December 19, 2020
Dear Parents/Guardians, Staff, and Community Members,
We made it to our early winter break without having to close any of our schools or shifting back to Step 2 hybrid learning at the elementary grades.This is in large part due to your hard work and dedication. From diligent mask wearing to physical distancing to sacrificing in person time with loved ones over the Thanksgiving break. Combined, these measures have made all the difference in keeping our schools open. With the two week break upon us, it is more important than ever that we keep up these mitigation strategies so that we can all make a healthy and safe return to school in 2021!
Black Lives Matter Flag Raising
At the December 16 school board meeting, I was both inspired and humbled by a presentation given by SBHS Student Justice Union members Nyasha Rutanhira and Raphaela Sulley to raise the Black Lives Matter flag year round at the high school. After their presentation, a number of students, past and present, courageously spoke up about their experiences in our schools and it brought to light for me, the continued work that is needed District wide in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must ensure that all of our students feel like they are represented in our curriculum and through the diversity of our staff. While I am so proud of the antiracism work that is happening in each of our schools and through staff training, as I listened to our students Wednesday night, it remains clear to me that this work is ongoing. At the January 6 board meeting, the item warned for action will be to raise the Black Lives Matter flag at all of our schools year round as one way of indicating the District’s support of and solidarity with our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students.We will also hear a presentation from FHTMS students who are involved in antiracism work through SOAR (Students Organizing Against Racism). If you missed this compelling presentation, you can view it at the Media Factory website.
Food and Goods Drives
I have been so heartened by all of the amazing initiatives our schools have executed to support our community members during this winter season. Prior to the Thanksgiving break, Gertrude Chamberlin School and SBHS delivered many pounds of nonperishables to the South Burlington Food Shelf thanks to their respective food drives.
Orchard’s home school clinician Melissa McConnell organized their annual Thankful Giving initiative and many in the Orchard community pitched in through the donation of gift cards to help meet food and other basic needs, some of which will last throughout the year. McConnell wrote, “We are truly grateful for the generosity and compassion people have once again shown to each other by modeling our school community’s CORE value of BEING KIND to one another.”
Rick Marcotte Central School wrapped up its food drive Thursday and donated a grand total of 661 pounds of food to the South Burlington Food Shelf. Each grade level collected specific food items during this drive. This was a fifth grade team initiative involving Kristen Kavanagh, Danielle Vincent, Annick Cooper, and Kait Hale with assistance from school nurse Michelle Cannon and Principal Kathleen Kilbourne. Well done all!
FY 22 Budget: Next Community Forum January 5
At this past week’s school board meeting, I presented a draft preliminary budget to the board including proposed additions to staffing and a $2.5 million bond to address infrastructure needs to take some of the pressure off of the operating budget. The draft budget represented a 8.82 percent budget increase. I have been directed by the board to pursue areas for reduction in order to decrease this initial number.
Our next community forum on the FY22 budget will take place January 5, with our regularly scheduled school board meeting occurring the following night. We invite you to offer your questions, comments, or to simply “drop in” to listen to the presentation. Both the special and regular board meeting minutes and agendas are posted on the school board page of our district website. There is always an option to participate via Zoom or watch live on RETN’s Facebook page (or on the RETN website afterward).
Run for the School Board: Two Open Seats!
Looking for a rewarding way to get more involved with the District? Run for the school board! Long time school board members Elizabeth Fitzgerald (15 years of service) and Martin LaLonde (11 years of service) recently announced that they will not be seeking reelection in the coming year. Due to COVID-19, petitions are not required this year but consent forms will be. For more information on becoming a candidate, including deadlines for filing, see the City of South Burlington website.If you have questions about what it’s like to serve on the board, Martin LaLonde (email@example.com) would be happy to chat with anyone interested!
Travel Guidance, Quarantine, and Multi Household Gatherings
Thank you in advance for adhering to the Governor’s guidelines around multi household gatherings (which are currently prohibited). Every family’s circumstances are unique. If you have questions around various scenarios, please see this FAQ Guidance for Schools Related to Limits on Multi-household Social Gatherings. Additional resources on travel, gatherings, and quarantine are available from the CDC. Please see also this updated holiday toolkit from the Vermont Department of Health.
I will reach out to families and staff as January 4th approaches to inform you of our plans for the return to school and work should any changes to either our instruction model or screening questions be needed.
Nutritional Services: Don’t Forget to Pick up Your Meals!
Our dedicated nutritional services team will be providing meals over early winter break, December 21, 2020-January 1, 2021. The deadline for ordering was December 18 at 1:00 pm. This is a reminder that if you signed up to receive meals, five days' worth of meals will be delivered together Monday, December 21 and December 28 via bus or pickup. Thank you team!
Snow Day Protocol
Although we haven’t received our first big snow storm yet, I know the unpredictability of Vermont weather means it could come at any moment. As I'm sure you've heard, there has been a lot of discussion at the state level and in area districts around whether snow days are even necessary given that we have the remote learning option available at all grade levels. However, there are logistics involved with switching at a moment's notice to a remote learning day. The fact that we need to remain at 170 learning days or greater, has also factored into my decision around snow days outlined below:
The District will be using a combination of one to two hour delays (preferred), remote learning days (option two), and traditional snow days. The timing of the weather event and the forecast will ultimately guide our decision.
If we know the day before, that severe weather is expected, we can plan for a remote learning day by making sure all of our students have the materials necessary for a successful day of learning.
If the severity of the weather event is not known until very early in the morning, we will plan for a one to two hour delay to allow for the city's public works team and our amazing facilities crew to clear roads and walkways and to give staff and students time to arrive safely.
If the weather event is a complete surprise and comes on quickly, we will call a traditional snow day for all students.
We will communicate with families and staff regarding any of these scenarios through our emergency notification system which involves an email, phone call, or both as well as a notification on the main page of our District website and through various media outlets.
SBHS Introduces New Program: The Seal of Biliteracy
A new program that is gaining traction both nationwide and in the state of Vermont is being rolled out at SBHS this year. According to World Language Curriculum Area Supervisor Theresa Mazza, The Seal of Biliteracy is an award recognizing a high school student’s high level of proficiency in English, plus one other language. The Seal of Biliteracy designation shows that the holder has officially demonstrated ability on nationally accepted tests assessing language proficiency; this can be beneficial for both educational and professional pursuits. The Seal of Biliteracy accomplishment will be recognized at Academic Awards Night in the spring and seniors who have attained it will also be recognized at graduation. A special seal will be given to a student who may choose to affix it to their diploma. If you have any questions about this award at SBHS, please contact Theresa Mazza at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-652-7092.
FHTMS Celebrates National Kindness Day
FHTMS School Counselor Yvette Amblo reported that for National Kindness Day November 30, all FHTMS TAs talked about acts of kindness in their restorative practice circles. Students watched a video called Kindness Boomerang and everyone then wrote an act of kindness they could commit to doing to make FHTMS an even kinder place. The Spirit Committee then hung the individual boomerangs in a boomerang shape in the cafeteria and spread others randomly around the walls of the school. Inspiring!
Rick Marcotte Central PBIS Team Surprises Staff with Treats!
A cart full of coffee, sweet treats and other goodies that shows up randomly? That has become a monthly occurrence at Central School. An anonymous donor from the community buys the goodies for the staff each month. This person reached out to Central School after hearing about their first cart and the positive impact it had on staff. The PBIS team pulls together each month to do the rest of the work; baking treats and putting them on the second cart. The carts then make their way to each and every staff member throughout the day. The best part about this is that it is always a surprise for staff! Principal Kathleen Kilbourne noted: “This will happen once per month without notice..just as a burst of joy when you least expect it! People taking care of people!” See photos of the latest cart, comfort and joy, on the RMCSVT Twitter page)
Gertrude Chamberlin School Students Fill their Hive (Again!)
Chamberlin students have been doing a great job following the 3 B’s (Be respectful, Be responsible, Be safe) and have filled their hive with honey cells once again! This time, students earned a school wide pajama day last Friday! In addition, Chamberlin has also begun giving out weekly rewards for following safe practices. A stuffed Champ wearing a mask goes to the grade level wearing masks consistently, silver sneakers to the grade level following expectations on the playground at recess, giant golden spoons to the grade level following expectations at lunch time and dazzling distancers (decorated yardsticks) to the grade level that is doing the best at physical distancing.
Orchard School Students Learn about Anxiety from Puppets
Puppets in Education offered their new, virtual program to Orchard School students in grades 1-4 December 10. Orchard School Counselor Auriel Gray, who coordinated the program, explained that the school was able to offer the grant funded program thanks to the Vermont Department of Mental Health. The program was done virtually by Zoom in each class with a live Q and A discussion with the puppets. In the past, Puppets in Education has done shows on autism and personal safety and bullying. “They are a great educational resource and an engaging way to promote discussion on important Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and health related issues affecting all students,” Gray wrote. Hear more about the Puppets in Education Program in this story from VPR. Adults may pick up some great tips too as many of us are understandably experiencing increased anxiety during these times.
I’m going to be taking a break from my Friday letters for the next two weeks, but will be in touch should any shifts be needed in our approach to returning to school and work January 4. This year has been challenging for us all, but we have met the uncertainty by coming together over and over again. I am grateful, I am proud, and I am honored to be your superintendent.
Be well, stay safe, and have a relaxing winter break,