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.

CELEBRATION OF CONTRIBUTION & UVM OUTSTANDING EDUCATORS

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

NOTES FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT September 2016

Welcome back to school! We are excited to welcome our students back for the coming school year. With major heat efficiency upgrades at Neshobe and Otter Valley, and smaller upgrades such as paint and relocating rooms at our other schools, we are ready to start the school year in all facilities. Stop by and see the changes including opening up the Leicester gym,  the floors at Sudbury, the windows at Neshobe and OV and student support changes at Lothrop, and the various rooms painted and cleaned at all of our facilities.

Our teachers have spent several days over the summer also updating for the new school year. All teachers participated in professional development around brain based learning principles to increase student engagement. These principles (using clear learning targets, emotionally engaging students in their learning, ensuring targeted practice and feedback and providing mental models) provide a framework for increasing student engagement and achievement going forward. At Convocation on August 29, teachers watched the documentary Most Likely to Succeed and discussed our hopes for all RNESU graduates. Join the conversation. We will show this movie again in late September/ early October and the entire community is invited! More information will be coming out on this.

Our doors also opened on July 1 on our new Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, consisting of two districts: Otter Valley Unified and Barstow Unified. Both boards have done some professional development on a new model of governance. OV has chosen a committee structure to get started as they learn about all schools and towns. If you would like to participate in our growth process, Otter Valley Unified Board will meet on the 3rd Wednesdays of each month, rotating through the different schools for a location. Barstow Unified will meet at Barstow on the 3rd Tuesdays. Board agendas for board and committee meetings can all be found at http://www.rnesu.org under the School Board Link.

I hope to hear from you often this year! Reach out with questions, concerns and praise using the app Let’s Talk, also available on each school website. It is the fastest way to reach me and our principals about your thoughts.

I wish all of you a wonderful school year!

 

 

Opening Day 2016: Most Likely to Succeed at RNESU

Exciting day! Convocation for faculty and administration in the Otter Valley Unified and Barstow Unified School Districts. After recognizing several faculty and staff for exemplary performance (more on that later) and a Dance Off to get to know one another, we settled into a viewing of Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary about what schools need to be for the sake of the future of our students. Settled in might be a misnomer. The ideas raised both make sense and challenge the traditional educational world we live in now.

Did you know our current system of education: ability, age and subject grouping was designed by a Committee of 10 who wanted a school system that would feed into a more productive industrial society? Even the subjects were chosen by this committee- in 1893!! Deviation by creativity was not permitted!

succeed

Flash forward to today- entrepreneurship, Think Different (Apple) and creativity are all valued traits in our work world. Technology is replacing our need for memorization and one can complete an entire MIT course sequence on I-tunes for free, if they choose. No one has phone books (ask Suri); homework help is with Khan Academy. What are we doing to prepare our kids for this world?

This was the message sent this morning with the viewing of this documentary. The movie can only be seen in intentional showings, but the trailer is here. RNESU plans to show the movie for the community later this month. I hope you come and join the conversation.

Midsummer News

Greetings! It has been awhile since I wrote and I want to get back in the habit. It is a great way to share news and thoughts as things change in the district!

As of July 1, RNESU now has only 2 districts in place: Barstow Unified Union School District serving Chittenden and Mendon; and Otter Valley Unified Union School District serving Goshen, Brandon, Leicester, Pittsford, Sudbury and Whiting. The first official board meetings of both districts took place last night, July 20, and both boards are doing intensive work learning their new roles.

For OVUUSD, it means the board is now responsible for 5 schools, not just 1, and that takes some new thinking! The board is interested in learning about each school, what they offer, who they serve. One way to do this is to hold board meetings in different schools, moving around the district, throughout the school year. The agenda that is posted will always say where they are meeting, so be sure to check it before heading to a meeting.

Barstow UU is looking at governance from a slightly different place. Not much is different than the Joint Agreement. However, this board is interested in defining its role from a policy governance lens. You will hear more about that as the year goes along.

My office this summer has been focused on transferring finances and land from the old to the new districts. This can be complicated, but our business office has been working hard to make it as simple as possible. We are nearly done, with a few outstanding issues still to complete.

We also are overseeing two major and several minor construction projects this summer. OVUHS and Neshobe both have large energy efficiency projects being done over the summer, which are going along very well. Other schools are working on floors, painting, even an upgraded multi purpose room at Leicester. This is the time of year when we can focus on facilities, to keep them looking fresh and welcoming for when students return.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for me? Go to http://www.rnesu.org and click on Let’s Talk. This tool allows me to get your message quickly and therefore respond quickly as well. I love hearing what students are doing in the summer- share some stories!

Personalized Learning Plans in RNESU

In a recent article in School Guide, Vermont is lauded for its work on Personal Learning Plans. Tom Alderman, from the Vermont Agency of Education, defines personal learning plans as a “mechanism designed to engage educators, parents, as well as the students in partnership to develop the student’s unique flexible pathway to graduation….the primary aim of this technique is to put the student at the center of construction of their learning experience….result in greater relevance and engagement and excellent outcomes.” The law, which took effect in 2013, is designed to be phased in over the next few years, starting with current 7th and 9th graders and adding classes until all 7th through 12th grade students have a personalized plan.

What does personalizing mean? How can we personalize and make sure students get the required knowledge? This means moving toward proficiencies rather than Carnegie Units in our construction of classes and grades. Think of a web page. Today, there are many tools out there for people to create their own web pages to capture their passions. Websites all look different, with different ways of highlighting important information or sharing a message. Yet the backbone of each webpage is the same, the code that is written must exist in every page and the basic structure is the same. In personalized learning plans, proficiencies help us to be clear about the basic structure of what students need to know. They may not need to memorize when the War of 1812 was (that was a joke), but they do need to know how to find the information and be able to critically think and interact with it. Communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills are among the proficiencies to be met but can be met in a variety of ways, ways that lend to supporting the personal learning interests of the student.

In RNESU, we have begun tackling personal learning plans and proficiencies. This year, elementary report cards report on achievement of proficiencies. The high school is having discussions about grading practices, which leads to discussions about assessments and curriculum as well. We are in the early process along this continuum and likely we will “fail forward” as we learn and develop in this way of thinking and teaching. Our Wow Wednesdays, designed to give teachers (K-8 currently) opportunity to talk with each other about student learning, is a way for us to develop these skills. Our professional development plan for teachers for the next few years is on Brain Based Learning, a way of learning (and teaching) that moves toward proficiencies as well, helping the teacher structure classroom work with student ownership and engagement in mind.

Stay tuned as we continue to learn and move toward personalized learning and proficiencies. If you have specific questions, email us at Let’s Talk, our interactive communication tool, and join the conversation!