NORTH BENNINGTON >> At their December meeting on Wednesday, the North Bennington Prudential Committee discussed the early findings of their Act 46 advisory committee.
Former board member Bruce Lierman, who was placed in charge of that committee, reported that the group had had their first meeting on Nov. 30. He said that five members of the community had come to that meeting with interest in becoming involved in the committee, and at least one other Village School parent has expressed interest as well. The committee discussed what other districts in and around the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union are talking about. He said at the group's next meeting, on Dec. 10, they would work on coming up with some concrete plans which they could then explore in more detail. "I will guess that there will probably be three to five options that we will define," he said, "and try to assign some tasking for, in terms of investigation."
Lierman did express concern that the committee's time would be wasted if they invested a lot of energy in investigating an option that was then turned down by the state Agency of . "As it stands right now, we have no good way to get an advanced review of the work we're doing, as to whether or not the board thinks it will be an acceptable plan. Because of that, we stand to put in a lot of effort for potentially very little return when it comes to submitting a proposal, and we could lose valuable time, because this is a time-sensitive process, if we don't get accurate feedback on the prospects for our proposal. We may run out of time because we have to start all over again."
Board member Matthew Patterson said that as time goes on, they will be able to see how the Agency of Education is responding to other proposals, and base their own proposals off others they see are being approved.
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union superintendent Jim Culkeen reminded those in attendance that the SVSU's Act 46 committee would next be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Shaftsbury Elementary School. Previous meetings have focused on fact-finding and brainstorming, but now the committee will travel to each community of the SVSU to get opinions from board and community members there. "The idea of these regional meetings is that, hopefully, members of the public will come and give the SVSU study committee their comments, their concerns, and their questions," he said, noting that the committee would take all of their feedback back to a working meeting in the future.
Ronald Smith, founder of RHR Smith and Company, also spoke to the board regarding the audit his company recently completed of the district's finances. "You got the unqualified (opinion), which is the best opinion you can get," he said. He pointed out that North Bennington in particular was a very complicated district to audit, due to the financial relationships between the district, the SVSU, and the independent Village School of North Bennington. He thanked SVSU chief financial officer Rick Pembroke and board member Ray Mullineaux for being gracious enough to sit down and explain their finances to him, so that he could make sure everything was in order.
The North Bennington Prudential Committee meets the second Wednesday of every month in the library at the Village School of North Bennington. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page