Posted in General, Malletts Bay School, Programs, Wellness

MBS Students Take Part in UVM Research

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.
—Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt

Students at Malletts Bay School are participating in an exciting pilot program designed to study the effects of exercise on a variety of areas, including academic performance, concentration, cognitive function, and health measures.

The voluntary study was designed by Connie Tompkins, PhD and David Brock, PhD, principal investigators with the Department of Rehabilitation & Movement Science at the University of Vermont. Dr. Tompkins, a Colchester resident and childhood obesity expert, reached out to Principal Julie Benay about a before-school physical activity program as a basis for the pilot study, which runs three days per week. Exercise science students from UVM help facilitate the program, engaging the participants in an interesting array of moderate-to-vigorous physical activities. Participants have a variety of equipment, such as basketballs, soccer balls, and jump ropes, to hold their interest. They all wear heart monitors, and they and their parents occasionally complete questionnaires for the statistical component of the study.

In addition to concerns about the nation’s accelerating obesity epidemic, behavioral issues in schools are also reportedly on the rise all across the country. Simultaneously, with so much emphasis on academic performance as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, many schools are reducing or are altogether eliminating physical education and recess opportunities for students. (This is not the case in Colchester School District, however. At MBS, students have year-round, twice-weekly physical education, and they also have two recesses per day.) Dr. Tompkins cited a book entitled Spark describing the positive effects of aerobic exercise on brain function. The book also describes a fitness program’s effect on a particular school district in Naperville, Illinois, which essentially served to not only significantly boost students’ test scores but also served to virtually eliminate behavioral and disciplinary issues. (For more information about the Naperville, Illinois, project, click here.)

Only a small number of participants are involved in this pilot study, but it may help to build support for a larger-scale study in the spring. It may also help to assess the feasibility of implementing a more permanent before-school physical activity program. Such an ambition would also fit well with the district’s wellness program. Malletts Bay School in particular has championed a number of wellness-related initiatives. Among other examples, MBS has extensive community gardens, a newly unveiled bouldering wall, a mindfulness curriculum, and Principal Benay was recognized by VEHI in August for her contributions toward the promotion of school employee wellness.

For more information about the pilot study, please contact Dr. Connie Tompkins at connie.tompkins@uvm.edu.

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Posted in General

Colchester School Board Adopts New Restrictive Behavioral Intervention Policy

At its November 15 meeting, the Colchester School Board approved revisions to the district’s Restrictive Behavioral Intervention Policy (F35), and the revisions are effective immediately.

The revised policy more accurately reflects the board’s position on restraints and seclusion, and the definitions were eliminated. Procedurally, the policy will comply with Rule 4500. (The Vermont State Board of Education’s Rules can be found here.)

Please click here to view the new Restrictive Behavioral Intervention Policy (F35).

All Colchester School District policies can be found on the approved policies page of the district’s website.

For questions about the policy, please contact Superintendent Larry Waters by e-mail or by calling (802) 264-5999.

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Posted in Community, General, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan, Wellness

CSD Proudly Presents Highlights of the Vision/Strategic Plan

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.
—Abraham Lincoln

The ideas generated and the information collected as the result of the entire vision summit process have been successfully compiled into the Colchester School District Vision/Strategic Plan by those tasked with writing it.

The plan is a forward-thinking, proactive approach to creating powerful educational and enriching experiences for our students in a rapidly changing world. You might find that our June 7 article “The Changing Face of Education” underlines some of these very themes and that it further demonstrates why crafting this strategic plan was so vitally important for our students and for our community.

Those who participated in the vision summit focused upon three major themes, including “Preparing Students for the Future,” “Community Partnerships,” and “Effective Communication.” Community members wishing to have an earnest and influential voice in what education should be in Colchester School District shared what they demand from education and why those needs are so important. Participants also shared what critical skills they felt our students must have in order to successfully prepare professionally and to contribute to our communities.

Out of this process came a number of pathways through which our vision for the future will be accomplished, including:

* High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners
* Technology Infrastructure and Integration
* Learning Outside Our Four Walls
* Commitment to Effective Communication
* Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners
* Wellness-Oriented, Balanced, and Healthy Learners
* Town + School = One Vision

The highlights of the results of the entire initiative are presented here in both PowerPoint and .pdf formats.

Many, many thanks to all of the parents, educators, students, and citizens who engaged in this intensive and critically important enterprise!

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Posted in Community, General, Union Memorial School

And the Generosity Continues—UMS Reaches Out to Fill a Need

“Find a need and fill it.”
—Ruth Stafford Peale

Today’s feature seems particularly appropriate in light of the Thanksgiving holiday.

We recently told you about the tremendous, widespread efforts across the district to help those devastated by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. We’re happy to announce that the goodwill just keeps on flowing even though the floodwater thankfully no longer does.

Union Memorial School recently extended a helping hand to Moretown Elementary School, yet another academic institution in the state severely damaged in the historic storm. (The school was so badly damaged, in fact, that classes were conducted outside in tents at the beginning of this school year.) UMS librarian Judy Flanagan coordinated the collection and donation of new or nearly new books to benefit Moretown Elementary. In a show of empathy and solidarity, a number of UMS’s teachers joined Ms. Flanagan’s effort.

Moretown Elementary School’s librarian, Meg Allison, had this to say about Union Memorial School’s demonstration of goodwill:

“We are so humbled by the outpouring of support shown to our school, students, and staff in the wake of TS Irene. Our community has been
pouring its resources and energy into rebuilding homes and spirits, so the extra support received by outside communities restores our will to go on. The saying ‘many hands make light work’ has never seemed so apt.

The books will be used to enhance classroom libraries that lost books due to the flooding, and perhaps for individual families who lost their own personal libraries…

We are so appreciative of all your support and hope to pay forward the act of goodwill started by the Colchester school! We are a school community that values the power of books and reading—something that Irene can’t take away from us!”

This story is about more than donated books. It is about the grander sense of empathy, consideration, and compassion that our educators and members of our community so often demonstrate. As unfortunate as it is, all too often, even the most well-intentioned people gradually forget to help others in times of need when news about that need is no longer prominent in the media. Because life is so busy for so many people, when not constantly reminded of it, it is easy to forget that yesterday’s news still presents very real and difficult situations for those impacted by it. That is why it is especially gratifying to be able to share news of our community’s ongoing concern and support for our friends and neighbors around our state.

Way to go, Union Memorial! Way to go, Colchester!

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Posted in Community, General, Malletts Bay School

Here a Penny…There a Penny…MBS Students Continue Learning About Charitable Giving

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
—Margaret Mead

A little while ago, we told you about Malletts Bay School’s efforts to help their fellow Vermonters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Since then, MBS students have gained even further insight about not only charitable giving initiatives but also what it really takes to create truly lasting change.

On November 3, John Cronin, the community campaign manager for the United Way of Chittenden County, met with the MBS students who chose the recipients for the funds they’d raised for Vermont victims of Hurricane Irene, one of which was the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. The United Way has partnered with the Vermont Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VT VOAD) and Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) to support victims of Hurricane Irene’s flooding in their long-term recovery after emergency relief agencies like the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have completed their work in the state. The long-term support was very important to students, and it significantly influenced their decision about where to direct the $2,500 they’d raised.

Cronin asked the students to explain their rationale for undertaking the project and how they raised the money, one-third of which they earmarked for the Disaster Relief Fund. The students spoke of those they knew who had been affected by the flooding and about how fortunate we were to avoid significant damage from the storm.

To describe how the United Way and the Disaster Fund will use the money it collected, Cronin provided an interesting visual by laying out a series of jars—representing some of the things toward which people might donate money to help children and families in these situations—labeled with such words as “illiteracy,” “poverty,” “no job,” “children left alone,” and so on. Giving each student a quarter, he told them that they could either keep their quarter or donate it to address one of the issues that the labeled jars represented. All of the students carefully considered their options and placed their quarter into one of the jars.

Afterward, when Cronin held up each jar—some of which had several quarters and some had none—students had an “Ah-ha!” moment, realizing that, by only addressing some of the problems, their money wouldn’t effectively create lasting change in the community. Taking one more jar labeled “Change” from his pocket, Cronin explained that an organization like the United Way strategically utilizes donated funds in order to effectively address the problems across the community and state. The students then asked if they could transfer their quarters to the “Change” jar, thereby pooling their resources to ensure that their investments provided solutions to each issue.

In a closing conversation about generosity and giving, Cronin expressed how impressed he was that none of the students chose to keep the quarter. Assistant Principal Carolyn Millham reminded students that, while many of us in this area were spared much of the damage from Hurricane Irene, we may not be so fortunate the next time. MBS students worked hard to donate $785 to the VT Disaster Relief Fund to help others when they could—and they realize that they may need the generosity of others in the future. Cronin and Assistant Principal Millham expressed their sincere gratitude to the students for their efforts.

While the group consisted of those who made the final decision about where the donations would go, including Hannah Safer, Adell Gadzey, Anna Dean, Kaitlyn Small, Sofia Maceri, Ella Avdic, Evan Bokelberg, and Catherine Jones, many other students contributed by coming up with the idea of a coin drop, making posters, and writing announcements. This truly was a school-wide initiative.

This seems a particularly appropriate article to publish in light of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday. Way to go, ospreys!

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Posted in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Programs, Union Memorial School

UMS Sponsors Paired Reading Workshop

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
—Emilie Buchwald

Union Memorial School’s Title 1 program sponsored a parent workshop—complete with free child care and refreshments!—for all students and their parents in grades 1 and 2 on November 10.

The workshop focused upon a fun and easy-to-learn, research-based approach to practicing fluency referred to as “paired reading.” In paired reading, the child reads aloud to the adult partner until he or she makes a mistake or struggles with a word, whereupon—rather than asking the child to sound out the word or look at the pictures for help—the adult simply provides the word to the student so that he or she may maintain the flow of reading. In this way, fluency and comprehension increases. Reading fluency is the ability to read smoothly, accurately, and expressively. It is a very important but easily overlooked aspect of the learning-to-read process, and it is part of what paired reading aims to enhance.

Many families attended the November 10 workshop to learn about the process, practice paired reading, and choose a free book to take home.

As we described in our August 19 article, Title I is a supplemental math and reading program, and it is complementary to what students receive in classroom instruction; it is not a substitute or a replacement for reading and math instruction. It is designed to include classroom teachers, Title I teachers, and parents in the students’ success, and it centers around research-based teaching methods. Depending upon the needs of the student, the Title I curriculum focuses upon some particular concepts. For the reading component, some of those concepts include fluency, comprehension, vocabulary development, reading habits, and so on.

For more information about Title I, please visit the websites for the Vermont Department of Education and the US Department of Education, or contact Union Memorial School, Porters Point School, or Malletts Bay School.

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Posted in General, Malletts Bay School, Programs

CSD Seeks Preschool-Age Peers for EEE Program

Colchester School District is looking for typically developing peers to participate in our Essential Early Education (EEE) program at Malletts Bay School.

Peers will model language, social communication, and play for students learning these skills. They will develop friendships while gaining confidence and school-readiness skills in a literacy-rich environment with experienced educators and support personnel.

Participating children must be between three and five years old, live in Colchester, and be able to attend four days per week for 2.5 hours each day.
The program hours are Tuesdays through Fridays 9:00–11:30 a.m. for the morning program and 12:15–2:45 p.m. for the afternoon program. There is no program on Mondays, and transportation will not be provided for participants.

For an application, please contact Heather Finelli at (802) 264-5986.

For more information, please e-mail Nancy Smith or call (802) 264-5950.

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Posted in Colchester Middle School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Primer Series, Programs

Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part V

Let’s round out our primer series about Colchester School District’s literacy programs with a conversation about Colchester Middle School’s work in that area. (Hint: It is a lot.)

First of all, while we’ve already talked a bit about the Young Writers Project (YWP) in other articles, it is definitely worth mentioning again here because Colchester Middle School is very much involved with it. The Young Writers Project, which is provided to CMS by FairPoint Communications, is an organization focused upon aiding better student writing in Vermont and New Hampshire. It is essentially a digital classroom, and using it, students can post their projects—including multimedia files—so that they can easily work collaboratively with others on them. Additionally, students can comment on their classmates’ work and respond to teacher prompts. As part of YWP, students can also submit work to be considered for outside publication. Students use YWP, as well as other formal writing assignments, to practice their writing process skills (including pre-writing, drafts, gathering feedback, revising, and publishing work) as well as to develop their district writing portfolios through creative writing and on-demand writing projects.

CMS also uses Renaissance Learning assessment programs and products in its instruction, one of which is STAR Reading Enterprise. CMS students take the STAR assessment four times a year, and CMS educators analyze the results gathered from these assessments in order to strategize improved teaching practices and increase the students’ literacy skills.

Another component of the Renaissance Learning program used at CMS involves Accelerated Reader Enterprise quizzes, which are used in conjunction with students’ independent reading work and through which they can take comprehension, vocabulary, and literacy skills quizzes for each book they read. The program provides immediate feedback, which many CMS students appreciate. And the Accelerated Reader quizzes also offer a feature called Home Connect, which allows parents and students to view the students’ virtual bookshelf and track progress toward meeting their quarterly reading goals—all from the comforts of home.

And did you know that there is a way to view the number of reading quizzes that the students are taking? There are widgets on CMS’s literary webpage that publicize this information. For example, just during the month of October, seventh graders read and took quizzes on 371 books, with 310 for eighth graders and 294 for sixth graders. That is a lot of reading in a month!

CMS’s library—a hub of literary activity—is always abuzz. In addition to coordinating book fairs and announcing the “book of the week” during daily announcements, librarian Angelika Mahoney also arranges visits from authors and storytellers as part of her mission to generate student interest in literacy. This year, for example, James Bruchac—an author, cultural educator, and wilderness expert—and author Mary Downing Hahn will visit CMS students. And Mrs. Mahoney also organizes an annual Dorothy Canfield Fisher contest. As part of the contest, a master list of thirty books is compiled and made available to students, and students who read at least five books from the list may vote on their favorite. (And then there is the DCF breakfast party to continue the celebration!)

CMS was particularly fortunate to work with a writer-in-residence this year. Former CMS teacher and published author Robert Hunton worked with students in Mrs. Roberge’s and Ms. Garrison’s classes in October on developing interesting hooks, and he will return in the spring to work with seventh- and eighth-grade students around developing creative conclusions to their writing pieces.

And in the interest of further promoting student voice and vision, CMS’s student council members will develop a student newsletter this year.

For more information about literacy initiatives at Colchester Middle School, please e-mail teachers Jennifer Roberge or Aubrey Garrison or call (802) 264-5800.

This has been a really extensive primer series. You can read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

Thanks for your interest!

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Posted in Accountability, Colchester Middle School, General

CMS’s School Improvement Plan: What You Need to Know

In September, we brought you information about Colchester Middle School’s plan to develop solutions for its identification status based upon the results of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) assessments.

The 2011–2012 School Improvement Plan (SIP) is now written, and as a reminder to parents of CMS students and interested community members, there will be a parent information night about it (and a few other related items) in the CMS cafeteria this evening (Thursday, November 17) from 6:00-7:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for the community to see the SIP, look at reading and math data results, and understand how these efforts are linked to the Colchester School District’s Strategic Plan. Those in attendance will learn about some of the positive shifts in practice CMS is implementing in the interest of student learning and engagement. Superintendent Waters, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Carmolli, and Principal Gruss will lead the discussion, and refreshments will be served.

Additionally, information about the implemented plan’s progress will be sent to parents electronically and will be posted on Colchester Middle School’s website on a quarterly basis.

The high points of what you need to know about the plan are as follows:

* It is currently being implemented;
* It has been designed to use hard data in facilitating decision-making regarding individual students and the entire school community;
* It contains very specific strategies and expected outcomes; and
* It includes built-in time lines for internal assessment and for maintaining accountability.

In addition to improving test scores, another major initiative at the school is to build a much more positive climate for the students, families, and staff. CMS is working with Dr. David Ritter, a psychologist in private practice and in association with the Vermont Association of School Psychologists, to redesign the concept and structure of the CMS’s Planning Room—moving away from a model that has traditionally been driven by consequences and more toward one centering around opportunities for learning.

CMS is also working to support changes to the school’s professional structure. In addition to ongoing staff trainings through such resources as the Teacher Learning Center and the Vermont Department of Education, CMS is also working closely with Dr. Matthew Moehle on strength-based approaches to education.

Please join us for the parent information night. For more information, please e-mail CMS Principal Dawn Gruss or call (802) 264-5800.

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Posted in General, Malletts Bay School

SPECIAL NOTICE: MBS Notified of Pertussis Case

The Vermont Department of Health has notified Malletts Bay School that one of its students has been diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.

The student was not in school on Monday and will remain out of school for treatment, but there is a possibility that other students could have been exposed to the bacteria prior to the diagnosis.

MBS’s staff is practicing increased vigilance and awareness, and parents are highly encouraged to inform Principal Julie Benay at 264-5904 if they suspect their child has a cough so that she can closely monitor this outbreak situation.

Included in this post is Principal Benay’s letter to parents, as well as a letter from the Vermont Department of Health with information and recommendations. Please take a moment to read it.

Please click here to read the full MBS pertussis notice.

The Vermont Department of Health also asks parents to contact MBS School Nurse Tammy Frieberg (264-5900) and the Department of Health (863-7240 or 863-7323) if anyone in the household is diagnosed with pertussis or suspected pertussis.

Thank you for your help and diligence.