BENNINGTON -- A negotiated contract with educational support personnel was expected to be reviewed by the executive committee of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Thursday, but policy does not allow the committee to approve the contract for the supervisory union.
The contract, which has yet to be made public, was approved by the ESL union May 16, and the original intent was for the executive committee to ratify the contract Thursday. The ESL agreement covers paraprofessionals, secretaries custodians and some other non-instructional employees.
The executive committee, which is made up of one school board member from all six districts in SVSU, as well as the SVSU chairperson and vice chairperson, formed last school year with the intent of meeting in place of the full 18-member SVSU board six times a year. The purpose of the committee was to increase efficiencies and reduce the number of meetings for many SVSU members, but the question of whether it is effectively meeting that goal was brought up Thursday due to the limited power it has under its operating policy.
The committee also hoped to approve a special education agreement between the SVSU, North Bennington Prudential Committee and the proposed independent Village School of North Bennington. But after reviewing the policy it was realized the executive committee does not have authority to approve contracts.
"My hope was we would go into executive session, update this committee on negotiations, come out and ... adopt this CBA (collective bargaining agreement), but we don't really have the authority to do that. We can certainly recommend it," SVSU and executive committee Chairwoman Sean-Marie Oller said. "Likewise with the proposed (special education agreement) draft, we are going to review it but we do not have authority, according to this policy, to actually approve it."
Because neither contract was voted on or discussed in open session, Superintendent Catherine McClure said they are not public documents.
The realization that the executive committee does not have authority to approve items except the consent agenda (which includes warrants, nominations, resignations, retirements and reassignments ) made the board reconsider action it took at a previous meeting to approve the behavioral specialist job description.
"Really, what we want to do as a committee is recommend that change and that job description to the full board for approval, according to the responsibilities delegated to the executive committee," Oller said.
Because the executive committee cannot approve most items, much of the discussion that takes place among the committee will likely be repeated at the next full SVSU board meeting.
"My thought when I became the SVSU chair (in March) was that we would try to make this process of the executive committee with the full board work for everybody so that we were efficient, we got things done, (and) there were less longer meetings," Oller said.
Whether that is happening is a matter of opinion. "I think there will have to be some review at some point (of whether) we're being efficient if we can only warn things and can only recommend things," Oller said.
The reason the full SVSU board did not give the executive committee power to approve contracts or policy is because of skepticism from districts having just one representative and the chance that person could miss a meeting during which something important comes to a vote.
At Thursday's meeting, the executive committee agreed to recommend a number of contracts including trash removal and cleaning services for the administrative Central Office building, as well as audit and food services for the entire supervisory union. Those recommendations, respectively, are to award contracts to Tam, of Shaftsbury, Janitronics Facility Services of Albany, N.Y., The Bonadio Group of Albany, N.Y., and The Abbey Group of Enosburg Falls.
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