Act 46: What's next for local schools?
It now becomes the responsibility of the local school boards to come together and work on an alternative plan to improve our current governance structure — a supervisory union — to "meet or exceed" the goals put forth in the law. The alternative governance structure is an option provided under the law to districts like ours. Unless we submit a proposal the state will merge us. The proposal we design has to be accepted by the Board of Education and we are not alone in this effort as 14 alternative governance proposals are being developed by districts within our state.
At Town Meeting this year all towns were presented with a non-binding resolution asking their school boards to explore developing an alternative to merging school districts. The measure was supported in Dummerston and Guilford. It failed in Putney and Brattleboro.
In the late Spring of 2017, the Dummerston School Board voted to create a sub-committee to explore options that might be available to towns instead of merging school districts and giving up their local boards.
This Committee began its explorations, which included doing a self study to see if it made sense for us to present our own proposal to the state; merging with, perhaps, only one other school; creating an independent academy for our town; or perhaps going in a different direction all together and joining with another supervisory union.
In the end, it was determined that our current supervisory union was strong and that we could present a more sustainable proposal if all member school boards worked together to enhance our current governance structure to meet the state's education goals set forth under the Act 46 Law if: Member districts consider themselves, collectively, responsible for the education of all pre-K through 12 students residing in the supervisory union; the supervisory union operates in a manner that "maximizes efficiencies through economies of scale and the flexible management, transfer and sharing of nonfinancial resources"; the supervisory union has the smallest number of districts practicable; the combined average daily membership of all member districts is not less than 900; and a preferred model is not considered the best model. The alternative proposal is the best means.
The Dummerston AGS sub-committee invited the other district member school boards to join in the discussion to explore alternatives. In August, the Brattleboro Town School Board voted to join Dummerston. To date, board members and/or members of the public from Brattleboro, Putney, Guilford and Vernon have been in attendance. Under the law, since Vernon will be able to continue to interact with the WSESU and maintain their school choice prerogative it gives us a chance to continue our collaboration with them.
It is hoped that, in time, we will have members from each of the school boards attending so that our proposal can have the support and input from each town as to what is needed or important for them in this proposal. Our objective is to meet or exceed the goals of greater educational opportunities for all of our children and find ways to lower the cost of education for the area taxpayers who support our system.
Our meetings are open to the public and we have had several members of the public from each community in attendance and who have given input to our discussions. We will attempt to vary the location of the meetings and to post the date, time and site in this space. Minutes of our meetings will also be available at wssu.k12.vt.us and will include information as to the dates, times and locations of future meetings by selecting "Boards" then selecting "Dummerston" and clicking on minutes or agenda.
Please also access this printed space for weekly updates as to the progress of the AGS sub-committee and plan to attend if you would like to contribute ideas for the committee to consider.
Richard Virkstis is a member of the Dummerston Alternative Governance Structure Sub-Committee. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.
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