February 17, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Winter break is upon us and what a mix of both winter and spring-like weather we have been having! My hope is that, weather fluctuations aside, you will all have the opportunity to rest, connect, and restore next week. A lot has been happening regarding evolving COVID guidance and throughout the District just this week, so please bear with me with the length of this newsletter. I have much to report and many thanks to give.
I wanted to give a particular shout out to our three dedicated school board members who will be leaving their positions in March: Bridget Burkhardt, Brian Minier, and Laura Rowntree. I and our community have been so fortunate to have them serve, especially during these times. I know that they will continue to participate in the district in new ways. We have all benefited from their deep caring for our students and the incredible amount of knowledge and skills they brought to the table. You will be missed!
Yesterday, at Governor Scott’s Tuesday press briefing, it was announced by Secretary of Education Dan French, that the guidance that has been in place pertaining to mask wearing in schools could end effective February 28 when schools reached the 80 percent vaccination rate. It is important to note, that this was never a mandate, but a recommendation that most schools across Vermont took up, the SBSD included. This change in guidance is also a recommendation. Individual schools can continue to make decisions that serve their school communities best. As with any guidance change, the Champlain Valley Superintendents have been working collaboratively to evaluate what this change means for our respective districts.
We, in the South Burlington School District have had a school board motion in place since shortly after the pandemic began that requires masking in our schools by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals alike and I believe it has served as a key mitigation strategy for us. I am so impressed with the progress we have made! First, in bringing our students back to school through the hybrid model of learning up to the present moment, where we not only have students in school 5 days per week, but many are participating in co curriculars again. These moments are critical to our students’, staff, and families well being therefore, upon return from vacation, it is our desire to begin welcoming families back into our schools and to events in ways that have been on pause. More details to come.
In terms of the guidance released yesterday, it notes that mask-wearing can be made optional for schools that have over 80 percent of their students vaccinated for COVID-19. This calculation will be made by the state and this data has not yet been made available to us nor have we been given a clear timeline of when to expect it.
Therefore, masking in all SBSD schools will continue to be required until we receive verified vaccination data from the state. Once the state confirms that SBSD schools are over 80 percent vaccinated we will notify our SBSD community about next steps.
Please note that the CDC continues to require masks on public transportation. This includes school buses and other forms of school transportation. This means that all bus riders will be required to wear a mask when using any type of school-based transportation. Also, the Vermont Department of Health continues to recommend mask-wearing in indoor public spaces. Masks are also required in all city owned buildings per a mandate passed by the City Council. A change in masking requirements will have an impact on athletics and co-curriculars as well. We are waiting to hear from the Vermont Principals Association on any changes to their guidelines.
Guidance changes often leave many questions unanswered and our district will spend the next couple of weeks collaborating with those in the medical community, area superintendents, the Vermont Principals Association, the VT School Nurses Association, and others to get further clarity that will inform our path forward. Once we receive the verified vaccination rates, written guidance, and our questions have been addressed, we can begin developing an implementation plan.
While we will return from winter break masked, if we have the information we need to create an implementation plan and the number of positive cases have not spiked after winter break, we will be prepared to follow the Governor’s guidance soon thereafter. After we make this transition, we anticipate that many SBSD students and employees will continue to wear masks. As a community, we must respect each individual's choice as they weigh their own personal level of risk. Vaccination remains a key mitigation measure and there are many opportunities to get your first, second, or booster dose including over the winter break.
I want to thank you all for your patience and diligence during the pandemic. This has not been easy on any of us, but I do see hope on the horizon. We have all been through so much. It is important that we give one another the space and kindness to process this latest shift as well.
Today marked our final day that we offered on site rapid antigen testing to staff. The current antigen test supply from the state allowed us to provide all staff AND students with tests to use before returning to school and work after the break. This testing is optional, but highly encouraged. Detailed information on when to use these tests has been sent to staff and families via their individual schools. If families have questions, please contact your school directly. If staff members have questions, they can contact Maura Sawtelle or Karen Dantzscher in Human Resources.
On a Personal Note…
Last night,at the school board meeting I announced that I will be leaving my position as Superintendent of the South Burlington School District effective June 30, 2022. I did not come to this decision lightly, but given that we will be welcoming three new individuals to our school board next month, the timing felt right. I have spent 32 years in the education field and 17 in South Burlington and I couldn't be more proud of the work we have done together. I will miss families, students, and staff and the relationships we have established.
Throughout my career it has been my practice and belief that relationships and trust are the cornerstones and foundational ingredients to achieving success in everything we do in life, especially in education. It is my hope and dream that this belief will continue to be emphasized and practiced in the South Burlington school community.
Hiring and Search Updates on Key District Positions
I am happy to report that Kristin Romick has accepted the position of Executive Director of Educational Support Systems. Kristin was hired as the interim Executive Director of ESS beginning in January to complete the year after Joanne Godek’s retirement. This took place after an interview process was conducted. A second search was conducted to find a successor to Joanne and the committee recommended Kristin to fill the position on a regular basis, beginning this July.
Kristin began teaching in 1996 and joined the SBSD in June 2004. Kristin has worked for the District in a number of roles including as a Special Educator/Autism Specialist at the elementary level, a Consulting Teacher/Case Manager at the elementary level, a Middle School Special Educator, a Middle School Building Coordinator for Special Education, a Special Education Outside Placement Case Manager/Coordinator, and most recently, as the Interim Executive Director of Educational Support Systems. In addition to her educator roles, Kristin has also served the District as a mentor teacher, a teacher leader at the high school and middle school, a summer school teacher and coordinator as well as a tutor. Congratulations Kristin!
Executive Director for Equity
Rhiannon Kim, who is facilitating the committee overseeing the search process for our Executive Director for Equity along with HR Director Karen Dantzscher, reported that the committee held a meeting this afternoon during which members discussed candidates selected by the committee to interview. They also developed a plan for the interview process including refining the interview questions. The first round of interviews will be scheduled between March 2nd and March 15th.
FHTMS Principal Update
According to search committee facilitator Pat Philips, applications are still currently being received. The FHTMS Principal Search Committee met again this afternoon after collecting feedback (from Parents, Community Members, School Board members, Faculty, Staff, and Administrators) regarding desired characteristics and experience in a new administrator. Using that information, individuals from the applicant pool will be selected for interviews during the week of March 7.
Don’t Forget to Vote March 1 or Before!
Please remember to vote in person March 1 or early by mail. Early/Absentee ballots can be obtained by calling the clerk's office at 846-4105 or stop by the office at 180 Market St to vote. You can also take your ballot home with you. All ballots must be received at City Hall at 180 Market Street in the mail by the close of business on election day. Those dropped off in the night drop box will be picked up Tuesday by 9:00 a.m. Anything in the night drop box after 9:00 a.m. will not be delivered to the polls.
You can find detailed information on the school district's proposed FY23 budget at: our District website. There, you’ll also see the link to the school board candidate forum held last night by SB Debate.
Pre-Town Meeting will take place February 28 beginning at 6:30 pm in person at 180 Market Street or you can join from your computer, tablet, or smartphone through GoTo Meeting. You can also dial in using your phone. United States: +1 (669) 224-3412 Access Code: 296-671-597
SBHS Brain Bee : SB Students Win Again!
Seniors Hiba Ali and Deepika Muthuswamy earned 1st and 3rd place in Vermont's 13th Annual Brain Bee. The impressive neuroscience knowledge these students demonstrated also earned SBHS the 1st place team award for the second year in a row. Hiba will advance to the National Brain Bee in the spring. The duo competed individually as well as a team through 3 rounds of questions and practical application of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Hiba and Deepika are also leaders of the Neuroscience Club which meets weekly at the high school. Please join me in congratulating these scholars on their success!
FHTMS Cheer: Resilience Abounds!
Nicole Downey, FHTMS Cheer Coach since 2013 and SB alumna (2008), let me know that the cheerleading program at the middle school has been growing every year (although last year, they didn’t have a season) and they just finished their season with 2, 1st place wins and a 3rd place win. Downey noted that these students really persevered in the time of COVID. “It is very difficult to work on stunting and the routine when someone is missing. Every week we had a competition, someone was out, so I would have to rework the routine every time. The students had to learn new parts and they succeeded! The level of skills I had this year was amazing. The kids pushed through and the year turned out wonderful!”
RMCS Students Build Community through Service Project
Kristen Kavanagh, fifth grade teacher at RMCS reported that the fifth grade Valentine’s Day Community Service Outreach project was a success again this year! “In addition to making a handwritten card (attached to a carnation and lottery ticket) for each staff member, fifth graders also put together a Valentine gift bag for each student in grades PreK to 4 at RMCS! The decorative gift bags included a Valentine's Day-themed pencil, large lollipop/heart eraser, and a pencil cap eraser. They tied ribbon around each gift bag as a finishing touch!” The fifth graders also made thank you cards and sent breakfast over to the superintendent's office on Valentine’s Day! In prior years, students have made meals for the SB Police and Fire Departments as well as supported the Ronald McDonald House and Anew Place. Kristen wrote, “This year, we decided to focus on our RMCS community! We wanted everyone to feel appreciated and cared for within our building this Valentine's Day.” I certainly did. Thank you!
GCS Olympic Week Fun!
The Olympic excitement really took hold at Gertrude Chamberlin School this week! The week began with an all school assembly, their first whole school gathering in two years! The assembly was officiated by Principal Rouelle, me, and supported by Buzz Co-hosts, Mrs. Farrell and Mrs. Brown as well as 5th grade co-host, Malcolm. Themes for the week included sportsmanship and perseverance. Throughout the week, students participated in games in PE such as bobsled racing, torch relays, speed skating (with towels on their feet), scooter hockey and luge, to name a few. In the cafeteria, Mimi provided fun games during lunch time including relays, snowball bouncing, snowball rolling, and fun with ping pong balls! Art activities included making class flags, painting Olympic rings and creating their Olympic torch. The week wrapped up with a Zoom Buzz Assembly to highlight the joyful moments shared. The PBiS team, led by Ms. Finlayson, planned a fun week of learning for students! Please enjoy the photos from the week that are scattered throughout the Family News!
Orchard I Love to Read Week
In celebration of "I Love to Read Week" in the library, Mrs. Macdonald played either Red Clover or Mock Caldecott BINGO games with all students. When a student got a "BINGO," they were able to select from a variety of donated free books. Families could tell which book their student(s) had chosen by the "I Love to Read" bookmark placed inside the book. Be sure to watch for it!
Please note that I will not be sending a newsletter out next week, but will be in touch shortly after the break with updates. I look forward to welcoming you all back in March!