Board members bid fond adieu to ANeSU

BRISTOL — The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (ANeSU) is no more, as it is making way for the Mount Abraham Unified School District.
Individual ANeSU boards met for the last time on Tuesday night at Mount Abraham Union High School.
At a reception immediately afterward, past and present board members reflected on their tenure in the ANeSU and looked ahead to July 1, when the Act 46 district consolidation plan approved in 2016 was set to reach its completion and those boards were to be officially dissolved, to be replaced by one centralized Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) board.
“I remember one time spending two hours at a meeting just talking about the price of milk for school lunches,” said Elin Melchior, who served on the Bristol Elementary School board for 11 years. “We were actually crunching numbers on paper. Now we have a food program director who does that.”
Bob Radler, who served on the Monkton Central School board for 14 years, recalled a similar focus on small details.
“Meetings used to run from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 or 12:00,” he said. “It was well-intended, mostly about how to save money, but it wasn’t efficient. Sometimes it was just, ‘Hey, Costco’s having a sale on supplies.’”
Board work has changed dramatically over the years, he added, and is more rewarding now due to a greater focus on students’ education.
A big part of that change was the policy governance system that was instituted more than 15 years ago, according to outgoing ANeSU — and incoming MAUSD — board chairperson Dawn Griswold.
The system more clearly divides responsibilities between the school board and the district superintendent.
“Once we got fully invested in policy governance the board was thinking about kids and how we are preparing them to go out into the world — not about light bulb sales or paint colors,” Griswold said.
Figuring out policies and procedures always held a particular fascination for Carol Eldridge during her 32 years on the Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School board.
When she joined that board in 1980 Eldridge said, “There was no policy book, no procedure book. We researched past meeting minutes to inform decisions.” She joined the committee tasked with developing those policies and procedures and for many years made that her work.
The very first policy change she pursued was the elimination of cigarette smoking at meetings, saying, “It was nice to get that taken care of.”
Tuesday’s night’s final meeting felt “different,” she said, “not quite sad, but definitely the end of an era.”
Eldridge will miss the Mount Abe board meetings, but she plans to stay on top of things.
“I plan to check agendas and minutes,” she said. “They should never be surprised if on a meeting night I walk in. Just because I’m not a board member doesn’t mean I don’t care.”
Bonita Bedard enjoyed learning about how schools operate during her combined two decades on the Robinson Elementary School board and the Mount Abe board, but being a board member is a tough gig, she said.
“Someone is mad at you pretty much all the time,” Bedard said.
Bedard wished the new system all the best, but reflecting back said chief sources of her frustration were not the kids, but the adults — “from the teachers to the taxpayers.”
At the reception on Tuesday, Griswold shared an inspirational story about teamwork:
“A driver who was reaching for his map veered off the road and got his car stuck in a ditch. He sought help from a nearby farmer, who turned and pointed to an ancient mule out in the field.
‘Warwick, there, will help you,’ the farmer said.
The driver thought this was unlikely, but he accepted the help anyway.
When they had harnessed Warwick to the vehicle, the farmer shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!”
The ancient mule pulled the car right out. Amazed, the driver asked the farmer why he’d shouted all the other names first. Griswold delivered the punch line:
‘Old Warwick is nearly blind,’ the farmer said. ‘But if he thinks he’s part of a team, he will do anything.’”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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