Governor to drop gavel as new school district made official
by Lauren Harkawik
Sep 18, 2017 | 3419 views | 0 0 comments | 124 124 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gov. Phil Scott, right, speaks with Meg Streeter and Rep. Laura Sibilia
Gov. Phil Scott, right, speaks with Meg Streeter and Rep. Laura Sibilia at an economic development forum held at Stratton Mountain in May.
Gov. Phil Scott, right, speaks with Meg Streeter and Rep. Laura Sibilia at an economic development forum held at Stratton Mountain in May.
WARDSBORO- A school district merger between Dover and Wardsboro, approved by voters of each town, will become official at a special meeting on Friday, September 22, at 3 pm. The meeting will take place at Wardsboro Town Hall and will be called to order by Gov. Phil Scott.

The meeting will mark the bona fide creation of the River Valleys Unified School District, comprising Dover and Wardsboro. With the River Valleys Unified School District officially formed, the new district’s school board may begin conducting business, forming its policies and procedures in anticipation of the district becoming active on July 1, 2019. Once the district is active, the towns will share a school board and a school district budget, which will be voted on by the two towns at a shared annual meeting.

The school board for the new district was elected at Town Meeting and in the subsequent revotes. Dwight Boerem, Barry Pearson II, and Richard Thorpe Jr. will represent Wardsboro on the new board. Richard Werner, Laura Sibilia, and Kerry MacDonald-Cady will represent Dover. However, a number of items will be voted on at the September 22 meeting, including when the shared annual meeting for the district will be held (Article 5).

Articles 1 and 3 pertain to district officers, with Article 1 asking voters to elect a temporary presiding officer and clerk and Article 3 asking voters to elect a moderator, clerk, and treasurer who will serve the district for one year. Article 4 asks what compensation, if any, those officers will receive. Article 8 asks what compensation, if any, will be paid to school board members. Currently, Dover pays its school board members $2,000. Wardsboro pays its school board members $200.

Articles 6 and 7 pertain to financial dealings of the district, with Article 6 establishing provisions for payment of district expenses and Article 7 authorizing the district to borrow money pending receipt of payments from the State Education Fund. Article 9 asks whether the school board may provide mailed notice to residents of the availability of the annual report and school budget in lieu of distributing the annual report and town budget directly, and Article 10 allows for the transaction of any other school business thought proper.

A long journey has unfolded for the two towns to arrive at this point. Originally voted on at Town Meeting, the proposed merger was between Dover, Wardsboro, and Marlboro. Dover residents voted for the merger in the affirmative, but Marlboro and Wardsboro voters did not. Subsequently, a petitioned revote occurred in Wardsboro, and the merger passed. Later, a revote was held in Dover, too, after a discrepancy was discovered in the town’s original warning. The merger passed again in Dover.

Marlboro remains unmerged. Per the original articles of agreement voted on by each town at Town Meeting and in subsequent votes, despite an initial ‘no’ vote, Marlboro was given one year from Town Meeting to vote to join River Valleys Unified School District if its voters decided to do so. As of yet, there has been no indication that Marlboro will take that path. Because Act 46 stipulates that merging districts must have matching operating structures, joining River Valleys Unified School District would require Marlboro to close its seventh- and eighth-grade programs. Instead, Marlboro is in the process of applying for an independent governance status through a new Act-46-compliant standard established through Act 49.

In the proposed new structure, called 2-2-1, Marlboro would be a “side by side” district with the newly formed River Valleys School District and the West River Modified Union Education District, which comprises Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend, and Windham (for grades seven to 12 only). Marlboro would retain its singular school board under the new configuration, meaning the Windham Central Supervisory Union would have three districts within it: River Valleys Unified School District, West River Modified Union Education District, and Marlboro School District.

At the meeting, students from Dover and Wardsboro will also make presentations regarding their recent civic engagement activities, and hear from the governor on the importance of volunteering and staying engaged.

Residents from Wardsboro and Dover with questions about this first meeting should attend the Dover School Board meeting at Dover School on Monday, September 18, from 5:30 to 6 pm.
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