TOWNSHEND -- Instead of holding its scheduled informational meeting on Tuesday, the Regional Education District Study Committee discussed a new date for the Australian ballot vote that could result in a new school district.
The committee will propose a vote date of June 3 to the Vermont State Board of Education.
"They decided that a spring vote is better than winter in terms of turnout," said Windham Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Steven John.
The RED Study Committee has been charged with presenting its findings about creating a district that would become known as the Windham Central Education District and it would focus on five towns surrounding Townshend. Since the committee became aware that its language in one of the articles, which was proposed and warned to voters for an Oct. 8 vote, would cause the Vermont State Board of Education to rescind its approval, its members have decided to keep at the task of proposing the district.
The Vermont Secretary of Education had issue with language pertaining to the voting process and how the proposed district’s school board would work if a new district was formed.
RED Study Committee Chairwoman Emily Long then presented the state board with compromised language in Article 12m involving a super majority, said John.
"The language was approved by the state board, so we’re all set for the articles of agreement except we don’t have a time or date to vote," said John.
On Sept. 17, Long described the process of the state board’s approval of the new language to the RED Study Committee.
"This change called for a super majority of the WCED Board (7 out of 10, or 8 out of 11) to adopt or revise the board’s bylaws. This revision addressed the legal objection of the Secretary of Education and the Attorney General," stated Long, according to the minutes from that meeting. "The (board) anticipates granting final approval for our newly revised articles of agreement as soon as the (committee) decides on a date for the five towns to vote on creating the WCED."
Residents from the five towns of Newfane, Brookline, Windham, Townshend and Jamaica ultimately will decide on the proposed district. Representatives from those towns have discussed the possibility for years.
The committee’s proposal involves consolidating seven school boards into one 11-member board that would oversee education for pre-K through 12th grade in the five towns.
Consolidating schools, similar to the Twin Valley school system based in Wilmington and Whitingham, has also been discussed, but not outlined, as a prospect for schools within the proposed district.
Committee members stated that their main focus is on improving educational opportunities, including broader and increased opportunities in arts, languages and technology as well as coordinated field trips between the schools.
On Oct. 1, the RED Study Committee met at Leland and Gray and discussed the date to propose. Now, the articles will be taken back to the state board in upcoming weeks.
Discussion of possible dates for the vote also included November, February or May.
"It changes a few of the dates that are mentioned in the articles," said John.
Those dates included the transition of the seven individual boards into one if the WCED is formed.
In terms of setting a date for voting, November was immediately out of the question because there is not enough time for a proper warning of the vote. A minimum of 30 days are needed for warning it.
The RED Study Committee also will be reviewing questions that were received at the four informational meetings leading up to the previously scheduled day for voting. John said committee members have heard a lot of the same questions at the various meetings. Several of the questions have been up on the website, WCED.WindhamCentral.org.
"There will probably be some new ones added, based on the committee’s experience and sharing information on the articles with the public," John said.
Once the articles are approved with the new dates, the warnings will be issued to the public. Ballots for the new board, which already had candidates, will have to be redone.
"We hope the present candidates will continue to be willing to run but depending on the timeline, that may change," said John. "But the committee will no doubt be sure to have as many informational meetings as the public seeks or finds helpful. Those would proceed the Australian ballot vote and at least one of those meetings would have to occur within 10 days of the vote."
The session scheduled for Leyland and Gray was supposed to be the final meeting before the vote because of its central location.
"We look forward to ensuring a better education for our students in the future," said John. "That’s the purpose of this work."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.