TRSU reconfirms Powden two-year contract despite protest

TRSU special meeting, Sept. 9, 2019. Photo by Sharon Huntley

LUDLOW, Vt. – Superintendent Meg Powden’s two-year contract was reconfirmed during a Two Rivers Supervisory Union Board special meeting Monday, Sept. 9 by a vote of 3 to 2 despite a suggestion from Green Mountain Unified School District board members Mike Studin and Rick Alexander who spoke from the floor requesting the contract be limited to one year.

Studin expressed his frustration with the administration saying he had never seen such disarray, citing recent issues including several lawsuits that the TRSU is currently fighting, a $3,500 budget error made on the buses, $73,000 over budget on the school lunch program, and strife with teachers. “There’s a lot of chaos going on and it starts from the top,” he said.

Powden responded that she was very offended by Studin’s comments. “Our supervisory union is not in disarray. We have a great administrative team and we’re working really hard to improve our school. I’m really proud of the work that we do.” She did not address any of the specific issues Studin referenced.

This special meeting was held in order to properly adopt a state statute recommended “cure” for Open Meeting Law violations leveled against the TRSU board by another local news source in June of this year. The decision to adopt the state approved process was made after the Green Mountain Unified School District board requested that TRSU adopt the same cure that GMUSD board had adopted, which followed the state-prescribed cure and also satisfied the complainant. The TRSU meeting law violation dates in question were Dec. 6, 2018, Feb. 7, 2019, and March 27, 2019.

As part of the process, business that had been ratified during three executive sessions in question would need to be confirmed, or voided, with changes being introduced after. This included Superintendent Meg Powden’s two-year contract, which had been approved during a Feb. 7 executive session.

Limiting Powden to a one-year contract was first introduced for discussion by TRSU board member Dan Buckley who suggested that now that the board has a job description and evaluation process in place that it might make sense to limit the term to one year. Both Studin and Alexander agreed and made similar points.

TRSU Board member Joe Fromberger confirmed that regardless of the term length, the evaluation process would happen yearly.

After Studin’s remarks, TRSU Board Chair Paul Orzechowski, who is also on the Ludlow Mount Holly Unified School District board, defended Powden and the administration saying that “our side is going very smoothly. We’re doing really well.”

Alberty also added her support, saying that with their upcoming school closure that “Meg’s done a great job.”

During the vote to reconfirm Powden’s contract, Buckley and Fromberger both voted no, with Orzechowski, Alberty, and Wayne Wheelock voting in favor.

Board Chair Paul Orzechowski went through the process of correcting errors made for all three dates by acknowledging the violation of improperly going into executive session; announcing that they had participated in Open Meeting Law training by Vermont School Boards Association as part of the specific measures to prevent further violations; and ratifying all other board business conducted during those dates.

The next TRSU board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at Mount Holly Elementary School.

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