Dear Families, Faculty, Staff and Communities:
This is another attempt to keep all of our school communities updated on Act 46. This legislation has a direct relationship to how our four towns will operate our schools in the future. We have been exploring options and seeking community input throughout the summer. Any merger proposal has to first be submitted to the Agency of Education and then passed along to the State Board of Education. These two steps are required before the communities can vote on a proposal. This is why it is critical to follow the State's thinking around Act 46.
I attended the State Board of Education meeting in Montpelier yesterday (September 15th). The State Board was more decisive than I have seen in a while. They unanimously passed a resolution that essentially says they WILL NOT consider any PK-12 proposals that include a combination of an operating high school and choice towns. Needless to say, this continues to limit our choices for an SU-wide merger because Windsor operates a high school and our other three towns are tuition towns. So, any newly formed district that includes our four towns would be considered a high school operating district because it would include a high school. Now the State has made it clear that this would require us to "voluntarily" stop paying tuition to other schools as long as we continue to operate a high school.
There are other conventional and alternative structures that could be considered. All of them will require looking at Year Two (Conventional) or Year Three (Alternative). Essentially, we would be proposing options that either include other schools outside the SU or sub-dividing our SU. Proposals like these still have to pass ALL the criteria in section 2 of Act 46 - Equity, Sustainability and Efficiency sufficient to meet AOE and State Board approval.
These proposals also have to have the required number of students for a merged district. Right now the number is 900 for PK-12 (Accelerated and Conventional) and a minimum of 1,100 for any proposal that leaves more than one board in place (Alternative Structure). We also need to keep in mind, that for every year of study, all of our towns will be operating under the variable cap, denied access to all the tax incentives, and be making contributions toward all those Districts and SUs that do decide to merge under Act 46. It seems to be a fundamental flaw in the law.
All four boards voted to formally establish a Study Committee to look at our options. Please contact me by the end of the day on Friday, September 25th if you are interested in serving. You can do so by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think these are critical and historical times for our schools. It is important that we take the time to do what is best for our towns in the long run. I continue to appreciate the way our communities have come together to try to figure this out.
Dr. David Baker
Superintendent of Schools
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union