Education News

MAUSD towns ratify Lincoln’s withdrawal vote

LINCOLN — Members of Save Community Schools are celebrating after an overwhelming affirmation Tuesday of their proposal to withdraw Lincoln from the Mount Abraham Unified School District.

This past August, in an effort to prevent their school from being closed, Lincoln residents voted by a 3-to-1 margin to withdraw from the MAUSD. That was the first step in a long process dictated by state statutes.

The second step was getting the four other MAUSD member towns of Bristol, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro to ratify Lincoln’s vote. That was accomplished on Town Meeting Day, when the voters of those towns approved Lincoln’s plan — by a combined 3-to-1 margin.

In all, the towns cast 1,366 votes in favor, 441 against.

Individual town results broke down as follows:

  • Bristol: 554-219.
  • Monkton: 289-70.
  • New Haven: 240-90.
  • Starksboro 286-54.

“We’re delighted,” said Paul Forlenza, the Lincoln selectboard’s liaison to Save Community Schools (SCS) and an active and outspoken supporter of the withdrawal movement. “This victory reflects an incredible amount of hard work, not only in Lincoln but in other towns as well.”

SCS is a group of parents and community members whose mission is to preserve local schools, starting with the one in Lincoln.

The group is already looking past Tuesday’s success, Forlenza said.

“We realize this is just the second of a 10-step process, and we need to strategize on the next eight.”

Step three of the process involves submitting Lincoln’s withdrawal plan to the Vermont State Board of Education (SBE) for conditional approval.

Before that, however, SCS intends to spend about a month or so further exploring a potential partnership — likely in the form of a supervisory union — with the town of Ripton, which recently completed its withdrawal from the Addison Central School District.

A supervisory union structure would allow the two towns to share costs of many of the administrative services schools are required to provide — such as special education and transportation — which are typically shared across larger unions such as the MAUSD or the ACSD.

The towns are hoping to hire a consultant with school district business office experience to help shape their ideas, Forlenza said, with the goal of eventually presenting the SBE with a clearer picture of the viability of their independent schools.

Whether Lincoln and Ripton will have enough resources between them to provide the required supervisory union services — and whether the SBE would approve such a partnership — remains to be seen, but supporters have expressed optimism about the creative possibilities of combining their efforts.

If Lincoln passes step three and obtains conditional approval from the SBE, it could elect its own school board and begin negotiating an exit agreement with the MAUSD, which would address such financial details as the Lincoln school’s outstanding building-improvement debt. That exit agreement would then have to be ratified by the other four district-member towns.

After that, the plan would go to the SBE again.

In the meantime, Lincoln, Ripton and the larger education community will be watching the state Legislature as it considers proposals that could change district consolidation rules, including those governing withdrawal, and the way education is funded in Vermont.

For more information about Save Community Schools, visit savecommunityschools.org.

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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