This article by Chris Mays originally appeared May 8 in the Brattleboro Reformer.
TOWNSHEND — In a 6-4 vote Monday night, West River Education District board members set the stage for voters to decide if Windham should be made to merge.
Five communities — Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham — will vote by Australian ballot on June 11 whether Windham Elementary School District should fully join the West River district. Windham residents currently vote on the high school portion of the West River budget.
In June, voters also will consider a combined budget of $11,710,082 by adding Windham’s anticipated 2019-20 expenses of $450,039. Those votes would be “commingled,” or collected then tallied together.
Joe Winrich, West River Education District board chairman, said Monday’s meeting was about warning a vote so that it could be certified by the state before the West River district becomes operational in July.
In its final report on Act 46 mergers, the State Board of Education requested that the vote happen before then. Superintendent Bill Anton said the West River board’s authority does not match or exceed that of the state board.
But West River board member Howard Ires, who represents Windham, insisted that a vote to merge the districts could be held at any time.
“We haven’t budgeted for a new school in our district, we finally finally got our budget approved on a second vote — why would we want to warn this vote?” he said. “There’s no rush to do this except this bizarre request from the state that comes with this crazy deadline that nobody has planned for.”
Throughout the meeting, Ires continued to question the need to vote.
“What for?” he said. “Just to overrule the voters of Windham who have already said, ‘We prefer to run our own little school up there?'”
Ires anticipates “a huge campaign” of lawn signs and letters to editors opposing the merger.
“People of Windham don’t want to merge,” he said. “We’ve made this clear.”
Read full article at the Brattleboro Reformer.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)