Tim Scoggins: Act 46 consolidation and Shaftsbury

On Nov. 7 Shaftsbury will vote whether or not to turn the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union into a school district in order to comply with the Act 46 School Consolidation bill. In case you have not been following this issue for the last several years, I offer my opinions and observations:

1) Vote yes. Like it or not, school consolidation is coming. If we say no, the state will do it for us, probably less to our liking.

2) The main changes are:

a) Our local school board will dissolve in favor of a single district school board.

b) Shaftsbury Elementary School (SES) property will belong to the new district instead of the Town of Shaftsbury.

This is not that scary. It's just how it's done. We are the only state where every school has its own board.

3) The new district board will consist of 11 members as follow:

- Bennington 4

- North Bennington 2

- Pownal 2

- Shaftsbury 2

- Woodford 1

This is the model used by the Mount Anthony Union that runs the middle and high schools. It is somewhat proportional but does not allow Bennington to act without support from at least some of the other towns. It has proven effective.

4) Elementary school choice will be offered in the new district, details to be determined. This could be good.

5) Closing of schools or rearranging of grades (sending sixth graders to the middle school, for example) is blocked for five years. This is the right approach. You don't want to block this forever. Future changes in population could truly justify such changes and you can't tie the district's hands forever.

6) If we act now we get school tax breaks for a few years. Don't base your decision just on this, however.

7) One of the main objections to this is "loss of local control." This is a false issue, at least as far as Shaftsbury is concerned. From 2010-2016 I attend every SES board meeting. I was usually the only person there. No one has been exercising local control (but me). SES board members usually just do what the SVSU superintendent and the SES principal tell them to do anyway.

Please join me for the information meeting on Oct. 10, 6 p.m. at the school. The vote on Nov. 7 is important. It's kind of like a local "Brexit." It would be easy to cast a protest vote against it but we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

— Tim Scoggins is chairman of the Shaftsbury Select Board

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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