BENNINGTON — With expansion to include community members on its horizon, the original seven-member Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Act 46 Committee met one last time to review the organization's next steps.
The committee has been meeting since last fall, its goal being to determine ways that the SVSU can come into compliance with last year's education bill, Act 46, which seeks to make school governance more efficient throughout the state. After a meeting with representatives from the Agency of Education, the Vermont School Boards Association, the Vermont Superintendents Association, and two Act 46 consultants in Brattleboro last month, SVSU Superintendent Jim Culkeen advised the committee to expand its membership from seven to 15 members. Most of those seats will be filled with community members, but one seat will go to a Mount Anthony Union board member. MAU is not currently represented on the committee.
Culkeen said that, so far, only one person has submitted an application to serve on that committee. The supervisory union is looking for three people from Bennington, and one each from Pownal, Shaftsbury, Woodford, and North Bennington. For those interested, more information and applications are available on the front page the SVSU's website, www.svsu.org. Board members will consider applications and vote on representatives at their June meetings, which in the case of Bennington and Woodford is June 1, for Shaftsbury and North Bennington it's June 8, and Pownal is June 16. The newly expanded committee will meet for the first time on June 20, at 6 p.m. at the SVSU offices on South Stream Road for introductions and an overview on what has been done so far.
In the meantime, however, the board is still faced with several looming deadlines.
"For Shaftsbury," Culkeen said at a recent meeting, "if they want to consider leaving the SU and Mount Anthony, they would have to consult legal counsel and arrange for a townwide vote as soon as possible that they wish to withdraw from MAU. They have to go first, that's how the process works. If the town approves it, then the vote has to go to all the individual towns, to allow them to leave. If one town says no, it's done. That would have to be completed by July of 2017. It would be a similar process for North Bennington. So, it's not impossible, but it is a hill that needs to be climbed, if that is the direction they want to go in."
Shaftsbury has floated the possibility of school choice in grades 7 through 12 for its students, which would require leaving MAU. North Bennington already offers school choice pre-K through six, and leaving MAU could allow the district to better match up with other partners in the region.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.