The $10,092,012 budget reflects more than $400,000 in savings in spending for elementary school education, according to Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd. But he said the full cost savings of consolidation won’t be realized until the middle and high schools are combined, eliminating use of the current high school building in Wilmington. Construction and renovations for the middle/high school at the Whitingham site have been delayed while the towns pursue an Act 250 permit. No Act 250 permit was required for work at Deerfield Valley Elementary School, and board members didn’t anticipate the need for a permit at Whitingham.
The budget also includes contracted pay increases and a projected 14% increase in medical insurance costs. According to Boyd, the delay in middle/high school consolidation coupled with initial expenses during the first year of the bond will mean a slight increase in the tax rate that was anticipated during the bond vote process. Whitingham was projected to see an 11-cent increase, but under the proposed budget the increase may be a penny higher, Boyd said.
In other matters, supervisory union business manager Karen Atwood told the board that the installation of a catwalk around the woodchip boiler at the Whitingham facility would cost about $5,600. The catwalk was identified as a code requirement during an inspection by the school’s insurance provider.
Currently, a ladder is used to inspect the boiler. “They don’t like the idea of a ladder,” Atwood said. Principal Keith Lyman said the code requirement changed during the construction of the woodchip boiler system. “We tried to get a waiver on this. When the system was built they didn’t tell us the law was in place.” The board approved the expenditure.
Twin Valley High School Principal Bob Morse asked board members to give the go-ahead for the school to participate in an exchange program with students from Spain. The visiting students would stay with host families for about three months, he said.
Board members wondered about the effect on the school’s “average daily membership” and state funding, but gave Morse the signal to proceed. “Do they play soccer?” joked board member Adam Grinold.
Lyman and Morse asked board members to give them a green light to apply for Roland Fellowship grants to train teachers in a new teaching program that he said is standards-based, but also adds proficiency. A group recently traveled to schools in Maine to “see it in action,” he said. “It’s an emerging trend in schools, and could be a major step in improving our schools,” Lyman said. The teachers would study the program on a half-year sabbatical. The grants would provide funding, including funding for a long-term substitute. “I think it’s a win/win situation,” said Morse. “We talk about 21st century learning, and teachers want to study what it really means. One is a math teacher looking at 21st century learning and how to get kids interested.”
The principals said they hope to be able send two teachers. “The odds of us getting two grants is probably slim, but we’ll apply and see what happens.”
“Would we say no at this point?” asked Grinold. “Unless it’s in conflict with our goals, these are people looking to go out and do something to improve our schools.” Board members agreed.