Districting uncertain, Pittsfield bails
By Josh O’Gorman
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | June 25,2014
BURLINGTON — Pittsfield is leaving the Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union, but the fate of the supervisory union is still up in the air.
Tuesday, the State Board of Education approved a request from the Pittsfield School District to move to the Windsor Central Supervisory Union after the upcoming school year.
The move follows a unanimous vote of Pittsfield residents at town meeting in March to leave its current supervisory union in favor of the one where most of its children attend school.
“Our town is doing this because we hope for better (student) outcomes, but there is a lot of trepidation,” said Pittsfield School Board member A.J. Ruben. “We hope we will save money and that our student outcomes will improve.”
Pittsfield does not operate a school, and instead pays tuition for its K-12 population, with many students attending Killington Elementary and Woodstock Union Middle and High School, both in the Windsor Central Supervisory Union.
“We feel we have a very strong and growing supervisory union and we’re entering into this partnership with Pittsfield to expand our human and financial resources,” said Alice Worth, superintendent of the Windsor Central Supervisory Union.
Pittsfield will join the Windsor Central Supervisory Union, effective July 1, 2015.
While one town knows which supervisory union it will be joining, the fate of the other towns in the Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union — Bethel, Granville, Hancock, Rochester and Stockbridge — remains up in the air, as it has for the past 18 months.
In December 2012, Armando Vilaseca, then secretary of the Agency of Education, ordered Windsor Northwest to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of dissolving and have the school districts join surrounding supervisory unions.
In December, the State Board of Education put off making a decision to dissolve Windsor Northwest to give the districts and the surrounding supervisory unions an opportunity to come up with a plan.
In January, superintendents from six supervisory unions — Windsor Northwest and Windsor Central, as well as Orange-Windsor, Orange Southwest, Washington South and Washington West — came together as a group, and in May, offered up a plan to send the remaining towns in Windsor Northwest to Orange-Windsor.
Conspicuously absent from the recommendation is the signature of outgoing Windsor Northwest Superintendent John Poljacik, whose board opposes a provision in the plan that would transform Orange-Windsor from a supervisory union — which has a governing board for each school district — to a supervisory district, which has a single governing board.
The recommendation to change from a supervisory union to a supervisory district comes on the heels of discussions during the past Legislative session to create a statewide consolidation plan, which would allow districts to consolidate voluntarily and forcibly consolidate those that do not.
“To be clear: The towns within Windsor Northwest are not opposed to considering consolidation with other supervisory unions,” wrote Carl Groppe, chairman of the Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union Board, in a June 2 letter to the State Board of Education. “We are opposed, however, to being forcibly consolidated.”
At the request of the Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union Board, the State Board of Education once again extended the time for the interested parties to create a plan, this time until December, which will put parents, students and school staff members into a second year of uncertainty.
Poljacik said he has seen approximately triple the usual volume of school staff member turnover this year, with exit interviews indicating that the uncertain future of the supervisory union is a major factor in the turnover.