A Dark Day for the Guildhall School District

Guildhall Elementary School, February 25, 2012

This is our elementary school. There are  21 students enrolled here. We have two fabulous, dedicated teachers, plus part- time art, music and phys ed instructors, a cook, and a part- time janitor. According to two recent rounds of NECAP testing scores, the students are high performing. This photo was taken on a Saturday, but even so, there was stuff going on–a group of kids and parents were sledding on the slopes behind the building. All kinds of wonderful things happen here every day of the week. If it’s anything I’ve learned over the last year,  it’s been that our school is fantastic and worth fighting for.

The school normally bustles with activity. But it could all go very quiet shortly after March 2, 2012. About 6 days from now.

That’s the date a majority on our School Board (Helen Martin and Matthew Smith) have actually voted to freeze all Guildhall financial disbursements, unless the disputed tuition for Board member Matthew Smith’s own child to go to a New Hampshire school  is guaranteed. (See minutes of Guildhall School Board meeting, Feb 20, 2012. The minutes are available–they are public information– in hard copy at the Essex-Caledonia Supervisory Union, phone number 695-3373.   Or call or email me and I can fax you a copy)

The vote to freeze all spending stems from Board member Matthew Smith’s vote in August of last year to tuition his 5th grade child to an out-of-district school, in spite of the fact that our students, in accordance with the will of the Guildhall electorate, may only be tuitioned out starting in the 6th grade.   Over the years, Guildhall parents, if they felt another school was in their child’s best interests, have either had to pay the tuition themselves, or move.   The matter is now in litigation.  At the February 20 meeting, the Board chair reported that School District attorney Barbara Blackman  has advised the School District against paying the disputed tuition until the Court reaches a decision, and said  that to pay now  would “compound” the Board’s legal problems on conflict of interest grounds.      The Martin/Smith majority reacted to her advice by passing the motion to freeze all disbursements by March 2.    That course of action would certainly, in about two weeks or less, grind school operations to a halt.

I often use this blog to express my opinions. But there’s no need for any opinion or commentary here. The facts speak for themselves.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “A Dark Day for the Guildhall School District

  1. I wasn’t at the meeting but I find it hard to believe that freezing all disbursements is actually legal. I am sure that the Lancaster school knows the legal issue in regards to the payment for this one student and I am certain they will allow the student to continue his education while they wait on payment, whether its now or 4 months from now.

  2. Lynn Berry

    I was at the meeting and Laura you are right there is no need for personal opinion. I must agree with Karen, Lancaster is well aware of what is going on in Guildhall. I beleive this because this is the first time in years that we have recieved our tuition bill from them before April or May. I do not believe that the Lancaster school would exspell this child because they know that it is just a matter of time until the tuition is paid.

  3. Eileen Boland

    Laura, Where is the superintendent in your district and how is she/he advising and working with this school board? Also, the Vermont School Board Association is a great organization that supports boards and advises them on their duties and the law, http://www.vtvsba.org/

    Stephen Dale is the executive director.

    • Laura L. Wilson

      Eileen, our chief of operations at the Essex-Caledonia Supervisory Union has in fact been involved in this from the beginning. But we have still gotten to this point. The Board and myself have both been in touch with the VSBA, but they do not seem to want to get involved, primarily because some of the issues here are under litigation (for which the School District has an attorney). But this latest dramatic development–ie: a School Board majority actually voting to freeze the School checking account unless certain conditions are met, well this seems to go beyond that litigation and into other arenas as yet undetermined.

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