Latest South Burlington School District Updates:
October 21, 2021
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
The District's move to 577 Dorset Street got underway this week with members of the Central Office team making the transition and, as with any move, we are taking some time to get settled into our new space. Thanks to you all for your patience! In addition, as many of us (me) don’t like to admit, winter will be here before we know it, with our dedicated city and state snow plows keeping our roads safe. Something a bit more fun about that this year is that the Agency of Transportation is letting elementary schools across the state name their 250 snow plows!
The Agency of Transportation will then create a decal and assign the name to a truck. Then the snow plow driver will come for a visit to the school that named it along with the decal, so students can see their newly named snow plow! Our creative students at all three schools are participating and brainstorming names and voting began this week. The hardest part will be agreeing on only one name submission for each school. With names like, The MESSner, Snow A Tronic, and the Chamberlin Chomper (just to note a few!) I’m almost excited to see that first snow fall.
Upcoming dates to note: October 29 will be an early release day for our elementary students. There will be no school on November 2 for teacher inservice. Please see more updates below.
My Next Zoom Chat Monday Night!
I’m really enjoying my monthly and sometimes bimonthly Zoom pop-in chats for families! My next one will take place Monday, October 25 from 6:00-7:00 pm (Meeting ID: 858 9435 4075
Passcode: 714806). Unlike others that have primarily focused on COVID-19 related topics, this session will begin with a presentation on the importance of caring for mental health by Donna Lemay, LICSW Howard Center School Services Clinician for Tuttle Middle School and Alice Scannell, LICSW, Howard Center School Services Clinical Supervisor. They will share a few ideas on how to think about family well-being in these times, with specific considerations to the mental health of students and ways caregivers can strengthen awareness of and communication around any concerns.
Next, I will give an update on enrollment with time for Q and A. Then, the evening will conclude with COVID topics such as test to stay status and vaccines for children aged 5-11. Dr. Breena Holmes, Dr. Ben Lee, and Dr. Becca Bell will be joining the session. Hope to “see” you there!
As some of you may know, I have concerns around the growing class sizes at both Rick Marcotte Central and Orchard Schools and am currently involved in conversations with administrators around ways we can alleviate this pressure in the short and long term. At last night’s school board meeting, demographer Jerry McKibben gave the board and public an overview of his enrollment projections. I wanted to let you know that the District will be pulling a committee together, inclusive of community members, to discuss our options. I will reach out again very soon with further details.
School Board Updates
The school board was pleased to welcome their newest member, Laura Rowntree to her first meeting and Dr. Travia Childs back at their October 20 meeting. This meeting was full of robust presentations and discussion including information on the math audit, an enrollment update with a presentation from our demographer Jerry McKibben, information on our budget development timeline and much more! If you missed it live, you can check out the recording on the Media Factory website (it is typically posted the Friday afternoon after a Wednesday meeting).
The city council and school board joint Steering Committee will meet next Wednesday, October 27 beginning at 6:30 pm. You can join in person at the 180 Market Street auditorium or virtually through GoToMeeting.
COVID Cases in SBSD
This week, we had one positive case of COVID-19 at Orchard School. All close contacts were identified and there is currently one class in quarantine. In terms of the test to stay program, we are still waiting for further details and guidance from the state in terms of supplies, consent forms, and of course, working out logistics including how to adequately staff this endeavor. In terms of vaccinations for children aged 5-11, we have heard that the CDC will be considering this October 26 and that the state is prepared to stand up vaccine clinics to prioritize this newly eligible age group, hopefully in early November. I will keep you posted!
Big Picture Program Students Launch Cupcake Business
Kevin Downey, Program Coordinator at the Big Picture Program reported that a group of Big Picture SB students are learning about how to start a small business, experientially. They’ve started a small bakery from scratch! Beginning with research on nutrition and food safety, students met with Rhonda Ketner, Director of Nutritional Services for the district. They also interviewed the Food Network star, Nancy Fuller, for tips on recipes. The business is now up and running with an online ordering system. Collaborative decision making, budgeting, marketing and, of course, baking is on the learning menu. Custom cupcakes with buttercream frosting are the signature product. Yum!
SBHS Wolf GRRRDen Bursts with Produce
This year, the Big Picture Program used the Wolf Grr-Den, as their community service project due to Covid. At SBHS, Reneé Gardener’s Life and Employment Skills class planted, maintained, and harvested tomatoes and other produce from the garden this fall. The class has donated 57 lbs. of produce to the South Burlington Food Shelf so far! They also have been using the produce grown to work on cooking and employment skills. Most recently, the class has been selling the bounty of concord grapes recently harvested. Grape jam on pancakes anyone?
FHTMS 7th Grade Art Parodies!
Recently, students in Alison Treston’s Art 7 discussed portraiture throughout art history, looking at some of the most iconic paintings like the Mona Lisa, American Gothic, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. Students then got to choose a famous portrait painting to create a parody. They were encouraged to take something from popular culture and incorporate it into the portrait parody. Check out photos @fhtmsart!
Gertrude Chamberlin School Universal PBiS Team Recognized
The hard work that students and staff do to create a positive school culture was recently recognized at the Annual VT PBiS Forum, where Chamberlin School was given a ribbon as a "School of Recognition." This recognition is for their continued work in implementing PBiS with consistency and having positive results. The PBiS Universal team includes Ms. Balk, Ms. Rouelle, Mrs. McCarthy, Ms. Finlayson, student representatives Caylan and Sheebah, and Mr. Diamond. Mrs. Crawford is also on the team. Special thanks toPBiS coordinator, Ms. Finlayson, who keeps GCS on track with PBiS systems! Orchard School also received a ribbon of recognition.
Rick Marcotte Central Students Earn an All School Celebration!
Central School students have filled their Marky Mark bin and earned themselves their first all school celebration of the school year! While the celebration was initially going to involve extra recess outside, due to the rain in the forecast, a game celebration took place instead. From traditional board games to virtual, a well deserved fun time was had by all.
Orchard School Classes Join FlipGrid Live Event: She Persisted
Students at Orchard School were excited to take part this week in a Flipgrid Live event. Amy Verrill reported that her 21 third graders heard stories from the authors about Ruby Bridges, Florence Griffith Joyner, and Clara Lemlich. They heard powerful messages about how each of the women from the She Persisted books proved to us what is possible and as Chelsea Clinton said, “they turned the impossible into possible.” Verrill said, “The most powerful takeaway for children was Clinton telling them to “See yourself in these stories.”
Joanna Pecor’s class also participated and shared that she will be extending the "She Persisted" idea to their celebration of Indigenous women who persisted or are persisting. Some examples include Deb Haaland, Wilma Mankiller and LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. Additionally, they are excited for their next Flipgrid live event with Amanda Gorman in November!
Thanks for reading and hope to “see” some of you at my chat Monday night!
October 14, 2021
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
This week, the central office began packing up some of our belongings for our much anticipated move over to 577 Dorset Street (the old City Hall). This will take time as various departments from HR to the Business Office gradually make the transition to our new, shared space. I am excited we will all be under the same roof for the first time ever! While I will miss popping out of my office in the middle school to see play practice in progress and students enjoying social time in the library, I’m thankful I’ll be just across the street from the high school and middle school. I’m looking forward to continuing building connections in our new space.
While there is always a lot happening in our District, the biggest event this week and weekend is SBHS Homecoming! Homecoming began this week on the 12th with spirit days Tuesday-Thursday and tomorrow will be Unitee Day when every SBHS student wears a student-designed t-shirt in addition to the pep rally which will occur outside on the turf field at the end of the day. Saturday is the Homecoming Dance as well as numerous athletic events throughout the day concluding with the varsity boys soccer game at 7:00 PM on Munson Field. You can find information about all of the games taking place on the SBWolves website.
Update on Surveillance Testing/Test to Stay
As many of you may know, the state recently unveiled a menu of COVID testing options that schools can choose to use. These are all optional. While we initially signed up to participate in surveillance testing and reached out to our community for support staffing this undertaking, we have decided to put this form of testing on pause and shift our energy toward the Test to Stay program. We hope that those who generously offered to assist us with surveillance testing, will be interested in shifting to this system (training required). We do not have a date or concrete details yet from the state on when we could begin implementing the test to stay program, but the idea is that it would help to decrease the number of days that students would have to quarantine should they be considered a close contact of a person with a positive test result. This could also reduce the amount of time and the impact of contact tracing on school personnel
We are not alone in our struggle to implement these testing programs; especially from a staff perspective. This Seven Days article highlights some of the challenges districts are facing in deciding whether and how to bring these methods on board.
If you would like more information on the testing methods proposed by the state, please click the link for the memo above or view this infographic. Each of these measures will require the permission of a parent or caregiver for the school to implement and a single consent form will cover all of these new testing options (separate from the surveillance testing form).
Two positive COVID cases were identified at the high school this week. Contact tracing is in progress and should be completed shortly. Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow universal precautions.
Executive Director of Equity Update
I wanted to give you an update on our work to hire an Executive Director of Equity for the District.
The District has hired Curtiss Reed Jr. to assist in the hiring process for this position. Curtiss is the Executive Director for Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity in Brattleboro. He also serves as the President of CRJ Consulting Group. Curtiss is a long time Vermonter who is devoted to advocacy related to inclusion, diversity, and equity in the public sphere. Last week, he did a walkthrough of all of our schools with me and he is examining our equity practices in the District including a review of our websites, our hiring practices and more. I will keep you updated as our work with Curtiss continues.
Board Appoints New School Board Member Laura Rowntree
In early September, school board member Rebecca Day tendered her resignation due to a move out of state. In order to comply with state statute, the board set to work filling the resulting vacancy within 30 days. The position was advertised through a number of channels and at their October 6 board meeting, four very well qualified candidates were interviewed. The board subsequently and unanimously appointed Laura Rowntree to the open seat on October 8. Laura will serve until March 1, 2022 when voters will choose someone to fill the remaining two years of the term. Laura will then have the opportunity to run for election for the remainder of the term if she so chooses. Laura is a SBSD parent and brings a wealth of experience to the board. Her professional career has included teaching English Language Arts at underserved high schools in the Bronx though NYC’s Teaching Fellows Program and she currently works as an assistant attorney general. Welcome Laura!
Next Board Meeting October 20
Join the board for their next regular meeting October 20 beginning at 7 pm. You can participate in person in the FHTMS library, via Zoom, or listen to the livestream on the Media Factory website and Facebook page. The agenda will be posted on the District website Friday afternoon. In addition, the South Burlington City Council and our school board will be holding their next Steering Committee meeting Wednesday, October 27 beginning at 6:30 PM and you can join virtually here.
Budget Season is Upon Us!
The SBSD School Board and district administration work on budgeting year-round, but the official "season" to develop the budget that will be presented to voters on Town Meeting Day in March begins in October. We invite all members of the SBSD community to join us and engage in the budget development process. There are many ways in which the larger community can get involved:
- Attend a board meeting either in person or virtually! Our budget development timeline will be presented at the October 20 board meeting. The agenda and link will be posted on the District website tomorrow afternoon.
- Join us for a virtual community budget forum, which like last year, will occur in place of in-person Citizens Budget Advisory Committee meetings. We will hold 2-3 forums during our budget work. We found that this method allows for broader community participation as opposed to the smaller groups of the past. Links will be posted in my newsletters and on our District website
- We'll be updating the budget page of our District website to share links, dates, and more in the weeks to come. We look forward to your participation!
SBHS: Get Caught up with the Latest Howling Herald
It’s here! The latest issue of the Howling Herald! Featuring perspectives and news on COVID, homecoming, a feature on SBHS Director of Guidance and Counseling Meghan Sweet and much more! Bravo student journalists!
In addition, SBHS student Lauren McCabe will be teaching a virtual water photography class tonight! at 6:30 pm through the Young Writers Project (sign up for the workshop here). Lauren will take participants through a series of water photo shoots ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging with household materials.
FHTMS: 6th grade Verve Visit Button Bay State Park: It’s a Tradition!
Dave Bailey has been taking 6th graders to Button Bay State Park since 1998 as part of an on-going Zebra Mussel Population study. This past week his group of students collected nearly 3000 mussels to take back to the classroom to measure and put into age groups. They graph the data and compare it to past trends in the mussel populations and make predictions about future populations. In addition to the mussel project, they study the ecology found at Button Bay and hike around the park visiting various habitats. Stay tuned for pictures coming to the District website!
Gertrude Chamberlin School Staff Participate in Walking Wednesdays
Fall walking, safe outdoor connections and camaraderie come together on walking Wednesdays at GCS! Chamberlin’s PBiS team, coordinated by Lisa Finlayson, came up with the idea during their retreat with their Universal and Targeted teams. Walking Wednesdays was launched toward the end of summer and all staff are welcome to meet at 3:20 pm by the school gardens for a post work stroll. The weather has been perfect for it!
Rick Marcotte Central School Teacher Feature
All of our schools have been getting creative in how they foster connections between families and staff in a safe way due to COVID and one way RMCS has been doing so is by having a new teacher feature in Principal Kilbourne’s weekly newsletter. The feature involves a quick Q and A to help families get to know new staff! Last week it was 4th grade teacher Kesia Cope. Fun fact? She has a bearded dragon named Spike!
Orchard School 4th Graders Participate in ReadAloud (and Hide Fun Notes in Library Books)
Recently, Orchard School 4th grade classes participated in a read aloud of Vermont author Ann Braden’s book The Flight of the Puffin . Each student created several cards with inspirational phrases on them to secretly distribute and hide in a library book. There will surely be lots of smiles during book checkouts next week! Check out photos of this AND the amazing annual Orchard School Fun Run that was held October 8 on Orchard's Instagram.
It’s getting to be peak foliage time here in Vermont! This resource offers some great ideas for scenic drives, foliage maps, and of course places to stop for apple and pumpkin picking, to be enjoyed alongside some warm cider donuts of course.
Thanks for reading,