Board member Phil Taylor said he has been thinking about a school name change since an earlier discussion of signage for the new middle/high school. “I’m not suggesting a radical change – the name we have now was picked through a collaborative effort – but I’ve never been comfortable saying Twin Valley Middle/High School. I’ve talked to a couple people and tossed around the idea of Twin Valley Academy.”
Taylor said substituting academy for middle/high school in the name would emphasize the new academic program that will be implemented with the new building, and its focus on academic achievement. “The idea in my mind was to really bring home the academic aspect of it,” he said. “When you look at the mission and the idea of teaching 21st century skills, to me academies are places where you learn special skills. Academy was the name that came to our minds most, but the idea is to choose a name that would define where we want to head in terms of academics and 21st century learning.”
“So the idea is to refresh, distinguish, and align with what our goals are,” summed up Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd.
Whitingham board member John Doty, also a former Whitingham School principal, said the term “middle/high school” is widely known and accepted around Vermont, but he said the name “Academy” might have added meaning to the public. “It also leaves open the possibility of stretching beyond grade 12,” he said. “There might be a time when we want to have post-graduate courses there.”
During the discussion, supervisory union business manager Karen Atwood searched for a definition of academy online. “One of the synonyms for academy is brainery,” she mused, prompting others at the table to consider “Twin Valley Brainery” out loud.
Twin Valley Elementary School Principal Rebecca Fillion said it will be important for the board to ensure that putting academy in the name is tied to a change in the program. “I’m okay with the name, but I don’t want to put it before the program. If you just put a word on a sign and don’t deliver the program, it won’t have meaning.”
In other facilities matters, Atwood announced that the state has informed the district that they’ll receive as much as half of their expected state aid for construction at Twin Valley Elementary School sometime in August. Board members expressed surprise; during financial informational meetings, board members warned the public that it could take years for the funding to come through.
Taylor said construction on the high school, or academy, appears to be on schedule. “Although we were delayed on certain buildings, I think we’re still going to have a significant amount of time to work on them before school opens (next fall),” he said. “The big thing helping us is the switchover to the middle school pod (during vacation week), allowing them to get to work on these (former elementary school) pods. That means they’ll be able to get as much work out of the way as they can so there’s no real crunch in summer.”
Superintendent Richard McClements said that, while seeking window alternatives for Readsboro School, he heard about a new window product that will allow teachers to adjust the amount of light that enters through the windows as the amount of sunlight changes throughout the day. The new window shade product isn’t available yet, he said, but it’s scheduled to be introduced at an upcoming custodial conference. McClements said the company is looking for a school to do pilot testing of the product, and suggested the board apply to become the test subject.
“Lots of natural lighting enhances and improves student achievement,” McClements said. “But in an emergency, the principal will be able to hit one button, and all the shades will come down.”
In other discussions, Taylor complimented Twin Valley Middle School teachers and principal Keith Lyman for the school’s recent “FedEx” day – during which students get 24-hours to work on a project of their choice. “It was just phenomenal,” Taylor said. “Students were using the real-world skills we want them to have. And the excitement was fantastic.”
“It really is,” agreed Lyman. “And it really benefits students. We had one group that created a new master schedule for grades 6 through 12 that includes a second recess. Another group asked me to get a map of the high school so they could resolve the issue of what to do with the high school. It’s a model for interdisciplinary planning and carrying out as a team.”