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Brandon-area schools face consolidation vote in 2016

BRANDON — The Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union has its Act 46 school consolidation committee in place, and if Superintendent Jeanne Collins has her way, there could be a public vote on the issue this March.
The Legislature last spring passed Act 46, which requires all supervisory unions and school districts to assess and decide what school governance structure they want to move to. The choices are:
• Accelerated merger with one-time study grant and tax incentives.
• Voluntarily merger of schools within an existing regional education district with one-time study grant and tax incentives.
• Self-assessment quality reviews and statewide plan for those districts that do not voluntarily consolidate by July 1, 2017. No tax incentives.
Because RNeSU is an existing supervisory union with two districts, it can combine its two districts, Otter Valley Union School District and Barstow, without having to meet student or district minimum limits.
RNeSU can create a regional education district, called a RED, from its existing towns and schools through two types of models, choice towns and union high school towns. Chittenden and Mendon will have to decide if they wish to remain choice towns and if so, if they want to stay in RNeSU or move to Rutland Central. Either way, RNeSU will have 1,200-1,250 students (a minimum of 900 is required) and be able to create a RED under the new law.
Meeting twice a month, the RNeSU Act 46 Study Committee will now work on a plan to form a RED, prepare a report, conduct the necessary cost-benefit analysis, and submit the plan to the State Board of Education, requesting approval.
The RNeSU Act 46 Committee members represent each school district within the RNeSU are:
Brandon: school board members Lisa Kenyon and Mike Lufkin, and community members Richard White, Peter Werner, Susan LaRock and Seth Hopkins (not yet confirmed).
Goshen: board member Diane O’Classen.
Leicester: board member Hannah Sessions (not yet confirmed).
Whiting: board member Tara Trudo.
Sudbury: board member Laurie Bertrand.
Chittenden: board member Elizabeth Stahura and community member Lisa Purcell.
Mendon: board member Michelle Erickson and community member Matt Conway.
Pittsford board members Bonnie Bourne and Sue Markowski, and community members Jennifer Tinsman and Craig Pelkey.
Collins said in an interview Monday that if the committee delivers its report to the state in a timely manner, she is hoping for a March 2016 public vote on the issue and to open RNeSU schools under the new consolidation model in the fall of 2017.
“I see a November 2016 vote on the outside to open in the fall of 2017,” she said. “But that would be in the middle of budget making, and wouldn’t it be better to know going into the 2016 budget season?”
The question on the ballot will come from the study committee, Collins said. It would be something like, “Do the member towns of the Otter Valley Union School District wish to merge into a unified district?”
Then if Barstow decides to be a part of that district, the voters in Mendon and Chittenden would answer the ballot question, “Do the towns of Chittenden and Mendon wish to merge into a unified school district?”
And while not every town facing the ballot question needs to vote in favor in order for the consolidation to move forward, Collins said there does have to be a majority.
The Act 46 Study Committee will meet on Tuesday evenings in the Otter Valley Union High School Library at 6 p.m. on the following dates: Sept. 29, Oct. 6, Oct. 13, Nov. 3, Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.
For more information on Act 46 in RNeSU and for updates, go to www.rnesu.org. On the list down the left side of the home page, under “For Community,” click on “Future of RNeSU.”

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