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ACSU to try out joint board meeting concept on Oct. 16

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central Supervisory Union on Oct. 16 will debut a new meeting schedule that will unite all seven of the district’s elementary boards for a single monthly gathering, rather than the multiple meetings school officials and ACSU Superintendent Peter Burrows now have to attend each month.
It’s called a “carousel” meeting, aimed at trimming the monthly meeting calendar for school boards and the superintendent, while providing access to key staff to get business done more efficiently. The Oct. 16 agenda will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with a meeting of the full ACSU board at Middlebury Union High School. Individual school boards representing the district-member towns of Middlebury, Cornwall, Bridport, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge will then convene in MUHS for their own individual meetings. Burrows will be able to easily shuttle from meeting to meeting to provide input and take direction from board members on the issues facing their respective schools.
“We’ll be able to have the board members in one location at one time,” Burrows said. “It will be a great opportunity to have conversations on important issues and present some key initiatives.”
ACSU officials have been searching for ways to streamline governance of a district that encompasses seven towns and has nine school boards. This has set up an arduous meeting schedule for the ACSU superintendent, which has been an intimidating prospect for past applicants for that job. An ACSU Study Committee is currently preparing a report that could recommend a formal consolidation of the school boards, but that report is still a ways off.
The carousel meeting format is already in effect in several Vermont supervisory unions. Mark Perrin, ACSU board chairman, will be among several district officials who will view a carousel meeting at Champlain Valley Union High School on Oct. 9.
Perrin sees benefits in bringing all 50 ACSU board members together in one place on a monthly basis.
“We can share our assets and talk about what we are doing well together,” Perrin said. “It breaks down that ‘silo’ impression that everyone is doing their own thing in their own area.
“We’ve got to start looking at ourselves more as a K-12 system,” he added.
Plans call for the ACSU to have a second carousel meeting in December. If those initial two meetings go well, the district is likely to hold additional carousel meetings next February and April. Board members, at the end of this academic year, will compare notes and decide whether to move to a full-time carousel meeting format beginning next fall.
Burrows is excited to hop on board the carousel. If the format proves successful, it could free up the superintendent to tend to other items on his educational to-do list.
“One of the things I’ve talked about is the need for me to be out in the community,” Burrows said, referring to relationships he’d like to forge between the ACSU schools and the civic, business and institutional groups of Addison County. “The goal is for me to be a community member. It’s a challenge to do that when there are board meetings every night.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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