As The Valley Reporter goes to press on January 22, the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board will be discussing a legal opinion it received regarding two proposed amendments to the Articles of Agreement by which the six member towns voted to merge in 2016.
That legal opinion, from Nicole Mace, dated January 21, suggests that the language in the proposed amendments is flawed and thus the school board is not required to present the articles to voters at Town Meeting.
Mace, who is not the school board’s attorney, noted, “We cannot predict how Vermont courts will rule on any legal challenge with certainty.” She goes on to suggest that the board is not legally required to warn either article.
Mace argues that in creating a union municipal school district, voters cede specific authority to the school board. She further suggests that the board, not voters, has the authority to make policy and decide on school configuration, the subject of one of the petitioned amendments. Regarding the petitioned amendment that seeks to change the school closure policy, Mace suggests that while voters do have the authority to change that Article of Agreement, the language of that proposed amendment “impermissibly grants the electorate the authority to dictate how school facilities are used.”
The Vermont Coalition for Community Schools (VTCCS), which presented the proposed amendments, was expected to be present with its attorney at the January 22 board meeting.
The VTCCS with local parents and community members submitted petitions with close to 800 signatures to the Harwood Unified Union School District central office this week.
The petitions seek to change the Articles of Agreement by which voters in the six-town district agreed to merge in 2016 under Act 46. The amendments sought to Articles 6 and 12 address school closure, intradistrict school choice and major school and grade reconfigurations within the district.
The effort follows a November 13, 2019, vote by the HUUSD Board to move ahead with a district redesign plan calling for closing Fayston Elementary School, merging middle schools at Crossett Brook and moving Moretown fifth- and sixth-graders to Crossett Brook – all for the 2021 school year.