Following budget voter approval, LMHUUSD decides on next steps

LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School Board met Wednesday, May 9 following the successful Tuesday vote by the towns of Ludlow and Mount Holly to approve their first $7.2 million budget and additional funds ($133,000) to fix the gym floor at Ludlow Town Elementary.

The board nodded in agreement with Dan Buckley’s statement commending passing of the budget. “I’m very happy to be able to say the budgets and the loan for the floor were both approved by both towns.”

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Ludlow and Mount Holly approve a budget for their new merged school district. Stock photo.

Board member Kelly Tarbell expressed her regret that voter turnout was so low, saying that intended social media awareness didn’t really happen as intended. “It’s our job next year to really promote that better…be aware of and really work harder at this next year.” Only 4 percent of Ludlow voters, or 65 in total, turned out to vote. Ludlow approved the budget 37 to 27, and approved the gym floor funding 41 to 24. In Mount Holly, 10 percent, or 108 votes in total were cast, approving the budget 63 to 43. The gym floor spending was approved by a slim margin with 54 to 51.

Buckley mentioned that the sign in front of the Black River High School was empty on the day of the vote and although school administrators did get something up on one side later in the day, that might have impacted the turnout. “I’m wondering how many people didn’t see anything on the sign so they didn’t know there was a vote,” he said.

Board member Mary Alberty from Mount Holly added, “In Mount Holly, they drove right by our sign and a lot of people didn’t stop.”

The board discussed that in addition to improving communication, the timing of the vote for the budget next year, happening just after the town meeting, should help improve voter turnout.

Discussion then turned to the gym floor renovation. One bid was received by the TRSU from Danaher Floor Restoration in Shrewsbury, Vt. with a proposal for $140,600. The company came with a strong recommendation from locals who had worked with Danaher and were familiar with their work. After specs were confirmed by acting TRSU Finance Director Cheryl Hammond, the board later approved the proposal though contingent upon receiving a warrantee for a minimum of five years from Danaher, if not free, then at a reasonable cost.

As the floor nears completion, decisions about the logo that will go onto the floor will need to be made. Suggestions of using a generic Black River logo, Black River Academy logos, or a simple BR in the middle with Presidential Hall designated on either end were all mentioned. The board agreed to consider those and other options further along in the process.

Talk turned to the possibility of selecting a new name and developing a logo for what is currently the LMHUUSD, since the current name was cumbersome. Superintendent Meg Powden suggested “Black River District” as an option. Mary Alberty said she would like to bring it up to students at Mount Holly and get their feedback before making a decision. Buckley suggested LMH School District might be another option. Karen Trimboli, principal of Ludlow Elementary suggested talking to the students and the teachers to get some suggestions. She also mentioned a logo contest directed by the art teachers once a name was selected. It was decided that the board would discuss guidelines and direction for a rename and logo project over the next few months and start the next school year involving students and teachers in the process.

The board voted to continue to participate in limited school choice with Mill River, which allows six students from kindergarten through sixth grade to attend Mill River Elementary or vice versa. They also approved a limited school transfer program through TRSU elementary and middle schools, which include Cavendish Town Elementary School, Chester Andover Elementary School, and Green Mountain Union Middle School. This current program allows up to six students from each of the LMHUUSD schools to transfer and vice versa.

Black River Building appraisal was brought up by Orzechowski to prepare for being able to lease the building once the school was closed. According to Powden, she checked with legal counsel and discovered that if the school was not going to be used for educational purposes, the building can’t be leased out. Based on agreements currently in place, they would need to offer the building to the town for the purchase price of one dollar. Orzechowski expressed his frustration, citing confusion about what Dan French had promised the board during merger talks. French was a consultant who came in to advise the boards during the ACT 46 merger process. According to Orzechowski, they were told they could make money by leasing the building. “It would be nice to lease that out and have money to use for more opportunities for our kids,” he said.

If supervisory union offices were in the building, it would qualify as being used for educational purposes. Then other parts of building could be leased out. Orzechowski plans to attend the next Ludlow Town Meeting to discuss their understanding of the future of the building.

TRSU Curriculum Coordinator Mike Eppolito provided the board an extensive overview of last year’s strides in proficiency-based education and plans for next year. He ended by requesting five half days throughout the school year to be approved for professional development for teachers to work together specifically on proficiency. The board approved the request.

The meeting wrapped with the board approving the hire of Ted Panasci as the new physical education teacher to be shared equally by both Ludlow Elementary and Mount Holly Elementary. Panasci is currently the physical education teacher at Castleton Elementary School.

Next meeting of the LMHUUSD board is June 13 at 6 p.m. at LES.

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