CHESTER, Vt. – The Green Mountain Unified School District Finance Committee saw some positive budget numbers for the fiscal year 2022 at their Nov. 23 meeting, with the proposed budget of $14,353,882, representing a scant 1.74% increase over last year’s approved budget.
According to the presentation from Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman, the primary drivers of the increase is a $205,000 increase in the assessment from the TRSU budget, 65% of their budget being passed along to GMUSD, and an $86,000 increase in benefit costs.
The TRSU budget this year will likely be the most contentious, with a proposed 16.25% increase, due to skyrocketing special education costs, which will increase by $768,000, as well as benefit increases. That budget also includes a proposed facilities director position for $39,000, for someone to coordinate and oversee building maintenance and repairs in all five TRSU school buildings.
That position has been somewhat controversial with TRSU Board Chairman Joe Fromberger openly opposing the added position at the last TRSU budget meeting, saying that if the problem is with coordination between the buildings, there are better ways to fix the problem. He also expressed concern that area voters have no input on the TRSU budget.
During this GMUSD Finance Committee meeting, Fromberger said that he would cast his vote based on the direction from the GMUSD board since he is on the TRSU board as their representative.
Cavendish Town Elementary and Chester-Andover Elementary School Principal Katherine Fogg said that is makes more sense to have oversight at the district level to coordinate building needs, relieve the administrators from trying to coordinate with several different people, and be responsible for applying for available grants.
Board chair Deb Brown and board member Kate Lamphere both expressed their support for the position saying the supervisory position could provide savings district-wide and reduce the burden on the administrative staff.
After discussion, the board voted unanimously to have Fromberger, as well as other GMUSD representatives, to vote in favor of the facilities director position at the next TRSU meeting Thursday, Dec. 3.
All proposed budgets are available for viewing on the TRSU website, www.trsu.org.
During the GMUSD regular monthly meeting Nov. 18, the board agreed to begin assembling a Principal Search Committee for Green Mountain Union High School. Mike Ripley, former assistant principal at GMUHS, is currently serving as interim principal. Fierman said that beginning a formal search was in no way a negative commentary on Ripley’s performance and that Ripley will be applying for the job.
Fierman recommended the committee should be made up of 9-12 members, including a mix of board members, staff, parents, TRSU curriculum coordinator, and special services director as well as students. The committee process has begun with Fromberger and Fierman meeting to begin committee setup.
Fierman recommended that if Ripley were hired as principal, there would be no need to hire an assistant principal. If the decision were made to hire someone else, Ripley would move back to an assistant principal role.
CTES and CAES families and staff will soon be receiving a survey to capture their thoughts on how the revised administrative principal structure for the elementary schools has worked for everyone this year. With the sudden departure of CTES Principal Deb Beaupre last year, CAES Principal Katherine Fogg and Assistant Principal Kevin Fay became principal and vice principal team overseeing both schools, each being at both schools interchangeably.
Once survey results are back, they will be looking at whether to continue with the current structure or revising based on recommendations.
Fierman announced that the decision has been made to cancel the ski and snow sports program at the schools. New health and safety restrictions from Okemo Mountain Resort, which include no long renting helmets, a mandated 6-1 student to adult ratio, no bags allowed in the lodge, no access to the lodge except to eat, all contributed to the decision that it was “not feasible to run the program with these restrictions.” Okemo has assured the TRSU that this will not impact the program being offered in the future.
Fogg said she would love to look for other alternatives such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, something that would not require busing.
The GMUSD Finance Committee will meet before the TRSU board meeting Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. The next GMUSD board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.