Pownal School Board votes to join Act 46 lawsuit

This article by Patricia LeBoeuf originally appeared Jan. 9 in the Bennington Banner.

POWNAL — The Pownal School Board signaled its intention at a meeting Tuesday night to join a high-profile Act 46 lawsuit, spelling confusion as the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union begins preparations for a merger of elementary districts ordered to take effect by July 1.

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

Pownal voters rejected a merger under Act 46 in a November 2017 vote, but are still being forced to participate in a merger with the other elementary school districts of Shaftsbury, Woodford and Bennington.

The board voted unanimously, with member Todd Steinhoff absent, to become the 32nd Vermont school district, and the first in Bennington County, to join the suit. However, because the meeting was warned as a budget meeting and not a board meeting, a new vote has been scheduled for tonight at 5:30 in the school library.

The supervisory union’s attorney, through SVSU Superintendent Jim Culkeen, voiced concern about the vote’s legality on Wednesday, board chairwoman Cindy Brownell said.

“We’re not sure where it’s going to go,” Brownell said at Tuesday’s meeting. “But there’s been a lot of concern from taxpayers.”

She pointed out that Pownal voters rejected a merger under Act 46 in a November 2017 vote, but are still being forced to participate in a merger with the other elementary school districts of Shaftsbury, Woodford and Bennington.

The vote calls into question the timing of the organizational meeting for the new union district, which has been scheduled for Jan. 15. A motion filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s office in Washington County Superior Court seeks to push back the deadline for the required organizational meetings of the merged school boards that have filed suit.

Read full story at the Bennington Banner.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

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