Year in Review: Act 46 brought big changes in 2017

BENNINGTON — When Act 46 was signed into law in 2015, no one knew exactly what to expect from the law that promised to overhaul the way the state's education system was governed.

In 2017, many communities' visions for the future began to coalesce, even if many questions still remained.

In March, voters in Londonderry, Weston, Landgrove, Peru, Danby, Mt. Tabor, Manchester, Dorset and Sunderland took a major step forward when they overwhelmingly agreed to form the Taconic and Green Regional School District. The board that will oversee the pre-K through eighth grade district met for the first time in June, and began the massive undertaking of setting up the policies and procedures that will govern the new district when it takes control next July. The new district will continue to be a part of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, to which all its members belonged.

Elsewhere in the BRSU, Pawlet and Rupert faced a setback when the State Board of Education rejected their merger proposal in September. In a split decision, their merger committee voted in October to pursue a merger without the designation to New York state middle and high schools that had caused the state board to shoot down the proposal, leaving that issue to be decided by the new board and the state legislature. Voters approved a merger of the two school districts in November.

In the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, the merger study committee worked through the summer to put a merger proposal before voters before the deadline for tax incentives on Nov. 30. That proposal, which would have merged the districts of Bennington, Mount Anthony Union, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford into a Modified Unified Union District, was narrowly defeated by voters in Pownal and Woodford on Nov. 7, by a total of six votes — two in Woodford and four in Pownal.

Woodford has warned a re-vote for Jan. 7, although the districts would need an act of the legislature to get the tax credits even if the town's vote changes. The fifth SVSU elementary district, North Bennington, which unlike its neighbors does not operate a school, is still seeking its best path forward, even if that means finding a way out of the Mount Anthony Union district.

In the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union, Sandgate explored a merger with Stratton and Winhall, two other non-operating districts in the BRSU, while Arlington, a K-12 district which has no similar partners with which to merge, hoped to join those districts in a three-by-one configuration. When the three non-operating districts voted not to pursue a merger, Arlington was left once again without a partner. Now, the BVSU is exploring options that would allow it to remain independent.

In 2018, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe will release her statewide plan for education governance, which will be amended as needed and adopted by the state board. What that will mean for local unmerged districts, only time will tell.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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