BVSU gets reprieve from State Board

ARLINGTON -- The Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union received a two-month reprieve from the State Board of Education, which tabled action at its most recent meeting and directed the Agency of Education to prepare a full report for August.

On the agenda for its June 25 meeting, the state board was initially expected to take up discussion and possibly action about whether to consolidate the BVSU and its two school districts into a neighboring supervisory union.

A number of local board members and teachers attended last month's meeting, and a memorandum from Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca's office acknowledged the desire of Arlington and Sandgate residents to remain a separate supervisory union had remained constant.

While the educational experience of students is paramount in every consolidation discussion, the agenda item states, "a recommendation contrary to the wishes of a majority of residents most affected requires especially solid justification."

According to a consolidation needs assessment report completed earlier this year, dissolving the BVSU would result in combined savings for the Arlington and Sandgate school districts (the latter a non-operational district with school choice) on the scale of $91,000 to $110,000 annually. The supervisory union welcoming those districts would see similar savings, as well as a $150,000 grant to cover transition costs and serve as an incentive.

The report also found greater opportunities for professional development and economies of scale in a larger supervisory union.

But while the report detailed potential educational and cost benefits, it did not provide justification to select either neighboring supervisory union -- the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union or Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union.

"Consequently, it is recommended that the state board table the item and direct the Agency of Education to examine the advantages and disadvantages of each supervisory union as a potential partner including the feelings of their members and report to the state board at the August meeting," concluded the secretary's team.

(Given no option to stay the same, residents unilaterally expressed a preference for the BRSU at a public meeting in late May.)

Discussion of dissolving the BVSU was spurred by a 2010 directive by the state board to consider a boundary change for the supervisory union, the smallest in the state, at a time when the superintendency was about to change.

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