Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Action by TRSU Act 46 Ludlow-Mt Holly Subcommittee

From: Annette Lynch

Report of meeting on Thursday March 9

Ludlow and Mount Holly Voters to Be Asked to Approve Merger with Mill River
 Action by TRSU Act 46 Ludlow-Mt Holly Subcommittee
The Ludlow-Mount Holly Subcommittee of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee met in the Ludlow Elementary School on Thursday evening March 9, 2017. My very informal, unofficial count of those in attendance was 150.
At the end of a meeting that lasted over 3 hours, the Ludlow and Mount Holly representatives on the Subcommittee voted separately to recommend to their town voters a merger with Mill River.
The purpose of the meeting was for the Subcommittee to decide which merger or action to recommend to the voters of Ludlow and the voters of Mount Holly.
Four options were listed on the agenda:
1. Merger into the Regional Education District (RED) consisting of the towns of Chester, Andover, Cavendish, and Baltimore; high school is Green Mountain.
2. Merger into the new Quarry Valley Supervisory Union consisting of the town of Poultney, Proctor, and West Rutland; high school or schools not known.
3. Elementary schools continue to operate; school choice for high school students.
4. Merger with the new Rutland South Supervisory Union consisting of the towns of Clarendon, Tinmouth, Shrewsbury, and Wallingford; high school is Mill River.
With minimal guidance from the members of the Subcommittee, the members of the audience explored the four options for a period of 2 hours.  Many of the people present had not attended any Act 46 meetings up to this date, and the meeting provided a town meeting-like environment in which to express opinions and to ask questions. Some of the discussion was extended due to the unexpected inclusion of the RED ((Green Mountain) merger as an option; due to the fact that the Quarry Valley merger had just been defeated by the voters on Tuesday March 7; and due to the following written information that was circulated during the meeting (see attached):
1. Pros and Cons of options for Mill River, School Choice, and Quarry Valley;
2. Advantages of joining Quarry Valley;
3.  Comparative homestead tax rate projections to 2022 for options Green Mountain, Mill River, and School Choice;
4. High school comparison of Black River, Green Mountain, and Mill River by courses offered, test scores, college acceptance.

It appeared to be generally accepted that Mount Holly favored the option of joining Mill River, so that much of the discussion centered on the fate of Black River Union High School.  There was vigorous input from the principal, teachers, students, past students, and parents who emphasized the value of the school and the advantages it offers for more individualized instruction. There were a number of people who saw the school’s existence adding value to the life of the town, while others saw – reluctantly - that because of high costs and low and declining enrollment that the school was no longer viable.

Generally, the Green Mountain option seemed to have little appeal - partly due to the RED’s earlier position excluding Ludlow. The School Choice option was doomed by its greater costs. The Quarry Valley option was appealing, as it would keep the Black River High School open - at least for now. The Mill River option appealed to some as both Ludlow and Mount Holly were warmly welcomed by the principal, who was also enthusiastic about alternative uses of the Black River building and grounds.

An informal vote was called: the Mill River option won with Quarry Valley second; few votes for the other two options.

At that point, about 8:15, a large portion of the public left and the Subcommittee prepared to make its decision(s). The Mount Holly members of the Subcommittee were joined by some of its School board members. Each of the 4 options was presented and voted on. The Mount Holly Subcommittee members decided unanimously to present the voters of Mount Holly with the recommendation that the Mount Holly School District merge with Mill River.

The Ludlow members of the Subcommittee then met. As Mount Holly had decided to join Mill River, the Black River High School had thereby lost 50 Mount Holly students – reducing its enrollment to about 100  - thus virtually ending its life. This sad realization seemed to plunge the Ludlow members of the Subcommittee and the audience into a distressed confusion about what to do or what to recommend. A motion to put before the voters the dissolution of the old Union 39 (the union of the two towns to feed students to the Black River Union High School) was defeated. There was much discussion back and forth between the Subcommittee and the audience. Finally, at about 9:15 the Ludlow Subcommittee members passed a motion to present the voters of Ludlow with the recommendation that Ludlow merge with Mill River.

The meeting ended on a somber note, and tears were shed for the proposed loss of the community’s high school.

Annette Lynch

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