Report to the Board of Trustees

2021 Reports

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.


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. 


Instructional 

Position

FTE

Rationale

District

Instructional Coach

1.0

Education research is evolving rapidly. Professional learning is essential for increasing the evidence-based instructional capacity of professional staff. The Vermont Education Quality Standards (Rule 2000) states that “Time for professional learning should be embedded into the school day.”  This position will ensure new teachers receive intensive instructional mentoring and experienced teachers receive the job-embedded instructional coaching and support they need to build and maintain their skills. In addition, this position will build sustainability structures and practices as required by the grant-funded professional development we have hosted, including our recent multi-year math professional development initiative.

Restorative Approaches Coordinator

1.0

The Vermont Agency of Education is working with schools to move away from exclusionary discipline. In its place, we will be moving toward Restorative Practices. Why?  “Restorative approaches promote social engagement and connection (1) proactively to build community and connection (Tier I), (2) when things go wrong and relationships need repair (Tier II), and (3) when an individual needs more intensive support to feel a sense of belonging (Tier III). Research shows a clear connection between outcomes and students’ sense of connection, belonging, and being part of the school community (CDC, 2009). School connectedness was found to be the strongest protective factor for both boys and girls to decrease substance use, school absenteeism, early sexual initiation, violence, and risk of unintentional injury, emotional distress, disordered eating, and suicidal ideation and attempts.” (Sacks et al., 2014)  (From “Implementing Restorative Practices and Principles in Vermont Schools” VT AOE, 2016) Our successful implementation of Restorative Practices and Principles depends on an aligned, community-wide understanding and implementation. This can only be accomplished with investment in the coordination of this effort.

MES & MMS

Behavior Specialist

2.0

Beyond opportunities to learn, schools must now be prepared to provide specialized medical, social and mental health services.  The children who have problematic behaviors need more than to be punished and/or removed from class. Experience and data clearly demonstrates that this approach does not serve our children or our long term goal for safe and vibrant communities. The new mindset must take into consideration and be responsive to the root causes of why some children are not ready to learn. Adding a Behavior Specialist would promote this goal and allow expertise:

  • In the  development of behavior interventions for students consistently displaying unexpected behaviors
  • With the oversight of Behavior Interventionists - training, monitoring the implementation of plans, feedback loops…
  • Team collaboration and the development of innovative strategies, preventative approaches, and proactive plans for students who exhibit at-risk behaviors
  • Teacher skill development to support students who are having trouble accessing their learning due to unexpected behaviors. 

4-8 & 9-12

Safe and Inclusive Schools Coordinator

2.0

The roles of a school principal  has expanded considerably in recent years. 

  •  School safety has taken on a new meaning. Preparing teachers, students and families along with writing new procedures, and reconsidering budget allocations and facility needs in the wake of mass shootings is much more comprehensive than planning the monthly fire drill. 
  • Student mental health needs have increased dramatically requiring principals to leverage and support staff differently, rethink programming and engage community partners.
  • More stringent legal and ethical laws related to child protection, student behavior and personnel issues require a high level of new expertise, oversight, and reporting.
  • Expertise in race, diversity and inclusion is now understood as a critical component in developing safe and inclusive schools. This  requires time and attention in order to train and support teachers and staff, evaluate policies and curriculum...
  • School accountability measures are also changing and require principals to have oversight in each of the 5 Domains and 20 Subdomains, monitor progress and report out on for the VT School Snapshot.

This position is necessary because in our new age, principals are spending over 65% of their time managing day to day student and staff needs versus planning for and providing instructional leadership necessary to  implement State and local initiatives and improve student outcomes. Currently, over half of the principal’s time is spent on student  needs, especially in the area of student discipline, prevention, and support.  In a current conversation with our Teacher Development Coach, her observation from over 3 years is that the principal role in both MMS and MHS lacks attention to instructional leadership due to the lack of a position to manage student support.  In all of her other schools, a position such as this exists to allow the principal role to focus more solidly on teacher development.

 

This position would focus student support. The person would have administrative oversight

  • In the development, planning,  and implementation of proactive student support structures - restorative approaches, revision of relevant policies, and 
  • In the supervision of all Behavior Specialists, Interventionists and other Student Safety related positions - nurses, school counselors... 
  •  HHB complaints, which have increased dramatically -  (56 reports in the first 2 months of 20118-19 as compared to 87 reports in the same time span this year)
  • Administrative responses to discipline issues, and also support systems and structures in place that keep students in the classrooms

MHS

Pathway Coordinator 

1.0

This position would ensure that MHS has a robust flexible pathway program and that personalized learning opportunities are available and accessible to all students on and off site. This person would be responsible for coordinating the state mandated Personalized Learning Plan process for the class of 2021 and beyond through the Teacher Advisory (TA) curriculum planning and supervision of PLPs. They would also be the School to Career liaison - forging partnerships with local organizations for students to access job shadows, internships and school to work programs while earning credit for graduation. Milton is one of the few high schools that does not have a position dedication to Flexible Pathways and this is putting our students at a disadvantage. Parents and students are looking for additional options such as internships and opportunities to apply their skills in a unique way.  Having a coordinator to organize and pursue options would greatly enhance our options for students at MHS.



Non-instructional

Position

FTE

Rationale

Custodian

1.0

Addition of a new building

Tech I

1.0

Addition of 1:1 technology in elementary school has increased the need to a Tech I to manage deployment and maintenance

Project Manager

.50

1 Year - To support the conversion to EfinancePlus

   

 

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Educational Support Teams
  2. Local Common Assessment System
  3. A Viable and Coordinated Curriculum
  4. 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.

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

  1. Restorative Practices - professional learning and dissemination of resources toward a district wide approach of restorative practices
    1. District professional learning group to learn, design, and implement district wide and school specific training and structures
    2. Restorative Approach Collaborative (RAC)
      1. MTSD is 1 of 3 SU/SDs that are a recipient of the VT AOE Restorative Approaches Grant.
      2. 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
      3. 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
      4. Our RAC coach presented during the District Inservice on October 18
  2. Inclusion, Race and Diversity
    1. Beyond Diversity
      1. 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
      2. Rowland Conference
        1. 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 
        2. 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. 
    2. MTSD / Town Training
      1. Reminder that our next training with Rebecca Haslam will be on November 9
      2. Location - MES Library 
      3. Time - 9 a.m to noon
  3. Wellness Policy and Committee
    1. In accordance with our Wellness Policy, we are revitalizing the MTSD Wellness Committee. 
      1. Diverse stakeholders - food services, nurse, physical education / health teachers, community partners, students and parents
        1. Need of new parents and students
      2. Meet 2 times per year (more if necessary)
        1. November
        2. April
    2. Committee Work
      1. Review and revise the policy as necessary
      2. Tackle any concerns
      3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?" 
  4. 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.

VSBA Regional Meeting Notes

Budget Timeline

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. 


Budget Timeline - Board

Presentations to the Board

10/14 - 

  • Special Education
  • Facilities
  • Technology

10/28 - 

  • MES 
  • MMS 
  • MHS

11/11 - 

  • PreK
  • 5th Grade 

12/2 -  First Drafts of the Budget


District Operations

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

  1. 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.
    1. Completed:
      1. Attendance
      2. Facility Use
      3. Hazing, Bullying and Harassment
      4. Substitute Teachers
    2. Work in Progress
      1. Student Records
      2. Title I Parental Involvement
      3. Tobacco Prohibition
      4. Class Size 
      5. Truancy 
      6. Participation of Home Study Students 
  2. Operational Procedures  
    1. 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.  
    2. 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. 
    3. 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 
    4. 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:
      1. Executive Assistant to Superintendent & Communications Specialist - 1.0 FTE 
      2. Registrar/Administrative Assistant to Data & Assessment - School Year Only
      3. 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.
        1. Operational Support - Financials
        2. Operational Support - Grants / Curriculum
        3. Operational Support - Board and Policy

Safety

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.

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.

Board Tasks:

  • 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.

Board Task:

  • Confirm dates
  • Identify place
  • Invite other community leaders ?

ACT 173

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:

  1. The shift to block funding for special education
  2. 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: 

  1. each school implements the district's written and delivered curriculum (2120.6. Curriculum Coordination); and 
  2. 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 
  3. 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 
  4. 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. 

Safety

  • ALiCE
    • Pre-service
      • 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 
  • Focus
    • 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.

Teacher Proposal

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


Compassion Fatigue

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. 


Legislative Report

Education related bills continue to be reviewed in each of the chambers:

  1. 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.
  2.  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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

  1. 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
  1. 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

Lice Procedures

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

Website Redesign

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.

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.

3 Years Old by September 1st, 2019

Program Option

How to Apply

  • Act 166 - 10 hours per week in community-based partner site.  Ongoing enrollment.



  • School-Based - 12 hours per week - ½ Day X 4 mornings per week.  28 slots available for 2019/2020 school year.  

1. Find a prequalified community-based partner site.


2.Register your child with the school district online at www.mtsd-vt.org (go to departments > registrar) or call the district registrar at 893-5302.


3. Enter placement lottery online between March 7th and March 21st.  28 names drawn at random. Those not selected will go on waiting list and are encouraged to consider Act 166. 


4 Years Old by September 1st, 2019

Program Option

How to Apply

  • Act 166 - 10 hours per week in community-based partner site




  • School-Based - 12 hours per week - ½ Day X 4 afternoons per week.  2019/2020 slots currently filled with returning students.



  • School-Based - full day, full week.  30 total slots - 10 are Head Start.

1. Find a prequalified community-based partner site.


2.Register your child with the school district online at www.mtsd-vt.org (go to departments > registrar) or call the district registrar at 893-5302.


3.Enter waitlist lottery online between March 7th and March 21st.  Names will be drawn at random and placed on the waiting list in that order.  Please also consider accessing Act 166.


4.Call 893-5589 to request a Family Needs Assessment.  Criteria considered includes income level, family size, need for care and other service needs.  Notification will occur in April. Families are also encouraged to enter the school-based waiting list lottery and explore Act 166 options.


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.

  1. The lottery system aligns with the recommended practice of the State and thus other school districts locally.
  2. The lottery system practice allows us to screen a greater number of children; we will screen all who enter the lottery 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 


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:

  1. 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
  2. Meet 3X a month and allot 1 meeting solely to committee work
  3. 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

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

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.   


Legislative Update

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. 


New Bills

  • 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. 

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.


Vision Update

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.