Montpelier — Representatives of the Blue Mountain Union High School community carried a blunt message to the state Board of Education on Wednesday: Force us to merge, and we’ll close the school.
The contingent of roughly 50 people wearing blue and gold “We Choose BMU” T-Shirts were among a few lively groups of Upper Valley educators, parents and students who went to the Statehouse to argue against mandatory mergers.
In June, the Vermont Agency of Education released a 189-page report that recommended forcible mergers for 18 school districts, including one that would compel Blue Mountain Union District (Groton, Ryegate and Wells River) to join the Bradford Elementary School District, the Newbury School District and the Oxbow Union High School District to form a single unified union school district that would teach approximately 1,000 students from pre-K through grade 12.
Forced mergers proposed under Act 46 rely on misleading data, represent executive overreach, and dismiss the Legislature’s intent in writing the law, a grassroots group argues in a new report released Wednesday.
Vermonters for Schools and Communities released “Unfair and Unwise” at a press conference during a State Board of Education meeting in the Statehouse where board members heard from dozens of school officials livid about compelled mergers proposed by the state’s Agency of Education.
Margaret MacLean, a retired Vermont principal, education consultant and former member of the State Board of Education, dismissed the plan in a speech to a small audience of two dozen people.
“The Secretary of Education’s plan regarding involuntary mergers misguides the State Board of Education, violates the law, and damages public education,” MacLean said.
BARRE — Those who fear the state Board of Education is itching to rubber-stamp a draft plan for dealing with school districts that haven’t voluntarily merged under Act 46 should have stayed to the end of Wednesday’s meeting at the State House.
After a session that spanned nearly nine hours and featured a parade of presentations from merger-averse school officials and residents around the region, board members ended the meeting by balking at one agency recommendation and openly hinting that could be the beginning of a trend.
After requesting — but refusing to require — that officials in the Barre Supervisory Union alter their plans to hold a November merger vote, board members predicted that probably won’t be the last time they ignore the advice of the Agency of Education while navigating the last leg of what Chairwoman Krista Huling described as a “historic” process.
“This is a heavy lift,” Huling said in a near-empty room that had been filled to capacity for much of the day. “It hasn’t b...