Derek Carson: Act 46: What lies ahead

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As the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union nears the conclusion of the five-year Act 46 process, there are still a number of important steps ahead for our member districts, with a number of fast-approaching deadlines for making the required changes. In order to keep the public informed about how the process is moving forward, we've compiled the following information from legislation and guidance documents provided to the SVSU from the Vermont Agency of Education.

Assuming no legislative or legal action to amend the law, per the State Board of Education's final report under Act 46, which was issued on Nov. 30, 2018, the Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford Elementary School Districts will be merged into a single union elementary district by July 1, 2019. This process will be overseen by a transitional board, made up of the chairperson and clerk of each of the four district boards as they were composed on July 30, 2018.

This transitional board will meet for the first time on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Mount Anthony Union Middle School. At this organizational meeting, registered voters from the four existing districts will elect a moderator, clerk, and treasurer for the new union elementary district. These officers will be nominated and elected from the floor, to serve a term of one year or until their replacements are elected.

The transitional board will also at that meeting determine the date and location for the first and subsequent annual meetings of the new school district, adopt Robert's Rules of Order, decide whether future elections and budget approval will occur by Australian ballot, and perform other business items as warned. To read the full text of the official warning, visit svsu.org.

To vote on articles from the warning, one must be a registered voter in the towns of Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, or Woodford, and must pass through a checklist at the entrance, where their name will be checked against the list of legal voters from each town. There will be a reserved seating section for non-voters.

Prior to then new district beginning operation, a special meeting of the voters of the district will be held to elect the initial board of directors. The date and time of this vote will be warned by the transitional board between 30 and 40 days prior to the date of the election. The initial board will be made up of two members from each of the district's member towns. The board members will represent their towns but will be elected by the entire electorate, similar to how the Mount Anthony Union board is elected today.

The transitional board will officially disband after the initial board has been elected and sworn in. The four merging school districts will officially dissolve on July 1, when the merged district begins operation. All assets and debts of the merging districts will be absorbed by the merged district at that time.

After the initial board is elected, but prior to July 1, a special meeting will be held to approve the new district's budget for FY20, which includes the upcoming school year. This meeting will be warned by the initial board between 30 and 40 days prior to the date of the election.

We thank the voters for their patience and understanding as our member districts navigate this process over the next several months. We also encourage all legal voters from the four merging districts attend and participate in the meetings of the transitional board, beginning with the organizational meeting on Feb. 26, so that the community's voice may be heard throughout the transition.

Derek Carson is public information coordinator for the SVSU.

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