TRSU Act 46 merger committee approves four-town RED proposal

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Two Rivers Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee voted last night (Thursday, Feb. 23) to approve the subcommittee report that recommends the creation of a Regional Education District (RED) from Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester.  If approved by the Vermont Board of Education at its March 21 meeting, the proposal would be voted on by the four towns either on May 2 or May 9.

The new district would operate Cavendish Elementary, Chester-Andover Elementary and Green Mountain High School with one school board. Currently there are six elected boards that have a hand governing the education systems for the four towns.

All three of the “necessary” towns – Chester, Andover and Cavendish – have to vote for in favor of the RED for the proposal to go into effect. Baltimore is “advisable,” which means that a no vote in that town will not sink the plan but a yes vote would make that town part of the RED.

Consultant Steve Dale walks the committee through the Articles of Agreement. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Consultant Steve Dale walked the meeting through the articles of agreement, which lay out the terms under which the existing school districts will merge. In addition to the nuts and bolts language, they also contain a “grandfather” clause that allows any Baltimore student now enrolled in a school outside the proposed RED to continue with that school system (either as part of school choice or through tuitioning) until graduation. This was added as an inducement for Baltimore to come on board, and Dale said it was unusual to grandfather for up to 11 years but it did not seem to make the Agency of Education nervous since the numbers of students involved was small.

“It’s not like it’s 200 students,” quipped Baltimore school board member Wayne Wheelock.

Andover representative Joe Fromberger, center,  invites Mount Holly and Ludlow committee members to consider coming into the RED in the future.

RED sub-committee members also pointed to an article that states that the new district would be open to other districts joining it. Alison DesLauriers told those attending from Mount Holly and Ludlow that the sub-committee was sincere in adding the openness clause. Joe Fromberger agreed, saying that they did not want to isolate the districts and if they are open to change the RED wants to be inviting.

The Study Committee, which also has members from Ludlow and Mount Holly, voted 12 to 0 in favor of the report (with one abstention.) Now it’s up to the two “northwest” towns to sort out the options they have on the table.

Mt Holly and Ludlow sub-committee chair Bob Herbst tells the meeting where his group is in the process.

The Ludlow/Mount Holly sub-committee chair Bob Herbst reported that they are looking at three scenarios including a merger with Mill River in North Clarendon, a merger with a yet to be created Quarry Valley group of PreK-12 schools and a mix of continuing to operate elementary schools and offering high school choice.

Dale told the two-town sub-committee that the statutory authority it is operating under only includes the third option, but their school boards could form a study group under “section 721” to work on the other plans. Dale also noted that the study committee as a whole would go out of existence 45 days after passage of the RED proposal, then a new entity would have to be formed to go forward.

Venissa White expresses concern about the sustainability of the RED when it has to pay for the supervisory union by itself.

At its Feb. 9 meeting, the Ludlow/Mount Holly sub-committee voted unanimously not to be part of the formation of the RED.

Parent and school employee Venissa White questioned the sustainability of a RED. She noted that if Mount Holly and Ludlow left the supervisory union, the RED towns would have to shoulder the full burden of its cost.

“We would right size the SU,” replied committee member Alison DesLauriers, noting that the four towns already pay for 60 percent of the cost of the supervisory union and they could make the office function smaller.

RED sub-committee chair Alison DesLauriers, center, says that with fewer schools, the supervisory union could be ‘right sized.’

Left unasked were the questions of what increase in educational opportunities could be realized from the merger. Act 46 mandates consolidation in the name of reducing costs, but also creating equity in educational opportunities. A small group of Green Mountain students has campaigned for a “student voice” option which would have created an international business and humanities academy in Ludlow.

Last Friday, four of those students met with the The Chester Telegraph at Green Mountain Union High and said that they are not wedded to that one option, but believe that the RED will not have a large enough student population to increase the number and types of education options.

The report will be given a final technical and legal review before it is sent to the Agency of Education for another review and a decision by the state Board of Education.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Act 46AndoverCavendishChesterEducation NewsFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Lew Watters says:

    Wow. What amazing progress. Thanks be to every single soul who has studied, worked and formulated a solultion that would move our community forward.