Proposals Overview

These are short summaries that can't do justice to each full proposal. There are links to the detailed proposal document for those who want more detailed information.

All proposals are being reviewed by consultant Nate Levenson and his colleagues, at the request of the School Board, with a report due by December 2021.

Superintendent's Proposal. Phase 1 of the Superintendent's proposal would: (1) close the elementary school programs in Starksboro, Lincoln, and New Haven; (2) move the Superintendent's Office and early education programs into Beeman; and (3) create Innovation Centers in Starksboro’s and Lincoln’s Elementary School buildings. Phase 2 of the proposal would (1) merge MAUSD with the Vergennes school district (ANWSD); (2) send all grade 6 through 8 students to middle school in Vergennes; and (3) send all grade 9 through 12 students to high school at Mt Abe. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 would be needed in order to achieve the District's cost saving targets. The detailed proposal can be found here.

Community Proposal A. This proposal is offered by Brenda Tillberg. The proposal recommends adopting the suggestions made by Nate Levenson at the School Board's April 13, 2021 meeting, and a weighted school funding plan to address concerns about the equitable allocation of resources among the District's schools. The detailed proposal can be found here.

Community Proposal B. This proposal is offered by Nancy Cornell and Herb Olson. Key features of the proposal include:

  • Acknowledge the educational benefits of town elementary school programs for young students, especially at-risk students.

  • Phase in the financial savings in the plan, incrementally over time, and only as necessary.

  • Keep all town elementary school programs open, unless the town votes otherwise.

  • Provide essential community services (e.g. early child care; dental and medical services) in the extra space in school buildings.

  • Avoid teaching staff reductions, and keep the District financially viable, by reducing expenses. For example:

    • Empower school principals to manage their schools’ budgets.

    • Buy time by using short term federal funding ($4.9 million) to retain teachers, thereby addressing COVID related educational losses.

    • Bring Superintendent's Office expenses down to national norms. See Picus Oden report, pages 67-70.

    • Save administrative expenses through collaboration with neighboring districts: Champlain Valley, Vergennes, and Addison Central, without changing the current governance model.

    • Only if necessary after FY 26, educate high school students in lower cost neighboring districts, for example Champlain Valley HS.

The detailed proposal can be found here.

Community Proposal C. This proposal is offered by Renee McGuiness. Key elements of the proposal include:

  • Educate Pre-K through 8th grade students at the 5 community schools, as is done with schools in the Champlain Valley district.

  • Close Mt Abe Middle/High School and instead educate high school students at Champlain Valley (Hinesburg), Middlebury, and Vergennes.

The detailed proposal can be found here.

Community Proposal D. This proposal is offered by Coco Moseley and Brian Bates. The proposal is based on the observation that there is significantly broader support for middle/high school consolidation than for consolidating elementary schools, and that there is widespread recognition of the many needs for improvement at the Mt Abe facility. Key elements of the proposal include:

  • Support grades K-6 in town community elementary schools.

  • Create a stand-alone middle school at the Mt Abe campus.

  • Create a countywide high school in a new, centrally located building, such as New Haven.

  • Combine administrative services of MAUSD, ANWSD, and ACSD.

  • Use school buildings for essential community services such as child care.

The detailed proposal can be found here.

Community Proposal E. This proposal is offered by MAUSD Reimagined, a group of community members from all 5 towns. Some principles and assumptions: (1) Smaller schools are associated with higher achievement, (2) Smaller schools promote greater equity for all students, and (3) Smaller schools may be especially important for disadvantaged students.and provide greater equity for disadvantaged students. The proposal includes a detailed financial model showing that the proposal is a financially viable alternative to the Superintendent's proposal. Key elements of the proposal include:

  • Bristol Elementary School becomes a 5-8 middle school.

  • Elementary schools for grades K-4 are retained at Lincoln Starksboro, New Haven and Monkton, while Bristol elementary school students are educated at the other 4 community schools.

  • The Mt Abe facility is closed, and high school students attend neighboring high schools.

The detailed proposal can be found at the following links: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3.

Proposal F. This proposal is offered by Deb Rickner. The proposal opposes consolidating District schools, opposes consolidating the schools of the MAUSD and ANWSD districts, and supports consolidating the Superintendent's Office services of MAUSD and ANWSD. The proposal author believes that (1) our youngest children need to be immersed in services so that they become socially, behaviorally, and emotionally ready to learn, and (2) the District can realize significant financial savings as children enter upper grades in much better learning conditions than our students today.

Details of the proposal can be found here.

Questions and Comments to Consider About the Proposals

All proposals are being reviewed by consultant Nate Levenson and his colleagues, at the request of the School Board, with a report due by December 2021.

Here are a few questions about the Superintendent's proposal.

  • Will an effort to close town elementary school programs without a town vote violate the District's Articles of Agreement? See the Starksboro Save Our Schools Committee post on the subject.

  • Even if legally conceivable, will closing schools without a vote create an irrevocable breach of trust between the community and the District?

  • Is the Superintendent's assumption valid that larger schools, centrally managed, are better and more equitable than smaller, more autonomous community elementary schools?

  • Is a merger with the ANWSD district, creating a larger Act 46-type governing body, and requiring busing grades 6-8 to Vergennes, a good idea for students and taxpayers?

  • Is the Superintendent's Office over-staffed and too expensive?

  • Can program staff currently managed from the Superintendent's Office be managed more cost-effectively at the school principal level?

  • The Superintendent's claim that his proposal is the only way to avoid astronomical tax increases or devastating staff reductions has been questioned for good reasons. At least two other community proposals suggest financially viable alternatives to closing elementary school programs. Are the other financial assumptions in the Superintendent's proposal reasonable, or overly pessimistic?

Comments and questions about the other proposals.

  • Both the MAUSD Reimagined proposal and the Olson/Cornell proposal suggest financially viable ways to keep the District's finances sound without closing community elementary school programs, and while maintaining high quality and equitable educational opportunities. Are the financial assumptions in these proposals reasonable, or overly-optimistic?

  • High School choice is suggested by several proposals to reduce District costs, including the McGuiness proposal. As an alternative to high school choice, should MAUSD consider a collaboration with another, less costly public high school, such as Champlain Valley HS?

  • The Moseley/Bates proposal has 2 creative ideas that deserve consideration: first, a new Addison County-wide high school, and second, support for essential community services such as child care and health services within space available in MAUSD facilities.

  • The Tillberg proposal makes an important suggestion in advocating for a funding allocation formula to resolve concerns about whether all students in each town are receiving an equitable allocation of District resources.

  • The Rickner proposal highlights an important educational reality: For both educational and financial considerations, we need to focus greater effort and resources on Pre-K and early elementary students in a program designed to reach all students' needs, especially the needs of disadvantaged students.

Final comments.

  • All proposals for the use of MAUSD facilities must ultimately be consistent with the financial resources of the District. There are multiple ways to achieve the goal of financial viability, many of which do not involve closing elementary school programs.

  • A fundamental choice facing the 5-town community is (1) whether our students are better off with a larger elementary school accompanied by professional supports managed from the top by the Superintendent's Office, or (2) whether smaller elementary school programs, with teachers and other staff closely connected to students and their community, offer a better educational opportunity for our children.

  • While there are clear and sometimes contradictory differences among the proposals, the School Board should not look at them as competing proposals, but rather as sets of ideas to consider, by authors who care deeply about our children's education.

Please form your own opinions on these important issues for the future of Starksboro, and make your voice heard.