GM school board wrestles with better use of its three school buildings

Image courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Last week’s Green Mountain Unified School District’s Restructuring Committee meeting was like experiencing a time warp, with the discussion re-litigating portions of the Act 46 merger that created the district more than seven years ago.

The original charge for the committee was to come up with ideas for “restructuring” to make the best use of the district’s three buildings – Cavendish Town Elementary, Chester-Andover Elementary and Green Mountain High School. The district is made up of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester.

While discussions during the merger process showed that Cavendish residents had a fear of the new district closing their school, today the questions revolve around the idea that the building in Proctorsville is under-utilized while the elementary school in Chester is overcrowded and how those two conditions could be ameliorated.

Cavendish representatives point to their elementary school being “exceptional” while others point to its small class size and per pupil cost being $8,000 higher than Chester-Andover. While Cavendish rep Steve Perani said that “we like our better school,” asserting it’s been a target, board member Kate Lamphere, also of Cavendish, said the goal should be raising Chester-Andover to the level of Cavendish.

Perani said there was a sense that the district is taking from Cavendish to lift Chester.

Chester representative Jeff Hance asked what had been taken, pointing to the board’s recent unanimous decision to hire a new kindergarten teacher. Hance said that while he knows that Cavendish is a good school, others should know that as well.

Andover representative Scott Kendall told the group that he had been asked by Andover resident Wes Williams to announce that a petition is being circulated in Andover to redistrict in such a way that that town’s students would leave the district, ostensibly to attend the K-8 Flood Brook School in Londonderry. Kendall said Williams contended that that was not a board decision but rather a town decision, which would involve jumping through a lot of hoops.

“That has no bearing on what we have to do,” said committee chair Adrienne Williams of Baltimore.

Nevertheless, some discussion turned to the idea of Cavendish becoming part of the Ludlow-Mount Holly district, which faces a similar situation as the GM district: Mount Holly Elementary is full while Ludlow Elementary is underpopulated, said outgoing Superintendent Lauren Fierman.

Fierman noted that she has heard from a very small number of people – including a couple of LMH district board members – who said they would “be delighted” to have Cavendish’s 70 students but were not interested in having the expense of their school with its veteran staff  in the upper steps of the pay scale.

Back on the ground again

Early in the meeting, Williams – who represents Baltimore – suggested that the committee needed to “reorient ourselves” since they have not been making progress.  Williams suggested a timeline for a decision that would allow enough time for the school administration to plan to roll out any solutions in the 2025/26 school year.

Fierman noted that that decision needs to come in September so the board could take any financial effects into consideration when they begin the budgeting process in October.

There was discussion of  information meetings regarding the restructuring (not redistricting) process including surveys to gauge the public’s views about the choices. The group agreed that the choices to put before the public were:

  • Restructuring grades among the schools
  • Redrawing the lines from which the elementary schools would draw their students
  • Sending sixth grade students to GM’s middle school with a new Pre-K at Cavendish
  • Looking for CAES parents who want to send their children to Cavendish
  • Assigning students to Cavendish

The committee will meet again – by Zoom only – on Monday, June 3 to finalize the wording of a survey for the information meetings to be held later in the month.




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