Pownal to consider re-vote on warning

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POWNAL — The Pownal School Board has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss a potential re-vote on warning a community vote on the creation of the Mount Anthony Unified School District.

The board failed to pass the motion on Thursday at a carousel meeting with the other boards of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union. With member Jon Peaslee absent, the board voted 2-2 to warn a Nov. 7 vote on the creation of the new unified school district. Chairwoman Cindy Brownell and vice-chairwoman Angie Rawling voted against the proposal, while Tammy Sohl and Todd Steinhoff voted in favor. As the motion did not receive a majority of votes, it did not pass.

Peaslee said in a correspondence with the Banner that he was unable to make the meeting due to family issues, but spoke with Brownell prior to the meeting about the importance of letting the townspeople have a vote, and was under the impression that they were on the same page. After the vote, he reached out to Brownell and asked for a re-vote. Peaslee and Brownell both represented Pownal on the Act 46 Study Committee that developed the merger proposal.

The special meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Pownal Elementary School library. The agenda includes a discussion about the vote and a consideration of a re-vote.

Prior to Thursday's carousel meeting, study committee chairman Donald Campbell asked the board members to take their own feelings on the merger proposal out of the equation. "What we are asking you all tonight is not whether you support the Act 46 merger proposal," he said. "That can be debated in the upcoming month by each community. What we are asking you is that you send this proposal to the voters and let them decide. Not to put too fine a point on it, but school boards should not be choosing what voters want; voters should choose what they want for themselves. On matters of taxation and governance, it seems pretty obvious to me that the electorate should decide what is best."

The other boards all voted in favor of warning the vote, although there was considerable discussion and disagreement before the votes, with several individuals eventually voting 'no.'

The merger proposal in question is the result of months of work by the study committee to bring the SVSU into compliance with Act 46 of 2015. If a majority of the supervisory union's five districts approve the proposal, a new pre-K through 12 school district with a single board and a single tax-rate would be formed. North Bennington also voted not to warn the vote, as they would not be able to join the unified district and keep school choice for grades pre-K through six. Pownal's refusal to warn, if it stands, puts the vote in jeopardy, as all of Bennington, Shaftsbury, and Woodford would then need to vote positively. Any districts that vote 'no' or do not vote will not become part of the new district, and will not be eligible for the tax incentives promised to districts that voluntarily merge before November of this year, but could still see their governance structures changed to come into compliance with Act 46 when the the Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, announces her statewide plan next year.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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