BVSU need not merge

MANCHESTER - The State Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday morning to keep the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union as its own supervisory union, and to not merge it with another union.

"We decided not to support the recommendation [from the Agency of Education], and allow the current situation to remain," said Stephan Morse, chair of the State Board of Education.

The Agency of Education had reviewed the BVSU earlier in the year, and had originally scheduled a meeting in May to review its status, and potentially merge the BVSU with the BRSU. There were also talks of merging with the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, but all parties involved considered the BRSU a more viable option.

However, they felt that they did not have sufficient information to make a decision until their meeting Tuesday morning.

"We listened to what [the BVSU] wanted, and obviously they don't want to change," said Morse. "We didn't see a great economic gain from merging them."

Karen Gallese, Superintendent of the BVSU, was happy with the decision by the board.

"We are very pleased," she said. "We have such a unique school system here... we're glad to be able to continue working as we are. I'm very proud of these schools."

Earlier in the month, the BRSU's board or directors had met to vote on a letter that would be sent to the meeting that would contain their formal opinion on the situation. They unanimously voted that the merger "was not in their best interest." They cited both financial and educaional reasons; it would cost the BRSU an additional $220,000 to transition the BVSU into their union, despite it saving Arlington and Sandgate a total of aproximately $150,000.

Members of the BRSU were concerned that if the merger went though, that Superintendent Dan French would spend too much time on the transition, and not advising the union as he should be.

The letter was a part of the public record at the meeting, as well as a recommendation from French, which was written with the same stance as the official BRSU letter - that it wasn't in their best interests.

"When we worked to integrate the RED schools and Winhall it made us a different organization," said French. "We're now larger... on one hand the BVSU is the smallest supervisory union... but we're so much larger now. From our perspective, it didn't make much sense."

French said that it was already going to take another year or so to fully integrate the RED schools into their union, and that taking on yet another supervisory union would only take longer.

In addition to voting to keep the union the same, the board added a motion to ensure that the Agency of Education could not attempt to merge the unions again at a later time.

"They added a sub-motion," said French, "deeming it a dead issue... they considered tabling it... to vote on another time... one way or another we just wanted it resolved."

Gallese said that everyone is relieved that this has passed and they already have ways to continue to improve their union.

"This really puts everyone at ease," she said. "Now we can start putting our resources, and our energies, into developing our existing education programs."


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