Bethel and Rochester Discuss Sharing Resources

Front Page / Dec. 28, 2006 12:00am EST

By Chris Costanzo

Bethel and Rochester Discuss Sharing Resources By Chris Costanzo

Last Wednesday the Bethel and Rochester school boards heard a presentation by principals Andrew West (Bethel) and Robert Gray (Rochester) regarding a possible scenario for the sharing of resources.

It was clear at the outset that the principals were talking about more than an administrative sharing of resources and, in fact, were proposing a partial consolidation of their schools.  

Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union superintendent Tim Mock was very explicit regarding the proposal.

"Each town will retain its own K-5 elementary school, but the middle school (6-8) would be in Rochester and the high school (9-12) would be in Bethel," he said.

Gray and West walked the board through an analysis of the consolidation proposal, addressing questions of curriculum, scheduling, and staffing of a combined system. Their conclusion was that consolidation would allow a greater variety of academic offerings and a cost-saving reduction of 4.5 teaching positions. The presentation did not, however, include a detailed expense analysis of the combined junior and senior high schools.

Advantages, they said, also included opportunities for more curriculum development, the retention of elementary schools in each community, the continued use of existing buildings, flexible transportation (because the combined school would own its own buses), more space for special education students, and greater probablity of drawing tuition-paying students.

As for the governance, Supt. Tim Mock noted that the two school boards would have to choose either a "unionized" or a "contracted" consolidation. The former would involve the melding of both school boards. The latter would allow the continuation of two separate boards which, in turn, would name voting representatives to a joint "contract board" to oversee matters of joint interest.

The "contracted consolidation," could be instituted for a limited trial period, and would be easier to dissolve. Mock added that in either case, the law requires the school districts to formally address "twelve steps" before applying to the state for permission to consolidate.

WNWSU board members decided that, before embarking on any of the statutory twelve steps, they wanted a detailed expense analysis to see if it can be made palatable to the voters who might still prefer separate schools. 

Recently Bethel entered into a consolidation study with South Royalton, but the effort collapsed when it became clear that South Royalton would be unwilling to give up its current school. An initiative with Randolph to join the Randolph union also came to naught because of concerns in Bethel regarding the town's loss of control over the education of its students.

Mock told The Herald that he and the principals will address the proposal at the annual school district meetings in each town this coming spring. Bethel school board chair David Allen emphasized that no deliberations have yet taken place.

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