DOVER — It's a busy time for those involved at the elementary school.
Four committees were formed last month around Dover School's tackling of the new education law Act 46 aimed at "unification" through district mergers.
"After Act 46 passed, we had a meeting in June to get feedback from the community on how the School Board should react to the law," said Principal Bill Anton.
One of the biggest concerns involved keeping school choice. But also important was maintaining momentum with the school's entering the International Baccalaureate program. The school is still in a candidacy stage with hopes of accreditation. Authorization will require a rubber stamp from the IB organization.
People also wanted to keep the culture of the school, its high expectations and community involvement, Anton told the Reformer.
"The School Board has been working to find solutions to working under Act 46 to satisfy those values of the community," he said.
The committees are made up of approximately four to six community volunteers. The positions were open to whomever was interested, Anton said. Board members serving as liaisons are expected to report back on a monthly basis.
According to Anton, the legal committee is going to research the feasibility of any legal action to counter the mandates of Act 46 while a communications and polling committee will investigate the desires of residents. The other committees will look into the possibilities of adding seventh and eighth grades to the school and making the school a private magnet or charter school.
"We're just trying to figure out the options," Anton said. "We're trying to be proactive and think about the options and not leave any stone un-turned."
At a special meeting Oct. 27, voters approved of taking money out of the capital reserve fund and capital building fund for two projects. The cafeteria/gym, library ceiling and all of the building's blue exterior will be painted while the entire building is getting new carpeting.
"We will begin those in December," said Anton. "We're just trying to work out the timing and the scope of the work to get it done when students aren't in the building."
Although the meeting was "sparsely attended," he said there was widespread support for "making sure we're doing right here."
"Maintenance, preventative and cosmetics that haven't been done in awhile will be done to match the kinds of programs and success that other parts of our building have had in terms of academics and global education," he said.
The projects are expected to be finished by the end of the school year. Bids were already awarded.
Anton will leave Dover School on June 30 but he'll be back. This time as Windham Central Supervisory Union's superintendent.
The hiring process for his replacement, he said, is going "fantastic."
"The month of September we spent doing forms with our students, our parents, our teachers and our School Board," he said. "And it was kind of fun for me because I got to run the panel forms to find out what the four groups wanted in a principal. I was able to take that information and create the advertisement."
The ad was published last month. "A very good amount" of applications were received, according to Anton.
"We've narrowed it down to our finalists, which we'll be meeting with Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 16 and 17) with two panels of seven," he said. "Back-to-back interviews."
Superintendent Steven John is expected to take the results of those interviews and talk to panel members, then make a recommendation.
Anton admits the process is unusual. He said it's lengthy but it gives more lead time.
"That was one of the great things; being able to have a long transition time," said Anton, who was named Windham Central's next superintendent in April. "Our goal has always been to get someone that would start July 2016 so that person and myself would have six months of transition so we can hit the ground running July 1. Otherwise, the positions get posted in spring, they're hired in May then they move into the position in July. We wanted as much transition and overlap as we could."
This type of process also makes it easier on the candidates. They can give a six-month notice to their previous employers so there are no hard feelings when leaving, Anton said.
"We thought it was a good plan for us and it leaves everyone in a win-win situation," he added. "With all the changes in Vermont now, I'm fortunate to see things from the inside and I can try to help navigate what happens with not only Dover but all schools in Windham Central."