New school governance being considered

At its Aug. 23 meeting, the Vermont Board of Education will consider a new set of rules regarding the criteria and processes for districts pursuing alternative structures for school governance than the ones favored in Act 46. On July 29 the board approved a draft of guidelines for these same districts.
The intent of these new rules and guidelines, according to a document prepared by the Agency of Education and presented to the board in July, is “to assist districts to understand the proposal process, (and) provide more detail regarding the information that districts need to provide to enable consideration of a proposal for an ‘alternative structure’ in the context of the final statewide plan.”
According to the draft guidelines, districts proposing an alternative structure must “complete three tasks before Nov. 30, 2017”:
•  Evaluate “current ability to meet or exceed” Act 46 goals.
•  Meet with other districts “to discuss ways to promote improvement throughout the region.”
•  Submit a proposal detailing the proposed governance structure.
The guidelines underscore Act 46’s language that the State Board will approve alternative structures “only if the Board concludes that this alternative structure is the best  means of meeting the (Act 46 goals) in a particular region” (emphasis in original). The guidelines place the burden of proof on the districts themselves “to demonstrate due diligence and to provide sufficient, thoughtful evidence in support of a proposal to form an alternative structure.”
According to the draft guidelines, these alternative proposals would then be “considered only in connection with the development of the statewide governance plan.” This is the plan put together by the secretary of education, for the state as a whole, that is then presented to the board by June 1, 2018. The board would then be tasked with final approval and is scheduled to issues a final statewide education plan by Nov. 30, 2018.
The draft guidelines underscore that “Act 46, which created the concept of proposals for ‘alternative structures,’ does not include any other process by which a district or group of districts present a proposal for an ‘alternative structure’ or by which the proposal is reviewed.
“There is a lot being expected of local school boards — it puts the burden on these school boards and this sets the bar high,” said Vermont School Board Associate President Nicole Mace at the July meeting.

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