Sunday, May 28, 2017

Education Tax Comparisons

Education Tax Comparisons

FY 2018 Tax Rate Tax
Property Value= $100,000 200,000 300,000
Black River 1.8087 $1808. $3617. $5426.
Mill River 1.6441 1644. 3288. $4932.
SAVINGS $165. $329. $494.
FY 2020
Estimate Tax Rate Tax
Property Value= $100,000 200,000 300,000
Black River 1.9475 $1947. $3,895. $5,843.
Mill River 1.5515 1551. 3,103. 4,655.
SAVINGS $594. $792. $1,188.
Tax Rate data from TRSU and Mill River Supervisory Union

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mount Holly Library Welcomes Hicks and Goulbourn, UK Musicians!

Amanda Merk

Mount Holly Library Welcomes Hicks and Goulbourn, UK Musicians!

Join us at the library on Sunday May 28 at 4:00PM for a special musical concert by the UK duo Hicks and Goulbourn.
Folk, ragtime, jazz, classical, original material – this is what you should expect from this duo. The red hot fingerpicking of internationally renowned guitar virtuoso Steve Hicks will leave you slack jawed and open mouthed. Combined with the soaring vocals of award winning singer songwriter Lynn Goulbourn, Hicks and Goulbourn, are well loved on the UK folk and acoustic scene. Be prepared for top notch musicianship, wide variety of songs and instrumentals and lots of fun. Learn more about the band here:
This concert is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted for the band. 
Email fr more details.

Amanda S. Merk
Library Director

Mount Holly Town Library will be closed to honor Memorial Da

Amanda Merk

The Mount Holly Town Library will be closed to honor Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. We are open regular hours on Sunday, May 28 and we have a special concert at 4pm! All are welcome!
Attachments area

Merger Perspective

May 24 (3 days ago)

How would one describe a penny?  Would you consider it not worth keeping or would you hold onto it?  A penny does not have much value on its own.  Imagine a classroom was filled with pennies.  Almost all were excelling, except a few.  You focus more on the increasing "value" of your pennies as a whole and completely ignore the ones still "stuck" in the same spot.  While some may not understand where this is going, let me explain. 
I am a BRHS Alumni.  I did not excel in Math or English. I barely got by.  I began to hate going to school.  I began to hate feeling inadequate amongst my peers.  I began hating my high school experience and I so desperately wanted out.  I begged my mom to move back to CT where we were originally from.  We were moved here when we were small for a better way of life.  A life away from traffic and over crowding.  My mom talked about how large her class was; how large the school was.  It all sounded perfect.  I was already feeling forgotten here.  The only ones who noticed me, were the bullies!
I began inquiring about going to RHS.  I lived in Rutland County.  My mom worked in Rutland County.  Why wouldn't this be the solution for me?  We couldn't afford to send me to a "private school".  I wanted a different way of life.  I wanted to be happy.  I wasn't "learning" the way my peers were learning. No one seemed to notice.  I was that "stuck penny". 
My senior year I broke out of the curriculum that plagued me and every morning I had to get on an over crowded bus so that I could make a bus to Springfield Technical Center so I could attend the Culinary Arts program.  There I met a teacher who believed in me.  Worked with me and still encourages me today after 17 years.  I am forever grateful to Rick Kimball for nurturing this "stuck penny".  I would not have my career without him.  I would not have been a participant in the JWU High School Recipe Contest in 2000 and received a scholarship without him.  I would not have succeed.
So I have been asking myself this a lot these past few weeks after the news of the potential merger.  Is bigger better?  Or is smaller better?  The fact remains that all "pennies" are worth something.  It has angered me that people seem to be so focused on the majority of students making sure they are given every opportunity to succeed.  But what about me?  Why didn't anyone care?  I wasn't at the top of my class.  I wasn't the jock.  I was a student that was stuck somewhere in the middle.  I am not the result of a high score on a State test or a State Championship.  My success is the result of a teacher who was passionate about what he was doing and that fueled me to learn in a way I was not able to do before.  It was not measured by a test score or a trophy, but an individual achievement.
So with that said...If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn - Michael J.Fox.  Comparing one school over the other is like comparing apples to oranges.  If a student doesn't comprehend what is being presented to them, than they aren't going to do well.  Saying that the test scores of students are better at MRUHS is not looking at the bigger picture.  We need to work with our students and not just make them a number on a test that probably wont even help them in the future.  I understand that the financial part of keeping the school open is also part of the issue, but simply saying "close it" and merging is also not the answer.  I hope there is a solution.
Katie Schneider, BRHS Alumni 2000

YouTube video playlist from first Mill River Visit

Sebastian Frank

1:01 PM (9 hours ago)

Can you post this to the newsflash?
For those who are interested, here is a link to the YouTube video playlist from first Mill River Visit.
Have a great day! Sebastian Frank

Mount Holly Library Welcomes Hicks and Goulbourn, UK Musicians!

Mount Holly Library Welcomes Hicks and Goulbourn, UK Musicians!

Join us at the library on Sunday May 28 at 4:00PM for a special musical concert by the UK duo Hicks and Goulbourn.
Folk, ragtime, jazz, classical, original material – this is what you should expect from this duo. The red hot fingerpicking of internationally renowned guitar virtuoso Steve Hicks will leave you slack jawed and open mouthed. Combined with the soaring vocals of award winning singer songwriter Lynn Goulbourn, Hicks and Goulbourn, are well loved on the UK folk and acoustic scene. Be prepared for top notch musicianship, wide variety of songs and instrumentals and lots of fun. Learn more about the band here:
This concert is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted for the band. 
Email for more details.

Please post on MH Blog

Amanda Frank

The following fact sheets help provide accurate information on both Black River and Mill River. All sources of information are provided on the individual sheets.

Fact Sheet #1 - Black River & Mill River Athletic Information

Fact Sheet #2 - Ludlow & Mount Holly Tax Projections

Fact Sheet #3 - Transportation Times & Distances

Fact Sheet #4 - Middle School Math & English Proficiency*

Fact Sheet #5 - High School Math & English Proficiency*

*As a teacher, I am well aware of the issues surrounding standardized tests like the SBACs. Despite those issues and my own personal opinion, I've included fact sheets showing SBAC scores because they are--whether we like it or not--one data piece used by our government and school administration to assess schools.
Additionally, people have asked to have the "poverty rate" posted with the Mill River & Black River SBAC scores in order to explain the discrepancy between scores. Living in poverty can significantly impact a student's ability to learn, especially if the poverty is chronic and causes the student to live with toxic stress that alters brain structure & function. However, it is not okay to use poverty as an excuse for low academic achievement. When we write off low academic achievement as a result of high poverty rates, we do those students living in poverty a huge disservice; we're fundamentally saying, "Oh, you're poor, we can't expect any more of you." As educators will tell you, low expectations lead to low results. That's not to say that the answer to low test scores & subpar academic achievement in schools with high poverty rates is simply to increase expectations. Doing that, with nothing else, would likely result in even lower results. Instead, educational institutions need to implement system-wide approaches, from specific instructional strategies to use of common language & lesson structure to brain-based & emotional learning practices, that have been shown to improve educational outcomes for all students, including those living in poverty. Schools need to effectuate systemic change that successfully addresses the challenges of educating students from all social & economic backgrounds.
Yes, the percentage of students eligible for free & reduced lunch (the measure of socioeconomic status most frequently used by schools) differs between the two schools with Black River at approximately 50% and Mill River at 35%. However, poverty is not an acceptable explanation for low academic achievement.
Finally, if Ludlow and Mount Holly do not merge with Mill River, projections by both TRSU and MRUUSD business offices show that our taxes will continue to rise at a substantial rate. Merging is projected to keep our taxes at a much more sustainable level. (Some have claimed the tax projections are trumped up, but have not offered any explanation as to how they know this. It seems strange that TRSU would trump up such high tax rates.) How would increasing taxes help the economically disadvantaged students & families in our communities?

Amanda Frank

: Merger with Mill River

My opinion is not insincere, nor am I blowing smoke.
I sincerely believe that a Yes vote is good for MH residents and students for many reasons.
And a LOT of other MH residents agree, and from all sides of the political spectrum.
If you think my opinion is wrong, fine.  But please don’t call me disingenuous.

And btw, the tax rate issue I was talking about was not about young Vermonters moving out of state, it was about MH families moving two towns over to get into other school systems.
Or realtors who are told by their clients with high school kids that they will consider houses in Wallingford and Chester, but not Ludlow or MH.

Your discussion below is about a much broader and critical issue that focuses on our State’s demographic, economic and tax issues – a huge problem WAY beyond a local Town vote.
But the upcoming YES vote is an issue that WE can “solve” without the complexity and politics of the big issues.
Dissolve Union 39 and let MH determine what’s best for OUR students and taxpayers.
Ron Unterman

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Black River Area Innovative Network, BRAIN, is a grassroots organization of citizens, alumni, grandparents, business owners, parents, teachers, support staff, students, and taxpayers from both Mount Holly and Ludlow who have been meeting for the past several weeks.  Initially a few of us came together in order to promote a NO vote because we wanted more time to figure out a possible solution rather than close our school.  Our “mission” has evolved into working on ways to educate children in our community while being fiscally responsible and increasing, or at least not losing, educational opportunities.  We have also been working hard on informing the state legislators of our predicament and the fact that their law could force our school to close.  “We believe our children deserve to have the opportunity to be educated in our community” has become our mantra.

At our first meeting, we had over 40 people in attendance, and broke into 3 committees:  Legislative, Outreach, and Innovations.

Our legislative committee immediately began work on crafting a letter to Montpelier and members began to attend meetings where Act 46 legislation was being discussed.  They have been very active and reaching out to some of the 100+ towns that have not fit into Act 46’s merger plan.  Our state legislators are hearing what we have to say and since our initial letter, there have been deadlines extended and modifications made to Act 46 law.

The innovations committee began to work on ideas as to how we could improve, be more innovative, as well as what we already do well.  We came up with multiple large sheets that we brainstormed necessary efficiencies as well as what we offer now and how we could expand on that.  The lists were long and many of the people contributing to them were educators, students, and parents.  Education is changing and we should be looking forward when we discuss how we are to be educating our children.  There was a lot of time spent on what other structures could be considered by the new Act 46 committee if there is a no vote.  

The outreach committee worked on ways to educate the community and how to promote considering other ways to meet our educational goals in Ludlow and Mount Holly.  Our total membership grew to over 60 members, with people coming and going when they could, based on busy schedules this time of the year.  We have been writing letters to the editor, sending mailers to both communities, and the press has been very interested and giving us a fair amount of coverage.

Our group has met consistently for about 5 weeks, voluntarily, and with no charge by anyone with authority.  We consolidated our ideas from the innovations committee (and with input from our other 2 committees) down to 4 considerations for the new Act 46 committee to consider.  They all have value as well as some concerns.  We recognize that we are not the final decision makers.  We wanted to propose ideas that would give voters pause when voting.  If nothing else, at least we should all be realizing that there are other options worth considering, and closing a nearly 200 year school should be the LAST option, certainly not the first one put forward.  We hope that IF there is a no vote, the new Act 46 committee will consider these structures.

We KNOW the first Act 46 committee did extensive work, however that group had to make decisions when there were many what ifs, some of which still exist.  A lot of the pressure to be fast has eased a bit, as deadlines have been extended.  We also feel that the new Act 46 committee should be expanded to include more stakeholders.  There has been a lot of talk about the fact that the Act 46 committee spent over 18 months on this already.  Actually it seems as if the committee spent 16 of the 18 months working with the Chester/Andover/Baltimore/Cavendish committee members on a plan that failed.  The Mill River merger plan was not given nearly as much attention and time.  It seemed to come upon us quickly and there appears to be unsettling urgency to get it passed.

Our 4 alternative structures will obviously need more work, specifically budget work, tax work, and community input before another vote is put to the communities.  We simply did not have the resources.  Here are the 4 structures we discussed:

  1. Restructuring PK-12 (possibly merge with Quarry Valley) to promote financial and staffing efficiencies.  This would allow for us to incorporate other ideas which were brought out from the Innovations Committee’s work.  This would be fairly quick and easy to implement.  Not sure if we could lower our tax structure to more align with their district or not.  Certainly worth investigating.
  2. Independent PK-12, which removes us from Act 46 legislation and keeps all educational decisions local.  Find a niche in our programming/curriculum which would be a draw for families to move here.  Allows for more flexibility in staffing, ability to offer non-traditional programming, no state assessments, attract young families possibly.  We would need to create an endowment, unclear of tax structure.
  3. Black River 2.0 - mostly status quo but adding in some niche to our middle and high school curriculum that would be attractive to students and parents.  This would create the smallest upheaval, but potentially the biggest shift in our educational system.
  4. Independent 7-12, (possibly called Black River Academy) with 2 public elementary schools.  Mt. Holly and Ludlow could then offer choice for 7-12.  Choice could be limited to GM, MR, and BRA.  This would be the most dramatic shift, would require an endowment, tax structure unknown.  Maintain our elementary schools.  Join other like district that offers choice to their 7-12 students.

It is our sincere hope that voters consider that there are other options to consider.  With the right mix of people at the table of the new Act 46 committee, we believe there is a plan that exists in order to be the best educational system in our area and we can do it while being fiscally responsible.  Our kids are worth the time and effort!  We should not be rushing into something that has such a dramatic effect on 2 communities and close a nearly 200 year historical school.


Black River Area Innovative Network

Merger with Mill River

Joseph McDonald

I’m on the “Vote YES” committee and we’re working to encourage a big YES vote.
Although most of the arguments back and forth have been about Mill River vs. Black River high schools (and lower taxes), I wanted to share with you the attached letter I sent to the ChitChat (and Journal) that takes a little broader view.

IMO using the argument that a merger with Mill River will give our Towns a reputation for some of the best schools in the State, and that this along with a significantly lower tax bill will give us a winning combination to attract new families with children is disingenuous
IMO your argument is a smoke screen for the real reasons why young families move out and won’t move into the State of Vermont...
I suggest that you read ALL of the comments in the below linked article...  BTW, a lower tax bill... LOL... I’ll believe it when I see it.
Here are a few...

Skyler Bailey ·
Yes...people from away with lots of money move here to enjoy the quality of life. They don't provide much in the way of jobs aside from near-minimum wage service positions, and they price us poor young Vermonters who would like nothing more than to stay in the state our forefathers founded right out. You could call it "rural gentrification." I want to live in Vermont. I also don't want to be poor for my entire life. I want to have children, I want there to be a tenth generation of my family enjoying our wonderful state. I moved away in the hope that I could get some experience that I could bring back to Vermont and maybe get a job outside of a kitchen or warehouse that I could raise a family on.

Patricia Crocker ·
Maybe if the VT college tuition wasn't so expensive, more youth would be able to stay instead of looking for better paying jobs out of state to pay off their student loan debt. VT Colleges are some of the most expensive colleges in the country.

Cody Snyder ·
Young people, especially the ones with college diplomas, find it very hard to start and maintain a business here in Vt.. It's no secret that Vermont is not a business friendly state no matter if you're going to employ 2 or 2,000 workers. But, with that said, let's not discount the young in's with only a high school diploma. A dear friend of mine who’s son graduated high school 3 years ago tried to start a small business a handful of times and fell flat on his face.VSB charges fees thru the nose, red tape galore, jumping thru hoop after hoop and then one day finally had enough. Last summer he moved to North Carolina,took his idea with him and is having great success. After talking with a couple of his friends and explaining to them how much cheaper the cost of living is they too pulled up tent stakes and headed south.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mount Holly community

To the Editor,

I am concerned with the level of vitriol that I have observed in the Mount Holly community over the upcoming May 30th vote on the future of our schools. There are rational arguments to be made for each choice and we should respect each other’s opinions. I have complete confidence that the teachers at Mill River and Black River are equally passionate and committed educators who will do anything to help their students achieve their goals.

However, I am deeply disturbed by the lack of recognition and empathy for the dedicated people in our community who are devastated by the prospect of losing their jobs and their students, and for the young adults who may be losing their school. I understand that change may need to happen and that a school may need to close but please, let us not celebrate this as if we had just won the “big game”. To do this diminishes all of us and is disrespectful to those who have focused their careers on helping our children.

There is one other issue that I find deeply disturbing; the “informational” flier, Educational and Cost Comparisons of Area Schools. This has been circulated and quoted at meetings and in letters to various outlets. As it is unattributed, I am unclear about who the authors are but I can say that they are either extremely naive or intentionally disingenuous, cherry-picking only the information that supports their position. The data used does not consider all the different variables that affect both reliability and validity. Some considerations should have been given to sample size; were these random samples, are there demographic breakdowns examining poverty, gender, etc.?

I encourage you to go to the primary sites for this data.

On The Niche site you will find that The Black River students had a higher rating on Reading than the Mill River students (57% to 52%) even though it had a much higher poverty count (52% to 35%). Why did the authors chose to leave this fact out? The highly discussed Average SAT score for Black River relied on self-reporting and had a sample size of only 7. There can be no statistical comparisons based on these numbers yet again the authors chose to use them. Finally on the VTDIGGER site the authors chose to highlight that Mill River’s 11th grade math students scored the second highest in Rutland County, yet inexplicably the authors failed to inform us that the same cohort had the second lowest scores in Rutland County on the English Language Arts exam. I point this out not to denigrate any school but simply to point out the seemingly intentional misuse of data. I firmly believe that both schools are making strong progress helping each student succeed. In our small schools, each data point is not merely a statistic; it is a young adult in our town with his/her own set of aspirations and needs. Students in poverty do best when classes are small and adult interactions are rich. I do not pretend to know the exact class-size parameters that are the most effective for our populations but please keep our at-risk populations in mind when you vote and please verify the information that folks share with you.

Thank you,
Dan Connor

Mount Holly

Call for Nominations to LPCTV Board of Directors

Call for Nominations to LPCTV Board of Directors
Annual Meeting & Elections Held June 22nd

Do you know someone who might be a good fit for helping non profit, independent, & local media grow and thrive? Perhaps a family member, friend, neighbor, or colleague?

LPCTV is seeking nominations for its annual Board of Directors elections. Anyone who is 18 or over and lives in Mount Holly, Ludlow, Andover, Plymouth, Cavendish, or Reading (the Towns comprising LPCTV’s designated service area) is eligible to serve on the Board. LPCTV is the community television station and media center for the Black River Valley & Okemo region, operating two cable TV channels (Comcast channels 8 & 10 in Ludlow, Plymouth, & Cavendish; Comcast channels 20 & 21 in Mount Holly; and on VTel, system-wide on channels 166 & 167). LPCTV also operates a website ( with video-on-demand, and offers equipment, training, and use of its facilities to community members and organizations.

Elections will be held during LPCTV’s Annual Membership and Organizational Meeting on Thursday, June 22nd at 6 PM. Directors hold volunteer positions on the Board, whose primary responsibility is to govern the organization and help it grow, establishing it as a vital community resource. The Board of Directors also manages finances and oversees the work of the Executive Director.

Any interested candidates or anyone wishing to nominate someone they know should contact Executive Director Patrick Cody, by email at or by mailing to LPCTV (37C Main St., Ludlow, VT 05149). Nominations must be received by Friday, June 9th.  For more information, visit LPCTV online at or call 228-8808.

Thank you!

Patrick Cody, Executive Director
37C Main St.
Ludlow, VT 05149

office: (802) 228-8808
direct: (802) 975-0200