We fully implemented our model to personalize student learning in the 2013-2014 school year. This model includes Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) for students, NWEA MAP testing, and school board monitoring reports. Student PLPs were implemented as part of student-led parent conferences. NWEA MAP testing was administered three times during the year. This test is a computer-based test that measures student abilities in reading and math. Three school board monitoring reports were published based on NWEA MAP test results. An additional monitoring report was completed to give the boards an indication of student learning in the policy areas of Dispositions Towards Learning and Civic Ethics. This monitoring report was done in a single presentation and included examples from all of our schools. This presentation can be viewed online at http://goo.gl/3jBMSI.
We implemented a new system to improve the transparency and efficiency of our school board governance processes. This system can be found online at http://brsu.iqm2.com. This system gives community members the ability to search school board meeting agendas and minutes. Community members can also register on the website and subscribe to any board or committee in order to be notified when new meetings are posted or to receive meeting agendas through email.
The BRSU Board continued its work on achieving the mandatory centralization aspects of the Act 153 and Act 156. The Board concluded it was not more cost effective to centralization student bus transportation so it requested a waiver from the Agency of Education. The Agency awarded the BRSU a waiver from this requirement for one year. The Board intends to pursue another waiver this year since the underlying conditions that justified the initial waiver still exist. Basically, BRSU districts do not have intersecting bus routes which feed into a common middle school or high school so some of the conditions that make the centralization of student transportation work from an effectiveness standpoint in other districts do not exist in the BRSU.
The BRSU Board designed a task force process to examine how best to centralize special education services. Unlike transportation services, Vermont law explicitly requires this centralization to occur by making all special educators supervisory union employees. The BRSU Board approved a FY2016 budget which includes centralized special education costs. This new budget structure has significantly changed the portrayal of special education costs in local budgets with most of these costs now being organized into a series of local assessments paid to the BRSU. The actual implementation of centralized special education services is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 1, 2015, but this is contingent on employment concerns being resolved through the collective bargaining process.
A common theme to the BRSU approach to centralization of educational services has been logical thinking: where it has made sense to centralize we have done so aggressively. At the same time, we have not centralized services when centralization was determined to be more expensive or perceived to be less effective. We were challenged to maintain a disposition towards logical analysis when H.883 was passed by the Vermont House last year. Although this legislation did not become law and was a fairly legitimate response to the larger demographic, efficiency and equity challenges across Vermont’s system of public education, I feel it is important for our system to do its own due diligence on these issues in order to position our organization to be successful based on our specific local and regional circumstances. For example, in spite of the general decline in the number of pupils state wide, four of our six schools have had significant increases in enrollments over the last two years.
Thank you for your continued support of our schools. I continued to be heartened by the willingness of so many in our communities to support the future success of our children by investing in the high quality educational programs of our schools.