Windham board not happy with merger plan

This article by Chris Mays originally appeared June 4 in the Brattleboro Reformer.

WINDHAM — Acting Vermont Secretary of Education Heather Bouchey and the Agency of Education are suggesting a merger for Windham Elementary School District, which has opposed one during earlier Act 46 talks.

“The secretary trusts that the community’s concern for the well-being of all their children will impel them eventually to embrace the opportunities of a unified structure and work together to improve educational opportunities and equity for all students in the region,” says a proposed plan released Friday by the agency.

The merger would mean Windham would have to join Jamaica, Townshend, NewBrook and Leland & Gray Union High School districts in the West River Modified Unified Union School District.

The agency said Windham’s K-6 average daily membership has fluctuated over the last five fiscal years, staying in the mid-teens except for 20 students in FY15.

Even if the school gets a projected 35 students, it would be the fourth smallest K-6 school in the state, according to the plan.

The district is currently Vermont’s smallest.

“Given the State Board’s current draft metrics for small school grant eligibility, it is questionable whether the district will continue to receive the [approximately] $40,600 annually in statewide education funds to support continuation of its programs,” the plan says. “Larger governance structures have been shown to provide the flexibility needed to reduce budget and tax increases, even out tax rate fluctuations, and allow small or struggling schools to stay open and programs to remain intact or be expanded.”

Windham Elementary Principal Mickey Parker-Jennings said he was not surprised at all by the agency’s proposed plan.

“I don’t think the state has a clue what is best for the children and residents of Windham when it comes to education,” he told the Reformer. “To think we will have one representative on an 11-person board is a joke. I hope we will convince the state board in the fall that the merger is not in the best interest of these children or the families of Windham.”

Read full story at the Brattleboro Reformer.

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

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ProjectManhattan

One thought on “Windham board not happy with merger plan

  1. $16 Million Property Tax Increase, Mandates for School District Consolidation. (H.361). Passed 88-55, April 1, 2015. Those voting YES on this bill approved a $16 million increase in school property taxes, setting the statewide homestead property tax rate at $0.98 (flat), and raising the nonresidential property tax rate to $1.525. The bill also placed mandates on school districts to consolidate into Pre-K- 12 districts of no fewer than 1100 students and put in place a complicated formula for capping school budgets, which could not be triggered until 2018. Those voting NO on H.361 saw this as a failure to answer the pleas of citizens for meaningful tax relief, while launching a serious assault on local control and the democratic process. PARTRIDGE – YES Carolyn Partridge(D) voted to shaft her own school district and now she is crying foul. What a hypocrite. Will her constituents hold her accountable?

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