On March 17, 2021

Regarding the Stockbridge – RSUD dis-merge vote

Dear Editor,

As the elected legislative body in the town of Stockbridge, the Select Board received a petition to start the process of breaking up the merger of Stockbridge and Rochester’s schools in 2020. This merger created the RSUD or Rochester Stockbridge Union District. This merger was the result of the arduous and lengthy Act 46 process. The petition was valid (that is, it had more than 5% of the registered voters’ signatures), and we acted according to statute and held the vote at the Town Meeting by Australian ballot.

The results of this vote, in the town of Stockbridge, was to break up the RSUD. Breakup of the union cannot proceed without a similar vote in the town of Rochester.

There are several different reasons for this outcome and to place the blame on one would not resolve the issue. There is a very vocal and passionate group of folks that have helped to steer this discussion and they have been a great help to the process of changing how the RSUD is run and how each town gets to elect their school directors.

We would like to thank these folks for dedicating so much of their time to this critical element of the town of Stockbridge. We are also not sure that everyone in town understands the implications of this vote. Through all the passionate speech we, as a board, think that the fact that this vote will most likely close the Stockbridge School, was lost on some of the voters.

Budget numbers provided by the superintendent’s office show a fairly flat increase in Stockbridge’s school tax if we stay in the RSUD, and a potential 40% increase if we run the school as a standalone entity. We can quibble about the exact numbers and whether we will get this grant or another, but from our experience, as well as the superintendent’s, the sustainability of a school as small as Stockbridge appears impossible as a standalone school.

Perhaps also lost in the noise of this conversation, is the impact that a dis-merge would have on our kids’ education. The two schools operating as one, presents enormously improved opportunities for the kids, which was highlighted during the informational meeting by faculty of the Stockbridge School. A standalone Stockbridge School will not be able to offer the same level of program or instruction that is currently offered through the RSUD organization. As a board, we feel that this needs to be front and center in the town’s thinking.

After engaging in extensive discussion, informational meetings and reviewing the financial documents presented by the superintendent’s office, it is our belief that it is in the best interest of the town to stay in the RSUD.

It is our belief that a vote to dis-merge will result in the closing of the Stockbridge School. Given recent discussions and work being done to change the articles of agreement that set the rules for the RSUD operations and each town’s responsibilities, and the noticeable change in tone between Stockbridge and Rochester, we feel it is premature to dissolve this school district.

We have also heard that there may be another petition being circulated to re-vote this issue. If the board is presented with another valid petition to reopen this issue, we will act according to statute and present it to the town of Stockbridge for a vote.

It is important that we all understand the true issues and facts around this. Please do not rely on social media for your research. We are posting all documents and schedules on the town website, stockbridgevt.org. You can also view the RSUD informational meeting through the link on our web site. It is very informative and well worth listening to.

The Select Board meets on the first and third Thursday of each month — sign-on instructions are located on the town website. Our contact information is also on the town’s site, so please reach out with any questions.

Jenny, Carl and Justine are great resources regarding this issue. Finally, it has been our pleasure to work with Jaime Kinnarney, Superintendent WRVSU, and Ethan Bowen, Chair RSUD, through this process. Jaime and Ethan bring a ton of knowledge and credibility to this process and we appreciate their hard work.

We are confident that we can work with our neighbors to the north to provide the best education possible for our children.

Sincerely,

Town of Stockbridge Select Board: Lee Ann Issacson, chair; Jim Shands; Zach Cavacas

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