Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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Food Drive @ Conferences
Food Drive:
  • When you come for your conference please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Waterbury Food Shelf. There will be donation boxes on each floor. Thank you! 
Conference Sign Up:
  • The sign up window closes Tuesday, 11/17 @ 6p.m.
  • Conferences will  be held on the following days  November 18, 19, 20, 23, and 24.
  • Individual classroom teachers set up their own schedule on those days which will be evident when you log in to sign up for a conference.
  • Fall conferences are very important - please sign up if you haven’t already.
Step-By-Step Parent/Guardian Instructions
1.    Visit the school’s homepage http://tbps.wwsu.org and select the Online Scheduler icon/link or follow this link to go directly to the scheduler.  https://www.canyoncreeksoftware.com/scheduler/vt/wwsu/index.cfm
2.    From the Online Scheduler Home Page
a.    Choose your student’s school from the drop down list and click “GO”
b.    Enter the school password tbps.
c.    Enter your student’s “Student ID”.  If you do not know their Student ID, use the LOOKUP STUDENT ID button to access the system.
d.    Verify the student’s birth date 
e.    A list of your student’s teachers will be displayed.  Check the box next to the name of each teacher(s) you would like to meet with.
f.     If you have more than one student in the school you can see all of your students’ teachers’ schedules at one time by answering YES to this question “Do you want to schedule conferences for another student?” then repeat the steps above for your other students.  If you only have one student, answer NO to that question.
g.    You will then see the available time slots for each teacher you selected.
h.    Select the times that work best for your schedule. 
i.      Enter your email address (recommended) if you would like an email reminder sent to you. (Your email address is kept private.)
j.      Once you have finished you can confirm your appointment details and print your conference schedule.
k.    Write down the Confirmation Number (you will need this number to cancel your appointment)
Need help?  Contact the school’s Online Scheduler™ specialist:                   
Name: Denise Goodnow
E-mail: dgoodnow@wwsu.org
Phone: 802-244-7195

Friday, November 13, 2015

TBPS Art & River of Light

Art room needs for the next few weeks: November 13, 2015

For our Japan Cultural Study:
Small metal tins with lids (think altoid boxes or ones similar) - we could use hundreds of these.
Small plastic water bottles 8-12oz. size. Maybe 16oz. but no bigger. Again, we could use hundreds of these.
Deadline for collection - December 11th.

For our sculpture center in the art room:
cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls and toilet paper
multiples of small objects (bottle caps, metal tabs from beverage cans, buttons . . .)

Volunteers to help with lantern preparation:
Wednesday, November 18th - 12:30 - 2:30 - Preschool lantern prep - Help assemble lanterns to hold lights
Monday, November 23rd - 8:00-10:00 - Prep lights in bags for lantern inserts
Monday, November 30th - 8:00-10:00 - Help assemble lanterns for 1st & 2nd grades
Wednesday, December 2nd - 12:30-2:30 - Help assemble lanterns for 1st & 2nd grades

The River of Light Lantern Parade is just around the corner! Saturday, December 5th
Check out our website for up to date information. The students are working hard on their lanterns and we’re looking forward to a great event!

Important to know now: We will have 2 starting points for the parade this year: TBPS and Rusty Parker Park.
1.    We’re looking for a number of families to start the parade at Rusty Parker Park.
·  Come to TBPS between 3:45- 4:15 - pick up your lanterns and drive/park down by Rusty Parker.
·  Pick up poles at Rusty Parker and gather with CBMS Junk Band to lead the parade up Main Street.
 2.   Parking will be an issue - so we’re asking folks - as much as possible to park downtown. There will be NO PARKING in the front of the school or on Armory Drive behind the school. Only the back parking lots will be open for parking.
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Link to Weekly FYIs

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Act 46: One Board, One Budget?

By Brigid Scheffert  Nease, Superintendent of Schools

The WWSU Executive Board and the Act 46 Board Study Committee have been meeting jointly twice monthly since this past September. Their meetings are usually held on the 2nd and 4thWednesdays of the month from 5:30-9:30 at Harwood Union High School in the library. (They have a rescheduled meeting next Thursday, 11-19 due to the holiday.) Along with the administration and consultants, they are studying the law and its expected implications for the seven schools in the WWSU, in order to determine how best to proceed for our communities. All meetings are open to the public and usually broadcast on Mad River TV Channel 44.

Based on where the group is in our study process, we are ready to begin communicating regularly with our communities at large. This is the first of what I hope to be many publications from my office moving forward. This law is, of course, complex. The public can keep informed and up to date by visiting the www.wwsu.org website, where a tab has been created with all the documents and study materials the working group is utilizing. On the home page you will also find a dedicated email address, act46merger@wwsu.org where questions and thoughts can be shared with the committee and administration. While we do not have the capacity for individual replies, we will attempt to respond to the questions raised through future publications and at meetings. My State of the State to the WWSU faculty was dedicated to Act 46. It can be viewed by clicking on the link on the wwsu.org home page. You can also subscribe and follow my blog atneasesnotes.blogspot.com. The VT Agency of Education just revamped their website last week to include many Act 46 helpful resources.

Simply put, Act 46 is legislation that passed the spring of 2015 that turns supervisory unions (many boards and many budgets) into supervisory districts (like a Burlington, for example) where all seven schools are unified in a Prekindergarten through grade 12 structure governed by one board and one budget.

The stated goals of Act 46 of 2015 are five-fold:  1) provide substantial equity in the quality and variety of education opportunities statewide; 2) lead students to achieve or exceed the State’s Education Quality Standards; 3) maximize operational efficiencies through increased flexibility; 4) promote transparency and accountability; and 5) deliver education at a cost that parents, voters and taxpayers value.

In WWSU we understand that Act 46 is law and by 2019 all supervisory unions will be merged in some way, either voluntarily or by the authority of the State Board of Education. In WWSU we understand that Act 46 allows SU’s to design mergers now (the accelerated merger process) and take advantage of tax incentives (the carrot) that won’t be available should we decide to take the “wait and see” approach (the stick). Either way, we will be merged by 2019. We can do it for ourselves now or let the State do it to us later. From everything we have studied to date, it appears that the first groups to the party are the biggest winners, with all the incentives and none of the consequences, and the last groups to the party are the biggest losers with none of the incentives and all of the consequences.

At the present time, the WWSU working group has not formulated a position as to whether we think we would be winners, and, if so, how big. We do know that even if we feel we will be losers overall, we will lose bigger if we wait and do not take advantage of the incentives available to us.

The first real decision to be made is whether to hold a special election, likely in May or June 2016, so that all of our taxpayers will vote by Australian ballot to decide whether or not we will merge. A straw poll of representatives from all towns at our last meeting was unanimous to go for the vote.

Will merger necessarily close schools? No. Will merger make it easier to consider school closures? Yes. However, while it is no secret that a goal of Act 46 is to increase district-level student-to-staff ratios, school closure is no more a certainty under the merged board structure than future school closure in the absence of merger might be, considering declining enrollment trends.  The only reason any of our schools would close is because we don’t have enough students to populate them. This will be true in either scenario.

Will merger save taxpayer dollars? Maybe, or maybe not. The statewide education financing formula doesn’t change with Act 46 and there’s still only one checkbook at the State that taxpayers pay into for Vermont’s public education system as a whole. The amount of burden and relief depends not just upon how we, in WWSU, budget, but how every school district in our state budgets. Act 46 does include tax relief incentives, but only under a voluntary merger. If we wait until the State Board of Education merges us in 2019, we will not receive any of the tax relief incentives offered in the law.  However, through the education fund, we will be paying the incentives sent to the towns that have merged.

We are in the process of identifying the pros and the cons of merging our schools into one union school district. My next piece will share more of the specific benefits identified.

We believe that all WWSU schools offer a high-quality education environment, but Harwood Union High School is suffering the effects of declining enrollment from all of our towns, and that trend is expected to continue. In 2009 HUHS had 850 equalized pupils to draw revenue into the system. Costs including labor (roughly 3-5%) and health care (roughly 4-8%) (approximately 80% of the total budget) have continued to rise each year since then. The number of equalized pupils for FY 2016 at HUHS is 707. Therefore $9,459 per pupil x 143 fewer equalized pupils means a loss of revenue to operate HUHS of $1,352,637. We have not been one of those lucky communities where enrollment has risen and fallen but ultimately either leveled out or resulted in a small net decrease. We cannot afford ourselves now.

The high school building and its learning labs are aging and outdated. The enrichment opportunities continue to take hits each and every year as budget cuts are imposed. Other top tier high schools across the state are increasing the number of AP classes, adding languages and STEM programs, offering extra -curricular activities like speech and debate team, future engineers of America, Robotics Club, classes in coding, and so on.  A bare bones high school should be a concern to all of us as this, like nothing else, impacts property values. Families move into the towns of WWSU not just for the elementary school experience but also for the secondary school experience. We have a collective responsibility to maximize efficiencies across our SU to the greatest extent possible and improve the educational experience overall at the most reasonable cost that we can realize for our taxpayers.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Social Thinking & the Common Core

Image result for social thinking clipartSocial Thinking has always stressed the importance of the connection between social learning and the core academic standards. We are focusing on teaching Social Thinking here at TBPS alongside the academic content we need to cover to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For more information on the relationship between Social Thinking and the CCSS click here to read an article by Michelle Garcia Winner & Pamela Crooke.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Education News from the WWSU

ACT 46 - Unification

Goals of ACT 46: Move Vermont towards sustainable education governance models
and encourage local decisions and actions that:
1. Provide substantial equity in the quality and variety of education opportunities
2. Lead students to meet or exceed state Educational Quality Standards
3. Maximize operational efficiencies through greater flexibility to manage, share, and
transfer resources, with a goal of increasing district-level student to staff ratios
4. Promote transparency and accountability
5. Are delivered at a cost valued by parents, voters, and taxpayers

ACT 46 in the WWSU - Update
• WWSU held a community forum on 9/8/15 with presenters Nicole Mace, VSBA and Brad James, AOE to learn about the law.
• WWSU established the required 706 Study Committee under the law to study an accelerated merger and to apply for the 20K AOE grant for consultation and legal
• WWSU hired the VSBA/VSA/VSBIT consultant group and administration and the board/study committee heard a first presentation from them about other projects around the state, the Mount Mansfield merger, and early examples of suspected cost savings. Walter Nardelli is our formal consultant. Jeff Mayer is his intern conducting a graduate project.
• In early September, the WWSU Executive Board and Study Committee reviewed a first set of financial models with corresponding tax rates.
• On 10-14-15 they reviewed another cost modeling project using 2014, 2015, and 2016 actual budget data as if Act 46 incentives had been applied.
• They studied the SU’s declining enrollment trends looking at 2005, 2010 and 2015 real pupils ADM and equalized pupils EQP.
• They identified approximately 66K in immediate savings from our budgets prior to cost sharing in other obvious areas like food service, maintenance, equipment, and staff flexibility.

The Executive Board and Study Committee meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the Month. The next meeting is November 11, 2015.