Unified Addison Northeast school district steps into its future with first gathering
BRISTOL — An atmosphere of pride and excitement permeated the first organizational meeting of the newly formed Addison Northeast School District, held at Mount Abraham Union High School last Thursday. The district is the result of a vote last November by the five towns of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union to unify budgeting and governance in accordance with Act 46.
“It took a lot of work to get to this evening,” said Superintendent Patrick Reen.
Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe commended the ANeSU Act 46 Study Committee for “the tremendous amount of work” they did. Addressing the committee members directly she praised “the intentional way you went about trying to celebrate what’s best about each of your unique communities and their unique individual schools and find a way to honor that and carry that forward even as you figured out where synergies were, where you could work together to create something bigger than your individual parts.”
Holcombe said that the Agency of Education was using the ANeSU Act 46 report and articles of agreement as a model for other communities around the state who are currently going through the unification process.
“You were so careful at really weighing and testing all the different options, thinking about what the opportunities were and being very careful in what you offered as the promises,” she said. “I think that really speaks to the care that went into the development of your work, and it really speaks well of your community.”
More than once during the evening, Holcombe likened the new district’s first organizational meeting to a wedding and said that the first year of organizing the new district would itself be a lot like the first year of marriage.
“I know when I first got married we both thought about who put the socks in which drawer and things like that,” she said. “That’s what your year will be like — figuring out how to organize yourself. And this meeting is about organizing yourself.”
Students from Beeman, Bristol and Robinson elementary schools led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Holcombe swore in the new ANESD board members, who pledged fealty to the state of Vermont and to the Vermont constitution. And ANeSU Executive Committee Chair Dawn Griswold briefly presided as temporary moderator.
After voting to use Robert’s Rules of Order to govern procedures and electing Pam Marsh as the new district moderator, the meeting, which drew about 50 people, got down to brass tacks over details of organization. Marsh is currently the Mount Abe and the New Haven moderator and her experience proved essential as various points of order came up during the evening.
Karen Wheeler, current Mount Abe clerk, was elected as ANESD clerk.
Both Jen Myers and Barbara Torian were nominated as treasurer. Myers is the town clerk and town treasurer of Bristol. Torian is the treasurer for New Haven. When Torian suggested that she and Myers share the job, a lively discussion ensued that highlighted participants’ desire to set up the new district in a way that would be effective and that observed parliamentary procedure. The idea was roundly supported, but the question was how to make it so within the rules.
After 15 minutes of spirited discussion, a motion was made and carried that voted both in as co-treasurers.
According to the terms of the warning, all officers of the new district will serve “for one year or until the election and qualification of their successors.”
The lengthiest discussion of the evening went to compensation for district officers. Participants considered the amount currently paid to the Mount Abe moderator, clerk and treasurer and to those same officers at the Addison Central School District, which oversees schools in seven towns in the Middlebury area. Mount Abe pays its moderator $50 a year, its clerk $100 a year and its treasurer $2,100 a year. ACSD pays its clerk $500 and its treasurer $6,000 annually (no one offered a moderator figure for ACSD).
After much debate the group voted on the higher amounts, in parity with ACSD, now nearly a year ahead of ANESD in the unification process.
The new ANESD will pay its moderator, clerk and treasurer, $50, $500 and $6,000 annually, respectively.
In other organizational matters, the assembly voted to authorize the new district to pay expenses and receive funds. It also voted that, as with Mount Abe, the annual report would be available online and residents would receive a notification postcard and could pick up a paper copy if they wished. Finally, the assembly voted to commingle ballots on budget votes held by Australian ballot. Such commingling was part of the articles of unification voters approved last November. ANESD board member Allison Sturtevant reminded those at Thursday’s meeting that budget votes are already commingled for Mount Abe.
As the organizational part of the meeting drew to a close, Co-treasurer Torian thanked the members of the new board for “stepping up and serving through this new adventure.”
That notion was echoed by Susan Jefferies, chair of the Starksboro selectboard.
“Transition isn’t easy,” she said. “And I really appreciate that everybody leapt right in there and is making it go as smoothly as possible.”
With the new district now poised to tackle its first year of figurative sock sorting, it was time to adjourn, celebrate and eat a special cake iced with the motto, “ANESD Unified School District.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].
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