Joan Lenes and Kate Webb
With the Chittenden South Supervisory consolidation vote coming up on June 7th, we want to give a brief update on Act 46 from both a state and local perspective.
Last spring, the legislature passed Act 46, designed to move the state toward a sustainable model of education. The confines of our 120-year-old governance structure, coupled with declining enrollment, made it increasingly difficult to meet the educational needs of the 21st century learner, maintain stable leadership, efficiently manage resources and be accountable and transparent to taxpayers.
One of the ways Act 46 meets these needs is a requirement to consolidate schools and resources into larger districts. Voluntary consolidation measures over the past decade brought few results. The requirements of Act 46 together with financial incentives for early movement, however, have turned this around. To date, citizens in eighty-one school districts have voted or are planning to vote to unify into fifteen larger districts. Our own CSSU is one of them.
Last year, the CSSU board, on which Representative Lenes serves, authorized a committee to look at the benefits and drawbacks of consolidation. The history of those meetings and final report can be found here: http://act46.cssu.org/.
In many ways, CSSU is almost there. CVU offers an enviable selection of learning opportunities for students in our five towns. Our central office coordinates an IT system across all schools, negotiates cost-efficient joint purchasing, and administers and coordinates special education services. Financial savings and educational progress can be attributed in part to these changes. School boards around the state are looking to do the same.
But there is more to do here. Would developing one budget instead of seven allow more time for educational initiatives? Would it be easier to meet the changing needs of students and student enrollment if faculty and staff could move more flexibly between schools rather than locked into one? Would the superintendent have more time for educational leadership meeting with only one school board rather than seven? Is local control really lost or is there still plenty of opportunity for local input? Meeting over thirty-five times and deliberating over the concerns of different perspectives, the committee unanimously recommended we go forward with a vote.
Public education is among the most important investments we make as a society. Not only does it enhance the lives of all Vermonters, but also serves as the foundation for the common good of our communities. An information meeting about our CSSU consolidation will take place in each of our communities on June 6th. Shelburne’s will be held at the Shelburne Community School gym at 7:00pm. Please vote on June 7th!
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