Category Archives: goals

Report of the Superintendent of Schools 2012

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.

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Comments on Supervisory Operations, March 2009

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon various operational aspects of our districts with an eye on identifying areas of future work.

Collective Bargaining

We began the school year with three out of our six teacher contracts settled.  All six were settled as of December 2008.  Two contracts required mediation to achieve a settlement.  The chart below summarizes the FY2008 salary schedules as compared to the FY2009 salary schedules.

BASE BA HIGH MA BASE MA HIGH
FY2008 FY2009 FY2008 FY2009 FY2008 FY2009 FY2008 FY2009
BRSU $32,983 $33,801 $48,316 $50,506 $37,708 $38,643 $56,368 $58,783
Currier $32,679 $33,858 $57,566 $59,642 $37,277 $38,622 $57,566 $59,642
Dorset $28,776 $32,065 $59,048 $61,813 $32,833 $36,251 $59,048 $61,813
Manchester $32,895 $34,237 $53,594 $55,781 $36,691 $38,187 $60,691 $63,167
Mettawee $29,242 $30,277 $56,144 $58,131 $33,628 $34,818 $57,606 $59,645
Sunderland $29,617 $30,417 $53,607 $55,055 $34,060 $34,980 $53,607 $55,055

The next time we bargain we will have to bargain as a supervisory union in accordance with the requirements of a new law.  This law requires that each district involved in negotiations convene a “bargaining council” that will meet with the other bargaining councils in the supervisory union.  The result of this process will be a unified contract.  Currier and Sunderland contracts expire a year before the other contracts.  As a first step towards a unified contract, I believe we should attempt to seek common language in those areas that are already very similar.  These areas of similar language represent approximately 80% of the language in our contracts.  This could be achieved by starting with new language or by using one of our current contracts as a prototype.  I recommend beginning this work in the fall of 2009.

Centralization vs. Local Control

We have begun to explore how to leverage centralization to our advantage.  This work is represented to date by our common approach to organizing board meeting agendas, hiring staff, purchasing heating oil and photocopiers, a board policy framework, job descriptions of the superintendent and principals, and related evaluation processes.  In most supervisory unions, the rationale for such centralization is more readily apparent because these organizations operate schools K-12: there is a natural tendency towards centralization in supervisory unions when a primary requirement is to ensure a seamless educational program for students as they transition from one school to another within the same system.  This is the system that was anticipated by the law; the relative roles and responsibilities of board members, the superintendent, and principals were set out in the law to support this type of structure.

Our supervisory union is more of a federal system.  I have suggested, however, that our districts would be well served by re-examining what systems might be centralized and what systems should remain at the local level.  To that end, I recommend we consider the following specific areas for review:

  • Business Services – Last year the business operations of Mettawee were brought into the supervisory union.  This consolidation reduced costs slightly while providing greater efficiency because it eliminated duplication of effort and enhanced our reporting capabilities.  The business operations of the Dorset School and MEMS should be reviewed in a similar manner.  I estimate one additional staff person would be necessary at the supervisory union level to replace the work being performed by two positions in these districts.  This consolidation would improve our audit process which is taking too long largely due to the necessity of central office staff to perform a pre-audit on the books of these districts.  This consolidation would also enhance our ability to utilize financial information in order to better meet our strategic planning needs.
  • Coordination of Curriculum – The supervisory union employs a curriculum coordinator.  The curriculum coordinator has worked with the principals on an annual basis to develop a curriculum work plan that guides and coordinates the curriculum in each district.  This work has led to the development of supervisory union curriculum in most subject areas with grade level teams of teachers from all districts meeting regularly to develop common local assessments and to share instructional strategies.  At the same time, several of our schools employ their own curriculum staff in the areas of math, reading, and science.  This structure should be examined from a systems perspective to see if it could be streamlined or better focused to support the larger curriculum work.
  • Special Education Administrative Staff – The supervisory union employs an assistant superintendent for student services and two special education directors.  Dorset and Manchester each employ their own special education directors.  The roles and responsibilities of these positions should be examined to see if it would make more sense to have all special education administrators be employees of the supervisory union.  Such a structure might allow for greater flexibility in assigning administrative responsibilities as student needs change, and could enhance our ability to supervise secondary student programming needs across all sending districts.  I also believe this change would eliminate redundancies and duplication of tasks while promoting a more consistent implementation of frequently changing rules and regulations.
  • Early Education – The supervisory union oversees the operation of five early education sites.  Two of these sites are located in private child care centers and one is located in the Mt. Tabor town office building.  These programs serve special needs students and students deemed to be at risk.  Manchester has expressed an interest in expanding the program located at MEMS to include all four year olds.  The process for considering this expansion will be started in the spring of 2009.  A natural outcome of this process will be to examine if the early education programs should be administered by the supervisory union, the districts, or some combination of both.
  • Transportation – Three districts (Dorset, Manchester, and Sunderland) operate their own busing and Currier and Mettawee contract their transportation out to their member districts.  Rupert and Pawlet just went out to bid for a two year transportation contract.  This new contract will expire at the same time the contract expires for Danby, Mt. Tabor and Currier.  Before these contracts are renewed in two years, I believe we should examine all of our student transportation systems to see if a more efficient system could be achieved.  A particular area of concern is special education transportation.  We are frequently required to provide student transportation for special education students as a related service under their Individual Education Plans.  Our costs in this area are high, and due to the lack of a systematic approach our special education administrators have to spend a great deal of time to trying to develop and secure transportation services for their students.
  • Information Systems – We have implemented several information systems to increase efficiency and to provide greater functionality.  These systems include Google Apps (mail, calendaring, instant messaging, and collaborative documents and websites), SpEdDoc (a centralized special education data management system), AlertNOW (emergency messaging system), and Web2School and PowerSchool (student information management systems).  To move forward with technology both from an operational/efficiency perspective and from an instructional perspective will require us to standardize the networking hardware in each school.  An emerging concern is the need to expand wireless connectivity within the school buildings to meet increased demand from students and staff for access to networked resources.  These needs will be best met by adopting a common hardware approach among all of the schools.

Policy Work

Our districts have engaged in a significant policy revision process.  All districts that operate schools have begun to work on adopting a new policy framework that includes mandatory policies, local policies and ends policies.  The ends policies should serve as a helpful structure in guiding conversations about the future goals of each school.  I will begin working with the districts that do not operate schools to create a policy manual that meets their needs in a similar manner.  The last phase of the policy work is to review supervisory union policies and procedures.  Much of this effort will be focused on revising financial procedures, curriculum coordination policies, and professional development policies.  It is my hope that we can begin this work in the fall of 2009.

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Report of the Superintendent 2009

The supervisory union embarked on several structural changes to its operations in 2008. Hiring procedures were centralized and uniform personnel provisions for non-teaching staff were implemented in all districts. The business operations of the Mettawee Community School were transferred to the supervisory union office providing greater efficiency and control for that district and at no additional cost to either the district or the supervisory union.

Our five districts who operate schools partnered with the supervisory union to consolidate photocopier leases and to go out to bid for these services together under one contract. This process took about 7 months and will ultimately result in a predicted savings of $85,000 in the first five years of the new contract with even greater savings in the future as old leases are paid off.

All districts and the central office were moved to Google’s free communication platform for educational institutions. This platform gives staff the ability to use a common messaging and calendaring system. Federal grant funds were used to implement a computerized student information system in our four schools that did not operate such a system. These systems will enhance school-parent communications and give staff better access to student achievement data. Grant funds were also used to purchase an emergency messaging system for all of our schools. This system, AlertNOW, gives each school the ability to contact parents instantly by sending a single message through a web-based interface.

A central special education database was established in the supervisory union office over the summer. This centralization required the consolidation of approximately 15 separate databases throughout the supervisory union. The new configuration allows staff to access the database over the Internet, and gives staff better data on special education programs across all districts. This consolidation of databases allowed the supervisory union to eliminate a clerical position.

The boards began a process to revise administrative job descriptions. A particular focus of this work is the examination of the responsibilities of the superintendent as compared to the principals. This work will be helpful in clarifying expectations for all staff, and will lead to the establishment of evaluation processes for administrators that are closely tied to meeting organizational objectives.

The boards embarked upon a major revision of their policy manuals with the intent of standardizing the mandatory policies required by the state while at the same time maintaining local flexibility in areas of special interest to their communities. Having standardized mandatory policies will provide common policy language to support the training of staff in areas of emerging legal concern. The new policies articulate how each board will operate and describe the organizational objectives of each district. The policy process will culminate in a mass policy adoption in the Spring of 2009.

The work described above represents the earnest support of many volunteer board members who have given countless hours on behalf of their districts. Their ability to work together to leverage centralization where prudent and to maintain local control when necessary is indicative of their exemplary dedication to public service. This work also represents the commitment of our building level staff to serve all our students and families. I thank them for their work. Such dedication will be necessary to navigate our current economic circumstances. I feel confident, however, that we are off to a good start and have formed the basis of a productive working relationship. We will continue to seek opportunities to become more efficient in our operations but not lose sight of our primary mission to meet the educational needs of all of our students.

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Goals for 2008-2009

The following is being presented to the BRSU board on September 22, 2008 for their consideration and input.

I thought I would take this opportunity to set some goals for the 2008-2009 school year. The goal categories used below are based on the draft job superintendent description (enclosed). I would appreciate any suggestions you might have in terms of setting goals and priorities for my work this year.

Student Learning and Instruction

I will be working with the principals to understand how information technologies might change teaching and learning. I see these potential changes as being significant and important to the future success of our students. My emergent vision for technology is: 1) bring the staff online through a collaborative communications platform, 2) deploy instructional content and related learning systems online, and 3) put more technology into the hands of students.

School Board-Superintendent Relationship

All of our districts need to have their policies reviewed, and I suspect this work will culminate in a mass policy adoption and/or elimination. I anticipate creating two model policy handbooks: one for districts that do not operate schools, and one for districts that do operate schools. We have a subcommittee formed to support this work. Before the subcommittee meets, I would like to produce a complete draft policy handbook. I will be working with a team from the Manchester School District to produce this draft by the first week of October.

Community Leadership

I suspect much of my work in this area will be related to explaining the implementation of the two-vote provision of Act 82. I hope to get out more this year to talk with community groups about our school systems.

I will be participating in a leadership retreat sponsored by the state board of education around the transformation of Vermont’s public school system. I will be able to provide input into this conversation from the perspective of our communities.

Supervision of District Personnel

I would like to have a superintendent job description adopted this year so we can have at least one evaluation of my performance as superintendent completed by the spring.

I am working with the principals to revise teacher evaluation procedures so they promote the improvement of instruction while at the same providing sufficient and consistent documentation of job performance for personnel files.

Business and Program Operations

We have implemented student information systems in all of our schools. This will allow us to have an improved understanding of student enrollment trends. Likewise, we have consolidated our special education data into a single database.

I intend to report to the boards three times a year on the financial status of the districts. This reporting process will improve internal financial controls, and allow me to better meet the fiduciary responsibilities of my position.

PRIORITIES

Based on a review of this work, I believe my priorities for the 2008-2009 school year should be:

1. A revision of district policies

  • ensure mandatory policies are consistent across all districts
  • support boards, through policy, in engaging their communities in an ongoing conversation about organizational outcomes
  • promote separation of administrative tasks from governance responsibilities to ensure both a high degree of innovation and accountability

2. The implementation of regular financial reports to boards

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