Thursday February 21, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union school board will shed one-third of its membership when it re-organizes next month.

In Montpelier on Tuesday the State Board of Education approved a waiver allowing the SVSU board to shrink from an 18-member body made up of three representatives from each member district to a 12-member board. In addition to reducing the representation each school district has on the supervisory union board from three to two, the waiver also allows districts to appoint an alternate to attend SVSU meetings in the place of a designated SVSU member who cannot make a meeting.

The request was made, in part, because of the difficulty the board has experienced forming a quorum for meetings, which requires 10 members on an 18-person board. Additionally, some districts have asked that an alternate be allowed to attend meetings when a representative cannot so that district has equal representation at supervisory union meetings.

By state law, supervisory unions are made up of three representatives from every member district, however statute allows the State Board to grant waivers "if it can be demonstrated that such a waiver will result in efficient and effective operations of the supervisory union; will not result in any disproportionate representation; and is otherwise in the public interest."

The SVSU board unanimously agreed in October to apply for the waiver with the belief it will create efficiencies.

The state board agreed to the waiver Tuesday with a 7 to 1 vote. Sean-Marie Oller, who is chairwoman of the SVSU board and a member of the state board, abstained from the vote.

The new makeup will take affect at the March re-organization meeting following the Town Meeting Day elections. The SVSU board is scheduled to meet a final time prior to that on Feb. 27.

Oller said SVSU’s waiver request was the fourth the state board has granted in the last two years.

Prior to requesting a waiver the SVSU board tried an executive committee made up of about half the full board membership to meet bi-monthly in place of a full board meeting. The experiment failed, however, as the full board was unwilling to grant the executive committee the power to take many necessary actions -- resulting in discussions being repeated the following month when the full board would meet.

"Had the executive committee worked as it’s structured in the statute we might have been able to go that way, but we ended up just doing double the work," Oller said.

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