Saturday January 26, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

ARLINGTON -- Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union and its schools had an exciting year that saw a number of changes that started at the top.

* Following the retirement of Thomas Gallagher over the summer, Karen Gallese was hired as part-time superintendent of BVSU. Gallese is a former special educator and principal of Clarksburg (Mass.) Elementary School.

* There was also a turnover in BVSU’s special education director after the unexpected resignation of Nancy Mills in February. BVSU hired Dawn Campbell, a longtime special educator in Bennington, part-time over the summer.

* In the fall, BVSU entered a two-year contract with Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union in Bennington to provide all of its business services. SVSU began providing financial oversight to BVSU the previous school year, but with a complete administrative turnover this summer BVSU decided to expand those services at a cost of $76,500 this school year -- which is less than it previously paid.

* Fiscal year 2010 financial audits, which were expected to be completed in the fall of 2011, were finally finished a year late. However, administration deemed the audits incomplete and broke ties with its first-year auditor before the audits were even handed in.


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The audits identified deficiencies in financial reporting, accounting records, journal entries posted to the general ledger without separate approvals, and policies not being followed. A new audit is being done by the Bonadio Group out of Albany, N.Y., which is expected to be complete in the coming weeks. A separate cash audit by the former auditor determined "sloppy bookkeeping" caused the disappearance of $138,000 that BVSU received but did not give to Arlington School District as it was supposed to do. The audit accounted for the money, some of which went unspent and was included in a BVSU fund balance and some of which was spent by BVSU.

* Over the summer Arlington’s two schools underwent $50,000 worth of technology upgrades that included new computers and SMART Boards.

* Arlington Memorial Middle School revamped and expanded its accelerated academy to include advanced students in the fifth grade. Arlington fifth-graders attend Fisher Elementary, but students who qualify and wish to participate in the accelerated courses beginning in the fall moved up to the middle school to share classes with their sixth grade peers. Advanced students in grades seven and eight are also grouped together.

* There were few developments in BVSU’s state-mandated dissolution study from 2011 that could potentially require Arlington and Sandgate school districts to join a neighboring supervisory union. Independent consultants did an initial report in the spring that identified alternative governance options and the consultants are now doing a more in-depth analysis. Once a report is generated there will be public forums and possibly a non-binding community vote this spring. By June BVSU must report back to the State Board of Education, which has the authority to assign the districts to a supervisory union.

* In December a committee was formed to begin the search process for AMHS Principal Kerry Csizmesia’s replacement. Csizmesia is retiring this summer after 19 years at the helm.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi