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Superintendent's Report

Business Office | Curriculum | Business Office | Special Education | Human Resources | Early Education | Technology | Facilities | Communications | PATH | Reception Desk

(John Pandolfo - Superintendent; Tina Gilbert - Executive Assistant)

 

As we are now into the second half of our school year, I want to recognize everything you have done and continue to do for our students and families.  Thank you all!!!

With our snow day on January 24, our final student and staff day of the school year now looks like Friday, June 21.  I have heard from some staff who have not received calls on a delay or cancellation and from others when WCAX or other media sources have trouble with their messages.  I encourage staff to use multiple sources if you have any question whether there is a delay or cancellation.  We send messages out through staff email, call-em-all, news media, our Facebook pages, my Twitter feed, and our websites.  Don’t rely solely on one source!

I have now used the Infinite Campus Messenger for bulk emails on one real message, as well as one full-scale test.  We have also resolved the issue in Infinite Campus that allows me (and other SU staff) to utilize an “All Schools” option to send a single message out to all parent/guardians of in the SU rather than having to send out separate messages through each school.  At Barre City and Barre Town schools, full school messages will still need to be sent out separately to elementary and middle school parents, because of how IC is set up. Building administrators are now testing the IC Messenger system for building-wide emails.  Staff is encouraged to use messenger to communicate with parents as well.  Please note that Messenger only works for people who have correct email addresses in IC.  Any help you can give to your building registrars in maintaining the most current email addresses for parents/guardians is critical.

The Barre Unified Union School District Transitional Board met on January 10 and has the following upcoming “events” scheduled:

  • Board Meeting on Monday, February 18 at 5:30pm in the SHS Library
  • Public Information Hearing for Public Vote on Amended Default Articles of Agreement on Monday, February 18 at 6:00pm in the SHS Library
  • Public Vote on Amended Default Articles of Agreement on Tuesday, February 19 in Barre City and Barre Town
  • (Tentative) Petitions due for candidates for Initial Board Members seats by 5:00pm on Monday, March 4, 2019
  • Board Meeting on Thursday, March 7 at 5:30pm in the SHS Library
  • (Tentative) Election date for Initial Board Members on Tuesday, April 9 in Barre City and Barre Town.

We are planning a public dialogue on February 20, prior to the Public Information Hearing described above. Public Agenda will facilitate that dialogue around how Act 46 has impacted our community and how we move forward based on that.  All staff are welcome to attend.  More details will be provided as we get closer to February 20.

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Curriculum, Assessment & Instruction

In preparation for the spring assessment cycle, it is time to upload your student data into TIDE if you have not yet done so. The Smarter Balanced assessment window doesn’t open until March 13, 2019. However, there are several reasons why you might want to do your student data uploads soon: In order to apply for approval of a Text to Speech (TTS) accommodation, the student must be uploaded into TIDE for 2019. It is also necessary to have checked the IDEA or 504 button for the student because only students with an IEP or 504 are eligible for the TTS accommodation. Students also need to be uploaded into TIDE in order to take an Interim Assessment. If you need information on how to complete a TIDE upload, please see the TIDE User Guide and the training modules available on the VTCAP Assessment portal. Building based SBAC teams will be meeting soon to finalize spring assessment details and to ensure we are as ready as we can be when the assessment windows open.

The Vermont School Climate Survey (VTCLIM) launch has been pushed forward to the 2019-2020 school year. There were a series of factors that led to this decision, but the primary factor was a desire not to place a major tech burden on schools. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Sarah Birgé, School Climate Survey Coordinator, at sarah.birge@vermont.gov. This delay coincides with the overall delay in the release of disaggregated SBAC results and Science assessments results. There is no projected date for this data release at this time. The ability to create the reports for disaggregated student groups is dependent on the AOE having the final results of the spring 2018 student census. Without the census data, they have no accurate way to determine if a student was receiving free reduced lunch at the time of assessment, or if the student was receiving IEP services. The census data has been delayed due to the wait for deployment of the Agency’s new state longitudinal data system. As updates become available I will be sure to share them.

On January 23 a team of middle and elementary teachers and administrators attended a scheduling workshop sponsored by the AOE in collaboration with the District Management Group. District Management Group (DMGroup) is a Boston-based firm that works with school districts in order to improve student outcomes. This workshop covered best practices for optimizing building schedules, creating schedules that support special education staff and other interventions, and using technical strategies for scheduling. Also addressed was the importance of scheduling uninterrupted core instructional time, common planning time and extra-time intervention for struggling students. Individual school teams will be working on next steps, with a focus on equitable opportunities for all of our students.

A variety of teams have begun the work of reviewing current Continuous Improvement Plans (CIP) and modifying the plans as necessary for the 2019-2020 school year. This work will continue into this month and February, with a goal of being completed in time for the AOE to begin review in April. As stated in the Education Quality Standards, a Continuous Improvement Plan, as required in 16 V.S.A. §165, shall be developed and implemented in each public school district and be designed to improve the performance of all students enrolled in the district. We will continue to align any revisions in accordance with the new State accountability system, our annual snapshot and integrated field reviews. Here are the notes from the most recent Innovation team meeting (1/7/19) when the team drafted questions for an all staff survey as part of the CIP needs assessments. The surveys will be completed at an upcoming faculty meeting.

The continuous improvement planning cycle is a process that can support a learning community in implementing and studying small changes with the goal of making lasting improvement. Our CIP resource this month includes a description of the Plan, Do, Study Act cycle , which we use as part of the continuous planning process in all of our schools.

I am happy to announce that a team of elementary teachers and one SLP will be participating in a service learning opportunity with rural schools in Belize. This team will join Kathleen Kryza for one week in June, and provide professional development as well as co-teach in a variety of classrooms. This is an exciting opportunity for the Barre Supervisory Union, and I will be sure to include updates here as the plans continue to come together.

Colleague to colleague learning walks are happening at all grade levels in all of our schools. Here is a copy of a letter that was sent out to BTMES and BCEMS teachers a few weeks ago that includes a video from Peter DeWitt that connects to these learning opportunities.

 

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Business Office

Tax time is upon us! It’s that time of the year when people start to gather information for their income tax returns. Please consult with your tax preparer to see if it’s time to make a change to your W4. If so, contact your payroll accountant.

Last year we informed you that we will be implementing a new financial management system effective July 1, 2019. Although we have been working toward this, it appears that there may be a delay. More information will be forthcoming as the Agency of Education and General Assembly assess the timeline.

The FY20 Barre Unified Union School District Budget has been presented to all Boards. Merger activities are underway.

The AOE Medicaid audit is scheduled for March 7, 2019. Special education staff will want to complete outstanding paperwork and review IEPs to be sure they are in the system as final (Draft IEPs are not acceptable for Medicaid billing) by this date. Thanks to all the special education staff who go above
and beyond completing this paperwork, all students benefit greatly!

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Special Education

Barre City and Barre Town Special Education Elementary and Middle School Staff have continued to meet collectively as the year has progressed. We have utilized some of this time for job-alike conversations and sharing of expertise across our buildings.

As spring approaches, we have begun planning with an eye towards summer and the 2018-19 school year. During a recent Supervisory Union Administrator’s meeting, we participated in initial conversations regarding alignment of para-educator hiring processes between our schools. One agreed upon component of this alignment was that we will develop and use a common tool across buildings to gain input from para-educators regarding their placement preferences from one year to the next. We look forward to continuing this work as we approach spring and begin the detailed work of making para-educator placements for the 2019-20 school year.

Transition planning for students with special needs who will move from 8th grade to 9th grade has begun. Steve Kelley, SHS Special Education Department Head, has created and shared a tool to be used for collecting and sharing of pertinent student information and for coordinating the various team meetings and conversations that are part of this important transition.

We will also continue conversations about coordinating, aligning and combining efforts around the provision of Extended School Year (summer) Services for students across our schools.

On January 22nd, we wrapped up the third of three sessions of meaningful professional development time with Jen Patenaude. This session focused on service delivery models and the role of special education within an MTSS system.

Our second and final Time Schedule week will be the week of February 11-15. Time schedules are required by the Vermont AOE as documentation of allowable and reimbursable special education costs.

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Human Resources

What should I be doing as we transition from Data Path to Healthy Dollars?

  1. Throw away your yellow and black MySource card from Data Path. This was for use only with the 2018 plan.
  2. Make sure you have your new blue and white Healthy Dollars card. If you have not received your card or need a card for an adult child, please reach out to them directly to request. http://healthydollarsinc.com/
  3. Make sure you have the new BCBS card (the new one does NOT have your provider listed on it and has and effective date of 1/1/19).
  4. Create a new BCBS account on the BCBS employee portal. Use your new BCBS card number. You will have to have a separate account for each person on your plan. http://www.bcbsvt.com/individual-insurance.
  5. Create a Healthy Dollars account. You (the subscriber) only need one account - you do not need an account for everyone on your plan). Call them with any problems (you may have to use your old BCBS number).
  6. Confirm your FSA balance on the Healthy Dollars site. Call HR as soon as possible if you believe it to be incorrect.
  7. Never pay a medical bill before it has gone through BCBS. BCBS has negotiated rates with providers and you want to pay the discounted rate (after you receive your EOB).
  8. Don’t forget your EOB from BCBS is now called a SHPP (Summary of Health Plan Payments). As they change this name you will see them refer to the same documents by both names….just to add a new level of confusion. :-)
  9. We still have about 30 open issues. If you have an open issue and have not already notified us, please do as soon as possible.
  10. Share any feedback about Healthy Dollars with us. We have heard good things so far, and want to make sure their customer service remains excellent throughout the year.

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Early Education

The second half of the school year is busy for our preschool programs. Not only are teachers working on mid-year assessments and engaging children in thoughtfully crafted learning experiences, but they are getting ready to submit their STARS Annual Report, preschool program license renewals and looking forward to the Preschool Open House and Screening in the months ahead.

On January 22nd, preschool teachers worked toward completing the Teaching Strategies GOLD Interrater Reliability Test during the morning professional development session. The Interrater Reliability Test results in a certification, which documents each teacher’s reliability in their assessment capabilities as they rate children in each developmental domain.

On January 23rd, representatives from both Barre City and Barre Town special education teams met with Children’s Integrated Services to discuss children who will be transitioning from Part C to Part B services in the coming months. This meeting provides us with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of supports to put in place for children as we plan for this significant transition.

Preschool and kindergarten teams at both schools have begun meeting about the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Conversations will focus on how to best collaborate before, during, and after the transition to kindergarten, with a focus on supporting families throughout the process as well.

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Technology

Microsoft Office 365: I am happy to announce that BSU has signed up for the Microsoft Office 365 Education free online suite. It works just like the G Suite for Education and allows you to use the web version of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Sway, SharePoint and many other features of Microsoft Office 365. Since it is web-based, staff and students can use Chromebooks to access Microsoft 365 Education Suite. If you or your students are interested, use your school email account and sign up for free. Click the following link to get started: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/products/office/default.aspx

Social Media Tasks: Are you interested in growing your online learning network? If so, complete task A or B below.

Task A: Twitter

1.Setup a Twitter account

2.Explore relevant Twitter hashtags (i.e.,#bsupride, #vted, #bsuJanPD, #edtech, #MakerSpace)

3.Follow a few people on Twitter (i.e., @barreschools, @bsucurriculum, @SpauldingHSVT, @BarreTownSchool, @BarreTechCtr)

4.Setup your Tweetdeck and follow 2-3 hashtags

5.Participate in a Twitter Chat

Task B: Online Spaces for Educators

1.Review the Online Spaces for Educators Table

2.Identify 1-2 spaces that you would like to join to connect with others and grow your network

3.Sign in/sign up for and explore these spaces.

Copier/Printer news - Please continue to use the new Toshiba copier/printers for your copy and print jobs. The Toshiba copier/printers have the most economical per page cost, and the toner is included in our copier contract. Use of the Toshiba Copier/Printers reduces the financial hit on our traditional ink/toner budget.

We continue to seek and learn new ways of bolstering our network security through ongoing professional development for our network team. The team attended a webinar put together by our antivirus software vendor. Discussions, among other things, included a variety of topics on current online security best practices, and how to protect our network from cyber attacks proactively. We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that our staff and students data is secured.

Book Creator and VITA-Learn partnered to provide Vermont educators with discounted Book Creator licenses. Book Creator is a tool for creating excellent digital books. Students can combine texts, images, audio and video to create Interactive stories, science reports, digital portfolios, research journals, instruction manuals, poetry books, ‘About Me’ books, and comics adventures.

Since some of our teachers are taking advantage of this tool to unleash their student’s creativity, I have purchased a few licenses for this endeavor. Connect with Emily Loughlin (elougshs@u61.net), Jennifer Luck-Hill (jluckcvcc@u61.net) or Ben Matthews (bmattbce@u61.net) for assistance.

Technology Bits and Bytes:

4 tips to help boost kids’ online safety, privacy and security (Resource link)

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Facilities

The final installation of new fire doors has been completed during the winter vacation break at SHS/CVCC. This work completes the mandated requirement from the Vermont state fire marshal’s office. The installation of new security doors was also installed during the winter break near the auditorium lobby.

BTMES installed a set of new exterior doors at the rear portion of the building. New bullet resistant glass was installed in the main entrance doors to the main front entrance of the school. This work was completed by using funds from the state of Vermont safety grant.

Various maintenance and custodial tasks were tackled during the winter vacation break. Mid-year servicing and cleaning of building equipment occurred as well as various small projects. BCEMS kitchen received a new propane grill to replace a failing unit.

Work continues to complete state funded safety projects at all BSU school buildings

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 Communications

On January 23d, our new website finally went live and operational. A great deal of work has gone into producing the new website, and I am very grateful for the help and assistance of the entire Technology Team, especially Josh Allen, Mike Emmons, and Dan Smith; as well as so many individuals at the BSU and at our three schools. (CVCC maintains its own website, to which ours is linked). Going forward, the new site will allow us to showcase the learning, activities, and opportunities that happen at our schools every day; as well as communicate better, more quickly, and more efficiently with parents, taxpayers, and community members. One caveat: the new site is still a work in progress, with more news, photos, and information to come. If you are unable to find what you are looking for; or have thoughts about pages/sites that could be added, we would love to hear from you.

With the website launch behind us, the focus of my work can now turn to helping the BSU and our schools communicate with parents, the community, and with each other to further the goals and objectives of the entire district. To that end, we’ll be looking at using traditional print media, social media (including the new website), the local papers, and other means to promote the work that’s going on here every day. We have a wonderful and generous offer from the Times Argus to showcase student work on a full page sometime this February and you can be sure we will take full advantage of that

One initiative - the Barre Education Coalition - has been on the back burner until pending the outcome of Act 46. Again, by the time this newsletter reaches your hands, we will know a great deal more about how we’re going to move forward than we do now. We appreciate our Coalition members’ patience and willingness to serve.

Finally, work is proceeding on the Annual Report, which will be printed and available prior to the budget vote.

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PATH

2019’s “Get a Clue”, 10 Week Path Adventure started January 28th!

Be sure to sign-in and start earning points towards your $100 L.L Bean gift card.

Upcoming Events:

  • Delicious Superfood Bon Bons for Valentine’s Day with Marie Frohlich (FREE) - Thursday February 7, 6-7:30 - BT upstairs health classroom (room 200). Come learn about the highs and lows of sugar intake, some real ahas on how to enjoy the sweets without the blues and enjoy making some tea and delicious herbal bon bons together while we explore ways to help make your sweet tooth valentine-healthy. Tastes, tea, and recipes provided. Treats for everyone to take home and share with loved ones (or not!).
  • Herbal Allies for Restorative Sleep with Erin Rosenthal (FREE) - Wednesday, February 13, 4-6pm, BT upstairs health classroom, room 200.  Good sleep is a critical part of well-being, yet many of us get precious little of it in our fast-paced, stress-filled lives. Join us to learn about the fascinating physiological functions of sleep and how herbs can be of support through hands-on exploration with our senses. We’ll taste and smell several key herbs and discuss a variety of herbal preparations that can easily be done at home. Participants will create their own herb-filled eye pillows to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
  • Financial Workshop - Understanding Social Security! (FREE) - Wednesday February 20, 4:00-4:45 pm - Spaulding High School, Barre. Considering retirement in the next few years? When should you take Social Security? David Gold, our BSU 403B administrator, will talk about when is the best time to collect your Social Security. This is for all BSU staff, as well as any family members who might be interested.

PATH building leaders:

  • BC: Gretchen Singer, Diana Flood
  • SHS: Beth Bicknell, Jesse Carpenter, Sarah Chap
  • CVCC: Wendy Clark, Cheryl Zanleoni
  • BT: Laura Thygesen, Jessie Casavant, Amy Robertson
  • BSU: Ashley Dunlea

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Reception Desk

Our staff at BSU has started meeting once a month. We have created a Crisis Team to discuss “What do we do at our office if?” We will be participating in an ALICE drill at our office in February. Our goal is to implement safety procedures for our building. This could impact visitors to our office. Any changes we make will be for all of our protection including all visitors to our office space.

I continue to interview and hire new substitutes for our district.

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