Note: Due to the late afternoon Governor’s press conference March 3 where the state’s announcement around masking in schools was made, I delayed my usual Thursday letter to this afternoon in order to process this new information with my staff. Thanks for your understanding.
March 4, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Welcome back from winter break! It was so nice to see our schools full of activity during this abbreviated week, both for learning and for voting on Town Meeting Day. Speaking of which, big news! Our FY23 budget passed! Thank you so much for your continued support of our District. This will have a direct impact on our students and staff in myriad ways and I am incredibly grateful. In addition, we also welcomed three new members to our school board: Kate Bailey, Michelle Boyer, and Chelsea Tillinghast. At the board’s first post election day meeting March 2, Dr.Travia Childs was elected as the new chair and Chelsea Tillinghast was elected clerk. On the City side: the municipal budget passed and Meaghan Emery and Tim Barritt were reelected to the City Council. You can find more details on the election results here. Congratulations to all.
If the school board makes a motion to approve at a special meeting March 9, the South Burlington School District will be making masks optional for all students and staff effective Monday, March 14. This date is based upon the guidance that was announced at the Governor’s March 3 press conference which noted that the state will be making COVID guidance for schools aligned with the recommendations for the general population. Our latest statewide COVID modeling data continues to trend in a positive direction. Between now and the 14th, there will be thoughtful and progressive actions being taken at individual schools that will move us toward more “normal” looking operations for the remainder of the school year. Look for more details to come from me as well as school administrators soon.
I know for some, this will be a welcome, long-awaited shift, but for others, this could cause heightened anxiety. I want to make it clear that students and staff can continue to mask based upon their own level of comfort and personal risk assessment. We will be having conversations with students about what respecting mask choice looks like in school and we’re asking for help from families to reiterate this as well. Families, please, have conversations with your student(s) to support their respect and kindness towards others. Encourage them to be mindful that everyone’s situation is different and has unique variables. We are one community.
Have questions? Our amazing local doctors are here to help! Throughout the pandemic, several doctors have been tremendous advisors to me and our community at large and have generously agreed to join me for my next Zoom Q and A (Meeting ID: 857 9621 4937 Passcode: 501842) March 7 from 6-7 pm to help answer questions from both families and staff. Hope you can join us!
The CDC recently made changes to mask requirements on school buses and we will be in alignment with this recommendation to make masks optional on our buses effective March 14 as long as the school board also approves a motion to make masks optional on that date.
Rapid Antigen Tests
Before the break, we distributed free rapid antigen tests to students and staff and encouraged their use in the two days before returning from winter break. Today, we made them available to all students and staff once again. We will continue to make these available for the foreseeable future.
Dates of Note:
March 7, 6-7 pm: Zoom chat with me and medical professional for families and staff
March 9, 7-8 pm Special School Board meeting to discuss masking
March 11, 10-11 am Big Picture Virtual Open House for prospective students
March 10, 6 pm at Burleigh Court SBHS Student and Staff Unified Sports Game
March 12, SB Artmix 2022 at Higher Ground
Key District Positions Updates
Executive Director of Equity Process Update
The search committee for the Executive Director for Equity, facilitated by Rhiannon Kim met for the second time prior to the winter break. At the second meeting, Rhiannon shared the compiled responses from the committee members. Candidates who were strongly recommended by at least three committee members were selected as potential candidates to interview. The committee had a discussion about the selected candidates and democratically decided on 11 candidates to contact for interviews. Currently there are six interviews scheduled to occur on zoom the week of March 7th.
The committee will meet prior to these interviews to discuss and refine interview questions, discuss the process/protocols for the interviews and the subsequent discussions. Rhiannon is suggesting that the committee members each take time to review their impressions of the interviewees to include concerns, strengths, and overall impression: do I recommend this person for a 2nd interview? and a discussion will be held at a separate meeting to ensure equal “air time” for each committee member. The emphasis is on democratic processes in which there is room for discussion and even debate as necessary.
FHTMS Principal Search
The FHTMS principal interview committee, facilitated by Pat Philips, met March 2nd to determine who will be interviewed and to compose the questions that will be asked. They hope to start interviews next week.
SBHS Student Will Compete in State Poetry Out Loud Finals!
SBHS student Gianna Morin will be South Burlington’s representative to the State’s Poetry Out Loud competition March 14th at the Barre Opera House. The national Poetry Out Loud recitation competition engages thousands of Vermont high school students every year. Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the program provides pathways for students to explore, memorize, and recite great works of poetry. According to English teacher Joyce Sheehey, “We had so many good contestants for this year's Poetry Out Loud contest, held in February. It was another year of all video submissions, but the state competition will be a live, in-person event.”
Also, coming next Thursday! Unified Sports Match! Don’t miss it! Students Mercedes Rozzi and Greta Heldman have helped organize this exciting matchup between staff and students! There are roughly 25 students and staff participating.
Admission to the game will be $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors. This admission cost will be part of the donation to the Penguin Plunge. Admission is open to the public and masks are required. In addition to the fun game, raffle tickets for some amazing prizes from Vermont businesses will also be available for purchase and will benefit the Penguin Plunge. What’s Unified Sports? The Unified Sports Club brings people together and promotes inclusion. This program empowers individuals with and without disabilities to engage through the power of sports. I’m looking forward to it!
FHTMS: 6 Students Headed to MathCounts State Championships
John Radimer let me know that 6 FHTMS students will be headed to the virtual MathCounts State Championships in late March! Each State is subdivided into four regions and the top four in each region qualify for the state championships. Congratulations to Chloe Elkareh, Cindy Do, Liza Lisnic, Evan Xia, Joe Hollander, and Richard Jiang.
RMCS Earns an All-School Celebration before Winter Break
Prior to the break, RMCS students filled their Marky Moose Bin with Marky Marks from all the classrooms! They earned a schoolwide celebration with time for board games for all! As evidenced by the smiles and engagement in these photos, it was a huge success!
PBIS is a framework that recognizes students who are following expectations and being model citizens in our school communities. Students at RMCS collect Marky Marks and earn classroom level celebrations for meeting goals first. Then those Marky Marks are added into the schoolwide Marky Bin toward a schoolwide celebration.
PBIS helps our schools to teach consistent expectations and what helpful behavior looks and sounds like in each of the different school environments. It also supports providing classroom discussions, shared goals, and student voice and agency in problem solving.
GCS Featured in Statewide PBIS Report
Speaking of PBIS, have you seen it? The VT PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) winter quarterly report is out and GCS was featured quite a bit! From photos to links to the stories WCAX did on GCS’ use of these modalities. Recognize the individuals on pages 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 16 and 19? Wow, so many photos of GCS staff and students shine in this report! PBIS is a framework used at all of our elementary schools and we’re so proud to see this feature!
Orchard Farm to School: Growing Microgreens Hints at Spring
Local nonprofit Common Roots has been back with a very spring-like lesson for our elementary students: microgreens! According to Common Roots, “As we make our way through winter, it may look like there is not much happening on the earth around us. There may be a layer of snow, and all of the plants seem to be at rest until they can come back up in the spring. However, the soil beneath our feet is alive and hard at work to regenerate and revitalize itself so it is ready to support all of the plants that want to start growing this spring.” Growing microgreens is a great way to feed ourselves fresh green foods all winter long. Fun fact: they can also provide our bodies with up to 40X more nutrients than eating the fully grown plant! Orchard students are sure to enjoy them throughout the rest of winter and into the spring too.!
Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to all of the hopeful next steps March will bring!