Proposed Regional Education District vote canceled, for now


JAMAICA -- A committee that concluded there are potential cost savings and educational improvements for schools associated with a new proposed school district is now tasked with re-writing an article having to do with the vote that would establish that district.

On Sept. 12 in Jamaica, the Regional Education District Study Committee discussed an article, which was originally scheduled for an Australian ballot vote on Oct. 8, in the towns of Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham.

However, due to the wording of the article, the Vermont Attorney General's Office informed the committee that the article will have to be re-drafted before it can be voted on.

If the article ever makes it to a vote -- and if it is approved later -- the new district will be known as the Windham Central Education District, and it would consolidate seven school boards under one 11-member board that would oversee education for pre-k through 12th grade in all five towns.

The committee's initial recommendations, which had been released in a warning to voters, were approved by the state education board, but the Vermont Secretary of Education asked the board to reconsider Article 12, which deals with voting methods. Article 12 outlined a voting method in which each of the board members got a vote and, if needed, each of the towns could pass a vote as well. It was up to the board to develop procedures for determining town votes when there is more than one representative from a town, the result of a tie vote and any other procedure needed to implement the two-vote method. Under Article 12, unless both votes are affirmative, the motion would fail.

However, the Attorney General's Office recommended the article be changed to make it a single, super-majority vote.

RED Study Committee Chairwoman Emily Long said the committee could present the board with the suggested language, but other concerns would still need to be addressed.

"If we're going to suggest changing the language and giving them the revisions, I think the concern is still there for us to ensure the smaller communities won't be overwhelmed by the large communities," said Long.

The state also contacted Windham Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Steven John and mentioned that the committee can still receive legal counsel from the state on re-writing Article 12. John asked the committee if the members want to remain on the state board's agenda for Sept. 17 so that the board could consider a new draft of the article.

"I don't think your time is running short," he said, referring to setting up a schedule to include the new day for voting on the district and properly warning it.

The rewritten article will be presented to the state board next week. The RED Study Committee will continue its informational sessions in the towns it is proposing the consolidated school district.

"We don't know now when the vote will be and I don't have answers about the petitions for those who wanted to be considered to be on the (proposed school district board)," said Long. "I apologize for things I can't answer."

She told attendees at the Jamaica informational session that without a proper warning, the vote would be null and void, and 30 to 40 days are required for another warning.

The next meetings will be held on Windham Elementary on Sept. 17, NewBrook School on Sept. 24 and the Leland & Gray gym on Oct. 1.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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