Understanding School Structure or Why is the GMUSD Picking Our Principal?

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The following post aims to help clarify why there is a Green Mountain Unified School District (GMUSD) hiring the principal for the Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES) and not the CTES board.

Supervisory Unions: In Vermont, all public schools are part of a “supervisory union” or district, which is basically the administrative layer between the local school and the State of VT’s Agency of Education. Starting in July 2015, and the passage of Act 46  the 151 school districts began to merge to create “unified districts” (UDs) To date there are now 34 unified school districts and 4 modified union school districts in the state. Agency of Education

Act 46 requires Unified Districts: Act 46 was created primarily for two reasons, a declining enrollment of students statewide and the spiraling costs of education. With increasing property taxes, and more school budgets failing, the legislators decided a course correction was needed. Act 46 of 2015 provides opportunities for school districts to unify existing disparate governance structures into sustainable systems of education delivery that are designed to meet identified State goals while recognizing and reflecting local priorities. The law required that over a four year period school districts would merge into larger units. Agency of Education Act 46

To encourage the creation of unified districts, both “carrots and sticks” were offered. There was a promise of tax breaks for those towns that joined and penalties-the state would assign what district you’d be in and small school grants would be withdrawn- if you didn’t merge.

Prior to Act 46/Creation of TRSU: Cavendish was once part of the Windsor South West Supervisory Union, which also included the towns of Chester, Andover and Londonderry. With changes in the Ludlow Supervisory Union, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union (TRSU) was formed to include the towns of Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Mt Holly and Plymouth. Londonderry went with Manchester.

Two Unified Districts Under TRSU: With the passage of  Act 46, it would have seemed logical for the TRSU to just become it’s own unified school district. However, the requirements under Act 46 mandated one high school for a unified district. Not only didn’t Ludlow residents want to give up Black River High School (BRHS) but many in Mt. Holly wanted to send their children to Mill River, which is closer to them than Green Mountain Union High School (GMUHS) in Chester.

Ultimately, two unified school districts were formed, and approved by the voters of their respective town, both of which are under the TRSU:

• Ludlow and Mt Holly created the Ludlow Mt Holly Unified School District (LMUSD) with Plymouth going with the Windsor Central Unified School District. BRHS will be closing in 2020. Ludlow Elementary will remain open, with school choice for grades 7-12.

• The towns of Baltimore, Cavendish, Chester, and Andover formed the Green Mountain Unified School District (GMUSD).

Who Oversees What: The following structure is now in place

• The TRSU oversees all schools in both the GMUSD and LMUSD. The TRSU is overseen by a board of representatives from the various towns.

• Individual school boards, e.g. CTES, cease to exist by June 30, 2018 and are currently meeting to finish any “unfinished” businesses. All decisions pertaining to an individual school are now made by the unified district board, which in Cavendish’s case is the GMUSD. They made the decision about the hiring of the GMUHS principal and are currently in the process of doing the same for CTES.

• The GMUSD board membership is as follows:

-       6 representatives from Chester

-       3 representatives from Cavendish

-       1 representative from Andover

-       1 representative from Baltimore

GMUSD Board Gets to Pick the CTES Principal: Recapping-because Cavendish, and consequently CTES, are now part of the GMUSD that board makes the decision about the principal.

Do we have any local control? The voters still determine budgets, attend board meetings and state their views, run for one of the board positions and maybe most helpful, volunteer to help your school.

What you do matters. As far as the principal for CTES, a lot of the community is concerned and they are demonstrating that via a petition. Through the hiring process for George Thomson's replacement (he is retiring in June), parents, community, teachers as well as the search committee have said that advertising for an "Interim" principal made it difficult to attract qualified applicants for the position. Many have voiced a need for a permanent principal, not a "dean of students" or even an "interim principal" as the TRSU would like. In order for CTES to move forward in its efforts to not only maintain but to expand on its tradition of excellence, a permanent principal is needed.

To assist the search committee in finding qualified applicants , a petition has been started to ask the Green Mountain Unified School District to drop the interim and just advertise for a principal. If you are interested in signing the petition, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/M3PHGHX

Data will be provided to the GMUSD board only and will not be shared elsewhere. This petition can also be signed in person at the Cavendish Town Office.