November 16th, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Summary of Actions:
• Approved the Minutes of November 2nd, 2016.
Townshend: Joe Winrich (Chair), Brud Sanderson, Heidi Russ, Kris Jerz
Jamaica: Drew Hazelton, Pam Tweedy, Patti Dickson
Newfane: Emily Long, Ken McFadden, Kelli Warriner, Neil Pelsue
Brookline: Erin Zargo, Sherry Greene
Windham: Carolyn Partridge
Consultant: John Everitt
Members of the Public:
Members of the Public: Nancy and Jerry Dyke, William Anton (Superintendent), Bob Thibault (Principal),
Peter Barus (Recorder), Rich Melanson (BCTV)
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 5:07 PM by Ms. Partridge.
Review and Revise Agenda
Mr. Hazelton moved “to approve the Minutes of November 2nd, 2016.” Second by Mr. Hazelton.
In discussion corrections were noted. Under transportation, Ms. Partridge asked that her statement in that
meeting that “the school board sets the route” be added. Other corrections to names, spelling and
attendance were made.
All in Favor.
Everyone introduced themselves.
Public Comment (N/A)
Connection with citizens – Outreach efforts
Ms. Rafael discussed the brochures, Ms. Greene described efforts to distribute brochures noting that
feedback has been good. Ms. Partridge had distributed brochures at her Town office. Wardsboro took many
brochures, Ms. Rafael observed. She had not been directed to post the Draft Articles as yet; the Elementary
Committee had posted theirs, not quite finished, as a hard copy placed at each school in a binder; there had
been several requests for the digital file by email; the next big thing is putting out the Articles. December
17th is the deadline for “News and Notes”. She asked the Committee to think of dates and formats for public
information to publish well in advance and as widely as possible.
Ms. Partridge discussed the “Windows Commuity Organization” listsrv, noting that Ellen McDuffy is the
contact, Ms. Rafael noted that she is on the distribution list.
Ms. Rafael plans to continue to publish on “Front Porch Forum” There was discussion; the L&G
committee is an elementary committee; the public may be confused by the L&G Towns name; Ms. Rafael
will confer with Committee contacts and publish specific information addressing this.
Ms. Long suggested contacting the Elementary Committee (the other potential Side) to clarify the names of
the committees. It was pointed out that L&G will not have its own Budget under unification.
Mr. Everitt asked Ms. Rafael to discuss more about feedback; the other Committee has been receiving
comments by phone and email and in informal meetings, is very open and accessible.
Ms. Rafael asked the Committee to continue supplying information, and reiterated that the next big thing is
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to release the Articles, noting that this need not reach the whole world, just the communities involved; she
noted that Mike Faher has written up interviews (“VT Digger” etc.)
Opportunities for students – Discussion – Report pages 6 & 7
Ms. Partridge asked Mr. Everitt to clarify. Mr. Hazelton noted that not a lot of time has been spent talking
about the students, and the need for a student-focused discussion; no opportunities are listed other than
some in the appendix; nothing says “this is going to create opportunity...”; he urged the Committee to be
clear with the taxpayers in a statement such as, “by moving forward with this proposal we are going to do
x”; Foreign language only requires funding, the Committee needs to explain to the public what are the
opportunites for students.
Ms. Partridge suggested that some of the language was difficult to get, giving the example of attachment A,
Oct 4, Governance Reunification Impact on student learning; Ms. Long observed that, thinking of what Mr.
Hazelton was saying, the Committee needs feedback from Mr. Everitt, pointing out that until a new district
is formed decisions cannot be made about what concrete opportunities can be created; she had attended a
WSECSU meeting and they also were not specific on this point.
Mr. Everitt noted that that there is no authority to specify what the next Board will decide to do, and
observed that one thing this committee has done is Elementary School Choice, where other Committees
have only proposed to look at this; Principals had spoken about collaborative possibilities; he recalled from
his teaching experience that if the system had three elementary schools under one board, a science unit
traveled from school to school, enabled by proximity to the decision-making hub.
Ms. Dickson suggested a trickle-down effect will have a positive impact on student opportunity; and the
Superintendent’s time will be freed up to actually lead, without the need for so much travel.
Ms. Partridge recalled Ms. Ruppert’s asking for many years why the Superintendent was attending all the
meetings, suggesting he could attend electronically, and could free his time under current structures.
Ms. Long suggested going through Attachment A, noting many exciting ideas. Ms. Partridge agreed. Mr.
McFadden suggested not every meeting needs the Superintendent to attend; Principals collaborate; direct
instruction is not under the Board’s purview, it can suggest, but the Administration implements programs.
Ms. Long took issue, noting that the Boards don’t specify at the retail level, but set the direction of
education through policy, not saying how but what.
Mr. Everitt reminded the meeting of the Agenda. Mr. McFadden suggested if change can happen under one
board, it can still happen under present arrangements, and one cannot say there are any opportunities that
are not available now; unified curriculum is already here in Common Core.
Ms. Jerz pointed out that the Common Core is a standard, not a curriculum. There was discussion.
Review Draft Report and Articles for submission to AoE for review
Ms. Partridge asked if the meeting would examine the heading “Governance unification impact on student
learning”. Mr. Everitt observed that no changes have been made to date
Ms. Partridge read portions of the document and suggested that changing the governance system does not
necessarily improve collaboration, proposing that barriers can be removed without unification. Mr.
Sanderson noted that districts consider many programs proprietary, and see difficulties sharing them, while
under unification they become shared property, allowing more collaboration; staff are not going from
school to school because of budgetary constraints, very difficult barriers to get over without consolidation.
Ms. Partridge discussed a farm-to-school program that is now under consideration for sharing. Ms. Russ
spoke of taxpayers wanting their money spent in their own town, not put into one big pot. She cited a case
in which a teacher buys a set of equipment for each school visited, suggesting it would be nice not to have
that constraint. Ms. Dickson noted that, short of a huge board meeting to share the information, people only
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go to so many meetings, and that with one board the information is shared once for all, an efficient use of
time. Ms. Dyke reported hearing for fourteen years of “curriculum alignment”, a problem mostly between
Sixth and Seventh grades that never gets solved, and is still a problem; one governance would go far toward
a solution, with all the Sixth graders coming in to Seventh from different places. Ms. Russ, speaking to Mr.
Hazelton, observed that Principals attend their own Board’s meetings, whereas under consolidation all
would attend one meeting; if Jamaica is planning something, they don’t call the other schools in;
Townshend’s circus is not well publicized; a one-board system could open the discussions, allow other
schools to discover events they have not been aware of. There was discussion of people being too busy with
local affairs to take a broader view. Mr. McFadden suggested ways to accommodate this without
consolidating. Ms Russ observed that this is about much more than extracurricular programs, the
educational pieces are not being disseminated. Ms. Partridge recalled a giant xylophone that attracted
students from other Towns, and suggested more social media participation, citing the Windham Central
Organization website, and suggesting that the information could be shared easily. Ms. Russ reported that
she had found time constraints precluded this as a practical matter, where one large meeting would facilitate
such interchange.
Ms. Dickson suggested that the Committee was trying to solve problems beyond its reach, and proposed
choosing between obstruction, or working to get the draft finished within the allotted time.
Ms. Partridge suggested that this would be a huge change for many towns; board meetings might be held at
L&G; she expressed concern for parental involvement, loss of local control; the budget would be one large
budget. Ms. Russ pointed out that change will occur through the State, regardless. Ms. Partridge suggested
that the WCSU is already sharing teachers, consolidating Special Education. Ms. Russ suggested it is
possible that deciding consolidation is not a good idea, it will be imposed from above; there was
discussion; Ms. Russ suggested pulling something together to present to the voters for them to decide, so
the people would have a chance for discussion.
Mr. Hazelton, concurring that the Committee is not a waste of time, asked about the benefits for students,
because he saw nothing in the articles about children; the Committee is saying consolidation will create
opportunities, although it doesn’t see concrete benefits. Ms. Long suggested clarifying what the report is,
what the Articles are, what is to be submitted, noting that the document is based on what the Committee has
said. She asked Mr. Everitt to explain how this is put together.
Mr. Everitt suggested making sure the required items are in the documents, and then placing other things
the Committee wants to say in the Report or the Articles.
Mr. McFadden suggested the districts are already doing things together to create opportunities, citing the
Keewaitin bus saving money, putting the students together; the Principals are talking, although not enough
for some people; he concurred with Mr. Hazelton that no concrete improvements in education are specified,
although PreK and Choice expand, and this should be an Article stating that “this committee has found no
concrete improvements for students other that PreK and Choice.”
Mr. Everitt expressed disappointment that he had not communicated the opportunities the Principals had
spoken about so clearly. Ms. Long cited a list. Mr. Sanderson noted that page five discusses student
opportunities, that some bullets could be added, that there are four pages on student opportunities. Ms.
Tweedy discussed Attachment A, nothing concrete, speculation, potential. Mr. Sanderson suggested it is all
a leap of faith, if consolidation happens the new Board and Superintendent are relied upon to look for
opportunities. Ms. Rafael suggested it might be helpful to think of this as a tool to create a unified Board
that will find opportunities just because they exist, opportunities that cannot be itemized now but only
appears when the Board is created; the objective should be to state what the vision is, not what the
negatives are.
Ms. Partridge asked if the Committee would continue this conversation.
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Ms. Long observed that for twenty years people have been frustrated by the barriers, that when reading
page five and the Attachment A she felt excited; she recognized that a Committee is not able to say what the
steps will be, but there will be the possibility of growing and expanding programs and opportunities; she
gets that from these reports, and if the Committee doesn’t get that from the report, it needs to decide how to
get it, or drop it.
Mr. Hazelton declared himself not against the process or the report, but needing to something to show to
the taxpayers, something he could point to, but there are vague statements, nothing concrete, and a change
of this size should be done for good reasons other than “they are going to do it to us anyway”. There was
Mr. McFadden reiterated that the Committee cannot dictate to the new board, but ony put in what might
happen, which he suggested could happen now; he asked who thought the Act was an imposition, asked for
a show of hands. Ms. Long noted that there was a reason for this conversation. Ms. Partridge reported
voting for Act 46 because there were districts that needed it, but gave as her opinion that L&G is not one of
them. She recalled discussing this with Secretary Holcomb; she cautioned that the Committee was talking
about what may be lost, and as the representative from the smallest school, expressed her concern that it
would be closed. She recalled the Slate Valley Study Committee that failed over specific language to
address closings. Others observed that the present draft does deal with closings.
McFadden urged the Committee to state explicitly what the only opportunities were, or move on. Ms.
Tweedy suggested reading the points in the document.
Ms. Russ asked Mr. Hazelton about choice as an opportunity. Mr. Hazelton suggested that act because
something bad is going to happen is insufficient, adding that if the language doesn’t provide something, it
be written in such a way that it does. Ms. Tweedy suggested bullet points.
Ms. Dickson suggested the Towns are people with common sense, and hoped-for outcomes are possible; a
Committee can give specifics of outcomes for students, and have faith in the people to understand the
possibilities and make up their minds if the matter is presented in an unbiased way.
The Committee read the numbered “unification possibilities and outcomes that would enhance and sustain
learning opportunities for students” and discussed wording and content. Mr. Everitt noted that the process
allows pulling out the points the Committee wants, and then reformatting later. He asked what stood out for
members. There was discussion. Mr. Everitt recalled that this was his memo to the Committee, the language
could be adjusted.
The Committee discussed in detail items 3 through 7. In discussion Ms. Warriner disapproved of number 3,
and Mr. Sanderson reminded that these points would appear as bullets at the top of the document. For
number 4 Ms. Jerz talked about flexibility of resources, Ms. Long discussed matching funds with needs.
For number 5 Ms. Greene noted wording that places high priority on pupils; Ms. Long observed the
challenge of students coming in at many different levels. For 6 Mr. Sanderson suggested the bullet could be
the first sentence; there was discussion; Ms. Long observed that this one was an exciting opportunity for
reducing barriers. Mr. Everitt observed that sub-headings to number 6 provided him with material to draft
something for page 5 (“student learning opportunities”), and he has a sense of what the Committee is
looking for. Ms. Partridge discussed 6c (“Coordinate guidance and mental health supports”); Ms. Long
reported attending a SWSU forum on mental health, educators, public schools, and challenges such as
opiates, suggesting that this piece is critical, and expressing worry about the needs of families into the
Generally accepted without change: 6d – Shared resources; 6e – Common Core Standards, timing,
instruction, remediation; 6f – Professional Development; 6g – Kindergarten; 6h – Substitutes; and 7 –
Coordination, Administrative efficiencies.
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Committee conclusions - new language
Mr. Everitt suggested that the Conclusion list the goals of the Act, and make clear which points align with
which goals, as the other committee has done. Also discussed were: data from audits (will be from the last
one, updated);
Assets & Debts – pages 10 & 11
There was discussion of financial benefits.
Consequences of no action – page 12
There was discussion of the “required plan”; Small School Grants for non-merged districts.
Name of Unified District – page 13
Page 14 names the new district, which should be done with a view to its relative permanence: difficult to
change once the new District exists. “West River Unified Education District” was suggested.
Article 12 - Budget, elections & public questions - page 17
Ms. Tweedy noted the electing of board members occurs at the same time as voting on Town Meeting Day.
She discussed staggered terms; she pointed out an error that Mr. Everitt will correct. There was discussion
of election procedures, At-large members; Ms. Long reported that the other Committee had their election
process vetted by an attorney who explained that the procedure is the same as for At-large representatives,
and occurs at the same time; Mr. Everitt reported that the AoE has that received that language (on electing
Proportional and At-Large representatives to the new unified Board); he is awaiting their feedback; At-large
representatives will run in all five Towns. Ms. Jerz noted time constraints in setting up the election process
with an informed public. Ms. Long suggested that this has to come from the Committee and will take much
Article 14 - Selling a closed school - pages 17 & 18
Mr. Everitt explained conveyance of property, “coin of the realm”.
Other items
Plan agenda for November 21
Ms. Partridge announced that she will be away next meeting and does not know if Ms. Ruppert can attend
as her Alternate; and asked what agenda items the Committee wished to create.
• Adopt final report and articles
• Connections with citizens
Ms. Dickson noted that Ms. Reynolds is still listed in error as a Committee member.
Ms. Dickson moved to Adjourn. Second by Ms. Greene. All in Favor.
The meeting Adjourned at 7:01 PM.
Respectfully submitted, Peter Barus, Recorder, November 19th, 2016
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