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Oxbow Budget Restores Teacher

Residents in Bradford and Newbury, Vt., will vote on the 2014-2015 budget for Oxbow Union High School and several other articles by Australian ballot, on Tuesday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bradford voters will cast ballots at Bradford Academy while Newbury residents will go to the polls at the Town Offices. The annual Oxbow school floor meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 25 , at 8 p.m. in the high school auditorium. An informational meeting about the budget is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m., also in the school auditorium.

Bradford, Vt. — Oxbow Union High School would regain a physics teacher while spending nearly $30,000 less overall next school year under a budget that school officials will unveil to Bradford and Newbury residents next week.

They will also introduce the two finalists for the school’s new principal.

The Oxbow district is seeking almost $7.17 million one year after voters in the two towns rejected, by 5 votes, the budget of $7.3 million that school officials first proposed.

After the district school board cut $94,000, much of that sum by not replacing one of two retiring science teachers, voters then approved a $7.2-million package by 136 votes.

“We had to make some cuts in a variety of areas, like facilities, for this to work, but we made it a priority to cut nothing from programs that will affect students directly,” Beth Cobb, superintendent of the Orange East Supervisory Union, said on Friday. “After we did not fill the (science) position, we heard from the community that that was not the thing to do, so restoring that position became a priority.”

Cobb added that restoring the teaching position will allow the science department to offer more elective courses — much to the relief of former Oxbow science teacher Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who represents Orange-2 District, which includes Bradford and Newbury, in the Vermont House of Representatives.

“It is a very responsible budget and it seems the board is being more than responsive to concerns raised by taxpayers,” Copeland Hanzas, a 1988 graduate of the high school, said on Friday. “The science teachers this year have had a very challenging time teaching overloaded lab classrooms. Kudos to them for continuing to advocate for a robust science curriculum.”

Cobb said that the district would apply for federal grants to pay for teacher-development programs that the school itself would ordinarily pick up.

Also, the district is asking for less in the special-education budget, “looking at past history” of special-education enrollments to make modest cuts.

If the final package is approved, school officials expect the high school portion of the property tax rate in Bradford to rise about 6 cents to just shy of 80 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, and in Newbury about 7 cents to 77.5 cents per $100.

Those rates would add up to a bill of a little less than $2,000 for the owners of a house valued at $250,000 in Bradford and about $1,440 in Newbury.

“The first time the budget was proposed to the board with a higher tax rate to begin with, we went back for another look,” Cobb recalled. “(Assistant Superintendent) Keith Thompson and (retiring principal) Larry Walsh worked with the people at Oxbow on reducing the budget, and brought it back to the board.”

School officials will explain the final package Monday night at 7:30 in the high school auditorium, and voting will take place on March 25, along with an annual meeting at which voters will elect from the floor a school-district moderator, a treasurer, and a clerk.

Before the informational meeting on Monday, school officials at 6 will introduce the two remaining candidates for the principal’s position.

Walsh is resigning at the end of June upon the expiration of his two-year contract.

“They’ll be meeting the faculty and the students at the high school in the afternoon,” Cobb said. “They’re both pretty local — one is from Vermont and one is from right across the river in New Hampshire. We interviewed six candidates on March 6, five in person and one by Skype from Arizona.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.