A Message From Superintendent Tracy Wrend
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
We wanted to communicate an update regarding Act 46 and the Vermont State Board of Education’s (VSBE) decision to force EMUU and SSD to merge. Unfortunately, the VSBE recently voted again (in another tie vote that was broken by Chair Huling) to sustain their decision and force EMUU and SSD to merge.
In response to this decision by the VSBE, the EMUU, LSSU and SSD Boards voted to challenge this decision through litigation. Additionally, LSSU will work with our local legislators to pursue a legislative solution.
Please find an open letter to the communities from the EMUU and SSD Boards regarding this decision below.
An open letter to our communities:
The Vermont State Board of Education (VSBE) recently voted to override the recommendation of the Secretary of the Agency of Education (AOE) and force Elmore-Morristown (EMUU) and Stowe (SSD) to merge. While this decision has been challenged twice now by board members, on both occasions the decision resulted in a tie vote, with the Chair ultimately breaking the ties and voting to affirm the VSBE’s decision.
We are extremely frustrated that the VSBE rejected the recommendation of the Secretary of Education without weighing how we are best able to meet the goals of Act 46. As VSBE Board members John Carroll and William Mathis pointed out, the VSBE’s process was both flawed and rushed.
In response to this decision by the VSBE, the EMUU, LSSU and SSD Boards have decided to challenge this decision through litigation and pursue a legislative solution. The Boards voted to retain Robert Luce and William Clark of Downs, Rachlin, Martin PLLC to act as our legal counsel. Mr. Luce and Mr. Clark will determine our legal response to the VSBE’s final plan.
Robert Luce is an experienced litigator with an extensive background in education and administrative law. After exploring all legal options, we believe Mr. Luce and Mr. Clark will represent us best. We want to make sure our set of unique circumstances is best packaged and presented to the courts. The best way to ensure this is to have our individual case represented by our own counsel rather than joining the joint litigation of other towns.
Our current structure best meets the goals of Act 46 and is in the best interests of our children. If we are forced to merge this year, Elmore and Morristown residents will see their taxes rise. Both districts have pressing capital projects that could be compromised by a forced merger. Our two districts currently work cooperatively for the best outcomes for all students in the supervisory union. We want to make sure that we continue to meet/exceed all five goals of Act 46, and we believe that’s worth fighting for.
What does this mean for our children? Our schools will continue to offer the same level of excellent education they always have. Our teachers and staff have a high level of professionalism and are unwavering in their commitment to our children. Our Superintendent will work to make this transition as smooth as possible, and we will support her guidance on that track at our meetings. There will be no changes in school operations for the foreseeable future. In a nutshell, Stowe students will continue to attend Stowe schools. EMUU students will continue to attend EMUU schools. Academic and extracurricular programming will continue as is.
What does it mean for our community, and what can you expect? At Board meetings, we will move forward making decisions as if we are merging. In order to best protect our communities and make sure we are best situated if ultimately forced to merge, we need to start the complicated process. We will provide periodic updates on any legal action, but other than that we will shift back to making the policy and operations decisions necessary to ensure that our students continue to receive a high-quality education.
Thank you for your continued support.
EMUU School Board: Stephanie Craig, Penny Jones, Christy Snipp, Ida Mae Anderson, David Bickford, Stuart Weppler, Karen Cleary
Stowe School Board: Cara Zimmerman, Jim Brochhausen, Tiffany Donza, Leigh Pelletier, Lindsey Lamb