Cooperative Education Services (H.630) - April 24, 2024

Stephanie Betit-Hancock (Director of Student Support Services, Windham Central Supervisory Union) offered to outline their work and why they support the BOCES bill to the Senate Education Committee on Friday afternoon.

The VT Learning Cooperative was established six years ago and approached the Superintendents about the existing form and some minor assets. This was described as a “huge amount of volunteer effort” to set up the collaborative as it is currently operating. The process was challenging (without a BOCES statute). 

Betit-Hancock sees the BOCES Bill as a better process than the maintenance of a 501(c3), she pointed to the administration of employee benefits that take time and staff. It takes away from dedication to students at supervisory unions, so they seek to take up the slack where they provide services. With technical assistance, model bylaws, charters, and grant funds, the new BOCES will not have to re-invent the wheel so much they did.

Kim Oliveira (Executive Director, Vermont Learning Collaborative) reviewed her basic resume of 28 years in public education and most recently as Executive Director for eleven years at a public collaborative in Massachusetts. “So, it kind of goes without saying that I am here to fully support the BOCES bill,” she stated.

She believes that this formal structure will be better than the ad-hoc version that has partially formed today. “If you know the need for regional partnerships is out there, why wouldn’t you do this,” she questioned.

Senator Gulick noted that they are hearing the Agency of Education (AOE) may not have capacity and wonder what they see as the proper role for them. Oliveira responded that AOE will have “some hand in oversight” and will evolve along with the emerging BOCES. Capacity actually works backwards, she argued, meaning that they will take some pressure off AOE long-term.

Gulick also wondered about the fear of adding “more bureaucracy” to the mix. Oliveira disagreed with the perception that AOE would be a “clearinghouse” for BOCES.  Regional Service Agencies, as she terms them, facilitates the requests (for supplies/services) and school districts can call AOE and say “we are struggling with these supplies and services.” They can then be referred to whatever BOCES is working in that area.

During the discussion, it was noted that Massachusetts has had these for 40-50 years and began with specialized programs for students. 2012 Articles of Agreement there are the model pretty much from H.630.

Senator Weeks was enthusiastic about the testimony and asked about the scale of Massachusetts models (25 or so RSAs there). Oliveira explained that there were 25 or so there, it was unclear how many schools or districts each provided for, however.

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