TRSU Exec Committee votes to reopen budget Asks full board to meet to begin the process

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Tonight, Thursday, March 22, the board chairs of both the Green Mountain Unified School District and the Ludlow-Mount Holly Unified Union District asked members of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Executive Committee – on which they also sit – to convene a full SU board meeting to reopen and reconsider the budget it approved on Feb. 22.

Cavendish resident Sara Stowell asks for a study of special education programs and results and greater transparency. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

The TRSU budget is comprised of the central office, transportation and special education expenses. Special ed makes up more than half of the $6 million budget.

Both Marilyn Mahusky and Paul Orzechowski said that reopening the TRSU budget had been discussed at their most recent meetings and that the GM board had voted to request it.

On Town Meeting Day on March 6, the new Green Mountain district budget was rejected by voters in Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester and will now be reexamined by that board.

Mahusky told fellow committee members that voters questioned items like the rent on the SU’s Fletcher Farm offices as well as central office salaries. Referring to a statement made by Cavendish resident Sara Stowell during the public comment portion of the meeting, Mahusky also looked for clarity in other expenses including items within the special education budget such as transportation.

But Stowell had also suggested that a careful look at the special education budget is in order, including a 10-year study of programs and results. During the discussion of re-opening the TRSU budget, Stowell pointed to items promised in the Act 46 merger, asking that the budgets be level funded and a year-by-year plan developed to provide for better educational opportunities.

Ludlow Elementary board chair Lisa Schmidt asked where the savings are and pointed to the SU’s $16,000 supply budget compared to supply budgets for teachers of $125. “Budgets should start from what we are giving the kids and work up.”

Executive committee chair Bob Herbst said they should take a long hard look at what’s needed and not needed and asked how many employees are included in the supervisory union. Superintendent Meg Powden said she was not sure, but around 300.

“And how many students are there?” asked Herbst.

“One thousand seventy-six,” said Powden.

In addition to discussing the SU budget, the committee looked at evaluating Superintendent Meg Powden.

“So there’s one employee for every three students,” said Herbst. “It makes no sense.”

The committee scheduled a full board meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday April 12  at Cavendish Town Elementary School.

Also discussed at the meeting was the procedure for evaluating Superintendent Powden. Herbst noted that this was needed to make decisions regarding her contract and compensation. After discussion about how the evaluation could be conducted and who would have input, the board asked for information on how earlier reviews were conducted, which will be looked at when the committee meets on Thursday April 5.

The Telegraph will have a full story on this meeting and those of the GMUSD and Ludlow Mount Holly District, both held earlier this week tomorrow.

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  1. Otis Nelson says:

    Ludlow Elementary’s school board Chair Lisa Schmidt makes a great point! All budgets should start with what we provide for our students first and then work up from there! Also, Vermont leads most states, as to what we spend on special education.

    I think we should look closer at what New Hampshire is doing. They have more kids but the spending on special ed is about half of what we spend! They must be doing something that could help us control the amount spent on special ed! More money has not proven to provide better outcomes or services!

    I would also like to say, whatever application the board chooses to evaluate the superintendent, that any review should also provide a way for parents and communities to provide input on the evaluation of the superintendent process.