So…. funny story. After spending all summer going to terribly exciting meetings where about one-tenth of a decision got made, the Act 46 Merger Committee finally made a big decision. Really big. And then- like that!- they voted to dissolve.
To recap, here is a quick summary of what happened over the course of the last month:
- Sept. 1st, The Merger Committee holds a long, well-attended public forum at the Mettawee Community School on the question of Choice versus Designation. Lots of public comment, including from kids, much of it very emotional and intense. The committee was planning to vote this night on Choice vs. Designation, but, truthfully, they all look a little bit freaked out. They put it off to the following week.
- Sept. 7th, The Merger Committee holds another long, well-attended meeting, this time at the Wells Village School, which, kind of by accident, turns into another extended session of public comment. When at last the committee votes, they fail to pass a measure endorsing choice. The committee talks some. Then, the committee fails to pass a measure endorsing designation. More talking. Finally a third vote is taken and by the slimmest of possible margins, choice passes. At last! A decision has been made!
- Sept. 19th, The Merger Committee implodes. I wasn’t in attendance for this meeting, but apparently the representatives who had voted against choice felt that this was not a measure, which would ever, in a million, billion years, be passed by the voters. Consequently, they take a vote not to recommend the merger of Wells, Pawlet and Rupert, and then formally vote to dissolve the committee.
Well! If that wasn’t an excellent way to spend a summer— not to mention up to $20,000 of tax payer grant money—I don’t know what is.
But enough about the past. What happens now? On Sept 29th, the Pawlet and Rupert School Boards held a special meeting, and here is the decision they made: once and for all they are going to find out what the voters think on the issue of Choice versus Designation. Clearly, there has not been enough comment to date. Forget the agonizingly emotional public forum of Sept 1st. Forget the four-hour Bataan Death March of a meeting on Sept 7th. Forget all those dozens of emails and scores of letters and hours-upon-hours of public comment. Forget the fact that Merger committee chair Sue Ceglowski stated at the Sept 7th meeting that the committee had definitively heard many more comments supporting choice.
No- now the school boards would really like to know what the community thinks. Like, for real. Therefore, there will be a special ballot vote on Election Day (November 8th) to determine the will of the voters on this issue. Although the vote is “non-binding,” the boards voted to recommend that any outcome be followed by any future merger committee.
Here is how they worded the article to be voted upon, which is not leading, really, very much at all:
“Shall the voters of (Pawlet/ Rupert) advise the (Pawlet/ Rupert) School Board to continue the designation of New York public high schools as the District’s public high school, and limit the amount of tuition monies paid to non-designated schools to the amount paid to the NY designated schools, as part of any school district merger under Act 46?”
Translation: If you would like things to remain exactly as they are- which under the new law they cannot– then vote Yes! Then the state can tell us who to merge with! (Oo- maybe they’ll pick Manchester and Dorset. Then we can have their property tax rate- hooray!!)
On the other hand, if you want area children to have access to New York high schools Salem and Granville as well as other area schools, for no more than the cost of the Vermont state average- then vote No!
So you see, it’s all perfectly clear. But just in case it’s not, there will be two informational meetings about this special ballot item: one at the Rupert firehouse on Nov. 1 at 7PM, and one in Pawlet, at the Mettawee Community School on Nov. 3 at 7:30.
About time too. I haven’t been to a good four-hour meeting in days.