School officials from Elmore, Morristown and Stowe have thrown a couple of Hail Mary passes, trying to stave off a forced merger of their school districts, and an online fundraiser has been launched to help pay for those efforts.
Stowe resident Erica Loomis and Morristown resident Amanda Guy launched the fundraiser Dec. 6 at GoFundMe (gofundme.com/elmoremorristownstoweproud).
At press time, only $400 had been raised toward a $20,000 goal, but Loomis and Guy hope the drive will gain traction after the holidays.
“We cannot allow a ‘flawed and rushed’ decision, by unelected officials, to decide the fate of our children,” the fundraiser says. “It is time for us, as community members, voters and taxpayers, to stand behind the school boards and help them with their efforts.”
That refers to a November decision by the Vermont State Board of Education to force the Stowe and Elmore-Morristown school districts to merge. The decision was part of an overall state plan to meet the goals of Act 46, the state law passed in 2015 that aims to achieve efficiencies by merging school districts to form larger districts.
The Lamoille South Supervisory Union, which oversees the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts, filed a lawsuit Dec. 13 asking for a stay in the state board’s decision. It also plans to lobby the Legislature to make some changes in Act 46.
These things cost money and, while Lamoille South has a legal budget, it doesn’t have money allocated for lobbying.
Superintendent Tracy Wrend told the Stowe School Board Dec. 17 it would cost between $4,000 and $6,000 to hire a lobbying firm. She said the supervisory union’s finance manager doesn’t like using online fundraising sites for school business.
Loomis’s and Guy’s fundraiser says any funds collected in excess of the lobbying needs could help cover the lawsuit costs, or be used to to “directly benefit” students from Elmore, Morristown and Stowe.
“It’s imperative the communities help support the legal efforts of the school boards,” Loomis said in an email this week. “The school board didn’t have money in the budget set aside for lobbying efforts and lawyer fees. Taking control away from the (state board of education) is absolutely necessary and successful lobbying efforts can help make that happen.”