BRATTLEBORO -- The Vermont Secretary of State has approved a merger that will bring Kindle Farm under the direction of Health Care & Rehabilitation Services.

Kindle Farm is an independent school in Newfane for boys with emotional, behavioral and learning needs in grades 2 through 12.

For the past three years HCRS has been working closely with Kindle Farm, providing administrative and counseling oversight.

With the Secretary of State's decision the Kindle Farm board has been dissolved and the school has become an HCRS program.

"Although HCRS originally affiliated its organization with Kindle Farm some years ago, the goal was not for an eventual merger, but a desire to share our well developed infrastructure with an extremely worthwhile but financially struggling enterprise," HCRS CEO Judith Hayward said. "HCRS and Kindle Farm share the emotional and educational responsibility for many of the same children and the affiliation seemed a natural fit."

HCRS is the mental health agency for Windham and Windsor counties and it provides a range of services to children and adults throughout southeastern Vermont.

In June 2010 HCRS and Kindle Farm announced a partnership that gave HCRS financial oversight over Kindle Farm.

The partnership came at a time when Kindle Farm was facing declining enrollment and mounting bills, and Kindle Farm administration at the time said the partnership helped save the school.

Under the newly approved merger, Kindle Farm will remain an independent school.

Hayward said she met with Kindle Farm staff this summer to talk about formalizing the relationship between the two organizations.

"Over the past few years Kindle Farm has come a long way, and we thought it was time to either cut them loose or take them on and make them a part of HCRS," Hayward said. "I think this is a benefit to them and us."

Kindle Farm Director Dana Gordon-Macey said the school has about 46 students and is operating at capacity.

She said the school will continue to operate under its same mission and philosophy

"From the start they have supported us and as we have got to know each other we have been able to see what it would look like to work more closely together," Gordon-Macey said. "They support our operation. From the start they were not seeking to change anything about how we operate."

Gordon-Macey said it would have been much more difficult to merge three years ago.

She said over the past three years Kindle Farm has been able to access HCRS staff and counseling services, as well as receive administrative and financial support and physical facility assistance.

"This is a very exciting time for Kindle Farm.

Kindle Farm School in Newfane.(Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Kindle Farm School in Newfane. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
A lot of hard work on the part of myriad of individuals from Kindle Farm and HCRS over the past several years has led us to this point," Gordon-Macey said. "This is a very positive outcome for our students, families and staff members. This is not going to change who we are."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.