MERGER VOTE TALLIES:

          ANWSD -     771 - yes     2001 - no

          MAUSD -    1115 - yes    2281 - no

 

               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.


 

 


LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

On April 26, 2021, the Mount Abraham Unified School District and the Addison Northwest School District came together to address the challenges of declining student enrollment across both districts. School populations are estimated to continue declining in the coming decade, and by 2031 the ANWSD will have an estimated 705 students, and MAUSD 1,117 students—a decline of more than 38% and 30% of their peak populations, respectively. For this reason, both boards voted to form this study committee—composed of board members, citizens, faculty, and staff from both districts—for the purpose of “potentially merging their governance structures,” as then defined under 16 VSA 706b.

Over the course of a year, we formally studied this merger. The work was immense. We analyzed different governance models, commissioned transportation studies, reviewed financial and other data and modeling, and engaged with community members. We sought compromises on difficult issues as we drafted articles of agreement that reflected differing values in our communities. Only at the end of this work could we assess whether we had drafted something that held enough value to move forward to the community for consideration. We answered yes.

Our work made several things clear. Our communities support a future that preserves and expands opportunities for students and finds savings through central office efficiencies.   Through our study we determined that merging districts would allow us to do three things: (1) to create a single central office comparable in size to just one of our current central offices; (2) to preserve and expand student opportunity, especially at the middle and high school levels; and (3) to slow the tax-rate growth through shared efficiencies. We also believe that the financial savings of a merged district create a stronger footing for supporting and sustaining quality local elementary school education.

The opportunities for financial and educational improvements will only be fully realized if the board and communities effectively work together. The greatest opportunities for savings and for program growth come from merging middle and high schools across the new district. Merging would effectively slow the tax rate with fewer losses to staffing, ideally positioning us to maintain, and potentially expand, programming. Still, the committee acknowledges that there are challenges to merging schools. First, school identities would change for high school and middle school. To maintain average travel times for students, a merged district would need to spend more on transportation than what is currently spent. It’s important to note that none of these changes are guaranteed or will happen overnight. In the first few years of the merger, schools will operate as they currently do, and the new board will have time to consider, with community feedback, middle and high school configurations. 

We as a committee ultimately decided, even though there are challenges ahead, we have more opportunities for success if we work together, not as the ANWSD or MAUSD, but as a single entity: the Addison North Supervisory District. We voted the merger forward and presented our formal report to the State Board of Education, which in turn voted to support the merger.

Now, it is the community’s turn. Your voice is important. To learn more, please visit the Merger Study Committee’s webpage via either ANWSD or MAUSD’s websites (anwsd.org/anwsd-mausd-merger-study-committee.php) and read the committee’s report.  You can also join us at a Q&A session (October 18 at 6:00pm at MAUHS and October 19 at 6:00pm at VUHS), attend the official public information meeting on November 1, or email any committee member. Vote in person on election day, November 8, at your municipal polling place. Vote early/absentee in person at your Town Clerk’s Office or request your ballot online via your Town Clerk’s website.

 

The Members of MAUSD/ ANWSD Merger Study Committee

Marikate Kelley, Co-Chair, Monkton

Martha DeGraaf, Co-Chair, Panton

 


 

 

 


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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.

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Merger Information: Facilities

Mt. Abraham Union High School and Vergennes Union High School Facilities Tours! Each community takes pride in their school and is funding their facilities improvements in different yet comparable ways. Check out the following videos! ...
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