ANeSU approves new governance model for schools
BRISTOL — Residents in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union said yes to school governance and budgeting unification on Tuesday with the margins very close in two of the five towns in the district.
A period of transition will now begin as the 13-member school board that was elected on Tuesday starts meeting to plan the logistics of running the five elementary schools and one middle/high school under one umbrella. The unified school district, to be called Addison Northeast Supervisory District (ANESD), will commence full educational and operational services on July 1, 2018.
The move to switch governance was prompted by Act 46. Supporters of unification in ANeSU promoted it as a means to provide greater equity, quality and diversity of educational programs to all the students in the district, and to save an estimated $140,000 a year in overhead.
Unification will also allow the five towns to receive Act 46 financial and tax incentives.
ANeSU joins the three other supervisory unions in Addison County that OK’d governance unification measures earlier this year: Addison Central, Addison Northwest and Rutland Northeast. Voters in the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, which includes Orwell, rejected unification proposals twice this past spring.
“I’m very pleased to see that the will of the electorate is to create a unified school district for our five town community,” said ANeSU Superintendent and Bristol resident Patrick Reen. “The Act 46 Study Committee worked incredibly hard for many months and all of that hard work has come to fruition with this decision.
“ANESD is now poised to come together as a single community to work together to improve outcomes for our students.
“This work will begin with our strategic planning process. With this decision we can now begin mapping out the process to transition to a unified school district. Thankfully, we have several months to make this transition, which allows for a thoughtful, deliberate process. I’m very excited to think about what the future holds for ANESD!”
Unification passed easily in Bristol, Monkton and New Haven. The measure won in New Haven, 668-338 (66-34 percent); in Bristol, 1,105-550 (67-33 percent); and in Monkton, 785-355 (69-31 percent).
In Lincoln and Starksboro, however, the margin of victory was razor thin. The ANeSU unification plan passed by 34 votes in Lincoln, 391-357, and by only 22 votes in Starksboro, 430-408. Lincoln and Starksboro are the only two towns in the five-town supervisory union that still vote school budgets on the floor of town meeting and opposition to the unification plan was particularly heartfelt. All towns must vote the same way in a unified district, and the ANeSU unification plan designates Australian ballot as the voting method for all towns within the new district.
The vote on unification was hard fought, with vocal opposition within all five towns and from within the Act 46 Study Committee itself. Committee members Nancy Cornell, Mike Fisher and Herb Olson wrote a minority report, opposing the Act 46 Study Committee’s proposed plan. That report was submitted along with the proposed plan itself when it went before the State Board of Education, making ANeSU’s plan one of only two submitted to the State Board to contain an opposing point of view.
Reached the morning after the vote, Fisher said he was proud of his community in the way so many people engaged with each other over important issues relating to local democracy and the future of the schools.
“This was a high-value, detailed and respectful community conversation,” Fisher said. “With the passage of this consolidation, it is vitally important for residents of the five towns who care about our schools to step up and engage with the new unified board. It is equally important for the new board to work hard to create real opportunities for such discussions.
“The bottom line is that we all care about quality education and strive for meaningful engagement between our schools and our communities.”
NEW SCHOOL BOARD
Also elected Tuesday were school directors for the new Addison Northeast Supervisory District board:
• Bristol: Krista Siringo and Allison Sturtevant.
• Lincoln: Rebecca Otey and Barry Olson.
• Monkton: Jennifer Stanley and Dawn Griswold. (In the only contested race for the new board, Stanley defeated fellow Monkton School Board member Marikate Kelley to win Monkton’s two-year seat; Griswold ran uncontested for Monkton’s three-year seat.)
• New Haven: Sarah LaPerle and Andrew Morton.
• Starksboro: Caleb Elder and Jodi Bachand.
According to the unification plan, Bristol is to be represented by five board members and the other towns by two each, so Bristol’s three vacant seats on the new board will need to be appointed by the Bristol Elementary School board, according to current ANeSU procedure.
Stanley, chair of the Act 46 Student Committee that authored the ANeSU unification plan, said that the new board is expected to begin its work in January.
First however is an official 30-day reconsideration period within which citizens can challenge Tuesday’s vote. Voters in any of the five towns can petition to request a re-vote; such petitions must be signed by 5 percent of that town’s registered voters.
In a statement emailed to the Independent, Stanley thanked “everyone who contributed to the work of the study committee and who helped to get the word out about this unification proposal.
“I am excited about the opportunities unification provides,” Stanley wrote. “As we go forward, it will be important for the new unified board to engage people from different perspectives and ensure many voices are heard as we form our new unified district. I look forward to working with members of the new board and community to define how our new unified district will operate while also valuing each school’s culture and encouraging local engagement with each of our schools.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].
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