Last Thursday the FWSU Act 46 Study Committee held its inaugural meeting at Georgia Elementary Middle School. Act 46, a landmark piece of legislation passed during the last years legislative session, has finally arrived at FWSU. Act 46 is a new law that seeks to address large issues currently facing the Vermont education system. The primary stated objective of the law is to stabilize rising property taxes, address declining student enrollment, and high per-pupil spending.
Act 46 will require the state’s 277 school districts to begin the process of redesigning the current governance structures in order to achieve what the state defines as “preferred governance.” A preferred governance structure is a new school district with at least 900 students, which will be called Supervisory Districts (SD). Essentially the Supervisory Union structure, established in 1912, will be replaced. The new SD’s will operate in the same manner as a single stand alone district (i.e. Burlington, Montpelier, Milton, Colchester), yet will comprise more than one town. The new law asks us to redefine how we view our school community and take a more comprehensive view that all students in our region are our students.
Prior to any district even considering consolidation they must undertake a comprehensive study. This fall FWSU school boards voted to begin an Act 46 school consolidation study. The boards then sought community volunteers to join board members to form the FWSU Study Committee. That committee, comprised of community members and board members, will study our system, study Act 46, engage the community and make a recommendation as to how our schools will be governed in the future. It is completely unclear what that recommendation of the committee will be at this time.
The members of the committee are:
Teresa Bedell – Fairfax
Karen Hebert – Farifax
Rachelle LeVau – Fairfax
Scott Mitchell – Fairfax
*Todd Baumeister – Fletcher
Diane Dayvie – Fletcher
Carl Laroe, Jr. – Georgia
Ben Chiappinelli – Georgia
Michael Wasco – Georgia
Deb Woodward – Georgia
As a community member in FWSU, your voice and involvement in the process matters! The committee will be meeting every two weeks on a rotating basis in Georgia, Fletcher and Fairfax. The next meeting of the committee will take place on February 11 at BFA Fairfax in the multi-purpose room starting at 5:30pm. If you cannot make the meeting, you can watch a live stream of the meeting. The live stream address will be posted in Schoology and on the FWSU webpage the day of the meeting. In addition, all future meeting dates and minutes will be posted after each meeting. Information about Act 46 can be found on both Schoology and the FWSU website. If you would like to contact the committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next few months should be very interesting. It is essential to know that any consolidation of school districts in FWSU would require a town-wide vote by each town. This is not a decision that a school board or committee can make independently. The committee will only recommend what the towns ultimately vote on, if they decide to vote at all. Districts that do not merge by 2018 run the risk of being assigned to a new district by the State Board of Education and will receive no tax incentive. Schools that do not operate high schools like Georgia and Fletcher cannot be made to lose choice by the State Board, that can only be accomplished by a vote of the town electorate. However, that school could be reassigned to merger with schools with similar configurations.