LSSU E-Newsletter January 24, 2019

A Message From Superintendent Tracy Wrend

I am pleased to share another exciting and high-quality initiative being undertaken at one of our schools. This year as part of the reading workshop initiative at Stowe Middle School, students are engaged in reading workshops centered around the theme of racism. Students are reading and talking about the concepts of race and privilege and using discussion protocols to help all to feel more comfortable when exploring these topics. This instructional design reflects the principles of Proficiency-Based Learning by providing for student choice and multiple opportunities to show mastery. Students are choosing from a rich menu of texts including March by Jaqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper, Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

The legal appeal regarding the forced merger is progressing, with the case assigned to Judge Mello and a venue change to Franklin County.  Judge Mello approved an aggressive briefing schedule, with a proposed hearing date on both a stay and the merits of the case in mid-April.  In the meantime, the judge’s approval formalizes permission to move forward on a “dual” pathway, preparing for a merger at the same time we are preparing for normal operations in our current governance structure. Boards and I will be working hard to provide clear information about the work underway for traditional budgets and the merger process. Community engagement is strongly encouraged, and we appreciate your efforts to be informed.

Similarly, the legislative discussion around postponing the legal deadline that would otherwise force districts, like ours, into involuntary mergers by July 1 is ongoing. House Leaders and the House Education Committee have been considering the challenges forced mergers present to communities such as ours and are considering legislation that would delay implementation by one year. A one-year delay in implementation will not only allow the legal process to play out, it will ensure our communities have enough time to implement any changes thoughtfully and in a way that best supports our students. The legislative arena is another area where community engagement is critical. If you would like to help this effort please reach out to Stowe Board Chair Cara Zimmerman at [email protected].

Budgets were approved and will be before voters on normal schedules, with informational and Annual Meetings in Elmore-Morristown and Stowe and Australian ballot votes in your respective towns on Town Meeting Day.  

Thanks to all who attended the organizational meeting and informational meeting on the Articles of Agreement for the newly formed Lamoille South Unified Union District.  The next major step in the process of preparing for the merger is a vote on proposed amendments to the Articles of Agreement.  In the coming weeks, information will be provided regarding the proposed amendments and the process for voting.  All are encouraged to vote, including by early or absentee voting!

Best,
Tracy

 

EMUU Board Brief
January 22, 2019

Our meeting began with a conference call with Representative David Yacovone, who provided an update on consideration the legislature is giving to delay the forced Act 46 mergers by a year. Board member Penny Jones testified on behalf of LSSU earlier in the day.  

Judge Robert Mello has been assigned to preside over our Act 46 appeal. We have been granted permission to continue our pursuit of dual pathways – planning to merge and planning to remain a separate district – until our appeal is resolved.

The transition board for the newly formed district, the Lamoille South Unified Union, consisting of two EMUU members and two Stowe members, will meet the last Wednesday of every month at noon in the Morristown Graded Building. All meetings are open to the public.

Members of the articles of agreement committee provided an update on the three articles, which will govern the operations of the new district that will go to the electorate for consideration. The first two articles recommend extensions for both Closures of School Buildings and Grades of Attendance until 2022-2023. The third article recommends a seven-member board with three seats designated for Morrisville, three seats designated for Stowe, and one seat designated for Elmore. Any article not passed by the electorate will revert back to the state recommended plan. Voting on these articles will take place February 26, 2019.

The FY20 budget was discussed and approved. The budget reflects an increase of $460,175 or 3.3%.   The tax rate impact of the budget equates to an estimated increase in the Local Homestead tax rate of 4.6 cents for Morristown and 6.1 cents for Elmore and no change in local income sensitivity rates.  Non-Homestead tax rates are not directly affected by local budget decisions, rather are set based on statewide spending, and are estimated to increase by 3.2 cents in Morristown and 4.8 cents in Elmore. These tax rate impacts are estimates.  Several factors in the tax rate calculation have not yet been finalized by the State.

The proposed budget reflects support for the continuation of current levels of staffing in all areas within EMUU, with the exception of a proposed 1.0 FTE reduction in professional staff at PAML and a 1.0 professional position at MES.  These reductions can be accommodated given decreases in enrollment.  The cost drivers behind the overall budget increase include compensation increases for faculty and staff, health insurance premium increases of approximately 12%, and vocational education costs, which are up about $60,000, an increase driven by increased tuition costs at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center.

We are working on updating the fire alarm systems at PAML and PA.

Our Annual Meeting will be held February 28, beginning at 6:00 pm, in the Peoples Academy Auditorium.

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LSSU’s E-Newsletter, including Board Briefs will be posted at https://www.lamoillesouthsu.org/blog.php the Thursday following each board meeting. You can read it there, or receive it directly by email by subscribing. More detailed information regarding Elmore-Morristown Unified Union School Board meetings can be found in our board minutes: https://www.morrisville.org/emuu-school-board.php

 

SSD Board Brief
January 21, 2019

February 26th: Vote on Amendments to the Articles of Agreement. If you are going away for February vacation, please make sure to vote early!

The SSD Board continues to concurrently: 1. appeal the Vermont State Board of Education’s decision, 2. take steps required by law for a forced merger, and 3. make decisions centered around normal school operations.

  1. Appeal Forced Merger Decision—Litigation: Our case, as well as the other Act 46 lawsuits relating to the VSBE’s decisions, has been reassigned to Judge Richard Mello of Franklin County. Legislation: Heidi Scheuermann is spearheading a tri-partisan effort to pass legislation that provides a one-year delay to the forced mergers.
  2. Meeting Forced Merger Requirements—Transition Board: The organizational meeting was held on January 14th, and the following were elected to serve during this transition period: Cara Zimmerman (Stowe) as Chair, Stephanie Craig (Morristown) as Clerk, and Penny Jones (Elmore) as Treasurer. Articles of Agreement: The Articles of Agreement committee recommended three changes to the draft articles: maintain which school students attend from 2 years to 4 years, maintain all current school buildings from 2 years to 4 years, and change the board composition to 3 Stowe, 3 Morrisville, and 1 Elmore. The vote for these amendments will be on February 26th, and early voters will receive this ballot.  It is important that you vote on these amendments—if passed, they will be used to govern our new school district.  If the amendments do not pass, the default articles in the State Board of Education’s Articles of Agreement will go into effect.
  3. Normal School Operations—Budget: The board approved a budget of $12,776,450, a 5.8% increase with a cost of $15,805 per equalized pupil. The largest drivers of the increase in the budget are: 1. $150,000 put in a Capital Fund account to start saving for future work; 2. $119,675 increase in health care premiums; and 3. $60,000 for pre-bond services related to the capital project.

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LSSU’s E-Newsletter, including Board Briefs will be posted at https://www.lamoillesouthsu.org/blog.php the Thursday following each board meeting. You can read it there, or receive it directly by email by subscribing. More detailed information regarding Stowe School Board meetings can be found in our board minutes: https://www.stoweschoolsvt.com/ssd-school-board.php .