There were significant staffing changes at the administrative level during the 2010-2011 school year. Jean Ward, BRSU Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, retired as did James Merryman, the long-serving principal of The Dorset School. Jackie Wilson, the principal of MEMS, moved to the central office to fill the Curriculum vacancy created by Jean Ward’s retirement, and Wayne Flewelling, a BRSU special education director, left the organization to become the special education director in a neighboring supervisory union. Rosanna Moran was hired to be the principal of The Dorset School, and Sarah Merrill moved up from the assistant principal position at MEMS to become principal. Brenda MacDonald was hired as the new special education director, and John Dawson was hired as the Director of Instructional Innovation, a grant-funded position charged with advancing the utilization of technology in our schools.
Our districts continued their work in navigating Act 153, a law that promotes the voluntary merger of school districts and requires the centralization of certain services at the supervisory union level. The BRSU board established a governance committee to address the voluntary merger aspects of the law. This committee had two focus areas: 1) anticipating the integration of the Mountain Towns Regional Education District (Landgrove, Londonderry, Peru, Weston, and the Floodbrook School) into the BRSU on July 1, 2013, and 2) commissioning an internal Phase I governance study among the our nine BRSU districts. The vote on the Mountain Towns RED and its assignment to the BRSU is scheduled for the winter of 2012. A related issue pertains to the Winhall Town School District which is pursuing a feasibility study for joining the BRSU in 2013. I believe the integration of these districts into the BRSU will not only lower administrative costs, but also allow us to better leverage regional resources to expand learning opportunities for students.
The work surrounding the required centralization of services under Act 153 continues to move forward as well. Business services have been consolidated into the supervisory union office saving Manchester and Dorset over $30,000 and $15,000 per year respectively. A common collective bargaining process with our six teachers unions was initiated in the winter of 2010 with the goal of achieving a single teachers contract. Work on the centralization of special education and transportation services has been deferred until the 2012-2013 school year in order to better understand how these services might work in a reconfigured supervisory union with the potential additions of the Mountain Towns RED and Winhall.
Considerable progress was made in the area of instructional technology systems. We deployed a supervisory union-wide student information system with a common approach to report cards. This should serve our districts well as we transition to the new Common Core curriculum standards. We also implemented a new learning management system that will expand the curriculum, extend classroom activities beyond the school day, create greater opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate with their peers, and improve communication between parents and teachers. We are planning on deploying a fiber optic network with high speed Internet access among our schools and to the central office on July 1, 2012. This network will be built as part of a federal initiative to expand bandwidth access in Vermont. In this network, our schools will function as “anchor institutions” as part of a larger economic development strategy for the region.
Federal education policy as articulated through the No Child Left Behind Act continues to be a drain on our time, attention, and dollars. Vermont has applied for a waiver from its provisions, but I am concerned the direction of Federal education policy remains misguided, and ultimately will do more harm than good. As I survey the larger educational policy context, I believe our districts are well situated to articulate an alternative vision for schooling, a vision based on a respect for community, a dedication to high standards, and a focus on personalized learning opportunities for all students. Thank you for your continued support of this work.