Board Reports

2024 Reports

Lifting Student Learning


Mini Grants

As part of the The Faculty Master Agreement, the Board makes available up to (5) mini-grants for the purpose of improving student instruction. The amount of each grant is limited to a maximum of three thousand dollars ($3000) each, and I administer the program.


In the fall, teachers are notified about the grant criteria and are invited to apply. The grants support teachers with implementing new and creative practices designed to engage students in different ways. The Leadership Team reviews applications and awards the grants by the end of October. Recently the recipients provided me with an update of how their grant funds were utilized. 


From Stephanie Teleen - MES MLL Teacher

Stephanie received a grant to order a set of picture books and journals for PreK students. These were sent home each week with instructions to parents for using at home.  Since the pre-k classes do not take home library books, this program has created a stronger home/school connection through reading. 


The parents loved reading the books with their students and writing in the journals and the pre-k teachers agree that we have achieved the goals outlined for this program. This program has accomplished the following:

  • We have parents actively engaged in literacy activities with their students and with the school (this project is a form of parent outreach)
  • As the journals go around to each house, parents read what other parents/students have written. This creates a more connected and engaged parent community. It gives parents thoughts about how to engage with their child while reading the thoughts and observations of other parents
  • Teachers gain a specific opportunity to view how parents engage with their students at home, which opens up opportunities to support parents in meaningful ways.

 

From Rebecca Paskiet - MES MLL Teacher

Rebecca received a grant to sponsor Milton Runs. Funding was spent on game supplies (cones, balls, etc.); journals for goal setting and journal entries; water bottles and bags to ensure each student could carry water and their Milton Runs clothing; t-shirts and medals for the 5k race; and sneakers and running clothing for students in need of appropriate wear.


Milton Runs focuses on positive mind and body movement to prepare for a culminating 5k run/walk on MES school grounds. The program also focuses on building social-emotional skills, team-building skills, positive self-talk, encouraging peer talk, and all-around strengthening positive connections in the MES community. 


This year, 29 3rd and 4th graders were impacted by Milton Runs over the course of 6 weeks (4/16-5/30). Also, 5 5th and 6th grade students who previously participated in Milton Runs applied for and were invited to be assistant coaches. As assistant coaches, these 5th and 6th-grade students act as leaders to their peers and take on many responsibilities for Milton Runs, including helping to plan lessons, leading parts of lessons and games, setting an example for the 3rd and 4th-grade participants, and acting as mentors to motivate and support all Milton Runs participants. We also have 11 adults (comprised of teachers, parents, and community members) participating as coaches this year. Last year, 31 3rd and 4th graders participated, 5 5th and 6th graders were assistant coaches, and 10 adults volunteered as coaches.


From Joe Smith - MMS Special Educator

Joe received a grant for five cameras. Through this grant, students learned how to use a DSLR camera. They also learned about the fundamentals of taking a good photograph. As a result, MMS was able to run a photography club. Students learned how to take high quality photos for their yearbook. The cameras will be valuable for the Yearbook Club for years to come and they may also be used for other special projects. The hope is that students will develop an interest in photography that may lead to careers that use cameras in the future. 


From Wes Perkins-Poloes, MHS Science Teacher

Wes used his grant award to begin a Sewing Club at Milton High School. The sewing club had a wonderful start! It has provided students with enriching experiences as well as an opportunity to learn new skills while strengthening their community. Students have been actively creating their own sewing projects, as well as learning to read patterns to guide them through the process of creating textiles. The Sewing Club has fostered a sense of community among students of diverse backgrounds and grade levels strengthening their communication and teamwork skills. Beyond learning sewing techniques, students have been required to incorporate math and geometry skills into their projects making connections between what they are learning in math class and how those skills are applied in real world examples. The sewing club has empowered students to become well-rounded individuals who can use these skills both in and outside of the classroom. 


Leadership Learning

The VSA Spring Conference was held on May 16 and 17 in Burlington. In addition to superintendents across the State, this conference also includes Directors of Teaching and Learning and Student Services. This year’s theme was Cultivating Innovation: Inclusive and Future Focused Schools. There was a keynote speaker from Novak Education, a consulting organization that has been used widely across the State to support leadership and teacher training in evidence based teaching practices to meet the needs of diverse learners.  Mirko Chardin, used his personal narrative to inspire attendees collective action for the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that is culturally and linguistically responsive. I then attended two workshops related to leading by example in growth, reflection, ownership, and accountability to shift the culture around teacher growth. I was able to learn from other District Leaders and explore tools and practices that improve systems and build trust through focused models of growth for teaching and learning. 


Recently I also attended a webinar sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Although AI has existed in many formats, the introduction of tools and platforms in education like GPChat, Chat Sonic, Google Bard… are becoming widely accessible and thus used. As with many new technology related tools and platforms, the understanding and impact of its use - challenges and benefits often follow initial exploration and use. As a result, State leaders and School Districts scramble to draft policy and develop practices to ensure that privacy and safety is protected and that all stakeholders are educated in appropriate use. The webinar shared the important work that is happening Nationally to support schools in managing IA in terms of policy and practice including other opportunities to learn about IA.   

 

Before I begin my report, I would like to publicly acknowledge and express my deepest gratitude for our teachers. This week is teacher appreciation week and I am endlessly in awe of all our teachers - their expertise, creativity and love and devotion to student learning and well being. Our children are our future and we want the schools to be the pride and joy of the community. It is always my hope that our time and energy is spent supporting our teachers and students and ensuring our schools are the best they can be for our community. 

 

Historical Context

Last 5 years, we have been making adjustments to the leadership models in each school and designing staffing structures to best meet the needs of students and staff. All schools have reported that never have they felt so supported by administrators as they have this year in terms of both student behavior and teaching and learning. 

 

The existing structure was developed over a period of 5 years, and every phase was always presented publicly and supported by data, research, and a look to the future in terms of succession planning. The Board approved all changes. All of these changes were cost neutral in the design phase. 

 

In recent meetings, there have been many assumptions, concerns and questions presented regarding administrators. We have heard comments either comparing us to structures that existed decades ago or to the structures of other schools. We have heard comments stating what Principals do along with questions asking for us to outline what principals do. 

 

In order to keep my comments brief, I will highlight a few simple facts:

What School Administrators Do

  1. The Principal’s formal job description is 5 pages and includes duties and responsibilities under 9 categories
    1. Organizational Leadership
    2. Personnel Management
    3. Instructional Leadership
    4. Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
    5. Student Management
    6. Operational Management
    7. Safe and Effective Learning Environments
    8. Partnerships and Community Relations
    9. Federal and State Compliance

Contrary to the belief that they are only responsible for communications with the public, the budget, teacher evaluation and development, an administrators job is very comprehensive especially since the onset of the State’s school report card and other newer legal requirements. Teachers may generally be responsible for classroom behavior; however, they are not able to investigate or make decisions regarding level 3 and 4 behaviors including - policy violations related to drugs and alcohol, weapons, HHB or Title IX to name a few.  

 

Good Ole Day Comparisons

  1. Our society has changed dramatically in the last 10 years and so has education. We do not expect hospitals or other institutions that serve the community to operate as they did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
  2. Several significant changes in just the last 2 to 10 years include:
    1. Federal and State compliance regulations for student safety, particularly related to Hazing, Bullying, Harassment; Title IX and Sexual Harassment; Restraint and Seclusion, and Threat Assessments all of which require Administrator responses
    2. Federal and State compliance regulations and new reporting related to building safety - building access, response to critical incidents and digital protection of privacy information
    3. State School Report Card - a means to measure school performance along with required school responses if a school is not meeting expected standards. This includes the progress of vulnerable populations. We have a growing number of vulnerable students in Milton - students in poverty, multi-language students, students with disabilities, truant students, unaccompanied youth and students experiencing homelessness. Resources must equate to need not just numbers. 

 

District to District Comparison

Superintendents in Chittenden, Grand Isle, Franklin and Addison County meet for a full day each month and we communicate throughout the month. We have an understanding of each other's resources and structures. Simple comparisons for the number of Principals and Assistant Principals school to school is not an accurate measure of administrator resources available to a school. Let me give a few examples.

  1. Some districts have full scale alternative programs that have their own administrators separate from the host school. We do not operate an alternative school program.
  2. Some districts have a full time District Director of Students Services plus one in every school - the equivalent of 5-10 administrators. We have one Director and one Assistant for the entire district.
  3. Some districts have Lead Principals or Principal Supervisors who serve like Assistant Superintendents. We do not. 
  4. Some districts have District Equity Directors or School Compliance Directors who either conduct the Title IX investigations and/or write the reports. We do not - it is the role of the Principal. 

 

Every decision / action will have an impact and I would be remiss in not outlining the impact of this second round of reductions which includes 2 additional administrators bringing the total to 3. The impact of administrator reductions becomes even greater as other resources dwindle. Simply, everything is connected to student learning and the student experience.

Around the State

Approximately 44 superintendents from around the state gathered last week to meet with members of the House Education Committee and the House Ways and Means. In addition to hearing updates on the status of the education related crossover bills, we spent considerable time engaging in a dialogue related to Education Funding. Given the time and attention this topic is receiving in the general assembly, it is challenging to keep abreast of the most recent developments. Below is a snapshot of what the superintendents heard from State leaders. 


Seemingly there are two schools of thought with many perspectives existing along a broad continuum as to what to do next. The consistent thread is that the current state of education funding has taken years to create. It is no one entity’s fault and all parties must take responsibility for it - Montpelier, School Districts, Communities and Local Control. There is agreement that the firestorm this year was created by a convergence of factors. including:

  1. Increase in health care coverage
  2. Drops in the Common Level of Appraisal due to large discrepancies between Property Values and Sales
  3. Unfunded school mandates that the legislature has been piling on over the course of many years
  4. The expectation over time that schools become systems prepared to educate students and adequately support mental and physical health needs 
  5. Jump in salary increases
  6. The sunset of ESSER dollars
  7. Declining enrollment
  8. Aging facilities that come with a 6.4 billion dollar estimate to adequately address

There is also agreement that there is no quick fix. Although wide-spread failed school budgets may have sent a message to Montpelier on Town Meeting Day, continuing to vote no will not result in a sweeping change. Continuing to vote no may cause more community harm than good at this point. 


Foremost, schools have a very limited capacity to drastically influence the tax rate and what little influence they do have comes at a significant cost to existing school programming. A defeated budget deflates morale at a time when maintaining high quality staffing is already a challenge. It splits boards and communities who are often at odds for where to go next in terms of reducing programing and services for students. A budget takes months to prepare. Strategizing for revised budget votes takes additional time and resources away from current operations of the school day. Conducting a revote costs money. Finally, it limits Montpelier’s ability to make informed decisions this session. The Legislature relies on approved budgets to calculate the amount of money the Education Fund needs. This is how they determine if other revenue sources should be used to compensate for gaps, and where to set the yield. 


What’s Next - Schools of Thought From Montpelier

  1. Quick fix for this session - buy down the tax rate versus just ride this year out
  2. Short term external tools for subsequent years
    1. New ballot language
    2. Reinstate excess cost penalty
    3. Adjust income sensitivity 
  3. Long term overhaul
    1. Design a vision for the future of education in VT
      1. Take the legislators out of it
      2. Establish a task force of educations with real experience and put substantial resources behind it
      3. Plans might include
        1. School system and governance size
        2. The role of schools
        3. Statewide supports and the future of the AOE
    2. Establish a funding plan to support that vision

Operations

Software Conversion

The MTSD is in the final phase of our financial conversion project from NEMRC to Tyler IV ERP Pro. At the end of March, I received a note from the Tyler  Project Manager stating that she was excited to report that MTSD Business Manager, Krista Chadwick, and her team were doing an amazing job, and that their success is possible because they plan ahead for the data retrievals, are active participants in every training and are completing their tasks between the trainings. As a result, our Business Office Team was awarded with a recognition of excellence award and gift for their efforts. 

 

Below are the highlights of the  district's financial conversion project to date. 

  • Completion of three of the six data conversion projects. These include general ledger, vendors and payroll. The last three are human resource data, accounts receivable, and general fixed assets.
  • Linked the general ledger account offsets to each of the payroll liability accounts (employee portion) and the payroll expense accounts (employer portion). 
  • Creation of payroll pay cycles, work calendars, and pay and salary calendars for all of the various union and non-union contracts and positions. Each of the school district's employees will be attached to these items in April. 
  •  Creation of benefit leave plans and deductions. 

Along with general cleanup of the data converted to date, the Business Office and HR will be maintaining both NEMRC and ERP Pro of any new chart of accounts, new vendors or new hires. Next month they begin working with Frontline to be able to build a time card interface with the new financial software. This includes a conversion of the human resource data from its stand alone program in an Access database. When completed, it will be the first time the school district will have human resources and payroll in the same financial system. 

Grants

We are currently managing 31 grants. Although some of these grants have been fully expended, financial reporting is still active until the next audit cycle is complete. Approximately 24 grants are operational in terms of new strategy development and existing strategy drawdowns.


All our summer programming is paid through grants. Currently, the Leadership Team is busy planning the logistics of these programs. In addition, Matt and I are spending a great deal of time preparing documents in order to submit an ARP-ESSER Grant amendment for our final set of facility indoor air quality projects.  The greatest challenge is that time is of the essence, yet we are at the mercy of outside organizations in terms of EPA and AOE plan approval, updated design plans and bid documentation. It is our hope that the last of our ARP-ESSER dollars will cover the Milton Innovation PCB Remediation, HVAC, and Outdoor Classroom.

Lifting Student Learning


Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA)

It is that time of year again when educators district-wide engage in the CNA; this is a process that helps us revise our State required Continuous Improvement Plan and set goals specific to student needs. The process is led by the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and the Director of Data and Assessment. It begins with the Leadership Team and then moves to the school level with Principals, their Curriculum Team Leaders, and teachers. The process includes looking at a variety of data sets and participating in protocols that determine where and why growth or performance gaps exist. The District and each school then set specific goals and identify the strategies and resources necessary to address the gaps.  


Equity Support

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that each State measure and report out on student performance. The Vermont Annual Snapshot is a quantitative look at each school’s performance of the VT Education Quality Standards (EQS). There are five domains aligned with EQS: 

  1. Academic Proficiency
  2. Personalization
  3. High Quality Staffing
  4. Safe and Healthy Schools
  5. Investment Priorities

Each domain has a set of quality indicators some of which have multiple measures and weights. The Snapshot also measures schools’ success in meeting Vermont’s Equity priorities. The VT School Snapshot can be found HERE


In the Annual Snapshot, equity refers to those students who have been historically underserved in school compared to their more privileged peers based on factors such as economic status, race and/or ethnicity, gender as well as English Learners, Students with Disabilities, Migrant Students, and Homeless students. This year is the first year since the Snapshot has been in place (2018) that schools were identified as needing Equity Support. The State has 3 levels of Equity Support:

  1. Notification and Improvement
  2. Targeted Support and Improvement
  3. Comprehensive Support and Improvement

To identify the Equity Level for schools, Vermont calculates the “Equity Gap” between each student demographic group and the comparison group using the summative score generated in the overall school assessment. The “Current Score” for each historically marginalized subgroup is subtracted from the corresponding “Current Score” for the comparison group. This number becomes the “Equity Gap” for each student group. The “Year-to-Year Score” is the aggregate change between the current year from last

year for the Equity Gap. “Year-to-Year” scores are calculated by subtracting last year’s “Equity Gap” score from the corresponding score for the current year. 

 

Our District identification is Equity 1 and includes, 

  1. District - IEP and Historically Marginalized Students
  2. MES - Free/Reduced Lunch and IEP
  3. MMS - Free/Reduced Lunch and IEP
  4. MHS - Historically Marginalized Students

As a result of the identification, we must include in our State Required Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP) goals that address each school’s areas along with evidenced-based strategies for closing the margins. As we go through the CNA process, the district and each school will be looking closely at the data through an equity lens. 

 

Around the State


New Secretary of Education 

On Friday, March 22nd Governor Phil Scott announced the new Secretary of Education. Zoie Saunders was named. Her most recent positions were in Florida where she served as Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer and Chief Education Officer. VT has a unique culture and this is the first time a Secretary of Education has been named who is not directly affiliated with VT. Since Secretary Holcombe resigned in 2018, a clear vision for VT Education has waned. More than ever strong leadership is needed at the State level so that the VT Education system can thrive. 


Legislative Update

It has been a strange legislative year thus far. Although several significant and important bills are floating around, the focus on education funding has blurred the importance of and attention to these bills. Yet, crossover occurred on March 15, 2024 with little notice of what remains hot. 

 

One bill that superintendents are watching closely is S.204. This bill is related to literacy and comes with an additional set of reporting requirements for school districts. Other bills of interest and attention include those related to School Construction and Career and Technical Education. The next Superintendent All Members meeting is on April 4. In part, we will review the status of all bills that have potential for becoming law. 

Lifting Student Learning

  1. MMS is in its second year of training in the development and use of Literacy Profiles to effectively support under prepared readers. Through the administration of various assessments, literacy specialists and special educators have completed literacy profiles for each under prepared reader. The profiles outline:
    1. The characteristics of the specific reading challenge(s)
    2. Interventions to consider and best practices for progress monitoring
    3. Classroom considerations - what strategies should be used in the classroom to support skill development.

The training is now focused on the delivery of targeted interventions through small group and individual instruction during WIN blocks. Additionally, reading specialists and special educators have begun to collaborate with team teachers as to how they too can support skill development across the curriculum for identified students. As the research shows, whenever practitioners expand their own capacity to support under prepared learners, it helps to advance all skill levels.   

  1. MES Instructional Coaches in partnership with our math and literacy consultants - PLN and PLL, continue to support the implementation of the new math and literacy curricula. Teachers are provided training during early release time as well as weekly support in planning and instructional feedback.  Additionally, through their monthly newsletters, MES coaches reinforce important concepts while also featuring teacher’s work. January - MES Coaches Corner
  2. At all levels, graded and content teams are reviewing the Winter STAR reading and math results and identifying next steps for classroom instruction. 
  3. Meanwhile the Leadership Team and  Instructional Coaches are working with our Literacy and Math consultants to fine tune changes and push points for intervention models that can be done from now until the end of the year to improve student outcomes.
  4. Finally, Principals have begun the process of instructional rounds focused on math. Instructional Rounds are designed to look at the system as a whole with a principal from each school participating together. Rounds take place at one school and include a variety of observations, document reviews, and a principal consultancy protocol. Rounds provide participants an opportunity to learn from authentic contexts, press instructional content thinking and build a professional community. Instructional Rounds do not provide feedback to teachers and they are not evaluative. 

District Operations

The MTSD is finally amid the financial conversion project from NEMRC to Tyler IV ERP Pro. To date, the business office has participated in several training sessions and successfully completed assigned project tasks. 

  1. Updated all of MTSD’s chart of accounts to meet the AOE’s unified chart of accounts.
  2. Reviewed the vendors list in NEMRC and forwarded the list to Tyler for set up.
  3. Identified current and future state analysis to build in as many software efficiencies as possible while weighing MTSD's organizational core values, policies, and procedures. 

The team is currently in the process of setting up all of the accounting users, the necessary cost centers, and each user's security level. This should be completed by the end of the week. Eventually, they will begin to set up the employee portal that will allow employees to access all their payroll and benefit information. The project is on schedule with a July 1, 2024 start date.


Legislative Update

On Thursday, February 1, the VT Superintendents Association held their winter all members meeting. Prior to turning our attention to the legislative session and ACT 127 primarily, we heard from three districts doing innovative work related to staff resiliency; social emotional competencies; and specialized programming to address students’ social emotional, behavioral and mental health. It is always helpful to learn from colleagues Statewide who are grappling with the same conditions and challenges in education.


Typically at the Winter All Members meeting we hear about the various types of education bills that are being proposed. Although we touched upon a few briefly, our time was primarily focused on ACT 127. We heard from representatives Conlon (Education) and Kornheiser (Ways and Means). They specifically focused on the 5% cap which is not playing out as intended. They outlined three possible scenarios:

  1. All or most budgets pass and there is a strain on the Education Fund ($40 million more than anticipated in December) and the yield gets set such that property taxes would be sharply different from what districts estimated. The result is that taxpayers feel duped and/or can’t pay.
  2. Most or many budgets fail. However, even if districts reduce budgets in preparation for a revote because of the cap there will still be no significant difference in the tax rate. Districts lose and there is still no relief for taxpayers. 
  3. Change the 5% capping mechanism. It was suggested that the districts that have experienced the greatest loss (maybe the top 4-6 districts) in weighted pupils would get a discount on the tax rate for the next 5 years (e.g. $0.10 in year one, $0.08 in year two, etc). This recreates the relationship between spending and taxes. 

It was also suggested the Districts might want to revisit their budget and re-warn their vote. The Legislature would give “permission” and may even provide assistance for reprinting ballots.  When asked about who would cover the tax buffer, they responded that it would be the ‘other’ districts. 


By the time this report is shared - February 8, it is likely that there will be additional information regarding the direction of the legislature with ACT 127. This has truly become an emergency situation. State legislators are in a bind and desperately throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Unfortunately, the handful of districts and towns - in the middle (including Milton), may get burned.

Lifting Student Learning

In part, the MTSD Vision of Learning articulates the following Theory of Action:

If the MTSD: 

  • Engages all students in a personalized learning education, 
  • Ensures there are effective teachers, leaders, and school staff at every level of the organization focused on improving student outcomes, 
  • Enlists its partners and engages families in a local and global school community approach, and 
  • Holds itself accountable through strong performance and sound fiscal management 

Then, every MTSD learner will be challenged and supported to reach their highest potential and be prepared for success as an engaged citizen locally and globally. 


Public education has been viewed for centuries as the means to advance a democratic society. It instills knowledge - yes; however, it also promotes critical thinking - the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information to form a judgment. It promotes discourse - the ability to listen, have an open mind and thoughtfully respond, and to express a judgment while arguing or acknowledging the ideas of others. It promotes advocacy - the ability to take action to improve something you believe in. 


The portrait of a Milton Graduate includes becoming a citizen. One of the five Citizen tenet states, to understand and exercise their rights and responsibility within a democratic society. This does not happen in a vacuum. This does not happen naturally. As a learning organization, allowing students to learn and practice in a supportive manner is paramount. In doing so, adults serve many roles - encouragers, motivators, guides, mentors, coaches, and most importantly, exemplars. If adults belittle or oppose students for trying out their developing citizenship skills then this may counter the purpose of education and silence the voices of our future.  


It is the mission of the MTSD to empower all members to be resilient and passionate learners who are engaged locally and globally through inclusive and reflective practices. By giving students opportunities to practice citizenship and by giving them guidance and encouragement, we allow them to explore their new ideas, develop their beliefs and values, exercise their voice and take action in safe and structured ways. We empower them through inclusive and reflective practices to become citizens. This is a school and community responsibility.



Legislative Update

The 2024 Legislative Session is now underway. The Champlain Valley Superintendents met with regional legislators on Monday, January 22nd to share our perspectives on a variety of legislative topics:

  1. Education Funding
    1. Detriment of including factors beyond the control of districts - like the CLA, to the education funding formula
    2. Unanticipated consequences of Act 127 
  2. Facilities  
    1. School Construction Aid
    2. PCBs
  3. Career and Technical Education
    1. Multiple governance structures Statewide
    2. Complex funding model
    3. Transportation
    4. Absence of common graduation requirements
  4. Health and Human Services
    1. Absence of funding and services in communities with growing needs

ACT 127

The intent of Act 127 was to bring a more balanced approach to the distribution of funding across school districts ensuring that schools with greater needs were adequately resourced. This distribution would mean that historically well resourced or wealthier districts would require a tax increase to support a FY25 budget that would be the same as their FY24 one.   


One aspect of the law - the 5% tax cap, was included to help affected districts manage the tax increase. For example, in Milton our Education Spending tax increase is 7.3%; however, we are capped at 5% to help us make adjustments over time without decimating programming or over burdening tax payers.


However, the implementation of the law is not turning out as planned. Two factors of the Education Funding formula - the new Student Weights and the Common Level of Appraisal have not played out as predicted. As a result, some districts have figured out that they can add millions of dollars to their budgets and take advantage of the 5% cap without changing the tax rate for their community.


For example, with the new funding formula the estimated tax rate for Milton is 16.8%. We could have added 2 million more dollars to our budget and the tax rate would still be 16.8%. We did not, because this is not the intent of the law. 


The actions of other districts are concerning to many. The money that districts are adding to their budgets - mostly for capital projects or to extend ESSER funding, will need to be absorbed by other communities and will put an immense strain on the State Education Fund.


On Thursday, January 25th, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance will host a hearing for the General Assembly on the topic. It is our hope that action will be taken to address the problem. Otherwise, Milton will be at risk of losing programming at the expense of other towns. 


Vermont Digger has issued an explanatory article of the problem and possible next steps for addressing it. 

2023 Reports

Lifting Student Learning

Leadership Professional Learning

The specific ways in which we carry out this work year to year - both as a District and at each school, is articulated in the MTSD State approved Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP). Each District Leader - Superintendent, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Data and Assessment, and Director of Students Services plays a distinct role in supporting each of the schools in carrying out their CIP.


Each year, the District Office Leadership identifies areas of focus toward supporting school improvement. These goals are an extension of daily responsibilities and are designed specifically to provide building administration with support, tools and technical assistance to successfully attain their building based goals. 


In the previous two years, both district and school leaders completed the Instructional Leadership Academy (ILA) through the Center of Educational Leadership out of Washington University. This professional development, using a learning lab model, introduced structures that allow administrators to engage teachers and support staff to learn, work and grow together so that we can improve our professional practices and increase student achievement. As an extension of this work, I participated in the Principal Supervisor’s Academy through the same organization and sponsored by the American Association of School Superintendents. Like the ILA, I was introduced to an approach that  guides and supports the principals to identify student learning problems, related teacher problems of practice and the principal actions necessary to engage in instructionally focused interactions with teachers that result in improved student outcomes. This year, I am implementing this practice with two of the principals.


Given the success and popularity of this training, the Vermont Superintendents Association is sponsoring a District Leadership Academy that similarly focuses on the role of district leaders in supporting continuous improvement in schools. Both Director of Curriculum, Lynne Manley and Director of Students Services, Timothy Dunn are participating in this year-long intensive training. Given that this is a learning lab model, through the support of an assigned Center for Educational Leadership coach, they are each working with one principal to learn and grow this practice.


Math

In my last report I provided an overview of district-wide work related to math. The MTSD Leadership Team is using its attention on math to strengthen our instructional leadership skills - both as individuals and as a team. Throughout November and December, we are taking time to conduct a school by school analysis of math teaching and learning. Collectively, we are examining what leaders have been doing to improve teacher practice and student outcomes in math, discussing the effectiveness of structures like coaching, consultation and professional learning community meetings, drawing connections between these actions and structures and the data, and identifying next steps. 




Operations

Education Funding

On November 15th, the VSBA and VSA co-hosted a webinar for superintendents and board members related to the factors impacting school FY25 budget planning. These include: 

  1. The conclusion of the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) - Unfortunately schools have just begun to see the benefits of their ESSER funds especially in terms of student learning and social emotional and mental health. The MTSD will need to be both thoughtful and creative in maintaining the level of student support while staying fiscally responsible. 
  2. Inflation and the housing market - Milton is fortunate in that the recent reappraisal has stabilized the Common Level of Appraisal lessening the impact of the education fund calculation. Unfortunately inflation especially in health care, transportation and other contract services and building repairs is adding from 7-15 percent to budget expenditures without adding any additional staff or services.  
  3. Declining populations - although the Milton average daily membership has stayed steady for the last couple of years, declining populations statewide impacts the overall State Education Fund distribution. 
  4. The conditions of school facilities - the Capital Reserve fund has limited capacity to take care of the extensive, end of life infrastructure needs of our buildings; therefore a larger scale investment will need to be considered.   
  5. ACT 127 - the impact of the new VT Education Funding formula was explained at the November 2nd meeting. The presentation can be viewed HERE. In addition, the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office recently released a Education Finance and Pupil Weights FAQ.

Facilities Assessment

As part of ACT 72, the VT Agency of Education completed the first statewide facilities assessment for all public school buildings. The assessment marks the beginning of the State’s involvement in supporting the management for safe and equitable access to high quality learning opportunities for all students. The assessments were conducted by Bureau Veritas from Maryland. It entailed districts completing a set of questionnaires and a 1 day visit by a Bureau Veritas representative. The information was then compiled into a template so that each district’s report looks the same.


We recently received our assessments and have until December 8, 2023 to review them and submit a form to VT AOE to request corrections for any major errors. Director of Operations, Matt Grasso and Director of Facilities will review the assessments compared to 2021 MTSD Facilities Evaluation to identify any major discrepancies. 


Policy  

The MTSD Wellness Committee administered the required triennial assessment earlier this month. It included both surveys and interviews with representatives from Child Nutrition Services; Health Services and Health and Physical Education; Classroom Teachers; Administrators; Students; and Families.


The committee met on November 16 to begin reviewing the results. At the next meeting, the committee will begin to draft recommendations based on the results.

Lifting Student Learning

Math

The MTSD uses a District Curriculum Teacher Leader (DCTL) approach to review and revise curriculum; support the implementation of that curriculum; and monitor it. Over the last two years, the MTSD Math DCTL developed criteria based on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, researched and assessed proposed new programs, and conducted pilots in all three schools. After this process, they selected Open Up Resources by Illustrative Math for K-8, and Math Medic for 9-12. These programs support teachers in implementing evidence-based instruction in mathematics.


A full implementation of these programs has begun. To ensure that teachers are supported, and students are learning at their highest possible achievement there are both District and School level structures in place:

  1. Mathematics Best Practices: MTSD Instructional Handbook - This is a DCTL project; it is designed to be a central document that brings coherence to the implementation of the new K-12 math programs. It is in the final stage of editing and should be ready to share with all teachers in early winter.
  2. Math Coaching - direct support to teachers for both planning and providing instruction. 
  3. Math Consultation from PLN - provides evidenced-based professional development, including a course for new teachers; on-site observation of instruction and feedback to teachers; and math team meeting facilitation support. 
  4. Math Professional Learning Communities - teacher facilitated agendas that examine assessment data and problems of practice, program challenges, and rubric development.
  5. Data Snaps - a means to collect data across the system to monitor implementation and alignment of programming from a systems perspective.
  6. Math Data Sessions - small group and school wide sessions to analyze student data for action planning.

Teacher Professional Learning

As Lynne Manley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, explained in her recent presentation to the Board, part of the VT Education Quality Standards and a component of the VT Multi-Tiered System of Supports Framework is embedded professional learning. This occurs throughout the school day - both during teacher planning time and with real time consultation during instruction with the support of coaches and consultants, and it happens during the early release time. Recently, I was able to participate in several MMS sessions in which teachers were given a mini-lesson on formative assessment along with planning tools and then time to collaborate with colleagues on formative assessment development. I was also able to participate in the MES book study - Principles to Action: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Faculty participants spanning grades PreK-3, discussed the different ways they applied - or might apply the instructional principles from the book in their classroom. This group especially appreciates the opportunity to discuss and learn about math instruction across the various grade levels.




Operations / Governance

School Safety

The VT AOE, VT School Safety Center and the VT School Board Association convened recently to address the discrepancies between the State guidance and the model policy for school preparedness drills. As a result, new guidance for school preparedness drills has been issued and a new model policy will be drafted and shared with districts in the near future. The drill guidance is much clearer and the MTSD is up to date on all required drills. The VT AOE has also released a new drill assurance tool that requires superintendents to submit the date and type of required drill monthly. The MTSD Safety Committee met on October 16 to review the new guidance and update our documents. We also previewed a new Crisis Communication App. The application would allow a much quicker and streamlined means to communicate within and across schools as well with the community in the event of a critical incident. The next step is to invite the company in for a more comprehensive demo and pursue grant opportunities for funding.


Wellness Committee

The MTSD Wellness Committee met on October 19 to conduct the first phase of the triennial assessment. We had 4 students join us to do this work. The results of this portion of the assessment will be tallied and shared back with us at our next meeting. Additionally, we identified stakeholders to be interviewed as part of the assessment. Collectively, the data from the initial self-assessment and the interviews will be used in conjunction with the State requirements to begin the process of drafting recommendations to share with the policy committee. 


VSBA/VSA Fall Conference

Vice-Chair Stout and I attended the VT School Board Association and VT Superintendent Association Fall Conference on October 26 and 27 at Lake Morey Resort. The theme was Supporting Student Success Through School District Governance. The conference consisted of two keynote speakers who spoke to the importance of public education and how to build an effective Board / Superintendent governance team, and a multitude of workshops ranging from open meeting, on-boarding new members, policy and finance. 

 

Given the confluence of factors impacting school district FY25 budgets, the session on finance was particularly helpful. Although ACT 127 and the revision of the VT Education Funding formula is necessary, the timing and supportive measures for implementation will create challenging conditions for districts in the first two years. The two main challenges are tax impact and taxpayer perception.


The first challenge -  tax impact, is divided into two categories; that is the districts who will be advantaged and disadvantaged based on the modeling of the new formula. Disadvantaged districts who are looking at level service budgets are anticipating tax rate increases ranging from 10-20% - before the CLA. The second challenge - taxpayer perception, is the manifestation of the new formula compounded by the fact that critical information in determining the tax rate will not be available until after the budget vote. The purpose of tonight’s presentation is to help the Board and public to begin to understand the factors impacting our specific situation.

Lifting Student Learning

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

MTSD Policy D200 ensures that the curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices across school sites are consistent with the adopted goals and vision of the Milton Town School District, complies with provisions of federal and state law, the VT State Board of Education Rules, the Vermont Education Quality Standards, and other Vermont-adopted standards such as the Common Core State Standards for English and Mathematics.


Actions taken toward this effort include:

  1. A curriculum review cycle and revision process
  2. Identification of evidenced-based instructional practices
  3. A District assessment plan
  4. Implementation monitoring 
  5. A District professional learning plan

The specific ways in which we carry out this work year to year - both as a District and at each school, is articulated in the MTSD State approved Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP). Each District Leader - Superintendent, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Data and Assessment, and Director of Students Services plays a distinct role in supporting each of the schools in carrying out their CIP.


As a reminder, the MTSD has 3 overarching CIP goals; these goals are aligned with the MTSD Mission and Vision.

 

mission vision graphic

At tonight’s meeting, Lynne will provide an overview of our District embedded professional learning structures as well as what each school is focused on to address our three CIP goals.

 

Comprehensive Support

On September 21, the VT Agency of Education hosted a State-wide meeting for schools eligible for Comprehensive Supports.  This meeting was not very helpful in providing us with additional information for what it meant to be an eligible school beyond what I already shared in my September 7 Report. Although the documents shared with us by VT AOE state that schools eligible for support will receive their funds on July 1, we have yet to receive them. In fact, we still do not know how much funding we will receive despite being told on September 21 that we would have this information last week.  This is frustrating because they are not extending the performance period. The later we receive the money, the harder it will be to expend. 

 

Our assigned Education Quality Coordinator is very responsive though and we have already arranged for her to visit the District (October 2) to lay out our work for the remainder of the year. 

 

Strategic Plan - Goal 4

The MTSD Board Strategic Planning Committee updated Goal 4 to reflect our current state. Goal 4 states:

To create responsive, effective, and integrated operations that enable continuous improvement in educational programs and learning spaces that are adaptive to the changing needs of students and educators. The current objectives have been revised to include:

  1. Objectives
    1. The MTSD Business Office is able to ensure fiscally transparent and efficient use of the district resources focused on improving student programming and learning outcomes
      1. Review and revise as necessary all finance policies and procedures
      2. Collaborate with district leaders on the effective use of general and grant fund management
      3. Transition to Tyler I-Visions by the end of FY25
    2. Build, operate, and maintain all MTSD spaces to ensure that they are safe, student-centered, and flexible in meeting the changing needs of our learners
      1. Draft a long term plan for Herrick Ave and Rebecca Lander Drive Facilities. 
      2. Continue to assess the use of space and identify short-term needs to enhance the learning environment
    3. Continue to revise, develop, and/or procure operational procedures and systems that are responsive to the changing needs of our students, staff, and stakeholders
      1. Continue to build a comprehensive and integrated Student Information and Student Learning Management System, 
      2. Increase alignment across the district through a comprehensive set of administrative procedures and calibration techniques for ensuring fidelity of implementation. 

Operations

Herrick Avenue Project

On Monday, September 25, Matt Grasso and I met with Don Turner, Milton Town Manager to discuss opportunities to partner with the Town on the Herrick Project. The Town has just entered into a contract with an organization called HVS; their aim is to assess the various proposed projects affiliated with the Milton on the Move plans for a Recreation/Community Center. It is our hope to be included in that process to understand what, if any portion of the Herrick facility and grounds might be utilized as part of a community master plan and what they might look like.

 

In addition, the Town was looking into the possibility of sharing addresses for Milton taxpayers so we could send a direct (vs. bulk) mailing related to the Herrick Project in order to keep all people informed about the costs and next steps. 

 

State News:

On Thursday, September 14, the Vermont Superintendents Association held its first All Members meeting of the year. There are 51 superintendents in Vermont and this year, the Association welcomed 4 new superintendents  After welcoming our new colleagues, there was a Leadership in Communications Training with Betsy Liley, former Burlington Free Press journalist who is now a Senior Advisor for PASS, a strategic consultancy organization. 

 

The Director of VSA, Jeff Francis, then facilitated a panel of Superintendents who are amid managing PCB issues. These Districts were identified as having PCBs in portions of their buildings and are contending with a range of decisions from temporary mitigation to large scale remediation. Undoubtedly, the only thing that remains clear is that there continues to be a great deal of ambiguity regarding how the State will help schools manage this issue. 

 

In the afternoon, there were a variety of presentations and workshops related to the work Districts are doing with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Systems of Supervision for Sustainable School Leadership; and Instructional Leadership to Improve Student Outcomes.  The next time we will all come together is at the VSBA/VSA Annual Conference, “Supporting Student Success through School District Governance” on October 26-27. 

Lifting Student Learning

The school year has launched with an abundance of activity and positive energy. A focused theme this year is inclusion and joy in learning. On August 24, all MTSD staff were officially welcomed back with a keynote from Jamele Adams. who is well known for engaging in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through his L.I.T. platform and model; love, inclusion and trust as the basis for human connection while addressing h8 and bias. Jamele activated our collective hearts and minds in preparing for the return of students and a renewal of our commitment to our mission to empower all members to be resilient and passionate learners this year. Additional inspiration came from art teacher Dustin Kemp who captured our experience through an amazing piece of art that is currently displayed in the MHS lobby.


As we carry forward our commitment to ensure every student makes significant growth in literacy and math while nurturing their social emotional development and building habits for physical health and well-being, all members of the faculty and staff will continue to engage in a wide variety of professional learning.

 

Recently, members of our Child Nutrition Services have participated in training ranging from universal meals implementation and food safety to menu planning. 


Many high school teachers and support staff have signed up to participate in a Youth Mental Health First Aid course which teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. This 8-hour training gives adults who work with youth the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to adolescents (ages 12-18) who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care.


Members of the MTSD Leadership Team are participating in Hazing, Harassment and Bullying and/or Title IX training sponsored by the VT School Board Insurance Trust (VSBIT) while the whole team is participating in two sessions with attorney Heather Lynn specific to interpreting investigations and making determinations in harassment related cases.  


In October, a presentation about our Continuous Improvement Plan embedded professional learning model will be made. 



Operations

Considering the traffic and safety concerns associated with the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse in Vermont, the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association in consultation with local authorities and representatives from Vermont Astronomical Society, are moving forward with the early dismissal for students. This proactive measure would prioritize the safety of our students, ensuring that they are not caught in the potential traffic congestion and safety hazards that could arise due to the eclipse's significant public interest. 


The path of the eclipse moves directly across Burlington and Saint Albans. Although it is hard to imagine, it is anticipated that more than 250,000 people will travel to this area alone to view the eclipse. This does not account for those of us already living here. It is anticipated that eclipse goers will begin to line up along major traffic corridors and side roads beginning mid-day. The eclipse is scheduled to end in totality at 3:30 and partially at 4:30 creating traffic congestion that could potentially last until 6:30 p.m.


Students will be dismissed at 10:15 a.m (MMS / MHS) and 11:15 a.m (MES) to provide ample time for them to arrive home safely. There will be no afternoon pre-school or after school or evening events. Given this new early dismissal, the early release day scheduled for April 10 will be a full day of school. A letter sharing this information with all MTSD staff and families along with a link to an updated 2023-2024 MTSD School Calendar will be sent next week. 


Policy Update

As a result of ACT 29, school districts are required to adopt a policy regarding Fire and Emergency Preparedness Drills. In July, Districts were provided with a model policy and a sense of urgency to adopt a policy. The VT Agency of Education was responsible for issuing districts with additional guidance for the implementation of the new law. Due to the Great July Flood, the AOE was delayed in drafting and sharing this information. Districts did not receive the guidance until September 5, 2023.


In reviewing the guidance, it was noted that there was considerable discrepancy between the VSBA model policy we just finished adopting and the VT AOE guidance. After making an inquiry to Interim Secretary of Education, Heather Bouchey, I received a communication acknowledging the discrepancy and that steps were being taken to reconcile the issues.


Despite this communication and the fact that there has been no guidance for what to do next; that is, to follow the model policy or guidance of the VT School Safety Center issued by VT AOE on September 5, Superintendents received instructions on how to provide the VT AOE ‘assurance’ that they were in compliance with the law. This creates immense frustration and confusion for Districts and how they should be updating their State required District Safety Plan and communicating with families.


Although we still have many questions, currently, the MTSD Safety Team is following guidance from the VT School Safety Center.

I learned late Friday afternoon that the MES has been designated as a school in need of Comprehensive Supports. Given the long weekend, I had to wait until Tuesday to understand what this meant. I was able to schedule a call with a representative from the VT Agency of Education.


MTSD Director of Data and Assessment, Tammy Boone, and I met with our assigned Vermont Agency of Education Quality Coordinator, Nicole Whitney to understand the designation. This report aims  to explain - in the simplest of terms, the designation to you and what it means for Milton Elementary School. It is important to note that I am sharing this information with all faculty and staff and you in advance of the VT AOE’s press release which is scheduled to happen tomorrow. reasons. Foremost, I do not want people to be taken by surprise. Second, I want people to understand the context of the designation and what it means for our district.  


Fast Facts:

  1. As the result of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) of 2015, States were Federally required to have an approved plan that in part, included assurances for continuous school improvement for Title I Schools in order to continue to receive Federal Title Funds. For many States this was not a new practice. 
  2. Vermont was one of the last States in the U.S, to put in place a system to monitor school performance for Title I Schools and designate schools for Comprehensive Supports.
  3. This process began in 2018 when fifteen VT schools were designated. A designation is for 3 years.
  4. Designation is determined by 2 consecutive years of comparative data based on a formula that weights performance and sets a percent change. The initial formula weighted the performance data and amount of change at 50%.  
  5. Given Covid, VT received a waiver and the initial 3 year timeline was pushed out. Schools designated in 2018, now had until 2023 to show growth. Of the initial 15 schools identified, I believe 13 are being released this year.
  6. Given Covid, the new designation - which was supposed to happen in 2021, is happening now. 
  7. Given Covid, the 15 schools that have been newly identified (including MES) are being identified based on their difference in growth using the 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 data. This 3 year gap in comparison is because in 2019-2020 there was no testing and the 2020-2021 data was waived). 
  8. Given Covid, the State also adjusted the formula; they weighted the performance data at 75% and the amount of change at 25%. 


The Difference Between Comprehensive Supports and Equity Supports

  1. The system the State uses to report accountability is called the VT Annual Snapshot.There are five measurements - academic proficiency, high quality staffing, personalization, safe, healthy schools and investment priorities.
  2. The Annual Snapshot includes an equity measurement in each of these 5 areas.
  3. A school identified for Comprehensive Supports is based just on academic proficiency whereas, a school identified for Equity Supports shows need based on a formula that incorporates all areas. 
  4. Currently, a school identified for Comprehensive Supports receives additional funding and VT AOE technical support for 3 years. 
  5. A school identified as in need of Equity Support only receives monitoring. If they are not able to improve in the designated equity area after 2 years, in year 3, they will move to Comprehensive Support. 
  6. Schools in need of Equity Support were not directly contacted. Instead a memo was issued by the VT AOE  stating that determinations are based on several performance metrics demonstrating a substantial gap between historically marginalized and historically privileged student groups. A list with every school’s score was attached to the memo with no further explanation.  

Impact of the designation for Comprehensive Support for MES

  1. MES will receive additional funds for the next 3 years to be used specifically for systems and structures for teaching and learning that lead to improved student achievement
  2. MES (and the District) will receive the services of an Education Quality Coordinator from the VT Agency of Education. This person will help with:
    1. The planning and implementation of our Comprehensive Needs Assessment
    2. The development of our Continuous Improvement Plan specific to the areas of Literacy and Math  
    3. Identifying and implementing best practices in professional development for teaching and learning in Literacy and Math
  3. MES (and the District) Team will meet monthly with the EQ Coordinator
  4. The Superintendent will meet quarterly with the EQ Coordinator

Fortunately,  the MTSD and MES have been looking closely at our data - even throughout Covid. We did not wait to become a designated school to begin making changes. Instead, for the last two years, through the Comprehensive Needs Assessment and Continuous Improvement Plan process, we have been evaluating the effectiveness of existing structures using the ‘stop / continue’ model while also putting new structures in place to address learning loss and gaps at MES and District wide. Our most recent data (Spring 20223) which has not been released publicly yet, shows that we are already making gains.  


Some of the structures we have put in place to improve teaching and learning, aligned to the MES Vision of Student Learning include:

  1. Instructional Coaches
  2. A newly aligned Literacy and Math curricula 
  3. A newly aligned PreK curriculum
  4. Adding Kindergarten to Early Literacy intervention services
  5. Consultation services with Partners for Literacy Learning, Springboard (Early Literacy and Family Engagement) and the All Learners Network (math)
  6. Professional Learning Communities
  7. Book Study Groups specific to Universal Design for Learning, Math and Literacy instruction
  8. Faculty embedded professional development for instructional strategies in Universal Design for Learning, Literacy (ISA - Interactive Strategies Approach) and Math as well as regular data sessions
  9. A math course for all new math teachers
  10. Restructuring leadership roles to include more emphasis on instructional leadership
  11. Learning Walks and Data Snaps

It is important to note, Milton Elementary School has a very strong foundation. It has outstanding administrators, teachers and support staff. In addition, we have amazing learners. Collectively, we recognize that improving student performance is our greatest priority and every member of the organization is committed to this work. We are on the right path.  

August Policy Notifications:

  1. A22 - Notice of Non-Discrimination 
    1. Coordinators
      1. Title VI: Amy Rex, Superintendent
      2. Title VII: Terry Mazza, Director of Human Resources
      3. Title IX: Lynne Manley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
      4. 504: Timothy Dunn, Director of Student Services
  2. C7 - Attendance
    1. The School Board of Trustees are to appoint a Truancy Office.
    2. Recommendation - Building Principal at each school
      1. MES - Kylene Flowers
      2. MMS - Brandy Brown and Kurt Vogelpohl
      3. MHS - Anne Blake and Mary Jane Stinson
  3. C10 - Prevention Harassment, Hazing and Bullying
    1. Designated Reporters 
      1. MES:
        1. School Counselors - Tracie Hultgren and TBH
        2. Administrators - Kylene Flowers, Craig Dwyer, Fieh Chan 
      2. MMS
        1. School Counselors - Sean Riehl and Nichole Wehman
        2. Administrators - Brandy Brown, Megan Smith, Kurt Vogelpohl
      3. MHS
        1. School Counselors - Nicole Martel, Jennifer Haas, Matt Rector
        2. Administrators - Anne Blake and Mary Jane Stinson
  4. C14 -Section 504 and ADA Grievance Protocol for Students and Staff
    1. Designated 504 Coordinator
      1. MTSD: Timothy Dunn, Director of Student Services
      2. MES: Kylene Flowers, Principal
      3. MMS: Megan Smith, Director of Continuum of Support Services
      4. MHS: Anne Blake, Principal or Mary Jane Stinson, Principal
  5. C70 - Use of Restraint and Seclusion
    1. Notification for the implementation of administrative procedures
    2. Any recommendations for changes - none
    3. Training
      1. District Trainer: Timothy Dunn, Director of Student Services
      2. Approved VT Agency of Education Training: Handle with Care
      3. Principals identify staff to be trained

Lifting Student Learning

Summer Program

All summer services are in full swing including Extended School Year Services, MES LEAP and MMS Lifting Student Learning. In addition this year, we are providing tutoring. Later this summer, the MES Kinder Camp and the  MHS Transition Academy will take place. One new program is SpringBoard. This is a pilot program funded through the VT Agency of Education:


The Vermont Agency of Education is partnering with Springboard Collaborative to provide an afterschool and summer solution for Vermont School Districts seeking a high-quality literacy program. We’re thrilled to offer a program that trains teachers, leverages families, and supports children to grow as readers.


The program components are outlined below. At the end of the summer, I will meet with the principal, school-based program leader and teachers to review results and determine if we should and can provide an afterschool program. 


Teaching and Learning Environment

In the spring of 2022, through a dialogue centered on workforce shortages, workplace retention, and ensuring a workforce that is equipped with the knowledge and skills to adequately respond to the changing needs of students, the  MTSD Administration and  MESA President initiated a District Committee toward improving the school working and learning environment for all members of the organization. 

 

The first task of the committee was to develop a purpose statement. 

Purpose

The term school culture generally refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and the written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions.


The purpose of the MTSD Culture Committee is to promote and support shared ownership of a healthy teaching and learning environment. A culture of learning is the foundation for what we want the student and adult experience to be. A culture of learning:

  • Begins with a shift of mind - from seeing ourselves as separate from each other to seeing ourselves as integral, interconnected individuals of a system (district). (adapted from Senge 1996, 37),
  • Models the value of learning through consistent, high expectations across the organization, and
  • Strives to create and build upon 
  • Positive, trusting relationships (among colleagues, students, administrators, families)
  • Systems for effective communication and organizational predictability 
  • Practices of mutual support and shared accountability 

The MTSD Culture Committee, through a cycle of data collection, analysis, action planning and stewardship enables the organization (stakeholders) to reflect and grow.  

The second task was to engage in data collection. As a starting point, they administered the Panorama Faculty and Staff Climate Survey. After a lengthy data analysis process, the committee identified action areas in each school and for the district as a whole. Action items were identified based on the areas of focus when considering school culture; which are: Relationships; Systems; Mutual Accountability; Communication; and Culture of Learning.

 

High Level Action Items 

  • District: Supervision and Evaluation System
  • MES: Feedback Loops; Systems Communication; Productive Dialogue and Trust Building; and Faculty Input and Facilitation of Professional Learning 
  • MMS: Peer Collaboration and Feedback; System Resources; Professional Learning and Universal Design for Learning
  • MHS: Peer Observation; Student Engagement Strategies; Equity and Diversity Professional Learning; Systems for Student Management

 

Next Steps

  • Expand the District Committee to include a broader representation from each school
  • Create school-based mini action plans - one or two critical action items that each school could reasonably focus on and make progress
  • Identify one District action item and create a plan
  • Set aside the October in-service day to conduct a school-based data analysis session and identity the one or two critical action items along with processes for making progress 

ARP-ESSER Grant Allocations - FY24

With a grants manager, the grant work in the district has been delayed. Business office personnel have stepped up to learn and support the financial administrative tasks and the reporting to AOE. While District Directors have taken over managing vendor outreach and contracts for their subsequent IDEA-B and Consolidated Federal Grants. I have taken over the ESSER work and just submitted an amendment for the 2023-24 school year, including concept preapproval for a new HVAC project. 

 

Once we are able to reconcile the final usage for ESSER II and ESSER III from last year, we will have a better understanding of the remaining funds of ESSER III. Below are the strategies we have submitted for this school year and these allocations are covered. The reconciliation will determine if we have any remaining funds beyond what is already earmarked below.

 

Strategy

Pillar

Covid response and vulnerable populations

ARP ESSER Estimated Allocation

1 Reading Specialist

Academic Success

Increasing district reading interventionists from 4 to 6 to ensure all identified students have access to high quality reading intervention services for school years: 

Salary & Benefits

$105,000.00

2 Math Interventionist

Academic Success

Increasing district math interventionists to ensure all identified students have access to high quality reading intervention services for school years

Salary & Benefits

$180,000.00

Curriculum Coordinator

Academic Success and Student Engagement

To support the strengthening of all curricula, and assessment that is used to show student growth and learning for school years:

Salary & Benefits

$105,000.00

Summer Programming

(ARP Esser Summer) 

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

To provide direct instruction, experiential opportunities to build community and strengthen the connection to school as well as address students’ social emotional needs, health and wellbeing.

$250,000.00

For 2 Years

Innovation Lab/Flexible Pathways Program

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

Program development to  increase student engagement and success in preparing for post-secondary college and career opportunities for school years

(MMS teacher funded via Stronger Connections grant - 2 years)

$13,500

Behavior Services Support

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

Build the capacity of the school and its behavior intervention teams in supporting the social-emotional learning of students, staff, and community to create a safe and engaging learning environment. 

$130,000.00

Great Schools Partnership

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

Consultation to support leadership and teacher development in evidence-based instruction practices to improve student outcomes

$28,350

Panorama Climate Survey Tool

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

Data collection tool to determine strengths and gaps for all functions of the organization - workforce satisfaction; teaching and learning; family engagement. 

$30,000

Measured Ed.

Academic Success, Student Engagement, Social Emotional and Wellbeing

Consultation for Student Information Systems data collection and integration support to ensure accuracy, faculty access and use, and to meet the required State reporting criteria.

$70,000


Strategy

Safe and Healthy Operations

Prevent Covid-19

ARP

ESSER

Allocation

Heating and Ventilation

Safe and Healthy Operations

To continue to improve air quality and ventilation systems in a student program - Notch: a continuum of supports at 2 Herrick Ave

$30,000

 

School Safety

On Wednesday, June 6, 2023 Milton Elementary and Middle had to be evacuated. Although this situation did not turn out to be a legitimate critical incident, the exercise was extremely beneficial to the MTSD Safety Team and our Milton Emergency Responders. After the incident, we collected feedback from all faculty and staff involved and then we conducted a debrief with Milton Emergency Responders. As a result, we were able to identify areas of strengths and areas in need of improvement. In addition, we generated ideas for enhancing our practices to better prepare all stakeholders in the event of an emergency.

 

Below is just a partial list of the +/- and action items

 

Plus

Delta

  • Feedback from staff and parents
  • Great support from emergency responders
  • Extra staff from MMS went to relocation
  • Having not done a whole building drill, it went really well
  • One designated person to communicate was smooth
  • Bus drivers were very responsive
  • Admin help in searching the building
  • No predetermined roles for Admin at the evacuation sight - commander; communicator; pick up…
  • No predetermined roles for staff at the evacuation sight
  • Business staff didn’t know what was happening
  • Staff were not receiving the family text updates
  • Traffic plan wasn’t clear

 

Action Items:

  • Printed town and school maps at each location
  • Printed communication flow charts
  • Printed site and command center assignments
  • Training - custodial, food services, district office 
  • Gear - bullhorns; additional radios; vests; go buckets; van keys, medical go bag at district office
  • Revisit zones
  • Accessibility plans

These items will be revisited by the District Safety Committee at our first meeting in August as we prepare for the new school year.

 

Follow up - July 13, 2023

As a result of our conversation at the last meeting related to staff turnover, we have changed our exit form to include options for an exit interview (Director of HR; Superintendent; Building or Department Supervisor). The interview will be required and we will draft a set of questions to be used consistently regardless of who you interview with. All interviews are confidential and responses will be themed. In addition, the form will be submitted to every departing employee no matter the time of year they leave.

Legislative Update


Universal Meals

Governor Scott allowed an act relating to school food programs and universal school meals to become law without signature. Act 64 of 2023 permanently funds universal school meals through a $29 million appropriation from the Education Fund. Implementation will be broadly the same as Act 151 from School Year 22-23. The AOE will be issuing full implementation guidance this summer.


Tax Rate

  • Tax rate for non homestead property: $1.391 (FY23 was $1.466; FY22 was $1.612)
  • $13M is reserved within the Education Fund to offset education property tax increases in FY25

 

Act 78 of 2023 - sections of the law that are specific to PK-12  policy and relevant fiscal matters are summarized below.

Funds to support the School Construction Aid Task Force - Report due January 2024

  • review the results of the statewide school facilities inventory and conditions assessment and the school construction funding report required by Act 72 (2021)
  • study issues relating to school construction aid, including: 
    • the needs, both programmatic and health and safety, of statewide school construction projects;
    • funding options for a statewide school construction program and criteria for prioritizing school construction funding; and
    • the appropriate state action level for response to PCB contamination in a school

PCBs

  • moves the testing deadline out two years from July 1, 2025 to July 1, 2027
  • provides funding for the costs associated with remediation and removal of PCB contaminants, and, if necessary, associated relocation costs

Summer and After School Grants

  • Sales of Cannabis will be used to fund grants to districts
  • AOE will administer the grant program

Act 76 of 2023 Childcare and PreKindergarten

This law assigns school districts with the responsibility of ensuring equitable prekindergarten access for children who are four years of age on the date by which the child’s school district requires kindergarten students to have attained five years of age or who are five years of age and not yet enrolled in kindergarten.

The law creates the Prekindergarten Education Implementation Committee with the following deliverables: 

  • Assist AOE in improving and expanding accessible, affordable, and high-quality prekindergarten education for children on a full-day basis on or before July 1, 2026, either through a public school or contracted with a private provider (or both). 
  • Issue a written report in December of 2023 to the General Assembly regarding whether the cost of educating a prekindergarten student is the same as educating a kindergarten student in the context of a full school day. The report will include the following:
  • Conduct data collection and analysis related to weights and numbers (schools will need to submit data to AOE in August of 2023)
  • December 2024 - 
    • submit a report with recommendations to legislature for expanding access through the public school system or private providers under contract with the school district or both
    • provide districts with a model contract to use for contracting with private providers.

Act 29 of 2023 School Safety

3 new required policies

  • F3 Fire and Emergency Preparedness Drills and 
  • F4 Access Control and Visitor Management
  • Threat Assessment - not yet created

Safety Operations

  • All hazards manual 

Threat assessment requirements, including

  • Staff training to include bias training
  • Data collection and reporting requirements (8 areas currently; however, it is up to the Secretary of Education if additional components are necessary) related to the completion of and outcomes of ALL behavioral threat assessments and manifestation determination 

Bill was amended to add the creation of a study group that will study the current protections for students against harassment and discrimination in schools and make recommendations for legislative action on the following issues:  

  • Eliminating the severe and pervasive standard for harassment and discrimination for students in educational institutions; 
  • Compulsory education attendance requirements for students who have been victims of harassment; and 
  • The resources required for schools to develop harassment prevention initiatives as well as support for students who have experienced harassment. 


Operations


PCB - Lawsuit

The lawsuit that is being pursued by the State is different from the one being pursued by the private firm. The firm is seeking the money that districts will have to spend because of the PCBs.  The group will control whether and how much districts will settle for and the group will get the money from the litigation. This is similar to the JULE lawsuit we participated in. As a result of the litigation, MTSD directly received $16,000 toward vaping prevention and intervention. 


The State PCB suit is in its name - not on behalf of Districts.  It will get the money and it may or may not go to schools.  At this point, it looks like the State will seek the money it appropriated to reimburse districts for the costs, about $16 million.  


FAQ for Schools on State of VT PCB Lawsuit


Staffing - End of Year Report

Existing Staff - not including unfilled positions

School

Admin

Core Teachers

Prof

Non SpEd

Prof

SpEd

SS 

NonSpEd

SS

SpEd

Total

MES

3

35

12

23

27

26

142

MMS

3

31

13

11

9

17

91

MHS

3

33

19

8

22

12

100


Turn Over

School

Prof

Staff

Support

Staff

MES

15

11

MMS

9

5

MHS

10

3


School based personnel =333

Total Turnover = 53


Vacancies *indicates grant position

School

Prof

Staff

Support

Staff

MES

1 - Classroom Teacher, 

1 - Literacy/Math Interventionist*, 

2 -  Guidance Counselors

1 - Behavior Services Coordinator

1 - Behavior Interventionist,

3 Special Needs Programming Specialist, 

2 Paraprofessionals and 

1 part-time food service

MMS

1- HHB Coordinator,

1 - Math Interventionist*,  

1 - Special Educator/FFL

1 - Behavior Interventionist

2 - Intensive Needs Programming Specialist

MHS

1 - Health

1 - Permanent Sub

1- Intensive Needs Programming Specialist


District based personnel = 18

Total Turnover = 2

  • 2 vacancies
    • Grant Manager / Financial Assistant
    • Board Secretary
  • 1 grant position not being filled

Of this number, 23 staff members completed the exit questionnaire and 7 of those also conducted exit interviews with me. Although turnover is typically from year end to year end, on occasion it occurs early or part way through the year. Typically those that leave early or mid-year leave because of extenuating circumstances and do not participate in the survey or an interview. 


The results indicate that there is not any one stand out factor contributing to turn over. Based on comments in the survey and my exit interviews, one theme that stands out to me is the belief that although there are many rewarding aspects of working in the district, the challenges associated with the work are different and/or the demands have become untenable especially when trying to manage raising a family. 


Snapshot of other districts regionally - professional staff only. Due to the timing of this survey, districts did not have SS #s. Those with lower turnover are the smaller districts. 








Professional Staff

Elementary

Middle School

High School

     

3

3

1

13

6

7

5

2

8

23

7

10

45

10

7

8

10

9

6

1

4

3

3



Strategies for Recruitment

  • Social Media
  • Various on-line platforms - local and National
    • SchoolSpring
    • Indeed 
    • Seven Days
    • National Minority Update
  • Physical Signs
  • Word of Mouth
  • Principals reaching out to colleges and universities
  • Supporting personnel interested in pursuing a different career path
  • Branding

 

Snapshot of Survey Results

  • 15 of the 23 are not from VT
  • 13 of the 23 live 10 miles or more from Milton
  • 17 of the 23 have a Masters Degree


Lifting and Leveraging Student Learning

  1. Professional Learning Communities

In the MTSD, excellent classroom instruction that is universally designed, culturally and linguistically responsive, and results in improved student achievement for every student is our primary focus. Professional Learning Communities - or PLC is one structure that supports professional learning and growth toward our goal of improved student outcomes. MTSD PLC Overview


Our early release time allows us to have a predictable and consistent approach for teachers to meet and engage in inquiry and action  planning to grow their instructional practices and collaboratively establish a clear connection between teacher learning and student growth.


With the help of ESSER funds, we have been working with the Great Schools Partnership. They provide training and on-going support to leaders, PLC teacher facilitators and the PLC itself. Throughout the 2023-24 school year, they will work directly with facilitators to help plan agendas that productively engage teachers in authentic work of the PLC.


  1. Panorama

The MTSD has administered 2 Panorama surveys this spring - 1 to families and 1 to faculty and staff. The family survey recently closed and the results have been shared with school leaders. Principals will review the data over the summer and then with faculty and staff during pre-service. Collectively they will identify goals and action steps and report out to their families after the start of the school year. A district wide presentation will be given to the Board in September.


The staff and teacher survey is part of a district wide initiative to improve the teaching and learning environment across the District and is being led by the  MTSD Culture Committee.. The purpose of the MTSD Culture Committee is to promote and support shared ownership of a healthy teaching and learning environment. A culture of learning is the foundation for what we want the student and adult experience to be. In part, the components of a high performing, positive school culture include: clear purpose (mission and vision); collaboration among all stakeholders; active, on-going professional learning (PLCs and PD); shared responsibility for teaching and learning.


The MTSD Culture committee is in the midst of analyzing the data. It is their intention to provide all faculty and staff with an overview of the data along with a ‘where to’ next plan in early June.


  1. Discipline Policy and Procedures

The MTSD F1 Policy and Procedures: Student Conduct and Discipline are over 10 years old and no longer align with the law or with evidenced-based practices. Representatives from the Leadership Team have been working on a draft that follows the structure of the new VSBA model policy. They presented their draft to the full Leadership Team on May 16 for feedback. Once the group makes the necessary revisions, they will present the draft to members of the faculty and staff for input. The final step will be community input. It will be essential to have the newly revised procedures ready for the start of the school year.


Operations - Grants

  1. New Awards Received
    1. Kylene Flowers submitted a grant request to cover the costs of the equipment stations for the Monarch room along with funds to have a consultant do training with staff 
    1. Jon Adams, Ben Sevey and Ryan Bushey submitted an application for additional equipment for the Milton Innovation Center
    2. 3D Metal Printer; CNC gantry Milling Machine; Tooling
    1. Kody Weaver and  his students submitted an application to the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils - Don’t Quit grant and received $100,000 in fitness equipment.
    2. The installation will happen over the summer and there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony in October.
    3. MMS Student Staff Video Submission
    1. $125,000 per summer
    2. Transportation, Staffing and Supplies
    1. $10,000 VT Children’s Trust Foundation
    2. $15,000 Educate Innovate
    3. $100,000
    4. $250,000 ARP ESSER Summer Award 2 year grant
  2. Pending Award
    1. Over 2 years
    2. MMS Continuum of Support Staffing
    1. $250,000 Stronger Connections Grant 
  3. Current Grant Writing
    1. Waiting for decision on Stronger Connections
    2. Public input for proposed uses
    3. Final submission
    1. IDEA-B
    2. McKinney-Vento
    3. Consolidated Federal (Title) Grants
    4. ARP-ESSER

Lifting Student Learning


VTCAP

Over the last 2 months, the MTSD has been administering the State required assessments in grades 3-9 for English Language Arts, Math and Science. These assessments are closely aligned with Vermont standards and meet or exceed all metric standards for state summative assessments. 

 

Despite the challenges districts have faced in the administration of the new VTCAP, the MTSD has worked to ensure that the testing conditions are well supported and can be the very best they can be for our students. In particular, Tammy Boone, Kasey Miller, and Rob Whitcomb have worked tirelessly updating manuals, training teachers, preparing materials and servicing technology for this new administration. I would also like to thank all our teachers and support staff for their patience and flexibility as we navigate the new assessment.


In a recent memo responding to concerns from across the State about the validity of the results, interim Secretary of Education Bouchey communicated that statewide assessment results are an important part of our assessment landscape in Vermont, but they are only one part. Vermont does not use state summative assessments for individual decision-making about students or educators. State assessments are just one tool in our collective toolbox; it is therefore important that you also focus on your Local Comprehensive Assessment Systems (LCAS) and other measurements of student proficiency. The new summative assessments will provide us important data to be sure, but it will just be one set of data, providing us a snapshot of student success, within a larger system dedicated to the success of all Vermont learners. 



Legislative Update

The legislative session is coming to a close this week. This is a dynamic time and changes are often made to bills that are under active consideration. Below is an update on the status of education bills as of April 21.


  1. H483 amends the statutes governing the approval of private schools to require that any approved private school (excluding therapeutic schools) that intends to accept public tuition must be located in Vermont or within 25 miles of the Vermont border (excluding Canada) and must comply with many public school regulations including, enrollment, special education, attendance, testing, and reporting. This bill has passed the house and is in the senate. The requirements are outlined in this summary of the bill 
  2. S.56 - An act relating to child care and early childhood education originated in Senate Health & Welfare. The bill was approved by the House Human Services Committee on April 19, and will be considered in the House Education, House Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees before going to the House Floor.  This bill focuses on childcare, and includes a study on PreK.
  3. H.486 and S.124 were introduced as companion bills that established a school construction aid task force to examine, evaluate, and report on issues relating to school construction aid.  After review and analysis by the House Education Committee, a pause to the PCB testing program was added to H.486, and that version of the bill passed out of the House before crossover.  S.124 was added to the Appropriations Bill and is no longer a stand alone bill.  The Senate Education Committee has possession of H.486. 
  4. H. 165 - An act relating to school food programs and universal school meals would make the universal school meals program permanent and funded through an appropriation from the Education Fund. There is talk now that universal meals will just be extended for another year - versus be permanent or that the governor will veto the bill.
  5. S. 138 - An act relating to school safety proposes is still active with possible changes to the threat assessment requirements.

A summary of education bills that are signed into law will be included in a report prior to the start of the next school year.  

Lifting Student Learning Literacy Update

  1. MMS has started receiving training in the development of Literacy Profiles for under prepared readers. Through the administration of various assessments, literacy specialists and special educators will be able to create a literacy profile for each under prepared reader. The profiles outline:
    1. The characteristics of the specific reading challenge(s)
    2. Interventions to consider and best practices for progress monitoring
    3. Classroom considerations - what strategies should be used in the classroom to support skill development
  2. Third grade teachers continue their professional development in literacy strategies related to word meaning. With support of consultants from VT Partners in Literacy Learning, teachers receive training twice monthly during early release. I was able to join in and observe last week. The focus was on how to use reader and text level variables to support comprehension.  
  3. At all levels, grade level and content teams are reviewing the Winter STAR reading results and identifying next steps for classroom instruction. Meanwhile the Leadership Team and Curriculum Team Leaders are identifying intervention changes or pushpoints that can be done from now until the end of the year to improve student outcomes in both math and literacy. 

Operations - Safety Update

  1. MMS Dance Event
    1. On January 31, 2023 members of the Milton Police Department, Public Safety Department, District Administration and Principals met to conduct a ‘table top’ activity of the MMS Dance event. 
    2. As a result of the activity, next steps for strengthening our safety procedures were identified, including:
      1. Review school day safety procedures and adapt them for after school activities including building use by guests. Procedural elements include
        1. Communication
        2. Response
        3. Closure
      2. Identify training needs and create a training plan
      3. Researching options for upgrading / modernizing our systems to communicate with incident command personnel both on and offsite
  2. MHS/BFA Basketball Event
    1. HERE  is the link to the letter I sent to MTSD staff and families on Friday, February 3. It outlines the status of the BFA Fairfax response. It also outlines the measures the MHS Athletic program has put in place for the remainder of the season with BFA Fairfax; that is:
      1. Fairfax players will only be allowed 2 guest fans each to attend on their behalf.
      2. BFA Administration will vet the list of the fans and provide the MTSD Athletic Director with a copy.
      3. BFA Fairfax will send 1 administrator and at least 1 other staff member to support MTSD Athletic Director in monitoring BFA fan entrance according to the list and provide additional supervision throughout the game.
      4. All BFA fans will be directed to a predetermined portion of the bleachers in the first section inside the door.
      5. The MTSD will provide additional supervision and support, including the Student Resource Officer.

Legislative Update

As of this report, 198 bills are being introduced to the session. 

  1. House Ways and Means Committee 
    1. HWMC has begun its work on the Ed Fund. In the coming weeks, the committee will need to make some decisions on what to do with the roughly $64 million in unreserved/ unallocated funds from FY2023. 
    2. Two reports related to the implementation of an income-based education tax system have been submitted to the HWMC and they are taking testimony You can read the reports by linking here: Department of Taxes Income-Based Education Tax Report 2023, and Report from the Income-Based Education Tax Study Committee.
  2. Other education related bills that are an extension of last session bills that have funding implications include:
    1. Universal Meals
      1. Act 151 extended the universal meals program for one year using $29 million from surplus in the Education Fund.  
      2. AOE has prepared a legislative report on the impact and status of implementation
      3. JFO is preparing a report examining possible revenue sources, including revenue estimates.  
    2. Early Childhood
      1.  The Rand report, Vermont Early Care and Education Financing Study, was issue, and we should expect to see bills in the coming weeks
    3. School Facilities
      1. The initial inventory report from last year indicated an aging physical infrastructure for schools with many buildings and systems approaching the end of their useful life and the need for action by the General Assembly
      2. A more comprehensive facilities assessment report is due in October of 2023.
      3. Testimony on PCB testing will continue and it is likely that amendments to existing legislation will be made.
      4. It is likely that bills related to school construction aid will also be introduced
  3. Miscellaneous Bills 
    1. School Safety Draft Bill includes requirements for schools to:
      1. Adopt a policy mandating options-based response drills;
      2. All-hazards emergency operation plans;
      3. Access control and visitor management policy that, at minimum, requires that all school sites and offices lock exterior doors during the school day, and require all visitors sign in at a centralized location; and
      4. For schools to create a behavioral threat assessment team
    2. New Topics
      1. H.42 - An act relating to academic freedom of public educators
      2. S.10 - An act relating to the installation of water bottle filling stations in schools
      3. S.18 - An act relating to banning flavored tobacco products and e-liquids
      4. S.34 - An act relating to kindergarten enrollment age

Lifting Student Learning Literacy Update

  1. MMS has started receiving training in the development of Literacy Profiles for under prepared readers. Through the administration of various assessments, literacy specialists and special educators will be able to create a literacy profile for each under prepared reader. The profiles outline:
    1. The characteristics of the specific reading challenge(s)
    2. Interventions to consider and best practices for progress monitoring
    3. Classroom considerations - what strategies should be used in the classroom to support skill development
  2. Third grade teachers continue their professional development in literacy strategies related to word meaning. With support of consultants from VT Partners in Literacy Learning, teachers receive training twice monthly during early release. I was able to join in and observe last week. The focus was on how to use reader and text level variables to support comprehension.  
  3. At all levels, grade level and content teams are reviewing the Winter STAR reading results and identifying next steps for classroom instruction. Meanwhile the Leadership Team and Curriculum Team Leaders are identifying intervention changes or pushpoints that can be done from now until the end of the year to improve student outcomes in both math and literacy. 

Operations - Safety Update

  1. MMS Dance Event
    1. On January 31, 2023 members of the Milton Police Department, Public Safety Department, District Administration and Principals met to conduct a ‘table top’ activity of the MMS Dance event. 
    2. As a result of the activity, next steps for strengthening our safety procedures were identified, including:
      1. Review school day safety procedures and adapt them for after school activities including building use by guests. Procedural elements include
        1. Communication
        2. Response
        3. Closure
      2. Identify training needs and create a training plan
      3. Researching options for upgrading / modernizing our systems to communicate with incident command personnel both on and offsite
  2. MHS/BFA Basketball Event
    1. HERE  is the link to the letter I sent to MTSD staff and families on Friday, February 3. It outlines the status of the BFA Fairfax response. It also outlines the measures the MHS Athletic program has put in place for the remainder of the season with BFA Fairfax; that is:
      1. Fairfax players will only be allowed 2 guest fans each to attend on their behalf.
      2. BFA Administration will vet the list of the fans and provide the MTSD Athletic Director with a copy.
      3. BFA Fairfax will send 1 administrator and at least 1 other staff member to support MTSD Athletic Director in monitoring BFA fan entrance according to the list and provide additional supervision throughout the game.
      4. All BFA fans will be directed to a predetermined portion of the bleachers in the first section inside the door.
      5. The MTSD will provide additional supervision and support, including the Student Resource Officer.

Legislative Update

As of this report, 198 bills are being introduced to the session. 

  1. House Ways and Means Committee 
    1. HWMC has begun its work on the Ed Fund. In the coming weeks, the committee will need to make some decisions on what to do with the roughly $64 million in unreserved/ unallocated funds from FY2023. 
    2. Two reports related to the implementation of an income-based education tax system have been submitted to the HWMC and they are taking testimony You can read the reports by linking here: Department of Taxes Income-Based Education Tax Report 2023, and Report from the Income-Based Education Tax Study Committee.
  2. Other education related bills that are an extension of last session bills that have funding implications include:
    1. Universal Meals
      1. Act 151 extended the universal meals program for one year using $29 million from surplus in the Education Fund.  
      2. AOE has prepared a legislative report on the impact and status of implementation
      3. JFO is preparing a report examining possible revenue sources, including revenue estimates.  
    2. Early Childhood
      1.  The Rand report, Vermont Early Care and Education Financing Study, was issue, and we should expect to see bills in the coming weeks
    3. School Facilities
      1. The initial inventory report from last year indicated an aging physical infrastructure for schools with many buildings and systems approaching the end of their useful life and the need for action by the General Assembly
      2. A more comprehensive facilities assessment report is due in October of 2023.
      3. Testimony on PCB testing will continue and it is likely that amendments to existing legislation will be made.
      4. It is likely that bills related to school construction aid will also be introduced
  3. Miscellaneous Bills 
    1. School Safety Draft Bill includes requirements for schools to:
      1. Adopt a policy mandating options-based response drills;
      2. All-hazards emergency operation plans;
      3. Access control and visitor management policy that, at minimum, requires that all school sites and offices lock exterior doors during the school day, and require all visitors sign in at a centralized location; and
      4. For schools to create a behavioral threat assessment team
    2. New Topics
      1. H.42 - An act relating to academic freedom of public educators
      2. S.10 - An act relating to the installation of water bottle filling stations in schools
      3. S.18 - An act relating to banning flavored tobacco products and e-liquids
      4. S.34 - An act relating to kindergarten enrollment age

Lifting Student Learning

New State Assessment for ELA, Math and Science (VTCAP)

Information and support for administering the new State Assessment this spring has been delayed. Training for District Assessment Administrators was supposed to be in December; it is now scheduled for February. Test manuals and guides are still not available. We have received technical guidance to test our network and ensure that it will allow access to all components of the on-line services associated with the assessment.


Once the MTSD Assessment Coordinator receives training, she will meet with principals and information technology technicians to develop a training plan for test administrators along with a schedule. Most testing will occur in April and May. The short turnaround time for training teachers in test administration generates a great deal of stress. Teachers want to create the best conditions possible for high stakes testing. They want to be confident in their abilities to problem solve and support students. It is unfortunate that the transition from SBAC to VTCAP was not better planned by the State. 


Student Proficiency - Follow Up

In November, the MTSD Board of Trustees reviewed current student data related to English Language Arts, math and science proficiency. Earlier this fall, I described one approach to how - as a system, the MTSD was using high leverage leadership practices to promote teacher collaboration and support excellent classroom instruction to improve student outcomes. As we head into the second half of the year, I will describe the various intervention methods used at each school. 


Operations

Herrick Avenue Project Committee Update

On November 7, 2022 the Herrick Avenue Project Committee hosted a Community Forum to:

  1. Share information regarding the condition of Herrick Avenue Facility
    1. Herrick Avenue Project - Infrastructure Priorities
  2. Outline 5 possible options for renovating and/or rebuilding
  3. Answer questions and gather input from community members

As a result of this forum and data collected from a widely circulated survey, respondents identified the following priorities for the MTSD Board to consider when setting the direction for a Herrick Avenue project:

  1. Priority #1 - Consider the option the provides the best possible educational space for the learning needs of students both now and in the foreseeable future 
  2. Priority #2 - Consider an option that is the least disruptive to teaching and learning 
  3. Priority #3 - Consider the option that allows the MTSD to control costs to the greatest extent possible

The results of the survey can be viewed HERE


Based on the Herrick Avenue Facilities Evaluation, dialogue regarding the needs for teaching and learning and community input, the Herrick Avenue Project Committee narrowed the scope of options from 5 to 3. The Herrick Project Committee is in the process of preparing for a Special MTSD Board of Trustees meeting. At this meeting, the Board and community will be presented with a greater level of detail of the 3 options and how the 3 priorities play out within each of them. After a Q&A period, the Board will begin a discussion as to the direction the district should take with this project. The Special meeting will be Wednesday, February 15th @ 6:30 pm in the MHS Library. 


State Level

Legislative Update

Although the session just began there has already been activity related to education. H.42, which includes a provision that would suspend the requirement for mandatory, specified ballot language 16 VSA 563 (11) (D) for school district budget approval articles, is on the fast track to passage. Since its inception, this mandatory language has proven to be very confusing to voters. Spending per equalized pupil is based on a complicated formula, and the percent increase or decrease over the current year doesn’t have a direct correlation on the tax rate. For example, this year the MTSD education spending per pupil increased by 11% over last year, yet the tax rate is decreasing. Unfortunately, the language leads people to believe that if there is an increase or decrease in education spending per equalized pupil then the tax rate will increase or decrease as well when in fact, the very opposite could be true. Although the bill is likely to be signed into law as soon as January 23rd, it will be too late to change the ballot language this year. 


Shall the voters of the school district approve the school board to expend $ ______ , which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year? It is estimated that this proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $______ per equalized pupil. This projected spending per equalized pupil is ______ % higher/lower than spending for the current year.

2022 Reports

Operations

  1. Grants

The grant work continues to be very active. We have two significant grants related to improving air ventilation for Milton High School. One grant includes new HVAC - heating and cooling systems for classrooms, the library and the auditorium totaling $800,000 and is sponsored through Efficiency VT and the Agency of Education. We have received final project approval and will begin the final steps in the contract process with Control Technologies. 


The other grant includes new HVAC for the Milton Innovation Center totaling $220,000 and is sponsored through our allocated ARP-ESSER funds. We have received the initial concept approval and are now awaiting final project approval. This allocation will decrease the total amount of the renovation project’s impact on the MTSD Capital Reserve fund.


Finally, a new competitive grant with a longer performance period was recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is specific to school districts and is related to improving energy efficiency. We hope to submit an application to support the Herrick Ave Renovation / Building project.  


Recently, the VT Agency of Education released a  competitive grant for summer programming and we are currently working on submitting an application to extend our Lifting Student Learning summer program. This program would be similar to the types of programs we have operated over the last two summers; however, we hope that more staff will be available and we can make these programs more robust.


Last summer we received a competitive grant for a Substance Abuse Professional. After several rounds of posting the position, we have finally found a candidate. Through the grant, this person will be able to work full time for the remainder of the year. Their focus will be supporting students with cessation programming and counseling with students who have one or more infractions related to alcohol and drugs. Typically this type of support is managed through outside agencies; however, they have not had the capacity and when they do have availability, it is often a hardship for our students to attend scheduled appointments located in Burlington. 


As we know, the ESSER and other related Covid-19 funding sources are beginning to dry up. As a result, we need to begin to think strategically about the existing grant funded positions and which ones are having the most impact on student learning. At our last meeting, I shared a proposal for three positions - 1 in each school; it is linked below.


  1. FY24 Budget
    1. Rationale New Positions - FY24
    2. On the morning of Friday, December 9th, Business Managers across the State met to review district budget plans and discussed expenditure percent increases and the factors that were contributing to the increases - a few fast facts
      1. Expenditure increases across the State range from 0-20%.
      2. The average increase is 7.5 % with most districts in the 6-9% range.
      3. The predicted education spending increase is 8.3% and the State hopes to have updated equalized pupil numbers to us by December 15th - hopefully, we will have the CLA by then too.
      4. Factors contributing to the increases:
        1.  Health Insurance
        2. Salaries
        3. Student Supports
        4. Capital Expenses
        5. Ending of ESSER
        6. Contracted Services and Transportation

State Level

In the afternoon of Friday, December 9th, Business Managers, Directors of Student Services and Superintendent from across the State met in an unheated room to receive technical information about the implementation of ACT 173 as it relates to changes in the documentation process for Maintenance of Effort and receipt of the Special Education Block Grant. We also received an overview of the impact of ACT 27; that is the change in the pupil weights and the change from using equalized pupils to using long term average daily membership in determining education spending. 


In terms of ACT 173, although the State will provide templates for documentation, these will be very conservative and limit the ability for districts to use the Block Grant flexibility as intended. As a result, Districts were advised yesterday to ‘create’ their own methods of documentation to include a set of procedures based on Technical Guidance from the AOE. Furthermore, districts will be required to generate their own reports to submit to the AOE. This once again, adds another layer of responsibility to districts for reporting to the AOE. 


The detailed overview of the new weights and the change (to be implemented in the FY25 budget planning) from equalized pupils to long term average daily membership in determining education spending was very interesting. Brad James (AOE), provided several examples - using the same numbers, that showed us the difference in outcomes between the two models. It is my hope that the VT AOE will share the examples with us as I think it would be worthwhile for the Board to see them to better understand the change and potential impact. Brad did say that he hopes to provide comparables for each district for FY23 and FY24 that shows the difference between the two models.


Last, we ended the day with a quick overview of forecasted legislation for School Safety. The four areas include:

  1. State requirements for access controls to school buildings (summer of 2024)
  2. State requirement for option drills (summer of 2023)
  3. State requirements for Behavior Threat Assessment teams along with the submission of required reports (summer of 2024)
  4. Options based Emergency Plans - to be reviewed and updated annually (summer of 2024)

As you can see, these requirements add another layer of oversight for required actions, including plan documentation and submission of reports. Although we have access controls to buildings now, I am not sure if they will meet the new requirements - so depending on what this looks like, we may need to plan for cost related changes. 


We already conduct option drills as we have been using ALICE since 2018. We also have an Option based Emergency Plan - so depending on State requirements, it is likely few changes will need to be made here within. 


Our MTSD Safety Team is currently reviewing our approach to Behavior Threat Assessments and ensuring that each school has a trained team and that there is a consistent approach across the schools. Additional support and guidance from the State is undoubtedly welcomed.

Lifting Student Learning


Student Voice and Flexible Learning

Across our campus there are multiple opportunities for middle and high school students to engage in flexible learning and student leadership opportunities. MHS is harnessing student voice and using it to justify and create meaningful change within the school. In partnership with UP for Learning, youth and adult groups led by student facilitators are meeting 2X/month during lunch and advisory. During these blocks students are engaging in  numerous projects that improve or enhance curriculum, equity and restorative practices.

  • The curriculum group is currently working to enhance the school’s Program of Studies as well as improve student autonomy with regard to managing their own high school experience. 
  • The equity group plans to develop a curriculum that revolves around becoming an upstander, for HIVEs to engage in at MHS. This will include activities that focus on gender- identity, race/ racism as well as mental health access. 
  • The restorative practices group will look to continue to develop and incorporate student-led circles in HIVEs and provide feedback on the Tier II practices the school is putting into place in January. The group continues to grow and gain influence which supports the need to do this work with our student body instead of to our student body.  

Proudly, MHS was featured in the 2022 UP for Learning Annual Report


Meanwhile, on Personalized Learning Wednesdays, our MMS students are mixing up the day and finding joy through self-selected ‘clubs and committees’, an equity driven opportunity to engage all students beyond the typical course of study.  There are over 20 options for students to choose from including, Cartography, Net Games, Music Club, LGBQT Club, School Newspaper, and Coding.


Community Engagement Follow Up 

As a result of the MTSD Community Perception survey results, each school has identified a set of action steps to increase family engagement. 

MES

  • Monthly Community Connections: Connect for Respect, Title I, SEE Curriculum…
  • Family Nights: Back-to-School BBQ/Open House, Family Night, STEM Night
  • Monthly PTA Meetings and Events: Connect for Respect, Book Fair, Cocoa and Canvases, Color Run, Family Game Night  
  • Parent Volunteers: Google form sent to all families (by grade level) to gather input and connect with families as to the ways they would like to be involved with their child's education.
  • Trimester School-Wide Assemblies: Planned and organized by our Celebrations Committee and aligned with our SEE Curriculum.  
  • Monthly Family Newsletters and frequent social media posts.

MMS

Events

  • Back To School BBQ-August
  • Family Survey-August
  • Student led portfolio conferences-November & April

Ongoing Activities:

  • Student of the month Assemblies
  • Volunteer info shared & sign-up/survey shared
  • Monthly Community Connections
  • Weekly Family Memos
  • Social media posts-improve to a minimum of 2 a week
  • 5 positive communications by each teacher each week
  • Weekly team newsletters
  • Weekly submission of scores into PowerSchool

Upcoming

  • End of trimester survey 

MHS

  • 9th Grade Welcome and BBQ 5:00-6:00 pm (Social)
  • Day of Service - Volunteer Opportunity
  • Ice Cream Social/Open House gr 9-12 6:30-7:30 (Social and Informational)
  • Class of 2026 held a ‘meet and greet’ tent at Homecoming games
  • VSAC Night for Senior Families - Financial Aid/Forms (Informational)
  • Annual Faculty vs Senior Ultimate Frisbee game
  • College Application Nights for Seniors

Upcoming

Parent Conferences with Hive Teacher and Student - “Make sure your PLP reflects how you learn/Vision of a Graduate” (Collaboration)

Junior Parent Night

 

 

District Operations


Herrick Avenue Facilities Project

On Monday, November 7th, the Herrick Avenue Facilities Project Committee hosted a Community Forum. Approximately 25 community members attended in person while 3 people attended via Zoom. The ‘Committee’ presented an overview of the project WHY, and this included facility history, evaluation results, educational challenges and needs and a video tour. Trucexcullins then presented 5 ‘Options’ for the direction the community could take in determining next steps.


The Herrick Avenue Project page on the website will be updated with all the presentation materials along with a new survey seeking input on the 5 options. As a result of the community dialogue, we will also create a FAQ and Considerations document.


Based on the results of the first survey and the community dialogue, there is a strong consensus that something needs to be done soon to improve the learning experience for our elementary and middle school students. The community is ready to engage in a process to collectively figure out the best way to approach the problem. It was a very positive forum. 

Lifting Student Learning

Personalized Learning

As I mentioned in previous reports, we have several structures in place designed to improve instructional practices and student achievement. 

  1. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are an evidenced-based practice for professional learning and growth centered on improving learning outcomes for all students including academic, social/emotional, and physical development. PLCs meet during early release time. Each PLC has a trained teacher facilitator and a supporting administrator (principal or district office leader). I attend the Unified Arts PLC in each building.
  2. The Cycle of Inquiry is an evidenced-based process that is also being used between principals and individual teachers. Each principal is assigned a District Leader to support them. I am supporting Co-Principals Blake and Stinson.  In this process,
    1. The Principal and teacher meet and collaboratively identify an instructional area of focus for feedback.
    2. The Principal conducts classroom visits and gathers evidence for feedback and then has a follow up with the teacher using the conversation architecture.
    3. Principal conducts a final cycle visit.
    4. The teacher reflects on the feedback and makes decisions about next steps for growing their practice.

Last week, I observed amazing connections between the Unified Arts PLCs and student learning in the classroom. At Milton High School in particular, the UA PLC is focused on creating flexible pathways for students anchored by community collaboration and a design process resulting in higher student engagement, achievement and social-emotional wellness. While doing classroom learning walks over the last few weeks, I have observed this in action. In addition, I have had many conversations with students about their experience. In Design Studio - a new class in the Innovation Lab, students selected a project to practice newly learned skills using either the laser cutter or 3D printer. I was impressed by the array of projects and how each student - depending on their project, also had to independently acquire additional knowledge and skills to get the outcome they wanted. One student was learning PhotoShop while another was watching a video to design gears to make his fan work.  


State Board of Education

The VT State Board of Education is responsible for making regulations governing: attendance and records of attendance of all pupils, standards for student performance, adult basic education programs, approval of independent schools, disbursement of funds, and equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education. 


On Wednesday, October 19th, Lynne Manley, Wilmer Chavarria and Michael Abbott presented to the VT State Board of Education at the invitation of Dr. Patrick Brown of UVM. Their presentation centered on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts at MTSD. Lynne began with a broad overview of district efforts that began at Milton Highschool in the early 2000's, and that became part of the districts Comprehensive Improvement Plan and Strategic Plan in 2017, and continue today. Michael Abbott spoke for Allie Vega, High School Librarian and Rowland Fellow, about MHS racial equity work and student initiatives, and Wilmer gave an overview of the district-wide policy and procedure work that is ongoing. Members of the State Board on the sub-committee asked many questions about the role of Teacher Licensing and Education Quality Standards in supporting equity work at the district level.  


VT School Board / VT Superintendent Association Conference

On October 20 and 21, Trustees Metcalf and Stout traveled with me to the Fall VSBA/VSA Annual Conference. The theme of the conference was “How are the Children?” Keynote speaker, Kay Douglas, Senior Consultant for Texas School Boards. She provided a high level overview of how VT children are doing and then outlined the responsibilities of School Board and Superintendents to work collaboratively toward a student centered shared vision. 


In the afternoon, Trustee Stout and I had a sneak preview of the framework the VT School Board Association is selecting to create a Leading for Equity Workbook for Boards. On Friday afternoon, we attended a workshop overviewing the implementation of ACT 72 - School Facilities Legislation which includes requirements for facilities inventories and assessments, directors of facilities in every district, a capital plan, and radon testing. In addition, it includes language for Facility Standards to be incorporated into the existing Education Quality Standards for all VT Schools. Overall, the conference was very worthwhile. 

Lifting Student Learning

Cycle of Inquiry

In my last report, I highlighted the Cycle of Inquiry, a structure we have in place that allows teachers, support staff and administrators to learn, work and grow together so that we can improve our professional practices and increase student achievement. During early release time, teachers with the support of  trained teacher facilitators  meet in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to engage in the Cycle of Inquiry. I also highlighted an example of this practice from one of the Milton Elementary School’s PLC.


In addition to teacher PLCs, principals engage in the Cycle of Inquiry with individual teachers and Tier III Specialists, and I engage in the Cycle of Inquiry with Principals. As part of my participation in the Principal Supervisor Academy sponsored by the Center for Educational Leadership, I am learning new ways to engage with Principals in order to improve the student learning experience and their achievement outcomes. In part, I am working with principals one to one to:

  1. Identify a high priority student learning problem and the teaching and learning factors that may be contributing to it. 
  2. Gather and analyze data together to identify a contributing principal and principal supervisor problem of practice, write a theory of action, and develop a plan to include evidence of success and how it will be measured. 
  3. Implement the plan and analyze the impact. 

Through the support of my assigned Center for Educational Leadership coach, I am currently working with one principal to learn and grow this practice. Later this year, I will share a more detailed presentation as to what this work looks like. 


District Assessment Measure

This week the Vermont Agency of Education announced that it has selected a new vendor to implement the Federally required, peer reviewed State assessment in the areas ELA, math and science. Since the 2013/2014 school year, the State has contracted with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The new vendor is Cognia. The AOE selected Cognia for the following key reasons: 

  1. Cognia demonstrated a superior approach to integrating principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into the assessment development process and implementation procedures. 
  2. The assessment includes superior accessibility features and is highly adaptable due to the organization’s use of enhanced technology. 
  3. Cognia provides a comprehensive suite of resources, including benchmark assessments, annual summative assessments, robust item banks, advanced accessibility features and accommodations as well as a detailed implementation and training plan and strong customer support services. 
  4. Cognia provides an enhanced interface for test set up, delivery and performance including intuitive engagement for educators, students and families. 

The AOE and Cognia have developed a training and implementation plan that will support SU/SDs during the transition. A detailed overview of this plan will be shared, including timelines, in the coming weeks. 


Cognia will perform a study using results from the first administration of the new assessment to show comparability of results between the new assessment and our former assessments, developed with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (ELA, math) and Cambium (science).

State News:

On Thursday, September 22nd, the Vermont Superintendents Association held its first All Members meeting of the year. There are 51 superintendents in Vermont and this year, the Association welcomed 14 new superintendents; a 28% turnover from last year.  After welcoming our new colleagues, we spent time in small groups examining current problems of practice, sharing expertise, and brainstorming sustainable solutions. In the afternoon, the Director of VSA, Jeff Francis, provided us with status updates on key education related legislative action. We discussed the existing and potential impact on operations, and then closed the meeting out by working in small groups to identify needs we had to successfully navigate, prepare for and/or implement the most recent legislation.


Of particular interest to the MTSD is the legislation related to PCBs. Two districts that were tested in the first round and received results that required closing portions of their facilities shared their story - mainly that they were facing unfunded PCB expenses and were  not eligible for the emergency PCB dollars set aside by the Education Fund. At this point, it is unclear to superintendents as to the circumstances that warrant access to these funds and/or how decisions will be made.


Another topic of interest was ACT 173. I am pleased with our District’s progress in developing a District approach to comprehensive systems of support for students who are struggling. Many districts delayed this work during Covid and are feeling the pinch. The funding change associated with ACT 173 continues to be a concern for us though. The shift from a reimbursement funding model for special education to a census-based block grant (per student) represents a significant decrease in State special education dollars and will create a gap in revenue. The  new pupil weighting may help mitigate this gap to some extent; however, we have not received the new projections yet and the new weights will not be applied until FY25. Another challenge is that the AOE is still in the process of releasing guidance about how districts will document costs in support of special education for the purpose of Federal Maintenance of Effort. The concern is that the process will continue to be very cumbersome, limiting the time and flexibility of the shrinking special education labor force.


Next week is the VSA/VSBA Fall Conference. The theme is “How Are Students Doing?” and the alignment with the work of Boards.

Lifting Student Learning

As we close out our first month of school, our staff and students continue to be enthusiastic, focused and healthy. Excellent classroom instruction that is universally designed, culturally and linguistically responsive and results in improved student achievement for every student - especially in literacy and math, is currently the primary focus of the district.


We continue to use structures that allow teachers, support staff and administrators to learn, work and grow together so that we can improve our professional practices and increase student achievement. Each school has reviewed student achievement data and identified an area of focus. Additionally, grade levels and departments are setting goals to support this focus. 


One structure we have in place is the Cycle of Inquiry. This structure is taking place at the school level (district office leaders with principals), the grade or department level (Professional Learning Communities), and the classroom level (principals or coaches with teachers). These cycles all center around each school's goals for increasing student achievement.


The Cycle of Inquiry is the process of 

  1. Examining, trends, patterns, and root causes with others
  2. Designing evidenced-based strategies based on existing knowledge and skills and/or the acquisition of new knowledge and skills
  3. Implementing the plan
  4. Gathering evidence (student data),  reflecting on their performance, and identifying next steps

Last week during our first early release day, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) met for the first time.  Each PLC has (or will soon) set a goal related to their school’s area of focus.  To understand how PLCs improve student learning see the example below from Milton Elementary School.


School Goal: MES will increase the number of students reading at or above grade level by the end of 2022-2023 school year by focusing on the understanding of word meaning and analysis across texts as a part of the systematic approach to teaching reading.


Grade Level PLC Goal: Students will increase their application of grade level phonics and word analysis skills. (RF.2.3) By the end of the 6 week cycle, 90% of students will be proficient at identifying and applying digraphs within text or word lists. 


Teachers in this grade level conducted a pre-assessment of digraphs and then during their PLC time, they collectively analyzed the results and made some inferences. As a result of this process, they identified both whole group and small group strategies along with methods to monitor student progress. Teachers will continue to examine the data and identify the strategies that are getting the best results and make adjustments in their practice as needed. 


Every PLC has a trained teacher facilitator and a supporting administrator (principal or district office leader). They also use common practices like an established agenda, norms or agreements and a protocol to ensure efficiency of time, focus of purpose and equity of voice.  


Operations and State News

Policy

The VSBA has issued revisions to two policies that we recently approved - Notice of Non-Discrimination and Students Who are Homeless, the committee will revise with the required changes and bring back to the Board in the next set of policies to approve. 


The next set of revised policies will come before the Board for a first read on November 10th. The Equity Policy continues to be on track for revisions. The revised draft will be shared in advance of the community forum which will be held on Tuesday, December 6th. Details will be forthcoming.  The revised draft should be ready for a first read by early January. 


Vermont Superintendents Association

The first all members meeting for the VT Superintendents Association is scheduled for Thursday, September 22nd. 

Lifting Student Learning

The MTSD faculty participated in five days of pre-service prior to welcoming back all students on Wednesday, August 31st. These days included a wide variety of activities, including:

  • Welcoming new faculty and building community within the organization
  • A review of student achievement data in order to set Professional Learning Community goals and/or develop rosters for acceleration blocks
  • Training and preparation for our newly revised system for Educational Support Teams (EST)
  • Curriculum planning
  • Classroom preparations

In addition to school based days, there was one District day. On this day, we welcomed all faculty and staff in the MHS auditorium, honored our Teachers of the Year - Lisa Ransom, Elementary School Special Educator and Paul Curtis, Drama Teacher, and concluded with an overview of ALiCE from Officer Porter.


I also conducted three separate presentations - one for each school, related to the new B8: Electronic Communications Between Employees and Students. A memo regarding B8 will also go out to parents before the end of the month. 


Students Return - YEAH

We had an amazing first 3 days. Although there was still a great deal of excitement and positive energy, students returned in a much different way this year. Seemingly they are more focused and ready to settle into the routines of learning than they were last year. 


New Staffing Configuration

In June of 2022, I outlined a new staffing configuration plan so that we could have another layer of support for student services while expanding opportunities for principals to provide instructional leadership to teachers. As a reminder - these positions were not new additions to the budget, instead they were part of a reconfiguration plan for either existing or vacant positions. We have successfully completed the reconfiguration and filled all necessary positions.


Two positions have been reconfigured to provide an additional layer to Student Services:

  1. Ashley Fitzgerald has been named the Assistant Director of Student Services. Ashley has served as an elementary school speech language pathologist. In addition, for the last two years she has provided direct support to the Milton Elementary School Leadership Team (MELT) serving as a mentor and extra layer of support for Special Educators and Individual Education Plan (IEP) compliance. The Director of Student Services and MELT have drafted a transition plan to ensure Ashhley’s current responsibilities are covered while she begins her new duties. Ashley’s high level duties include:
    1. K-12 504 Compliance 
    2. Provide direct support to MES Special Educators related to compliance as well as with eligibility and approval of special education services
    3. Support K-12 SpEd mentoring
    4. Support implementation of AOE Special Education Rule Changes
  2. Kris Schoembs has been named the MHS Student Services Coordinator. Kris has served as a long time MHS Special Educator and comes to the position with a plethora of teacher leadership experience and special education knowledge. Her high level duties include:
    1. Provides leadership and coordination 504 and Special Education programming
    2. Cases manages majority of 504 plans
    3. Provides an extra layer of support to students with 504 plans including but not limited, academic services, social emotional support, connecting to services, and family engagement

In addition to Student Services, several positions were reconfigured to provide another layer of support in Behavioral Prevention and Intervention services.

  1. Chris Taylor has been named the MES Behavior Services Coordinator. Chris has served as a building base Behavior Interventionist for the last four years. His new role will provide coordination and support to the school’s behavior prevention and response structure and thus enhance its effectiveness. His high level duties include:
    1. Support development multidisciplinary behavior plans at grade level for students not served by an IEP or 504
    2. Ensure coordination and training of individual and building base Behavior Interventionists
    3. Oversight of Phoenix Room and behavior planning
  2. Zach Jerome and Carol Cushing have been named the MMS and MHS Restorative Practices and Behavior Services Coordinator for their respective buildings. Their high level duties include:
    1. Supports discipline response including reteaching and repair to harm
    2. Ensures coordination and training of individual and building base Behavior Interventionists
    3. Support training for Tier I and Tier II Restorative Practices for MHS faculty and staff
  3. Shelby Haselman is a newly hired MES staff member who has been appointed as the Phoenix Room Behavior/Restorative Practices Educator. This has been an unfilled position for several years. Her high level duties include:
    1. Provide behavior plan support and education to students who have been removed from the classroom
    2. Support repairing harm as applicable
    3. Oversee students’ transition back to the classroom
  4. Craig Dwyer is a newly hired ME/MS staff member and will serve as a full time coordinator for the Prevention and Response to Hazing, Harassment and Bullying. 


Operations

The first Herrick Ave School Facilities Project meeting was held on Thursday, September 1st in the MEMS Library. After a short presentation, the committee took a tour to examine the layout and condition of the building. The members of the committee received a copy of the Herrick Facilities Evaluation Plan and Concept Design to review before the next meeting on October 6, 2022. Future agenda items include visiting the newly renovated Winooski School and planning a community informational meeting. 


State and Federal News

On Wednesday, August 31st, I attended a town hall meeting hosted by the U.S Department of Education and the U.S Department of Labor related to staffing shortages in education. The agencies are collectively launching a new platform for recruitment, calling for State Education Agencies to use their ESSER Funds to increase wages (note, many States have Statewide contracts / staffing pay grids which would allow this type of action.), and to create paid Teacher Apprenticeship programs to support individuals interested in becoming teachers but who can not afford to enter College / University programs.


At the State level, VEHI - or the Vermont Education Health Initiative will be conducting surveys and focus groups with Vermont educators and school staff around the state this Fall. The information gathered will be used to develop targeted health and wellness programs for school district staff. These programs will build on the existing PATH Forward initiative.  $1.395 million of Vermont's ARP ESSER funding is earmarked to support this initiative. These funds come from the “State set-aside,” funds designated to the AOE to support statewide education recovery needs.

For the first time in two years, our summer work has not been consumed by Covid-19. This summer has felt incredibly purposeful and productive.  Summer is always a busy time for the District Office and School Leaders, and this summer - instead of designing schools around the pandemic, we have been able to focus on strengthening systems to improve teaching and learning and the structures to support them. 


At the District level, we continue to evaluate our information and reporting systems to ensure accurate and efficient operations. We are also growing internal organizational capacity across all systems to meet ongoing challenges in the workforce. Documented procedures related to all four categories - Human Resources; Policy; Administrative; and now Health also continues to make steady progress. 


In addition, the Consolidated Federal Grant (Title funds) and the IDEA-B (special education) grant require a great deal of attention in the summer. For both of these grants, the FY22 close out reports are due as well as the new FY23 applications. Beginning in the spring, the Director of Curriculum and Student Services respectively collaborate with school leaders to assess and identify needs aligned with our continuous improvement plan goals. Then the grant applications are prepared and submitted.  After a lot of back and forth with the VT Agency of Education and once the grant strategies are accepted, throughout the remainder of the summer, Lynne and Tim prepare materials and vendor contracts for the start of the school year. They also support the Business Manager in filing the close out reports. 


The Leadership Team (district office leaders and principals) have had three, full day retreats this summer along with numerous individual meetings. This work has focused on a multitude of topics, including:

  1. Academic Success
    1. Systems approach for instructional leadership
      1. Educational Support Team makeover
      2. Instructional focus and principal learning walks
      3. Layers of instruction 
    2. Educator learning and support
      1. New teacher mentoring program makeover
      2. Role of instructional coaches
      3. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) facilitator training
      4. Rule changes in Special Education 
  2. Health and Social Emotional Well Being 
    1. Integration and the effective coordination of services (school counselors, social workers, school based clinicians and school to home liaison)
    2. SEE curriculum implementation
    3. Systems for a safe and inclusive learning environment
      1. Restorative approaches
      2. Title IX and Hazing, Harassment and Bullying (HHB) education
  3. Families
    1. Family engagement 
    2. School safety

In addition, the school principals have been on site most of the summer supporting summer programming while also planning for the upcoming school year. Currently they are putting the finishing touches on their annual school based improvement plans, teacher pre-service activities, student schedules, and school handbooks. They also continue to recruit and hire for existing vacancies.


Everyone is looking forward to the return of faculty, staff and students. 

Staffing shortages continue to be an important topic both Nationally and Statewide. On Thursday, July 21st the Vermont Superintendents Association held a meeting to discuss existing shortages as well as short term strategies to prepare for the upcoming school year. 7 Days also recently published an article on the issue Seven Days article.


As of July 21st, the MTSD:

  1. 2.5 vacancies at the District Office along with one 1.0 unfilled, new position
  2. 3.0 special education vacancies
  3. 2.0 speech language specialist vacancies
  4. 16 support staff vacancies (instructional assistants, intensive needs specialists, behavior interventionists, food services)
  5. We have 13 employees that are on provisional licenses - 7 of those are new teachers with licenses still pending from the VT AOE (they are very backed up)
  6. We have lost a bus route due to driver shortages at Mountain Transit

Generally, fewer young people going into teaching and housing shortages and high cost of living makes recruiting from out of state difficult. Many districts, including us, are working on developing contingency plans to address these shortages in the short term. In addition, the VT Agency of Education has commissioned a study, due at the end of the year, to look at how the State might modify licensing regulations and enhance the secondary school / college pipeline for teacher preparatory programs in order to address workforce shortages. 

 

Policy Committee Timeline

Given the amount of policy work to be done, the MTSD Board of Trustees Policy Committee has decided to separate the work into two different meetings; that is a monthly equity policy focus meeting and bi-monthly all VSBA/MTSD policy review and revision meetings. 


The Equity Policy meetings will be conducted on the same Thursday as the first regular scheduled board of the month - typically this is the 2nd Thursday of the month with the exception of the changes due to the holidays in November and December. The Equity Policy meeting will be held in the MHS Library from 4:30-5:30.


Although it is difficult to gauge how much time the committee will need reviewing and revising the Equity Policy, we have put together a tentative recommended schedule for input by the full Board. Regardless of our timeline, once we publish a schedule, it will be important for everyone - in order to have the most up to date information, to refer to the agenda that is warned and posted in advance of each meeting.

  • August - Sections 3 A and B
  • September - Sections 3 C and D
  • October - Sections E and F
  • November - Section 2
  • December - Submit for First Read

Based on this timeline, the MTSD Board of Trustees could plan for two community forums intended to answer questions and receive input on sections of draft revisions. One could be in late September / early October and the other in mid to late November.


The next all VSBA/MTSD policy review and revision meeting is on August 5th in the MTSD District Office from 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. At this meeting, subsequent meetings to be held in October, December, February, April, and June will be scheduled. 

Legislative Summary

 

PCBs work in schools:

  • Funding: at the close of FY22, $22 million is reserved within the Education Fund for purposes of funding the investigation, testing, assessment, remediation, and removal of PCBs in schools.  
  • Disbursement Plan: on or before January 15, 2023, the Agencies of Education and Natural Resources, and the Department of Health must submit a written plan to the General Assembly laying out a process for the disbursement of monies for PCBs work.  
  • Emergency contingency: Notwithstanding the above, in the event of a significant health threat based on the concentration and location of PCBs in schools, the Emergency Board is authorized to make monies available, not to exceed $2.5 million. 

 

Act 173 and Pupil Weighting

  • Elimination of the equalization ratio and using long-term weighted ADM count as the pupil count for calculating education spending per pupil
  • Change in poverty determination - a pupil is from an economically deprived background from qualification for nutrition benefits to eligibility based upon family income of 185 percent or less of the current year Federal Poverty Level.  This change will take effect at the beginning of the 2023–24 school year.  All schools will collect income bracket information using a universal income declaration form. 
  • Recalibration the weights not less than every five years
  • Recalibration of weights::
  • Grade level weights: prekindergarten = negative 0.54; grades 6-8 = 0.36; grades 9-12 = 0.39
  • Economically deprived background weight: 1.03
  • EL weight: 2.49
  • Weight for pupils living in low population density school districts -
    1. 35 or fewer, apply a weight of 0.15
    2. 36 and 56, apply a weight of 0.12 
    3. 56 and 101, apply a weight of 0.07

Districts that gain tax capacity under the new weights get the advantage in year 1. For districts seeing diminished tax capacity, if the increase in rates from FY24 to FY25 is greater than 5%, they are protected by a maximum allowable increase of 5% for up to 5 years.

Requirement  to meet school district quality standards adopted by rule of the AOE regarding the business, facilities management, and governance practices of school districts. 

 

Act 114 - Teacher Retirement

Under Act 114, VSTRS participants will be assigned a contribution rate in FY23 based on the appropriate tier within a contribution band and with a similar approach taken in  FY24. Starting in FY25, there will be a shift to marginal contribution rates. 


Act 78 - Temporary Open Meeting Law Adjustment

  • Allows a meeting of a public body to be held fully remotely without needing to designate a physical meeting location and without requiring staff to be physically present at a location.
    • Post meeting access
    • Allow for participation
    • Record meetings (unless not possible to do otherwise)
    • If staffing shortages exist, may extend the time limit for the posting of minutes to not more than 10 days from the date of the meeting
    • Expires January 2023

Two Miscellaneous Education Bills

Act 166

  • PCB and Radon testing expectations and support

Includes work to be done by the VT AOE and various organizations that result in written reports with recommendations to be considered for legislative action, including but not limited to:

  • Statewide calendar
  • Standard entrance age threshold for public school kindergarten attendance
  • Statewide remote learning policy

Act 175

  • Special Education
    • Amends 16 V.S.A. § 2961 to set the amount of the census grant as either the average amount an SU received for fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020, or the average amount it received for fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021, whichever amount is greater, from the State for special education (for fiscal year 2023).
    • delays the implementation of rules 2362 and 2362.2.5 until July 1, 2023 in order to allow educators and staff time to adequately prepare for the delivery of special education services as required under the State Board of Education special education rules series 2360, which will otherwise take effect on July 1, 2022.

  • Requires the AOE to report on and make recommendations to ensure that Holocaust education is included in the educational programs provided to students in public schools.

  • Creates an Income-Based Education Tax Study Committee to study and make recommendations

 

Act 151 - Universal Meals

Extends the universal meals program in Vermont for one year using $29 million from surplus in the Education Fund, giving the General Assembly time to collect and review participation rates and other relevant data, and to consider possible revenue sources for the program going forward.


Act 111 - Collective Bargaining

  • Amends 16 V.S.A. § 1752 so that a teacher who is employed under a collective bargaining agreement that provides just cause rights can proceed directly to submitting a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement without first requesting a hearing before the school board.
  • Adds 16 V.S.A. § 1986, which protects teachers, administrators, or other employees of a school district or supervisory union when they testify to the General Assembly, a committee of the General Assembly, or the State Board of Education from retaliation from their employer, except that a witness may be disciplined by the individual’s employer for divulging confidential information.

Lifting Student Learning

As we eased out of the pandemic this spring, the leadership team has evaluated existing personnel structures to specifically identify assets and gaps in effectively responding to the needs of students and staff in the aftermath of Covid-19; that is, to improve the academic performance, the social-emotional well being and mental health of our students while also increasing district capacity to implement components of Act 173, provide targeted instructional leadership, and support and retain the workforce. 


As a result of this opportunity, we changed our staffing structure at the district level and within each of the schools. These changes are specific to student services, behavior management, social emotional learning and restorative practices. The changes take advantage of unfilled vacancies, different approaches to sustaining several areas of focus, and grant funds.

District Level:

  1. Replace the vacant SEL Coordinator with an Assistant Director of Student Services
    1. Increase our existing Consolidated Grant Funds allocation for consultation services that build capacity in sustaining the implementation of the  SEE curriculum and DESSA assessment within each building.
    2. Focus of the Director of Student Services
      1. PreK-12 Intensive Needs compliance and oversight
      2. MES/MMS/MHS Special Education compliance lead
      3. Lead Systemic multidisciplinary implementation with Admin/SLP/SpEd/ISN/SEL PreK-12
      4. Tier III SEL student programming oversight
      5. Oversight of the implementation of AOE Special Education Rule Changes
    3. Focus of the Assistant Director of Student Services  
      1. K-12 504 Compliance 
      2. Provide direct support to MES Special Educators related to compliance as well as with eligibility and approval of special education services
      3. Support K-12 SpEd mentoring (13 or ⅓  of our special educators and speech language pathologist are new to the district next fall or will be in their 2nd year) 
      4. Support implementation of AOE Special Education Rule Changes
  2. School Level
    1. MES
      1. Fill vacant MTSS Coordinator position with Behavior Services Coordinator
        1. Support development multidisciplinary behavior plans at grade level for students not served by an IEP or 504
        2. Ensure coordination and training of individual and building base Behavior Interventionists
        3. Oversight of Phoenix Room and behavior planning
      2. Fill vacant Behavior Interventionist position with Phoenix Room Behavior/Restorative Practices Educator
        1. Provide behavior plan support and education to students who have been removed from the classroom
        2. Support repairing harm as applicable
        3. Oversee students’ transition back to the classroom
    2. MMS
      1. Replace the HHB/RP Coordinator with a full time HHB Coordinator
        1. Supports the increase in complaints at the elementary and middle level
        2. Increases capacity of both schools to provide more prevention education
      2. Add Restorative Practices / Behavior Services Coordinator
        1. Supports discipline response including reteaching and repair to harm
        2. Ensures coordination and training of individual and building base Behavior Interventionists
        3. Oversight of Student Support room and behavior planning
    3. MHS
      1. Replace an individual behavior interventionist with a school-based behavior interventionist 
      2. Promote school-based behavior interventionist to Restorative Practices / Behavior Services Coordinator
        1. Supports discipline response including reteaching and repair to harm
        2. Ensures coordination and training of individual and building base Behavior Interventionists
        3. Support training for Tier I and Tier II Restorative Practices for MHS faculty and staff

  1. Add (grant funds) a MHS Student Services Coordinator
    1. Provides leadership and coordination 504 and Special Education programming
    2. Cases manages majority of 504 plans
    3. Provides an extra layer of support to students with 504 plans including but not limited, academic services, social emotional support, connecting to services, and family engagement

School Safety

In the meeting packet are several documents related to school safety, including the 2018-2020 ALiCE Action Plan that the MTSD ALiCE Committee created and executed. It is important note the following:

  1. Some information / components of the plan have been removed for security purposes
  2. Many of the resources that were created as a result of this plan are still intact - templates, family communications… and continue to be used as needed
  3. The training components continue
    1. We continue to contract with ALiCE and have access to the online training
    2. We continue to education and active drills with all staff and students

This plan is specific to ALiCE is does not include other MTSD practices related to safety, included, but not limited to:

  1. Monthly drills
  2. Monthly safety meetings at each campus
  3. Table top trainings with Milton Emergency Planners
  4. Other safety related trainings
    1. HHB and Title IX
    2. Threat Assessment 
    3. De-escalation 
    4. Trauma Informed Practices

Next year, the committee will be revitalized after being on Covid hiatus. It will revise and update the action plan to reflect current needs. In addition, we have contacted Rob Evans, Vermont School Safety Liaison, to conduct a security assessment at both campuses. 


Grants

As noted in our last meeting, we did not receive the Department of Public Service Heating and Ventilation Grant; however, we were notified that we are in the cue for the Efficiency VT Heating and Ventilation Grant and we have amended that grant to focus entirely on MHS. The rationale is that we are not investing in major projects at Herrick until we have an understanding of the master plan for that location. The HVAC work identified in the grant for MHS includes ventilation in the library and auditorium as well as new heating and cooling units in all the classrooms.


We have applied for two Federal grants related to school safety. These are just preliminary applications. They include items to improve building security. It is important to note that Student Resource Officers are not viable grant strategies. 

Lifting Student Learning

As we close out the school year, I would like to circle back to our October 28, 2021 meeting on school climate in the time of Covid and our April meeting with the MTSD Strategic Plan Progress Report. In part, both of these meetings highlighted the extraordinary leadership, teaching and learning that is happening across the district while also speaking to the challenges that are either a result of Covid-19 and/or have been exacerbated by it. 


As we eased out of the pandemic this spring, the leadership team has evaluated existing personnel structures to specifically identify assets and gaps in effectively responding to the needs of students and staff in the aftermath of Covid-19; that is, to improve the academic performance, the social-emotional well being and mental health of our students while also increasing district capacity to implement components of Act 173, provide targeted instructional leadership, and support and retain the workforce. 


As a result of this opportunity, we are considering changes to our staffing structure at the district level and within each of the schools. These changes are specific to student services, behavior management, social emotional learning and restorative practices. The changes take advantage of unfilled vacancies, different approaches to sustaining several areas of focus, and grant funds. Although we have a sound understanding of our needs these changes are still in draft form. In part, discussions are still happening as we get feedback from relevant staff and draft position descriptions. In part, the changes are contingent on filling positions. Details to come at our next meeting. 


Panorama Update

Panorama provides schools with Nationally normed, on-line surveys to measure and support schools in understanding the perceptions of students and families. This data collection will help us evaluate current strategies that schools are using to improve teaching and learning, school climate and safety. The tool will also be a new data point for monitoring progress. 

 

We administered the first set of family surveys in April. Last week, Erik Johnson conducted a training with District and School leaders on how to navigate the platform while Tammy helped us understand the results in relation to National comparisons. Next steps will include district office and principals:

  • Analyzing the data and theming the comments
  • Developing a plan to share the results with the faculty, staff, board,  and community
  • Engaging faculty and staff in a process to set a family engagement goal aligned with the MTSD Vision of Learning for next year

This work will occur over the summer.


Grant Updates

  1. On June 1, 2022, we submitted our Phase III State required “Recovery Plan”. Once we receive final approval, we will be able to create and submit our ARP ESSER budget plan.
  2. We received notification from the Department of Public Service that we did not receive the matching Heating and Ventilation Grant. As a reminder this was a $250,000 grant that we submitted to replace the heating system in the high school. The notification stated that there were many applications and the committee chose the schools who had the greatest needs and poverty rates. We are still waiting to hear from Efficiency VT as it relates to the other HVAC grant. This one targets completing the elementary school ventilation system and adding air conditioning to the high school library and auditorium.

School Safety

On Thursday, June 2nd, I was invited to serve as a panelist at the Milton / Colchester Rotary School Safety Community Forum. The forum began with an introduction by Robert Evans, Vermont School Safety Liaison. He provided the audience with an overview of how this arm of the VT Agency of Education supports schools. In addition, Michael Schirling, the current Commissioner of Public Safety, provided a brief overview of how this department interfaces with other agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to safety across the state. The forum was video recorded by LCATV and it is now available Rotary Community Forum on School Safety

Lifting Student Learning

Grant Award

The MTSD was awarded a $45,000.00 grant for Substance Misuse Prevention and Early Intervention Services. This money will be used for a Substance Abuse Professional. This person would be on-site 1-2 days a week to support the implementation of prevention education and to provide substance misuse counseling services to identified students.


Staffing

This year, we had unprecedented staffing challenges. This included, 

  1. 11 unfilled support staff positions, 
  2. 1 unfilled teacher level position, and
  3. 6 teachers who left midyear. Of the 6 teachers who left midyear, 2 were not filled and 4 took considerable time to fill. 

In addition, we had a very poor substitute teacher pool. Often, teachers covered for each other, special educators and speech language pathologists covered for support staff and/or support staff doubled up and split their time. Principals in each of the buildings spent a considerable amount of time every morning identifying the needs and gaps, asking for volunteers to fill those gaps, and putting the proverbial pieces of the puzzle together to ensure everyday the picture for coverage was complete. One saving grace was that each building had a full time floating substitute teacher. For two years, we have been able to support these positions because of Covid-19 cost savings related to field trips, transportation, athletics, professional development, and staff vacancies.


The Principals would very much like to be able to continue with these full time substitute teacher positions. To this end, we have a proposal. Due to the aforementioned staffing challenges, we have underspent our salaries and benefits line items by $929,329  as of 5/23/22. Given these savings, we propose paying for two FY22 positions from the general fund instead of ESSER II. This would allow us to extend the use of our ESSER II grant and to include the 3 full time substitute teachers. It might look a little like this:

Fund / FY

FY21

FY22

FY23

Position

     

Director Student Management

NA

ESSER II - Change to GF

Covid Cost Savings

ESSER II

Salary + Benefits ($109,665.92)

MMS Social Worker

NA

ESSER II - Change to GF Covid Cost Savings

ESSER II

Salary + Benefits 

($109,942.00)

3 Full Time Substitutes

General Fund

Covid Cost Savings

General Fund

Covid Cost Savings

ARP ESSER

Total Salary + Benefits 

($142,000.00)


Procedures Update

Steady progress continues with procedures. We have five categories for procedures - policy, human resources, health, finance/grants, and administrative. Since April, we have revised and/or created 10 HR, 2 health, 1 finance and 9 policy procedures. One significant body of work was athletic and co-curricular procedures.  The Director of Equity and Educational Support Systems facilitated a committee of coaches, students, parents, and administrators to study both current MTSD and VPA policies related to athletics and co-curricular programming and review the existing procedures. The committee broke out into smaller working groups to focus on a specific area and draft revised and/or new procedures. The committee eventually came together and reviewed each other’s work and gave feedback so final revisions could be made. Although this extensive set of procedures will exist in one manual separate handbooks will be created to address the specific areas: rules for coaches; rules for student athletes and co-curricular activities; general administration of athletic programming and rules of clubs. A process for an annual review of the manual will be put into place. 


Legislative

Thirteen bills that relate to education have passed the general assembly. Several important ones include:

  1. H.737 sets the yield rates as follows for FY23. This does not include any impact of the CLA, so at this time, I do not know how much of a decrease Milton tax payers will see. We initially projected a zero tax increase; however, it is likely to be a decrease:
    1. property dollar equivalent yield shall be $13,314.00 (FY22 is $11,317)
    2. the income dollar equivalent yield shall be $15,948.00 (FY22 is $13,770)
    3. the tax rate for non-homestead property shall be $1.466 (FY22 is $1.612)
    4. estimated average homestead tax rate = $1.385 (FY22 is $1.523)
    5. 14 cent decrease in average homestead property tax rate and in the non-homestead property tax rate
  2. S100 - Universal Meals Since March 2020, Vermont schools have been receiving full federal funding for universal meals; this ends in June. S.100 extends the universal meals program in Vermont for one year using $29 million from surplus in the Education Fund.  
  3. S287 - Updates and adds new pupil weights for FY 2025
    1. Grade level weights - slight adjustment
    2. Economically deprived background weight - increased adjustment 1.03 
    3. EL weight - new
    4. Weight for pupils living in low population density school districts - new
    5. Weight for pupils attending small schools - new

Other changes include:

  • The bill moves us from equalized pupils to weighted long-term membership.
  • Suspends the excess spending threshold, hold harmless provision, and the school budget ballot language requirement in 16 VSA § 563(11)(D) for fiscal years 2024 through 2029
  • Use of a universal income declaration form to collect household income bracket information
  • Expansion of the Education Quality Standards to include business; facilities management; and governance to be evaluated against new metrics established by the Secretary
  • An examination of the CTE funding system and related topics
  • Report on an Income-Based Tax System for funding education


  1. S.286 is legislation that codifies the recommendations of the Pension Benefits, Design and Funding Task Force. The bill will also establish a marginal, progressive increase in participant contribution. This concept proved problematic in terms of implementation by school district central offices; therefore, a fixed contribution percentage will be assigned to ranges of compensation levels while interested parties figure out how to implement the progressive contributions by FY25.
  2. S.283 Miscellaneous Education Bill has a number of random extensions and studies to be completed on various topics. Of interest is the Act 173 Block Census Grant  - it sets the amount for FY23 as either the average amount received for FY18 - 20, or the average amount it received for FY19-21, whichever amount is greater.

Lifting Student Learning

Currently there is significant focus on our Lifting Student Learning (Continuous Improvement Plan).  The VT Agency of Education requires that all districts evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the strategic actions and activities of the existing plan for 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, we need to identify what modifications to those strategies we intend to make based upon the Needs Assessment we just completed. This information must be submitted by June 1, 2022. In the meantime, we also need to finalize the 2022-23 draft, solicit stakeholder feedback and then prepare a final draft to submit in early August. 

 

Operations

Grants

There has also been a great deal of activity in the grants office. 

  1. ESSER Grants
    1. The final submission for ESSER I has been completed. The performance period for this grant ends on September 30th. We successfully maximized the full amount of this grant. It included salaries for several positions, summer programming for last year, and professional development funds. 
    2. We continue to make amendments to ESSER II while drawing down funds.  
    3. The MTSD ARP ESSER Plan  was approved by the VT Agency of Education. This allows us to begin the process of building the budget in the grant management system and then drawing on the funds.. 
  2. McKinney Vento (Homeless Children and Youth Program) Grant recently went through the Agency of Education monitoring process. The process ensures that we are adhering to all the requirements of the grant, including the follow through of identified activities, use of funds, and reporting outcomes. In addition to sufficiently meeting all the requirements, we were recognized for our diligent and thorough submission and the outstanding work we are doing to support students experiencing homelessness. We could not do this excellent work without the commitment of time and energy of Jen Saunders with support from Sydney, our grants manager and Kasey, the homeless assistant. 
  3. This week we submitted two additional grants:
    1. Heating System Upgrades for a total of $275,000
    2. Substance Misuse and Prevention for a total of $45,000
  4. The Consolidated Federal Grants (Title grants) are also in the process of being written for FY23.  The strategies for these grants are directly related to both the MTSD Strategic Plan and the Lifting Student Learning Plan. These grants ensure equitable access to services toward improving student outcomes. They also support professional learning related to those services.

Facilities Master Planning

On May 3rd, Truexcullin presented a first, quick look at the  facilities evaluation to the district master planning leadership team. Given the facilities inventory all districts recently submitted, we were not surprised to see that our buildings will need a great deal of attention in the years to come. A strategic approach along with thoughtful decision making will be essential so that the community can maximize their investments toward viable education facilities in the years to come.


On May 17th, the MTSD Board of Trustee Finance/Facilities Committee will take a deeper look at the evaluation. They will also determine the next steps in terms of sharing this information with the full Board and other Stakeholders along with a process for how the district and community will conduct long term, comprehensive facilities management planning. 

Facilities Master Planning Update

On April 5th, we held our monthly meeting with Truexcullins and they provided us with a progress update on the MTSD Master Facilities Planning project. 

  1. Truexcullins informed us that the Facility Evaluation Project cost estimate is underway. As a reminder, this is the cost of ownership of the buildings required to ensure the vitality - safe, predictable, and efficient operations of all systems within the buildings (internal and external structures). These are broken out into 3 categories:
    1. Health Safety Welfare (code requirements)
    2. Approaching/Past Estimated Life Span - Replacement - Energy Efficiencies
    3. All else -- including improvements to functionality

This information will be shared with us at our next meeting on May 3rd. Finance and Facility committee representatives, Long and Metcalf will attend. At this meeting, we will also discuss next steps in presenting this information to the public along with a process for engaging stakeholders in future planning.


  1. Truexcullins also presented Concept Design Floor plans for each school; these draft plans were based on the stakeholder engagement process during the fall of 2021. This process included two community forums and many interviews with various staff and student groups at each school.  Two sets of concept designs were presented - one with additions and one without. Principals are reviewing the designs and will provide additional feedback prior to the May meeting. This information will help inform the final cost estimates.
  2. As part of the Master Facilities Planning Project, it is recommended that we conduct a statistical forecasting demographic study. This information projects enrollments and provides other important information to help with decision making for the future. We were able to find a reputable organization locally - Statistical Forecasting LLC, led by Richard S. Grip Ed.D., Executive Director, who possesses a doctorate in educational statistics and measurement from Rutgers University (NJ). The cost of the study is not included in our contract with Truexcullins and it is estimated to be $8,000-$12,000 dollars depending on the level of service provided. The study will be discussed at our next meeting with Truexcullins. The study would not be able to be conducted until next fall. 

Vision of Learning

Safe and inclusion learning environments is one of the MTSD Vision of Learning pillars. As we know, a school’s learning environment is a reflection of the larger community. The MTSD partners with Milton leaders and community members in developing a future that fosters positive growth, civic engagement and sustainability for all. “Belonging in Milton” is an extension of Milton on the Move to actively promote an inclusive environment to foster a sense of community that celebrates diversity in Milton. “By fostering a shared sense of “belonging” among members of the community, we improve quality of life, enhance community well-being and drive economic growth and development.”


The premise of Inclusion Week:

In 2021, Governor Scott proclaimed the second week of May to be Inclusion Week in Vermont. Not long after, the Selectboard of the Town of Milton executed a Declaration of Inclusion, which “condemns racism and discrimination of any type and welcomes all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or disability and will protect these classes to the fullest extent of the law.” In addition, the declaration states that the Town “formally condemns discrimination in all its forms and commits to fair and equal treatment of everyone in our community. The Town of Milton is and will continue to be a place where individuals can live freely and express their opinions.“


In recognition of Inclusion Week (May 8-14, 2022) and to celebrate the first anniversary of the Town’s Declaration of Inclusion, the “Belonging in Milton” initiative was formed. This initiative is also the continuation of a discussion topic explored in the “Milton on the Move” Community Visit – a topic which many residents expressed interest in exploring further. As part of this recognition, Milton will host an Inclusion Festival on Saturday, May 7th. This will be a family-friendly event featuring food, music, art, booths/exhibits, etc. from a variety of groups and cultures. More information related to this event and other events throughout Inclusion Week will be forthcoming.  

Actions under consideration:

  1. Miscellaneous Ed Bill
    1. Delay of implementation of State Board of Education rule changes related to special education - adverse effect determination and procedures for identifying students with a specific learning disability. (H.716)
    2. Delay of timelines for facilities inventory and PCB testing (S.283)
  2. Flip to education funding - using cost equity adjustments versus weights. 
    1. The Education Senate passed the bill for a continuation of weights while making changes to the weighting formula as well as the process for determining poverty.
    2. The House Ways and Means is taking a different approach. 
    3. In a all members meeting on Monday, superintendents learned that the projections of the #s shared with us related to both formulas are illustrative but not predictive and should be ignored. Superintendents expressed their concerns with the House version:
      1. The process is not vetted
      2. It requires additional administrative oversight in a time when districts are already taxed with other legislative directives (Act 173; SSDDMS; Revisions to EQS; VTTRS; Facilities…) and the State has few resources to support us

VSBA is encouraging school board members to contact their representatives in the House to provide input on this important bill.


  1. Universal meals bill - The House Education committee decided not to create a permanent universal school meals program in statute, as proposed in earlier drafts of the bill.  Instead, the committee decided to extend the universal meals program for one-year using $29 million from the education fund surplus.  The hope is that this approach allows the universal meals program to continue for the next school year while also giving the General Assembly time to collect and review participation rates and other relevant data, and consider possible revenue sources for the program going forward. The use of the surplus is being considered in many bills, and as we know, it can only be used once.

Lifting Student Learning

VT AOE Requirements

  1. Lifting Student Learning (Continuous Improvement Plan) 
    1. Currently under revision for 2022-23 School Year
    2. Requires VT AOE approval
    3. Submission date - June 2022
  2. MTSD ARP ESSER Plan
    1. Submitted on March 17, 2022
    2. Requires VT AOE approval
    3. Required to be visible on our District Website
    4. Approval allows us to complete and submit our application to access our ARP ESSER funds

Professional Learning

A great deal of professional learning has been taking place this year to improve our collective capacity to provide all students with an excellent, standards-based education within an environment of belonging and care, while also addressing the impact of Covid-19 on student learning and social / emotional health and well being.

  1. Through the support of the Great Schools Partnership, schools are using Professional Learning Communities to support the efforts of every teacher to collaboratively improve their instruction and assessment practices using the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycle based on student data.  This includes training teachers in PLC facilitation, the use of protocols, and data collection and analysis. PLCs meet during the early release time and are organized by grade level teams; content area; and specialized groups. 
  2. Through the support of the Partners for Restorative Change, a group of leaders, teachers, and support staff have begun ‘Phase II’ of restorative practices training. Although work continues on Phase I - to understand and practice universal restorative approaches using content in order to build a community of learners in the classroom, Tier II focuses on whole school restorative approaches in responding to conflict, disruptive behavior and harm in systematic and equitable ways. 
  3. Through the support of the Pacific Education Group, leaders and teachers have been able to continue their beyond diversity training. This past Friday, teachers were able to select from a menu of on-line, interactive and highly engaging workshops on intersectionality, race, equity and inclusion. 
  4. Through the support of the Vermont Superintendents Association, district and school leaders have been participating in two year long opportunities to improve instructional practices:
    1. Universal Design for Learning with Katie Novak which is structured to build leadership capacity in supporting teachers with designing and implementing instructional practices that are linguistically and culturally responsive and address the unique needs of every child in the classroom.
    2. Learning Walks with the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) through Washington University. Through this opportunity, we are creating a district vision, purpose, and practice for Learning Walks, this includes:
      1. Calibrating our understanding of best practices in all content areas
      2. Developing school and district culture of public practice
      3. Gathering observational data to identify expert and  problems of practice,
      4. Deeping the organizations understanding of the instructional framework
      5. Observing and analyzing teacher practice on student learning

As we begin to close out the year and prepare for next year, it will be important to stay the course; that is to continue to engage in learning that deepens and sustains our practice. Teaching is an extremely complex skill and it requires a great deal of collaboration and support. It is important that we continue to set aside time within the school day (early release) so that teachers can have structured facilitated support in refining their practice, being responsive to the learning needs of students in the moment and thus improve student outcomes.


Furthermore, in addition to addressing the impact of Covid-19 on learning, there are many other system changes that require the attention of leaders, teachers and support staff. Specifically, the revisions in Special Education, Educational Support Teams, and Curriculum. 


Operations

As the technical and safety focus to prepare, prevent and respond to Covid-19 wanes, the District Office is placing greater emphasis on improving its systems and structures. Given the conditions of the District Office - a shared business model between the district and the school and considerable changeover in the office of the superintendency and business office, a significant amount of work is necessary to create systems and close gaps. In part, this includes the development and documentation of procedures, an evaluation of reporting and analysis of task allocation.


Recently, we have been working on creating a master report spreadsheet to encompass all the reports the district is required to submit across all departments. The categories included in this report are listed below. To date, we have identified 102 reports and we still have 2 more categories to complete.


Finance

Student Services

Human Resources

State/Federal

Grants

Technology

Child Nutrition 

Student Assessments

School and Student Health

Board


Another project is the development, revision, categorization and documentation of procedures. Historically, like reports, each department has been responsible for their own procedures. Like reports, without central oversight, it is impossible to monitor consistent alignment across procedures, implementation, and if revisions and/or training are necessary. This project has had fits and starts since 2019; hopefully with the support of the Director of Operations, we will finally make real progress. The office of the Superintendent is currently focused on procedures tied to policy and administrative procedures related to school functions, while the Director of Operations is focused on procedures tied to the various positions within the business office. 

Covid Context

The transition to a Mask Optional teaching and learning environment has been very smooth. Principals held faculty meetings in advance of the change and Covid Nurse Demers, with input from the Covid Steering Committee, was able to quickly put together a social story and a teacher advisory activity for all three schools along with  informational memos for families. The climate is one of joy and respect. 

 

Lifting Student Learning

Continuous Improvement - Lifting Student Learning Plan

In accordance with VT AOE expectations, it is time for us to review and revise our existing Lifting Student Learning plan; this is a comprehensive process that includes leaders, teachers and specialists across the district and community. It begins with a Needs Assessment in which we will review the most current student data in comparison to data collected last year. As a result, we will evaluate the existing strategies, practices and system approaches to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and determine which ones  need to stop and/or continue, and whether there are any new ones we need to implement. 

 

Once the Needs Assessment is completed, smaller teams will use this information to revise the existing plan collecting input and seeking feedback along the way. It is our goal to submit our first revision to the Agency of Education by June 1, 2022. 

 

 

Panorama  Student and Family Engagement Survey Tool

Panorama provides schools with Nationally normed, on-line surveys to measure and support schools in understanding the perceptions of students and families. This data collection will help us evaluate current strategies that schools are using to improve teaching and learning, school climate and safety. The tool will also be a new data point for monitoring progress. 

 

As a starting point, we will administer the Family survey; it will allow MTSD to gather feedback and engage families regarding their perceptions in the following areas: Family Engagement, Family Efficacy, School Climate, Barriers to Engagement, Roles and Responsibilities (school or family) and School Safety. This survey will give us a baseline data point so that we can more effectively engage families and work toward even stronger Family-School relationships. This survey will also help us fulfill our responsibility in the area of family engagement for ARP-ESSER and Title I purposes. Next year we will expand our uses and may use the student and/or teacher survey components of the tool.

 

We have entered into a 3 year contract with Panorama; year 1 is being paid for using Title IV Consolidated Grant Funds and the cost is $7,534.00. The Leadership has been reviewing the tool while the Technology department is bringing the tool on-line, and Data and Assessment is unpacking the tool features for collating and sharing the data. We hope to be ready to administer the first survey to families sometime in April. 

 

Canopy

The Canopy Project is a collaborative national effort to highlight equitable, student-centered innovation in K–12 learning environments. Milton High School was nominated by UP for Learning to become part of the Canopy Collaborative. We received notification at the end of February that we were accepted. In short, this means  

  • Recognition in a national database of innovative K–12 learning environments. Canopy Schools and their innovative practices are documented in a database that is used by school leaders, non-profits, state education leaders, researchers, and funders. MHS will be included in this database.
  • We will receive a customized report showing how our innovation work at Milton High School relates to hundreds of other K–12 learning environments around the country.
  • MHS will have access to a diverse peer network of innovative school leaders, opportunities to showcase our work and learn from others, and a regular digest with suggestions for resources, events, and sources of funding.

Legislative Update

  1. H.329 is gaining momentum. If enacted as written, this would change the definition of harassment in educational settings and create a quagmire of confusion between existing policies: Non-discrimination; Employee Harassment; Title IX; and Hazing, Harassment and Bullying, and the likelihood of needing to revise all of these policies to align. 
  2. House Education moved miscellaneous committee bill 22-0356 along to the next step. Most importantly, this bill recommends adjusting the amount district will receive from the special education consensu block grant - more than currently proposed; suspending the implementation of Rules 2362 and 2362.2.5 (adverse effect) until July 1, 2023.
  3. S.100 - an act relating to universal school breakfast and the creation of the Task Force on Universal School Lunch, which was passed by the Senate and referred to the House Education Committee last year.  Senator Pearson is a proponent of amending the bill to make both the universal school breakfast and lunch permanent.  The committee will likely take the bill up in March.  

Covid Context

Although it seems like eons ago, at the start of the school year, the VT Agency of Education and the VT School Boards Association encouraged school districts to formally adopt procedures and/or designate the superintendent of schools to carry out VT Agency of Education Covid-19 guidance for operating schools. This guidance has been issued as advisory memos. As stated by the VT Agency of Education, these formal advisory memos are issued collectively by the Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health and constitute the state’s official position on how to preserve the health and safety of students, staff and families.


It is important to remember that leading during a pandemic is unprecedented and although superintendents are responsible for the health and safety of students and staff, they are not health or infectious disease experts. Therefore, the MTSD Board of Trustees, in a public session last fall, voted to designate me to follow the VT AOE Covid-19 guidance. To date, this has included the practice of partnering with the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association to which MTSD is a member, and using a Covid Steering committee to interpret and apply this guidance in our schools.


Undoubtedly the longevity of the pandemic, the ever changing guidance, and the various perspectives and comfort levels of our stakeholders (staff, students and families) as it relates to the Covid procedures and practices has had an impact. Following the written guidance has allowed for a non-partisan approach that is consistent with the State and aligned with health experts. Although there is still a high level of caution among many of our stakeholders, many are also ready for a return to normalcy. The State is also moving toward a new phase of opening. I wholeheartedly appreciate the patience and respectful discourse of all stakeholders as we continue to navigate the pandemic. I am both hopeful and excited that the data is trending in a direction that will allow for a new phase of opening. 


Test at Home

The Test at Home program continues to operate effectively. Using a Dashboard approach to keep families informed of presumptive close contacts while using and deploying test kits efficiently, we are managing to keep healthy students in school and infected students returning as soon as possible. We provided all staff, students and  families with the opportunity to take home test kits and encouraged them to test prior to returning to school on March 3rd. The test at home will continue until further notice.


Masking

On February 16th, Governor Scott announced that masking for schools with an 80% vaccination rate would not be extended. It is important to note that at the time of this announcement;

  1. The change in masking would only be for schools with an 80% vaccination rate.
  2. The State will verify each school’s vaccination rate. As of February 23rd, Superintendents still had not received this data. 
  3. Bussing would operate under Federal Transportation requirements and includes mandatory masking. 

Within the MTSD, we have calculated our own rates. We have estimated that MES is around 45%; MMS is around 65% and MHS is close to the 80% rate. Once the State verifies our rates, I will put forward a plan for transitioning to optional masking at the eligible schools. Additionally, if the VT Agency of Education further modifies their position on masking, then I will be prepared to extend our optional masking plan.


Legislative Activity

Act 173 Implementation

The House Education Committee continues to take testimony on the impact of the implementation of Act 173 with an interest specific to districts who will receive a shortfall. The MTSD anticipated shortfall is $750,000. As with our proposed budget scenario, districts receiving less money under the census block grant will need to increase education spending. The committee received modeling that calculated the census block grant by taking an average of a school district’s special education funding from fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020, they took an average of their funding from fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021. This shift takes into account one year of pandemic spending and will increase the state reimbursement by about $5 million. The committee was supportive of this change and will consider this language in a bill that will hopefully move quickly through the legislative process in order to help school districts who are negatively impacted by the transition to the census block grant model.  


Pupil Weighting: English Language Learners

Last week, Senate Education finalized its work on English Language Learners, culminating in a memorandum to Senate Finance with their recommendations.  After weeks of testimony, the committee landed on a hybrid funding model that would:

  • Use a 2.49 pupil weight for all ELL students in all school districts;
  • Provide mini-grants ($25,000.00-$50,000.00 range)* to school districts with 25 or fewer ELL students, in addition to the weight, to ensure that they have sufficient resources to hire at least a part-time ELL teacher

Covid Context

After navigating unexpected guidance at the start of the new year, the MTSD has made a smooth transition from conducting contact tracing, surveillance testing and Test to Stay to a simpler model of Test at Home. Using a Dashboard approach to keep families informed of presumptive close contacts and focusing on prioritized distribution of test kits, we are maintaining sufficient supplies to keep healthy students in school and infected students returning as soon as possible. In addition, the surge has tempered and we are seeing more stable attendance rates for both staff and students.  


At the State level, the Agency of Education is beginning to center its focus on the next phase of Recovery. It is important to note, that the Delta variant and then Omicron created unexpected conditions preventing both the State and Districts from fully implementing their Lifting Student Learning plans. The State has not provided districts with the structured guidance and support that was expected and is necessary to address the impact of Covid-19 on students’ academic achievement, social emotional health and well being and engagement.  Dr. French noted as our weekly meeting that districts would begin receiving information as to the direction and support the State would be giving after the February vacation.


Lifting Student Learning

Although this has been another challenging year in terms of managing the Covid-19 context while attempting to address the impacts of Covid-19 on students, their families and staff, I believe that the efforts of our faculty and staff have set us up for success. 


We have been diligent in two areas in particular:

  1. Re-establishing routines, engaging students in learning, and creating an inclusive learning community
  2. Embedded professional development

I will provide detailed information about both of these areas in my March 10 report.


Legislative Report

The 2022 Legislative Session has begun and not surprisingly, there is a great deal of activity related to education. In addition to following up on identified tasks from previous legislative - specifically: 

  • ACT 173 and the Weighting Task Force recommendations and implementation of the Special Education Census Block grant; 
  • ACT 28 and the Advisory Council on Literacy recommendations; and
  • ACT 72 and the follow up from school facilities inventories and assessments

The Legislature also has 21 House Bills and 16 Senate Bills related to education. In future reports, I will provide information on any Bills that move forward in the legislative process. 


ACT 173 - The House Education Committee has heard testimony from many stakeholders on the implementation timeline for Act 173. Act 173 was passed in 2018 in order to enhance the effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to students who require additional support. The General Assembly delayed its implementation last year and is considering a delay again this year.  Some stakeholders have argued for a delay; others against.


On February 2nd, the MTSD testified to the House Education Committee and submitted a MTSD Testimony on ACT 173 letter to be posted on the committee’s website. In short, we were requesting a delay to the implementation of the Special Education Census Block grant.  MTSD Testimony on February 2


Literacy

Act 28: The data review by the Literacy Advisory Council showed concerning trends of overall low achievement, achievement gaps, particularly for students experiencing poverty and with disabilities, and a trend of declining achievement scores.  Although a great deal of work is underway, systems, schools, teachers, students, and families/caregivers are facing changing conditions and challenges due to the pandemic, which impacts progress.  Currently, the Council is reviewing Section 2903 of Title I6, and developing advice on the implementation and maintenance of the statewide literacy plan.

2021 Reports

COVID Context

Across the State, last week experienced spikes in case counts and hospitalization as a result of the Thanksgiving holiday and ‘moving inside’ for the winter. Although we also had a busy Covid week, we were able to keep most of the students who were close contacts in school through the Test to Stay program.  


Given the expanded role of our COVID Nurse - she is now coordinating and operating contact tracing, surveillance testing, test to stay, and data collection and State reporting, we changed our procedures for COVID positive notification. Instead of notifying all families each time there is a positive case in school, we are now just sending a weekly round up. This will include current case counts, the number of new cases, and any other additional information we need to convey.


Families of students who were close contacts will still receive direct notification informing them of their options and/or required next steps. 


The weekly roundup for the week of December 6-10 is as follows:


School

New Cases Week 12/6

Total Cases To Date* 

MES

8

41

MMS

1

11

MHS

3

7

Total 

59

* Cases to date are defined as when a student or staff member is positive for COVID-19 and it has been determined they were infectious while at school. These numbers are just for the 2021-2022 school year.  


Other interesting data points, include:

  • Since we started the program, we have run 241 tests, which has resulted in only 1 positive and saving a total of 241 school days for the affected student group.
  • Starting out this week, we had 50 students participating in Test to Stay
  • We started surveillance testing in late October. To date we have conducted 2,276 PCR tests which have yielded only 2 positive results. 

Strong mitigation measures and high vaccination rates within the district continue to show positive results.


Vaccination Incentive

There are several benefits to high vaccination rates within the school community. In addition to keeping all members of the district safe and healthy, there are three other benefits that would ultimately improve the teaching and learning environment. When we reach the threshold of 85% vaccination rate, then:

  1. We will no longer have to conduct contact tracing. 
    1. This will eliminate any risk for quarantining asymptomatic staff or students. 
    2. It will allow the nurse and administrators to focus their time and energy on teaching and learning and addressing the educational needs of students more directly.
  2. We can begin to evaluate and perhaps consider changing procedures related to masking.
  3. Once a school reaches 85%, then they will receive a cash award from the State. Students will be invited to identify how to spend the money and it must be spent by the end of this school year. The awards for each school is as follows
    1. Milton Elementary School - $7,590.00
    2. Milton Middle School - $6,120.00
    3. Milton High School - $7,200.00

Additionally, if a school reaches 90%, then they may submit amendments to receive an additional 50% of the original award.


Legislative Update

A draft of the Report of the Task Force on Pupil Weighting was released last week. The final version is due to the legislature on December 15, 2021. It is not anticipated that any significant changes will be made to the draft before submitting it on the 15th. The report is very detailed - 70 pages including the appendices.


The Task Force will also release a summary version of the report before the end of the month which I will pass it along to you. In brief, the purpose of the Task Force was to respond to the Pupil Weighting Factors Report which was issued by a team of researchers in 2019. Essentially, this report found that our current pupil weights are insufficient and that additional weights should be added to address further inequities related to middle school students, school districts in sparsely populated areas, and small schools.


The 2021 General Assembly established the Task Force to consider how and when to implement the recommendations of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report. The Task Force drafted ‘two pathways’ for the General Assembly to consider this spring; a revision of pupil weighting and a cost equity payment model. They also made further recommendations related to the aforementioned systems, including:

  • Categorical aid for English Language Learners
  • A change to the way poverty is currently measured
  • A transition mechanism to alleviate the impact the new weights or model will have on districts
  • The creation of an oversight committee for considering and updating weights
  • An evaluation tool to monitor if the weights or cost equity model are fulfilling the intended purpose

The Task Force also included recommendations that were not part of their charge. In part, these included:

  • Implications of the intersectionality between Act 173 special education consensus block grant funding and the pupil weighting/cost equity model
  • Considerations for changing the tax policy
  • Modifying weights to include PreK after the Act 45 child care financing study is completed
  • Establishing a standard method for districts to set tuition

Although the Task Force conducted modeling to show the impact the two pathways would have on every district, it is important to emphasize that many of the other factors that play a role in determining tax rate (e.g. - common level of appraisal) were not considered.

COVID Context - Due to the Thanksgiving break, the next Covid update will be in the December 16, 2021 Superintendent’s Report.


VSBA / VSA Updates

On November 16th, the Vermont School Boards Association held a webinar and panel presentation discussing the public meeting law, public comment and strategies for preventing and/or responding to incivility. As a result of this information, the Board may want to discuss and/or consider changes to its existing policy and practice. 


Board Meetings

  1. Public Comment
    1. MTSD Current 
      1. Public Participation at Board Meetings
    2. Considerations from the  Vermont School Board Association 
      1. Person - 16 VSA sec. 554 restricts the right to speak on any issue to persons “within the district.”
        1. Consider defining # 3 to include that the person must first identify their connection to the agenda item - i.e contractor whose bid is being considered, and that the Board Chair will determine if the person is relevant to the agenda item
        2. Consider adding that a person must sign in and identify themselves
      2. Public Comment on the Agenda
        1. Consider when this will happen - i.e. before each action item is discussed or before it is voted on.
        2. Consider adding how much time a person has to speak and that the Board Chair may alter it according to the # of participants
        3. Consider adding that each person must sign in and identify which item they wish to speak to
        4. Consider adding expectations for civility - no profane or threatening language, yelling, or speaking out of turn  
      3. Public Input on Items not on the Agenda
        1. Consider adding when this will occur 
        2. The length of time
      4. Virtual Public Comment
        1. Add how they will request / sign in for public comment
        2. Required to follow same expectations of in person participants
  2. Scripting and consistent practices
  3. Emergency Planning

VSA/CVSA

On November 15th, the Vermont Superintendents Association held its annual pre-legislative session meeting. The focus of the meeting was for the superintendents to identify topics related to education that were of greatest importance and need to be addressed by this legislative session. Undoubtedly, a very resounding message of no new initiatives is being made. Leaders and school districts across the state are experiencing staffing shortages which are challenging efforts to implement existing State requirements. Furthermore, the effort required to meet the unprecedented and often unpredictable needs of students as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is exhausting the workforce. For a period of time, we simply need an uninhibited focus on student health, social emotional well being and academic learning for future success of our children without the worry of new rules, testing requirements, policy initiatives... 


Superintendents were unequivocally aligned that the Agency of Education and State Legislators need to focus their efforts on those initiatives that have been consistently ‘kicked down the road’ and do so with thoughtful consideration of the existing circumstances in the various district communities across the state. These existing initiative include:

  1. ACT 173:
    1. The question: what is the relationship between the recommended pupil weights and categorical aid and the changes to special education funding including the impact of maintenance of effort and financial support and how will this impact budgeting for FY23 and FY24?
    2. The concern that the timeline for the new rule changes for special education does not provide districts with enough time to prepare.
  2. Facilities
    1. Tasks at the district level
      1. Lead Testing
      2. PCB Testing
      3. Facilities Evaluations
      4. Storm Water
    2. Impact on district budgets are a result of those tasks
  3. Staffing Shortages
    1. Contending with existing professionally licensed shortages in identified areas
    2. Impact of shortages exacerbated by the pandemic especially in areas of maintenance, food services and transportation
    3. Aging population in VT

Beginning this month, regional superintendent groups will be meeting with their local legislators to highlight the primary needs of students and schools, to share the current state, an overview of our needs and what the legislature can do to support our work while encouraging them to firmly hold the line with existing education policy work.


The Champlain Valley Superintendents Association meeting is scheduled for December 16, 2021. 

COVID Context

Vaccination Clinic

Our November 22nd and December 13th vaccination clinics are scheduled and ready to go. It is important to note that these clinics are organized and operated by the VT Department of Health and we are just a host site. Although the premise of the host sites was to provide access to families in need, the registry was open to anyone - even if you do not live in Milton. The 200 available slots filled in a matter of days leaving many families without access to this clinic. We are working with the VT Department of Health to see if we can increase the number of vaccines and/or offer a second clinic. 

 

We encourage families that were not able to register to go to the VT Department of Health website - Vaccines for Children to find another location and/or make an appointment at a pharmacy.  

 

Contact Tracing and Testing

Cold and flu season is definitely here. Unlike the State of Emergency where outside of school there was minimal social interaction, we are seeing widespread transmission of typical fall and winter illnesses. This creates an added challenge in monitoring for COVID-19 and selecting students to quarantine especially among our youngest children.

 

We are scaling back on surveillance testing and preparing to start the test to stay. It is important to note that there are very specific eligibility criteria for the test to stay - students must be unvaccinated, asymptomatic and at least 5 years of age. Additionally, the test to stay will only be available if we have the supplies and staff to administer.

 

COVID Climate

As a follow up to our 10/28 discussion on school climate, I am proud of the administrators, teachers and staff members who have joined forces and taken a collaborative problem solving approach, bringing fresh ideas and creativity so that we make changes that will effectively meet the needs of children and transform our school climate.

 

Each school is employing a variety of strategies to address concerns about safety, engage families, empower students, and provide a quality learning environment. Below are a list of example strategies:

  1. Redesigning kindergarten program
  2. Increasing social emotional learning time
  3. Offering before and after school opportunities for reteaching behavioral expectations
  4. Exploring short term virtual options to address issues of safety
  5. Exploring ways with Bruce and Matt to improve the safety of facilities - playground, doors, and improved camera surveillance
  6. Communication with families - share celebrations, use data to communicate needs and provide strategies that can be used across school and home to support students
  7. Restarting pre-COVID traditions that build community, pride in school and celebrate student achievement
  8. Leverage student voice and agency to solve problems 
  9. Reviewing and perhaps altering existing structures - transitions, bathroom use, schedules...
  10. Increase education related to issues that are either resurfacing or have been exacerbated by a disruption in school - bullying and harassment; vaping; inappropriate / illegal social media activity

 

In addition, opportunities for supporting staff and creating stronger unity among colleagues includes:

  1. Setting aside faculty/staff meeting time to focus on wellness and/or unstructured collaboration
  2. Providing a common space for professional learning community meetings (PLCs) so that administrators can more effectively provide support
  3. Increase co-planning and teaching of SEL
  4. Strategize ways to increase restorative approaches follow up when harm is done 

 

Although many of these activities are already underway, others will take additional resources - especially in terms of time and human capital. Addressing the needs of students, families and staff as we emerge from the pandemic will be a lengthy process. 

 

Winter Activities

The Champlain Valley Superintendents Association reviewed the VT Agency of Education recommendations for conducting winter activities safely.  We came to common agreements so that procedures across school districts would be clear to participants and spectators alike contributing to ease of implementation. 

 

MTSD leaders will review the guidance and draft communication to share with activity advisors, coaches, participants and families this week.   

 

COVID Grants 

In accordance with new federal grant procurement guidelines, we have increased our micro-threshold for procurement from $10,000 to $40,000

 

A new requirement of the ARP-ESSER grant has recently been added. Maintenance of Equity means that:

  • School districts within an LEA (SU/SD) must not disproportionately reduce state and local per-pupil funding in high-poverty schools.
  • School districts within an LEA (SU/SD) must not disproportionately reduce the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) staff per-pupil in high-poverty schools.

Many states, including Vermont, have identified a misfit between these requirements and education funding systems. The Agency has expressed these concerns to our partners at the US Department of Education. However, the AOE does want SU/SDs to be aware of these new requirements, particularly around staffing, as they enter discussions around local school district budgets.

 

AOE is working to identify those school districts that meet the definition of high-need and high poverty and, in the coming weeks, will provide more information on meeting the new MOEq requirements.

 

Miscellaneous News

Vermont Interagency Afterschool Youth Task Force 

The Governor recently established this new task force. The purpose of this task force is to build on the recommendations and work of the Universal After School Task Force and this summer’s Summer Matters campaign and take advantage of the opportunity to leverage ESSER funds for after school and summer programs to grow school-based and community-based programs and partnership to support the learning and growth of Vermont students. 

 

The task force brings together members from the Governor's Office, the Agency of Education, the Agency of Human Services and other state partners to work toward a statewide system offering universal access to safe, enriching and comprehensive options for afterschool and summer programs for Vermont youth from PreK through Grade 12. Among other things, the task force will be responsible for creating a framework to expand existing programs and create new ones, creating a baseline for safety and quality standards, ensuring equitable distribution of program statewide, and supporting a broad range of options for youth to explore, including post-secondary education, skills training, career planning, work-based learning and more. 


Consulting Services from VSBA

The Vermont Principals' Association, the Vermont School Boards Association, and the Vermont Superintendents Association have partnered to support school districts across the state with their longstanding commitment to close persistent opportunity gaps in Vermont public schools. 


To assist VSBA, VSA, and VPA members with ongoing conversations in their communities related to equity and associated topics, we are utilizing the services of Insight Education Group to develop resources (talking points, community engagement best practices, communication strategies, etc) as well as provide real-time thought partnership to superintendents, administrators, and school board chairs. (Learn more about IEG here: https://www.insighteducationgroup.com)


To streamline requests for support to IEG, superintendents are to complete the form below when the need arises in their school districts. Superintendents can submit requests on behalf of their school board members or principals, if needed, however we ask that all requests come from VSA superintendent members to help keep the lines of communication manageable. 

Covid Context

General Update 

On Thursday, October 28th at our regularly scheduled meeting, Covid Nurse, Dorey Demers, will do a presentation that explains our current state in terms of Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccination data.


School Climate in the Time of Covid

Foremost, I continue to remain optimistic and centered on the extraordinary leadership, teaching and learning that is happening across the district. There are many reasons to be proud, hopeful, and action oriented. At the same time, I would be remiss if I did not report on the challenges we are experiencing and the impact that they are having on all members of our school community. It is important to note that these are challenges that schools across Vermont and New England are experiencing. Here in VT, superintendents are preparing for a State level conversation and call to action. These are challenges that are either a result of Covid-19 and/or have been exacerbated by it, they extend across other support service agencies and require a coordinated approach and State support; we can not do this alone. 


First, the context:

  1. Students experienced an 18 month disruption in all established routines: schooling, co-curricular activities and other peer social connections; healthcare; traditional family gatherings and travel, and so on. 
  2. During the State of Emergency - which lasted over a year, family work routines and lifestyles changed drastically. 
  3. Staff - many who have young families, have been managing their own situations at home while also supporting the needs of their students and families as we transitioned to fully remote learning to hybrid and then back to fully in person. 
  4. Workforces in every for profit, non-profit and government agency are facing unprecedented staff shortages.

Second, the direct result

  1. Many students do not have the academic and social emotional skills to navigate, and/or the emotional or physical stamina to manage 5 days of in person learning with all students present. Think about a 5 year old who did not attend preschool and/or participate in peer socialization opportunities due to Covid or a 14/15 year old 9th grader; they were 12 when they last attended school full time with their entire peer group, and so on. Then add the Covid experience to this, family hardships and/or a traumatic event. 
  2. Many families still have not returned to their pre-covid state. Many are continuing to struggle to recover. Many do not have the stamina or resources to participate and/or support their children in school.
  3. The expectations and pressure for school staff to address learning loss and social emotional well being through a trauma informed lens is greater than ever previously experienced.
  4. Shortages in personnel equate to inadequate coverage and ultimately safety concerns.

Third, the incidental impact

  1. Some students are exhibiting extreme behavior while others are being adversely affected by this behavior. These extreme behaviors require the attention of multiple staff members simultaneously (principals, school based behavior interventionists, school counselors…) for longer than usual periods of time leaving other responsibilities unaddressed.
  2. Displaced anger and frustration directed at the school emerges from family exhaustion and stress. Some families are not able to productively partner with the school to resolve issues. Some families lash out as it relates to the Covid context - vaccinations, quarantining and so on. 
  3. School staff who are trying their best to ‘do it all’, are struggling with both a high level of compassion fatigue and physical exhaustion; staff illness is on the rise and resilience is on the decline.
  4. It is impossible to get ahead of student needs. Inadequate staffing means that others are covering which interferes with planning time - the time used to not only plan for lessons, but to also collaborate with teams and develop plans to support students. It also increases fatigue which impacts performance.

Last, Next Steps

As a district we are trying to carve out time to develop plans that will support a more even tempered teaching and learning environment, including:

  1. The reallocation of staff roles
  2. Adjusting systems and structures
  3. Student specific plans
  4. Family outreach and communication 

We need help though. We need more staff, especially quality substitute teachers and intensive needs specialists. We need families to work with us. We need understanding and grace. Everyone is working extremely hard. We are doing the very best we can - and more. 


It is not unusual for people to assign blame and/or express their frustration when they either do not get the information they want or the results they expect. We continue to be amid very challenging and uncertain times with high levels of stress. It is more important than ever to pause, have grace, practice civility, and work collaboratively so that we can ensure that our students, families and staff can be safe, healthy and productive through these times.


Miscellaneous

Milton on the Move

  1. Milton on the Move. (https://sites.google.com/vtrural.org/miltononthemove/home) On October 13th, I attended the VT Council on Rural Development Milton Community Visit planning meeting. As a result, the logistics for the visit have been finalized. This is an exciting opportunity for Milton residents, business owners, municipality, and schools to come together and identify a project to Move Milton Forward. 
  2. Milton on the Move is a 3-month process to engage everyone in the city to brainstorm ideas and identify important priorities for the future. The Vermont Council on Rural Development, a neutral facilitator invited to the community by the Milton Selectboard, will facilitate the process to hear your ideas then help connect to resources and technical assistance that can help move them forward.
  3. The first session is November 17th from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m and it includes a free community dinner, childcare and transportation for those in need. The first session is divided into 3 segments: Forum 1; Community Dinner; and Forum 2. It is not necessary to attend all 3 segments to participate. 
  4. In Forum 1, there will be 3 topics to choose from. Participants will then gather around their chosen topic while a facilitator from VT Council of Rural Development guides the group through a brainstorming session related to the topic. In Forum 2, there will be 3 different topics and again, participants will choose one to participate in.
  5. Forum Topics
    1. Forum I (4:30-6:00 p.m)
      1. Milton’s Economy
      2. Addressing Individual and Family Needs
      3. Community Engagement
    2. Community Dinner (6:00 - 6:45)
    3. Forum II (7:00-8:30)
      1. Infrastructure, Broadband, Housing and Transportation
      2. Belonging in Milton
      3. Things to do in Milton: Recreation, Arts & Entertainment

Covid Context


Testing - The VT Agency of Education and the VT Department of Health continue to revise their approach and thus recommendations to districts regarding testing and contact tracing. As a result, they are providing schools with an abundance of tools - some voluntary, some not and templates for communicating with staff and families. In terms of testing, to help schools frame their thinking about these tools the COVID-19 School Testing Program is divided into two broad categories: response and surveillance testing. Response testing is just that, the use of either antigen or PCR testing done in response to a positive COVID-19 case within the school community. Surveillance testing is periodic testing (usually once a week) whose goal is to monitor for the presence of COVID-19, and potentially to facilitate the safe continuation of extracurricular activities. 

  1. Response testing includes both rapid antigen testing and PCR testing. These tools should be used in response to a positive case within the school community. They are intended for close contacts and the use case for each test type is determined primarily by the vaccination status of the close contact. 
  2. Surveillance testing is a weekly testing program that includes students and staff regardless of vaccination status and is intended to support in-person learning, including extracurricular activities, and monitor for the presence of COVID-19 among the largest unvaccinated population in our state.

The revisions for testing and contact tracing have been extremely difficult on both staff and families. The time and energy spent on attending meetings with VT AOE, VTDH, my regional superintendents association, the Vermont Nurses Association and training webinars has been extensive; some weeks, it is up to 6 hours and this does not include the time spent following up. Many hours recently have been put into communicating the changes to school leaders, revising documents, the website and helping families understand the changes. This has an indirect ripple effect throughout the organization. Frustration level is high among staff and especially families that have been impacted during contact tracing. 


Undoubtedly, one known component of this pandemic and the Covid-19 virus is that it is ever changing making it extremely difficult to put into place standard routines and procedures; at all levels, we are still trying to figure out the best path forward in keeping all students attending school in person to the greatest extent possible and keeping our communities safe. We must continue to recognize this.


In addition, it is also important to recognize the toll that the pandemic has taken on all members of our society - school personnel, students, families, and the larger community. We are tired and as a result, our ability to be resilient may be lowered.  As a district, we will continue to prioritize social and emotional well being and share resources with staff, students and families about how to manage. 


Vaccination Update

  1. Student Rates