Opinion: Governance merger brings many benefits to ACSU

Act 46 passed the Vermont Legislature in spring 2015 and became law. Now the decision for voters on Election Day is whether to approve or disapprove the proposed unification plan for the Addison Central Supervisory Union schools that complies with the law. Many factors need to be considered in making this decision and I outline just four here.
The first is that school governance for all our schools will be consolidated and simplified. The current configuration with eight boards and 50 trustees is unwieldy and confusing. The superintendent has to spend excessive time on nonproductive governance issues and school principals have multiple reporting responsibilities. After unification the principals will report to one person, the superintendent, who will in turn report to one unified board.
The second is that significant financial tax incentives will be obtained by opting for early unification. The benefit for Shoreham property taxpayers is estimated at $3,200 for each $200,000 of assessed value over a 5-year period.
The third and most important factor is that small-town schools will be strengthened by being part of a single organization that can optimize student learning and outcomes across the whole district. As outlined on the unifyacsu.squarespace.com website, small town schools will no longer be subject to death by a thousand cuts and can retain their historic role at the core of small Vermont towns providing activities, support and education to local town kids, young and old. Educators will also have greater opportunities and flexibility within a larger unified organization.
The fourth and final point is that not voting for unification is a major voter decision not only for the local town school but also for the unification plan across all ACSU schools, which will have to be resubmitted if it is not approved by even one town. The existing district will lose its Small Schools Grant and property taxpaying residents will not benefit from any of the initial tax or merger advantages, as well as face increased standalone school costs. The local school will be a silo outside the enlarged unified new district and it is very likely that the Agency of Education will decide in 2018 that it should be merged anyway since the students go to the unified middle and high Schools.
I represent Shoreham on the already unified UD-3 board for the middle and high schools that works for the benefits of all district students, but these thoughts are my own and I don’t speak for the board.
Nick Causton

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