester. She is the director of development for the Windham Child Care Association and will be receiving her MFA from Bennington College in June 2013.

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