Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Chris Pratt and board member Kathy Larsen announced that the state board of education approved the WSSU’s Act 46 consolidation plan. Pratt and Larsen were among a group of WSSU officials who traveled to Montpelier to present the plan to the state board. “It was nice to have a road trip up to Montpelier,” Pratt said. “Our presentation was about 20 minutes, they asked two questions, and it was approved. So I hope we can continue the good news and have the voters support it, and move on from there.”
Larsen, who served a six-year term on the state education board, said the board was “very welcoming” to WSSU representatives.
Following the passage of Act 46, the supervisory union had initially counted on a smooth process, noting that much of the work had already been done as part of Twin Valley’s consolidation. And for Twin Valley, Act 46 compliance would mean a minor governance change, from joint contract district to unified union district. When the supervisory union plan was eventually submitted to the agency of education, however, it was sent back with a list of suggestions for improvement. The supervisory union’s Act 46 committee hired consultant Steven Sanborn to steer them through a renewed process.
The deadline for towns to implement Act 46 and receive tax incentives is June 30. WSSU districts will hold public votes on the Act 46 consolidation plans on Wednesday, May 31. Twin Valley School Board members scheduled public informational meetings on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 pm at Twin Valley Elementary School, and Thursday, May 25, at 7 pm at Twin Valley Middle High School.
The new districts, if approved, require new boards. In Twin Valley’s case, the current town “ghost” boards will be eliminated, and the Twin Valley board will be replaced by a larger, seven-member board for the unified union school district. The initial board will include four members from Wilmington and three from Whitingham.
Larsen told board members petitions, for those who want to serve on the new union board, must be turned in by May 1. Wilmington members who have agreed to run include Therese Lounsbury, Janna Ewart, Dennis Richter, and Larsen. In Whitingham, board members Seth Boyd, Sharon Berry, and John Doty will run.
In other good news, WSSU Business Manager Karen Atwood told board members the state recently finished an audit of construction at TVES and have forward the results to the State Board of Education.Atwood said the district can expect the state to release $989,000 to pay off a construction loan for the work.
TVES Principal Becca Fillion said the school had received praise from school security expert Mark Moody following his recent visit to the school. Fillion said Moody, a former school resource officer who was wounded in the Essex School shooting, spent several hours at the school interviewing staff and reviewing the school’s security procedures and physical security. “He personally wrote in the report that the security practices here were commendable,” Fillion told board members. “He said we’re in the top echelon of school security. Not everyone is taking security as seriously as we are.”
Fillion said the feedback was an acknowledgment of the security planning and work she and the board did during the the construction and renovation of the school “He does not take security lightly,” agreed Pratt. “Any positive feedback he gives is earned, and other schools do not get his approval easily.”
In other discussions, Atwood told board members that the Whitingham Selectboard has requested a “rental agreement” that lists the uses for which the town pays user fees. “I’m sure that’s something we should put together for Wilmington, too,” she said. “So that means looking at what those things are, and putting dollar amounts to them.”
Board member Adam Grinold asked if the effort should be postponed until after the upcoming Act 46 vote. “It’s going to be totally different then,” he noted.
Board member Aimee Reed suggested the board could simply take it under advisement. “They don’t dictate what we do,” she said.
“Well, it’s going to come up elsewhere,” Atwood said, cryptically. “But that’s something for executive session.”
“It has been brought up,” Pratt added.