Dover voters approve $65,000 for defense fund
by Randy Capitani
Mar 09, 2014 | 3656 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- Town Meeting voters approved more than $6,980,000 in spending items Tuesday, including $65,000 to continue an education funding reform lobbying effort, $20,000 to hire a consultant to look at possible school expansion or renovation projects, and $45,200 for the school to implement a new curriculum program.

The meeting opened with selectboard chair Randy Terk recognizing retired police chief Robert Edwards for his 36 years of service on the job. Edwards was given a plaque, a duplicate copy of which will hang in the town offices. Terk also introduced the new town administrator, Carlo Pilgrim, to the audience.

After talks by Sen. Peter Galbraith and Rep. John Moran, voters got down to business.

First on the school district agenda was an article asking for $45,200 to implement the International Baccalaurate program at Dover School.

“We want to maintain our high level of education,” said school board chair Rich Werner. “You can’t rest on your laurels, eventually you’re going to drop your test scores. So we asked our administrator to look at what we can do for the future. One thing we looked at was the IB program. We spent close to three years researching it. We had board members, parents, and staff visit schools, and we did some surveys. We felt like it was a program that was worthwhile to bring to the voters.

“It has to do with how the staff educates, instructs, and puts together their lessons. Dover would be one of the first public elementary schools in Vermont to achieve this status.”

Gerie Golet said she applauded the work the school board does. “You do a very good job. As a teacher for 35 years, I think it’s a good program. Are the principal and teachers in favor of this?

“Yes,” Werner replied. “We did some polls to find out from them.”

“Has it improved the scores of the kids at schools using it now?” Golet asked.

“The Common Core is based on a lot of the IB program,” said Werner. “It fits in with the Common Core and fits with what we’ve been doing the past 15 years.”

He added that the IB curriculum is transportable around the world. Schools using the IB method would have similar teaching methods in Europe or Asia.

“We don’t know who will be an economic power when our elementary students enter the work world,” added Werner. “But it won’t be an American-driven world.”

The article carried with a unanimous vote.

Article 3 asked voters to consider hiring a consultant to work with the school board on developing a long-term plan for the school building.

“The school is the community’s largest single bulding,” said Werner. “We are exploring how to make it a better school and better community resource. Last year at Town Meeting the voters asked us to look at options for the building, since our bond will be done at the end of this year. So we put together a building committee, which looked at possible ideas to continue comparable bond payments. But the committee couldn’t decide on what to make a priority.

“We want to work with a consultant and come back with a plan next year at Town Meeting to be able to have a discussion and maybe have something to vote on.”

Bob Rubin asked who the consultants were. Werner replied that none had been chosen, and that a request for proposals would be developed, assuming the voters approved the plan.

“We talked to Wilmington about who they used (for the Twin Valley school project),” said Werner. “I don’t know if it would be appropriate to discuss who we talked to. We’re not locked into anyone. It would go out to bid.”

The article was approved. Voters approved a secondary school tuition rate to approved independent schools of $15,400. Of the 66 Dover students in secondary schools, 43 attend an independent school. The bulk of those students currently attend the Mountain School at Winhall for middle school, and Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester for high school.

Arrticle 12 required a joint report from the school and select boards about the lobbying efforts to prevent “bad things” from happening to the the town.

School board member Laura Sibilia explained that a lobbying firm had been working with the town for a number of years, and that to date the boards had authorized up to $115,000 for lobbying efforts and spent $89,000 over the past three years.

She said that during the 2013 legislative session, the lobbying efforts saved the small schools grants for Vermont schools, which included $78,000 for the Dover School district.

“The lobbyists have two main mandates,” said Sibilia, “to protect our school and our taxpayers. We need our reserves, land, and building protected.

“School choice is also a priority for Dover voters. This year, there is more groundswell than ever to do something in education reform. The lobbyists will help us stay involved, and will advocate for preserving as much local control as possible.”

“What in the name of God is the lobbying group doing for my pocketbook?” asked William “Buzzy” Buswell. What are they doing to benefit us? Our own state rep voted for a tax increase. We have got to do something for us to survive.”

Buswell added he felt the money would be better spent initiating legal action against the state.

“I do feel the weight of the money you are investing,” said Sibilia. “I hope I’m giving you enough information for you to make a good decision. I think it is in your best interest to continue with the lobbyists. We’re really lucky to have a selectboard we can work with.”

Selectboard chair Randy Terk agreed with Sibilia. “The only way to try to affect what happens in Montpelier is to be there,” he said. “Nobody on the school board or selectboard has the time to be there, So what do you do? You hire a lobbyist.

“All you can do is change people’s opinions. I don’t think you do that by threatening a lawsuit.”

“I absolutely agree that this is money we should spend,” said Christine Fayette. “I do not think it is in the best interest of the town to sit back on our heels and say we’ve done enough.”

Sibilia said “We want to make sure people understand the issues for the taxpayer, and the issues for the students. We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t create this mess, but we want a say in it.”

“I’m not against the lobbying group,” said Buswell. “But we’re putting all of our chickens in one basket. I mean eggs. We should get input from a constitutional legal expert. All I’m saying is, if there’s the option, let’s do something and let’s go for it.”

Voters approved $65,000 in funding for the town’s legal defense fund under Article 21. The lobbying firm is paid from these funds.

Article 15 suggested rates of pay for town officers. Voters amended it to increase the rate of pay for town auditors to $15.50 per hour. Article 16 was amended to include a $3,372 stipend for SeVEDS for economic development programs.

On other muncipal articles, most items garnered little discussion. At approximately 2 pm, voters agreed to close the discussion portion of the meeting.

In the town’s only contested race, incumbent selectboard chair Terk beat former board member Buswell for a two-year term, 127-83.

At Wednesday’s selectboard reorganizational meeting, Terk was reelected chair. Victoria Capitani was reelected vice chair. Earlier that day, Werner was reelected chair of the school board, Sibilia returned to the vice chair post, and Jollene Mahon was selected as board clerk.
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