Former principal fills board seat, construction on track
Apr 11, 2013 | 3324 views | 4 4 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Work on the two additions at Deerfield Valley Elementary School continues. This photo was taken on Wednesday.
Work on the two additions at Deerfield Valley Elementary School continues. This photo was taken on Wednesday.
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By Mike Eldred

WHITINGHAM- One Wilmington school board member is gone, replaced by a familiar face.

At Tuesday evening’s “triboard” meeting, longtime Wilmington School Board member Doug Swanson submitted his resignation. Although he won’t serve on the board any longer, Swanson has agreed to remain on the building committee.

Appearing with Swanson as a volunteer replacement was someone who was a familiar face at board meetings for many years, former Deerfield Valley Elementary School Principal Kathy Larsen. Board members accepted Swanson’s resignation, and appointed Larsen to serve in his place. Since her retirement Larsen has remained involved in DVES as a mentor.

Construction on the new Twin Valley Elementary School building is on track and back on budget, school board members said. Building committee chair Phil Taylor told board members that change orders had been “creeping in” on the contingency fund built into the budget, but the committee was able to bring costs back in line with the budget. “After freaking out about it, we’re doing pretty well now,” he said. “We found that if you’re willing to do the legwork, getting bids and other quotes, you can really keep costs down.”

With costs under control and major construction expenses met, Taylor said he was recommending that the board approve the planned purchase of a wood pellet boiler and pellet silo for the school’s heating system. “We still have the interior renovation, and we want to keep a good buffer until the end,” he said. “But at this time, if we don’t use contingency (in the board’s construction budget), we would be right back with the numbers, so we’re asking for permission to purchase that pellet boiler.”

The reason for making the purchase now, Taylor explained, is to ensure that the boiler will be available at the time it needs to be installed. “There are quite a few orders for that particular model of boiler, so if we don’t make a move, it may mean getting it installed next winter. We’d like to have it done earlier.”

“The thinking had been that we would get the wood pellet boiler or the sprinkler system,” noted Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd. “Now we have both on track.”

“Everything in the bond vote is still in there,” Taylor added. “We haven’t taken any cuts, and we haven’t eliminated anything.” Board members gave the go-ahead for the purchase.

Construction plans for the Twin Valley Middle/High School are also on track, Taylor said, although there has been at least one substantial change since the bond for that facility was passed. “The gym has been reduced in size by about 10%,” Taylor said, “but it was a large gym. And we don’t know where we stand with the field right now, but we’ll keep fighting to get what we want at a price we can afford.”

Copies of the plans have been printed and are ready to be reviewed before the project goes out to bid, Taylor told board members.

Taylor also suggested that the Wilmington board consider selling the portable classroom that had been behind DVES. The building is currently in storage in the former Deerfield Valley Supply parking lot. “I suggest you authorize us to pursue the sale of the building, and I’ll come back with an actual sale price.”

Board member Adam Grinold asked if the board should seek bids for the building to get the best price.

“If you put it out to bid, the bids will all come back within a few hundred dollars of each other,” said Boyd. “And right now we’re paying for the storage.”

But Boyd noted that the disposition of the proceeds from the sale is an undecided matter. The building was originally placed at DVES to make room for a supervisory union special education program. “The supervisory union purchased it, but Wilmington owns it because the SU can’t own property,” Boyd said.

“We need to have that information to make decisions,” said Grinold.

Supervisory union business manager Karen Atwood said she would look into the matter.

The board also looked at a draft of next year’s school calendar, a key document in next year’s transition to a consolidated Twin Valley K-12 system. DVES Principal Rebecca Fillion noted that there were only 83 days left until DVES becomes Twin Valley Elementary School on July 1.

Fillion said that, to accommodate the construction schedule, students wouldn’t start the new school year until September 16. “So we have to make up 12 days in the calendar,” she said.

Teacher in-service days will be scheduled before and after the student school year. Otherwise, Fillion said, more days would be added to the number to be made up. To make up the 12 days of classes, school staff voted to work two days during February break and to work holidays. “We didn’t touch April vacation,” Fillion said. “That was a recommendation from the staff. They felt it might be nice for families to have an untouched break if they want to go away on vacation.”

Fillion pointed out that all of the make-up days would be half days. “They count as full days, and a lot of them are holidays. Traditionally, the elementary school participates in the parade and celebrations at Memorial Hall. Those events might count as a half-day.”

Taylor said there was a possibility that the school could be ready for occupation earlier than September 16. “Is there flexibility in the calendar for that?” he asked.

“I would be very nervous about that. Staff and families are saying they need to know already. They’re booking trips for Labor Day. I don’t think we can start early.”

When pressed by other board members, Fillion objected to leaving the school start date open. “Contractually, how can I tell them they can’t have their days off? How is the union going to agree to 185 days (teachers’ contracted number of days), but keep this week free?”

Board member Aimee Reed said some parents would be upset by the schedule, particularly since it will vary substantially from the middle and high school schedules. “My feeling is, parents are going to be upset no matter what schedule we have,” said Fillion. “If we do a unified calendar, some will be upset. If we do it this way, some are going to be upset.”

Wilmington board member Tim Cunningham asked what would happen if the construction extends beyond the school start date. “It’s Murphy’s Law,” he said.

“Then we call Bellows Falls and ask them what they did,” said Whitingham Elementary/Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman.

“We take all of February and April vacation and go to school in June,” said Boyd. “We lose those cushions.”

“That’s why I think we need to keep pushing that date back (earlier),” said Taylor. “It’s going to be tight.”

Comments
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HittheNailRightontheHead
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April 15, 2013
That may be all said in done PJT however the resignation becomes effective when Mr. Swanson submits it and that triggers the 30 day window and not some time ago when Mr. Swanson unofficially made those aware.

If I was on that triboard group I would rethink this move and repost before some future action blows up in your face. Teachers union grievance for one example and a split vote.
Hop
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April 12, 2013
That also caught my eye. Several years back we were in a similar situation and inquired to the VSBA as to acceptable procedures. We were told if we had applicants we had to fill in the 30 day window. We were also advised that we post locally of the vacancy, set a date to cease accepting letters of interest, put on the agenda as an item to be voted on and in the mean time conduct interviews etc if needed to select the candidate. This does not look like the same plan we were advised to follow.

I would be curious to see if the newly appointed director took an active part in the meeting as I doubt there would be any way possible to take the oath as I do not believe the Town clerk would have been in attendance?

PJT
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April 15, 2013
Hi All,

To the comments posted below, the school board new that Doug Swanson desired to step down and some point. We also had a vacancy that came up in the March elections. The board thought it best to wait until after the elections to see if there was a challenger to the one candidate--in which case they could be considered for appoint. There was not challenger for that position and it was filled. We then posted about two weeks before in the town newsletter, official warning spots, on the TV Facebook site. I did sent an ad to the DVN, which missed the date by a day. (Would have got that through, except had a new born, and things got a little crazy.)

We did make advance efforts to solicit interest through public notice and in that request--asked notification of interest by March 29th. We had one other candidate, who later withdrew, wishing to seek Kathy Larsen take the position.

Kathy did sit in on meeting--as we were talking about board planning. She did not vote.

Then intent was to publicly solicit interested parties in the position--as in general willing volunteers are in short supply.

State Law is below:

§ 424. Vacancies

(a) Except as otherwise provided for a school district operating under a charter, within 30 days of the creation of the vacancy, the school board shall, by majority vote of those present and voting, appoint a qualified person to fill a vacancy in the town school board or a vacancy in the position of town school district treasurer in towns in which the town school district treasurer is elected separately from the town treasurer until an election at a special or annual meeting is held. A record thereof shall be made in the office of the town clerk.

HittheNailRightontheHead
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April 11, 2013
I dont believe the spirit of the law, VSA 17 section 7061 (b), was obeyed in this case considering the appointment of Mrs. Larsen.

If there is any truth in this articles writing it clearly indicates the deck was stacked with Larsen "appearing with Swanson..." and a quick appointment thereof.

The law allows for a 30 day window to act and acting immediately after the ink was dry in Swanson's resignation can only be viewed as suspect.

Certainly Mrs. Larsen with all of her years of experience would not have operated in this fashion.