ANeSU moves forward on Act 46 district consolidation planning

BRISTOL — The boards for each of the six Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Schools, assembled together at Mount Abraham on Monday evening, took important next steps in the Act 46 unification process.
They decided to create an Act 46 study committee with 15 members: five from Bristol, three each from Monkton and Starksboro, and two each from Lincoln and New Haven.
Act 46, which became law in June, aims to control education spending while ensuring the quality of Vermont schools. It offers financial incentives to supervisory unions that agree to establish a single, consolidated K-12 school district that would be governed by a single board. But the law also calls for per-pupil spending caps during a two-year transition toward full implementation of Act 46.
The law requires that each constituent school district be represented on the study committee in proportion to its student population. Each school board must include at least one of its members; it may also choose to include other community members as part of its representation. All ANeSU school boards voted to appoint a mix of current board members and community members from outside the boards.
The assembled boards also voted to authorize the study committee to apply for the standard $20,000 study grant from the Vermont Agency of Education. The state grants are designed to aid a study committee’s work by providing funds to hire a consultant familiar with the intricacies of the school district unification process or to offset the cost of any legal services, explained a state official. Consultants have been trained and are available to all Vermont schools through the Vermont School Boards Association.
The first meeting of the ANeSU Act 46 study committee has been set for Monday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m., at Mount Abraham Union High School.
For a short part of Monday’s meeting, each board met separately to discuss the Act 46 questions and to decide whom to appoint to the committee.
BRISTOL. For its five slots on the committee, the Bristol Elementary School Board appointed BES board members Elin Melchior and Terri Mayer Thomsen, Mount Abe board member Allison Sturtevant and BES teacher Michaela Wisell.
The BES board will appoint the fifth committee member from the community. Interested Bristol residents should send a letter to BES board chair Steve Barsalou, at [email protected], by Oct. 7. That committee member will be selected at the BES board’s Oct. 12 meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m.
LINCOLN. Lincoln could not make committee appointments Monday night because by the time the boards separated into their individual discussions, the Lincoln Community School Board no longer had a quorum. In a follow-up conversation, board chair Rebecca Otey said the board would be adding an additional public meeting in the next week or so to take official action. Otey can be reached at [email protected].
MONKTON. On Monday night, the Monkton Central School Board appointed MCS board member Jennifer Stanley and Mount Abe board member Dawn Griswold. A third member will be appointed from the community. Monkton residents interested in serving should send a letter to board chair Kristin Blanchette, at [email protected], by Oct. 7. The board will select a community participant at its Oct. 8 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., at Monkton Central School. Letters of interest can also be mailed to Monkton Central School, Attn: Kristin Blanchette.
NEW HAVEN. For New Haven, the Beeman Elementary School Board voted to appoint BES board member Ed McGuire to the committee, along with another person to be selected from the community. Interested persons should contact BES board chair Brad Bull at [email protected]. The board will select and appoint the committee member from the community at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 5:30, at Beeman Elementary. Bull stressed that all interested persons should attend the Oct. 13 meeting and that “walk-ins” would be considered for the committee position.
STARKSBORO. Starksboro appointed Robinson Elementary School board members Nancy Cornell and Caleb Elder and community member Herb Olson. The Robinson board had already reached out to the community to solicit interested parties before Monday’s meeting.
As ANeSU schools dive into the unification process, it’s important to keep “seeing it through the lens of opportunity for students at all levels — elementary, middle school and high school,” observed Monkton chair Kristin Blanchette, after the meeting.
Blanchette noted that at a Monkton Act 46 informational gathering earlier in September, the two concerns most frequently voiced by attendees were whether school district unification would truly save money and whether it would truly create more opportunities for students.
“We need to make sure that students have as much opportunity as they can,” said Blanchette. She then recalled that several years back, Monkton Central had wanted to introduce foreign languages starting in third grade, but had to cut existing programs instead.
“Looking at opportunities like that,” said Blanchette, “is there a way under district unification we could have one teacher who could travel from school to school so that we could add language at the elementary level or pursue similar kinds of educational enrichment?”
Blanchette’s sentiment was echoed by Beeman chair Brad Bull.
“It’s important to turn this conversation — especially in our supervisory union — back to the children, back to the kids,” said Bull. “And that has been missing in all the distractions, in all the other issues that we’ve been dealing with. I think we’ve lost sight of that.
“You can talk about a tax rate savings, you can talk about deliverables in terms of financial incentives, but equally if not more so this is about the kids,” Bull continued. “I can’t say enough about how potentially beneficial this could be — especially for a small school like New Haven in terms of equity and opportunities. And I’m excited about demonstrating that and flushing that out and then presenting that back to the voters.”
SEE ALSO: DiNapoli assumes lead of ANeSU after superintendent Adams goes on leave. 
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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