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PRSRTSTDU.S. Postage PAID Killington,VT05751 Permit No. 14
ountain imes
Volume 44, Number 49
fat tires glide
No snow, no problem! Fat bikes glide across nearly any terrain! Many local riders will join others around the world for Global Fat Bike Day this Saturday.
Page 30
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Dec. 3 - 9, 2015
independent schools
balk at change to state
approval process
By Tiffany Danitz Pache,
The State Board of Education will revise rules for state approval of private schools in the coming year. The decision, made at a meeting earlier this month, caught the Vermont Independent Schools Associa- tion off guard.
The recommendation for review was brought by William Mathis, a board member, who raised con- cerns about admissions discrimination, financial accountability for public dollars and special educa- tion offerings. Mathis describes the rule change as a “routine” matter.
But Mill Moore, the executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, was alarmed by the board’s decision at a time when
maThis would like To see consisTenT financial informaTion for any Independent school that accepts publIc money.
the state is pushing for school district mergers that could have an impact on private schools.
“We’ve been doing this for 150 years and there
is no evidence there is a problem,” Moore said. “[Mathis] hasn’t stated what the problem is that
he is solving. He made serious allegations about discrimination but he has no evidence, there have been no problems with schools becoming finan- cially insolvent . . . he wants more special education, but there is no demonstrated need to expand special ed capacity in Vermont. We need to know what the problems are that he is trying to solve before serious discussion about whether or not his proposed solu- tions are worthwhile.”
Public schools should be held to a higher stan- dard, Moore says, because attendance is compul- sory.
Section 2200 series of the State Board of Edu- cation Rules and Practices which govern private school approval have not been reviewed or revised in 14 years. Mathis said it is a priority of the board to periodically review and update rules.
Mathis said the biggest problem facing Vermont is the achievement gap between well-to-do students and those struggling with poverty. Identifying the magnitude of the gap is a priority of the SBE, he said.
“What is behind it?” Mathis asked. “Is there a dif- ference between public and private schools? I don’t know but we should look into it.”
Any independent school that accepts public money for tuition must be approved by the SBE.
Mathis would like to see consistent financial in- formation for any independent school that accepts public money. “We need transparency and public accountability,” Mathis said. “There is a great variety of ways to comply with the current law.”
Moore has a problem with financial transpar- ency requirements because he says, “Independent schools are independent and we don’t want to be made like public schools. We operate with different standards, procedures and assumptions.”
The SBE has been uncomfortable with the rules process since the Village School of North Bennington filed an application with the board for approval, according to Moore. Because it had been a public school, it included a public school budget, which seemed to make sense as it was proposing to operate much the same way as it had been.
There are 134 independent schools in Ver- mont that range from general education schools such as the Sharon Academy to mission-driven schools to ski academies, to those that are com- pletely dedicated to special education.
hanukkah begins
Vermont’s Christmas tree industry re- ceived one of its early customers Sunday, Nov. 29, when Gov. Peter Shumlin arrived at Isham’s Family
Farm in Williston to select and cut a tree for the state Pavilion Office Building in Mont-
customers throughout New England and as far away as Bermuda.
Gov. Shumlin was joined by farm own-
er Mike Isham, a fifth-generation farmer, whose family has owned Isham Family Farm since 1871.
The farm was conserved with the Vermont Land Trust in 2002 by
Mike’s father, David Isham. Today, the farm operates a diverse business, which includes hosting weddings and events in its historic, restored barn. Isham Family Farm also offers their own maple syrup, a
Gov. tree, page 3
Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, is the first day of Hanukkah or Festival
of Lights. The Hanukkah
period lasts for eight days and remembers the Jewish people’s struggle for religious freedom. Observance starts the night prior, at sunset on Sunday, Dec. 6 this year, and ends on Monday, Dec. 14. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and eating foods unique to the holiday.
living a.d.e.
What’s happening? Find local Arts, Dining & Entertainment.
Pages 15 - 26
Mountain Times
is a community newspaper covering central Vermont that aims to engage and inform as well as empower community members to have a voice.
“whaT could be beTTer Than kicking off The holiday season at such a beautIful vermont farm!” saId gov.
governor Peter Shumlin selected and harvested a christmas Tree Sunday, nov. 30, fromishamFamilyFarminWilliston,Vt.ownerMikeisham(picturedright)joined him for the selection.
Governor Shumlin harvests the season’s first Christmas Tree
Over 134,000 Christmas trees are harvested in Vermont annually
pelier. shumlIn. The governor’s
annual tree-cutting event not only signals the start of tree-hunting season for many Vermonters, but also draws some well- deserved attention to Vermont’s robust Christmas tree industry, which supplies over 134,000 trees to Vermonters and
school consolidation vote set for Jan. 19
By Lee J. Kahrs
BRANDON — The Rutland Northeast Act
46 Study Committee has decided to send the ques- tion of local school con- solidation to the voters in each of the all six district towns, plus Mendon and Chittenden, in January 2016.
The committee was formed in September
in order to examine the options and feasibility associated with the Act
46 school consolidation bill passed by the state legislature in May. The bill is designed to encourage towns to consolidate their school districts in order to streamline manage- ment, pool resources and create efficiencies. Those
districts that complete the process by July 1, 2016 receive a $130,000 state transition grant and tax incentives.
RNeSU Superinten- dent Jeanne Collins said Friday that if voters in Brandon, Pittsford, Gos- hen, Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury approve the measure, the Otter Valley Unified Union School District would be created serving pre-K through 12th grade. In addition,
if Mendon and Chitten- den voters approve their measure, the Barstow joint agreement would be dissolved to create the Barstow Unified Union School District, covering pre-K through 12th grade.
The new district would operate the Barstow pre-K thought 8th grade with tu- ition choice for students in grades 9-12.
Collins said the com- mittee decided to forge ahead with an earlier January vote in order to separate it from the March school budget votes and make it easier to navigate for voters.
“We’re ready because the committee has been meeting since September and the consolidation plan has to go to the state Board of Education by December,” she said. “We’re ready. The com- mittee felt it would be bet- ter to separate the two is- sues. Then the March vote
Consolidation, page 38
Approval changes, page 5

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