ACSU forum to focus on unification effort

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Independent this Sunday, Feb. 21, will co-sponsor a forum for candidates running for a new, 13-member school board that would represent a unified Addison Central unified school district.
The forum is scheduled to run from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Middlebury Union High School auditorium. It will begin with a PowerPoint presentation by Addison Central Supervisory Union Charter Committee officials on the proposed transition to the new unified district board. That 13-member panel would oversee a single, global spending plan for all seven district elementary schools, as well as Middlebury Union Middle School and Middlebury Union High School.
Residents of the ACSU-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge will vote on March 1 on whether to transition to the unified board. That Town Meeting Day ballot will also feature the election of the new panel. All 13 slots will be elected at-large, so — for example — Weybridge voters will not only cast ballots for their own representative, but also for the candidates seeking to fill spots representing Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury and Shoreham.
Based on population counts within the ACSU, Middlebury is being allotted seven seats on the new board, while the six smaller communities will have one seat each.
Sunday’s forum will allow all the candidates to introduce themselves, discuss their respective backgrounds and explain why they are running. Candidates running in the only two towns with contested races — Bridport and Ripton — will be posed some additional questions to help them differentiate themselves and their educational priorities.
Here is the roster of the candidates for the new Addison Central unified board and the staggered terms for which they are running:
•  Bridport: Current ACSU board Chairman Rick Scott and ACSU Charter Committee co-Chairwoman Suzanne Buck are vying for Bridport’s one-year term.
•  Cornwall: Current UD-3 board Chairman Peter Conlon is unchallenged for the town’s two-year term on the board.
•  Middlebury: Josh Quinn, Lorraine Gonzalez Morse and Steve Orzech for the three, three-year terms; Ruth Hardy and Jason Duquette-Hoffman for the two two-year terms; and John Rees and Victoria Jette for the two one-year terms.
•  Ripton: Longtime UD-3 board member Jerry Shedd and fellow Ripton residents Perry Hanson and Bryan Alexander will compete for the town’s single three-year seat.
•  Salisbury: Jennifer Nuceder has no challengers for Salisbury’s one-year term.
•  Shoreham: Nick Causton, Shoreham’s UD-3 representative, has no challengers for his town’s two-year term.
•  Weybridge: UD-3 board member Christopher Eaton is unopposed in his run for Weybridge’s three-year spot on the new board.
Addison Independent senior reporter John Flowers will moderate the forum, which will wrap up with an informal meet-and-greet with the candidates. Questions will be taken from the floor.
The ACSU and Middlebury Community Television are also co-sponsoring the event.
The ACSU is one of around a dozen supervisory unions throughout the state that is currently pursuing a school governance merger under Act 46. Addison Northwest (Vergennes union district) will also vote on governance unification on March 1. Meanwhile, in Rutland Northeast, voters in eight Brandon-area towns last month overwhelmingly approved such a proposal.
Act 46 is a new law that encourages supervisory unions to consolidate school governance during this period of declining enrollment in Vermont. State lawmakers believe governance consolidation will provide long-term financial stability for public schools by promoting shared teachers and other resources, along with reduced bureaucracy and a greater emphasis on classroom teaching.
The Independent next week will offer a comprehensive report on the ACSU’s governance consolidation effort, as a lead-in to Town Meeting Day voting.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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