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NO. 33. AN ACT RELATING TO REGIONAL TECHNICAL CENTERS.

(H.495)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. FINDING AND PURPOSE

(a) The General Assembly finds that:

(1) A strong statewide system of career and workforce preparation for secondary students is vital to the future of Vermont’s economy and instrumental for the prosperity and security of those students.

(2) In order to foster and maintain a strong statewide system of career and workforce preparation, Vermont’s technical education centers should be governed in a way that:

(A) through broad regional representation, identifies and advances local, regional and state workforce development needs;

(B) maintains a primary focus on technical education while ensuring students have access to high quality academic programs;

(C) involves high schools in aligning curricula and providing learning opportunities to students;

(D) involves postsecondary institutions, business groups, employee groups, state government and other partners which offer programs and services;

(E) maintains high academic and training standards;

(F) measures performance of students in relation to those high standards; and

(G) ensures public accountability through regular reporting of student and school performance in relation to the announced standards.

(3) Secondary technical education students, and others who benefit from the operations of technical centers, deserve a governance system that is representative, focused on their needs, and organized in such a manner as to provide coordinated, high quality career and workforce preparation.

(b) Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to enable technical center regions to establish alternative governance structures which meet regional technical education needs, ensure equal educational opportunities to technical education students throughout Vermont, and prepare Vermont technical education students to enter high skill jobs which pay a high salary.

Sec. 2. 16 V.S.A. § 1542 is amended to read:

§ 1542. REGIONAL ADVISORY BOARD

(a) Each regional advisory board shall consist of:

* * *

(b) A regional advisory board, with the consent of the workforce investment board, may delegate its responsibilities to the regional workforce investment board. In this case, the workforce investment board shall become the regional advisory board unless and until the school board which operates the technical center requests that the regional advisory board be reconstituted pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

Sec. 3. 16 V.S.A. chapter 37, subchapter 5A is added to read:

Subchapter 5A. Regional Technical Center School Districts

§ 1571. DEFINITIONS

In this subchapter:

(1) "Regional technical center school district" means a district which maintains a regional technical center under a governance structure approved by vote of the electorate pursuant to this subchapter.

(2) "School district" means a school district which maintains a high school.

§ 1572. FORMATION OF A PLANNING COMMITTEE

(a) Any two or more of the following may establish a committee to plan the formation of a regional technical center school district with an alternative governance structure for governance of the regional technical center: either the school board of a school district which operates a regional technical center or all the school boards which operate a comprehensive high school which have been designated as the regional technical center; the majority of the school boards of the other school districts in the technical center region; or a workforce investment board in a technical center region. The planning committee shall consist of representatives of the school district which operates a regional technical center, the school districts which send students to the regional technical center, regional employers, and residents of the technical center region.

(b) The planning committee may determine that no change to the governance structure is needed, or it may prepare a report in the form of an agreement between the school districts which are located in the technical center region. The report shall describe:

(1) The makeup of the governing board. At least 60 percent of the board members shall be elected by direct vote of the voters, or chosen from member school district boards by the member school district boards, or a combination of the two. If the board is to have additional members, who may constitute up to 40 percent of the board, the additional members shall be appointed by the elected and chosen members from member school district boards for the purpose of acquiring expertise in areas they consider desirable. The appointed members may be selected from nominations submitted by the regional workforce investment board or other workforce organizations, or may be chosen without nomination by an organization;

(2) A process for approval of the annual budget which may be by direct vote of the voters in the technical center region, or by a vote of the school boards of the school districts in the region. In this subdivision, "school district" may include a district which provides for education of its high school students by paying tuition or assessment, a district which maintains a high school, or a combination of the two;

(3) Proposed bylaws;

(4) A plan for transition from the existing governance structure;

(5) The disposition of the existing technical center land and facilities;

(6) How existing collective bargaining agreements and employee contracts will be addressed;

(7) Transportation to be provided;

(8) The term of office of the board members and other officers, and how other officers are selected;

(9) The date on which the proposal will be submitted to the voters and whether the votes will be commingled;

(10) A process for amending or dissolving the governance structure; and

(11) Any other matter which the committee considers pertinent.

§ 1573. APPROVAL BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

The planning committee shall transmit the report to the commissioner who, after consultation with the chair of the human resources investment council, shall submit the report with his or her recommendations to the state board of education. That board, after notice to the planning committee and after giving the committee and other interested parties an opportunity to be heard, shall consider the report and the commissioner's recommendations, and decide whether the establishment of an alternative governance structure will be in the best interests of the students and the region. The board may request the commissioner or the planning committee, or both, to make further investigation, and may consider any other information deemed by it to be pertinent. If, after due consideration and any further meetings as it may deem necessary, the board finds that establishment of the alternative governance structure is in the best interests of the students and the region involved, it shall approve the report submitted by the committee, together with any amendments, as a final report of the planning committee, and shall give notice of its action to the committee. The chair of the planning committee shall file a copy of the final report with the clerk of each town school district, incorporated school district, unified union school district and city school district in the region at least 20 days prior to the vote to adopt the alternative governance structure.

§ 1574. VOTE TO ADOPT THE ALTERNATIVE STRUCTURE

Each town school district, incorporated school district, unified union school district and city school district within the technical center region shall vote on adoption of the alternative governance structure and formation of a regional technical center school district. The vote shall be held on the date specified in the final report. The vote shall be by Australian ballot at separate school district meetings held on the same day and during the same hours. The polls shall remain open at least eight hours. Absentee voting as provided by sections 2531 - 2550 of Title 17 shall be permitted. Ballots may be commingled. The meetings shall be warned as a special meeting of each school district voting on the proposal.

§ 1575. Certification

Within ten days of any vote held in accordance with this subchapter, the clerks of the participating school districts shall certify the results of the vote to the commissioner of education, or, if the ballots are to be commingled, each municipal clerk shall appoint a member of the board of civil authority to transport the uncounted ballots to a predetermined location where the appointed members of each participating school district shall count the commingled ballots. If a majority of the voters vote to approve the formation of the governance system and creation of a regional technical center district, the commissioner shall declare the existing governance structure of the technical center to be void, the region to be designated a technical center school district, and the new governance system to be authorized, all as of the date specified in the application, and shall certify the declaration to the secretary of state.

§ 1576. Effect of certification; application of other laws

(a) Upon certification under section 1575 of this title, the technical center region shall become a public school district and shall constitute a body politic and corporate, with all the rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto, as specified in this subchapter, and as specified in the approval granted by the state board. The technical center school district shall also be a supervisory district for the purpose of providing the planning and administrative functions of a supervisory union for the programs offered.

(b) The provisions of this subchapter are intended to be in addition to the general provisions of law pertaining to schools and school districts, including any laws relating to school choice, and not a limitation upon them, and, in the event there is no provision in this subchapter to cover a situation and the situation is covered by the general school law or municipal law, the provisions of the general school law or municipal law apply.

(c) A technical center governed under a structure adopted under this subchapter, except with respect to inconsistent provisions related to methods of governance, shall be subject to all other provisions of this chapter and any other state or federal laws related to the operations of technical centers and provision of secondary and adult technical education.

§ 1577. Duties and authority of alternative governance board

The governance board of a technical center authorized under this subchapter, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law to the governing authority of a technical center, shall have the following duties and authority:

(1) To determine the educational policies of the technical center. Policies shall be of general application to the center, shall be in writing, codified, and made available to the public. Board policies shall be adopted at regular or special meetings. A board shall give public notice of its intent to adopt a board policy, stating the substance of the proposed policy, at least ten days prior to its adoption. A board may also approve or disapprove rules and regulations proposed by the director for the conduct and management of the center.

(2) To take any action required for the sound administration of the center. The commissioner, with the advice of the attorney general, upon application by a board, shall decide whether any action contemplated or taken under this subdivision is required for the sound administration of the center and is consistent with law. The commissioner’s decision shall be final.

(3) To have the possession, care, control and management of the property of the center, subject to the provisions of any agreement between the former board of the center and the alternative governing board.

(4) To keep the center buildings and grounds in good repair, suitably equipped, insured and in safe and sanitary condition at all times. The center shall regulate or prohibit firearms or other dangerous or deadly weapons on school premises. A board’s policies in this regard shall be, at minimum, consistent with section 1166 of this title and section 4004 of Title 13, relating to a student who brings a weapon to school.

(5) To lease or purchase real and personal property, and to sell, relocate, or discontinue use of real and personal property, subject to the terms and conditions of the approval granted to it by the state board.

(6) To establish and maintain an adequate system of financial disbursement, accounting, control and reporting procedures that ensures all payments are lawful and in accordance with the budget adopted pursuant to terms approved by the state board. The board may authorize a subcommittee, a superintendent of schools, or a designated employee of the board to examine claims against the district for center expenses, and draw orders for such as shall be allowed by it payable to the party entitled thereto. Such orders shall state definitely the purpose for which they are drawn, and shall serve as full authority to the treasurer to make such payments. It shall be lawful for a board to submit to its treasurer a certified copy of those portions of the board minutes, properly signed by the clerk and chair, or a majority of the board, showing to whom, and for what purpose, each payment is to be made by the treasurer, and such certified copy shall serve as full authority to the treasurer to make the payments as thus approved.

(7) To establish, with the advice and consent of the auditor of accounts and the commissioner, a system of accounts for the proper control and reporting of center finances, and for stating the annual financial condition of the center.

(8) To sue and be sued.

(9) To execute contracts on behalf of the center, including contracts providing for binding arbitration, by its chair or any person designated whose appointment is recorded in the minutes of the board.

(10) To conduct its budget adoption process in accordance with the terms of its application to the state board, as approved by the state board.

(11) To employ such persons as may be required to carry out the work of the center, and dismiss any employee when necessary. The board shall consider the recommendation of the director or superintendent before employing or dismissing any person.

(12) To provide, at the expense of the center, subject to the approval of the director or superintendent, all textbooks, learning materials, equipment and supplies.

(13) To employ a public accountant at least once in every three-year period to audit the financial statements of the center and the average daily membership count submitted by the center to the department of education.

(14) To establish policies and procedures designed to avoid the appearance of board member conflict of interest.

(15) To borrow money by issuance of bonds or notes, not in excess of anticipated revenue for the school year.

(16) To apply for grants and to accept and expend grants and gifts.

(17) To present informational materials, at the expense of the center, to the electorate on any matter to be voted. However, such materials shall be limited to those that are reasonably designed to inform, educate and explain to the electorate the board’s position on the matter.

§ 1578. REGIONAL TECHNICAL CENTER SCHOOL DISTRICT

MEETINGS

The checklist for a regional technical center school district and records of proceedings shall be made and maintained in the same manner as those functions are carried out in a union school district under sections 706u and 706v of this title.

§ 1579. INCURRING DEBT

(a) If authorized by a majority of the qualified voters voting on the question in accordance with this section, a regional technical center school district may incur indebtedness for improvements or the acquisition of capital assets for the purposes for which the district is established as provided in this chapter.

(b) Each town school district, incorporated school district, unified union school district and city school district within the regional technical center school district shall vote on a decision to incur indebtedness for improvements as provided by chapter 53, subchapter 1 of Title 24. The vote shall be determined by Australian ballot or voting machine on the same day and during the same hours at each regular polling place in each town school district, incorporated school district, unified union school district and city school district within the regional technical center school district. Absentee voting in accordance with chapter 51, subchapter 6 of Title 17 shall be permitted. The board of civil authority of each town within the regional technical center school district shall be responsible for determining the eligibility of persons to vote, the supervision of the election and the transportation of ballots in its district to a central point designated by the governing board of the regional technical center school district. The ballots shall be commingled. Counting of ballots by representatives of the boards of civil authority of the towns in the regional technical center school district shall be supervised by the regional technical center school district clerk or his or her designee.

(c) Obligations incurred under chapter 53, subchapter 1 of Title 24 shall be the joint and several obligations of the regional technical center school district and of each of the town school districts, incorporated school districts, the member towns of unified union school districts and city school districts within the technical center region. Any joint or several liability incurred by a town school district, incorporated school district, the member towns of a unified union school district or city school district within the technical center region under the provisions of this subchapter shall not be considered in determining its debt limit for its own separate purposes.

Sec. 4. TECHNICAL CENTER PILOT PROJECTS

The following provisions apply to a technical center pilot project operating pursuant to Sec. 121a of Act No. 71 of the Acts of 1998 or Sec. 18 of Act No. 138 of the Acts of 1998:

(1) Notwithstanding 16 V.S.A. § 1572, a governing board of a pilot project or a planning committee endorsed by the governing board of a pilot project may be the planning committee for purposes of planning an alternative governance structure for a regional technical center pursuant to 16 V.S.A. chapter 37, subchapter 6A.

(2) If a governing board of a pilot project or a planning committee endorsed by the governing board does not apply for and receive approval of a new governance structure pursuant to Sec. 3 of this act by July 1, 2004, the technical center service region shall be governed under the provisions of chapter 37, subchapter 3 of Title 16 after that date.

Sec. 5. 16 V.S.A. § 3447 is amended to read:

§ 3447. SCHOOL BUILDING CONSTRUCTION–STATE BONDS; CITY AS SCHOOL DISTRICT

The state treasurer may issue bonds under chapter 13 of Title 32 in such amount as may from time to time be appropriated to assist incorporated school districts, joint contract school districts, town school districts, union school districts, regional technical center school districts and independent schools meeting public school standards which serve as the public high school for one or more towns or cities, or combination thereof, and which both receive their principal support from public funds and are conducted within the state under the authority and supervision of a board of trustees, not less than two-thirds of whose membership is appointed by the selectboard of a town or by the city council of a city or in part by such selectboard and the remaining part by such council under the conditions and for the purpose set forth in sections 3447-3456 of this title. A city shall be deemed to be an incorporated school district within the meaning of sections 3447-3456 of this title.

Sec. 6. REPEAL

16 V.S.A. § 1543, relating to union municipal district and interlocal contracts, is repealed.

Approved: May 30, 2001