ENOSBURG FALLS — After an hour-long discussion Thursday night, the five local boards comprising Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union (FNESU) were given the same marching orders as last June, to reach out to the public and garner a response as to why an Act 46 merger failed and what the boards should do moving forward.
The school boards of Enosburgh, Richford and Montgomery had not yet reached out to their individual communities by the first supervisory union meeting of the school year, while both Bakersfield and Berkshire did some digging in the off months.
Jean-Marie Clark, a school board member for Bakersfield, said their board was busy over the summer, working to get a response from the community about why voters shot down the merger on June 7.
To generate feedback, the board came up with a simple questionnaire asking if residents voted no, why? The response was “far and above our expectations,” Clark said, with 75 residents filling out and returning the form.
Clark said the board learned the tax incentives were not sizeable enough to sway taxpayers into making a decision either way. The biggest reason voters turned the merger down was the idea of losing local control, she said.
“I struggle with that as a problem to solve because the way the rules are laid out for us,” Clark said, “we gave them the only option that we had and I don’t know that there’s any real way around it.”
For the unification model proposed in June, board representation would’ve been based on town population with Enosburgh and Richford coming out on top. Bakersfield, Berkshire and Montgomery would’ve had two seats each on a 13-member board.
The general public doesn’t seem to have a “good grasp” on how little control the school board has, Clark said. “There’s so much federally and state mandated that I, as a board member, don’t have a ton of impact on.”
Asking the Bakersfield Elementary Middle School principal to send flowers to a teacher is about as big as it gets, Clark continued.
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