Community Form: ID-4 meeting has busy agenda

This week’s writer is Ruth Hardy, chair of the Mary Hogan School board’s ID-4 Prudential Committee.
I invite Middlebury residents to the ID-4 school district annual meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, in the Mary Hogan School gymnasium.
The meeting will be an opportunity for all Middlebury citizens to learn about and vote on the proposed 2015-2016 budget, and to discuss and vote on citizen-initiated articles related to the date of the annual meeting and process by which the district’s budget is approved. The full annual report can be found on the Addison Central Supervisory Union website: https://addisoncentralsu.org/acsu/reports-budgets/id-4-mary-hogan. Childcare will be available on site during the meeting.
Over the past year, the school board has researched and deliberated issues affecting Mary Hogan School and the ID-4 district. Most significantly, we have worked closely with administrators to craft a 2015-2016 school budget that is both fiscally and educationally responsible.
In September, the board collaborated with other ACSU boards to create a vision and mission statement for our schools, as part of the superintendent’s strategic planning process. In September, we hosted a community forum to discuss citizens’ hopes and dreams for our children, and issued a survey asking about priorities for our schools and educational community. In October, the board analyzed survey responses and citizen input to contribute to the final mission and vision statements.
The board worked with the new ACSU facilities manager to assess our buildings and grounds, leading to improved landscaping, many basic building repairs, and a plan for replacing a series of inadequate classroom windows. We worked with administrators to craft a request for proposals to improve our food service quality and nutritional value; use of local foods and connections to farmers; and variety of food offerings and preparation styles.
The Policy and Communications Committee completed extensive research investigating the history of, and options for, modifying the annual meeting date and budget voting procedure, and worked with legal and policy advisers to ensure the board was well informed. The board listened to public testimony and engaged in deliberations throughout the late fall and winter. While ultimately the board did not endorse changes, we received two citizen petitions advocating modifications. Hence, the annual meeting warning includes two articles suggesting alternatives to current practice. You can find more information about this issue on the annual meeting tab of the school’s website: http://maryhoganschool.org/school-board/annual-meeting/.
The board’s 2015-2016 budget is, again, fiscally and educationally responsible. The overall budget will increase by just 1.94 percent, with net education spending increasing by just 0.86 percent and the resulting homestead property tax rate increasing 1.95 percent. Per-pupil spending will increase just 0.67 percent to $14,490, as enrollment is projected to increase to 415 students. While staff compensation will increase approximately $250,000, or 2.94 percent, we were able to offset much of that increase with efficiencies found through centralizing special education services and a collection of operational improvements.
While the budget and accompanying tax increases are appropriately modest, we are excited to expand programming and support for our students. Through this budget, we will deepen our partnerships with two critical local resources — the Town Hall Theater and the Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC). We will enhance the “Shakespeare, It’s Elementary” program and offer more opportunities for students to attend and participate in high-quality theater arts projects, expanding the school’s already exceptional, multi-faceted arts education. We will work with CSAC to ensure students who need extra support to be productive members of our school community have the necessary assistance to gain the required skills and confidence. We will maintain all of the school’s excellent educational programming to support and challenge our students.
Finally, at the meeting voters will elect a new district clerk and treasurer. Ken Perine will retire after 35 years, having first been elected to these posts at the annual meeting in May 1980. We are enormously grateful for Ken’s longtime support of the Mary Hogan School, including managing the school’s McGilton Fund endowment for over three decades. Ken’s quiet counsel and steadfast service will be missed.
On behalf of the ID-4 School Board, thank you for your support of the Mary Hogan School and its students and families. We are grateful to serve a town that actively engages in discussions about the importance of education, community and democracy. We look forward to answering your questions and hearing your ideas at the ID-4 annual meeting.

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