Snow Days Ahead

Greetings allschoolbus in snow
The weather is changing, and we are at the stage of not knowing what to wear to get through the day. From 45 degrees to nearly 80 in just a few days can be quite confusing! But the changing weather is also a reminder that the snow is just around the corner.
Last year, RNESU schools had seven snow days. That is quite a lot. We don’t know what this year’s weather will bring, but I would like to take a moment to talk about how snow day decisions are made and how parents are notified.
In most situations, we are watching the storm develop and following communications from NOAA as to where the storm will hit, when and with what intensity. In the wee hours of the morning, our transportation coordinator is in communication with our town road crews getting updates on conditions of roads and anticipated problems.
The transportation coordinator and I talk usually around 5 am. I try to make the decision, based on information from the road crews, the transportation coordinator, and the NOAA weather information. If roads are icy or unpassable, and road crews cannot keep up, causing unsafe transportation to school, I likely will cancel. However, as this is Vermont, where we expect snow, this is not an easy decision to make. Timing of the storm is important. Sometimes the storm arrives about 5 am and we have to rely on the information shared with us as well (as well as a crystal ball).
It is our preference not to have snow days; however we also transport most of our 1400 students and need to make decisions around safety as well. This year, to reduce the potential of snow days, we may at times offer paved road only pickups. When that happens, if a family feels they cannot get their child to the bus safely, please call the school and keep your child home.
Occasionally, we are aware the night before that the blizzard is so bad that road crews cannot keep up and we close the night before. If that happens, I make a robocall by 9pm. In the mornings, I make the robocall usually between 6 and 7. Notification to all families come through the robocall, as well as tweeting the information, putting it on our website, and calling it into the broadcast system for TV and radio notification. If you do not get a robocall, please look at these other sources and then notify your school to check if the number we have for you is accurate.
Snow days are not popular decisions to make, either way. I am always happy to hear your thoughts on them. Please contact me through Let’s Talk on the school or district websites and let me know your thoughts.

Welcome to the 2017-18 School Year!

Welcome back to school!
It has been very exciting to visit the schools this week and see teachers and students back together again. In visiting classrooms, I saw old friends and new. Otter Valley Unified started elementary school choice as an option this year, and 20 students (18 families) have chosen to attend a different school in the district. This is a great opportunity that our Act 46 merger allowed. In addition, we were able to retain more teachers and allow for voluntary teacher transfer, even as the budget reduced positions. All of this makes RNESU and Otter Valley Unified Union the place to be!
Another benefit of the merger this year was the ability to create more opportunity for elementary summer programs and include more students. Leicester Alive opened its doors to students from Sudbury and Whiting this summer. Both Leicester Alive and Neshobe Soar partnered with Brandon Recreation to create full day enrichment opportunities for over 80 elementary students, including the Lothrop program and were able to serve 1312 breakfasts and 1255 lunches over the 5 week programs. I am very excited about these opportunities for students and families!
Otter Valley Unified has spent the summer focusing on a new framework for behavioral expectations. Positive Behavior Supports (PBIS) is a nationally researched approach that helps to set clear expectations for student behavior, explicitly teaches these expectations and consistently responds to behavior issues. Data is collected and used for system improvement. Lothrop Elementary has been using PBIS for the past few years. 
Otter Valley is also opening this year with a new middle school model. Geoff Lawrence, OV Associate Principal, is overseeing this model. Watch for more information coming out and for opportunities to celebrate student learning throughout the year.
We have two new principals this year. Thom Fleury and Rod Driscoll are co-principals of our small schools, Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury. Also, Whiting and Sudbury have merged into one school, 2 campuses with a new name: Learning Academy at Whiting and Sudbury. Whiting will serve grades PreK to 2 and Sudbury serves grades 3-6.
The climate survey last spring was a great success and we generated some wonderful feedback. In future articles, I will delve into those topics and share along the way.
There is so much more to share but for now, I will pause. I do want to remind you all that you can learn more about our schools by watching Spotlight on RNESU on PEG TV (link on school websites). We tape this show monthly to highlight different aspects of our schools. Please tune in or watch a podcast!
For now, I just say, “Welcome back. We are glad you are here.”

Last Day of School & a Thank You!

Greetings everyone!
The snowstorm a couple of weeks ago that led to a 2 day shutdown across the state was quite late and unexpected! The result is that RNESU has had 7 snow days this year, an unusual number indeed. So when is the last day of school?
For students, the last day of school will be Wednesday, June 21. This date still keeps us one day beyond the state mandated school year, though it is two fewer days than our usual year. This date was chosen both to meet mandates as well as to acknowledge the heat in the schools at that time of year and family plans that have already started to take shape. Staff will still make up the other 2 days through a variety of means. Individual schools will indicate how this last day plays out in their schedule and parents will be notified of that by their children’s schools. The last day of school does not change the Otter Valley graduation date of June 10.
Thank you! I want to take a moment to thank all residents of Otter Valley’s 6 towns for supporting the OVUU budget. There were difficult decisions that were made this year and I feel the Board developed a thoughtful, sustainable, student focused budget. We were able to take advantage of our Act 46 merger in a few ways, such as opening up elementary school choice, reconfiguring our small schools to increase peer groups and save small school grants, and transferring teachers who might have lost a position in one school when an opening was available in another school, saving hiring and training dollars.

The Importance of Professional Development

I was honored this year to be asked once again to blog for the AASA National Conference on Education #NCE17. This excellent conference is the one I make sure I get to year after year. With its rich content, keynote speakers who are relevant to my needs, and colleagueship, I could not find a more fitting setting for my own professional development.

This year’s conference was titled: Leadership- Personalized, Accountable, Visionary. We had keynote speakers such as Ravi ,James Carville and Mary Matalin, and Jamie Vollmer. There were dozens of sessions for me to focus my own learning (I chose to focus on support for principals for a high achieving district). There were opportunities for colleagueship (Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire, California, Oregon were all places with superintendents I talked with).

The next step, of course, is to sift through all the nuggets of information I received these past two days and determine what will improve my own practice as a leader of learning. This is always the goal of professional development- how will it improve my own practice. In RNESU, we have been working to reconstruct how we provide PD to our faculty, with more choice and more voice while still focusing on how we will help all children achieve in the SU schools.

The key? Show up, absorb, reflect and then do!

Budget Process for 2018

The Otter Valley Unified Union and Barstow Unified Union Boards have begun the budget process for 2017-18. With a newly merged district, we are looking for ways we can be more efficient with staffing and resources. One example of this is our ability this year to hire a single academic interventionist who is able to serve 3 schools: Whiting, Leicester and Sudbury, building one position instead of several part time positions. We are also looking at providing some library services at these school by sharing time with a larger school. With our new model, we can look for ways to staff more efficiently, which provides more equitable programming for our students as well as fiscal efficiency for our taxpayers. If you would like to be involved in the budget discussions, now is the time! Watch our website calendar for board meetings in December and early January, which is where discussions will take place and decisions will be made.


Each year, RNESU principals and schools identify a teacher and/or support staff member who embody the tents of the RNESU compact in their work with students or in the school community.

I am pleased to recognize  this year’s Honorees:

  • Barstow – Meghan Fox, Susan Price
  • Leicester – Laura Coro
  • Lothrop – Jane Pinson, Sue Lamay
  • Neshobe – Kathryn Tricarico, Anne Jones
  • Otter Valley – Kathy Sherwin
  • RNESU – Bob Soule
  • Sudbury – Kayla Desabrais
  • Whiting – Katie Mitchell

In addition, we are asked to choose an Outstanding Educator from our teaching ranks to be celebrated at a UVM ceremony in October. We choose from the list of educators on the Celebration of Contributions for the year. One educator is always from OV (this is the design of UVM) and one from elementary. I am pleased to announce this year’s Outstanding Educators:

  • Kathy Sherwin, Special Ed, Otter Valley UHS
  • Jane Pinson, 1st Grade, Lothrop Elementary

RNESU is fortunate to have many excellent and dedicated teachers and support staff. We are pleased to honor these individuals this year!

What To Do If You Suspect Your Child is Bullied or Harassed

We are four weeks into the school year, the leaves are turning and it seems like a good time to talk about an issue that occurs in our schools as well as all schools in the nation: harassment and bullying. Children, particularly adolescents, experience some form of bullying or harassment in their school lives. Sometimes this occurs in school, other times it occurs at home or online and carries over to school. We have a policy that addresses both events as well as a student conduct policy that we turn to when an incident does not meet the definition of either bullying or harassment, but is still a behavior that is not acceptable or appropriate.

Common questions we hear from parents include: who do I talk to if I suspect my child is being bullied or harassed? What can I expect the school to do? What information can be shared with me? Why do I sometimes see the other student still in school?

The policy on the Harassment Hazing and Bullying of Students (JBEAA) guides the response of the school. Because we are an educational organization and because we are still teaching appropriate behaviors to students of all ages, we need to work with each student involved in a situation. When a report is made to a school faculty member, the schools’ Designated Employee, one of 2 appointed in each school, must create a written report and submit it to the building principal or associate principal to review and determine if the incident rises to the level of an investigation. Not every behavior incident meets the definition of harassment or bullying. If it does not, then it is investigated as a student conduct concern. The school must take steps to stop the conduct if bullying or harassment is thought to have occurred and to notify parents of an investigation. Students involved and witnesses are interviewed as part of the investigation. The final results of the investigation is shared again with the principal or associate principal who then determine, if substantiated, the consequences for the student(s) involved. Consequences range from education and counseling to suspension short or long term. It varies according to the information gathered in the report. Sometimes consequences are not obvious to the other party; however we are unable to share student information including discipline. It is very important, however, that we work with the victim and the parents to do everything possible to stop any inappropriate behavior and if needed, create a safety plan around the victim.

In order for the school to take steps to stop inappropriate behavior and keep our students safe, we need to partner with parents. Do not assume the school knows what is going on. Call, email, stop in. Let us know what is happening for your child and work with us to look into it. We created a chart that we hope helps parents understand the process when a complaint is raised. Please let us know if the chart is helpful or still leaves question. It is important we work on this issue together and work to create a culture where people speak up and stop if they see anything occurring that upsets another student. I look forward to hearing your feedback on the chart.bullyingflowchart-1