Rochester’s School Budget Passes 96-75

Front Page / Mar. 28, 2013 10:56am EDT

By Martha Slater

The Rochester School District budget of $3,288,610 for FY2013- 14 was approved 96-75 during Australian ballot voting held Tuesday, March 26, at the town office.

Voter turnout was less than half of that total for the school district’s annual business and informational meeting Monday, March 25 in the school auditorium.

Prior to his re-election as moderator, Dan McKinley quoted the Milton Town moderator, who advocated for “civil discourse” at meetings.

School board chair Jolanta Labejsza started her report by congratulating the varsity boys’ basketball team for winning the Div IV state championship.

“Let’s remember the passion we felt that day when discussing the future of our school this evening,” she said. “A school is the heart of a community, and investing in education strengthens the economy.” She noted the board’s work implementing in asbestos removal and other work to improve the physical plant, as well as the areas in which they have increased the number of choices and opportunities for students.

Labejsza also noted that U.S. News & World Report ranked Rochester School as 13th best in the state of Vermont, adding that Rochester School has an average graduation rate of over 90%, compared to many area schools, which have lower rates.

WNWSU Supt. John Poljacik spoke on a possible change in school governance, reporting that the WNWSU would engage in a study to look into dissolving and having the member town school districts absorbed by neighboring supervisory unions. If that happened, the Agency of Education recommended that Rochester and Bethel would potentially go to the Orange-Windsor SU, which includes South Royalton.

Asked if Rochester be part of the OSSU (Randolph) Poljacik said he had spoken with OSSU Supt. Brent Kay about that and would learn more later this week.

Jean White was reelected as school treasurer. Two school board members were also elected. Jolanta Labejsza was re-elected on a voice vote for a two-year term, running unopposed. A paper ballot contest between Doug Gorton and Josh Hanford, for a three-year term, resulted in a vote of 54-22 in favor of Gorton.

Discussion of the proposed school budget included Poljacik noting changes in revenue and staffing. The most significant change reflects a 3% increase in salaries including support staff, he said, adding that he had also been informed of a 5% decrease in federal funding. The number of tuition students has also declined.

Asked what plans the board had to attract more tuition students, Labejsza explained that the school forums that Principal Kelley has been holding in area towns were one of the ways the board was hoping to do that. She said the overall enrollment figures for next year are projected to be up from the current year.

Claudia Sherwin spoke about the work of the long-range planning committee.

Curriculum coordinator Andy West spoke about the NECAP scores, saying that with small numbers of students, the figures fluctuate quite a bit from year to year, as the scores of even a few students can skew the results.

As the meeting drew to a close, West also rose to remind everyone that last year’s school meeting had to take place in the gym since the damage to the auditorium from Tropical Storm Irene had not been completely repaired. He thanked the White River Valley Players for their hard work and fundraising efforts in restoring the auditorium, and invited everyone to attend the all-school production of “Grease” there April 12 and 13.

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