On December 18, 2019

Barnard to merge with WCSU

By Curt Peterson

Barnard voters decided 119-85 to merge with Windsor Central Supervisory Union on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Residents had long debated joining Windsor Central prior to the vote. Some in Barnard wanted to turn Barnard Academy into an independent school to avoid the school’s potential closure in the future.

The merger will require voters in six other towns in the district accepting Barnard participation, and amendments to the original 2017 WCUSD articles of agreement covering issues of sustainability, grade reconfiguration and school closure. Barnard School Board chair Carin Park said the amendments replaced arbitrary policies surrounding configuration and closure with meaningful criteria and processes. These two issues were major reasons Barnard originally rejected joining WCUSD.Pamela Fraser, Barnard representative on the WCUSD Board, said the amendments are not for Barnard – they provide important criteria that protect every school in the district. Park, Fraser and others invested  effort into resisting a “forced merger” under Act 46, then working with the district to find the path to a successful merger vote. About 29% of the 715 registered voters turned out to vote.Tim Johnson, Select Board, chair said given the amount of time people spent talking and posting on the listserv about the vote, he was disappointed with the low turnout. He senses those opposing the merger feared losing control over “their school.”

Originally an advocate for Barnard Academy independence, Johnson told the Mountain Times the article amendments resolve the issues that bothered him.

“My objections are satisfied in the amendments,” Johnson said, “and moving the sixth grade to a bigger school with more educational opportunities is a good thing, but I’m still skeptical – if things start to go the wrong way I’ll be the first to advocate pulling out and going private.”

Barnard invested about $15,000 in legal fees fighting to keep Barnard Academy independent.WCUSD superintendent Mary Beth Banios described the relationship between the Barnard School Board and the district as cordial and productive.“I believe that this merger will be mutually beneficial and look forward to the enhanced partnership that will be possible as a result of our communities coming together,” Banios wrote in an email.“While giving up autonomous control of our school budget is … a leap of faith, Barnard will enter into a full merger relationship with the [WCUSD] with the same good will that the … Board reflected when they refused to force us to join last winter. I look forward to a wider community getting to know what a special place Barnard Academy is!” Park said in an email.

District board member Jim Haff said he is “really glad” for the Barnard vote results.

“The FY2021 budget is really challenging,” Haff said, “and Barnard’s 70-plus students will be a big positive.”

Woodstock Union High School has the district’s highest cost per/student, and Barnard’s per student figure is low – the district budget will be helped by the larger number of students and Barnard’s lower operating costs, Haff said.

Barnard Academy Principal Hannah Thein wrote, “I am confident that we will continue to collaboratively work together to realize the Portrait of a Graduate and the district strategic plan.  I am sure that Barnard Academy will retain its ‘small school feel’ and its academic rigor. I think that this merger is an opportunity to grow, and at the same time retain our uniqueness and vibrancy.”

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Large turnout for Hartland school budget info session

May 23, 2024
By Curt Peterson The May 21 Hartland school budget information session may be the best-attended school board gathering in recent history — an estimated 40 people attended in person at Damon Hall in Hartland, and another 41 tuned in online. Hartland voters had already approved the $11,040,567 budget 320-311 on April 2. But a petition…

United Way of Rutland County names new exc. director

May 22, 2024
The United Way of Rutland County (UWRC) announced the appointment of Tina Van Guilder as its new executive director, May 17.  Van Guilder officially assumed her role as executive director May 6. With over seven years of direct non-profit leadership experience in the Rutland County area, coupled with recent roles focusing on grant coordination, budget…

Slate Valley school district to hold fourth vote on district budget

May 22, 2024
In response to the results of the last vote on May 9, and valuable community feedback during the school board meeting on May 13, the Slate Valley Unified Union School District will hold its fourth vote in an attempt to pass the budget on May 30. It will be a revote on the third FY25…

Where is the road construction this week? 

May 22, 2024
The Agency of Transportation produces this weekly report of planned construction activities that will impact traffic on state highways and interstates throughout Vermont. Hartford: Monday, May 20, through Friday, May 24, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., multiple concrete mixers will be moving in and out of the project area at either end of the…