Merger Information

MAUSD/ANWSD Merger Information

Updated July 2022

What is the Merger Study Committee?

In the Spring of 2021, the MAUSD Board and the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) voted to form a Merger Study Committee. This study committee, composed of Board and community members, was formed under VT Statute 16 VSA Chapter 11 Subchapter 4 ss 706 (a-g) to explore the advantages and disadvantages of a governance merger of the two districts.

Committee Charge:

ANWSD & MAUSD agree to form a study committee (per 16 VSA ss706) to analyze the advisability of forming a union school district. The Committee’s work ideally will be completed within a timeframe that will allow a vote on a proposed plan by Town Meeting Day 2022 [this timeline has since been updated to aim for a vote on November 8, 2022].

Between August 2021 and July 2022, the Committee discussed a variety of topics related to a potential merger including tax rate modeling, transportation challenges, the impact of possible State changes to how per pupil funding is calculated, the opportunities and challenges for a combined High School and Middle School and other topics that could influence a possible merger.

The details of such a merger have been developed into a draft Articles of Agreement which will be presented to the State Board of Education (SBE) on July 20; if approved by the SBE, the proposed merger will be brought to a vote on November 8, 2022.

How does the Merger Study Committee relate to our work to protect local schools?

There is great concern that the new Articles of Agreement could allow the newly merged union school district to close any school without a town vote. Such an approved merger and new Articles of Agreement may take away Starksboro’s right to vote on whether or not to close Robinson School. In addition, a merged district representing 9 towns would mean more distance between local communities and those making decisions on their behalf.

Members of the community and of the Starksboro Save Our Schools Committee have been attending Merger Study Committee (MSC) meetings regularly and advocating that the MSC Articles of Agreement include provisions for each town to have a right to vote on school closure. If the MSC were to include this provision, then Starksboro’s efforts to withdraw from the school district would cease and Starksboro would remain part of MAUSD and/or the new merged district, if voters approve the merger in November, 2022.

In response to our advocacy, the MSC has included in their Articles that no school would close in the first four years after the merger, and that after that, school closure would require ⅔ of the new district board plus ⅔ of all voters in the district. Our committee believes that this provision is not adequate and that school closure must require a majority of the voters in the impacted town to vote to close their town’s school. We sincerely believe that if there are compelling reasons to close a school, then voters can and will make an informed decision to do so – and that decision belongs to the voters who belong to the community that centers around the local school in question.

Would a merger save costs and improve educational quality and equity?

In their final report to be presented to the State Board of Education on July 20, the MSC stated that while “the opportunities for cost efficiencies are significant," ... "forming a union does not necessarily directly result in cost efficiencies and lower tax rate increases.” We have advocated repeatedly that there are significant opportunities for cost efficiencies through collaboration across districts even if we do not merge, and community members have presented several well-researched ideas for how cost savings could be achieved.

Some of the other items in the draft Articles to be reviewed, which may not be in the best interest of all of our students:

  • The new merged school district board would have the authority to move grades between schools without putting this to a town vote (for example, they could move grades 4-6 from an elementary school to a combined middle school).

  • School choice is allowed, but transportation will not be provided to students if they choose a different school (which means that only parents/guardians who have the means would be able to opt to send their children to different schools).

There are also several unknowns, which the MSC has stated that they will not be able to answer ahead of bringing the merger to a vote in November (because these will be the responsibility of the newly merged board), including:

  • Where will students in grades 7-12 attend school?

  • How would transportation and schedules change?

  • Compared to current school bus schedules, how many more students would need to ride the bus for 45 minutes or longer each way?

Losing Faith in the Process: Recent Resignations

Three board members have recently resigned from either the School Board or the Merger Study Committee due to feeling unheard in their efforts to advocate for solutions that could save costs without merging, would preserve our right to vote, would protect small community schools, and would ensure equitable access and support for all students.

  • Dave Shape (Bristol) resigned in April 2022 from both the MAUSD Board and the Merger Study Committee.

  • Brad Johnson (Starksboro) resigned in June 2022 from the Merger Study Committee.

  • Rob Backlund (Lincoln) resigned in June 2022 from the MAUSD Board.

These resignations indicate a troubling trend: multiple Board members who have made their best effort to respectfully engage in the democratic governance of our schools have lost faith in the process. This should be a red flag about the potential for a future merged district to meaningfully engage the community and/or elected School Board members in school governance.

More Information

Merger Study Committee information, agendas and minutes can be found here and their current work plan is available here. Meetings are held on the first Monday and third Tuesday of the month, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at alternating locations. (Locations are found on the Work Plan as well as on each meeting’s agenda). Meetings are held in-person and are also available on Zoom. The Zoom link for each meeting is included on that meeting’s agenda.

Public comments can be made at the end of each meeting and before any decisions are made. Drafts of minutes are available on the website 5 days after each meeting. The meetings are recorded.

We will share a copy of the MSC's final report when it becomes publicly available.