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Act 46 Study Committee Meeting Agenda and Minutes


ACT 46 STUDY COMMITTEE Representing the Brattleboro Town School District, Dummerston Town School District,
Guilford Town School District, Putney Town School District and the Vernon Town School District
http://www.wssu.k12.vt.us

NOTICE OF MEETING

The Act 46 Study Committee will meet at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, 2017 in the WRCC Cusick Conference Room.

AGENDA

I. CALL TO ORDER – 6:00 p.m. – Alice Laughlin, Committee Chair

II. REVIEW, PRIORITIZE AND ESTABLISH DESIRED OUTCOMES FOR MEETING BY CHAIRPERSON.

III. REVIEW COMMITTEE MEMBER ROLES AND PUBLIC COMMENTS BY CHAIRPERSON

IV. APPROVAL OF MINUTES – January 25, 2017

V. REVIEW STUDY COMMITTEE PROCESS BY CHAIRPERSON

VI. RECOGNITION OF GROUPS AND/OR INDIVIDUALS

VII. STUDY COMMITTEE WORK SESSION:
Review Process and Compliance

VIII. FUTURE MEETINGS, DISCUSSIONS

IX. ADJOURNMENT

Note: In accordance with the following excerpt from WSESU Policy E-12 Electronic Communications Use and Retention

II. Use of E-Mail and Electronic Communications

The school board and administration will not use email as a substitute for discussion at board meetings, or for any business properly conducted at board meetings subject to the Vermont Open Meeting Law.

....

Brattleboro Town School District, Dummerston Town School District,
Guilford Town School District, Putney Town School District and Vernon Town School District

Act 46 Study Committee
Work Session Agenda, Minutes & Action Items – January 25, 2017 at 6-8 PM – Guilford Central School

Present
Brattleboro: Kim Price*, David Schoales**, Jill Stahl Tyler*, Mark Truhan*
BUHS/ BAMS/WRCC: Ricky Davidson*, Ian Torrey* * denotes voting member,
Dummerston: Kristina Naylor** ***, Amy Wall* - Clerk ** denotes alternate voting member,
Guilford: Beth Bristol*, Alice Revis** *** denotes ex officio member
Putney: Richard Glejzer**, Alice Laughlin* - Chair
Vernon: Walter Breau*, Mike Hebert**

Also present
WSESU: Frank Rucker – Business Manager, Ron Stahley – Superintendent, Lyle Holiday – Curriculum & Assessment
Others: BCTV staff and members of the public listed on the public sign in sheet

Committee Guidelines
1. Work sessions will start and end on time.
2. Work sessions will last 2 hours unless decided otherwise by the Committee.
3. Members will give and receive with good intentions.
4. Members will follow “3 before me” as a guideline so all members have the opportunity to speak.
5. Members will conduct Committee business in front of the group.
6. Members will understand that silence on the part of another member does not imply agreement.
7. Members will site sources of evidence during discussion.
8. All members will be included in conversation and no side conversations will be conducted during the work session.
9. Members will stay on topic during discussions and will request the Clerk make note of additional topic(s) for future discussion.
10. Members will engage in the work at hand and administration will provide the space and support as needed to do so.

Agenda Items Led by
- Call to order Alice Laughlin
- Review, prioritize and establish desired outcomes for meeting Alice
- Review Study Committee member roles and public comments by Chair Alice
- Approve of minutes of previous work and info sessions – January 4 Alice
- Review Study Committee process by Chair Alice
- Recognition of groups and/or individuals Alice
- Study Committee Work Session Alice, Ron Stahley
- Dummerston Vote & Public relations
- Merger Vote
- Leadership Council reps nominated at Town Meetings
- Petitions for Unified Board Candidates
- Community education and outreach
- Review Process and compliance
- Article 7 reconsideration
- Future meetings, Discussions Alice
- Adjournment

Work Session Minutes:

Chair Alice Laughlin called the work session to order at 6:02 pm, reviewed agenda items and confirmed with the Committee its usual process for public comments. On a motion made by Alice Revis, seconded by Ricky Davidson and so voted, the minutes of the January 4th work session were accepted as written. Beth Bristol abstained from the vote since she was not present for this work session.

Alice welcomed the public present and opened the floor to their thoughts, concerns and/or ideas which included:
Request for the most recent draft Report with Articles of Agreement to be posted on the website. Alice confirmed that the latest draft is dated 1/4/17 which will be reviewed tonight. Ron Stahley confirmed that it will be posted to the website.

Alice shared that Windham county legislators invited Windham County Study Committee chairs and Superintendents to a meeting in Montpelier on /25/17. Because of travel conditions, Alice and Lyle Holiday participated remotely and spoke to the group for 10 minutes.

Alice confirmed with Amy Wall and Kristina Naylor that the Dummerston revote on Vernon’s withdrawal from BUHS #6 was scheduled for February 21st at the Town Office. The required information session is scheduled for February 13th at 6 pm at the Dummerston School. Amy Wall shared that the Vernon School Board will be in Dummerston holding its meeting in Dummerston on 2/13 and will be present at the information session to answer questions from the Dummerston public and request support for its withdrawal from BUHS #6. Alice confirmed with the Committee the importance of its presence at the Dummerston information session. Ron Stahley pointed out the need to emphasize that per the separation agreement with BUHS, Vernon will relinquish its share of BUHS assets and any claims to payments Vernon has made to date on BUHS debt. Additionally, future Vernon BUHS/BAMS/WRRC tuition payments will offset the expense to remaining districts if its withdrawal from BUHS is approved by the Dummerston voters. Alice opened the floor to public comments which included concern that the 2/13/17 information session was a Dummerston event and that Vernon School Board nor the Study Committee should be involved.

Alice asked Beth Bristol and Alice Revis to speak to the emails circulating in Guilford and other local communities on school closure. Beth shared that there was concern in Guilford that the goal of the Study Committee’s work was to close local schools – in particular, Guilford Central School. Beth stated that the Guilford School board has been addressing this issue with residents and site Article 7D which specifically addresses the topic of school closure. The outcome of the ensuing discussion was that Guilford Study Committee members believed that the school closure vote by the unified board was “unanimous” when Article 7D in fact specifies a ¾ majority or 7 of 9 members required to vote in favor of school closure. Further discussion of Article 7D and possible reconsideration was deferred to later in the work session by consensus of the Committee.

Alice asked Ron Stahley to review the proposed calendar of events with the Committee. Ron shared that if the 2/21/17 Dummerston vote supports Vernon’s requested withdrawal from BUHS #6, then 4/11/17 was the date tentatively set for a unification vote. Richard Glejzer asked if the Governor’s proposal for a May vote on school budgets would have any potential impact. Ron shared that the Governor’s proposal had significant hurdles to overcome and seemed unlikely to garner support. If it were to be approved by legislators, then the date for a unification vote can be adjusted. Frank Rucker pointed out that as the 7/1/17 date gets closer, it becomes increasingly more challenging to prepare for the operation of a unified district. Clarification from the AOE is being sought on the use of Town Meeting school budgets approved in March as an acceptable starting point for the proposed unified district effective 7/1/17. Ron and Frank concurred that their impressions from the VT AOE support this but they are seeking confirmation. Alice opened the floor to public comment which questioned the selection of the 4/11/17 date for a merger vote. Ron Stahley shared that this was a date deemed acceptable by all Town Clerks. In ensuing discussion, the Committee confirmed that a vote to release unified board petitions had taken place at a previous work session.

Alice Laughlin asked for information on nomination of Leadership Council members from Ron Stahley. He confirmed with legal counsel the process by which Leadership Council members are nominated at Town Meeting and how nominations will take place if a merger vote takes place after Town Meeting. At Town Meeting, this topic would fall under the Warning Article for “all other school business” and specific wording would be provided by legal counsel for nominations from the floor. Discussion ensued about the logistics involved to educate the public (school newsletters, Town Meeting information sessions, town email notifications, etc.) and would allow those interested in serving on a school’s Leadership Council to step forward. Ron confirmed that if the unification vote failed, then those nominated to serve on the Leadership Councils for each school would not be needed. Ricky Davidson offered to confirm the number of nominees needed from each town for local schools and BUHS #6 which includes BAMS, BUHS and WRCC. Alice Laughlin opened the floor to public comment which included concerns with Town Meeting nominations – that it was pushy and confusing. Richard Glejzer thanked the public for this “different lens” and offered the follow language to Article 15: “For the transition year, school leadership councils will be filled by existing town school board members willing to serve in this new role, supplemented by appointments by the new Supervisory Board.  At the first Town Meeting following the merger, leadership councils will be determined through nominations from Town Meeting per the articles of agreement.” Beth Bristol made the motion to add this language to Article 15, Kristina Naylor offered a friendly amendment to the wording which was incorporated, Kim Price seconded and the vote was unanimous.

Alice Laughlin asked Beth Bristol to speak to Guilford’s concerns re: school closure vote – ¾ majority vote versus unanimous vote. Beth explained that it was the Guilford board’s understanding that the wording in Article 7D had been changed at a previous work session to unanimous. In the ensuing discussion, it was confirmed that this topic had been discussed at several other work sessions and that the wording had not changed from ¾ majority vote. In the ensuing discussion, other Committee members confirmed that they understood Guilford’s concerns but could not support tying the hands of the unified board with a unanimous vote, that this set the bar too high and that a ¾ majority vote on school closure was fairest to all communities and that wording in Article 7D had built in safeguards (i.e. process leading to the vote). A motion was made by Beth Bristol and seconded by Alice Revis to change the vote requirement from ¾ majority to unanimous in Article 7D. The vote failed with Guilford members voting in favor and all others voting against. Guilford members shared that they will be taking this information back to their community. Alice Laughlin acknowledged the difficulty of this vote for all present.

Alice opened the floor to public comment which included the following thoughts, concerns and ideas:
Support for a town vote on school closure;

Understanding of Article 7D language, concern that it is too subtle and voters may not understand; and
Alice suggested that if a school closure was needed, the Articles of Agreement would lead a unified board to consider closure of a Brattleboro school and distribution of students throughout the unified district
Questions about next actions if Vernon is not released from BUHS #6;

Alice stated that if there is no progress, then there are several paths the Study Committee could take including pausing its work which would allow the VT AOE to decide unified school structure if beyond the 7/1/17 deadline.
Support for investigating of alternative governance structures. The Committee members confirmed that this work had been done already and referred to documentation on the website and in work session minutes.

Alice Laughlin asked Jill Stahl Tyler to update the Committee on public outreach and the development of an information video with BCTV. Jill shared that the project was well underway and was based on previous presentations made at information meetings. The video in progress is smaller video segments focused on specific topics. This was done to foster education of the public on specific topics with information that is easily accessible, concisely presented and does not require the public to watch hours of Work sessions. The plan is to have the video available for use by Town Meeting.

Alice confirmed the following dates on the Study Committee’s calendar:
2/13/17 – 6 pm – Dummerston information session for revote on Vernon withdrawal from BUHS #6;
2/15/17 – tentative date for WSESU Board meeting - time and location TBD
3/2/17 – 6 pm – work session – location TBD.

Alice Laughlin opened the floor to the public for thoughts, concerns and ideas before adjournment:

Reference to work in Harwood, VT re: unification, school closure, school closure, socioeconomic statistics, etc.;
Re: socioeconomic issues, Ron Stahley stated that this was addressed at the local board level and gave the specific example of Brattleboro’s neighborhood schools approach and its Universal Meals. Jill Stahl Tyler shared that one of the major advantages of a unified district was that it made programs like Universal Meals available to schools that currently do not qualify due their size but do have eligible students.

Concern that the 2/13/17 information session was a Dummerston event and that Vernon School Board nor the Study Committee should be involved;

Questions about how local petitions on investigating alternative governance structures would be addressed; Ron Stahley shared that these petitions would be addressed by local boards during the Warning for all other school business and discussion would be needed at the public information session 10 days prior to Town Meeting.

Reference to the different wording in the Dummerston petition re: alternative governance structure.

On a motion made by Ricky Davidson, seconded by Jill Stahl Tyler and so voted unanimously, the work session was adjourned at 7:52 pm.

Respectfully submitted, Amy Wall – Committee Clerk

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