Issues raised with school board

MANCHESTER - Upcoming meetings of the Manchester School Board will include discussions of the school district's tuition contract with Burr and Burton Academy and special education services provided by the town's independent secondary school.

During the school board's first meeting following the annual Town Meeting, held Monday, March 18, the Manchester School Board heard a request from a resident and local attorney, Christina Rainville. She asked the Board if she could give presentations on the Burr and Burton Academy finances of the tuition contract and issues she has with special education in future school board meetings.

"There are two things that I actually want to talk about and I think it would be best to do it at two different meetings," said Rainville. "One is the finances and what changes we should be putting into our sending contract to protect and be able to watch our money."

The school board chose to schedule that discussion for its next meeting, on April 2. The special education issues Rainville wants to bring before the board will be part of the agenda for the board's meeting on May 7.

During the school district's floor meeting on March 4, as part of Town Meeting, Rainvillle raised several concerns about BBA's financial reporting as well as about special education services being provided and charged for by the independent school.

In response the those allegations made by Rainville during the school district's floor meeting during Town Meeting, the BBA Board of Trustees sent a letter to the Manchester Journal that along with providing some information on its financial records, stated "Burr and Burton's special education rates are approved by the state each student's services are approved by the appropriate supervisory union, and we then provide those services."

But Rainville indicated she didn't feel the concerns she raised were answered by the board's letter.

"All of the numbers they put in the letter [to the Manchester Journal] are different than the numbers they provided year after year as quote 'actual year end numbers,'" she said. "That letter only raised more questions to me."

Rainville said that she is here on behalf of all the special education children in the Manchester area because she thinks that this is something people need to know about and the school district needs to act to protect them.

Board member Kim Johnson asked Rainville why she is bringing this topic of discussion up now to the board.

"I knew about it two years ago and I have talked with [BBA Board Chairman] Mr. Bongartz and with [Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent] Mr. French and [the issue] is still the same. I have finally reached the point where a student involved had graduated from Burr and Burton and that it was time to start thinking about other students at Burr and Burton."

During the meeting, the school board elected one of its members, Katy McNabb, to take over as chairwoman from the outgoing school director Deborah Wraga, whose term had expired and who opted not to run again for the school board.

"I would like us to reach out to BBA to let them know that this will be on future agendas and it is my concern that I don't want this to end up being a trial, a 'they say - we say' issue," McNabb said during the meeting.

Dan French, supervisor of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union said that whatever ends up being discussed and possibly changed in the future meetings will not effect the current contracts and would only effect a future contract if it comes to that.

Mark Tashjian, headmaster at BBA, was unable to comment before press time.


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