Jamaica to stay in Leland & Gray union


JAMAICA >> The makeup of Leland & Gray Union High School will stay the same for now.

On Tuesday, an article asking if Jamaica should leave the union was turned down in a 126-102 vote.

"So it's not going to go any further," Jamaica Town Clerk Pam Tweedy said. "They're not going to try and withdraw from the union anymore."

More participation was noted this time around. In August, 153 voters weighed in. This time saw the number jump to 228.

"So much better turnout," Tweedy said. "Now, the other towns don't have to have votes."

Had Jamaica voted the other way, the other member districts would have had to hold similar votes in order to let Jamaica out of the union. If all of them approved, Jamaica could have offered school choice to its students leaving the elementary school.

The Jamaica School Board wanted to see how residents felt about continuing to send students to Leland & Gray as boards within Windham Central Supervisory Union grapple with Act 46. The state law requires districts to merge with a goal of improving equities for students.

"We're pleased with the outcome of the vote but we definitely heard that the community of Jamaica wants to be heard," Windham Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Bill Anton said. "They want not only Leland & Gray, but the area, to listen to their concerns and desires for their students. I think we're well equipped to do that."

Anton described the Jamaica community being "very prescient and thoughtful" about taking action with regard to Act 46. There was no delay, he said.

The revote "frees up the collective mind to work on what is possible," said Anton.

Windham Central has two study committees currently exploring options to comply with Act 46. Members of the Leland & Gray union are looking at forming a K-12 district. The union includes Newfane, Townshend, Brookline, Jamaica and Windham. Dover, Marlboro and Wardsboro — districts in Windham Central with elementary schools offering school choice — make up the other committee.

Both committees are looking at having town-wide votes during annual Town Meeting in March. Articles of agreement around mergers are expected to be written by the end of this year.

"They're going to try and proceed on that but they're going to let their conversation lead them. If they need more time, they'll find more time," Anton said. "They want as much feedback as possible and see Town Meeting as the place to do that."

New Leland & Gray Principal Robert Thibault has been "very thoughtful" about reaching out to Jamaica and the surrounding communities, Anton said. Thibault is conducting a "listening tour" and a group from Jamaica was his first stop.

"Because they're the most obvious one to start with," said Anton, who was at the meeting. "People there are unbelievably supportive of their local schools but they want their concerns and ideas listened to. They want to be a part of their community's schools. That's our challenge. That's our desire."

During Tuesday night's Leland & Gray board meeting, the results came as good news to board members. But they're "very serious about the need to listen to the communities and hear what they desire out of Leland & Gray," said Anton. The topic will be explored during the board's next meeting in October.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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