Looking at the results of Tuesday’s Act 46 early merger vote in The Valley reveals steady, in fact overwhelming, support (except for in Warren).
Voter turnout in The Valley ranged from 12.48 percent to 31.39 percent, with an average of 21.30 percent. The combined vote was 1,554 for and 411 against the accelerated merger.
Then consider what happened to the north of us in the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union where all five towns rejected the proposal to merge early. Bakersfield voted 99-89 to reject early merger, Berkshire followed suit with 113 no votes and 78 yes votes. Enosburg voters cast 158 no votes to 82 yes votes. Montgomery voters cast 219 no votes and 52 yes votes, while Richford voters cast 207 no votes and 60 yes votes.
Voter turnout in those five towns ranged from 11.44 percent 30.80 percent. This intrigued us here at The Valley Reporter and we reached out to school boards and the superintendent, Jay Nichols, for more information. Nichols reported that neither the supervisory union nor individual school boards took a position on early merging, preferring to let voters decide.
Nichols reported the presence of a very organized anti-early-merging group as well as a lot of misinformation circulated in the community. People wanted to wait a year, hoped the law would change, swore to refuse to obey the state, didn’t want to lose choice or potentially close schools, and wanted the chance to present an alternative plan, he said.
Montgomery, Bakersfield and Berkshire have school choice for high school kids.
These towns have five elementary schools and two high schools with enrollment as follows:
Bakersfield, 154 pre-K to grade eight students; Berkshire, 224 pre-K to grade eight students; Enosburg Elementary, 245 pre-K to grade five; Enosburg middle and high, 459 in grades six to 12; Montgomery Elementary, 146 pre-K to grade eight; Richford Elementary, 240 pre-K to sixth grade; Richford High School, 190 in grades seven to12.
A school board member, Suzanne Hull-Parent, said that what she heard at the polls this week was “Why fix what isn’t broke?” “Montpelier doesn’t know what they’re doing” and “I don’t know enough about it to vote yes.”
What amazingly different results from two supervisory unions.