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Windsor Central Unified Union School District a step closer to possible name change

Drew Tobiason, who has worked at the Woodstock Union High School and Middle School as a custodian for almost 30 years, scrubs the hallways in July in preparation for returning students. The Windsor Central Unified Union School District, a product of Act 46 supervisory union mergers, is considering a name that’s less of a mouthful. File photo by Jennifer Hauck/Valley News

Editor’s Note: This story by Frances Mize was first published by the Valley News on Nov. 17.

Vermont residents might not have to abbreviate the Windsor Central Unified Union School District anymore. The district, a product of Act 46 supervisory union mergers, is one step closer to a name that’s less of a mouthful.

A school board working group, tasked with exploring the rebranding, is down to a shortlist of three possible new names, if the district goes through with the name change at all.

“We want a name that better reflects who we are,” said Keri Bristow, the working group’s chair.

The choices currently under consideration are “the Mountain View School District,” “the Riverbank School District” and “the Calvin Coolidge School District.” The panel began with a long list of names suggested by students, then sent out a survey to the Listservs of all of the sending towns in the district, as well as its high school students and staff, before narrowing the choices to three.

Now it’s sent out another survey, seeking feedback before deciding on a recommendation to bring before the full School Board. The board would have to vote to make any change official.

WCUUSD’s pre-kindergarten through 12th grade student population comes from seven Vermont towns: Woodstock, Barnard, Bridgewater, Pomfret, Reading, Killington and Plymouth.

That list of towns, and the district’s unwieldy name, came together after the passage of Act 46 in 2015. Meant to account for towns that don’t have large enough populations to support their own high schools, Act 46 merged all of Vermont’s supervisory unions into a series of 11 unified districts to create “larger and more efficient school governance structures,” the state’s education website reads.

It also resulted in what some see as clunky jargon.

“We have a pretty generic supervisory union name now, and anything more unique would be wonderful,” said Aaron Cinquemani, principal of The Prosper Valley School, an elementary school in Pomfret. “This is an opportunity to provide student agency and voice, and I think that’s a great way of reaching that decision.”

A name in the vein of the White River Valley Supervisory Union would make more sense, said Bryce Sammel, a district School Board member.

“It represents towns on the White River or on branches of the river,” he said. “Windsor Central Unified Union School District, as a name, doesn’t really mean anything to anybody from any of our towns.”

Residents’ demand for a new district name was tepid in the survey. Just under half of the respondents said they were “neutral” when it comes to a switch, and those who felt strongly about the issue — in either direction — were tied.

But the district is due for renaming expenses whether it stays WCUUSD or not. Bristow, the School Board chair, noted that almost all of the branding for the school still reads as “Windsor Central Supervisory Union,” an artifact from the days before Act 46, so it will need to overhaul it anyway.

“Change is hard,” she said, referencing the “uproar” caused this summer when Suicide Six, a ski area in Pomfret, changed its name to Saskadena Six.

Bristow added that down the road the district is also set to discuss a mascot change, following the passage of a law last March that prohibits school mascots that stereotype a race, gender or sexual orientation. Woodstock Union High School’s mascot is the Wasps.

“But this all has to be done as a balance,” she said.

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