School board continues working on plans for new district
WARDSBORO - At its meeting Monday night, the River Valleys Union School District board gave Windham Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Bill Anton further guidance about considerations to take when formulating a plan for how the new district will operate.
At their last meeting, the board gave Anton guidance about how to address the use of buildings in the district; the curriculum; programming such as music, arts, and foreign language; pre-K; transportation; and defining what choice parents will have in terms of which district school their children attend. At the time, the board said Anton could use town lines as a default for school building attendance.
This week, Anton asked the board to clarify whether defaulting to town lines was a “guardrail” or a “policy.” Throughout the board’s work, a “guardrail” has been referred to as something they’re charging the administration with that they won’t budge on. A policy, on the other hand, may be more amendable. Anton said defining town lines as the default for which building a child attends could limit in him other areas of the work he’ll do to form procedures for the new district.
“If the guardrail is student attendance is defined by town lines, that means you have to (add) a 3-year-old (pre-K) program here in Wardsboro,” said Anton. “We have to have equity. We can’t create one program open to all, we have to create parallel programs.”
In other words, if it’s unchangeable that students default to the school for the town they’re in, both buildings would have to have 3- and 4-year-old pre-K programs for equitability to exist. Currently, Dover offers pre-K programming for both age groups, but Wardsboro only offers programming for 4-year-olds.
That’s not necessarily to say that Anton won’t say not to put a 3-year-old program in both schools.
However, he said, he would like to have the freedom to bring whatever recommendation seemed most fit back to the board, at which point they could change their approach based on their wishes. The board agreed.
The board and Anton also discussed goals for the board’s long-term work and how they will measure success within them. Those goals included student proficiency and growth, fiscal responsibility, parent and community outreach, and creating personal learning plans for each student.
Under student proficiency and growth, the board discussed using current student assessments as a measurement tool, but also looking at growth. “Our goal is to be better than the year before,” said chair Rich Werner.
“That’s why you have growth,” said Anton. “If you’re just proficient, you can drop and still be proficient.”
Under fiscal responsibility, the board landed on a goal of creating budgets that voters support that are justifiable and similar to previous budgets supported by both towns. Under parent and community outreach, the board reasoned that it can’t force engagement, but it can control how available it makes information.
“The goal is that we will have regular and available sources of information,” said Anton. Currently, the board records its meetings, which are available on BCTV, and has contracted with Anita Rafael, who works on communications outreach. Among Rafael’s tasks is a monthly column about the board’s work in the Bucketville News.
Regarding personal learning plans, Werner said he thought it may be worthy to create personal learning plans for fifth- and sixth-graders so they are more prepared for seventh grade and beyond, where personal learning plans are required. Anton said he would like more time to think about how this goal could be achieved, and he will bring more information to the board’s next meeting.
Throughout the meeting, the board sat below newly-made banners that bear their vision and mission statements for the new district.
“We’ll use these to guide us as we work,” said chair Rich Werner.
Throughout the meeting, several board members pointed to the banners as what they should be striving for through their work.