Northshire Merger Study Committee ponders, "SU or SD?"

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DORSET >> The Northshire Merger Committee met for the second time this month, and attempted to hammer out some of the conceptual challenges of a merger between its six diverse districts.

The committee, which was known as the Big RED Study Committee until their July 6 meeting, is made up of representatives from Danby, Dorset, Manchester, Mount Tabor and Sunderland; and from the four communities in the Mountain Towns RED (Regional Education District) — Londonderry, Landgrove, Peru and Weston. The committee is one of three Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union study committees that have formed to respond to Act 46 of 2015. The Non-Operating Districts Merger Committee is made up of Sandgate, Searsburg, Stratton, and Winhall, and the Pawlet-Rupert-Wells Merger Committee is looking at options for the three districts with tuition agreements with New York schools. Arlington also has a study committee, and is considering joining the BRSU as a district, should the SU continue to operate.

The meeting took place at the Dorset School, and former superintendent Dan French, who is currently serving as an advisor for the committee, began the meeting by giving everyone a tour of the building. Upon returning, the committee broke up into three groups to discuss major issues facing the group moving forward, such as merger costs, other studies that have been approved by the Agency of Education, regional effects of a merger, and methods of community outreach.

One of the big questions facing the Northshire Merger Committee is whether their best option is to merge into a supervisory district, or if they should merge into a single district and then join districts created by those other study committees in supervisory union. A third option, of course, would be deciding that a merger of these districts is not feasible, however, this decision leaves open the possibility that the Agency of Education could step in and direct districts to merge.

"Do we want to be our own supervisory union, which would be this SD?" French asked the board after it reconvened, "If that's the case, we are going to have complete control of our own superintendent, but there's going to be people within the surrounding areas, ala Arlington and Battenkill Valley, Rupert and Wells, the Winhall group with Stratton, that are going to be knocked out, and are going to have to do their own thing."

"Or," he said, "Do we become a RED and stay within the BRSU, and these other districts I've said will also be a part of the BRSU. Those are the two things on the table that we have to weigh."

Board chairman Jon Wilson also discussed the creation of an email newsletter to help get news out to the community about what the committee is working on. The committee is also working on a website to act as a hub for information on Act 46 and the committee. They have considered creating a series of short videos with question and answers sessions and progress reports.

Representation on the committee is loosely based on population. Danby is represented by Jen Louden and Jessica Watson. Dorset is represented by Jim Mirenda, Richard Grip, and Elizabeth Karet. Manchester is represented by Wilson, Jim Lind, Ed Morrow, Betsy Bleakie, and Meg Kenny. Mount Tabor is represented by Bill Beauregard. Mountain Towns RED is represented by Deb Lyneis, Jay Ouellette, Kimberly Eckhardt, and Richard Dale. Finally, Sunderland is represented by Jennifer Rosenthal and Nancy Wolf.

The committee will next meet at Currier Memorial School in Danby, on Aug 3 at 6 p.m., and then will meet again for a Saturday work session on 10 a.m. at Manchester Elementary Middle School.

The meeting was filmed by Greater Northshire Access Television, and will be available on their channel and website.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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