Dear Community Members, Faculty and Staff:
Summer is over and our children are back in school. I wanted to give everyone a quick update on ACT 46, the law that is encouraging supervisory unions to consider merging into single districts in order to provide efficiency, equity, quality and sustainability. As many of you know, we had a busy summer hosting eight forums across all four towns (Windsor, West Windsor, Hartland, and Weathersfield). It was great to see such turn out in the heat of the summer. It was also encouraging to see there are many people in each town that have similar views on a merger. It was nice to see Hartland folks attend a Weathersfield forum; or a Windsor resident attend a West Windsor forum; and so on and so forth. Clearly our four towns have much more in common than we do differences. And that showed each time we asked for written feedback after the forums. One thing was consistent: there was overwhelming support for the boards to continue to investigate merger possibilities and not wait until the State determines our status.
So, with that in mind, all four boards have agreed to take the process to the next level. Act 46 requires that any supervisory union considering a merger needs to form a Study Committee. All four boards have to agree to participate in the Study Committee and to appoint community representatives to that committee. That is exactly what happened last Wednesday night, September 2nd. All four boards met and voted unanimously (there were a couple of board members missing) to participate in the Study Committee. The board chairs will be appointing community members over the course of this month. If you are interested in serving, then please respond to this email and I will send you names on to the appropriate board chair.
The Study Committee can take as long as they want to research the options, but we hope that the forum feedback gathered over the summer, the RED study that was completed in 2012, and the information we have learned from the State Board of Education and the Agency of Education will help expedite our work. What we are finding is that this law, and the State policymakers interpretation of the law, does seem to limit the options -- especially if we were to apply for an Accelerated Merger in year one. This is due in part because we have a mix of tuition towns (Hartland, West Windsor, and Weathersfield) and one town (Windsor) that operates a high school. It seems that the policymakers are reluctant to approve an Accelerated application that includes some towns that tuition and some that do not. They simply feel this is not equitable. In fact, in my previous email I indicated that we might be able to keep our current tuition options and operating options and still merge. I have since found out that this cannot happen. So, if we choose an Accelerated plan, then we have to justify every district, including Windsor, opening up high school tuition options; OR we have to have a Regional High School with limited tuition options in accordance with current state law.
The Study Committee could wait until Year two (Conventional Merger) or Year 3 (Alternative Structures). There are a few additional choices in those years and the committee will review those choices as well. The boards continue to be diligent, however, because the tax incentives and tax penalties are fairly severe as you go year to year. We will be experiencing some of that, with or without merger, as we enter into this budget season. It is going to be very difficult.
Again, thanks for participating this summer. I will keep you posted after every Study Committee meeting. If you are interested in serving, please contact me or your board chair. We are all in this together and we need to stay informed. Here's wishing everyone a great school year and stay tuned for further developments.
Dr. David Baker
Superintendent of Schools
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union