Marlboro School Board members Douglas Korb, Dan MacArthur, David Holzapfel, and Lauren Poster attended the meeting, along with Rep. Emily Long. WCSU Superintendent Bill Anton was also present for the discussion with Marlboro. The talk centered around the Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe’s recommendation to take no action on a proposal from Marlboro that it fulfill the requirements of Act 46 by entering a 2-2-1 structure with River Valleys Unified School District and West River Modified Union Education District. In the recommendation from the secretary, it was noted that it is unlikely Marlboro would be forced into a merger with another school under an impending statewide plan, and that approving their proposal would “appear to be approving — even if temporary — the Marlboro School District’s membership in the Windham Central Supervisory Union.”
Much of the conversation centered around the uncertainty a no-action decision would create for Marlboro. Several members also expressed anxiety about what the state’s implication that Marlboro’s membership in WCSU was not guaranteed could mean overall for the future of the supervisory union. “If I worked for WCSU, I might be polishing up my resume,” said WCSU Board chair and Dover School Board chair Rich Werner.
The group questioned a visit last May from Dan French, who Werner said at the time told the WCSU board he was working on behalf of the agency of education to get an educational “lay of the land” in southern Vermont. Poster said, “We need to think about what they’re up to,” and Holzapfel said maybe the visit was “007 stuff,” a reference to fictional spy James Bond.
The discussion concluded with the board prepared to make a plea to the state board that it make a decision, recognizing that such an outcome would not negate the state’s ability to change supervisory union lines. On Wednesday, the state board of education did honor Marlboro’s request, approving its proposal for a 2-2-1 structure within WCSU, but stressing the state’s retention of its power to rewrite supervisory union lines in the future.
In other matters, Billie Jo Hall questioned the board’s decision to launch a pilot program for pre-K transportation. “As a taxpayer and a parent who for years was in that room, its seems like a waste of taxpayer money to run a bus for two kids,” said Hall. “And I’d like to know what you’re going to do come ski season with running the bus to the mountain and getting the kids to the ski mountain. Are kids from out of town who are riding the bus paying more to do it?”
Board member Kerry McDonald-Cady said questions such as how many students are using the bus and what stops it would make are part of what is to be examined during the trial period, which is set to run until December, at which point principal Matt Matryn will evaluate the program.
Werner said the board had initially been uninterested in exploring a pre-K bus, but “with Act 166, parents are able to take their kids anywhere they want, and if we lose a bunch of children, the program costs us more.”
Werner encouraged Hall to ask to have the issue added to a future agenda if she wanted to discuss it further.
The board also discussed a structurally-failing modular unit behind the school. “This has been going on since Moby Dick was a minnow,” said Werner. The unit, which was installed many years ago as extra classroom space, has since been unused by the school, has structural damage due to frost heaves, and is missing wheels and axles. Werner asked Martyn to publish ads saying it is available for free if anyone would like it, saying if not, the school would need to spend approximately $2,000 to “squish it” and remove it with two rolloffs.
McDonald-Cady suggested crafting language that states that should someone want the unit, they are taking it as is.
Should multiple people show interest in the unit, the board intends to put names in a hat and draw a winner at its next meeting, which is scheduled for October 2.