On May 31, 2017

Lakes Region News Briefs

Wells working on land use for two parcels

With the help of the Vermont Land Trust, the town of Wells acquired two portions of the farm once belonging to Joan and Charlotte Delaney, one of the last large, undeveloped properties that lies alongside Lake St. Catherine. Ken Makepeace heads the Delaney Committee, working to find the most effective use for the 17.5 acres abutting the lake and the 175-acre Delaney woods. The larger parcel is already “growing hiking and biking trails, Makepeace said May 23.

The smaller lakeshore recreation area may be more problematic. Delaney Committee member Cathy Walker took the committee’s concerns to the Select Board May 16. She said both humans and animals are despoiling the lakefront property. The humans are leaving litter behind and the geese are, uh, doing what geese do. She asked for the town to clean up the property before the upcoming school picnic.

She is working on a Land Trust grant to develop a management plan for the Delaney property and asked the Select Board for a letter of support. The town is to match the grant in money or hours of service. Plans are underway to build a pavilion on the property. Rutland Regional Planning Commission has given the town a grant not to exceed $6,196 for road, bridges, and culverts.

Computers, records on Middletown Springs minds

Middletown Springs town officials are considering a new software solution, a contract with the New England Municipal Resource Center (NEMRC) in Fairfax, Vt., for cloud-based software. Doing so would facilitate off-site work for the town’s listers, treasurer, and town clerk, Lister Sally Achey told the Select Board May 11. Selectman Herb Childress is working with Town Clerk Laura Ann Castle to develop a recordkeeping system and procedure for recording all town complaints and relevant information.

Pawlet, Rupert grapple with education equity, costs

The Act 46 Rupert and Pawlet merger study committee is making a second attempt at a merger, after a non-binding referendum vote. The committee recorded that meetings in August and September were well attended by largely pro-school choice community members, but that the referendum vote swayed toward continued designation of New York schools based on lower costs. Pawlet and Rupert are both aging communities. According to demographic figures presented, 30 percent of Rupert residents and 28 percent in Pawlet are retired or on Social Security, compared to a state average of 21 percent and a national average of 20.

Rupert and Pawlet are also the only two towns in the state that designate schools in New York State, although other towns have designation to schools in other states. Schools on Vermont’s eastern boundary, however, also have interstate school board governance. There is no such agreement in New York State. Therefore, Rupert and Pawlet parents have little determination in school decisions.

Melanie Cole and Chuck Armentrout released an online document January 27 entitled “The State of Educational Equity in Rupert and Pawlet,” representing the organization Families for Education in Vermont, a group that had been informally chartered early in the Act 46 process and continues to support educational opportunities for students in the area.

Cole wants the school boards to drop their insistence to continue to designate schools in New York and to opt for choice, giving parents Vermont’s average tuition to make the best choice for their students — New York schools or otherwise. Towns surrounding Rupert and Pawlet allow school choice. They also are economically healthier, with more property sales, she noted. Local residents who want to continue school designation prioritize lowered tuition over empowered parents who want to determine how their child’s educational needs are best met.

About 100 people came to a recent meeting in Mettawee School, Cole said. Only 12 of them indicated they wanted to continue school designation.

“No one is asking for full tuition at Burr & Burton,” Cole clarified, but she believes they should receive the Vermont average education funding for their students and the ability to send children to schools where, parents determine, their child’s educational interests, strengths and weaknesses are addressed.

During FY16/17, Rupert students could attend school in Salem, N.Y., with a tuition cost of $7,700; Pawlet students in Granville, $8,800. Tuition in New York is a bargain; Vermont average tuition is more than $14,000. The distance from town to a New York school is also a bit closer. Salem, N.Y. is less than 10 miles from Rupert, and Long Trail School and Burr & Burton Academy (independent schools in Vermont) are also closer to Rupert, about 5.5 miles and 13 miles respectively. Poultney High is 23 miles and Arlington High, 21 miles. Similarly, Granville High in New York is 7.8 miles from Pawlet, with the same distance to Long Trail School. Burr & Burton is 15.2 miles, while Poultney High is 14.2 miles.

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