Oct 29, 2014 No Comments ›› georgetill

I’d like to share my perspective from the State House on the upcoming Chittenden East Supervisory Union school districts merger.   The State has committed to school district consolidation. Furthermore, small school districts, which are not geographically isolated, are the prime target for consolidation. Projections for next year show Underhill Central, Underhill ID and Bolton districts all near or below 100 students.  The Governor has committed to school consolidation. The DOE has committed.   The Legislature has committed. In fact the House last session passed a MANDATORY merger bill. It was late in the session and the Senate did not act on it. Some in the Senate have proposed consolidating all school within each county into a single district.

I think it is clear that there will be school mergers in CESU. The question is this: do we want to design the plan ourselves through a local board with extensive community input, or do we want to wait for a mandatory merger plan from Montpelier? Whether it is the full county construct, another alternative discussed in Montpelier, that all districts which use a Technical Education Center be merged into a single district, or another plan not yet presented, there is a very high likelihood that it will be less acceptable to the people of CESU than the current merger proposal. Additionally, when mandatory merger comes, it is unlikely to come with tax incentives as the voluntary merger plan does.

Nothing about the current merger vote means one of the elementary schools will close. That will be up to the new Board to decide. Perhaps the Board will decide the elementary schools are critical to the towns. Just as easily the 5th and even 6th grades could be returned to the elementary schools to keep those schools viable. The current governance structure precludes even considering that solution, but in a unified district it would be possible.

What is clear is this. Change in school governance is coming. Just Say NO is not an alternative. This will be our last chance at voluntary merger, probably our last chance to design the system locally, and almost certainly our last chance to benefit from a tax incentive to do so.