Report to the Board of Trustees

2022 Reports

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
  2. Mandatory Vaccination for Staff 
    1. School districts will be covered by the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in Vermont due to the fact that Vermont has an approved OSHA State Plan. Vermont is one of 26 states and two territories with an OSHA State Plan. Vermont’s State Plan covers state and local government employees in addition to private employers. In the other states, the ETS will only apply to private sector employers. The ETS is applicable to covered employers who have more than 100 employees. The MTSD plan must be as stringent as the OSHA plan. 
    2. MTSD Plan and timeline
      1. The MTSD Board of Trustees will approve a new condition of employment; that is, by October 29, 2021 all MTSD employees, substitutes, interns, and contracted employees who are onsite regularly must either be vaccinated (single dose, or the first dose of a two dose vaccination with a second dose scheduled) or are required to mask at all times (even when the recommended masking mandate is lifted, and comply with weekly testing requirements.
      2. Letters will be issued to all employees, substitutes and contracted service providers by October 15, 2021 explaining the new condition of employment along with procedures for showing proof of vaccination
      3. New procedures will be implemented for interns and substitutes to include the new condition of employment 
      4. A clause will be added to contracted services contracts

Miscellaneous

  1. ARP-ESSER - an explanation of proposed uses for the ARP-ESSER will be outlined in our first issue of the MTSD Newsletter due out later this month. This issue will be electronic only. The proposed uses are the same ones that were outlined as a result of our meaningful consultation work last spring and summer.
  2. The Truexcullins Facilities Master Planning visioning event planning is complete. The events will coincide with a community dinner at each location. They will take place in the library at each location and be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. 
    1. Herrick Avenue - October 18th
    2. Milton High School - October 25th

In the words of Truexcullins, the purpose of the visioning workshop is to generate the Guiding Principles for the facilities master plan project by having a robust discussion about school culture with the school community. The Guiding Principles set the foundational goals for the project and act as a “north star” to guide the planning and design effort.   This exercise is aspirational, not only talking about school as it is today, but as it aspires to be as we move into the future. The work generated by the group today will be reviewed by the master planning facility committee and themes/statements will be developed, which will later be shared with the whole group. 

Covid Update

It is with regret that I report that the MTSD, to date, has had 8 positive cases. Although this number may not seem high, the implications of positive cases are significant.  Foremost is the number of students who must quarantine due to contact tracing. Last week we had to quarantine 77 students and this included three entire classrooms. These circumstances are especially disruptive for our youngest students who are just adapting to the routines of the classroom. Although we were able to provide modified remote learning to the three classrooms, we know that it is not nearly as robust as in person learning. Groups of students who are in quarantine, but whose class is not, do not have a remote option. It is the same as having an extended, excused absence with work needing to be made up.  These conditions also place unexpected hardships on families who need to scramble for childcare or otherwise may need to take paid or unpaid leave from work.  


Additionally, due to the staffing challenges at the Vermont Department of Health, school districts are left on their own to do contact tracing. As a result of VTDH shortages, notification of positive cases typically come in clusters requiring the Covid nurse and the school administrators to give their full attention to the task. This is particularly challenging for principals as they try to juggle contact tracing, the important work of day to day management, filling vacancies, and oversight of the Lifting Student Learning plan. I have never seen principals so harried this early in the school year. One piece of good news - to date, we have had no in school transmission, and we owe this to our consistent implementation of the mitigation strategies we have put in place. 


Staffing continues to be an issue. As you may know, bus driver shortages are a National problem with some states calling in the National Guard and others simply cancelling bussing altogether, and offering transportation vouchers instead. We are short one home to school bus and one vocational bus. As a result, we have combined routes to compensate for the home to school bus. For the Burlington Technical Center route, we were fortunate enough to find and hire our own driver who is using the MTSD van to transport our students. Another bussing challenge we are experiencing is with our athletic teams. Middle school athletic bussing has been cancelled entirely, and we are using Premier Transit to compensate; however, this comes at an additional cost.


We have made a few gains in filling support staff positions for educational programming; however, food services and custodial positions continue to be a struggle. 


Lifting Student Learning

The MTSD Vision of Learning brings clarity to our purpose, guides our work and hopefully inspires all stakeholders to take steps to achieve our goals. Currently there is extraordinary momentum across the district. The efforts taking place to address the impact of Covid-19 through our whole child framework in an integrated and coordinated way is exceptional and I am very encouraged by the work taking place across all three schools. 


School teams have been examining student data and as a result, acceleration block and intervention services are being planned and early release professional learning communities (PLCs) are beginning to set grade level and content area goals. District and school leaders are participating in two, year long professional development opportunities: 

  1. Leadership for Inclusive Education will focus on successful Act 173 Implementation. Using evidence-based concepts from Implementation Science, education leadership, our team will develop a plan for systemic implementation of inclusive practices using Multi-Tiered System of Supports and Universal Design for Learning as evidence-based frameworks for this work
  2. Instructional Leadership Academy with Washington State’s Center for Educational Leadership provides training and practice in conducting classroom walkthroughs, data collection and teacher feedback to improve outcomes. 

Our presentation on the MHS Innovation Lab tonight will demonstrate one way our staff and students are working together to fulfill our mission and vision to prepare all students to pursue their passions, and contribute dynamically to an ever-changing world.


I would also like to highlight another student who is taking steps to fulfill our mission and vision toward equitable and inclusive communities. Sage Maynard is using her voice and demonstrating her engagement as a scholar to challenge the status quo of Milton athletics in order to bring positive change. Sage wrote a poignant letter to the MHS Administration calling to their attention an issue of equity.  Sage’s letter brings to the forefront a long standing issue locally and globally; that is, inequities between men and women athletics. Furthermore, she petitions for a call to action. With her permission, I have copied her letter below. 


I would like to bring to attention the matter of the support given to the female sports teams. The attendance of people showing up to support and the attention that is not being shown to them is very unsettling and unacceptable, something needs to change.  As a member of YJTV I've attended most home games.  The boys games had a large student support section, while the girls games had less than 5 students attend. The low attendance could be affected by the sport teams which have practice at the same time or the lack of communication regarding the games. The Milton High School Instagram page posted 2 posts for the Varsity Football game against North Country on 9/3, Boys soccer against Hartford on 9/4, and Cross Country on 9/14. There have been numerous Girls Soccer, Golf, and Field Hockey games that have not received any attention that being game reminders and score announcements.   As a school community it's our job to support, celebrate and acknowledge our students no matter their gender.  As a part of the student body I am going to push and push to get our school to be a welcoming space for all.  The change begins with the administration and faculty and staff. If you can, attend a few games and support your students, motivate students to attend games, and lastly acknowledge and celebrate your student athletes.


On the note of equitable and inclusive communities, I would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce and welcome Wilmer Chavarria. Wilmer is the MTSD Director of Equity and Education Support Systems. At a high level, Wilmer’s role is focused on supporting the actualization of MTSD Vision of Learning as an equitable education system through policy, culture, organizational structures and equity capacity building. As a starting point, Wilmer is focused on four distinct projects:

  1. He is honing in on our Educational Support Team (EST) practices. In collaboration with principals, he will provide direction for a systematic approach that yields intended outcomes. In addition to specific guidelines, he will lead the creation of a Milton-specific Multi-tiered System of Support handbook for practitioners.
  2. He is providing consulting and coaching to leaders and various teams to reflect on curriculum materials and instructional practices through an equity lens. As an extension of this work, in collaboration with Lynne Manley and myself, he will provide the MTSD Board of Trustees with foundational working knowledge for equity in education, and serve as an ongoing resource to us when questions around DEI arise, especially those prone to controversy.
  3. He is resuming the MTSD Equity Policy Committee and reframing it as an Equity Advisory. This committee will provide regular input on important questions throughout the year, and will be instrumental in keeping a wide array of voices involved as our schools mature their work on issues of equity and belonging.
  4. He is gathering stakeholder input and carrying out qualitative research on needs and opportunities for a long-term district roadmap that will provide a cohesive, sustainable, and strategic approach to equity work for the future.

Covid Update

MTSD has signed up for surveillance testing. Dorey Demers, our Covid Nurse, has completed the training and is working with the Covid Steering Committee to figure out logistics at each school. CIS is the vendor and Green Mountain Currier will manage the test kit deliveries.Testing will take place every Monday beginning September 27, 2021. Testing will be from 8:00 - noon. Testing is voluntary and available to all staff members and any student 5 years of age or older. Registration information and testing procedures will be forthcoming. Schools are responsible for managing the onsite process and this will require staff support and thus the reallocation  of duties.


Student vaccination data collection information has been sent to all families in grades 4-12 via email and post. Attestation is voluntary. For families who decline to provide this information for eligible student(s), then those students will be considered to be unvaccinated.


Fortunately at the writing of this report, the MTSD has not received confirmation of a positive case at school, and as a result, has not had to participate in contact tracing. Many schools across the State have already had positive cases resulting in a large number of students needing to quarantine.  Given that school just started and State contact tracing systems were not adequately prepared to respond to the Delta variant in school, including updated school procedures and who to contact in the event of a positive case, schools were left to manage on their own. Without sufficient support, school leaders and Covid nurses felt unprepared to effectively or efficiently conduct the contact tracing process or respond accurately or consistently. Contact tracing issues are being addressed by VT Agency of Education, VT Department of Health and the 3rd party vendor who has been contracted by the VTDH to support schools with the contact tracing process. 


The VT Agency of Education has received an allocation of HEPA portable air purifiers through the Center for Disease Control. The MTSD has submitted a request for spaces that have no windows and/or updated ventilation. 


ESSER

  1. Grant Award - The MTSD has been awarded a second grant to support homelessness. This grant is through the ARP-ESSER Homelessness allocation. The MTSD award is $41,000 and the allocation will be used for an Americorps member who will be responsible for coordinating services for our homeless families. Currently we have 26 homeless families.  
  2. The Application template and timeline for ARP-ESSER was just released last week. The application is very involved and includes many additional components compared to the ESSER II application. The grant deadline is November 2021. 

Agency of Education and Legislative Work

Superintendents met with Secretary of Education, Dan French on Thursday, September 2nd and received an overview of the Agency’s strategic planning and policy focus for the 2021-22 year. The Secretary highlighted the impact of Covid on the Agency’s strategic planning process; that is shifting attention from ACT 173 in particular to reopening school and ensuring safe and healthy schools amid the pandemic.


As we continue the process of emerging from the pandemic and managing Covid-19, the focus is on releveraging the components of ACT 173 to support the three pillars of the State’s Lifting Student Learning plan (aka - recovery), and to simultaneously focus on safe and healthy schools through building healthy and vibrant communities.


The overarching policy priority will be education quality and equity with a continued focus on the education quality standards, literacy, child nutrition, facilities maintenance and construction, and of course education funding. 

Lifting Student Learning


Preservice: August 16 - August 24

The MTSD conducted five (plus) days of Teacher / Staff Preservice. All three schools aligned professional learning and structured teacher and staff planning in accordance with our Lifting Student Learning and District Strategic Goals.


As I have shared previously, the areas identified by the VT Agency of Education for addressing student learning in the aftermath of Covid-19, nicely align with our existing Vision of Learning and MTSD Strategic Goals. As a reminder, the chart below shows the connection:


VT Agency of Education Identified Focal Areas

MTSD District Goals (short form)

Academic Achievement and Success

To foster curious and passionate learners through opportunities that further their academic knowledge and skills

Social Emotional Health and Well Being

To prioritize the health and well being of all members of the learning organization through programming that promotes care for the heart, mind and body.

Student Engagement

To cultivate engaged citizens inspired to meet the demands of a changing society through an awareness of self, others and the world around them in the local and global context.


A shortlist of pre-service activities and additional trainings include:

  1. A formal 3 day Professional Learning Community (PLC) Facilitation training conducted by the Great Schools Partnership - approximately 50 teachers and administrators attended this training to learn how to better facilitate the professional learning communities  that will be conducted during early release days
  2. New teacher day - we have approximately 40 new faculty and staff members this year
  3. PLC Time: data review setting agreements and goals
  4. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) - unit and lesson development, quality classroom instruction that meets the needs of ALL learners
  5. Activities related to the implementation of our new Social Emotional Learning curriculum through a Teacher Advisory / Morning Meeting program revision
  6. Selected Summer Professional Reading - activities for faculty and staff to discuss understanding and application from our selected summer reads related to antiracism, intersectionality and culturally responsive teaching and learning. Books included: Not Light But Fire; We Got This: Equity by Design; We Want to do More than Survive; The VTmtss Field Guide

Meaningful Consultation Surveys

  1. - Family/Community
    1. 56 respondents 
    2. 67% believe that the identified fund uses align with our State approved Lifting and Leveraging Student Learning Plan
    3. 42% believe the uses address student needs while 50% state, “to some degree”
    4. 87% believe that HVAC should be a priority for our facilities
    5. Themes - highest responses to the question, “Are there other areas that you feel we should include?”
      1. Operational - 
        1. HVAC - 8
        2. Playground - 2
      2. Academic / SEL
        1. Mental health workers / awareness / behavior support - 8 
        2. Trauma response training for staff - 5
        3. Math Support - 3
        4. After school child care, tutoring, clubs… - 8
  2. Meaningful Consultation - Staff
    1. 20 respondents
    2. 95% believe that the identified fund uses align with our State approved Lifting and Leveraging Student Learning Plan
    3. 75% believe the uses address student needs while 25% state, “to some degree”
    4. 85% believe that HVAC should be a priority for our facilities
    5. Few respondents answered the question and for those that did, their responses aligned with the above themes

Covid Update

  1. Staffing - We are starting the school year with thirteen unfilled positions and two unfilled leaves. These include support staff - behavior interventionists, intensive needs specialists, supervisory aides, food services and facilities. 
  2. At the last minute and in response to the changing conditions, we made a few adjustments and clarifications to our Covid-19 Mitigation Strategies. Given the age band for vaccination eligibility, grouping, cafeteria use and restrictions for music and physical education have slight modifications across the three schools. All mitigation measures will be communicated and reviewed with students. 
  3. School districts are still waiting for information and direction related to the 80% vaccination benchmark for eligible students.

Covid Update


Return to School

The goal of the MTSD, amid the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, is to safely maintain full, in person instruction throughout the school year. Flexibility and patience will be essential as the conditions of the pandemic continue to fluctuate. As a result, it is possible that our mitigation measures and expectations for attending school could change in accordance with viral peaks and valleys. Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, all stakeholders - staff, students and families, were incredibly supportive and cooperative in adhering to the MTSD Health and Safety procedures. I am confident that if we continue along this path then we will achieve our goal of full in person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. 


Based on the current data, it appears that a Governor’s Order for a State of Emergency will not be necessary this year. This means that all schools in Vermont will operate in accordance with the normal regulatory framework outlined in Vermont statute, the State Board of Education rules, and the Vermont Education Quality Standards. The Vermont Agency of Education in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health will issue ‘advisory memorandums’ to school districts in order to guide them with decision-making for safely operating schools this year. In accordance with Vermont statute, 16 V.S.A. § 242 which assigns the superintendent of schools to be the chief executive officer for the school board, then I would like the MTSD Board of Trustees to affirm its delegation of authority to me to specifically interpret, apply and communicate within our local context the Covid-19 Advisory Memorandums issued collectively by VTAOE and VTDH for the 2021-2022 school year.



The first Covid-19 Advisory Memorandum was issued on August 5, 2021 and it outlines the recommended health and safety measures for opening school on August 25th. These measures include criteria for staying home when sick, wearing masks and surveillance testing. I have reviewed the memo with my regional superintendent’s association (CVSA) and the MTSD Covid Steering committee. At our regularly scheduled meeting on August 12th, I will present a plan for opening school on August 25th.



Vaccination Clinic 

The State of Vermont is resuming a push to vaccinate eligible students ages 12 through 18. They are hosting a series of 200 dose clinics in Milton to offer a vaccine opportunity to students, their parents if unvaccinated, and other unvaccinated members of the community. The vaccine offered at these clinics will be Pfizer. The clinic dates are as follows:

  • August 17th from 4:00 p.m - 8:00 p.m
  • September 7th from 4:00 p.m - 8:00 p.m
  • September 27th from 4:00 p.m - 8:00 p.m

All clinics will be in the Milton Middle School gym.  A full list of clinics across the State, clinic hours and registration information can be found at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine



Financial Updates

Grants

  1. Our ESSER II grant was approved last week. This grant will pay for our 2021 summer programming and many new positions this school year to support our State approved Lifting Student Learning plan. For more details, see our Lifting Student Learning ESSER Page
  2. The MTSD is a recipient of the VT AOE’s McKinney Vento Competitive Grant to support homelessness. Jen Saunders, our Homelessness Liaison and Sydney Lucia, Our Grants Manager were just notified that their application was approved. The reward of $50,000 will help provide after school tutoring, childcare, and professional development and community outreach related to the identification of students. In addition, we are also eligible through ARP-ESSER to apply for funds specific to homelessness. In part, we will be submitting an application for a full time AmeriCorps State worker. Homelessness is on the rise especially for families with school age children. Currently we have 17 confirmed homeless families and 8 unconfirmed from last year bringing our total to 25 families being served by our district.
  3. Meaningful Consultation for ARP-ESSER is producing some common themes related to services for students specific to social emotional health and improving the facilities' heating and ventilation systems. A full report will be provided on 8/26. 

Business Office

  1. In May, June and July the business office experienced significant transition in terms of employees and systems learning. Not only is this the first year that we have had to close our own books, but we had to do it within a new chart of accounts. Simultaneously, with the on-boarding of new employees and the need to establish explicit procedures in each of the domains, it was discovered that our system was set up with many inefficiencies. As a result, we have been consulting with NEMRC, our software accounting system vendor to evaluate and redesign our system to be both more efficient and accurate. One example of this is an automatic calculation of retirement deductions against gross wages versus it being done manually for every employee. Although the system’s redesign is an unbudgeted expense, the cost is minimal in comparison to the time spent doing these tasks and accounting for human errors. At this time, the total investment is $1,600.00; a cost that we believe can be absorbed by savings in other areas to date. We will continue to monitor the time and cost of these consulting services and ensure that costs can be supported by our existing budget.

  1. Likewise, in the absence of a business manager, we have procured the services of a consultant to support with the closing of the books and filing very important State required reports. Her services have been invaluable and she will continue to support us through the on-boarding and training of our new business manager. Her services will also allow us to ensure a timely audit which is scheduled to begin later this month. 

Legislative Update

  1. Topics that have resulted in laws to be reviewed and/or to take action by a committee, task force or the legislative body in 2022:
    1. Pension and Benefits
    2. Testing for PCBs in Schools
    3. Pupil Weighting - specifically a plan is to be proposed for how education is funded in order to ensure that all public school students have equitable access to educational opportunities.
    4. Equitable and Inclusive SchoolEnvironments - make recommendations on how to end suspensions and expulsions for all but the most serious student behavior, examine existing data and data practices surrounding exclusionary discipline.
    5. ACT 66 - working group for libraries; advisory council on wellness; extends timeline for the working group on Ethnic and Social Equity Studies; extends deadline on Efinance.
    6. ACT 45 - RFP for conducting a child care and early childhood education systems analysis study and making recommendations.

  1. H.426: Addressing the Needs and Conditions of School Facilities (Facilities Agenda Item for 8/26)
  2. ACT 9 - Allowable uses for ESSER dollars allocated solely to the State
  3. ACT 28 - Literacy calls for:
    1. Allocates funds to improve literacy from an instructional and systems level; 
    2. Establishes a statewide Advisory Council on Literacy to advise the Agency of Education, State Board of Education, and General Assembly on how to improve literacy outcomes across the state; and 
    3. Requires the Secretary of Education, in collaboration with the Standards Board for Professional Educators, to review teacher preparation programs and licensing and re-licensing standards as they pertain to literacy.
  4. ACT 7 - Health Care passed without the Governor’s signature. In part, it:
    1. Removes the requirement that premium percentages and out of pocket expenses for each plan tier must be the same for all participating employees
    2. Prohibits a school employee from receiving cash in lieu from one school employer

while simultaneously receiving health care benefits from the same or another school employer

The MTSD Business Office continues to be extremely busy filling vacancies, training new personnel and closing the books for the FY21 Fiscal Year. In addition, we are learning all we can about the allowable uses, application requirements and procurement procedures for each of the three Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds so that we can submit our applications and receive our allocation.


Last week, Sydney Lucia, our Grants Manager, Bruce Cheeseman, Director of Facilities and I attended a webinar hosted by the Vermont Agency of Education specific to the use of ESSER grants for any facilities construction work. Any projects we would like to complete using these funds has a three step approval process - concept pre-approval, project approval, and application approval. It is our intent to submit applications for our HVAC projects; however, the State has indicated that there may be additional grants, like the one we received last fall via Efficiency Vermont specific to HVAC. We will proceed slowly in the event we need to pivot our ESSER application to the Efficiency VT one, reserving ESSER for other Covid recovery costs.


Friday, July 16th was an exciting day for both innovation in education planning and facilities planning.  In the morning, I attended the MHS Innovation Lab SOAR design meeting. As a reminder, MHS is contracting with UP for Learning to help facilitate the design of the Innovation Lab. This is the  same organization who lead our MTSD visioning and strategic planning process. UP, alongside MHS sophomore, Colbie Miller, led an inspiring 3 hour planning session that included 6 students - one who zoomed in from France, 3 teachers, 2 community members, and 4 administrators.   


At this meeting, they reviewed data collected from a survey they administered in June. Began working on a communication plan and continued with mapping a vision.  This core group also attended a planning retreat in June and took a field trip to Generator - Burlington’s Maker Space. Their next planning session is July 30th. 


Although still in the dreaming and designing phase, it is the aspirations of this group to transform the former wood shop into a lab that would provide students (and eventually the community) with a space to develop career pathway skills - both soft skills and experiential technical training and/or to conduct research and development for a new or existing business. Students would be able to explore their passions in art, technology, building trades, business, science… in an independent setting that simultaneously allows for real time collaboration with either others in the space or in the world beyond the school walls. 


Later that day on the facilities side, Bruce and I met with TruexCullins, the architect firm that will lead a 10 year facilities master planning process with the district. At this meeting, we outlined a timeline for the scope of work. The facilities evaluation will begin next week while the visioning process will begin after school starts.

Lifting Learning and Leveraging Student Success 

The VT Agency of Education has approved our Lifting and Learning Plan. The Leadership Team continues to plan for next year with a focus on filling positions that will support the implementation of our Lifting Student Learning Plan. In addition, the Leadership Team has been securing resources to support professional development as outlined in the plan. 


As you know, school districts have been allocated funds from the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) to support the three domains in their Lifting Learning Plan as identified by the VT Agency of Education:

  1. Academic Achievement
  2. Social Emotional Health and Well Being
  3. Engagement and Truancy

These funds also may be used toward projects that are necessary for either maintaining or improving the health and safety conditions of the learning environment as it relates to the impact of Covid-19. Improvements to the heating and ventilation system would be an example of an acceptable use.  Written guidance for the use of ESSER has been trickling in since early April. The ESSER I and II applications have been built in the Grants Management System and the VT AOE is in the process of completing the final phases for the ARP ESSER (formerly ESSER III). The latter funding source is different from ESSER I and II in that it requires additional application components including “meaningful consultation”. The application due date is also much sooner and fast approaching. 


The meaning consultation component of ARP ESSER requires that school districts include a process for community stakeholders and school partnerships to review and provide input to the district’s funding plan prior to submitting the application - which is due August, 23, 2021.  To that end, the MTSD Board of Trustees will develop a timeline to include:

  1. The Superintendent presentation to the public of the MTSD Lifting Student Learning Plan and how funds could be used to support implementation.
  2. A public comment period and process for stakeholders to provide input.

Education Reserve Fund

Our newly formed Education Reserve Fund functions like the Capital Reserve Fund. It is a separate fund and operates in accordance with GAAP. Similarly to the Capital Reserve Fund, if there are items earmarked to the Education Reserve Fund, and the General Fund can accommodate absorbing those expenses, then the Board may approve to roll them up to the General Fund.


The Education Reserve Fund is designated to address two conditions:

  1. Unanticipated, unbudgeted expenses to address immediate programming or student needs specific to academic; social /emotional health and wellbeing; engagement. This may come in various forms, including - staffing, consultation, materials.  Any requests for approvals would need to include a means to evaluate continued need and feasibility for incorporating the goods or services into the following proposed fiscal year budget. 
  2. One time seed money to build a new program or modernize an existing one. This would include a detailed budget and plan for incorporating any staffing or maintenance expenses into the General Fund

The Board may want to consider creating a committee similar to and/or part of the Facilities/ Finance committee to draft an Education Reserve Fund plan that aligns with the MTSD Strategic Plan and soon to be created MTSD Master Facilities Plan. 


Director of Operations

In addition to filling vacancies and hiring for several new positions at the school level, we have posted for the MTSD Director of Operations. An interview team of 5 will begin interviewing next week. 

COVID Spring Update

The year is winding down and while students and teachers are focused on finishing the year, the MTSD Leadership Team continues to also be focused on summer and fall planning. Principals communicated their end of year plans for increasing in person learning with families the first of May. The primary goal for additional time in grades 7-12 is to reconnect students across the two cohorts and provide additional academic support to students in need.


Summer programming is taking shape. Each school will offer Extended School Year (ESY) services for eligible students. These services are provided to eligible special education students and the program runs half days, 4 days per week during the month of July.  In addition, each school will also offer programming designed to re-connect and re-engage students who have been most impacted by the pandemic. At each level, these programs are designed to engage students in fun learning experiences that build on skill development like problem solving and self direction while supporting their social emotional development.


In addition to the ESY program, each school is offering summer programming:

  1. MES: 
    1. Kindergarten Transition - staffing has just been secured and the details are still being worked out; however, the idea behind this program is to introduce students (PreK - age 4 and K) to the routines and practices of school and build their confidence in developing relationships. 
    2. L.E.A.P, a two week program is being offered for up to 60 students in grades 1-4. It is designed to support students to creatively solve problems, analyze situations, communicate with and respect others, and to build positive, trusting relationships within their school community.
  2. MMS: 
    1. Lifting Learning and Leveraging Student Success is a themed based camp program that is being offered for up to 100 MMS students. It will operate throughout the month of July, 3 days per week from 9-2. Each week is a different theme, including STEAM; Farm to Table; Outdoor Adventures, and Learning through Museums. 
  3. MHS:
    1. June School is a one week program to support students with credit recovery
    2. Summer Health and Wellness is a series of events spread across the summer open to any interested high school student. It includes personal wellness, flag football and volleyball. 
    3. August School is also a one week program designed to support returning virtual students or other students who have not fully engaged in academic programming this year. The focus is to build relationships and introduce students to daily practices. It will also have a social emotional component. 
    4. Transition Academy is a one week program to acclimate selected in-coming 9th grade students to high school through reading, social emotional and empowerment components.

End of year planning is also in full swing. Guidance has just been released for proms and end of year events, like graduation. Principals are working with teachers to develop end of year event proposals to bring to the COVID Steering Committee for approval. We are very much looking forward to events that allow more people to participate and connect in meaningful ways.


Lifting Learning and Leveraging Student Success 

The MTSD submitted their Needs Assessment on April 15, 2021. We have received high marks and positive feedback from the VT AOE. Since our return from April vacation, the Core Team has used the results from the Needs Assessment including the input from the Expert Teams for addressing the identified needs to draft an implementation plan.


While using tools provided by the VT AOE, the Core Team was able to use a collaborative approach to learn about what has occurred with our students and their learning and what to do next. Our process has helped to first develop a basic understanding of the current state and then a more precise understanding of the needs of each school. As a result we have identified specific and measurable goals along with a working theory of improvement actions, inclusive of an integrated set of interventions to meet them. 


A step summary:

  1. Collect data that would inform us of the current state for each domain - academic performance; social / emotional well being; and truancy and re-engagement. (March - Core Team)
  2. Conduct a data analysis and interpretation to identify basic understanding along with input for addressing needs. (April - Expert Teams)
  3. Deepen the understanding through collaborative discussions, identifying problems of practice, root causes and primary and secondary drivers. 
  4. Identify the greatest problem priority.
  5. Write a strategic, measurable and attainable goal.
  6. Draft a theory of improvement action inclusive of necessary interventions.

The Core Team has just finished steps 3-6 and drafted an implementation plan to submit to the VT AOE. Prior to submission though, we need additional stakeholder feedback. The full MTSD Leadership Team will review and answer the question - Is it clear? In addition, they will identify questions that can be used as a guide for others in giving feedback.


The plan will then be posted on our website and an invitation will be sent to staff, students, families and the MTSD Board of Trustees for comment. The comment period will be from May 17-21. 


As a reminder, at the May 27th Board meeting, the MTSD Leadership Team will share the results of our data collection and analysis and give an overview of how students are doing. 


Miscellaneous

  1. Everyone Eats - The program is still operating State wide. As of April 29th, 1 million meals had been served. The MTSD hands out 150 meals every Monday from contributing area restaurants. The program is scheduled to continue until June.
  2. SRO Contract - Katie Glover and I have met with Chief Laroche, Michaela Foody and Jess Morris to draw up the SRO contract. It needs to be collectively reviewed and approved by both the MTSD Board of Trustees and the Milton Selectboard. Our next joint meeting is not until August; therefore, the Town will put it on a Selectboard agenda for 6/21. We will need a quorum of board members to attend. 

COVID Spring Update

The MTSD COVID Steering committee has reviewed the updated guidance released by the VT AOE. The new document is called, A Strong and Healthy Year. As a result, the committee is issuing updated guidance to staff and families. Notable updates include:

  1. Health Screenings 
    1. Health screenings will need to be conducted by families prior to coming to school. Beginning May 3, 2021, temperature checks and screening questions will no longer occur upon arrival. 
    2. Upon arrival, students will be monitored for adherence to wearing a mask and hand sanitizing.
  2. Travel and Quarantining 
    1. In regards to travel, the Milton Town School District will be following the Vermont Forward Plan that has been presented by the governor.  
  3. Physical Distancing
    1. From 6ft to 3ft for students in grades 7-12 for classroom learning; eating and music still require 6ft distancing
  4. Cohort mixing
    1. Under controlled circumstances where careful contact tracing logs and seating charts are maintained, cohorts may be mixed
    2. In common areas - hallways/lockers; cafeterias; recess, cohort mixing may not occur

All other health and safety requirements remain intact, including no visitors - (community members, parents/guardians, board members). It is expected that guidance on public meetings will be issued in early June.


Principals are reviewing these changes to determine any impact they may have on assigned duties and/or any other practices within each school structure, and the extent to which each school is able to increase in person learning while also taking into consideration:

  • Sufficient staffing levels to follow the updated health/safety procedures and meet the needs of students,
  • The ability to maintain compliance with the guidance from VDH/AOE and all other VT Statutory and State Board of Education Regulatory requirements, 
  • Sufficient staffing levels and space to meet the existing Master Schedule and enrolled courses, 
  • The ability to effectively support our students through the window of high stakes testing for both SBAC and Advanced Placement,
  • Ensure that to the greatest extent possible, those students who are experiencing the greatest transition will be able to participate in milestone activities like prom and graduation.

Already the MMS and MHS principals have noted that an increase to 4 or 5 days of in person learning for students in grades 7&8 and 9-12 will not be possible. The barriers include: space and furniture; meal service and eating in inclement weather; staffing to support in person cohorts. Each school will finalize a plan to submit to the MTSD Steering committee on Wednesday, April 28th with follow up communication to families by April 30th.


MTSD Committee Updates

  1. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - 
    1. The full committee met on April 13th and tuned two draft policies that were developed in the work groups. It was an excellent process and both of the subgroups received thoughtful feedback which will be used to create a final draft to bring to the Board in June. 
    2. In June, the MTSD Board of Trustees should discuss the future form and function of this committee
  2. District Office Reorganization - the purpose of this committee is to review the existing organizational structure of the MTSD District Office in relation to the scope of required roles and responsibilities. The committee will make a determination and/or recommendation to the Board of any changes that need to be made to ensure that the DO is appropriately and proportionately structured to meet the changing needs of public education and that it is equipped with the expertise and capacity to fulfill the MTSD Vision of Learning while adequately maintaining all legal and fiduciary requirements.
    1. The committee has met twice and is due to meet again on April 26th.
    2. The committee began with a discussion related to assets and challenges of the existing structure.
    3. Committee members then independently reviewed several other organizational structures and related job descriptions and posed questions in a shared document for further discussion.
    4. As a result of this work, we collectively developed 2 model organizational structures that we will discuss in more detail at our next meeting
    5. We anticipate bringing a recommendation to the full Board on May 13. 

Legislative Update

  1. H81 An Act Relating to Public School Health Care Benefits will likely be allowed to go into law without Governor Scott’s signature. It is my understanding that he will not sign it because he believes that a provision should have been included that allows for sliding cost share in accordance with professional licensure and salary.
  2. S.100 - Universal School Meals is still in the Senate.  The Senate Education and Agricultural committees are working on an amendment to S.100 that would establish a program for universal school breakfast with the estimated $6 million to $10 million in new costs borne by the Education Fund; a predicted 1% increase in property taxes. If the bill is approved in the Senate it will move to the House.
  3. Literacy - The House and Senate Education Committees have worked to combine and reconcile differences between their two literacy bills. The current draft of the bill now appropriates 3 million of the ESSER III Funds designated for State Education Agencies to a literacy grant program. The literacy grant program will be administered by the Agency of Education in consultation with the Act 173 Working Group and newly formed Statewide Literacy Council. The AOE will determine eligibility of SUs/SDs for the grant funding based on several criteria rather than through an application process.
  4. Weighting Update - it seems that the legislature will address the Weighting Study through S.13, which has passed the Senate and is currently under consideration of the House. The bill simply lays out a process for taking action on the weighting study inclusive of a legislative task force and funds for a consultant who is considered to be both an expert on Vermont’s education funding and tax system and nationally recognized in the field of education funding.

Reopening School Update

As of the writing of this report, the revised VT Health and Safety Guidance for Reopening Schools had not been released. 


Current COVID Conditions

As you know, case counts have been high locally. Positive cases are concentrated in Chittenden County especially among those between the ages of 16 and 30. In the past 14 days, there have been 868 positive cases in Chittenden County according to the VT Department of Health’s Dashboard. Since April 2nd, 

  • The MTSD has had to contact trace for 6 positive cases 
  • We have had to pivot to remote learning for 5 classrooms 
  • 90 students and 14 staff members have been identified as close contacts and have been excluded from in person learning or work anywhere from 2 to 14 days

It is important to note that contact tracing involves at minimum, the COVID Nurse, Superintendent and all the building administrators. It may also include an administrative assistant and the athletic director if it is related to athletics. For all the members involved, the process takes anywhere from 4-10 hours over multiple days depending on the complexity of the case.


It is also important to note that the change in the physical distancing guidance from 6 to 3 feet for students in grades 7-12 does not include a change to the contact tracing protocol that we are expected to follow. It is my understanding that the VT Department of Health will continue to consider anyone within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more over the course of 24 hours, a close contact. As a result, I have concerns that positive cases will impact a larger number of students (most staff will be fully vaccinated soon) while contact tracing will dominate administrator’s time during an especially busy period of the year.


Planning for Increase of In Person Learning

Principals at all three buildings have been assessing their current configurations. In anticipation of a change to the VT Health and Safety Guidance for Reopening Schools, they have been drafting plans as to what extent, how, and when their school may pivot to increase in person learning. All three schools must consider their local context, including the following factors:

  • Sufficient staffing levels to follow the health/safety procedures and meet the needs of students,
  • The ability to maintain compliance with the guidance from VDH/AOE and all other VT Statutory and State Board of Education Regulatory requirements, 
  • Sufficient staffing levels and space to meet the existing Master Schedule and enrolled courses, 
  • The ability to effectively support our students through the window of high stakes testing for both SBAC and Advanced Placement,
  • Ensure that to the greatest extent possible, those students who are experiencing the greatest transition will be able to participate in milestone activities like prom and graduation.

Of course, we will not know exactly what it looks like to meet these criteria until we actually receive the written guidance. 


Lifting Learning and Leveraging Opportunities for Success - Redesign vs. Recovery

Since its inception on March 15th, the Lead Team has met weekly to frame the process for conducting the State required Needs Assessment. This team identified and collected data sets in each of the three areas: Academic Achievement and Success; Engagement and Truancy; and Social Emotional Learning, Mental Health and Well-being. The Lead Team gave the data sets to the expert groups along with a process to analyze and respond to the data. The three expert teams have met twice and are preparing to share their analysis of the data along with ideas for activities we may want to implement with the Lead Team. The Lead Team will then collate the information into the template, identify priorities and select relevant activities to submit to the AOE by April 15, 2021.


In addition, a selected team of teachers and administrators have attended the first of nine sessions of a training hosted by the AOE on Data Literacy. As part of this training, we have been assigned a data literacy coach who will help us review and strategically respond to our data as an ongoing process.


A Whole Child Narrative 

Across the State, educators have been increasingly concerned by the deficit based narrative of school and learning in the time of COVID. As a result, members of the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association, Directors of Teaching and Learning and Directors of Student Services have drafted key talking points so that we can begin to shift from a deficit based narrative to an asset based one. Education research is very clear, when we label children and/or their learning conditions, it is harmful.


“John Hattie, educational researcher and author of “Visible Learning”, has collected the largest analysis of what works in education, which involves over 300 million students. Hattie’s research involves over 1400 meta-analyses. A meta-analysis is a statistical approach that focuses on influences on learning, and combines multiple individual studies that focus on that same influence (i.e. feedback, classroom discussion, reciprocal teaching, etc.). These studies that look at influences on learning are accompanied with an effect size. An effect size of .40 equates to a year’s worth of growth for a year’s input.

 

In Hattie’s research, which involves over 251 influences on learning, Not Labeling students has an effect size of .61. That is significantly over the .40 that equates to a year’s worth of growth for a year’s input. What the research shows is that providing a label to a student often results in students working or performing to their label.” (Education Week, May 2018)


Think of the phrases that are being used to describe an entire generation of learners: 

  1. They are all suffering
  2. They are behind; they need to catch up
  3. They have learning loss; they need to recover
  4. We need to return to normal

Instead of thinking in these terms, instead of fostering deficit thinking and thus, a deficit existence among our learners, let us all capitalize on the opportunities to lift student learning and leverage redesign opportunities so we can Better Serve ALL Learners. Within the next few weeks, I will be drafting a set of materials to share with all MTSD staff and families so that we can uniformly use an assets based approach in supporting the whole child as we emerge from this historic, global pandemic.

COVID Update

On March 19th, the Center for Disease Control announced a change to the guidance related to physical distancing for schools noting that 3 feet is appropriate and safe for all children as long as they are masked and in well ventilated rooms or outside. The exceptions are common areas - auditoriums, gymnasiums and cafeterias and/or where masks are not worn - i.e. while eating lunch.  At the Governor’s Press Conference on Friday, Dr. Levine stated that his team would be reviewing this newly released information and providing guidance to schools as a result. It seems likely that revisions to the Health and Safety Guidance for Reopening VT Schools will be issued very soon. Currently, we are examining the factors that need to be considered for increasing in-person learning and drafting a realistic plan that supports the needs and best interests of our students and staff. These conditional factors include:

  1. Space
  2. Meals
  3. Staffing
  4. Scheduling
  5. SBAC Testing
  6. Transportation
  7. Contact Tracing

Lifting Learning and Leveraging Opportunities in the Aftermath of Covid-19

The MTSD Recovery Team has convened and drafted a plan for completing the first step of the recovery process; that is to conduct a needs assessment. This includes a district specialization team for each of the three focus areas - academic success; mental and social emotional health and well being; re-engagement and truancy, to review and interpret relevant data and make recommendations to the Recovery Team for addressing identified student needs. In addition, the Recovery Team is completing a district assessment as it relates to the four pillars of MTSS (multi-tiered student support). These areas include: Educational Support Teams; a Coordinated Curriculum; Local Common Assessment Plan; and Needs Based Professional Development. 


Other News:

Last year, Co-Principal Stinson and I presented our newly adopted MTSD Vision of Learning to the Milton Economic Commission with the hope of conducting a thought exchange as to how MHS could incorporate innovation programming to serve the needs of the Milton business community.  Of course, COVID hit and our first meeting was our last. Since then we have pursued partnerships and grant opportunities to develop the MHS Work-based Learning Programming. This has resulted in several teachers exploring innovative programs at other schools along with a little dreaming of what could we create here.  Next steps include: another presentation to the Milton Economic Commission; entering into a contract with Up for Learning to facilitate a student and community engagement process; and framing a multi-year plan.

 

Legislative Report

  1. Two literacy bills, S.114 and H.101 were voted out of committee before crossover and both are now being reviewed by their respective appropriations committees. Both bills support appropriating funds ($3,000,000 and $2,000,000  respectively) in providing professional development for teaching literacy, creating an AOE Literacy Coordinator’s position, and to amend the statewide policy on reading instruction. Additionally, both bills would create an Advisory Council to advise the AOE, the State Board of Education, and the General Assembly on improving literacy instruction and outcomes. 
  2. The bill for School Construction Aid, H.426 is making steady progress. It includes provisions for assessing school buildings, revising the capital outlay formula, and requiring district positions dedicated to facilities management and capital improvement planning. The bill proposes to appropriate $2.5 million toward this work.
  3. Weighting Study
    1. The Senate Education Committee approved a ‘strike all’ to S.13. This is essentially a rewrite of the bill that sets up a process for legislators to return in the second half of the biennium with definitive recommendations and draft legislation for implementation. They will arrive at those recommendations and draft legislation by convening a task force of legislators to work with a consultant in coming up with the plan. 
    2. When the bill gets to the House, it will be carefully scrutinized because legislators in the House have been focused on their own bill, H.54, which also has an implementation plan embedded in it.

Reopening School Update

At this time last year, the Champlain Valley Superintendents called an impromptu meeting to conference call with Secretary French. We were becoming increasingly concerned about Covid-19 and the impact on school. Superintendents from across the State met both in person and virtually over the course of the weekend and then on Sunday afternoon, March 15th, Governor Scott issued a State of Emergency inclusive of closing schools for in person learning. Within two days, we deployed interim learning activities, technology and a plan for meal delivery and then shut our doors for in person learning until September 8th.  The next five months would be devoted to a comprehensive remote learning plan and preparing to reopen school under extremely restrictive safety guidelines. Strangely, it is hard to believe a year has passed - even though it has been the longest and most challenging year I have had as an educational leader.


Current Covid Conditions

Hopefully we are at a Covid crossroad and we will be able to take that right turn soon. Next week, we are due to administer vaccines to all staff; this is great news. At the same time though, we are still contending with positive cases and their implications for either excluding staff and students and/or pivoting to remote learning. We also continue to struggle with adequate staffing. We have yet to fill 4 long term substitute positions with licensed teachers or find a virtual teacher so that we can bring back grade 6 to 4 days of in person learning. In terms of support staff, we are still trying to fill 10 vacancies including food services, supervisory aides, special needs programming specialists, and behavior interventionists. After 8 months of actively searching and interviewing, we finally secured a nurse. She started this week. 


Rationale for Calendar Change

For the last few years, the MTSD School Year Calendar has included early release days. These days occur monthly and students are dismissed with a box lunch at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m respectively. The majority of schools in the Champlain Valley shifted to weekly late starts or early releases ranging from 60-90 minutes beginning in 2015 in order to systematically implement legislative changes to ensure both coherence and results in student outcomes. The 2021-22 MTSD School Calendar includes weekly early release days that begin 75 minutes prior to the end of the regular school day - middle and high school would release at 1:15 and the elementary school at 2:15. These early release days would allow for the effective use of professional learning community meetings (PLCs) and the implementation and monitoring of the Covid Recovery plan. In these meetings: grade level, content department, and team teachers would meet to review and then plan focused responses related to student assessment data; progress monitor student Education Support Plans (EST), and enrich instructional practices with the support of coaches specific to literacy and other Covid Recovery focus areas - social emotional and mental health and well being and student engagement. This time would also support the work necessary to implement State required Covid recovery responses related to the Pillars of Act 173 and the VT Education Quality Standards, including - PreK-12 Coordinated Curriculum; Local Common Assessment program; Systematic Needs Based Professional Learning; and District Level Education Support Team. Last, it would also allow for the completion of the NEASC Accreditation process and/or  any other unanticipated, legislatively mandated initiatives. 

 

Legislative Update

Currently there are more than 80 Bills in the legislature that are in some way connected to education. The session remains very dynamic and we are paying close attention to those bills that have traction and would have significant impact on districts. 

  1. Universal School Meals: Senate Agriculture voted the “Farm Fresh School Meals for All” bill (S.100) would require every Vermont public school to provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.  The cost of meals that are not reimbursed through federal or state funds would be borne by the school districts which is predicted to be extremely costly.  Discussions around universal school meals have started in the House of Representatives and there are currently two House bills: H.32 and H.150.
  2. Pupil Weighting: The Senate Finance Committee and Senate Education Committee held a joint meeting on February 23 to consider S.13, a bill which requires the Agency of Education to develop a plan to implement the equalized pupil weighting changes outlined in the Pupil Weighting Factors Report dated December 24, 2019.  Agency of Education Secretary Dan French testified that he does not believe the Agency of Education has the capacity or expertise to develop such an implementation plan. He recommended that the General Assembly should commission an outside entity to develop and propose an implementation plan for its review.  Secretary French also spoke to H.54, a bill which implements the recommendations in the Pupil Weighting Factors Report by phasing in new weights.  He indicated that the findings of the Report are complex and that the implications of the study, from an implementation perspective, need to be fully evaluated and analyzed before implementation.

  3. Literacy: Both the Senate Education and House Education Committees are simultaneously taking up literacy (dr req 21-0807 dr, 6.1 and H.101, respectively).  Both bills focus on improving literacy instruction and outcomes in the state. They also both include using a grant program framework to support the initiative, but no funding source has been identified in either bill. Both Bills also include a provision to review teacher preparation programs and licensing and re-licensing criteria. 

  4. Other bills that are being introduced cover topics related to:
    1. Excess Threshold
    2. Facilities and Construction
    3. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 
    4. School Discipline 
    5. Employee Benefits
    6. School Funding

Reopening School Update


Current State

  1. Since our return from the holiday break, I have been meeting with Co-Principal Smith and representatives from the 6th grade team planning for the increase of in person learning to four days a week for 6th graders. Our greatest challenge in the planning process is filling vacancies to ensure adequate staff. We hope to have 2 of the 3 vacancies filled prior to the February break and set a return schedule soon after our return in March.
  2. We did have a positive case in grade 5 at the beginning of February. It is important to note that classroom cases are complicated and the VTDH weighs on the side of caution when making decisions with school districts to go fully remote with a class or grade level. Due to our strong multi-layered mitigation strategies, none of our positive cases to date have resulted in additional spreading within the identified cohort. 
  3. Governor Scott announced on Friday of last week that interscholastic winter sports competitions may begin on February 12th. The MTSD COVID Steering committee will review the guidance along with the proposed MMS and MHS plan. Communication will then be shared with all stakeholders.
  4. All other aspects of COVID programming and public access to the facilities remain intact.

Next Phase of Reopening

Typically at this time of year, the MTSD is preparing to conduct a needs assessment as part of the State required process for reviewing and revising the District Continuous Improvement Plan. This process comprises many stages including a deep dive into our student assessment data set. At this time of year, we are also typically amid a comprehensive assessment data collection period that includes both the mid-year rounds of Math and Literacy STAR assessments, Fountas and Pinnel and SBAC. Although we are finishing up our Local Common Assessments along with the addition of our new Social Emotional Learning assessment, we are still waiting on direction from the VT AOE regarding SBAC.   


Additionally, Districts are also still waiting to receive the Phase III Recovery planning template from the  AOE. Initially this was to be released the first of February; however,  it has been pushed back to the end of the month.  In part, the plan will need to address 3 areas:

  1. The implementation of a District Education Support Team (EST) inclusive of a District Coordinator who will serve as a liaison with AOE.
  2. Mental health and social emotional wellness of students
  3. Academic achievement and success of all students

Despite the delay in the release of the template, both the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association and the MTSD Leadership Team have been thinking about the three areas and creating structures to help us draft a plan once the template becomes available. Regionally, superintendents will work collectively with Champlain Valley Directors of Curriculum and Student Services. We are planning to pool our expertise and energy into design teams with each team having representation across each district and area of expertise. Design teams will then be assigned a focus area and charged with developing a menu of practices and resources that can be used within districts. The purpose here within is threefold: 

  1. Prevent the redundancy and fatigue we experienced in the spring and summer in planning Phases I and II; 
  2. Identify areas for cross district collaboration and the sharing of resources;
  3. Create consistency and balance across the region to the greatest extent possible. 

At the district leadership team level, we are beginning to carve out additional time to do the work. This will be a challenge. As a result of in person learning, it will be difficult for principals and even more so for teachers to participate in the planning process in ways that feel manageable. We have also begun to identify additional data that we may need to collect beyond just student achievement, including information from families. 


Legislative Update

So far, 22 House Bills and 11 Senate Bills related to Education have been introduced. It is my understanding that the following topics have high priority and testimony has already begun. 

  • Weighting Study -  Summary of Weighting Study
  • Act 173 and the degree to which new weights are linked in a policy decision as it relates to students with disabilities and the new census-based block grant allocation
  • Statewide bargaining for public school employee health benefits
  • School construction aid
  • Equity, implicit bias and racism
  • Literacy education

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee - the purpose of this committee is to address the question: How effective are our policies and procedures in creating an equitable, diverse, inclusive and affirming school and workplace that results in

  • Recruiting, honoring, supporting and retaining diverse talent
  • Ensuring educational excellence and positive outcomes for all students via equitable access and opportunity, especially for our black, indigeneous and students of color and underperforming students.

Our last meeting was on January 5, 2021 via zoom. The committee is now divided into 4 work groups with each group reviewing a different policy in order to make recommendations to the MTSD Board of Trustees for revision.


The ‘Community’ group has reviewed H1 (community relations) and H5 (public visitations). These are not required or recommended policies of the VSBA. The group feels that the premise of the policies are already communicated through the MTSD Vision of Learning and specifically our Core Beliefs and Values. In addition, they believe that the intended function of these policies could be managed through administrative procedures. Their recommendation is to rescind the policies and move the procedures to the MTSD Administrative Procedures Handbook. The superintendent will review their recommendation and bring it to the MTSD Board for discussion at a future meeting.


 The ‘Personnel’ group has been reviewing D1(recruitment and hiring) through the critical race theory lens and conducting research on similar policies in other organizations committed to equity. They have begun the process of making revisions to the policy. Next steps include, defining important terms and getting feedback on the revisions.


The ‘Curriculum’ group has been reviewing F22 (student assessment). This group has been combing through a great deal of data and disaggregating it by student demographics. They have found that beginning in the primary years there is a gap in the assessment data between students of color compared to their white peers and that the gap widens as students move through middle and high school. Their next steps include, an examination of data to discern probable cause for the gap, and how a rewrite of this policy can address it. They are also thinking about how to collect perception data from students and teachers related to the assessment experience and process.


The ‘Student’ group has been reviewing F1(student management and discipline). This group also has been combing through the district discipline data. Although the 2018/19 school year was the first time data was collected by race or ethnicity, they were able to draw conclusions. First, in general - race aside, the policy does little to change patterns. Once a child is ‘identified’ within the student discipline structure, it becomes part of their school experience across all years. Students of color are more likely to be outplaced then white students. The group is now looking at policies from other districts that use a more proactive social justice response to discipline. 


The next meeting is on February 2nd. 


Champlain Valley Superintendent’s Legislative Priorities

On Thursday, January 14th, I attended a statewide superintendent’s meeting where Secretary French shared the VT Agency of Education policy agenda. He categorized the policy agenda into six themes:

  1. Get every child off to a good start
  2. Ensure equal opportunities for all students
  3. Expand learning opportunities for all students
  4. Access to high quality instruction and teacher pipeline
  5. Improve pathways between high schools and career and technical centers
  6. Modernize the system

Although the number of policies identified under each category results in an exorbitant and unattainable policy agenda, I do believe that all areas identified are the right ones for transforming the VT education system and fulfilling the Vermont Vision for a World Class Education for all students. Undoubtedly, this should be a multi-year agenda especially given the capacity of both the legislature and schools during and in the aftermath of Covid.


On the following day, I met with the Champlain Valley Superintendents. We discussed Dr. French’s policy agenda. We identified our priorities as outlined in his agenda and we have begun the process of drafting our rationale and desired outcomes. We will continue to finalize this work over the next couple of weeks.

Reopening School Update

As we know, positive cases are on an upward trend across the State. Unfortunately, this also includes an increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, some of which have had direct ties to the MTSD community.  We also know that the process of administering vaccinations has begun. It is likely that January and February will continue to be difficult months and it will be essential that we remain vigilant in both our mitigation prevention and response strategies. 


Our first week back from the holiday break was relatively strong although we did have a number of staff and student absences due to positive cases. Fortunately, only one of these individuals were infectious at school and contact tracing did not result in any close contacts. 


Attendance Data

Student data continues to be within the average range of a typical year. At MES there is an average of 7 students per grade absent daily; this equates to approximately 7% of the PreK-4 student population. At MMS, grades 5 and 6 have a lower rate of absenteeism than the grade 7 and 8 cohorts. Grades 5 and 6 are hovering around 6% of the student population. Slightly higher, the grade 7 and 8 cohorts hover around 12% which is greater than the average rate of a typical year in winter. At MHS, the average is 22 students per day across all grades levels or 8% of the 9-12 student population. Interestingly, the number of students absent daily in each grade fluctuates greatly compared to MES. It also fluctuates greatly by cohort. For example, in grade 12, cohort A often has twice the number of students out than Cohort B. All schools remain attentive to student absenteeism data with a special focus on students demonstrating patterns of chronic absenteeism.


MMS had the strongest data for both staff and students. Faculty and staff averages hovered around 3 per day while MES and MHS were slightly higher with averages hovering around 12 and 6 faculty and staff members daily. 


From the Agency of Education

On January 7th,  Vermont Superintendents had their weekly meeting with Education Secretary French. Although State leaders agree that the next two months may be difficult, they are beginning to turn their attention to the Covid-19 Recovery Phase with the ultimate goal of all districts being fully in person toward the end of the school year. Our most immediate step in this process is to examine the conditions necessary so that we can increase in person learning for grade 6 to four full days. Our plan should be ready to communicate to 6th grade families early next week. 


Dr. French also outlined next steps for the Covid-19 Recovery Phase. The AOE will provide districts with a plan template in early February. In part, the plan will need to address 3 areas:

  1. The implementation of a District Education Support Team (EST) inclusive of a District Coordinator who will serve as a liaison with AOE.
  2. Mental health and social emotional wellness of students
  3. Academic achievement and success of all students


State of the State in Education - 2021 Legislative Session Begins

In his 3rd Inaugural Address, Governor Scott again highlighted the disparity and inequities in educational programming from school to school, and district to district. He recognizes that it is unfair to taxpayers, and fundamentally unfair to our students that educational opportunities are determined by where they live. Undoubtedly we know this to be very true in Milton. Other districts regionally are strategically targeting both high performing and struggling students through innovative programming and increases in highly skilled personnel to support improving instruction, while Milton, year over year, is making difficult choices and scaling back on critical programming and personnel. The result is that we receive fewer dollars from the State Education Fund. Many steps are being taken in the district to address diverse student needs and improve the quality of education; however, limited resources are impeding our progress.


The General Assembly will be conducted virtually for the unforeseeable future this session. Although this is necessary, working virtually naturally slows the process of civil discourse and the productivity of decision-making and policy development. The dynamics of Covid-19 also continues to be unpredictable and this adds another layer of complexity to the timely nature of the General Assembly work.


It is my understanding that the following topics will be of high priority for the House and Senate Education Committees:

  • Education funding, including fund deficit, Covid budget implications and relief funding
  • Weighting Study -  Summary of Weighting Study
  • Act 173 and the degree to which new weights are linked in a policy decision as it relates to students with disabilities and the new census-based block grant allocation
  • Statewide bargaining for public school employee health benefits
  • School construction aid
  • Equity, implicit bias and racism
  • Literacy education

In his address, Governor Scott also proposed organizing all the state’s child development work within the Agency of Education in order to create a comprehensive and aligned PreK-12 system. On Thursday, January 14th, Vermont Superintendents will be meeting with Education Secretary French to learn more about the General Assembly priorities and the policies that he hopes will stem from it to support the work of the AOE.  

2020 Reports

Reopening School Update


On October 23rd, the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health released an updated version of the Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening VT Schools. Additionally, guidance for Winter Sports was released on November 3rd. As a result, the MTSD Steering Committee has updated our MTSD Covid-19 Health and Safety Handbook. We also continue to update our MTSD Reopening of School website. All of these resources have excellent information for families and community members who have questions about school operations amid Covid-19.


Due to some creative planning and the reallocation of assignments, we are able to welcome back both the 3rd and 4th students for 4 days of in person learning prior to the Thanksgiving Break. Students in grade 4 will begin four days of in person learning on November 13th while grade 3 will begin on November 19th.

 

Staffing

Although we have secured several hires, filling key positions that will ultimately allow us to increase the number of in person learning days for  our students in grades 3 and 4, staffing continues to remain extremely fragile. The rising number of positive cases in Chittenden County along with the onset of cold and flu season is resulting in increased absenteeism. 


Last week, we had an average of 5 teachers and 3 support staff out per day per building. As the result of creative planning and a great deal of flexibility on behalf of the teachers and staff present, we were able to cover all absences with minimal impact to student services. With the return of two more grades to four days of in person learning, if teacher and staff absenteeism averages continue or increases even slightly, coverage will become much more challenging. 


Our primary priority at this point is to keep our doors open and safely maintain the hybrid learning model for all students in grades 6-12 and four full days of in person instruction for students in PreK-5. During these difficult times, students and their families need to be able to rely on us to the greatest extent possible.  

 

There is concern State-wide of schools returning to remote, both short term - a day here and there and more long term - a week or more, due to inadequate staffing. We hope to avoid this type of ping pong. Therefore, one solution we are exploring is to shift assignments within and across buildings. This may result in mixing small cohorts for short periods of time and/or intermittently disrupting intervention services for individual or small groups of students. At this time, we feel this is a better option than closing one or more schools to in person learning. 


Other Highlights

On November 4th, the Milton Elementary School hosted a live via zoom ‘town hall’ with Emily Fredette and Shannon Stem of the VT Department of Health along with our Covid Coordinator and Nurse, Dorey Demars. After a short presentation related to student illness, travel and attending school, MES families were able to ask questions. Those in attendance found the session extremely helpful. We did record the session and will post it to our website and send to families via Messenger.

 

MTSD Committee Updates

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - the purpose of this committee is to address the question: How effective are our policies and procedures in creating an equitable, diverse, inclusive and affirming school and workplace that results in

  • Recruiting, honoring, supporting and retaining our diverse talent
  • Education excellence and positive outcomes for all students via equitable access and opportunity, especially for our black, indigeneous and students of color and underperforming students.

This committee will select and critique through an equity lens a set of MTSD policies and procedures and make recommendations for revisions to the MTSD Board of Trustees. 

  1. The second meeting was held on November 5, 2020. 
  2. Prior to this meeting, members of the committee reviewed a set of policies and procedures that were divided among 4 categories: Students; Personnel; Community; Curriculum
  3. We ranked the policies in each category to determine which ones should be reviewed first. Then committee members identified which policy work group they wanted to be in. Each work group has an administrator, teacher, community member and student. The policies that were selected, include:
    1. Students - Student Management and Discipline
    2. Personnel - Recruitment, Selection, Appointment and Criminal Records Check
    3. Community - School Community Relations
    4. Curriculum - Assessment
  4. At the meeting, 
    1. We broke out into our work groups and each group reviewed their assigned policy and procedure through the Critical Race Theory framework. This process resulted in rich discussion.
    2. Each group then identified additional information they thought they might need to then begin the process of racial equity analysis. 
  5. Our next meeting is December 3, 2020

Student Resource Officer - the purpose of this committee is to examine the current role of the SRO and determine if any changes or adjustments need to be made to meet the needs of the MTSD students. The committee has had 3 meetings to date.

  1. On October 14: 
    1. A Brief history of the SRO was provided
    2. An overview the roles and responsibilities of the SRO was shared
    3. Committee members went into break out rooms to answer 2 questions:
      1. What additional information and/or input do we need?
      2. How will we get the information and/input?
  2. On October 21:
    1. The committee broke out into 2 groups - students and adults 
    2. Each group drafted a survey to administer to various stakeholders 
    3. The surveys were administered the week of October 26
  3. On November 4:
    1. The committee broke out into 3 groups to analyze the data
      1. Group 1 - student survey results
      2. Group 2 - faculty and staff survey results
      3. Group 3 - family and community survey results
    2. As a result of the analysis each group 
      1. Determined what information should be highlighted in the community forum presentation on November 16th
      2. Identified recommendations that should be made to the Board

Reopening School Update

We are now into week seven of the school year. Our Reopening School Steering Committee continues to meet weekly and seemingly the agenda items are not waning. At both the District and School level, we are in a constant state of adjustment. It is apparent that sustaining school operations amid COVID-19 will continue to take careful thought, planning and purposeful communication. Two current areas of focus and concern at this time are staffing and travel.

  1. Staffing
    1. Filling vacancies continues to be an issue. Currently, we still have 8 vacancies at MES  and this is preventing us from increasing in person learning days for grades 3 and 4 in the near future.
    2. Covering teacher and support staff absences is becoming increasingly difficult. The number of daily absences is on the rise due to illness and strict requirements to stay home when sick. Also with the uptick in positive cases regionally, seemingly more individuals are being identified as close contacts and are thus out awaiting test results. Fortunately, to date, we have not had any positive cases as a result.
  2. Travel
    1. Seemingly Vermont’s ability to suppress the virus is resulting in citizens confidence to expand their activities including travel. This is a concern statewide as the surrounding states remain COVID active. Most of the positive cases in VT schools have been the result of family travel, athletic activity and/or athletic related travel.
    2. The upcoming holiday season is also presenting a concern as many staff and families may be planning for travel, college students will be returning - many from red areas, and large gatherings may be more widespread.

Our already fragile staffing situation may undoubtedly be further compromised if families and staff begin to travel and/or participate in large holiday gatherings. We are also just entering the cold and flu season. Our goal was to have all students in grade K-5 back 4 full days a week for in person learning by November 2 with the hope that 6th grade could be back by Thanksgiving. Unless we can quickly fill vacancies and fortify our ability to provide coverage for absences, this is an unlikely goal. It is incredibly disappointing.


At the time of the report, several items were in the works:

  1. The VT Agency of Education and Department of Health were in the process of releasing an update to the Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening VT Schools. It is my understanding that this may include guidance related to holiday travel.
  2. The Champlain Valley Superintendents Association were in the process of drafting a collaborative news release. MTSD is not alone in our concerns. It is our hope that by collectively highlighting our needs for staffing, it may drum up applicants. It is also our hope that by highlighting these needs, families and staff would continue to remain vigilant and perhaps reconsider any plans to travel to red and yellow zones.
  3. The MTSD Steering committee is preparing to update its procedures related to travel for families and staff.

 

On another COVID-19 note, we have begun to conduct contact tracing drills. This is helping us to identify gaps and adjustments we need to make in the event we have a positive case and must participate in contact tracing. 


MTSD Committee Updates

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - the purpose of this committee is to address the question: How effective are our policies and procedures in creating an equitable, diverse, inclusive and affirming school and workplace that results in

  • Recruiting, honoring, supporting and retaining our diverse talent
  • Education excellence and positive outcomes for all students via equitable access and opportunity, especially for our black, indigeneous and students of color and underperforming students.

This committee will select and critique through an equity lens a set of MTSD policies and procedures and make recommendations for revisions to the MTSD Board of Trustees. 

  1. The first meeting was held on October 13, 2020. At this meeting,
    1. We began to lay the foundation that allows participants to fully engage, sustain and deepen interracial dialogue 
    2. We set our community agreements for engaging in the work
    3. The structure for conducting the work was provided, this includes
      1. Learning about and applying the tenets of Critical Race Theory
      2. A process for selecting a set of MTSD policies and procedures
      3. Using an racial equity analysis tool to
        1. Identify what the group believes racially equitable outcomes related to the issue would be
        2. Identify what additional stakeholder input is needed
        3. Identify needed data and collect it
        4. Conduct an analysis of the input and data
        5. Make recommendations for revisions
  2. Our next meeting is November 5, 2020

Student Resource Officer - the purpose of this committee is to examine the current role of the SRO and determine if any changes or adjustments need to be made to meet the needs of the MTSD students. The committee will make recommendations to the Board at a Community Forum presentation on Monday, November 16, 2020

  1. First meeting was held on October 14, 2020. At this meeting, 
    1. A Brief history of the SRO was provided
    2. An overview the roles and responsibilities of the SRO was shared
    3. Each principal then explained the application of the roles and responsibilities in their school
    4. Committee members went into break out rooms to answer 2 questions:
      1. What additional information and/or input do we need?
      2. How will we get the information and/input?
  2. Over the next two weeks, groups will gather the information and we will then meet to collate it and determine recommendations.
  3. Our next meeting is November 4, 2020

Legislative 2020 Concludes

House 969 passes and includes the following components

  • Final result of the Coronavirus Relief Fund
    • 13.5 million directed to Efficiency VT to support school air quality
    • 88.3 million to the Agency of Education to support reimbursement of COVID-19 costs. 4 million of this will be administered through grant applications for equipment and supplies for nutritional programs 
    • AOE is working on guidance for accessing the funds
  • ADM - no less than the 2019-20 school year
  • 170 student days
  • Waiver for teachers who are not endorsed for on-line teaching
  • Application of legislative intent of ACT 122 by calling on the Tax Commissioner to disregard the projected deficit in the FY21 Education Fund and to maintain the stabilization reserve at 5% when recommending the statewide education property tax rates

MTSD / Milton Town Meeting 

I had a great meeting with Don Turner on Thursday, October 1. Our discussion focused on the following topics:

  1. Contracted Services - Specifically, treasury services and other miscellaneous costs associated with elections, annual report printing… 
    1. Due to the fact that both sides had a different interpretation of the costs for contracted services moving forward and budgeted accordingly last January, we proposed that we split the difference. The town had budgeted $30,000 in revenues and we budgeted $15,000 in expenses. Don is bringing the proposal to the Selectboard and will keep us posted. Once an agreement is reached, Katie and Jessica will draw up a formal contract to be signed.
    2. In terms of moving forward with calculating the services, we discussed the following process
      1. Select Board and School Board to determine the means by which the Treasury services will be calculated. Currently, we are charged for 50% of the treasurer’s salary and a portion of the assistant treasurer. 
      2. Business Managers from the Town and District would collaborate on estimating the costs prior to approving the final budget
  2. Newsletter
    1. We discussed the benefits of a joint town / district newsletter especially in light of the fact that neither of us now have a ‘paper’ of record. 
    2. I shared the cost estimates - a challenge for both as this is not a budgeted expense for either of us. 
    3. We both thought it would be great if we even just did 2 this fiscal year and then consider budgeting for additional ones next year.
    4. He was going to bring it to the Select Board
  3. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
    1. We shared the work that we were both pursuing in this area and though it is specific to the form and function of each entity, it does intersect in terms of outcome we hope to achieve for Milton residents.
    2. We agreed to share agendas for subsequent town and district committee work, check in periodically, and partner around tasks or projects that are relevant to each other.

Miscellaneous Notes - The Work

  1. Both the School Resource Officer Review Committee and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee have been formed and all meetings scheduled. They both begin next week.
  2. The information on increasing in person learning days has been shared with families and surveys for grades 4 and 5 will be administered this week. A new section specific to Increasing in Person Learning FAQ was added to our COVID FAQ site.
  3. In relation to our Continuous Improvement Plan, each school administrative team has developed walk through forms to monitor our work and provide targeted feedback to teachers. District Leadership has scheduled time to conduct the walk throughs with building principals each week. This work begins the week of October 12. The Leadership Team is also returning to the work we began last winter on our multi-tiered system of support. The Agency of Education issued a new guidebook last fall and the Leadership Team is assessing our existing system and structures against the new recommendations and will begin making adjustments across the district.  
  4. District and School Leadership attended the first two Beyond Diversity LEADS seminars. We were introduced to Critical Race Theory, a tool that can be modified and used to critique school practices and policies that may be both overtly and covertly racist. 

It certainly has been a couple of busy weeks as we settle into the Hybrid Model of Learning. As a result of the model, many families have opted for either 100% MTSD supported Virtual Learning, Home Study or some other option in order to meet their specific family circumstances and needs.


Here is a brief overview of the numbers:

Student Enrollment

Early Education

MES (K-4)

MMS (5-8)

MHS

September 2019

192

520

462

493

September 2020

155

499

425

492


Home Study

Enrollment

Total # Students

# of Families

# Students MES

# Students MMS

# Students MHS

2019/20

41

24

15

15

11

2020/21

73

44

40

20

13


New withdrawals to private school - 12 Students who are homeless - 20


100% Virtual - Enrolled MSTD Students

Grade

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

#

13

13

11

12

5

12

16

9

6

4

7

4



A quick survey was done in each of the three schools with just faculty members to get a sense of how students were doing with the return to school. This data is based on faculty observations and feelings. This week we will begin to assess students' academic performance. 


Q: I feel students are doing a good job following the safety and health guidelines

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Agree / Strongly Agree

32

15

25

Disagree / Strongly Disagree

4

3

0

Neutral

5

9

7


Q: Despite being out of school for almost 6 months, I feel students are adjusting to the classroom routines in positive and productive ways. This would include adhering to work flow and behavior expectations.

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Agree / Strongly Agree

34

23

28

Disagree / Strongly Disagree

1

0

1

Neutral

6

4

3


Q: Despite being out of school for almost 6 months, I feel students are adjusting to the learning expectations in positive and productive ways. This would include active participation and work completion.

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Agree / Strongly Agree

32

22

22

Disagree / Strongly Disagree

2

1

1

Neutral

7

4

9


Q: Despite being out of school for almost 6 months, I feel students social emotional well being is relatively in the same place as it was last winter

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Agree / Strongly Agree

19

11

12

Disagree / Strongly Disagree

11

6

10

Neutral

11

10

10


Q: I feel that students' social emotional well being is much more fragile than it was 6 months ago

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Agree / Strongly Agree

10

11

13

Disagree / Strongly Disagree

18

7

9

Neutral

13

9

10


Q: Pulse of the School

School

MES

MMS

MHS

# Respondents

41

27

32

Strong or Steadily Strengthening

24

16

19

Average and Maintaining

13

10

13

Weak or Steadily Weakening

1

1

0


Legislative Update (as of September 17)

  1. The Senate will propose an  allocation of $88 million in CRF funds to cover eligible school district costs. This is an effort to ensure that sufficient funds are available to school districts. 
  2. The Senate has also included language that, in effect, places unbudgeted expenses of schools districts in first position with respect to reimbursements.  This is intended to provide assurance to school districts that expenses that fall outside expenditure categories for which funds were budgeted or could be reasonably reallocated will be covered. Therefore, the risk to school districts that they will be left holding unbudgeted COVID-19 related expenses and associated deficits is greatly reduced - in other words, the intent of the Senate is to make school districts whole for their COVID-19 related eligible costs.
  3. The Senate bill includes a provision that creates an ADM hold-harmless provision so that a school district’s ADM count for school year 20-21 will not be less than the ADM count in 19-20.
  4. The House Ways and Means Committee approved S.27 that, in effect, takes the education fund deficit off the table when the Tax Commissioner produces the Dec 1 Education Funding Letter and absolves local school boards and districts from having to take responsibility for addressing the Education Fund Deficit.

First Week of School

Wonderful. The faculty and staff were so excited to see the children and vise versa. The smaller cohorts have been extremely helpful in adjusting to operational routines.  The smaller cohorts have also contributed to a smooth transition for students. Students have not been in a school environment for almost 6 months. Many have not seen or interacted with more than a handful of their peers or only in small groups. I believe the small cohort size has reduced the overall anxiety of returning to school. It has allowed students to refamiliarize themselves with the building, their teachers and peers while experiencing new routines. There is this sense of calm that is atypical of the hustle and bustle of school. Drop off and pick up has also been very smooth.


As we anticipated, there are a handful of adjustments that have needed to be made to schedules and especially the lunch routine. We are also struggling with filling vacancies for supervisory aides, a nurse and a crossing guard. We also continue to be nervous about sub coverage.


Next week we begin with both in person and remote learning. 


Beyond Diversity - LEADS 

The MTSD Leadership Team (District Leaders and Building Principals) will be engaging in the LEADS professional development seminar series. This opportunity is focused on deepening our understanding of institutionalized racism and its impact on student learning, as well as providing support for leading systemic equity transformation initiatives. We will be introduced to the Equity Leadership curriculum and instructional framework through a series of 6 seminars which will address a system-wide application of critical race theory, systems thinking, adaptive leadership, and culturally relevant practices to transform school culture and climate, empower families and engage communities of color. The first seminar is on September 22.


Education Funding

VT Legislators are back. Here are a couple of highlights:

  1. Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) presented an update on the Education Fund Outlook (8/11/2020), showing the anticipated Ed Fund shortfall is now $66.4 million 
  2. VSBA and VSA presented joint testimony with three specific legislative asks:
    1. Reduce the required student days from 175 to 170
    2. Protection of the General Assembly’s stated plan for $100 million in support of corona relief funds for K-12 education
    3. An amendment to 16 VSA 4010 (average daily membership), for one year, in order to stabilize budget development for FY2022 against declines in equalized pupils. Options, include:
      1. Secretary French to determine ADM for each school district at a count no lesser than the district’s 2019-2020 ADM
      2. Limit 2020-21 decline to e.g., 3.5% (hold harmless)
      3. Count students enrolled for 2019-21 who are in home study program for 2020-21
Secretary French presented a COVID-19 Near-Term Education Policy Proposal. In addition to the reduction of student days and hold harmless for ADM, it also includes a request to extend the waiver to teaching online without the required endorsement and to provide statutory language modification to require all school district meetings to be conducted through the use of an Australian ballot.

Reopening School - Update

This week, we released the MTSD Hybrid and Virtual Learning Detail along with surveys to collect data related to the option families would likely choose upon the reopening of school. The surveys are due back Monday and at that point, we will begin to draft more comprehensive, school-based plans.


In addition, we sent letters to individual families who have children with significant health needs and/or social and emotional learning needs and who may be in need of different options for attending school. 


State Level

Governor Scott announced that he would be issuing an Executive Order that would set a statewide start date of Tuesday, September 8, 2020 for all schools.


The members of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools have been working on revisions to the guidance. Those revisions are expected to be out in the next 7-10 days. It is unclear if the revisions will have implications on our reopening plans.  


Regional Level

The Champlain Valley Superintendents - from Chittenden, Addison and Franklin Counties continue to meet weekly to review new guidance from the VT Agency of Education and make agreements that support that ensure equity and coherence across our region. 


District Work

On Monday, August 3, 2020, the MTSD Steering Committee will meet for a full day to collate the results of the Staff and Family surveys that have been administered. They will also review all the work that has been completed to date by each of the three subcommittees, and as a result, they will:

  1. Confirm any decisions, procedures and/or purchases so that school level teams can begin to create implementation plans
  2. Determine if there are additional tasks that subcommittee need to complete
  3. Finish the development of the MTSD Reopening School communication tool

The subcommittees are:

  1. Operations - Health Services, Facilities / Maintenance, Transportation, Food Services, Technology, Staffing, and Materials
  2. Instruction - Assessing Needs,Grouping / Scheduling, Delivery of Services - general, specialized and health related, Professional Development, Technology, Staffing and Materials
  3. Communications - Policies / Procedures, Stakeholder Communications, Home Language Accessibility, Engagement Strategies

Reopening School Update Letter - June 22 ,2020


State Level

On Thursday, June 25, I attended a review of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools hosted by the Vermont Superintendents Association. In attendance was VT Secretary of Education, Dan French and Dr. Breena Holmes from the VT Department of Health. I think it is important to note that the guidance uses terminology that school teams are finding challenging. For example, when the guidance uses the terms like “must and required”, it is very clear. When it uses terms like “may, is recommended, or as much as practical”, it is less clear. At this time, there are many questions in the queue with both the VT Agency of Education and the VT Department of Health and they are working on an FAQ to support our planning. Today, July 9th the VT AOE released their first FAQ.  Safety and Health Guidance FAQ 1


Regional Level

The Champlain Valley Superintendents - from Chittenden, Addison and Franklin Counties met on July 1 to begin their review of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools in order to make common agreements that ensure equity and coherence across our region. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Our districts intersect in many ways and the decision of one district can have a direct impact on the others.
  2. Common agreements contribute to public trust. 

District Work

The MTSD Steering Committee has completed its review of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools, and we have developed a task list for each subcommittee so that they can each begin the planning process for reopening at Level 2 for school and Level 3 for transportation.

MTSD Sub Committee Work

The MTSD has three subcommittees. Each subcommittee received their task list this week and has begun the work for reopening school. The subcommittees are:

  1. Operations - Health Services, Facilities / Maintenance, Transportation, Food Services, Technology, Staffing, and Materials
  2. Instruction - Assessing Needs,Grouping / Scheduling, Delivery of Services - general, specialized and health related, Professional Development, Technology, Staffing and Materials
  3. Communications - Policies / Procedures, Stakeholder Communications, Home Language Accessibility, Engagement Strategies

Communications:

  1. Reviewed the results of the MTSD Return to School survey. A summary of those results will be linked to our first Return to School newsletter
  2. Created a template for our newsletter and assigned submission tasks. Each issue will focus on a particular topic and the first issue will go out next week.
  3. Identified the procedures and materials that need to be assembled for each classroom
  4. Assigned resource mining topics
  5. Began developing forms, scripts, and form letter templates 

Operations:

  1. Identified procedures to be written for bus monitors, wellness checks, and positive case (student/staff).
  2. Reviewed survey regarding students electing busing and started organizing by bus.
  3. Started to identify entrance and exit at each school to ensure wellness checks.  (Students will go directly to their classrooms after the check.)
  4. Reviewed and updated cleaning procedures and schedules for facilities.
  5. Calculated room occupancy based on Agency of Education guidance and moved classrooms and/or students (in process).
  6. Identified "clean" nursing spaces as well as isolation spaces.
  7. Created directional map and bathroom use schedule for each building.
  8. Identified procedure for grab and go breakfasts and lunch in the classrooms as well as compost pick up for each classroom.

Core Instruction and Social Emotional Learning:

  1. Reviewed and prioritized the tasks identified from the Steering Committee.  Configuration, scheduling and instruction are the initial priorities. The committee is reviewing classroom square footage, student enrollment numbers and staff to define needs for a safe return to school; this may be differentiated by school. 
  2. Began discussing school schedules, this work will continue once the structure for classrooms is completed.
  3. Began the process for outlining common instructional agreements. These will be defined for building based teams to use for grade level and team planning purposes. 
  4. Began outlining the first six weeks of school at developmental levels, including broad and practical topics for Social Emotional Learning and COVID Safety.

Legislative Update

H.966 passed into law last week, thereby establishing the Get Vermonters Connected Now program.  The $17 million appropriation for this program will be used to expand broadband networks for students and other affected groups who lack physical access to broadband today for purposes such as remote learning and telehealth during the COVID-19 Emergency. As a result, our District Technology Department will share information with the State regarding homes without access to broadband. If you know of anyone in this situation, please have them contact our Director of Curriculum and Technology, Lynne Manley.


Also included in this legislation is a $6.5 million appropriation awarded to Efficiency VT to award grants to schools toward HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality. Director of Facilities, Bruce Cheeseman, has already reached out to Efficiency VT and has begun the application process.

Reopening School - Update

A letter went home to staff and families [Reopening School Update- June 22, 2020 .pdf]. It included:

  1. A link to a presentation that I recorded about our planning process - I will review the presentation as part of this report. The platform I used for the presentation allows viewers to pose questions and comments. I am trying this as a tool to create stronger community engagement. 
  2. A list of decisions for new practices and/or routines and whether they are required, recommended, or to be determined. This list will be live on our website and continue to be updated as information or guidance changes
  3. Responses to questions that have been submitted since my last letter on 5/28

Work to Date

The MTSD Steering Committee has begun to meet and review the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools. Foremost, we are beginning our review and planning process with Level 2 as we have been informed by Secretary French that all districts will open at Level 2 except transportation will be Level 3 - least restrictive. Our work includes identifying:

  1. The tasks that will need to be completed in order to meet the requirements and recommendations
  2. The resources - time, training, funding, materials/supplies, staffing
  3. The subcommittee(s) that will need to tackle the task
  4. Any other decisions we need to make to ensure equity and coherence across the district.

We hope to finish this work by the end of next week and pass the task list along to the subcommittees who are scheduled to begin on July 6.


The Champlain Valley Superintendents - from Chittenden, Addison and Franklin Counties are meeting on July 1 to begin their review of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools in order to make common agreements that ensure equity and coherence across the region. This is important because our districts intersect in many ways. 


Resources for Reopening

There will be many unanticipated expenses in order for us to reopen school at Level 2, Scenario 2. Although we are just beginning to identify our needs and this will be an ongoing throughout the summer, we do know that nursing is a priority. Currently, the MTSD has 3 educator licensed nurses and 1 support staff nurse. Our support staff nurse position is vacant, and we are proposing to fill it with another educator licensed nurse. Our rationale includes new responsibilities that are being assigned to nurses, especially related to coordination and oversight of proper implementation of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools. One nurse will need to be designated as part of the COVID19 Coordination Team and this will require working with the MTSD Leadership Team on a regular basis. Given this scenario, it would be a liability to leave a support staff nurse in charge of any one of the health offices while a licensed nurse is taking care of COVID19 administrative responsibilities.


The funding difference between a licensed nurse and a support staff nurse is approximately $30,000. Our first course of action will be to tag the difference to COVID expenses. This being said, our business managing is conducting alternative planning in the event we do not receive the anticipated COVID19 relief money. This position would be for one year.



Today (Thursday, June 25), I attended a review of the VT Safety and Health Guidance for Reopening Schools hosted by the VSA. In attendance was Dr. French and Dr. Holmes from the VT Department of Health. It was very informative and will help Districts navigate the document with more confidence. A summary of this meeting will be presented in my July 9th Board, Staff and Family update. 



Legislative Update

  1. Yield has been passed by the House and as of June 19th, was still in the Senate. The bill proposes keeping the yield within proximity of the December projection. It also proposes to allow the Education Fund to incur a deficit and to return fiscal year 2019 and 2020 education property tax over payments to certain school districts in fiscal year 2021.
  2. Bill 343 that proposes to delay the changes outlined in Act 173 to special education funding from a reimbursement model to a census-based model from July 1, 2021 until July 1, 2022.
  3. H.957 extends the deadline to test for lead in drinking water by one year.  This bill was passed by both the House and the Senate and extends lead testing through 12/31/2021.

To begin, I have a few highlights from our schools

  1. We received notification that our PreK program is in compliance with the VT required Assurances for Universal PreK programming.  Specifically, the report verifies that our prequalified program is  implementing high-quality, effective instruction by licensed educators who use evidence-based practices within intentionally designed early learning environments. Our early educators align curriculum with the Vermont Early Learning Standards while adapting experiences to support the full participation of each and every child to realize their full potential and promote positive outcomes. 
  2. Every year, the middle school raises trout eggs as a study on ecosystems and climate change. This year, due to remote learning, the trout were released on Friday in a synchronous science lesson. Students joined in via google hangouts and teachers from Equinox released the trout. 
  3. Congratulations to Ms. Staci Ferris-Letsos who has been named German Teacher of the Year by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Association of German Teachers.  Frau as she is called at MHS, received accolades from her colleagues, administrators, and most importantly, her students.  Here are some of the many opportunities Frau has brought to our school:
  • Service Learning for MHS students to work with MES students
  • hydroponic farm at MHS which grows lettuce and tomatoes for MHS
  • high quality instruction for students which led study abroad and at universities
  • trips to Switzerland, Germany and Iceland for our students
  • 8th grade German
  • AP German for MHS
  • annual trips to Montreal
  • International Club coach

MTSD Return to in Person Work Safety Plan

In accordance with the Governor’s recommendations for returning to in person work, we are developing the MTSD Return to Work Safety Plan. Our plan is almost complete. We will then review it with all Staff. For school year staff, this will be done during in-service. For year round staff, it will be done within departments. The plan will also be posted on our website.



Update on EOY and the Return to In-person Instruction in the Fall

  1. End of Year
    1. A letter to families was sent yesterday outlining relevant information for the end of the school year. Each school will manage the return of materials, closing up classrooms, and alternative end of year activities.
    2. Also included in the letter was a message about summer meal provision
    3. Last, was an update on the return to school in the fall
  2. Return to In Person Instruction. With the support of key stakeholders like the VT AOE and the VT Department of Health, the MTSD will soon begin developing a plan for the return to in person instruction. At the District level, process includes:
  • A Steering Committee that will:
    • Set the Direction
    • Serve as representatives on each sub-committee, support facilitation, and maintain two way planning communication
    • Ensure equity, coherence and resource allocation among the subcommittees
  • 3-4 Subcommittees to include:
    • Core Instruction, Social Emotional Learning, and Special Education Services - curriculum & assessment, student and staff schedules
    • District Operations - facilities, food services, health services, technology, and transportation
    • Communications - all stakeholder groups

The end result will be a plan that addresses all the components of the sub-committees at three different COVID19 risk levels - high, moderate and low. The implementation of the plan at each risk level will be flexible and based on the most up to date information at any given time along with the guidance of the State and its agencies. 


Currently, we are in the process of building the committee structure. This is expected to be in place by June 1 with planning to begin shortly thereafter. As part of this work, a means to communicate progress and the end result to families in a timely manner will be put in place.


Legislative Update

As we know there continues to be an extensive focus on Education Funding in the VT Legislature. 

  1. Districts without an Approved Budget
    1. There is both a bill in the senate and house 
    2. It is likely no action will be taken on either of these bills until after the July recess
  2. FY 2021 Education Fund
    1. The House Ways and Means Committee (HWMC) has continued to address the projected FY2021 education fund deficit from the revenue side - conducting an analysis of existing information in the federal COVID-19 relief funds in an effort to identify potential uses for education-related expenses. 
    2. The HWMC heard from Secretary Dan French, Finance Commissioner Adam Greshin and Tax Commissioner Craig Bolio) who spoke about the need to address the deficit from the expense side. The HWM  an overview of the appropriation and allowable uses of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. 
    3. The HWMC is seeking a multi-year resolution of the deficit fund and wants to be cautious in not taking extreme measures too quickly. 
  3. H-94: a bill that proposes significant changes to tax laws, including
    1. Transitions the responsibility of billing and collecting taxes from towns to the State
    2. Amending due dates for municipal grand list corrections, property transfer tax returns and payments, income tax filing extensions, and certain claims for refunds of tax paid or offset
    3. Changes to the definitions used for the purposes of current use, 21 the income sensitivity property tax credit, and the sales and use tax.
  4. Yield
    1. The House Ways and Means Committee discussed setting yields in a manner that does not require dramatically increasing property taxes 
    2. To set the yield by July 1

School Closure Guidance

  • End of Year Activities - On Friday, May 8, Secretary Dan French provided guidance that stated that the current public health data, in the context of most school calendars, does not support the practical re-opening of school for in-person instruction this spring. Furthermore, at this time, public, group gatherings are limited to 10 people or less, with careful physical distancing and hygiene. To that end, the MTSD will not be holding end of year activities and/or ceremonies for large groups. This includes the 8th grade end of year ceremony and high school graduation. Although expected, this is extremely disappointing news. Please know that the MES, MMS and MHS principals will collaborate with staff and other community members to plan alternative celebrations,
    1. That are safe and supportive,
    2. Recognize important milestones and the achievement of our students, and
    3. Ensure equitable access and participation by all affected students and families

  • End of School Year - I have received many inquiries recently as to the last day of school for students and whether or not we will finish early. Secretary of Education, French has communicated to Superintendents that all districts must adhere to their State approved 2019/2020 school year calendar for 175 student days. The MTSD has 177 student days. Given the COVID19 situation and the need to work with faculty and staff to prepare for the start of school in the fall - which may look very different, I am requesting that we forego the additional 2 student days and allow students to end on June 12, 2020. This would allow 4 days, June 15-18 for staff in-service.

  • Summer Programming - Although guidance for end of year activities was specific, few details have been shared as it relates to summer programming. We anticipate that we may be able to open our facilities on a limited basis to support educational or community activities. These activities might include student support services such as tutoring and social-emotional learning opportunities, professional development and training for staff, or community programs such as summer camps. In order to plan for such events guidance and collaboration is critical, to that end:
    1. Vermont Superintendents have collaborated on a document that outlines the information we need along with an expected due date so that we can plan accordingly. For example, if we can’t get clarity for summer programming soon, it will be extremely difficult to procure supplies, recruit or train staff and/or support families in their planning for summer. It is important to keep in mind, operational guidelines for in-person activities will be very different. It will take time to put those guidelines in place and to ensure all participants understand and are prepared to follow them.
    2. District and regional personnel are working collaboratively to develop safety plans for both the return to work and in-person instruction.
    3. District personnel and school administrators are currently discussing priorities for summer programming and feasibility for the provision of services in accordance with the anticipated operational guidelines.

Budget Revote Update

On May 12, 2020 the Milton Civil Authority Board granted the MTSD permission to hold a vote. The VT Secretary of State has issued guidance to municipalities to hold in person voting in healthy and safe ways. Despite affording all registered voters the opportunity for an in person vote, the MTSD and Town of Milton is encouraging all voters to consider using a mail in ballot format. This allows you to vote without leaving your home. To request a ballot, just contact the Sheryl Prince, Town Clerk


The MTSD will hold their FY21 Budget Revote on June 9, 2020. The vote will be held on Park Place (behind the Milton Town Office) and a drive thru format will be used. 

Milton High School Ranks Second in Vermont

U.S. News and World Report Nationally ranked approximately 17,790 public high schools out of more than 24,000 reviewed. They rank by summing schools weighted scores across six indicators of school quality, then computed for each school a single zero to 100 overall score reflective of performance across these metrics. The overall scores depict how well each school did on a national percentile basis.


The information presented in the Best High Schools rankings is for the 2017-2018 academic year. All the data used in the Best High Schools rankings comes from the third parties described below. Data on high school and school district names, enrollment, student ethnicity, free and reduced-price lunch, magnet or charter school status and other profile information came directly from the Common Core of Data on the U.S. Department of Education's website.College Board was the source of the Advanced Placement test data presented for schools. Each high school's statewide accountability test results and graduation rates were almost always collected directly from official sources in that state – never directly from schools.

The six categories, their weight, and Milton’s rank are:

  1. College Readiness (30%) which includes 2 qualifiers related to enrollment in AP courses and taking and passing at least one AP exam 
    1. Participate rate of 12th graders  - 65%
    2. Quality adjusted participation rate - 40%
  2. College Curriculum Breadth (10%) includes the number of 12th grade students who took and passed multiple AP courses and exams
  3. Math and Reading Proficiency (20%) includes student performance on State Standardized Tests compared to schools in Vermont, then the distribution of scores within each state was then considered to compare how a school's relative performance in one state equated to a different school's relative performance in another state.
    1. Math - 45%
    2. Reading - 67%
  4. Math and Reading Performance (20%) - This ranking indicator also is derived from math and reading state assessments compared with what is predicted for a school with its demographic characteristics in its state.
  5. Underserved (10%) This is a measure assessing learning outcomes only among black, Hispanic and low-income students. This evaluates how well this underserved subgroup scored on state assessments compared with the average for non-underserved students among schools in the same state. 
  6. Graduation Rate (10%) Compares the number of students who enter 9th grade to the number of students who graduate four years later. Milton has a 94% graduation rate.

Overall Score - 96.7/100

National Rank - #585

State Rank - #2


Budget Vote and Finance Notes

Last week, I highlighted the impact of COVID19 on a budget revote, that is:

  1. It is uncertain when voting can take place given COVID-19 crisis response and social distancing requirements
  2. If and when budgets are considered by voters, it will be in the context of a worsening economy
  3. If and when budgets are considered by voters, it is likely that the Yield for Tax Rates will have yet to be set and we would not be able to provide voters with an accurate assessment of our budget’s impact on the tax rate

I reported that the General Assembly was taking the situation under consideration. One possible legislative action is a Senate Bill that would allow districts to authorize a budget equivalent to their FY20 Education spending at 100%. This would be extremely problematic for us as it would require an additional $1.7 million of reductions. The VSA / VSBA was advocating the Senate to include a 4% inflator - the average of the Statewide increase to education spending for approved budgets. This has yet to be included.


Recently, the House also introduced a Draft Bill that allows for two options:

  1. Agency of Education to authorize an amount of education spending for the school district equal to the education spending amount authorized by the district’s 2020 fiscal year school budget. This is the same as the proposed Senate bill.
  2. Adopt the fiscal year 2021 budget, provided that the school board proposed a fiscal year 2021 budget to voters that was defeated, that the new proposed budget adopted by the school board is less than the amount of the budget that was defeated

On Friday I presented testimony to the House Education Committee along with other superintendents without a budget. You can read my testimony Here. It is difficult to speculate on the timeline and when a decision will be made regarding the proposed bills. Undoubtedly, COVID19 has impacted the legislative process as well. 


Information regarding the impact of COVID19 on the Education Fund continues to evolve. This week, Mark Perrault from the Joint Fiscal Office will present superintendents with an update.  


Continuity of Learning Updates

  • Guidance specific to graduation and other end of year activities will be issued on May 8
  • The VT AOE has strengthened its partnership with the VT Virtual Learning Consortium. They are offering a series of professional development workshops for teachers and the MTSD Leadership Team is taking the topic under consideration later this week.
  • Although it is likely that we will receive guidance from the VT AOE, the MTSD Leadership Team will begin the work of ‘learning loss’ due to extended school closure. We aim to understand the impact of school closure academically and social emotionally. It is probable that we will need to rethink learning structures for the next school year. 
  • The VT AOE has begun the process for summer options. This will be the topic at the next superintendent’s briefing with Secretary French. 
  • The VT AOE is not yet considering scenarios for returning to school in the fall; however, they anticipate that this work will begin soon.

COVID-19 Update


‘Reporting to Work’

In accordance with Governor Scott’s Executive Order, districts are required to remain operation in order to carry out 3 main functions:

  1. Meal provision for all students 
  2. The continuation of student learning
  3. The continuation of services for students with disabilities and special needs

Naturally these functions have been adjusted to comply with the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order and all related directives for mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus. Subsequently, ‘reporting to work’ for all faculty and staff in the district has also been adjusted. Currently, all members are ‘reporting to work’ in either an on-site or remote capacity. Some tasks look the same as pre Covid19, whereas others look very different. Here is the short list:

On-site

  • Meal prep and delivery
  • Technology prep, delivery and maintenance of devices and the network
  • Facilities maintenance - custodial and other projects
  • Administrative - building use oversight, photocopying, window pick up drop off management (supplies, learning packets, personal items…), answering phones, purchasing and deliveries, mail…

Remote

  • Professional development - for all staff related to assigned areas
  • Monitoring and following up on the needs of all students and families (ranging from social/emotional, infrastructure support for remote learning, nutritional/health, academic support, and other resources in accordance w/ unique needs - i.e. EL and homelessness)
  • Preparing materials for the maintenance of learning phase, connecting with students, providing academic support and giving feedback on their work
  • Preparing for the Continuation of Learning

This has required enormous flexibility and effort on behalf of our workers and I am extremely proud of the MTSD faculty and staff. Many are working in a new way and even doing tasks that have never been required of them before. I am impressed with the high level of positivity, colleagueship and commitment of our staff; it is truly across the board and without exception. This is a very fortunate community in this regard. 


Meals

We continue to serve 2,100-2,300 meals per day Monday-Friday. Meal provision will stay 100% intact throughout April vacation. Our dedicated staff will stagger shifts so that all members may have a full week off for April vacation if they so choose. Those who choose to work will be paid for the # of days worked at their regular pay. 


Continuity of Learning - Teaching and Learning in COVID19

Rome wasn't built in a day, and teaching and learning in the time of COVID19 is our new Rome. My perspective and the one I want our community to understand is that we are designing an entirely new system for educating our students at a moment's notice, within an extremely short turnaround time and because of a global crisis. The work that was done these last 2 weeks on the Continuity of Learning, was

truly amazing - both in thought and detail. The collaboration among administrators and staff along with the number of hours zooming was second to none. There is still so much to do to support our faculty/staff, students and families to carry out this plan - to navigate this new system. Please know that the MSTD and the Milton community needs to be able to practice forgiveness while it stays committed to the plan. It is our hope to make this educational experience as humane, generous, caring and joyful as we can - for students, families and our staff. 

 

Short List:

    • Developed a District vision for remote learning - It is the Vision of the MTSD to use our whole child framework as a focal point throughout the Continuity of Learning phase. We are committed to addressing the unique needs and aspirations of each student through:
  • Equity- multiple ways for students/ families to access education, including learners with complex profiles
  • Social Emotional Learning- wellness for families, students, faculty, and staff - REDUCE STRESS
  • Academic- reframing learning, narrowing learning expectations to critical learning targets, engagement
  • Identified District common agreements - attendance, remote learning expectations, including technology, communication and student / family contact, grading and reporting
  • Developed a District technology plan - device deployment, policy and practice, student privacy and data protection, copyright adherence, access from home
  • Created a District CLP portal - 1 stop access for all components of the Continuity of Learning phase PreK-12
  • Created new student schedules at each school, inclusive of synchronous and asynchronous learning time
  • Created new teacher schedules at each school, inclusive of meetings for faculty, teams and grade levels, Educational Support, and Social / Emotional support teams
  • Worked on the creation of Distance Learning plans for students with disabilities
  • Reviewed and revised end of year curriculum, instruction and assessment 

 

Budget and Education Funding Notes

  1. Budget Revote
    1. Earliest date for a budget revote is early June
    2. Concerns at the State level of districts not being able to pass a budget due to so many unknowns in the economy alongside new information regarding the state of the education fund and being able to set a tax rate
    3. Legislature Considerations
      1. Bill that would allow districts to adopt their FY20 Education spending level + 4% inflator of the State average of the FY20 education spending along with the caveat that districts will have until June 30 to pass a budget
      2. Bill that would allow districts to adopt their FY20 Education spending at 100% 
  2. Education Fund - due to Covid19, the education fund forecast is dismal
    1. FY20
      1. Financial projections in January were forecasting the education fund’s stabilization reserve would end the year with a favorable fund balance of $36.4 million. Today official’s are projecting a $39.5 million shortfall in this fund.
      2. The surplus carry over for FY21 was projected to be 12.9 million and now the projection is 0
      3. Combined - the education fund is projecting an 89 million shortfall
      4. Although, districts will receive their final payment on April 30 and there will be little impact in the current fiscal year, the impact for FY21 is enormous
    2. FY21
      1. Setting the FY21 tax parameters has just flipped upside down
        1. Budgets passed - built on current information and tax rates could look significantly different
        2. Hold on setting the tax rate until just before adjournment
      2. Increasing concern that it will be difficult for municipalities to collect taxes, yet they are still obligated to pay the State 
      3. Consumption taxes have been deferred. This accounts for ⅓ of the education fund. If businesses are not able to remit all 3 months of taxes (an estimated 53 million) by June 30 
        1. Then the 89 million shortfall projection may get worse
        2. This may also create a cash flow problem going to FY21
      4. Cost savings in the FY21 school budgets will be a challenge
        1. ⅘ of school budgets are staff and benefits
        2. The RIF timeline has already gone by

Early Release

On January 29, 2020, the MTSD had an early release day for all faculty and staff. The focus of the afternoon was Restorative Approaches. The Milton Restorative Approaches Committee orchestrated an amazing day of diverse introductory and level one workshops. Each person was able to attend two different workshops that were conducted by both our Restorative Approaches grant consultants and our in house experts. Topics included, 

  • Foundations of Restorative Practices
  • The Art of Restorative Circles
  • Going Deeper into the “What” and “Why”
  • Difficult  Conversations
  • In the Moment Responses

Our next early release day is March 25, 2020 and we will continue to deepen our knowledge and practice of restorative approaches.


Early Education Update and Head Start Change

As you may recall, in November, Justin Lee, the MTSD Early Childhood Coordinator, provided the Board with an overview of the EEE and PreK programming numbers and our immediate need to make adjustments for next year based on a particularly high number of three year olds.  The accepted recommendation was to alter the existing 2 full day PreK classrooms so that 1 classroom would offer 2 sessions - a morning and afternoon while the other classroom would continue as a full day. 


As a result of this change, our Head Start partner has requested that the number of Head Start slots be increased from 10 to 15. With this increase, Head Start will increase the number of hours that they provide classroom support from a licensed preK teacher from 17.5 hours/week to 32 hours/week. This is of no charge to the district.


In order to help offset the additional cost that Head Start will be incurring by providing additional teacher hours, they have asked that MTSD provide the Act 166 funds that will be generated for the District by those additional 5 slots (total of $16,780.00 based on FY 20 agreement). Since the District is increasing capacity by 15 total slots with the model change, agreeing to give Act 166 funds for 5 slots to Head Start to help offset their increased costs would still result in an increase draw of Act 166 funds of up to 10 slots for the District ($33,000.)


Legislative Update -- Short View

Act 166: Universal Prekindergarten  The House Education Committee is working on a bill, which proposes, among other considerations, to eliminate joint administration by the AOE and AHS, to require that school districts that pay tuition for prekindergarten education use uniform forms and processes developed by the AOE, and to simplify and clarify the quality criteria for prekindergarten providers. 

Literacy: There are currently four bills introduced that cover early reading screening and early instruction in various ways; however, the committee is considering the development of a new bill that would more closely connect to the DMG report


Food: There are 2 bills under consideration

  1. Universal breakfast and lunch
  2. Incentives to schools purchasing locally produced foods and provide related administrative support.

Visible in Vermont

On Monday, as part of Milton’s first formal celebration to honor Martin Luther King, there was a panel discussion with Milton community members of color in concert with “Visible in Vermont”, a project organized by The Roots of Social Justice Center, exhibiting multi-generational photos and stories depicting the experience of people of color living in VT.  Listening to the stories of Miltonites - their experiences in school and the community, was powerful. Although the event was not well attended, I do hope that it is another step in the right direction for Milton to recognize that we can no longer exist in a color blind bubble. Cultural differences matter and as a public institution of education, it is our responsibility to ensure all students are prepared to engage successfully with differences locally and globally.

 

State of the State in Education - 2020 Legislative Session Begins

In his State of the State address, Governor Scott highlighted that, “The disparity from school to school, and district to district, is a growing problem. It’s unfair to taxpayers, and fundamentally unfair to our kids for their educational opportunities to be determined by where they live. Costs are rising, yet opportunities for too many kids are declining in too many parts of the state. And so is student performance in areas like reading and math.” 

 

Undoubtedly we know this to be very true in Milton. As other districts are strategically targeting both high performing and struggling students through innovative programming and increases in highly skilled personnel to support improving instruction, Milton is faced with making difficult choices in reducing programming and personnel.  Many steps are being taken in the district to address diverse student needs and improve the quality of education; however, limited resources is impeding our progress.

 

On Wednesday, January 22 high school Co-Principal Stinson and I met with the Milton Economic Development Committee. Our focus was to collectively generate ideas for future programming that would serve the changing needs of the Milton community. Although there were many wonderful ideas, our challenge will be first finding capacity for the exploration phase and then resources for implementation. This would be a great future agenda topic for the board to explore.

 

Legislative Update

Two existing pieces of legislative, Act 173 and Act 166 will be revisited, although it is too early to anticipate the type of action that may or may not occur as a result. For Act 173,  legislators are interested in understanding  how schools are preparing for implementation in regards to providing educators with the necessary professional development and making the necessary structural changes. They will also be digesting the very complex, yet  informative Weighting Study and how possible future action may impact school funding.

 

In terms of Act 166, legislators will unpack the Education Development’s Center’s Prekindergarten Education Study. Their hope is to make minor adjustments to address persistent challenges of Universal Prekindergarten. 

 

Other Topics and Bills this session include:

  • Literacy - Declining scores state-wide are precipitating a focus on literacy screening and instruction with multiple bills being introduced. 
  • Proficiency Based Learning 
  • AOE Capacity 
  • School Construction 
  • State Board of Education - Legislators are reviewing proposals to shift some current SBE responsibilities to the Agency of Education.
  • School Meals - Universal breakfast and lunch
  • Universal Afterschool Opportunities - The Governor has requested the establishment of a task force to analyze cost and administration of a proposed universal afterschool program.
  • Tax Structure - Declining enrollment and an aging population are two factors affecting the stability of Vermont's tax structure. 
  • Education Funding - Education funding is a perennial interest of the General Assembly and the work of the Tax Structure Commission in combination with the release of the Weighting Study, Vermont’s changing demographics and the rising cost of education all may contribute to an interest in continuing a review of the Education Funding System
2019 Reports

SSDDMS

In 2018, the General Assembly required SUs/SDs to use the same school financial management system, as selected by the state The state chose Power School's eFinancePlus as the SSDDMS platform.The Shared School District Data Management System is a shared financial and human resources data management system for Vermont Supervisory Unions (SUs) and Supervisory Districts (SDs). The platform supports continued UCOA compliance through a centrally managed chart of accounts, while allowing opportunity for local flexibility and granularity. The system also includes mechanisms for more efficient reporting to the state. 


The UCOA must be implemented by July 1, 2020 (FY2021), and our timeline for the migration to the SSDDMS - the conversion to EfinancePlus will begin on July 1, 2020 and go live on July 1, 2021.  The conversion process is demanding. There are approximately 130 conversion tasks which include set up and function overviews, making decisions, actual setup, training in modular use, and modular testing. It will require performing all necessary financial duties and operating in the existing system while simultaneously setting up the other system and beginning test runs. It will require adhering to the schedule provided by the Agency of Education and Efinance Plus while maintaining all existing timelines required by the state, and for district financial operations. The conversion requires all hands on deck, extensive overtime, and project management support for the business manager. The conversion occurs during the regular business day and requires extensive time tied up in webinars or on the phone with technical support.  Our financial contract with the town creates a unique set of circumstances for us in carrying out this conversion and will be the focus of our special joint meeting on December 10, 2019.


Staffing and Student Services - FY 20 Update

The challenge of filling position vacancies is on the rise in Vermont. According to Lindsay H. Kurrle, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, “Vermont’s aging population and a labor market with more jobs to fill than there are qualified candidates are among the state's biggest workforce worries.” (US News and Report May of 2013) Now add national data regarding teacher shortages. According to Education Week (February 2019), the number of special education teachers nationally has dropped by more than 17 percent over the past decade, a worrisome trend in a career path that has seen chronic shortages for years. One only needs to look on SchoolSpring to verify the trend. Since November 15, 2019, nine SU/SDs in VT had posted for Special Educators. There are dozens of postings for Behavior Interventionist and double that for Special Education paraeducators. MTSD is no stranger to this condition. This year we have struggled to fill several fulltime and long term special education positions. From mid-September through the present, we were short 2 elementary school special educators and 1 in the middle school. This coupled with vacancies for behavior interventionist and Special Needs Programming Specialist has put a strain on student support services. I would like to extend my appreciation to District Office and School-based personnel for their collaboration to think creatively in reassigning roles in supporting students and their plans. 


At this point, we have filled 3 vacancies for Special Needs Programming Specialist, 1 vacancy for a Behavior Interventionist, and we are hopeful that we have secured 2 special educators to be finalized for hire later this month. That being said, we may need additional staff to support newly identified services and to provide make up services lost in the fall.