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From the Vermont School Boards Ass Association

April 2011

This issue of From the h Boardroo Boardroom has a primary focus on Act 153. Act 153 was passed in the spring of 2010 as an alternative to “forced consolidation” of school districts. It requires some services to be delivered through the supervisory union structure, but most importantly, it outlines a blueprint for voluntary mergers and for combining services within and between supervisory unions. In this edition, we include articles from policy makers, board members, and administrators. We have received submissions from districts which have completed plans for merger and from those who have looked at the process and decided not to move forward. The VSBA is pleased to provide this kind of a forum for the sharing of ideas, perspectives, and experiences related to this law. A VSBA perspective is shown below, authored by Executive Director Steve Dale. Beyond that article, VSBA does not endorse any of the other positions, but rather welcomes the rich diversity of opinions and experiences which are reflected here. It is our hope that all members of the broader education community in Vermont will engage in a deep dialogue about education focused on increasing student opportunity, realizing increased efficiencies, and maintaining deep community commitment to the education of our children. Act 153 has created options and incentives. Each community must decide how best to respond.

VERMONT SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION PERSPECTIVES ON ACT 153 By Steve Dale, VSBA Executive Director In June of 2010, Act 153 became law in Vermont. It includes three major provisions that create possible pathways forward for major changes in Vermont’s education governance, including: • Creation of a structure and incentives for voluntary mergers of school districts; • Consolidation of specific services and duties under the superintendent; • Assistance for the creation of joint service agreements among supervisory unions; DALE continued on page 4

Upcoming events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11, 18, 19 Experiences with Act 153 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

H.440 – NO SOLUTION The House Education Committee has proposed legislation to create an Agency of Education, under the control of a governor-appointed Secretary of Education. It would also create a modified State Board of Education with no powers except to articulate a vision for public education. Enactment of this legislation will result in a direct shift of power over public education in Vermont from the State Board of Education to the Governor in the person of his appointed Secretary. It is hard to justify this transfer of power. The governor is quoted indicating his desire to place control of public education into the hands of the executive branch: “I have a totally different philosophy, and I’m working with someone else’s infrastructure.” The Chair of the House Education Committee asks, “Is there something wrong with politics?” to justify the power giveaway in this bill. Arguments against the bill are many and deeply rooted in facts. A history of educational excellence in Vermont supports leaving the Commissioner and Department of Education outside of the direct control of the Governor. Under H.440, the board and commissioner would serve at the pleasure of the Governor, which places direct partisan pressure on these individuals to act and speak in concert with the Governor or


risk replacement. Vermont leaders thought carefully about the structure they put in place when they designed the current model and the purpose of the legislation was clear in its intent to remove partisanship from those making important educational decisions. The current model of governance through the State Board of Education was established in 1914 by the Legislature. The Legislature engaged the Carnegie Foundation which produced a report advocating the current structure; the Legislature itself wrote the bill that created the State Board. The preamble of which states in part: “Above all, such an organization will be of advantage because it takes education in Vermont out of politics, and this action alone enormously increases the opportunity both for education freedom and educational sincerity.” And concludes: “No measure which the legislature of Vermont has ever been called upon to consider has greater possibilities for good than are contained in this bill.” Separating the governance of education from partisan politics is crucial to maintaining a quality education for our students. In fact this is the most prevalent model of governance with thirteen states using this model in 2011. Currently Vermont schools benefit from statewide deliberation over rules, policy and finance which include taxpayers, parents, local boards as well as the State Board, the Department of Education and the Legislature and Governor. While RULES continued on page 3

RULES continued from page 2

sometimes frustrating this deliberation ensures thoughtful action and prevents sudden or dictatorial change. It is not a part of Vermont’s tradition to centralize power in one person as this bill envisions. Most important is the effect of governance on student success. Vermont has always ranked well among states for its successful public education. The 2006 – 2007 Morgan Quitno study of state education systems measures 21 indicators of success for public school systems. Of top ten school systems as ranked by Morgan Quitno, the top 3 state systems (Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut) use our current model of governance. None of the ten have governance as outlined in H.440.

Editor: David Cyprian email: Layout: Kerri Lamb email:

Articles printed represent diverse points of view and may be controversial in nature. It is the belief of the Association that the democratic process functions best through discussions which challenge and stimulate thinking on the part of the reader. Therefore, materials published present the ideas/beliefs of those who write them and are not necessarily the views or policies of the VSBA unless so stated. This newsletter is distributed at no charge to all members of the Association. Contact the Association by calling 802-223-3580.

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This data suggests that our current governance structure is strong and has led to positive results. The VSBA supports the aspects of the bill which strengthen the composition of the State Board of Education to ensure representation with experience and interest in Vermont’s excellent public education system. However, the VSBA and I both oppose the appointment of the Commissioner by the Governor, as we believe this would damage the current system which encourages deliberative interaction between executive, legislative, state, local governance and citizen interests in guiding Vermont’s public schools. The need for H.440 is not supported by facts. It would have a negative impact on local control which has created Vermont’s top place in public education, it is a rush to solve a problem which does not exist, and it should not be supported as proposed.


Roberts is the president of the Vermont School Boards Association. Visit the VSBA website to find... • Best Practices showcase featuring money and time saving suggestions from school throughout Vermont; • Streaming videos on varying topics; • Examples of governance study documents; • Legislative information; • Teacher negotiation data; • School model policies; • Member to Member page where you can ask and/or answer questions anonymously.


DALE continued from page 1

The 2011 Legislature has made clear its expectation that schools take this opportunity very seriously in an attempt to create improved educational opportunity for students while decreasing the costs of providing educational services.

Students have unprecedented access to information. Learning opportunities must be individualized to meet the needs of a wide array of students. School boards and citizens must engage in envisioning the future of education to ensure our students are well prepared for a constantly changing society and world of work.

All supervisory union boards were required to discuss these issues by December 15, In the midst of these global trends what 2010. Currently, approximately one- makes Vermont special is small size, human scale, comthird of Vermont’s munity relationschool districts and “Voluntary efforts under Act 153 ships, and deep one-half of all su- must engage communities in commitment to pervisory unions are looking deeply at how best to place and to our actively engaged in natural environconsidering oppor- increase opportunity, control ment. Vermont’s tunities made avail- costs, and maintain community school boards able by Act 153, with ownership.” must be strong two groups in the forces for mainprocess of moving formal proposals to the voters of their dis- taining deep community ownership of the tricts for the creation of regional education education of children while expanding districts. (See page 9 for a breakdown of opportunities for students, all in the context of an environment with constrained these activities.) resources. This article is designed to clarify the position of the VSBA relative to Act 153 and Although school board members are to outline how the VSBA can support elected to focus on the education of children in a particular geographic area, implementation. all board members must be concerned about the children in adjoining towns and VSBA Underlying Assumptions The VSBA believes that local “owner- throughout Vermont. ship” of Vermont schools has contributed to Vermont’s educational system being, While fully supporting the Act 153 apby most measures, among the best in proach, VSBA strongly rejects proposals the country. Voluntary efforts under Act that would arbitrarily collapse and con153 must engage communities in looking solidate school districts. These types of deeply at how best to increase opportunity, proposals turn our attention away from control costs, and maintain community educating students and toward structural changes that devalue local ownership ownership. capable of responding to distinct condiThe nature of education is changing dra- tions and needs that exist in our schools matically in the information age. Educa- and towns. tion is no longer confined to the four walls of a schoolhouse and our connections are no longer limited to our town or state.


The keys to effective education are quality and continuity of leadership, quality of teachers, engagement of families, com-

munity ownership of educational services, and the breadth and depth of opportunities provided to children. Any action taken under Act 153 should further these aims. Recommendations of VSBA VSBA supports the opportunities provided by Act 153 to examine existing delivery structures for education and to imagine possibilities for expanded learning opportunities and increased student achievement in an era of diminishing resources and societal change. Act 153 is not a perfect law, and may need further refinement to allow the flexibility that school leaders and voters may desire. However, adjustments are better left to the 2012 Legislature after local districts have had more chance to consider options and to work with the process for another year. In 2012, the legislature should consider legislative change in Title 16 ยง 706b which outlines the process for creating unified school districts. That statute establishes the State Board of Education as the entity that approves governance changes. Because of that, many districts are reluctant to formally establish such committees. They would prefer to have the study process fully under the auspices of the involved local boards until the study is complete and a direction established. A small change in the law could facilitate progress. The section of Act 153 requiring that certain services and duties be delivered through the supervisory union by July 1, 2012, should be adjusted to move the implementation deadline back to 2013. (This will ensure an orderly transition and will prevent confusion in districts that may be in the midst of researching creation of a Regional Education District or a Supervisory Union Joint Agreement).

VSBA encourages the Department of Education to focus on supporting creative, local Act 153 voluntary merger proposals and to refrain from mandates involving interim superintendents and mandatory governance studies. VSBA encourages the Vermont Legislature and the State Board of Education to refrain from mandated consolidation activities over the next several years while districts work within the Act 153 structure. Conclusion Change is inevitable. We need to adapt our education system to new realities. However, every change we make must be focused on improved student opportunity and achievement, continuation of strong community ownership, and efficient delivery of educational services. Change should not be driven by arbitrary, bureaucratic consolidations. Act 153 provides an impetus for local conversations throughout Vermont, revisiting the vision for education and discussing organizational changes needed to support the creation of new opportunities for our children. VSBA encourages boards to continue to engage in these conversations. Where it makes sense educationally, boards are encouraged to consider bold and creative ideas that may result in changing some education governance structures. VSBA is committed to offering consulting services to assist with these processes. School board members have the opportunity to set the tone for the ongoing effort to strengthen education in this time of change. Boards are critical civic institutions rightly empowered to ensure that quality education in Vermont is pervasive. The VSBA stands ready to support boards in this ongoing challenge.



Changing Demographics Demand Examination of Educational Delivery By Commissioner Armando Vilaseca Act 153 was passed last year to provide incentives for local schools to consider voluntarily merging into larger districts. I recommend that every school district in the state examine Act 153 to see if their students and communities could benefit from such a consolidation. I see the potential both for greater efficiency in how we operate our schools, and for improvement to an already strong educational system for our students. This recommendation is based on over 30 years of experience working in Vermont schools, rural and suburban, in different parts of the state, as well as the traveling school visits I have made since becoming Commissioner. We have one of the more expensive educational systems to operate not because we have overpaid teachers or staff, but because our complex system of delivery creates duplication of services. Our student enrollment statewide is at one of its lowest points in decades. Our current enrollment of approximately 89,000 students is down from a high in 1997 of over 106,000 students. When we examine the current student population and our state birth rates, this decline is projected to continue for several more years. During this period of decline in our student population over the past 15 years, school staff has increased by about 20 percent. Our student-to-staff ratio is about 4.7 students to every adult. We have many supervisory


unions with full-time superintendents and central offices for districts with fewer than 1,000 students. We have 277 district school boards, including many that operate schools with fewer than 100 students. I am not questioning the sincerity and commitment of school board members around the state, but we need to maximize our investments and share resources in order to meet the needs of students. Since the passage of Acts 60 and 68, we have moved from a system of funding our schools mostly based on local taxes to one based on state taxes. Currently, statewide school tax dollars are sent to the state Education Fund, and districts are then paid for the bulk of their local school expenses. This means that local decisions made by one community have consequences for all of us. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest reasons we need to look at a different way of operating our schools. Vermont has a long-standing tradition of local citizens serving on school boards, which I fully support. However, I believe we need to review our concept of “local.� I believe in a systems change wherein most of our current districts merge into larger supervisory districts. Elected officials from those communities will still be charged with setting the policy and vision for the larger district, but they would have greater resources and more options in terms of human capital and physical space in VILASECA continued on page 10

School Consolidation: Groundhog Day All Over Again By William J. Mathis “Today, state officials examine school consolidation,” the clock-radio announcer proclaims. Through my halfwakefulness, I think, “Wasn’t that last year’s headline? And wasn’t it the year before, too?” Like the movie, Groundhog Day, it seems we are doomed to a perpetual purgatory of proposals to consolidate schools.

them. Whether mega-banks, megabusiness or mega-government, people are wary of distant decisions by far-away people where their voice is lost in voice-mail purgatory. The proposed replacement of school boards with toothless “community school councils” is a pale and wane substitute.

Over the past century, 20 major task forces have lambasted the “ludicrous, utterly ridiculous and wasteful” supervisory union structure. We tried county systems in the nineteenth century and briefly did away with supervisory unions in the 1920s. We’ve had proposals for 32 districts, 18 units and 8 districts. Governors Hoff, Salmon, Snelling and Kunin all swung and struck out. Yet, today’s supervisory union is remarkably similar to the 1906 edition. For a weak, cumbersome and chaotic system, it has an amazing resilience.

There are 1460 school board members engaged in the sometimes difficult, sometimes cantankerous, business of local government. What good reason exists for eliminating this citizen involvement? If we lament the decline of civic engagement, then turning boards into neutered “advisory councils” holds little promise for a resurrection of democratic participation.

Of course, all the reports about their inefficiency were a little bit right. But they were a whole lot wrong when they proposed eliminating citizen governance of their schools. On this point, they all fell. The recent Council on the Future of Vermont reports that citizens see the school as the heart of their town. They value local schools, in their communities, where their children and the town’s children attend together. They value the election of local school board members. They value the ability to be able to call their neighbor to register a concern or a complaint and get something done. They value locally developed school budgets, voted by

Vermonters, as well as citizens across the nation, understand that schools are far more than just test scores. They intuitively know what the research says. Small schools raise student achievement, reduce violence and disruption, combat anonymity and isolation, increase attendance and graduation rates, elevate teacher satisfaction, improve school climate, operate more cost-effectively, weaken the effects of poverty and increase parentcommunity involvement. These civic knowledges are vital to the core purposes of schools. Perhaps it is because Vermont schools embrace these characteristics that our performance is so high, our child well-being measures so positive and our citizens support their school budgets so well. MATHIS continued on page 11


Experiences with Act 153 From the Boardroom asked local school officials to share with us some of their experiences working with Act 153 processes. Here is a sampling of the responses we received. In August of 2009, the districts of Elmore, Morristown and Stowe began what has become a multi-stage process of exploring options for governance and the future of the schools in the Lamoille South Supervisory Union (LSSU). Since then, changing economic circumstances have added increased urgency and legislative changes have added a new opportunity and incentives. The work has grown into a formal process for exploring what the communities want for the future of public education in each community, and the opportunity to assess the impact a change in governance might have.

It is my belief that the primary purpose of Act 153 is to make school districts and supervisory unions function more effectively and more efficiently from both an educational and a fiscal standpoint. However, as a board member and a resident of Vermont, it appears to me the legislation has fallen short in important areas including school choice, voter participation and opportunities for the students in this State. Act 153 will be a hard sell to my community because of the reasons listed below. Convincing the majority of community members that the interest of the Legislature is only in educational quality, and not just fiscal savings at the state level, will be a challenge. Convincing community members a RED Board is a good idea will also be tough. A RED Board could make the ultimate decision on whether a school stays open or closed and it will primarily be comprised of people outside their communities. Small towns will feel they have been left out of the decision making process. Another challenge will be addressing communities that could potentially lose school choice under an Act 153 merger. Parents and community members will feel the State is trying to limit and control the educational choices for their children resulting in limited educational opportunities.

The process began with commissioning a study of the financial, demographic Mary Van Vleck, Sunderland School Board Clerk and school operations of each of the schools and districts within LSSU by Dr. Raymond Proulx. As an outcome of each Board’s thoughtful reflection on the study, a second study process was initiated which went beyond the data and delved into questions of quality, equity and community values and priorities. This process relied entirely upon the work of a committee of community members and students who represented a variety of stakeholder groups and was facilitated by Dr. Proulx. The committee identified that: (1) the trends were compelling enough that the status quo structure might not meet community expectations for its schools in the future; and, (2) the Regional Education District holds the greatest potential of all of the options studied for enhancing educational quality and efficiency and also provides some financial incentives.� The RED committee’s work is scheduled to begin in April and conclude by August of 2012. Tracy Wrend, LSSU Superintendent


The member districts of the Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) voted to form a governance study committee in August 2010. Like many districts across the state, most of our schools are experiencing declining enrollments, combined with a growing concern for the cost of education. We have undertaken this responsibility in a thoughtful and deliberate way. The members of the committee have agreed that our recommendation will be primarily derived from the values and priorities of our communities, while also adhering to timely and relevant data regarding educational equity, efficiency and quality. To that end, our most important role will be to engage the whole community in a discussion regarding the future of education, early in the process. We have established a website http:// to educate, inform and, most importantly, provide an ongoing forum for all interested parties to express their opinion, share information and ask questions. Ruth Hardy and Rick Scott, ACSU Study Committee members EXPERIENCES continued on page 14.


VILASECA continued from page 6

which to serve students. For example, Washington Central Supervisory Union (WCSU), which comprises the towns of Calais, East Montpelier, Worchester, Berlin and Middlesex, could transition from a five-district system to a single district with board representation from each community. Better yet, Montpelier could be included as well, which is geographically surrounded by WCSU. Please remember that, from a national perspective, these will still be small districts. If mergers occurred statewide along the guidelines I have suggested, no district would be larger than our largest existing district (Burlington). We would go from having 277 districts to somewhere around 40. The number of supervisory offices would be reduced by approximately one-third. My Department has calculated that the immediate and ongoing savings in educational expenses would be approximately $20 million a year. By reducing the duplication of services and harnessing joint purchasing power, we could save additional money every year.


New VSBA Executive Director, Steve Dale is engaging in a thorough assessment of VSBA to help the VSBA board plan the future direction for the organization. Part of the assessment has involved meeting with boards and individual board members. Another part will be drawn from a survey. The survey has been sent to all school board chairs in Vermont. We are asking that board chairs place the survey on the agenda for an upcoming meeting to respond as a group. If no meeting time is available during the survey period, the chair can respond individually. We are anxious to have a strong response. Thank you for your cooperation.


We also need to look realistically at the number of schools we currently operate around the state. We have more than 50 schools with fewer than 60 students, and most of their populations continue to drop. These small schools contribute to Vermont’s distinction as having the smallest student-to-staff ratio in the country. If we increased our ratio by a fraction (from 4.7:1 to 4.9:1), taxpayers could save approximately $23 million annually. Act 153 is not intended to close schools – it offers incentives for increasing district size and looking at different ways of delivery education. In fact, Act 153 actually offers protections for small schools by guaranteeing that they remain open for a set period (the default is four years) unless the town where the school is located agrees to closure. However, I believe we cannot take school consolidation off the table. We do need to look at it on a district-by-district basis and make sensible decisions based on local conditions. If we can find efficiencies in education, we can improve the overall fiscal condition of the state without reducing the breadth of educational services that we provide children. We can improve the outcomes for our students and meet the changing fiscal realities in our state, not by watching our small schools and districts die a death by a thousand cuts, but by systemic, thoughtful sharing of resources. Act 153 is a great start but the work has just begun. I would like to see a long-term, systemic, conscious, data-driven process to move us closer to a better, more efficient and potentially less costly system to organize our schools based on 21st century ideas, not those that were conceived in the 1800’s.


Armando Vilaseca is Vermont’s Commissioner of Education.

MATHIS continued from page 7

The Commissioner has to show that consolidation will not diminish democratic participation, will save money, and enhance student learning and civic virtues to such a degree that citizens will swap-off part of their democratic power. There is little evidence that this case can be made. In fact, in the short term, it costs more, according to the testimony of Dr. David Silvernail and Dr. Craig Howley, two national experts who testified before the Vermont Education Funding and Effectiveness Committee. Local towns and schools should, however, band together for greater efficiencies and better programs. More than 30 successful and productive examples have occurred in recent years. (Full disclosure requires me to report that I have been involved in very successful and not so successful local consolidation efforts). Likewise, we can increase school efficiency while maintaining our democratic linkages in our communities. School busi-

ness operations, special services, transportation, curriculum and professional development are needlessly fragmented. Centralizing these functions is simple and expedient. The Council on the Future of Vermont said the state’s number one priority is affirming Vermont’s identity. The second concern is promoting community and the third is building Vermont unity in a society increasingly economically and cyber-segregated. There are good ways to achieve and sustain these values. One would be in strengthening, rather than weakening, the bonds between towns, citizens, and generations in the democratic governance of our schools.


Mathis, a former Vermont school superintendent, is the Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. He was recently appointed to Vermont’s State Board of Education. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Vermont State Board of Education or the National Education Policy Center.

VSBA/VSA CONFERENCE—SAVE THE DATE The VSBA/VSA Fall Conference is scheduled for October 20-21 at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee. We are at a critical time in the evolution of Vermont’s education system. It will be very important for school board members to attend this important event. The VSBA Annual Meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of October 20. If you have limited time, October 21 is the best day for board members to attend. Our keynote speaker (presenting on October 21) will be Jamie Vollmer who is a nationally known speaker who will address the value of local boards and

the challenge of engaging communities in understanding what education needs to Jamie Vollmer become. His message will resonate with board members from throughout Vermont, and we expect he will provide energy and insight for the ongoing work ahead. More information will be forthcoming, but we urge you now to set aside the date.


Unified Union Structure Provides Equity, Opportunity By Tom O’Brien “A significant restructuring of the educational system in Vermont is imminent and the need for such change is much more obvious now than it was four or five years ago. It is important, however, that we not be rushed to judgment and risk losing what makes our school system ours. In that respect, I remain convinced that the efficiency, economy and equity of a unified union is a reasonable first step for the schools and the community of Addison Northwest Supervisory Union.” (O’Brien, January, 2010) On Town Meeting Day, 2010, the communities of the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union (ANWSU) voted by a two to one margin to form a unified union governance structure for its schools. The vote was the first of its kind in the state and marked the beginning of voluntary efforts around the state to reduce the number of school districts and the overall cost of education. For ANWSU, this change meant that instead of four school districts with four school boards and four budgets for 1150 students, it would become one K-12 district governed by a single school board with one budget that would serve all students in the district. The efficiencies and equities associated with this change are well documented. The economies, although logically anticipated, are more difficult to clearly and immediate-


ly ascertain. It stands to reason, however, that savings will accrue by reducing or eliminating the redundancies inherent in the current educational operations. Unfortunately, the vote in 2010 was overturned in one of our five communities. Concerns about the potential closing of schools, the cost to taxpayers and the perceived loss of local control appeared to be the primary issues. Since, a concerted effort has been made to address these concerns by providing several opportunities over the intervening months for community members to express their concerns and to learn the facts through participation in several public forums. In December of 2010, this renewed discussion culminated in a unanimous vote by the State Board of Education that it

found (again) “the proposed formation of the Addison Northwest Unified Union School District is in the best interests of the students, the state, and the school districts involved” and, thereby, has set the stage for the same question to be presented to the ANWSU communities once again. By forming a unified union school district, student opportunities, especially at the K-6 level, will be broadened and result in greater equity, efficiency and economy across the supervisory union. Individual town school districts will no longer have to “go it alone” in their effort to provide required and desired educational programs for their students in the face of declining enrollments and resources. Although the strategy is most often viewed as a cost saving measure via economies of scale and elimination of redundancies (which it is), the primary motivation in ANWSU has revolved around the equity issue, i.e., a common (unified) effort on behalf of all

students regardless of the town in which they reside and/or the school they happen to attend. It is our belief that a single K-12 school district is the platform through which greater equity and improved student opportunities can be provided. Coordinated professional development and a common curriculum K-12 will strengthen the preparation of students at the K-6 level and increase the likelihood for improved success at all levels. At the same time, redundancies of time and expense across elementary grade levels and schools will be significantly reduced. The creation of the proposed unified union school district will also expand school choice options at the K-6 level. The unified union structure will allow student attendance beyond current town and union boundaries based upon capacity, geographical proximity and the best interests of a student and it will not require a tuition payment. Some might wonder why the ANWSU Board of Directors continues to pursue this change for our schools. Simply put, it is the most fiscally responsible and educationally sound alternative available to us. Without this choice, each of our schools risks the likelihood of becoming “too small” to sustain its programs and the certain inability to overcome the intrinsic challenges of “going it alone.”


Tom O’Brien is the superintendent of ANWSU.


EXPERIENCES continued from page 9. Send us your Act 153 experience! Email

Rutland-Windsor SU is current engaged in an SU Joint Agreement study with two of our neighbors. We will, hopefully, be examining how as a region we can provide a diversity of courses that meet a wider spectrum of interests. Another area in which we may be able to collaborate is development of program opportunities for students with special educational needs. Other areas of interest would be shared consultants and teachers with specialized expertise in curriculum areas such as reading, mathematics, technology, etc. Joan Frangiose, Rutland-Windsor SU Superintendent

As Chair of the Windham School Board for a very small school, I have significant concerns about the whole consolidation conversation, and allowing others to have control over what happens in our local communities. I am also concerned that, while, superficially, we have couched the conversation in educational opportunity and quality terms, the major impetus, at least from the previous administration, has been money: what we can and cannot afford. If schools want to discuss Regional Education Districts (RED), I think it is a valuable conversation to have, but please do not expect every school to participate and please do not threaten us with reassignment to another supervisory union if we do not participate this is just not the Vermont way. As we move forward with the RED/consolidation discussion, I think there are several important things to consider: Educational quality is number one; others are the health and wellbeing of the children, including a parent’s ability to be involved in their education if a proposed school is an excessively distant, and a community’s desire to maintain a local school. I think it is wrong to allow the State Board of Education, the RED, or anyone else to make a school closing decision, other than the community itself. I would urge school boards to carefully research the process and ramifications before participating in a study group. Rep. Carolyn Partridge, Windham school board chair and Windham state representative

School Board Academy - Online Videos Did you know the VSBA website ( has 34 streaming videos on several topics available at your fingertips? Some of the video topics are listed below and range from 5 to 20 minutes in length. • Real World Graduates • Presenting the Budget • Agendas & Meetings • VSBIT • School Policy • Act 82 • Board Reorganization • Robert’s Rules • Athletic & Cocurricular Policies • Public Engagement • Code of Conduct • Parent-Board Collaboration


2011 VSBA Resolutions VSBA Resolutions are the Association’s official positions on important educational issues and are adopted by the membership for each biennium. These positions guide your Association Board of Directors and staff as they represent you in Montpelier and at the federal level. The 2011 annual meeting will be on October 20 at the Lake Morey Resort. Please check the current resolutions at If your board (not individual members-member school boards must approve a resolution for submission) has additional suggestions for resolutions, please submit them for consideration by the Resolution Committee no later than July 15, 2011. Resolutions may cover any topic of significant statewide or national concern. They address desired legislative or governmental initiatives. Please be concise and clear so the intent, as well as the requested action is understandable. It is the “Resolved” portion (or action requested) that is voted on, not the “Whereas” rationale, which should be used only to explain your board’s position. NOTE: Resolutions may also be submitted from the floor at the business meeting, provided they are “in writing with sufficient copies for voting delegates. A majority of the voting delegates present must approve a motion to allow the resolution to be introduced for discussion.” [VSBA Bylaws]

Resolutions may also be submitted at

SPONSORING SCHOOL BOARD:___________________________________ TOPIC OF CONCERN: __________________________________________ WHEREAS:______________________________________________________ (please explain why the action you are requesting should take place)_________ ________________________________________________________________ AND WHEREAS:__________________________________________________ (further explanation if necessary)______________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ BE IT RESOLVED:________________________________________________ (explain what action you desire)_______________________________________


Vermont Schools Turn Facility Upgrades into Budget Cutters by Amy Rubin, Efficiency Vermont An innovative funding approach is being used by Vermont schools to turn energysaving facility upgrades into budget cutters. The approach, called tax-exempt leasing (or municipal leasing), enables schools to make energy-efficiency improvements with no upfront costs. According to Richard Donnelly of Efficiency Vermont, tax-exempt leasing is a lowinterest financing mechanism that “can be structured so that resulting energy savings more than cover the loan payments. That creates a positive cash flow.” Many Vermont school districts are already using tax-exempt leasing for capital expenditures such as school buses, computer equipment, and playground equipment. Some schools are also using this mechanism for leasehold improvements like lighting, heating, or ventilation equipment. When used for energy-saving building improvements, a tax-exempt leasing agreement can be structured so that money a school saves on energy more than offsets loan payments. Tax-exempt leasing also enables schools to make energy-saving improvements without adding an expense to the annual budget and without creating a bond; loan payments are included as a line in the utility budget.

“Making facility improvements doesn’t get more affordable than this,” says Donnelly. “Energy savings start immediately upon completion of upgrades, so the utility line on the budget is lower from day one. Instead of waiting to find money for improvements, schools can afford to upgrade and stop overpaying for energy now.” Efficiency Vermont works with schools to identify energy-saving projects and to determine if tax-exempt leasing or other methods are cost-effective funding approaches. Call Richard Donnelly, toll-free, at 888-921-5990 extension 1129 to learn more and to get names of leasing companies. Or call Burlington Electric Department (BED) for assistance with schools in BED territory.


For an overview of tax-exempt leasing, visit A Free Energy Assessment of your school is available from the Vermont Superintendents Association’s School Energy Management Program. Contact Norm Etkind, Director, 229-1017 or by email at

Updating the School’s Policies?

Please take a few minutes to look over some of the resources the VSBA can offer you. • Website: the VSBA website hosts several pages of information regarding policies including general information about the upkeep and legal status of policies, model required policies and model best practice policies. (Available in Microsoft Word, Acrobat or as a link). • A free fourteen and one half minute streaming video on our website (Video link).


New Law Expands the Availability of Meals in Summer Enrichment Programs A new law passed by Vermont legislators during the 2009-2010 legislative session is expected to make nutritious food more accessible to low-income children this summer. Schools that operate a summer enrichment program for 15 or more hours per week will be required to provide meals or snacks to students using one of two federal programs: the Summer Food Service Program or the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option. Both programs reimburse schools for providing nutritious snacks and meals to children. The new law applies to schools where 50% or more of the children qualify for free or reduced price meals for at least one month during the preceding school year. Emily Glover, Child Nutrition Advocate at Hunger Free Vermont, believes that the new law will help strengthen the safety net for vulnerable children during the summer. “Over 30,000 children rely on free or reduced price meals provided by the school. When schools close for the summer, many of these children lose access to consistent, balanced meals.” Summer nutrition programs do more than feed hungry children; they also attract

children to enrichment programs where food is served. According to the Food Research and Action Center, summer programs keep children and teens “safe, learning, engaged and active during the summer months, reducing the loss of learning that often happens to children during the long summer break.” The combination of healthy meals and quality summ programmer ming m ensures c children are ready to learn re when they rew turn tu to school in the fall. In an effort to assist schools a and commua nity organin zations with z their th summer meal programs, Hung ger g Free Vermont is partm nering with n the th Vermont Department of Education to offer a series of webinars. The webinars are designed to support new summer food programs, as well as established programs looking for new and innovative ideas.


To learn more about the new law or for assistance with summer meal programs, contact Emily Glover at 865-0255 or register for a webinar, visit http://www.hungerfreevt. org/sfsp_webinars.php.


VSBA Regional Meetings Please consider attending the meeting in your area. Also, consider these dates when scheduling board meetings around holidays in September. The regional meetings are FREE of any charge. The meetings will begin at 5:00 with a light dinner, continue into regional elections and regional discussions followed by a workshop/discussion time regarding statewide issues. VSBA, like all membership organizations, depends on participation from you — local school board members — for its strength and vitality. The primary purpose of VSBA’s regional meetings is to provide you the opportunity to provide important input and representation to the Association by electing members from your region to serve on the VSBA Board of Directors and Resolutions Committee. The VSBA Board provides direction and support for the programs and services offered to the member boards, while the Resolutions Committee recommends positions on various issues that the Association membership acts upon at the Annual Meeting. September 1 - Franklin Region, BFA St Albans September 6 - Lamoille Region, Green Mountain Tech Center September 8 - Chittenden/Grand Isle Region, Winooski High School September 12 - Bennington Region, Southwest Vt Career Dev. Center September 15 - Orange/Washington Region, VSBA Conference Room September 19 - Rutland Region, Rutland High School September 22 - Addison Region, Mt. Abraham Union High School September 26 - Orleans/Essex Region, No. Country Union High School October 3 - Caledonia/Essex Region, Lyndon Town School October 6 - Windsor Region, Woodstock Union High School October 10 - Windham Region, Leland & Gray Union High School

Please mark these dates on your calendars and the calendar in your school district and supervisory union to ensure there are no conflicting meetings 18

Webinars April 18 or 26 7:00 - 8:30pm

New School Board Member Orientation S C H O O L B O A R D R O LES, RE S P O N S I B I L I T I E S A N D R ELATI O N SH I PS

The VSBA is offering a course to new school board members to help you better prepare for your new role. To make this more convenient for participants, we are trying this new webinar format. You will be able to log on through your computer or one at your school.

• Getting Off to a Good Start • Board-Superintendent Roles • Polic y Leadership • Running Effective Meetings • Collective Bargaining • Budget Development Process

Choose the day that works best for you and register on our website. After you have registered we will send you the steps involved with logging in. Thanks also for the information I have recently received from the VSBA. It’s been so helpful in getting started trying to understand what it is I need to know in order to do my job well. I’m realizing what a daunting task is before me, but so far, I’m loving it! Lauren Wobby New Board Member in 2004

Vermont School Boards Association 2 Prospect Street, Suite 4 Montpelier, VT 05602

Please visit our website or call to register


(802) 223-3580 (800) 244-8722 19

Vermont School Boards Association 2 Prospect Street Suite 4 Montpelier, VT 05602-3579

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Permit #222 Barre, VT 05641

April Newsletter  

April Vermont School Boards Association Newsletter

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