EAST MONTPELIER — A lame duck School Board embraced the beginning of its end on Monday.

Though East Montpelier school directors will meet two more times before surrendering operational responsibility of their pre-K-6 school system on July 1, Monday’s meeting marked the last time they’ll huddle in the library at East Montpelier Elementary School.

That explained the five hanging flower baskets — one for each board member — that were waiting when they arrived and the five framed photographs signed by the school’s faculty and staff that each unwrapped as the meeting was drawing to a close.

It also explained the parting gift they gave Principal Alicia Lyford and the parting message they agreed to relay to a new 10-member board that was elected Tuesday.

That board will soon assume responsibility for elementary schools in East Montpelier, Berlin, Calais, Middlesex and Worcester, as well as jointly owned U-32 Middle and High School.

Two members of the East Montpelier board were expected to be elected to the new merged board on Tuesday and one of them — Chairwoman Flor Diaz-Smith — urged members to send a tone-setting message to the panel that will meet for the first time this afternoon at U-32.

School directors struggled some with the wording, before ultimately settling on a brief expression of appreciation and a little well-wishing.

Though Diaz-Smith was initially looking for something more than “thanks for serving” and “good luck,” she accepted that her call for an expression of “support” was more than fellow board members felt comfortable with.

School Director Stephen Looke was one of them.

Looke was a strong proponent of the supervisory union-wide merger years before it was ordered by the state, but said he would reserve support for a board that hadn’t yet been elected or seated until after he had something specific to react to.

“I don’t know what’s been proposed yet,” he said. “I might not support it.”

Looke and others said they were comfortable communicating their shared hope that the new board will maintain strong schools and build on the work of the boards it will replace.

“‘Thanks for being willing to carry on the work and good luck,’” Looke said, taking a stab at language befitting a passing of the torch.

The brief conversation occurred during a somewhat melancholy meeting held on the eve of Tuesday’s first-ever election in the Washington Central Unified Union School District.

“This is a sad day for me,” Lyford said, thanking board members for their service.

The feeling of impending ending was evident from the outset. School Director Lindy Johnson, who, like Diaz-Smith, was running unopposed to represent East Montpelier on the new board, got it going when she wondered whether members should take their name placards home with them.

Lyford, who sat in for Superintendent Bill Kimball, said she didn’t see why not because they wouldn’t be used again.

The board’s next two meetings — one to weigh in on the hiring of an interim superintendent and the other to determine how much projected fund balance to squirrel away in a capital fund for the local school — will be held at U-32.

Barring an unexpected development, the only other time the board will meet will be to accept the audit for the soon-to-end fiscal year before disbanding.

david.delcore @timesargus.com

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