"I don't think you'll ever see a board saying 'you shall do this'…
I think Act 46 is optional."
Former Governor Peter Shumlin



Reorganizational meeting on April 10.
Athens, Grafton & Westminster say NO to AOE
Click for Video

 

To VSBA

It is not civil disobedience to assert your constitutional rights.  Civil disobedience is to refuse to comply with a lawful act of the state.  But when an act of the state is challenged as unconstitutional, any lawful means to protect ones’ rights, including democratic action to suspend meetings, is not civil disobedience.   Labeling it as such, as the VSBA is doing, is an attempt to criminalize lawful acts to protect constitutional rights, and as such, are themselves violations of constitutional rights.

Marty Strange
Randolph,  VT

 

From the Vermont School Boards Association


Dear School Board Member,

Acts 46 and 49 have been challenging for school boards in all of Vermont. Many districts have merged, some have not. Some mergers went smoothly. Some did not. Some tried and failed. Some tried, failed, tried again and then passed. Some want a delay. Some do not. Some believe the law is unconstitutional and have joined a lawsuit. Others have not challenged the law. In summary, this has been a very challenging item for the VSBA.

Previous positions on Act 46 had served the organization well. We were neither in favor of, nor opposed to school district consolidation. We did, however, remain engaged in the process, offering testimony on a variety of different aspects of bills as they were being crafted.

We have found this current environment, particularly on the issue of delay, to be quite different. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, the organization originally adopted a similar position on delay. We were neither in favor of, nor opposed to delay but we did want to remain part of the discussion.

Unfortunately, that position has been parsed differently by different constituents as the conversation of delay has escalated. Some interpreted any testimony provided by the VSBA as a stance in favor of delay. Recent attempts to clarify our position proved unsuccessful. Our attempts to capture and reflect the wide and disparate views on this issue failed.

Last night, the VSBA Board of Directors met and reviewed the Senate Education Committee amendment to H.39, (see here for an overview) considered the testimony offered by the Agency of Education opposing delay, as well as the opinion of Judge Mello, and for over two hours, discussed the experiences with Act 46 implementation in their regions. While many points of view emerged, the Board also reflected on the organization’s mission and vision, in addition to best practice in school district governance, and concluded that taking a position at this time is the right thing to do.

The Board adopted the following motion:
The VSBA recognizes that this is a challenging time for boards and our membership is divided on the issue. Our mission and vision statements require us to support policies that promote good governance. To prolong the uncertainty regarding Act 46/49 will have a detrimental effect on students and employees. Therefore:
1 We oppose delay.
2 We support default budgets.
3 The legislature should decide on delay, not individual school districts.
4 If there is a delay, the legislature should also reaffirm the State Board of Education’s merger plan.
The Board’s discussion highlighted the following concerns:
1 We are deeply concerned about the effect that delay will have on children. Public education has an ambitious mission, which is expanding every year with initiatives intended to better respond to the needs of struggling students (Act 173); to provide safe and healthy environments (S.40); and to ensure all children feel safe and welcome in schools (H.3). School officials cannot focus on the critical needs of students and support the employees who directly work with students if they are consumed with disputes over school governance.
2 We are concerned that the recent acts of civil disobedience among board members and community members sets a dangerous precedent for the governance of school districts. The role of a school board is to serve as effective trustees on behalf of the community, by: ensuring the district complies with the law, adopting a budget that meets the educational needs of students, adopting district policy and procedure, and operating ethically and effectively. Current news coverage and the experiences of our own members shared at board meetings makes clear that in many of these communities, good governance is at risk, placing the students and employees of those schools at risk. A delay of Acts 46/49 rewards these acts of civil disobedience and sends a message to school officials that failure to follow the law may be rewarded with relief from the law.
3 We are concerned that delaying Acts 46/49 will be interpreted by community members in recently unified districts that the General Assembly may be backing off of its intent to fully implement the law. We are already hearing from some community members that believe a delay means the law will be repealed and it is reigniting debates in communities that already unified about whether that was the right thing to do.
4 The General Assembly passed Acts 46/49. It is the General Assembly’s job to see the law fully implemented and on schedule. Do not defer decisions regarding delay to local communities that have been engaged in contentious discussions about the law for over four years. School boards across the state have carried out the law as you wrote it. They are relying on you to ensure it is implemented fully, not to defer difficult decisions about when to implement back to communities that are divided on the issue.
The General Assembly passed Act 46 four years ago in order to respond to concerns about the sustainability of our public education system. The types of changes and opportunities contemplated by Act 46 have required school board members to navigate some of the most challenging and pressing issues facing public education today.

In large measure, Vermont’s school board members have risen to the challenges posed by declining enrollment, rising costs, leadership turnover, and growing inequity in student opportunity, and are charting a positive course forward for public education in Vermont. This course builds upon our strengths but recognizes that preserving the status quo is not in the best interests of the students and communities we serve.

The VSBA Board of Directors recognizes that it can not speak for all school boards on this issue. It speaks as an organization that is deeply committed to great governance, excellent education, and strong communities. We call on the General Assembly to first and foremost consider the needs of students and the health and well-being of our public education system as it considers H.39.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on its amendment to H.39 tomorrow. Please take a minute to share your perspectives with your Senators and the members of the Senate Education Committee:

You can find the contact information for your senators by SU/SD here.

The contact information for the members of the Senate Education Committee is as follows:

Sen. Phil Baruth (Chair) - pbaruth@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Debbie Ingram (Vice Chair) - DIngram@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Ruth Hardy - rhardy@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. James McNeil - jmcneil@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Corey Parent - CParent@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Andrew Perchlik - aperchlik@leg.state.vt.us

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

The Executive Committee of the VSBA Board

Clarence Haynes, President
kcarchip@aol.com

Neil Odell, Vice President
neil.odell@hnsb.org

Kim Gleason, Treasurer
kim.gleason@board.ewsd.org

Geo Honigford, Past President
hurricane.flats@gmail.com

Lou Bushey
lbushey@kidrow.net

Flor Diaz-Smith
diazsmith.flor@gmail.com
--
Nicole L. Mace
Executive Director
Vermont School Boards Association
(802) 223-3580
nmace@vtvsba.org
Acts 46 and 49 have been challenging for school boards in all of Vermont. Many districts have merged, some have not. Some mergers went smoothly. Some did not. Some tried and failed. Some tried, failed, tried again and then passed. Some want a delay. Some do not. Some believe the law is unconstitutional and have joined a lawsuit. Others have not challenged the law. In summary, this has been a very challenging item for the VSBA.

Previous positions on Act 46 had served the organization well. We were neither in favor of, nor opposed to school district consolidation. We did, however, remain engaged in the process, offering testimony on a variety of different aspects of bills as they were being crafted.

We have found this current environment, particularly on the issue of delay, to be quite different. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, the organization originally adopted a similar position on delay. We were neither in favor of, nor opposed to delay but we did want to remain part of the discussion.

Unfortunately, that position has been parsed differently by different constituents as the conversation of delay has escalated. Some interpreted any testimony provided by the VSBA as a stance in favor of delay. Recent attempts to clarify our position proved unsuccessful. Our attempts to capture and reflect the wide and disparate views on this issue failed.

Last night, the VSBA Board of Directors met and reviewed the Senate Education Committee amendment to H.39, (see here for an overview) considered the testimony offered by the Agency of Education opposing delay, as well as the opinion of Judge Mello, and for over two hours, discussed the experiences with Act 46 implementation in their regions. While many points of view emerged, the Board also reflected on the organization’s mission and vision, in addition to best practice in school district governance, and concluded that taking a position at this time is the right thing to do.

The Board adopted the following motion:
The VSBA recognizes that this is a challenging time for boards and our membership is divided on the issue. Our mission and vision statements require us to support policies that promote good governance. To prolong the uncertainty regarding Act 46/49 will have a detrimental effect on students and employees. Therefore:
1 We oppose delay.
2 We support default budgets.
3 The legislature should decide on delay, not individual school districts.
4 If there is a delay, the legislature should also reaffirm the State Board of Education’s merger plan.
The Board’s discussion highlighted the following concerns:
1 We are deeply concerned about the effect that delay will have on children. Public education has an ambitious mission, which is expanding every year with initiatives intended to better respond to the needs of struggling students (Act 173); to provide safe and healthy environments (S.40); and to ensure all children feel safe and welcome in schools (H.3). School officials cannot focus on the critical needs of students and support the employees who directly work with students if they are consumed with disputes over school governance.
2 We are concerned that the recent acts of civil disobedience among board members and community members sets a dangerous precedent for the governance of school districts. The role of a school board is to serve as effective trustees on behalf of the community, by: ensuring the district complies with the law, adopting a budget that meets the educational needs of students, adopting district policy and procedure, and operating ethically and effectively. Current news coverage and the experiences of our own members shared at board meetings makes clear that in many of these communities, good governance is at risk, placing the students and employees of those schools at risk. A delay of Acts 46/49 rewards these acts of civil disobedience and sends a message to school officials that failure to follow the law may be rewarded with relief from the law.
3 We are concerned that delaying Acts 46/49 will be interpreted by community members in recently unified districts that the General Assembly may be backing off of its intent to fully implement the law. We are already hearing from some community members that believe a delay means the law will be repealed and it is reigniting debates in communities that already unified about whether that was the right thing to do.
4 The General Assembly passed Acts 46/49. It is the General Assembly’s job to see the law fully implemented and on schedule. Do not defer decisions regarding delay to local communities that have been engaged in contentious discussions about the law for over four years. School boards across the state have carried out the law as you wrote it. They are relying on you to ensure it is implemented fully, not to defer difficult decisions about when to implement back to communities that are divided on the issue.
The General Assembly passed Act 46 four years ago in order to respond to concerns about the sustainability of our public education system. The types of changes and opportunities contemplated by Act 46 have required school board members to navigate some of the most challenging and pressing issues facing public education today.

In large measure, Vermont’s school board members have risen to the challenges posed by declining enrollment, rising costs, leadership turnover, and growing inequity in student opportunity, and are charting a positive course forward for public education in Vermont. This course builds upon our strengths but recognizes that preserving the status quo is not in the best interests of the students and communities we serve.

The VSBA Board of Directors recognizes that it can not speak for all school boards on this issue. It speaks as an organization that is deeply committed to great governance, excellent education, and strong communities. We call on the General Assembly to first and foremost consider the needs of students and the health and well-being of our public education system as it considers H.39.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on its amendment to H.39 tomorrow. Please take a minute to share your perspectives with your Senators and the members of the Senate Education Committee:

You can find the contact information for your senators by SU/SD here.

The contact information for the members of the Senate Education Committee is as follows:

Sen. Phil Baruth (Chair) - pbaruth@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Debbie Ingram (Vice Chair) - DIngram@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Ruth Hardy - rhardy@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. James McNeil - jmcneil@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Corey Parent - CParent@leg.state.vt.us
Sen. Andrew Perchlik - aperchlik@leg.state.vt.us

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

The Executive Committee of the VSBA Board

Clarence Haynes, President
kcarchip@aol.com

Neil Odell, Vice President
neil.odell@hnsb.org

Kim Gleason, Treasurer
kim.gleason@board.ewsd.org

Geo Honigford, Past President
hurricane.flats@gmail.com

Lou Bushey
lbushey@kidrow.net

Flor Diaz-Smith
diazsmith.flor@gmail.com
--
Nicole L. Mace
Executive Director
Vermont School Boards Association
(802) 223-3580
nmace@vtvsba.org

 

 

Letter of March 8 to Nicole Mace,
Executive Director of the VSBA from
Diane Janukajtis of Strannard School Board

Hi Nicole - The letter recently sent by the VSBA board members to school board members was very disturbing. Apparently, if you follow Robert's Rules of Order and adjourn a meeting until a later date voted by the electorate you are practicing "Civil Disobedience".  I've been very concerned throughout this school year that VSBA was not representing all school boards in the state, only the districts that merged voluntarily. I believe it is imperative that if you say you will be representing all districts and the VSBA votes to do so (Sept 2018) then you need to follow through with that position. To do otherwise is to take a position against the other districts and that's what has occurred.

Lakeview Union Elementary (towns of Stannard and Greensboro) were force merged in Oct, 2018 by the State Board of Ed contrary to the recommendation made by the VT AOE. We were told in writing by Donna Russo Savage and others (including the consultants hired by OSSU for help with the Act 46 process, Steve Sanborn and Peter Clark) that we were not eligible to merge as we did not have a "like structure" to merge with due to being a union elementary school. Hardwick and Woodbury understood that they could be merged, but not Lakeview. It was very upsetting to then be force merged and have only four months to do the work that other school districts had years to complete! We are struggling to comply with the law in a very compressed time period, thus the request for a delay so the work (and there's a ton of it) are done in the best interests of our students. We are working with a larger school district (Hardwick) that has publicly stated that they want to close Lakeview as soon as possible. The draft merged budget will cost us l8305. per pupil just under the threshold and is l800. more per student than Lakeview's FY 19 budget. Even with the declining enrollment Lakeview's FY 20 voted budget is 17900.
We will be paying for Hardwick Elem school bond for a new parking lot and possible water problems, while Lakeview has no debt.  It's not just about debt of other districts, it's about geographic isolation (paying more per pupil and traveling further if Lakeview is closed). Stannard parents who can will drive their children, parents without the means to do so will have no choice but to put their children on the bus. This is already a 45 min to 1 hr trip without inclement weather. Now we are fighting to continue to receive the small schools grant (like the voluntarily merged districts) to avoid starting the new merged district with a 180,000. hole in the budget that needs to be filled somehow. Obviously, Act 46 as implemented has not served our town well; we are faced with losing our school, young children riding longer distances on the bus, and taking on other towns debt. On top of that, the supt, VSBA board members, and board members of districts that have voluntarily merged are contacting legislators urging no delay for us. I cannot understand this position - the voluntary merged districts rec'd tax breaks, small schools grants in perpetuity, etc - none of this will go away. Stannard and Greensboro are doing our best to comply with the law with the largest district telling us they want to close Lakeview immediately. Obviously this is not a "quick fix" situation; the amendment committee is meeting, the transitional board has met unofficially as the "budget advisory committee", etc. Meanwhile our supt is advocating for two new positions ( Facilities manager and Food service manager) that we have said we cannot afford and do not want at this time. 
Many of us feel these are SU positions.  It did not take long for our voters at Stannard Town Meeting to figure out that our students are not being served well under our current situation. Along with the SBE, VSBA shows a clear lack of understanding and no interest in finding out why board members are upset.
Not all schools and boards are in the same position under this law; I would be hard pressed to show voters how this is more equitable and offers additional learning opportunities at a reasonable cost.The board needs to consider who they represent - is it all boards, are you truly considering the needs of rural schools? Over half of Vermont students are rural students.

For the reasons above, Stannard Board members will be discussing discontinuing our membership in VSBA. I know that the OSSU joins and is billed so I will be bringing this issue to that board in the near future. In my mind this is a serious decision, something I don't take lightly. I have been a board member over 20 years (between Stannard and Lakeview boards) and know the valuable service that VSBA has provided over the years, particularly for new members. Please share this e-mail with VSBA board members.

Sincerely,
Diane Janukajtis, Stannard School Board member

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Announcing the establishment of funds
to support litigation and lobbying on behalf of
school districts who oppose forced mergers
as a result of Act 46

   

This week the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members, working in conjunction with Vermonters for Schools & Communities announce the establishment of a fund to support litigation and lobbying on behalf of school districts who oppose forced mergers as a result of Act 46. At this time 21 school districts facing forced merger have announced their intention to take legal action to challenge forced merger by the Vermont State Board of Education.

 “School districts object to forced merger. They are taking legal action because they believe the Agency of Education and State Board of Education rejected their applications to form alternative governance structures out of hand, without following the law. The districts believe that if the State Board of Education followed the alternative application process appropriately, many more applications for alternative governance would have been approved.” said Margaret MacLean of V4SC.

On behalf of AVSBM, V4SC, and many participating school boards, attorney David Kelley forwarded a "Litigation Hold" letter to the Agency of Education and the State Board on August 31. It warned the agency and board to preserve all documents related to their actions on  the "Act 46 State-Wide Plan," the document recommending forced mergers.  This is a first step in seeking an injunction to forestall the implementation of forced mergers which these groups argue would cause "Immediate and Irreparable harm."

For donations, please click the circle links above. Contributions to the Act 46 Defense Fund may also be made by check to the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members at P.O. Box 251, Westminster, Vt.  05158. Further details, including a copy of Attorney Kelley's litigation hold letter can be found on the Alliance website.



web counter
web counter