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Henry
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« on: April 21, 2017, 07:44:44 AM »

The following article was published in the Thursday Edition (April 20, 2017) of the St. Albans Messenger

Tech school shift could be part of final proposal
By MICHELLE MONROE
Messenger Staff

FAIRFAX - In the wake of last year's failed merger talks with Georgia and Fletcher, the Fairfax school board has created its own study committee to examine the school district's options under Act 46.

The committee, chaired by Scott Mitchell, is reaching out informally to neighboring school districts including Essex, Milton and Cambridge to see what level of interest there is in a possible merger. "They're not official
merger talks," said Mitchell at a committee meeting Wednesday night. "Really, they're just seeing if our curriculums and philosophies fit together."

Fairfax has already had several conversations with the Maple Run Unified School District about joining Maple Run. Those conversations are now on hold while Fairfax sorts through its options.

Asked if a merger with Maple Run would close the Fairfax school, Mitchell said it would not. "We'd both run K-12 systems. Act 46 can't shutter a school," he said. "I don't believe [Bellows Free Academy, st. Albans] could take all of our students."

In addition to merger, Fairfax could also seek to remain a separate school district. Doing so would make the school an alternative structure under Act 46. In order to maintain the current configuration of the Franklin
West Supervisory Union (FWSU), the Georgia and Fletcher districts would also have to apply to be alternative structures, and all three would have to request that FWSU remain their supervisory union.

"The bar for an alternative structu1e is high," said FWSU superintendent Ned Kirsch.

School districts opting not to merge must demonsteate that they can meet or exceed the five goals of Act 46:

Provide substantial equity in quality and variety of educational opportunities statewide;"

Lead students to meet or exceed the state's education standards;

Maximize efficiencies "through increased flexibility to manage, share and transfer resources with the goal of increasing the district-level ratio of students to ... staff;"

Promote transparency and accountability;"

Deliver education at a cost "parents, voters and taxpayers value."

The conversation in Fairfax has been complicated by discussions of changing the school's designated tech center from Essex to Northwest Technical Center.  Should Fairfax merge with Maple Run, the shift in tech center would be automatic.

However, the study committee has also mentioned a shift in tech center as a way in which Fairfax could potentially meet some of the goals of Act 46 without merging.

According to FWSU projections, shifting to Northwest Technical Center (NWTC) would save Fairfax between $250,000 and $300,000 each year.

In addition, NWTC is a half-day program, while Essex is a full day program. Having the tech center students in Fairfax for a half day would allow the school to increase offerings for all students in Fairfax, explained
Mitchell, because there would be more students to take those classes.

"We hear a lot of things in the community about us closing programs," said Mitchell. "We'd be able to- keep the students here for their core courses which would allow us to expand our offerings."

NWTC has also expressed an interest in working with Fairfax to create programs which would be offered at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, said Mitchell.

Committee members also clarified that should Fairfax change tech centers any student interested in a tech center program not offered at NWTC would still be able to enroll in Essex, Burlington or another tech center.
Currently; two Fairfax students are enrolled in NWTC for programs not offered at Essex.

However, changing tech centers does not have to be part of any application to remain an alternative structure, as study committee member Scott Hogan pointed out. It's simply one possible way of meeting some of
the goals for an alternative structure.

Fairfax had previously petitioned the Vermont State Board of Education to switch tech centers from Essex to NWTC, a move opposed by Essex. The board rejected the proposal after Essex argued it could potentially have a negative impact on programs at Essex by removing the 25 Fairfax students enrolled there.

Generally; members of the audience asked questions about a possible change in tech centers, with at least one woman' clearly opposed, while others appeared skeptical but wanting to know more.

"I think 'it's hard to maintain a quality school with the numbers we have now and what we spend," said one audience member, citing a decline in programs for students.

Fairfax has approximately 750 students from the town itself and an additional 105 tuition students.

One audience member, Todd Baumeister, a member of Fletcher's study committee, asked if Fairfax would consider a merger with Fletcher.

Fairfax previously held 10 months of merger discussions with Fletcher and Georgia, after which the committee voted not to pursue a merger of all three districts or a merger just between Fletcher and Fairfax. In 2011,
voters rejected a Fletcher and Fairfax merger.
 
Rochelle LeVau, who served on the 10-month committee with Baumeister, said, "The hurtles that were still there before, I would imagine, are still there."

The committee has agreed to decide whether to pursue a merger or attempt to create an alternative structure by June 1.

If Fairfax decides to remain its own separate district it will need to have an alternative structure application completed by November. If that application is rejected, then the Secretary of Education would recommend a merger partner for Fairfax to the State Board of Education. The board would then decide the district's fate.

The study committee meets every other Wednesday. They can be reached by email at fairfaxact46@fwsu.org.
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Henry Raymond
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2017, 01:16:42 PM »

I sure wish when the Messenger writes an article, they would keep their facts straight. 

There are a few things here they have reported wrong, such as # of Fairfax students~ we were told there was 725 plus Fletcher students that brings the # to 877;
the cost savings~ we were told a cost savings was over a 6 semester time frame;

Tthe 2 students currently enrolled @ NWTC we were told are both in a fire tech program;

We had not yet reached out to Essex as stated~that was just brought up this past meeting;

The committee meets the 1st Thursday of the month & the 3rd Wednesday of the month. 

They need to give fair reporting as not all are for this proposal~that of changing tech centers, for many solid reasons.

Also, they should check spelling & correct names. 
So I guess what I am saying, please do not rely on the news for information.

Please come to the meetings, see what is happening, ask questions, lend support, voice your opinions to be part of the solution for what is best for all.

Next meeting is THURSDAY  May 4 in the old FACS room.... follow the signs. Thanks!
« Last Edit: April 25, 2017, 09:10:53 AM by mkr » Logged
mkr
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2017, 09:21:26 AM »

What bothers me is that the School Board can just pull our kids out of Essex and Burlington Tech programs that we have been going to since the 1970's without a vote from the town....

We have to vote for a new school bus to be bought but we do not get any say on changing our children's education programs.

I also have heard mixed issues with Maple Run and the 1/2 day Tech program.  I am also thinking that having a Maple Run Employee on this committee is a conflict of interest.

Part of the savings is taking them to a shorter program.. I also want to know how many teachers/support would be needed to be hired back at BFA Fairfax to compensate for the kids being brought back for half days in Fairfax.

Finally I do not want to see our children being pulled from excellent programs and schools to go what appears to be a step down for our children's education.

I know of "Tech Kids" from all decades. Many of us still use what we learned to this very day.  Many of my friends went to work right out of of high school because of Tech and I have heard from friends that their kids are also still having the same experience.

I would like to know what types of experiences the committee has had with tech programs?  Have they or their children been a part of Essex or Burlington Tech?

It was asked last meeting to look into merging with Essex.  I am completely in favor of this and would love to see our kids be given MORE opportunities while trying to save money vs Maple Run.
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2017, 02:20:11 PM »

I'm saddened to read that the Tech Center in St. Albans is seen as a step down. I work for the school and am very proud to do so. We offer wonderful programs which are taught and supported by caring and skilled staff who take their mission of preparing students for work and college very seriously. We also have completers from our programs working and living in this community.  We are very fortunate to have healthy and vibrant Career and Techical education in both Chittenden and Franklin county.
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2017, 08:46:31 AM »

I am sure you are very nice and people you work with SuzE. This is certainly not a personal attack of any kind.

When you compare the schools rankings, and also the number of program opportunities in Essex/Burlington compared to St. Albans is quite a difference.  I see that as a step down.
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2017, 10:39:12 AM »

Certainly not taken as a personal attack.  I'm just saddened and surprised that this is a perception. Our Tech Center is well regarded and respected, with students winning state competitions, entering competitive colleges, the military, and gaining meaningful employment. 

Also, the state allows students to enroll in centers not in their regional area if the regional center does not provide that program. Students would still be able to take advantage of those programs offered at BTC and CTE if the program was not offered at NWTC, so no step down. As a half day program, students could travel the short distance to St. Albans to take advantage of Career and Technical Education vs traveling to Burlington for the half day programs they offer, while maintaining their academic classes in Fairfax. Less time on a school bus is a win win.
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2017, 10:50:36 AM »

Actually we have many kids doing full day programs to eliminate travel time during class time and has been great.  Essex and St. Albans Tech programs are not a savings in distance. Burlington would be, but going to Enosburg for some tech classes is no different than going to Burlington.

Also the whole point of the School Board wanting to pull our kids is saving money. So now we could have many kids going to Essex and Burlington still and now besides the couple that go to NWTC for Fire program, we would have trips to St. Albans and I hear some would go to Enosburg for certain tech programs.  So on top of this, having half day programs back to Fairfax now means teachers/suppport staff needed to cover the half day core classes.

The savings gets eaten up and I feel our current Tech Programs are the best option based on reasons I have previously mentioned.

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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2017, 11:32:41 AM »

I don't know anything about Enosburg's involvement. I'll look forward to learning more at the next meeting on
May 4th in the old FACS room.  What time does that meeting begin?
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2017, 11:36:21 AM »

7pm is what I was told for the meeting times.

I also hope to be there to hear more and ask questions.
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2017, 01:26:08 PM »

Glad conversation is finally starting on this! I agree with MKR, our kids have excelled @ our current tech centers & I mentioned at our last meeting I took offense to the remark made once again, that we send lots of $$$ & our students & we never hear anything from CTE. I took offense as my 3 sons all went there & the communication with teachers & how they treated our students was excellent. They are not just money or a number when it comes to the teachers...they are individual important human beings that the teachers are doing their best to have them achieve their highest skills.  MKR you have brought up many questions that I have~teachers being hired back to what cost here, it has been stated bringing in more programs here, again, to what cost & possiblility of here being a "satellite" for Maple Run, again to what cost, yet no response, because surely it is not known but, surely it is an added cost so that will take away the "cost savings".  The other issue...the bus ride: we were told @ 1 meeting our kids were on the bus 3 hrs; that I question having attended Burlington tech, growing up there many years ago, so then the time went to 1.5-2 hrs one way, nope, still doubtful, & then this was settled as a student came to the meeting last time & yes, they are on the bus : 1 hour down when dropping kids off @ CTE & 45min back.  So there was a bit of an exaggeration there!  I still say & will stand strong to say, we can propose the "alternative structure" yet we do not need to add a change in tech centers as part of "the package".  And yes, it has been stated that kids can go to Enosburg.  So, please come & be a voice, be informed.  Meetings are the 1st Thursday of the month & the 3rd Wednesday of the month.
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2017, 06:03:25 PM »

Playing the devils advocate here. I wonder what would happen if there was a proposal to send students taking AP classes to Saint Albans. Maybe all sports could be cancelled and students could participate at area high schools.
In reality, I don't believe the students interested in technical education are valued the same as other students. It seems that high schools, including Fairfax, are elitist in there approach to students. I can tell numerous stories about successes of former students who attended Tech. The business across the street from my house does 9 million in business a year. It is co- owned by a former tech student. My furnace is cleaned by a former tech student who also owns  oil delivery business that provides my fuel. I could go on and on but you get the point.
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« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2017, 01:20:09 PM »

I would like to know what types of experiences the committee has had with tech programs?  Have they or their children been a part of Essex or Burlington Tech? MKR this is the question you asked, & though I put it in my last post, I am on the committee & I just wanted to say all 3 of my sons went to CTE, all in different career choices & I am very proud to say all 3 of them still are in the profession they started with @ CTE! Well, 1 went to a specific area taught by building trades, but nonetheless, I have a chef, a plumber & a cosmetologist all thanks to the wonderful, skilled directions of their teachers @ CTE.  And going back much further, I went to Burlington tech and I am still in the Early Ed career! 
Watchman: I so agree that not all value tech students the same as others; but funny thing..... where do so many of those people go??? Well, out to eat, call on plumbers when they have no water or heat, get their hair done & well, even drop kids off to me to do so! 
Please people, be informed!! Next meeting is this Thursday, May 4 in the FACS room...follow signs!
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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2017, 05:41:30 PM »

Any updates?
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mkr
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« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2017, 11:34:20 AM »

This is where you can see updates and minutes.

http://www.bfafairfax.com/copy-of-act-46

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« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2017, 04:41:18 PM »

I am not sure where the information regarding sports offering as at area High Schools (June 1 meeting notes) came from, as it is not accurate. I know there are many more sports offered at Essex than are listed. I am not sure if this is an oversight or poor research. Please be careful when accepting information provided to you. I can get an accurate list if anyone is interested.
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