ANWSD/ MAUSD Merger Study Committee Charge

“The school boards of ANWSD and MAUSD agreed to form a study committee (per 16 VSA §706) to analyze the advisability of forming a union school district.  The Committee’s work ideally will be completed within a timeframe that will allow a vote on a proposed plan by Town Meeting Day 2022*.”
*Note: At the September 21, 2021 meeting, the Committee elected to extend the work completion deadline to align with a November 2022 vote as opposed to Town Meeting Day 2022.

**All meetings are available virtually at this time.  Please refer to the posted agenda for the link to attend the meeting.**


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Description automatically generatedANWSD/MAUSD MERGER STUDY COMMITTEE UPDATE

From:  Martha DeGraaf and MariKate Kelley, Co-Chairs of the ANWSD/MAUSD Merger Study Committee

January 2022

We know that many people have questions about the ANWSD/MAUSD Merger Study Committee.  As non-school board committee members of the Study Committee, it has taken us some time to get up to speed on the issues and language of the work. We’d hope this will help clarify our work, but please reach out to us if you have questions or comments. 

The Committee was formed by the ANWSD and MAUSD to address a specific charge:  to analyze the advisability of forming a union school district.  The Committee is composed of local people who are passionate about the future of our communities.  They are parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, grandparents, and school board members.  They have each volunteered to commit to spending many hours over the course of sixteen months to carefully examine the details of their charge:  to learn about school governance models, listen to what people in the community value, and create a model of what the best merging plan would look like.  The Committee will then decide whether they think it is a good idea to merge based on the plan and on the current situations in the two districts, and if so, offer the plan for voters to decide.  We hope that explaining some details of what we are charged with will help people understand this complex process and where we are at in the process.

A union school district is formed when two or more school districts merge into one district.  A unified union provides education for all PreK-12 students residing within its borders.  The Committee’s responsibilities are specified in Vermont law, 16 VSA section 706b.  The Study Committee may determine that it is inadvisable to form a Union School District or advisable to do so.  The Committee’s approach to the assignment has been to work its way through the topics required for merger Articles of Agreement, gather and study information and materials relevant to each topic and study the pros and cons for the future of a possible merged district as compared to the pros and cons of continuing in the status quo.  

If the Committee recommends a merger, it goes to the State Board of Education for their approval, then, the most important decision is made by you, the voters, who decide whether a merger happens or not.  The Committee does not have the authority to bring other matters to voters but can make recommendations for the boards of ANWSD and MAUSD to consider if it elects to do so.  We know that our local school boards are studying other options for collaboration and innovation to provide the opportunities and outcomes our communities want for our students at an affordable cost for taxpayers.  Understanding and staying up to date on board studies and plans in this and other areas that may impact whether a merger is advisable is part of our work.

The Committee is working through a transparent, open meeting process, and is studying issues and options deeply.  As Co-Chairs, we have been grateful for the broad spectrum of opinions and the civil and thoughtful discourse of the committee members.  To date, the Committee has:

  • Learned about the union school district options for ANWSD and MAUSD.
  • Learned about the context that brought the boards of ANWSD and MAUSD to determine that a merger study was needed.
  • Moved back the timeline to allow for thoughtful work that anticipates a November 2022 vote, if a union is recommended.
  • Studied some major factors influencing the future of schools in our region, like transportation, enrollment trends, the regional housing shortage, the pupil weighting study that might impact tax rates, and budget and tax rate projections.
  • Gathered community feedback about what is important for the future of the schools in our region; and
  • Drafted some of the Articles of Agreement and explored the context for several other important articles.

We have found that our schools are well maintained and in good shape.  Our faculty and staff are highly valued, hard-working, and skilled.  Strong relationships are at the heart of what is most valued in all our schools.  Parents and community members care about their students and schools and value maintaining or increasing programming opportunities for students, equity, community, and affordability.   

In our work to explore relevant topics, we have discussed important issues that many people feel strongly about, like school closures.  The Committee has worked to understand lessons from Act 46 mergers and hopes to provide an option that improves in key areas, like including community voice.  These conversations may be hard and take some time to work through.  But our committee is a good representation of our communities, and we are discussing many viewpoints and ideas and exploring important issues with open minds.  

We hope that information about what the Committee is and is not, what the Committee can and cannot do, and what decisions are made by voters will help community members better understand the work of the Committee.  We appreciate your attendance at meetings, comments, and messages by email.  To learn more, please review prior meeting briefs, minutes, or meeting recordings which are available on the ANWSD and MAUSD websites.  Please feel free to email Committee Members with comments and join us in person or via zoom at our meetings, on the first Monday and the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm.  We are also hoping to provide additional opportunities for feedback, so stay tuned.

 

ANWSD Representing Email MAUSD Representing Email
Carole McBride Addison [email protected] Dustin Corrigan Bristol [email protected]
Martha DeGraaf Panton [email protected] Kevin Hanson Bristol [email protected]
Mary Neffinger Ferrisburgh [email protected] Mari-Kate Kelley Monkton [email protected]
Keith Morrill ANWSD Bd. - Vergennes  [email protected] Stephanie Rossier Lincoln [email protected]
Rebecca Coffey Vergennes  [email protected] Brad Johnson Starksboro [email protected]
Erica Andrus Ferrisburgh  [email protected] Dave Sharpe Bristol [email protected]
      Ed McGuire New Haven [email protected]
      Troy Paradee Bristol [email protected]
      Sarah LaPerle New Haven [email protected]
           
John Stroup ANWSD Board Chair   [email protected] Dawn Griswold MAUSD Board Chair    [email protected]
Sheila Soule ANWSD Superintendent   [email protected] Patrick Reen MAUSD Superintendent    [email protected]


ANWSD/ MAUSD Merger Study Committee Calendar


07

Feb

Vergennes Union High School, 50 Monkton Rd, Vergennes, VT 05491, USA
6:30 pm

07

Mar

Vergennes Union High School, 50 Monkton Rd, Vergennes, VT 05491, USA
6:30 pm

23

Mar

Mt Abraham Union High School, 220 Airport Dr, Bristol, VT 05443, USA
6:30 pm

04

Apr

Vergennes Union High School, 50 Monkton Rd, Vergennes, VT 05491, USA
6:30 pm