Community Forum: ACSU has many pulses

This week’s writers are Ruth Hardy and Suzanne Buck, co-chairs of the Addison Central Supervisory Union Charter Committee.
On Town Meeting Day, March 1, voters in the towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge will decide whether to form a more sustainable and equitable school system by unifying the eight school districts of the Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU). The new district, as envisioned by a Charter Committee composed of local citizens from each town, would be governed by a 13-member board with representation identical to the current UD-3 middle/high school board. With seven Middlebury members and six from each of the smaller towns, the governance of public education for all pre-K-12 students in the new school district would be fair, consistent and under the leadership of one school board.
Members for the new board will be voted on by the people of all towns, and each town will continue to have at least one representative. This at-large voting process will strengthen the power of voters in our towns to choose a board that represents the broader interests of all children, rather than focusing on the narrower interests of a small student body in one town.
Through the first five years of unification, the state will provide modest tax incentives for all towns, but more significant tax savings will be realized, especially for the smaller towns, by creating a system that takes advantage of economies of scale. Rather than piecing together budgets for schools with 30 to 90 kids, the new district would be supported by a budget for the education of 1,800 students, buffering the new district from the adverse effects of declining enrollment.
Within the first five years, savings of at least $175,000 annually could be found by reducing duplicative administrative and financial oversight costs necessary for the maintenance of multiple school budgets, audits and reporting programs. Over time, more savings could be realized as staffing and programs become more consistent and equitable across schools. With greater flexibility and the ability to implement change more quickly, educational leaders would be better able to realize the goals of the ACSU Strategic Plan and meet the diverse needs of all students.
By creating a more financially sustainable system, the citizens and leaders of a new school district will be able to more holistically and equitably address the challenges presented by declining enrollments, aging facilities, growing student needs and expanding educational imperatives.
Difficult decisions lie ahead for our school leaders and citizens, and by creating one unified school district, we will be able to address these challenges together. On Town Meeting Day, we can vote to trust our neighbors, embrace a broader community, and create a strong, financially stable union for our students, educators, families, and taxpayers.
To read the Articles of Agreement created by the ACSU Charter Committee for the new school district visit tinyurl.com/ACSU-articles or the unification web page (acsu.org). Thank you for your support of our students and schools. We look forward to seeing you at town meeting.

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