Act 46 Update Oct 11, 2015

Last week, Chittenden and Mendon Town Boards opted not to leave the RNESU Act 46 study committee to join the RCSU study committee and form a district with Rutland Town. Chittenden and Mendon run the Barstow Memorial School and as part of the RNESU  voted to join the RNESU study committee in June. By not taking action to leave, they confirmed that  they will remain within RNESU and we can now shift our focus to a Side by Side model of governance.

What does this mean, exactly? Act 46 has 4 preferred models of governance that it wishes to have every district consider. In our SU, we now have 2 models co-existing. The Otter Valley towns of Whiting, Sudbury, Leicester, Goshen, Brandon and Pittsford make up a Prek-12 model of governance. Chittenden and Mendon have a Prek-8 model with school choice at 9-12.

Act 156, which predates Act 46 by a few years, allows SUs with two different models of governance, as we have, to create 2 districts (OV and Barstow) side by side within the same SU. This is what the study committee is busy exploring: what are the benefits and challenges of 2 merged districts (OV and Barstow) side by side within the same SU.

It would mean we would remain an SU, though going from 8 towns and 11 districts to 8 towns and 3 districts (OV, Barstow and the SU). We would receive the Phase 2 tax incentives of a decrease in taxes (up to the 5% limit) of .08, .06, .04, and .02 over 4 years); we would keep our small schools grants indefinitely, continuing to help keep our taxes down. If a positive vote by the towns occurs in the spring of 2016, we would be eligible for a merger transition grant of over $100,000 to help thoughtfully plan a 2017 opening.

What else might it mean beyond finances? Act 46 speaks to the goal of equitable opportunity. In our SU, individual town boards must make decisions currently for their school. Thus, whether or not you get a foreign language or a 1:1 is a local decision based upon your zip code. With a single district, resources can be shared and decisions can be made for equity across all districts. For example, it is often the case that a board will increase the amount of time a teacher works in order to attract quality faculty, even if the numbers do not show the need. Even though we have a single master contract in RNESU, we hire by town (except special ed and a few federal grant positions). In a single district, we can maximize the use of staff in order to attract high quality faculty and share that resource across several schools (such as Monday at Leicester, Tuesday at Pittsford, etc).

Last week’s meeting had the study committee begin to look at our plan which will include a side by side arrangement. We are starting to discuss articles of governance, decide things like board representation, debts and assets, etc.

Several public forums have been set up to help keep the community informed and to give input. Upcoming forums include

Oct 15 @ Pittsford Town Hall at 6:30 pm

Oct 21 @ Sudbury Meeting House at 6 pm

Oct. 27 @ Leicester School at 7 pm

I hope you consider attending a forum or sharing your thoughts on Let’s Talk. Minutes of all meetings are posted on our website at RNESU. FAQs are listed on the website and new ones are put up as the questions are asked. Stay informed- this is your future also!