GNAT-TV News Project
SUNDERLAND — The board of directors of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union have announced that their current interim school superintendent will assume that post on a longer term basis.
Jacquelyne Wilson, who had been serving as an interim superintendent since July 1, 2016, following the departure of Dr. Daniel French, was named as the supervisory union’s new permanent superintendent on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The appointment becomes effective on July 1, 2017.
Prior to taking over from French last July on an interim basis, she had been an assistant superintendent since 2013 and curriculum director for the supervisory union since 2011. Before that, she had been the principal of the Manchester Elementary Middle School for several years and was named Vermont Middle School principal of the year in 2008.
“I’m honored to accept his position on a permanent basis,” Wilson stated in a prepared statement released Tuesday. “ I believe the BRSU is an exemplary supervisory union and I look forward to providing leadership to such a vibrant and engaged educational community.”
Wilson’s appointment is the outcome of a search process that formally began last November. In the statement announcing Wilson would become the permanent superintendent, Jim Salsgiver, the chairman of the supervisory union’s board of directors, said he and the board were pleased that Wilson would be continuing in the post as a permanent replacement for Dr. French.
“Jackie has great knowledge of our educational system – which is key in a time of a change,” the announcement stated. “She has built strong relationships and earned the respect of her colleagues at all levels. And, she has proven her ability to lead us through a very challenging situation. As we work to restructure our school governance structure, Jackie’s knowledge base and experience, and her excellent team at the BRSU will be invaluable to our success.”
Wilson was initially named as the interim superintendent last summer when a search committee was unable to come up with a candidate they felt they could support when Dr. French, who had served as the BRSU’s superintendent since 2007, announced last year he was taking a position at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. A second search committee formed last November to recruit a new superintendent led to offering the post to Wilson.
Her arrival comes as the supervisory union is preparing for a restructuring driven by Act 46, the state’s education consolidation statute passed in 2015. Under a proposal which has already received approval from the state board of education, several of the current school districts that are part of the BRSU will consolidate into one, pending approval from voters during March Town Meeting. At present, there are 11 separate school districts covering 15 towns across three counties. If the proposed Taconic and Green District is approved, the school districts of Manchester, Dorset, Danby, Mt. Tabor, Sunderland and the Mountain Towns Regional Education District, which covers the towns of Peru, Londonderry, Landgrove and Weston, would become one centralized school district. Other towns that are currently part of the supervisory union include Winhall, Pawlet, and Rupert. The supervisory union also contains two union school districts; one that includes Pawlet and Rupert and another that combines Danby and Mt. Tabor. Six schools, some kindergarten-8th grade, and others K-6th grade, are operated by the various districts within the supervisory union.
Wilson said the work involving Act 46 and the mergers the legislation will force are the top priorities on her plate at the moment.
“(I’m) hoping it will move forward and we’ll have some answers in March town meeting,” she said in an interview on Thursday. “There’s a lot of possibilities and opportunities from the marriage of the districts.”
The mergers being driven by Act 46 will also eventually include Pawlet and Rupert, which are restarting discussions after an earlier round that explored a merger with Wells failed to gain traction. Winhall will also be involved in merger talks with potential partners.
Looming behind all of those merger discussions lies the potential of bringing the Arlington and Sandgate districts into the supervisory union — “a huge deal,” Wilson said.
“We want to get our merger work taken care of and tied up before we start that conversation with them,” she added.
She also commented on some of the proposals offered by Gov. Phil Scott earlier this week in the governor’s annual budget address to the state legislature. In it, the new governor proposed allocating more funds to pre-kindergarten and state colleges, while urging local school districts to hold their spending level with the previous year, in order to reduce property tax pressures on the state’s Education Fund. The governor also proposed delaying votes on school district budgets until May 23, instead of the traditional March Town Meeting, which this year falls on March 7, in order to allow them more time to work towards level-funded budgets.
However, the timing may not work well, at least this year. Much of the budget work of the BRSU’s school districts is already done and the proposals to be distributed at town meeting are already being printed, she said.
Level funding budgets from year to year would require agreements with the area’s independent schools where the supervisory union’s students attend for secondary school for the ninth- 12th grade, otherwise the elementary and middle school budgets would have to be cut to make up the difference. But even then, unexpected developments can raise problems. This past year, for example, 25 additional students had to be added to secondary school population, which hadn’t been anticipated. That led to the district starting off with a $200,000 deficit, Wilson said.
“These are things you can’t predict and you have to respond to,” she said. “It’s not as easy as ‘let’s just level fund.’”
Wilson’s contract will run for three years, starting July 1, 2017. The supervisory union will also be looking to fill the assistant superintendent slot Wilson formerly occupied.