BY ANGELO LYNN
BRANDON — The OVUUSD board has some heavy topics to discuss at its Wednesday, March 16 meeting as it debates when to schedule the next budget vote and how — or whether — to adjust the budget amount. The latter question largely depends on how board members interpret the budget defeat, which went down 522-462 on Town Meeting Day.
The board will also introduce Kristin Hubert as the school district’s newly hired superintendent who will be taking the place of retiring Jeanné Collins as of July 1, 2022.
During Wednesday’s meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the OVUHS library, the board will go over the annual meeting and election results and outline the next steps for recommending a second budget vote. Current board chairman Laurie Bertrand said she expected the board would want to hold a revote as soon as possible, which would be in the latter part of April.
In Collins’ superintendent’s report to the board, she cites one reason for the budget’s defeat is while two of the largest towns in the district (Brandon and Pittsford) mailed their ballots out to residents, the school budget was not included in those packets. That’s because not all six district towns mailed out their ballots. Many residents, therefore, were either unaware the school budget wasn’t included or didn’t take the time to go to the polls to vote separately on the school budget. Turnout for the school district budget vote this year was far less than the previous year when all residents were mailed ballots. Collins said the total turnout in 2021 was almost 3,000 voters, compared to about 900 this year.
To that point, Collins writes: “I have heard from many residents and staff that a) they did not realize they had not voted on the school budget, or b) were angry the district did not mail the ballot like the town did. The two different ways of voting may have created a barrier for voting unintentionally.”
Collins continued that she would recommend “the board hold a community forum and Thought Exchange to get a sense from more of the community on the defeat of the budget and then determine what budget (same or reduced) to go back out with in a special election this spring.”
In addition to that weighty discussion, the board also has three vacant board seats to fill. They may either appoint people to fill those seats for one year, or wait until the special election and tray again to get candidates to run for the seats. Both processes, she said, normally take at least two months. The vacant seats are: one year remaining of a three-year term representing Leicester; a three-year term representing Pittsford; and one year left of a three-year At-Large term.
If the school board wanted to try to mail ballots to all district voters, the district would have to get each town selectboard to agree to handle its own town election, even as the school district would agree to cover the costs.
In other action at the meeting, the board will formally reorganize, including reelecting board leaders and other school positions.
As part of the consent agenda, it is noted that exiting employees include: Willa Abel, high school science teacher; David Mitchell, teacher/float, end of contract; Nicole Vachon-Hanlon, teacher outdoor recreation, end of contract; and Kelli Zauli, teacher, grade 2/3, Otter Creek Academy. New hires for 2022-23 include: Jennifer Buzzell, teacher, grade 1, Neshobe; Brian Crane, new principal of Otter Creek Academy; Nancy Kay, teacher, grade ¾, Lothrop Elementary; Michael Ruppel, principal at OVUHS.