ST. ALBANS — The Maple Run School District (MRSD) held its first meeting Tuesday night. The newly merged district includes Fairfield, St. Albans City and St. Albans Town.
As part of the meeting, voters selected a moderator, clerk and treasurer and set levels of compensation for those positions. The district’s new board, which was elected on Town Meeting Day, was sworn in by Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe.
Following that meeting, the board met, selected a name for the new district, and voted unanimously to enter into high school choice discussions with Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union (FNESU), should those schools approve a merger next week.
Holcombe opened the meeting with some brief remarks about mergers across the state. She compared the initial meeting of a newly merged district to a wedding. “There’s a little anxiety, but there’s always a lot of excitement,” she said.
The secretary also attended the opening meeting of the newly merged Rutland South district. There were “driven to save their small schools and they did,” said Holcombe.
Speaking about the loss of students statewide, Holcombe said the state lost another 1,200 students this year.
At the same time the state is losing students, the standards students and schools must meet are rising. Every child is expected to graduate and to do so with more skills than previous generations, according to Holcombe.
“The kinds of jobs our kids used to get when they weren’t well-trained aren’t there anymore,” said Holcombe.
Mergers make it possible for schools to work together, in her view. “We’re able to get our heads together, roll up our sleeves and make these opportunities happen,” said Holcombe. “Working together you can do more for your kids.”
A student from each of the schools in MRSD helped to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and the Bellows Free Academy Chamber Choir performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” prompting Holcombe to comment, “That’s as good a start to a meeting as I’ve seen. You must be proud.”
The work then began. Longtime Fairfield moderator Bridget Rivet was chosen as moderator. There were no other nominations. Despite Rivet’s comment that “moderators usually aren’t compensated,” voters opted to give her a salary of $100 in a vote of 12-10.
Amanda Forbes, the Fairfield Town Clerk, and Anna Bourdon, the St. Albans Town Clerk, were both nominated for the position of clerk. Forbes was selected by paper ballot on a vote of 16-12. The clerk’s salary was set at $1,200 annually. The clerk must prepare all of the ballots for the school district and then count the comingled ballots after the vote.
Current BFA treasurer James Matas was elected treasurer unopposed. The treasurer’s salary was set at $500 for the first year, and $3,000 thereafter.
Voters also authorized the new board to borrow funds in anticipation of revenues. During the first year the MRSD board will be creating the new district, establishing policies, crafting a budget, and negotiating with teachers. It will not be directly operating schools or collecting tax revenues. However, the district will be receiving up to $130,000 from the state to cover expenses such as legal fees.
Voters also set the annual school district meeting date as Town Meeting Day.
This will likely be the only meeting conducted from the floor. Future meetings will be conducted by Australian ballot in all three communities.
The board meeting
The board selected current St. Albans City School board chair James Farr as the chair of the MRSD board, and Fairfield School Board chair Michael Malone as vice chair.
The majority of the board meeting was spent selecting the new name from among more than 50 submitted by the public. When asked if the board could alter the names to create something new, Farr replied, “We can do whatever we want, man… We’re the new super duper board.”
Since the merger vote on Town Meeting Day, the board of the merged district has been cheekily referred to as “the super board.”
The first and third Wednesdays of every month were set as meeting dates for the new board. The first meeting of the month will be a business meeting likely held at the central office while the second meeting will rotate amongst the five schools in the district.
Currently, students from Fairfield Center School attend both Enosburg Falls High School (EFHS) and BFA. Students from Bakersfield, which is in the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union (FNESU) do the same.
Last night, the board authorized the chair and the superintendent to enter into negotiations with FNESU, should the voters in those districts approve a merger next week, to allow students from both MRSD and FNESU to attend any of the three high schools operated by the two districts without paying tuition.
Any final agreement would be brought back to the board for approval.
The vote “tells them we’re interested,” said Malone. “We want to talk to you about it.”