Report to the Board of Trustees
May 28, 2020
To begin, I have a few highlights from our schools
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- End of Year
- 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.
- Also included in the letter was a message about summer meal provision
- Last, was an update on the return to school in the fall
- 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.
As we know there continues to be an extensive focus on Education Funding in the VT Legislature.
- Districts without an Approved Budget
- There is both a bill in the senate and house
- It is likely no action will be taken on either of these bills until after the July recess
- FY 2021 Education Fund
- 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.
- 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.
- The HWMC is seeking a multi-year resolution of the deficit fund and wants to be cautious in not taking extreme measures too quickly.
- H-94: a bill that proposes significant changes to tax laws, including
- Transitions the responsibility of billing and collecting taxes from towns to the State
- 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
- Changes to the definitions used for the purposes of current use, 21 the income sensitivity property tax credit, and the sales and use tax.
- The House Ways and Means Committee discussed setting yields in a manner that does not require dramatically increasing property taxes
- To set the yield by July 1
May 14, 2020
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,
- That are safe and supportive,
- Recognize important milestones and the achievement of our students, and
- 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:
- 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.
- District and regional personnel are working collaboratively to develop safety plans for both the return to work and in-person instruction.
- 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.
April 27, 2020
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:
- College Readiness (30%) which includes 2 qualifiers related to enrollment in AP courses and taking and passing at least one AP exam
- Participate rate of 12th graders - 65%
- Quality adjusted participation rate - 40%
- College Curriculum Breadth (10%) includes the number of 12th grade students who took and passed multiple AP courses and exams
- 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.
- Math - 45%
- Reading - 67%
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- It is uncertain when voting can take place given COVID-19 crisis response and social distancing requirements
- If and when budgets are considered by voters, it will be in the context of a worsening economy
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
April 13, 2020
‘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:
- Meal provision for all students
- The continuation of student learning
- 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:
- 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…
- 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.
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.
- 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
- Budget Revote
- Earliest date for a budget revote is early June
- 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
- Legislature Considerations
- 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
- Bill that would allow districts to adopt their FY20 Education spending at 100%
- Education Fund - due to Covid19, the education fund forecast is dismal
- 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.
- The surplus carry over for FY21 was projected to be 12.9 million and now the projection is 0
- Combined - the education fund is projecting an 89 million shortfall
- 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
- Setting the FY21 tax parameters has just flipped upside down
- Budgets passed - built on current information and tax rates could look significantly different
- Hold on setting the tax rate until just before adjournment
- Increasing concern that it will be difficult for municipalities to collect taxes, yet they are still obligated to pay the State
- 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
- Then the 89 million shortfall projection may get worse
- This may also create a cash flow problem going to FY21
- Cost savings in the FY21 school budgets will be a challenge
- ⅘ of school budgets are staff and benefits
- The RIF timeline has already gone by
February 10, 2020
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
- Universal breakfast and lunch
- Incentives to schools purchasing locally produced foods and provide related administrative support.
January 27, 2020
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.
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
December 2, 2019
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.
Staffing - FY 21
Throughout October and November, the MTSD Board of Trustees heard presentations from each District Department - Student Services, Data, Curriculum and Technology, Facilities, and Food Services, and each building administrative team. The MTSD is at a turning point - our world is changing and by nature, the manner in which schools operate and provide services is changing. Additionally, our State is undergoing changes and this has resulted in a multitude of new State mandates and accountability systems. This impacts all aspects of our organization, including: funding, resource allocation, the delivery of services, accounting and reporting, administrative duties, contract negotiations, infrastructure, testing and so on. We need to continue to structure and resource our educational programming so that we can address equity and close the achievement gap, the challenges related to social-emotional development, and personal health and get results for children. We need to provide a diversity of programming to ensure all students are prepared for success in college, career, and as citizens of a democratic society. Likewise, need to provide safe and healthy facilities and learning environments that meet the needs of our changing world.
November 11, 2019
Vermont School Board and Vermont Superintendent Annual Conference
The annual conference was this past week - November 7 and 8, and I attended both days along with Mike Joseph and Jeremy Metcalf. There were many highlights of the conference, including
- Our district presentation - MTSD SOARS. Along with myself, the board and Lynne Manley, 3 students (Mira Fillion, Xavier Bessette and Colbie Miller) conducted two presentations to conference attendees about our process for creating a district vision and strategic plan. Due to ACT 46 and the merging of districts across VT, many boards and superintendents are in need of developing an articulated vision and direction for their newly created districts. They found are presentation engaging and beneficial.
- The keynote presentation - a Portrait of A Graduate, both confirmed our current work for developing a district vision and strategic plan and offered a couple of ideas to consider as we move ahead in the process. For me, the most salient idea was to engage local businesses and community services in a round table discussion; that is to share with them our whole child framework and priorities we have for our graduates and then 1.) get feedback and 2.) discuss their needs and how we may partner to support each other.
- I attended an excellent workshop of the state of the state regarding school district facilities and the importance of engaging the community in a long term Facilities Master Plan.
- Last, there were several student presentations that were extremely powerful in highlighting the importance of believing in and supporting all students - not putting them in a box, providing opportunities for personalization, and authentic student voice.
Messages from the Field of Education
Recently, we received the first of four Agency of Education memos related to the provision of technical guidance for the implementation of ACT 173. Foremost, I think it is important to highlight that these memos are specific to educational programming and are not related to guidance for understanding, creating or managing budgets related to the change in the funding mechanism for Special Education.
The memos will focus on each of the following topics:
- Educational Support Teams
- Local Common Assessment System
- A Viable and Coordinated Curriculum
- Needs Based, Embedded Professional Development
Each memo will be divided into 4 sections:
- Section one will provide a definition of the topic so there is clarity about how the topic is situated in the current regulatory and practice context.
- Section two will describe why the topic is a major systems lever for the successful implementation of Act 173. Systems lever is defined as an organizational structure that can be used to quickly bring about the alignment of instructional support activities to enhance the effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to students who require additional supports among all schools in a district.
- Section three will describe how to implement the topic in the context of a school district system. This is an important consideration, since SU/SD policies emanating from the state have pointed to centralizing key instructional systems at the SU/SD level.
- Section four will outline how the AOE plans to provide leadership, support and oversight relative to the topic.
This first memo, Educational Support Teams in School District Systems: Act 173 Technical Guidance highlights the importance of the Educational Support Team (EST) for a system’s approach to supporting all students and especially those who struggle.
The MTSD Leadership Team has taken time to collectively read this document. As a result, we are examining our EST practices across the district. Historically, EST has been a school based system with little district oversight. In thinking about the State requirements for centralizing systems, our next step is to align our practices across the district and think about how best to conduct oversight from a district perspective. This may include considering existing position structures and how to best reconfigure positions or position descriptions.
Community Leaders Diversity and Inclusion Training
Over the course of two half Saturdays, members of the School Board of Trustees and other community leaders came together to participate in a Diversity and Inclusion training with Rebecca Haslam of Seed the Way and Saint Micheal’s. The training first provided us with an opportunity to articulate, as community leaders, what we hope for in our community. We learned about a framework and a set of tools or strategies to help us. The four part framework, which is from the organization, Teaching Tolerance, provides guidance for interrupting harmful behaviors, calling people into difficult conversations, educating constituents, and appreciating partners. The majority of our time was spent practicing how to use these tools. We talked through scenarios and practiced engaging others in difficult conversations in ways that produce better results. Although the focus was on emotional topics of race and diversity, the tools we learned could be used across many topics leaders face in their day to day work.
Partnerships for LIteracy and Learning (https://www.pllvt.org)- Continued Work
Our goal is to continue to work with PLL to continue the development of our PK-12 ELA curriculum. This work will result in sustainable improvement in literacy instruction and achievement in literacy. Their focus is on learner-centered, evidence-based literacy instruction. This year’s grant-funded work will continue where we left off this summer, and the goal is to finish curriculum writing by the end of the summer of 2020.
October 28, 2019
CIP Goal 2 & 3: Learning and Areas of Focus 2019-20
Social Emotional Health - Effectively meeting students’ needs
School Culture and Climate - Improving the experience for all members of the school community
- Restorative Practices - professional learning and dissemination of resources toward a district wide approach of restorative practices
- District professional learning group to learn, design, and implement district wide and school specific training and structures
- Restorative Approach Collaborative (RAC)
- MTSD is 1 of 3 SU/SDs that are a recipient of the VT AOE Restorative Approaches Grant.
- Grant allocations were the result of several legislative hearings where experts in the field, alongside educators and students spoke to the need for the restorative approach in addressing not only issues of equity in schools but the need to develop learning environments where everyone experiences safety, respect, belonging, voice and accountability
- As a member of the cohort, a team of educators (and students) across the District join with 2 other SDs (Rutland Northeast and Mount Mansfield Union School District) to deepen our knowledge and skills of restorative practices and to work in teams to support our district efforts to implement restorative practices using a consultant / coach
- Our RAC coach presented during the District Inservice on October 18
- Inclusion, Race and Diversity
- Beyond Diversity
- In addition to our Beyond Diversity work - see SR - October 14, 2019, a team of educators and students attended the Rowland Conference on October 23, 2019
- Rowland Conference
- Robin Diangelo, author of White Fragility, gave a compelling Keynote address focused on the conditions of race dynamics below the surface. She provided insight to becoming aware of race dynamics - universally and internally, along with how to think and/or engage differently
- MTSD students of Social Justice participated in a workshop on raising the Black Lives Matter flag. Along with 5 or 6 other schools around the state, our students shared their stories with other interested students and educators.
- MTSD / Town Training
- Reminder that our next training with Rebecca Haslam will be on November 9
- Location - MES Library
- Time - 9 a.m to noon
- Wellness Policy and Committee
- In accordance with our Wellness Policy, we are revitalizing the MTSD Wellness Committee.
- Diverse stakeholders - food services, nurse, physical education / health teachers, community partners, students and parents
- Need of new parents and students
- Meet 2 times per year (more if necessary)
- Committee Work
- Review and revise the policy as necessary
- Tackle any concerns
- Identify any elements of school improvement related to Wellness and use the committee as a means to review the work, engage stakeholders and communicate the work
October 18, 2019 Teacher Inservice
The MTSD had a very productive day of learning and togetherness on Friday, October 18, 2019. The day began with Annie O’Shaughnessy our Restorative Approaches coach who in one hour provided us with strategies to center ourselves and engage mindfully with others, including:
- Just like Tom Brady takes care of his arm, consider it your "professional responsibility" to take care of your mind, body and spirit. Your grounded and warm presence will positively impact your colleagues and students more than any technique. I give you permission to say no more often.
- Use "two feet-one breath" at every doorway, before a conversation, and most importantly, before addressing a student's misbehavior. Check in with yourself and drop what you think you know.
- Lead your responses to student misbehavior with some acknowledgement of their reality--"Must be hard sitting still for an hour", "Following rules all day is not much fun, is it?"
- Prioritize what you know humans need to thrive through structures, routines, practices.
After Annie, each school had a 2 hour session with Outright Vermont, an organization committed to building safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages. They engaged the faculty in thinking about the social construct of gender along with the experience youth have in school and how to better support them.
Lastly, we revisited the MTSD Vision of Learning work and sought feedback from all faculty regarding the draft mission statement and revised core beliefs and values. The committee will meet next month to review the input and make adjustments toward a final revision.
VSBA / VSA
VSBA Regional Meeting - Jeremy attending the regional meeting in Winooski last week. I am sharing a portion of the slide show, specific to State wide negotiations for health care. A decision will be communicated by December 15, 2019 and this will help us plan for negotiations.
I also included information related to regional school redistricting. A discussion will take place on November 7, 2019 during the VSA/VSBA annual conference at Lake Morey.
September 23, 2019
This year we will be building two budgets using the zero-based budgeting methodology. The first draft will be based on existing services with estimations in some areas (like supplies and equipment maintenance) being as close to accurate as possible. One challenge we have is that the process for building budgets has simply been to roll over the previous year. This has happened for many years. Another challenge is that we do not have historical data that shows the budget amount compared to actual spending. Therefore, we do not have accurate data as to which line items were under or overspent. Due to both of these challenges, it will take longer to build the budget. Principals and Department Supervisors, some for the very first time, will be required to really think about and then identify their needs and the associated costs. Another learning curve is that they will need to learn how to itemize all goods and services to the appropriate object codes. The second budget draft will be based on existing services with estimations in some areas (like supplies and equipment maintenance) being as close to accurate as possible plus any changes (adds, deletions, and/or substitutions) from the previous year that we feel are necessary to advance the educational experience and learning of our children.
Presentations to the Board
- Special Education
- 5th Grade
12/2 - First Drafts of the Budget
Throughout last year and over the summer, District Office in collaboration with school administration and other personnel have been working on many areas to ensure effective and efficient organizational operations. This will continue to be a work in progress over the next few years. Simply, there is a lot to do.
Work In Progress
- Procedures Associated w/ Policy - with the revision and adoption of policies, all policies that require either policy or operational procedures need to be reviewed and revised as appropriate. Additionally, some procedures need to be written. It is not unusual in a district with a lot of change over in leadership for operational procedures to become lost, confused and/or a matter of practice understood only by veteran staff.
- Facility Use
- Hazing, Bullying and Harassment
- Substitute Teachers
- Work in Progress
- Student Records
- Title I Parental Involvement
- Tobacco Prohibition
- Class Size
- Participation of Home Study Students
- Operational Procedures
- In accordance with our substitute procedures we have a process for orienting substitutes along with an update substitute handbook that all substitutes will be required to read and sign off on annually.
- Previously, the district did not have a staff handbook. Something as simple as forms, were filed in various locations leading staff to use different renditions of a form depending on where they found it. Although the staff handbook is a work in progress, we have made great strides. MTSD Staff Handbook Likewise, we are continuing to work on our student/family handbooks to ensure that they align across the district.
- Supervision and Evaluation for support staff and independent contracts. The process for supervision and evaluation for support staff and independent contracts was incredibly cumbersome at one level and incredibly vague and poorly executed at another. Throughout last year and over the summer, Terry and I worked with various stakeholders including MESA to revise the existing system. The new structure provides a greater level of efficiency and clarity for both supervisors and staff. This was obtained by creating a rubric (versus a checklist) and eliminating the goal setting and goal progress monitoring meetings required for all staff throughout the year. Goal setting will only be required for staff who are in need of an improvement plan. SS Rubric and SS Evaluation Process
- Administrative Assistant Reorganization of Roles. With the resignation of Jamie, I worked with Terry, Jen, Lynne and Tammy to review roles and responsibilities of the existing administrative assistant positions in the district office, identified gaps in the operations of the district, and then grouped responsibilities that were more aligned in terms of knowledge, skills and work flow. As a result we are working on finalizing new job descriptions that better meet the needs of the district office. These will be available for your review on 10/14. In the meantime, the general reorganization includes:
- Executive Assistant to Superintendent & Communications Specialist - 1.0 FTE
- Registrar/Administrative Assistant to Data & Assessment - School Year Only
- Administrative Assistant to District Operations - 1.0 FTE (an increase from a .875 FTE). This will need your approval before we can begin the interview process. Currently, we do have cost savings with replacement hires that occurred over the summer.
- Operational Support - Financials
- Operational Support - Grants / Curriculum
- Operational Support - Board and Policy
On September 17, 2019 members of the District Office and MES administration and staff attended a Tabletop Exercise at the Milton Fire House. It was hosted by Taylor Yeates, Milton Town Emergency Planner. The purpose of this exercise was to prepare for our first school evacuation drill. Taylor presented us with a scenario. We talked through the various factors of leading an evacuation given the scenario identifying strengths and gaps in our system. Our first drill will be in October and will be with students and staff in K-4 only. A letter explaining evacuation drills will be sent to all families this week along with a Focus Magnet that families can put on their refrigerator or in their car to remind them of what is helpful in responding to an emergency situation. A follow up letter will be sent to families in K-4 announcing the drill.
September 9, 2019
Clearly the school year has begun and the pace is fast and furious. Aside from the challenges in transportation that occurred over the course of the first three days, we have had a stellar start. MES staff are reporting that there is a noticeable difference to the tenor of the building. Those I spoke with are attributing it to the additional space, a clear focus in educational programming expectations and a more orderly morning and afternoon routine leading to a smoother transition for students.
Start Time Survey
- During the 2017/18 school year, a group of students, faculty and administrators began looking at the research related to start times for older students.
- Last year, we conducted a survey and received 760 responses.
- 75% of the respondents indicated that they were in favor of changing the high school / middle school time to 8:45 a.m
- 61% of the respondents indicated that they were in favor of changing the elementary school start time to 7:45 a.m
- All respondents had many questions and a few concerns.
- This year, we would like to present a proposal (September 23 Board Meeting) and then follow up with a Community Forum.
- Set a date, time, place… for the forum
- Identify needed resources
- Engagement strategies - getting folks to attend
Equity and Diversity Training:
- The poll indicates that the best dates are October 12; October 26 and November 9. My thinking is that the latter dates may be better as the length of time between 10/12 and 11/9 may be too long.
- The training will consist of laying the groundwork for shared understanding, tools for leveraging leadership roles in equity work, and practicing engagement strategies.
- Confirm dates
- Identify place
- Invite other community leaders ?
On September 1, school districts received a Summary of Technical Assistance (9 pages) from Secretary French. The communique outlines the AOE’s plan for technical assistance toward the development of strong school district systems to support student success. It also outlines major areas of responsibility for supervisory districts (SD). The summary addresses the AOE’s commitment to providing technical assistance directed at the SD/SU level in two areas:
- The shift to block funding for special education
- The expansion and improvement for the delivery of services to students who require additional support
The summary also mentions that assistance needs to be well balanced and grounded in statute and regulation. To that end, Secretary French highlighted the role of School Boards, “Regulatory compliance can be an important tool for strengthening student support systems. SU/SD boards have an important role to play in enacting Education Quality Standards (EQS) rules and practices across and within their systems. Although the State is ultimately responsible for the education of its students, it delegates significant authority to school boards who are responsible for ensuring the goals of quality, equity and efficiency are achieved (16 V.S.A. § 261a).”
The Theory of Action outlined in the summary, states:
If the board of each SU/SD ensures that:
- each school implements the district's written and delivered curriculum (2120.6. Curriculum Coordination); and
- each supervisory union or school district develops and implements a system of appropriate needs-based professional learning for all professional staff, including administrators and other staff involved in student instruction, with time for professional learning embedded into the school day (2121.3. Needs Based Professional Learning); and
- each school administers assessments of student performance using methods developed by the State Board of Education with students who are unable to participate in district or state assessments given an alternate assessment (2123.2. Development and Implementation of Local Comprehensive Assessment System); and
- each school maintains an educational support team to engage in collaborative problem- solving to determine whether additional supports are needed for a student to make appropriate progress, and to monitor that progress (16 V.S.A. § 2902. Tiered system of supports and educational support team);
then Vermont’s SU/SDs will enhance the effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to all students who require additional support.
Last, for each of the 4 stated theories, the summary also outlines action steps. As this information is extremely dense and yet critical to our own theory of action, I am thinking we may want to take one theory at a time and dissect it. In this way, you can have both an understanding of the theory and action steps and its implication for our district planning and implementation.
August 12, 2019
- New faculty and staff will complete the on-line training.
- Kendra will provide an introductory overview to the entire district during pre-service on August 26.
- In collaboration with the town, after Kendra’s presentation, we will conduct violent intruder mock scenarios for all faculty and staff.
- Teachers have been provided with information - tips, for setting up their classroom
- Kendra will follow up with each building and department to provide additional information specific to their areas and answer questions
- Community informational letters will be mailed, inclusive of magnets after school begins
- In collaboration with the town, we are planning evacuation drills for grade clusters for the fall and spring.
- Worker’s Compensation
- Presentation on August 26th by Hickok and Boardman
- Walk Through assessment of all facilities
- Green Mountain Safety to attend MES/MMS and MHS Safety Committee meeting to review best practices
- Review of WC reporting and monitoring of claims
MTSD Leadership Team Retreat
- 3 Full Days
- Form and Function - District Office / Principals
- Clarity of purpose - mission and vision
- Review of MTSD Board’s strategic planning
- Next iteration of the Whole Child Framework and Vision of Learning
- Continuous Improvement Plan Goals
- Current work in each school
- Next steps
- Aligning future work
- Cycle of improvement
- Communicating with stakeholders
I am extremely pleased with the work of the leadership team; they are demonstrating a high level of growth to ensure a coherent PreK-22 approach to programming that will support student achievement and success. In all three schools, not only are the work plans aligned well in conjunction with the Continuous Improvement Plan, but they clearly show an extension and deepening of the work that was begun last year.
MTSD Board Retreat, Work Plan and Next Steps
Follow Up Items
- Diversity and Inclusion Training - I reached out to Rebecca Haslam and am waiting for a response
- Construction and transportation - Tricia, Jamie and I attended a meeting with the town and our Green Mountain representative, Paul Clancy.
- Jamie is working on communication notifications
- Tricia and Paul are meeting to review the routes to submit to the newspaper
- We decided that the adjusted routes would stay the same throughout the fall and then return to normal after the December break.
April 8, 2019
Pete Wyndorf, Milton High School social studies teacher who has dedicated many years to expanding his own professional growth and thus in turn made outstanding contributions to the MTSD through innovative program development is seeking a two year leave of absence so that he and his family may live and teach abroad.
In the field of education, as in many fields, it is essential to broaden the lense, experience opportunities that will inspire creativity, and reflect on one’s’ purpose in order to rejuvenate one’s will and commitment. To that end, I would like to support Pete and his family if they choose to embark on this two year adventure reserving his position for him upon their return.
Integrated Field Review
Foremost, I would like to recognize our IFR teacher leaders Christina Reider; Frances Binder and Leslie Reed. Along with our administrators, the IFR Team serves 2 very important roles. First, to be trained and then to participate in conducting a Field Review in another district. Second, to organize and then facilitate our review. Membership on this team has required 3-5 days of additional professional responsibilities this year, and I truly appreciate the time and energy all of our folks have put in toward this new endeavor in measuring school accountability.
I would also like to thank all other stakeholders:
- Teachers who opened their classrooms and participated in interviews
- Students who lead tours and also participated in interviews
- Families that participated in interviews
Our Integrated Field Review took place on Thursday, April 4th. In addition to a comprehensive document review, the visiting team conducted observations, interviews and tours to glean information about the MTSD. This information will be collated into a report of commendations and recommendations. We look forward to receiving the feedback.
As a reminder, the Integrated Field Review is part of the Vermont Plan to meet the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) accountability measures. An overview of the Vermont Plan is HERE
On Wednesday, April 3rd all faculty and staff gathered in the afternoon for a highly engaging and informative presentation on Compassion Fatigue by Joelle Van Lent. Participants came away with an understanding of the physical, emotional and mental signs of compassion fatigue along with strategies for how to prevent and/or address it before it reaches the point of vicarious trauma. Additionally we learned strategies for supporting others - be it students, families, or colleagues who may be responding with elevated emotions unexpectedly. The faculty and staff truly appreciated the opportunity to hear, reflect and turn and talk on this very important topic.
Education related bills continue to be reviewed in each of the chambers:
- House Ways and Means and full House of Representatives passed H536 which sets the yields and nonresidential tax rates to fund FY 2020 school budgets. The bill will be reviewed by the Senate this week.
- House Education Committee continues to work on S40 - lead testing. Based on testimony, there are concerns regarding the cost of remediation and as a result, the House is drafting its own version of the bill, including a slightly higher PPB level (from 3 to 5), a change in the deadline for sampling, and a revised fiscal note based on reports of facilities managers.
- House passed H79, a bill that makes broad changes to the VT Farm to School Program. The changes relate to expanding access to the Farm to School grant to entities other than schools that are associated with assisting and/or administering Farm to School programs. The Senate is presently hearing testimony on this bill.
- Senate passes amended S Data Privacy which will protect student data from being improperly used or sold by organizations that operate education programs created for schools.
- Although not directly related to us, the next step in the process for an Act 46 delay is likely to be a formation of a committee of conference, where representatives from the House and Senate will negotiate over a final version of bill H39. It is possible that there will be no agreement between the House and Senate on the Act 46 delay bill.
March 11, 2019
Awards and Recognitions
Milton High School German program was recognized for several awards in the VT Foreign Language Association Essay Contest
- Emma Philbrook was selected as the winning essay in the Novice German category.
- Dante Thomas was selected as the winner in the Intermediate German category.
- Thomas Young was selected as the winning essay in the Pre-Advanced German category.
- Molly Loucy was selected as the winning entry in the Advanced German category.
These students along with their teacher Frau Letsos will be invited to attend an awards reception at the Vermont State House in the spring.
The Milton Town School District was also recognized by the Vermont Department of Health for the Governors Excellence in Worksite Wellness - Gold Level. This is a result of the work of our Wellness / Path Committee who have promoted many activities for personal wellness in the worksite, including, Random Acts of Kindness, Wellness Recipe Swaps, and Mindfulness.
Board Committees / Charges
Board Committee meetings will be held the second meeting of the month. Business at those meetings will be brief and the remainder of the time will be reserved for committee business.
To begin, two committees will conduct business on a monthly basis. The committees and their charges are listed below.
- Policy Committee: To review and revise all MTSD policies to ensure that they reflect best practices, and are aligned with all Federal and State legal requirements (VSBA - model policies) in order to guide the Superintendent in successfully carrying out the mission and vision of the District.
Policy Audit Process - Required Policies
- 3 packets with 7 +/- policies each to include model policy and current policy
- MTSD Leadership will review model policies and compare with current policy and make any recommendations to adjust for context.
- Packets will be shared in advance and the Board will review prior to the meeting warned as a first reading
- Packet 1 - April
- Packet 2 - June
- Packet 3 - July
- Questions addressed, adjustments as required
- Present packet (second reading) for final approval
- Packet 1 - May
- Packet 2 - July
- Packet 3 - August
- As soon as packets are approved, we will change the coding to match the VSBA and warn for Adoption of all 3 packets in September
- MTSD Leadership will develop procedures and involve other stakeholders as relevant
- Finance / Facilities Committee: To review the internal financial controls in order to assure there is focused and responsible management of resources and that the annual budget accurately reflects the district’s goals in improving student achievement as outlined in the Continuous Improvement Plan and is responsive to community needs. Additionally, the committee will monitor the Herrick Avenue building project.
Internal Controls Process
- Review policy, procedures, and documents related to internal controls
- Discuss strengths and challenges of existing internal controls with administration to gain a deeper understanding.
- Identify areas for improvement and make recommendations.
- Review process for developing the annual budget and identify areas for improvement and make recommendations.
Herrick Avenue Project Process
- Review updates from administration
- Take action on all items required by MTSD policies
We have updated our Lice Procedures to be in compliance with the recommendations from the Vermont Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control. In order to communicate the new procedures:
- Principals and nurses will share the new procedures with their faculty/staff
- A letter, along with the new procedures and the Lice 101 informational sheet will be sent home at the end of this week
The website redesign continues to be a work in progress. The structure of the new site is almost finalized. Reviewing old content and collecting new content continues to be struggle. Foremost, old content is scattered about in the various MTSD domain files - both in our own server and in the cloud. After identifying document needs, a search is conducted and the document is reviewed for accuracy and alignment. Additionally, those who are charged with collecting content are doing so as an add on to their role and responsibilities as we do not have a website manager. We are hoping to go live in early April - a month out from our original date. I prefer to delay the launch and ensure that our live site is almost fully populated versus having a new site with ‘under construction’ posts.
February 25, 2019
Pre-K Program Options and Application Process
As you know, the MTSD has Pre-K options for 3 and 4 year old children. Below is a description of our programs.
The application process has been changed this year from a first come first serve process to a lottery system. There are several reasons for this change.
- The lottery system aligns with the recommended practice of the State and thus other school districts locally.
- The lottery system practice allows us to screen a greater number of children; we will screen all who enter the lottery
- A lottery systems improves our commitment to Child Find. By the very nature of the system, more families enter the system giving us access to a detail of information that we would not receive via the first come first serve.
- The lottery system will be operated via a notarized randomization protocol at the district level.
In addition, the School-based Pre-K has changed the MTSD Family Needs Assessment. This assessment is used to prioritize student enrollment. The new assessment aligns with the Head Start program and considers additional criteria and not just income - although it is a weighted structure with income carrying the most weight.
Early Release - March
The need for the early release day is to provide all faculty and staff with important information and follow up training that was recently released from the VT Agency of Education related to Act 173.
In 2016, the General Assembly directed the Agency of Education to contract for two studies. One was to evaluate the current special education funding and recommend a model that would stimulate innovative practices. The second study examined the delivery of services for students needing support. This study included 11 Vermont Schools. Milton was one of these schools. If you are interested in reading the Milton results, it is linked HERE.
The results were presented to the legislature. In the spring of 2018, the Vermont legislature passed Act 173 - an act relating to enhancing the effectiveness, availability, and equity of services provided to students who require additional support. An overview of the Act 173 can be reviewed HERE.
The VT Agency of Education (VT AOE) has recently begun to provide professional development and technical support to schools across the State. In January and February, they hosted workshops for both elementary and secondary schools related to how to best schedule the school day to maximize learning for students needing support.
In the elementary and middle school, spring is the time that teacher leaders and principals begin reviewing the master schedule and make changes to better serve students in the next school year. We would like to have the teachers and administrators who attended the VT AOE training to present relevant information to their colleagues, inclusive of an opportunity to think about grade level schedules and how to better structure their day to increase student access to learning. If we have to wait until August to share this information, then we are looking to the 2020/21 school year before we can make any changes.
In the high school, scheduling is a different beast and many factors, including graduation requirements play a role in the master schedule. Changes to the master schedule need consideration late in the fall or early winter at the latest. However, the opportunity to begin thinking the impact of scheduling on student learning and how small tweaks especially in terms of opportunities for acceleration blocks is time well spent now.
The March 22nd early release was not planned because we had no way of knowing a year ago the direction of Act 173 or what supports the AOE would provide toward this endeavor. As we know, there is no alignment between when schools make decisions for professional learning and implementation, when the legislature passes education related law, and when the VT Agency of Education is able to provide direction to schools.
Policy Audit Process - Required Policies
- 3 packets with 7 +/- policies each to include model policy and current policy
- MTSD Leadership will review model policies and compare with current policy and make any recommendations to adjust for context.
- Packets will be shared in advance and the Board will review prior to the meeting warned as a first reading
- Packet 1 - April
- Packet 2 - June
- Packet 3 - July
- Questions addressed, adjustments as required
- Present packet (second reading) for final approval
- Packet 1 - May
- Packet 2 - July
- Packet 3 - August
- As soon as packets are approved, we will change the coding to match the VSBA and warn for Adoption of all 3 packets in September
- MTSD Leadership will develop procedures and involve other stakeholders as relevant
Committee Structure Options
Typically boards have anywhere from 3-6 committees. The purpose of the committee structure is to divvy the work and allow a small working group time to become well versed in a given area so that the Board can efficiently and effectively carry out their roles and responsibilities. Committee responsibilities, may include:
- Gathering information to share with the full board,
- Task development and follow through, and/or
- Making recommendations to the full Board for a vote.
In thinking about the size of our Board, 5 individuals, compared to the average size of other boards - 12-24, it is challenging to form multiple committees and then find the time necessary to productively carry out board business. In order to make better use of all of our time and to achieve the best possible outcomes as a board, there are several options we could pursue:
- Continue to meet 2X a month and allot 1 hour of each meeting to Board work - either prior to the regular start time or after the regular business portion of the meeting has concluded
- Meet 3X a month and allot 1 meeting solely to committee work
- Continue to meet 2X a month and allot 1 meeting to regular business and 1 to committee work with the understanding that the meeting for regular business would be longer than usual.
In any of these scenarios, we could work as 1 committee or divide into 2 committees. Committees would operate as long as necessary to do the work that is most relevant at the time.
PreK-5 Principal Hire
We had four excellent candidates. After a lengthy deliberation of strengths and challenges of the candidates along with a discussion as to whether or not to move two candidates to a visitation round, we made a decision to move forward, Casey Provost, our interim PreK-2 principal. Casey has verbally accepted and we are preparing a letter of intent. We will issue a formal contract at the same time we issue the other Administrative contracts - April 2, 2019
Welcome Secretary of Education, Dan French
Dan is career educator - teacher, principal and superintendent. He served as the Executive Director for the Vermont Superintendents Association and most recently was the Coordinator of School Leadership program at Saint Michael’s College. He was also a District consult on a wide variety of topics including ACT 46, Board Development, Organizational Change and Superintendent Searches.
Policy Audit Update
Sue Ceglowski from the School Boards Association will attend our January 27, 2019 meeting to share the results from our policy audit.
I met with Helen Beattie from Up For Learning. She and her team will partner with Lynne Manley, Director of Curriculum/Technology to lead the MTSD Visioning Process. Helen’s expertise and passion is harnessing the power of youth and adult teams to bring school change. Lynne will organize a group of approximately 16 people (8 youth and 8 adults) to be trained as facilitators by Helen and her team. This group will collectively identify the strategies and tools they want to use to collect input from our stakeholders. Helen will then support them in the data analysis process. Her team will take responsibility for synthesizing the results into a final report. I will also work with Lynne on enlisting other members of the community to support with any related event organization, and Jamie will take the lead on communication. The behind the scenes planning will be starting soon with the thought that we would be ready for data collection (stakeholder input) in March; analysis in April; synthesis in May; and a final presentation of the results in early June. A Memorandum of Understanding and contract for services will come before the Board in the next couple of meetings.
Below is a graphic we will use to think about this work.
Special Education Compliance
On December 3rd, we received a letter from the Agency of Education congratulating us on our compliance for implementing the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Of particular note, we exceed the required percentage rate for graduation and dropout for students with disabilities..
Life Changer Award
Steve Marinelli, the Milton School District’s Director of Food Services, has been nominated as a 2018-2019 LifeChanger of the Year. The LifeChanger of the Year. This long standing prestigious award is sponsored by National Life and comes with 17 cash prizes of varying amounts to be shared between the recipient and the school. This award seeks to recognize educators who truly make a difference in the lives of children.
It is not surprising that Steve has been nominated. Foremost, he has created an outstanding Food Services program, inclusive of high quality prepared foods, farm to table community partnerships, educational programming that ranges from locally grown food sources, nutrition and taking care of the environment via recycling. He also supports our most vulnerable learners. He works with program specialists and gives students a space to practice life skills and be active members of their community. He supports students’ interest in cooking through the Iron Chef program. Most importantly though, he ensures food security by providing students access to meals year round. His approach is sensitive and welcoming. Our students thrive because of him. They adore him.
January 14, 2019
Next Gen Personal Finance Recognition
Milton High School has been awarded the Gold Standard in personal finance. It is one of only twelve schools in Vermont that requires personal finance for graduation offering two course options - Personal Finance and Math for Life.
Juling or the use of Electronic Vapor Products (EVP) continues to be a national youth health crisis. These easily concealed devices pack a flavorful, high dosage nicotine punch is widely used by adolescents. Secretary of Education, Dan French issued recommendations for schools across Vermont, inclusive of reviewing and updating associated policies; staff, student and community education, and guidelines for handling EVP products.
In December, MHS hosted Gail Finkelstein from Northern New England Poison Control. She conducted two informational presentations for all students grades 9-12. The presentations were followed by a discussion in student Teacher Advisory groups. It is apparent that there continues to be a sea of misinformation among youth related to the both the addictive nature of EVPs along with the other health side effects associated with regular use.
Next steps include reviewing curriculum resources and perhaps having the Milton Independent run a follow up story to promote public awareness.
UDL - Universal Design for Learning
UDL is a nationally recognized, research-based approach to designing both high quality instruction and a flexible learning environment to accommodate individual learning differences. Lynne has secured an instructor to provide training via coursework for Milton teachers. Thirteen teachers have registered and this opportunity aligns directly with our CIP Student Achievement Goal - implement research based instructional strategies, provide high quality Tier I instruction and access to Tier II supports. The cost to the district is $5,500. Teachers wishing to earn 3 graduate credits will pay an additional fee using their allotted professional development funds.
I had the opportunity to meet our Milton Representative, Chris Mattos this morning. He is serving on the House Education Committee and we had a wonderfully robust conversation about the various bills the House is working on. We both look forward to staying connected and supporting each others’ work.
H.3 proposes the creation of an Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group to advise the State Board of Education on the adoption of ethnic and social equity standards into statewide educational standards. The bill would also require the State Board of Education to publish (to the extent consistent with State and federal privacy laws and regulations) data on student performance and hazing, harassment or bullying incidents disaggregated by student groups, including ethnic and racial groups, poverty status, disability status, English language learner status and gender. H.3 requires the State Board of Education to consider adopting ethnic and social equity studies standards into standards for student performance on or before June 30, 2022, taking into account the report submitted by the Working Group.
The Senate Education Committee has spent much of its first two weeks taking testimony on S. 40, a bill relating to the testing and remediation of lead in the drinking water of schools and child care facilities. The bill includes required school actions if lead contamination. The committee is now considering implementation for the mandatory testing, including how costs will be incurred.
S.10 contains changes to Act 166 pre-K funding and administration, including transferring the administration of the pre-K program from school districts to the Agency of Education. Under S.10, the Agency of Human Services would continue to license and oversee private providers, but the Agency of Education would pay tuition at a statewide rate for 10 hours per week of pre-K services. School districts would only be able to count prekindergarten students as part of their ADM if the students reside in the district and attend a program operated by the district. The bill requires school districts to include identifiable costs for prekindergarten programs and essential early education services in annual budgets and reports to the community.
S.9 proposes to extend the requirement for conducting criminal and child abuse background checks to an operator of a home study program and to any person who will have ongoing contact with students in a home study program. S.9 provides that superintendents shall conduct the required background checks.
- Between the house and senate there are 6+ bills related to Act 46
- H.60 proposes to eliminate dual oversight of PreK
- S.21 – proposes to establish the Public Employee Health Benefit Plan which would provide health insurance coverage for all State employees, municipal employees, legislators, teachers, and other eligible public employees.
- S.52 – proposes to create an education property tax system where the amount of tax due is adjusted by income for all taxpayers.