Commentary

Edmunds: Act 46 won’t let town fill school board slot

Lynn James Edmunds

So, what happens when authority is misplaced? 

This question recently arose with the resignation of George Ambrose, one of four Clarendon school board members. In an article by Jim Sabataso dated March 10th, he points out the statute to appoint a replacement for the schoolboard was changed in 2005 transferring the authority from the selectboard to the schoolboard. 


Then when Act 46 changed the configuration of school districts to a multi town structure, the statute was never changed back to selectboards to reflect the inclusion of other towns in the newly formed districts. Consequently, this dilutes the authority of Clarendon to appoint their replacement by allowing other towns in the district to approve or disapprove said appointment. 

Presumably the legislature will be correcting this misplacement of authority by returning it to the selectboard of each town at some point in the near future, but in the meantime Mill River Unified Union School District placed a warning in the Herald on March 13th to fill this position. 

Thus, like so many pairs of misplaced reading glasses that can never be found when you want to read something, has anyone seen Clarendon’s authority to elect its own schoolboard representative?

Current statute 16 V.S.A.  424 section (a) reads; the school board will appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy until an election at a special or annual meeting is held.

The warning reads; The MRUUSD Board will appoint an individual to the open position at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, 4/7/2021. This individual will complete the term of the position, which expires on Town Meeting Day 2022. 

The warning further goes on to state; if interested, the appointed individual may choose to be a candidate for a term to be voted on in March 2022, running for three (3) years until March of 2025. However, this seems presumptuous, leaving the impression voters of Clarendon cannot exercise their authority to conduct a special election as stated in statute 16 V.S.A. 424 section (a)?

To even further misplace or confuse Clarendon’s authority, go to section (b) page 117 of the appropriations bill of Act 154 of 2020, here you will learn the Union School District Board in consultation with the select board , shall appoint a person who is otherwise eligible to serve as a member of the unified union school district board to fill the vacancy until an election is held at an annual or special meeting unless otherwise provided in accordance with the unified union school district’s articles of agreement. Section (c) states, this section is repealed on July 1, 2022.

Thus, like so many pairs of misplaced reading glasses that can never be found when you want to read something, has anyone seen Clarendon’s authority to elect its own schoolboard representative and does anyone know if they still have the authority to hold a special election if more than one candidate applies?

The author is a Wallingford resident.

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  1. The “misplacement of authority’!

    Please, everyone, keep this in mind. There is a difference between Education Funding and School Governance. Combining these two aspects of our education system is what creates our current dysfunction, tantamount to the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coup. Act 46 is the epitome of this education dystopia. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can improve the system.

    If society (the public) is committed to funding ‘public’ education, fine. Let State legislators figure out how much money to distribute, whatever amount they determine to be fair – not only the per pupil distribution amount, but the fairest taxation method to raise that funding. Education Funding is (or should be) mutually exclusive from School Governance.

    But then, parents should be able to take their children’s ‘announced’ tuition, as determined by the legislature, and spend it where they believe is the best education deal for their kids.

    Be it the Agency of Education, its State Board of Education governance arm, existing or newly merged union district boards, or local municipality school district boards; these oligarchies, large and small, are prone to the conflict of special interest one-size-fits-all governance that has been corrupting our children’s education for decades (if not the past century).

    True local control can only be achieved with School Choice Tuition vouchers, allowing parents to use their tuition vouchers to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children. Let each school (controlled by a municipality, an independent school, or some hybrid version) govern itself. Those schools that perform well will be chosen by parents. Those schools that fail to attract parents will reform themselves or be replaced by better schools.

    Take politics out of the education system. Separate Education Funding from School Governance.

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