A Bennington Chamber of Commerce representative has secured one of the community member seats on the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's Act 46 study committee.
"Business needs a voice," said Marie Shutts, director of operations for the chamber. "Local employers are frustrated with not being able to fill vacancies because the graduates do not possess the skill set necessary for those positions."
The Bennington School Board, which selected Shutts and two others as its community representatives on the committee, agreed there is a place for the business community in the discussion.
"The educational system is absolutely critical to our being able to bring in people that want to move to this area," said George Sleeman, vice chair of the school board. "The better the school system the better our chances are of attracting those people to become part of our community. That was one of the reasons that I, personally, voted for Marie."
The Vermont School Boards Association said it didn't know of any other board in the state that had made a similar appointment.
Shutts cited concerns that doctors joining the staff of the local hospital are bypassing Bennington to live elsewhere because of the schools. "I hear it because the hospital is one of our chamber members and they find that relocating doctors to our area is difficult," she said.
In May, Superintendent James Culkeen issued a letter seeking volunteers from the supervisory union's communities to be added to the Act 46 study committee. "Input from the community is an important part of the process of collaboration and possible consolidation," he wrote. Each school board was to interview and select its community representatives.
Sleeman, who is also on the Act 46 committee, said members wanted to expand it to bring in other points of view. The first meeting with new members will be in July. Shutts was attractive to the school board because before joining the Chamber of Commerce she worked in the supervisory union's central office for many years.
"In interviewing her, we were impressed with the fact that she really would be an excellent representative to have on the Act 46 committee because of all the contacts she has," Sleeman said.
Shutts said her inclusion is a good step. "This was a way to start involving the businesses. That is what drives a community: the school system and its businesses," she said.