Posted in Colchester High School, General, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Was Your Classroom Like This Back in the Day?

Can you imagine a class in which a student could flexibly—and even repeatedly—watch a lecture from the comfort of home, freeing up the instructional class time for him or her to critically engage with hands-on learning under the guidance and tutelage of the teacher? Can you imagine the student having the ability to ask questions and receive immediate answers when grappling with new concepts?

Some teachers at Colchester High School are using an instructional model that offers exactly that.

The concept of “class flipping,” an information delivery model in which students use technology to view pre-recorded lectures outside of class—thus freeing them up for active problem solving and mentoring with their teachers during their scheduled class time—is based on the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. In this system, teachers record the class lecture material—embedding questions for the students to consider—and then link them to their classroom websites. Students then view the lessons outside of class—from home or from a computer lab or library—and use their class time to ask questions and get immediate answers as they work to apply their knowledge.

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There are a number of benefits with such an instructional model. In addition to allowing students to internalize the material at the pace that is comfortable for them and allowing them the option to watch and re-watch lectures, it allows them significantly increased face-to-face time with their teachers. It also allows for greater collaboration with other students and helps to hold students’ interest in the material.

If you would like to view an example of a classroom lecture, here is a video about friction posted by science team leader Will Warren for his Principles of Physics class. There are also two short videos here that explain the idea behind class flipping that are interesting to watch and provide additional insight.

A number of CHS teachers have implemented this instructional approach, and while this is a relatively new initiative at CHS, the practice has been gaining ground around the nation for a number of years. This approach to instruction also aligns with a number of pathways in the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, including Pathway A: High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Pathway B: Technology Infrastructure and Integration; and Pathway C: Learning Outside Our Four Walls.

To view a WPTZ News Channel 5 segment about CHS’s class flipping, please click here!

If you would like more information, please contact Will Warren at (802) 264-5700 or warrenw@csdvt.org.

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Posted in Accountability, Community, General, Other Important Information, Primer Series, Programs, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

This Is Our 500th Post!

As is stated in the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, we work to “generate positive awareness of school activities and services and to encourage effective dialogue within Colchester and beyond.”

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CSD Spotlight is coming up on its second anniversary, and in that time, it has published five hundred articles—including photographs and videos—in an effort to foster the open communication, transparency, accountability, and community spirit that are so important to our students’ education. CSD Spotlight articles cover a wide variety of subjects in an effort to offer something for everyone. Just a sample of articles about your schools and other important education-related issues include information about:

We’ve also shared stories about important opportunities and initiatives in your schools, such as:

How are we doing with our communications efforts? We would love to hear from you to find out what else you would like to know about your schools and about education today. What other sorts of news and information would you like to see? What would you like to know more about? How can we better serve you?

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And remember that, in addition to CSD Spotlight, we also use a number of other outreach strategies to enhance communications, including:

The Colchester School Board encourages community participation at their meetings; in fact, the board’s agenda solicits comments from the community at every meeting. (Join them at Colchester High School on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning at 7:00 p.m. You can also watch them on Lake Champlain Access Television’s Channel 16 on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 a.m.) We also host and encourage participation in numerous community events in all of your schools throughout the year to foster the collaborative spirit that is so essential to academic excellence.

Help us celebrate! We can better tailor our communications with our community when we better understand what our community needs. We hope to encourage dialogue that allows us to be proactive and that enhances our collaboration. Please send us your comments and suggestions to csdwebmaster@csdvt.org.

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Posted in Accountability, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Personnel, Porters Point School, Programs, Student Spotlight, Union Memorial School, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Our School Community

Your school community works to align every day with the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017—a document authored collaboratively by members from our community.

Want to step inside our walls and see some of the ways in which we do it?

Please click here to view a video about our schools. Meet teachers, students, and community volunteers who offer a glimpse into life in our school community … and yours.

(And as a reminder, you can read our February 19 article here and view a video about the proposed renovations to the CHS science labs.)

Complete FY 2014 budget information is available on our website.

As always, please contact us at any time of you have questions or comments.

Town Meeting Day is Tuesday, March 5. Please vote.

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Posted in Budgets, Community, General, Other Important Information

Letter to the Editor from Vice Chair of Colchester School Board

The following is the content of a letter to the editor of the Colchester Sun from Colchester School Board Vice Chair Dick Pecor.

Since I was quoted in a recent article in the Colchester Sun (the January 31 “School Board: Budget is more than numbers”) and again in a February 14 Letter to the Editor (“Can’t escape the budget numbers”), I thought I should provide some context to those remarks attributed to me.

The quote “We are way, way, way too focused on numbers. But we are not getting across the human side of what goes on in the school district day after day” was cherry-picked from a much wider discussion of revenue and expenses for FY 2014. My point was that it becomes a binary process at the ballot box to either vote yea or nay on our proposed budget and that the quality and complexity of the myriad services the district provides gets lost in that instant. Since we seldom have an audience at our board meetings, we know that most taxpayers may not understand that, as a matter of law, we must provide not only education but all of the social, family, learning, emotional, health, and nutritional supports for all our students regardless of the breadth and intensity of their individual needs.

Education is an expensive business. It is intensely personal and requires much talent to run effectively. Vermont and New England have traditionally spent more per student than other areas of the country and by all measures have the best educated and healthiest citizens in the nation. This is not by chance. The Colchester School District’s peer group is the seven districts around us in Chittenden County, and we place fifth in per-pupil spending, just $110 above No. 6, Milton. We do watch the numbers closely. At the end of the day, though, we ask, “What is the impact on student outcomes?” of every decision we make.

Over the past four years, the board has weighed each line item on our budget with this test. Over those last four budgets, our spending increase has averaged 1.63 percent per year, and yet our students are constantly at the head of the class when compared to our peer districts.

As for the second ballot article we provided, described in a Letter to the Editor as “deceptive,” since it ostensibly included the term “reduced,” it was not and it did not. The article warned was the same boilerplate we always use that simply states the proposed budget number. The writer may have confused our article with another. In an effort to increase transparency and trust, ALL the documents we use on the board in budget development are publicly available on the district’s website at www.csdvt.org.

One of the issues the board struggles with is the extremely complex way that Vermont gets its education funding and then how it doles those monies out to individual districts and students. What sets Vermont apart from other states is that the property tax, where a large percentage of the education funds come from, is progressive or “income sensitive.”

Homesteads that have adjusted earnings of less than $90,000 per year pay on their income rather than their homestead assessed value. Citizens on fixed incomes, social security, and pensions have their education tax increase “capped” at a percentage of their income. The proposed cap for FY 2014 will be set at 2.68 percent of income, which, for the average Colchester homestead income of $60,000, will equate to an education tax of $1,608. Last year (FY 2013), the rate was 2.49 percent, so the same homestead’s ed tax was $1,494—a year-to-year increase of $114. Two-thirds or 66 percent of Colchester homesteads pay their education tax based on their income, not their property values. Seventy percent of Vermonters pay on their income, not on their property values.

I appreciate the forum that the Colchester Sun provides to convey the facts about how the board runs your Colchester school system. I and the board hope that you will support our proposed budget and that you will participate by attending our board meetings, Town Meeting Night on March 4, and that you will exercise your rights on Election Day, March 5.

Dick Pecor
Colchester School Board vice chairman

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Posted in Colchester Middle School, General, Programs, Student Spotlight

Music, Music Everywhere

Some Colchester Middle School students participated in the Vermont District III Music Festival for seventh and eighth-graders at Essex Middle School earlier this month.

Avery F., Connor Z., Jimmy C., Erin H., Elysia W., Emily W., Renee B., Meghan H., Corinna P., Jerome T., Kristian L., Josh K., Abby L., Natalee G., Brenna M., Claire C., Haley K., and Ethan G.
Avery F., Connor Z., Jimmy C., Erin H., Elysia W., Emily W., Renee B., Meghan H., Corinna P., Jerome T., Kristian L., Josh K., Abby L., Natalee G., Brenna M., Claire C., Haley K., and Ethan G.

The students auditioned in November and prepared for the festival—which included participants from more than a dozen schools and was performed in front of an audience exceeding 800—for two months. The music festival featured chorus, string, and band ensembles.

A number of well-known pieces were highlighted throughout the two-day event, including Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Dance of the Tumblers,” Frank DeWald’s “Away from the Roll of the Sea,” Greg Gilpin’s “The Storm is Passing Over,” and more. Conductors Dr. Yutaka Kono, Dr. Dawn O. Willis, and Max Culpepper worked with the students.

For more information, please call CMS at (802) 264-5800 or e-mail Emily Desautels (desautelse@csdvt.org) or Brigette Tozzi (tozzib@csdvt.org). You may also visit the CMS music department’s website.

The Spaghetti Soiree and Silent Auction originally scheduled for February 8 has been rescheduled for Friday, March 8 at Colchester High School. The dinner seatings will be at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m and will be serenaded by CHS musicians. All proceeds will benefit CHS’s music programs. For questions or for more information, please call CHS at (802) 264-5700 or visit the Friends of Colchester Music website.

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Posted in Colchester High School, General

¡Flamenco Vivo!

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More than eighty Colchester High School students recently voyaged to Spain … without even leaving Chittenden County.

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CHS Spanish and ELL students attended a Flynn Center for the Performing Arts production of ¡Flamenco Vivo! featuring world-renowned guitarist Paco Peña and his group of performers from Córdoba, Spain.

The performance featured authentic traditional music—including finger-picking guitar and a style of singing that often sounds like a cry or moan—and Flamenco dance, which expresses the powerful emotions of the oppressed during and following the Spanish Inquisition (“flamenco” means “expelled peasant”). Many people of Spanish heritage regard Flamenco as an outstanding expression of their culture that conveys passion, rebellion, and raw emotion.

Following the performance, many of the students relayed that they had never experienced anything quite like it.

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Posted in Colchester High School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Other Important Information, Programs, Science Labs & Instructional Center at CHS, Student Spotlight, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Proposed Renovations to CHS Science Labs and Why They Are So Important

Science and technology education is now more important than ever before.

The global clean-tech market alone is expected to expand to at least $2.3 trillion by 2020, and that is just one tiny component of our increasingly scientific world.

Now the Colchester community has the opportunity to create within Colchester High School a twenty-first-century science center that will truly prepare our current and forthcoming students for not only their futures but for all of our futures. They are the ones who will champion science and engineering for the rest of us. They need to be ready.

Please click here to view this video explaining why renovating the CHS science classrooms and labs is so important—and why now is the best time to do it.

CHS student Noah Kozlowski, a very talented videographer, worked closely with CSD in the creation of this video. Many, many thanks to Noah!

The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017 emphasizes the importance of high standards and expanded opportunities for our students along with innovative, flexible approaches with a commitment to excellence. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Vermont Science Curriculum and Standards also emphasize the critical importance of up-to-date learning environments.

And yet, while Colchester High School students’ academic performance has significantly improved in recent years and has even attracted the attention of the Vermont State Legislature as a result of these improvements, their science labs and classrooms—which have not been updated since the building’s construction in 1975—are considerably inadequate, placing our current and future students at a direct disadvantage as they prepare for their post–high school lives in an increasingly technological and scientific landscape.

Last October, Colchester School District requested community partners interested in collaborating with us to design twenty-first-century science classrooms, amassing a fantastic committee of scientists from our community as well as school board members, administrators, student representation, and educators.

  • Committee members toured the existing science facilities to observe firsthand the facilities’ current condition and why they are no longer sufficient for twenty-first-century learners.
  • The community scientists discussed current best practices in the field and provided valuable insight into the numerous considerations that must be taken into account when creating thoughtfully designed science instructional environments.
  • Black River Design offered extensive expertise and a number of options for the potential project’s design based upon the committee’s insight, including strategic floor planning to maximize flexibility, functionality, and long-term serviceability for our students and staff. Committee members discussed a number of the proposed floor plans to determine the safest, most optimally designed and technology-rich yet cost-effective option. The considerations included but were not limited to:
    • access to and flexibility of instructional spaces and equipment
    • proper storage and ventilation of chemicals and other materials
    • maximizing energy efficiency and its associated cost savings and environmental impact
    • monopolizing upon cost incentives whenever possible
    • inclusion of student and teacher meeting areas
    • maximizing natural light
    • composition of classroom fixtures and materials
    • optimal locations of sinks, gas valves, hood systems, emergency showers, demonstration tables, electrical outlets, smartboards, projectors, computers, and more
    • safety and security
    • construction schedules and other logistical considerations
Design of proposed revitalized classrooms and laboratories
Design of proposed revitalized classrooms and laboratories

(For a .pdf version of this design, please click here.)

What we present to the Colchester community is a collaboratively designed, comprehensive, well-thought-out, highly serviceable, and flexible plan to be considered for support on Town Meeting Day 2013. These labs will offer collegiate-level, professional-grade learning environments for the current and future students of Colchester High School.

We welcome and encourage your input. If you have questions or comments, please contact us by e-mail or by phone at (802) 264-5999.

Sketch of proposed revitalized classrooms and laboratories
Sketch of proposed revitalized classrooms and laboratories

(For a .pdf version of this sketch, please click here.)

Please vote on Tuesday, March 5.

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Posted in Community, General, Porters Point School, Programs

“Go Fish!” in the Community Theater at CHS on February 20 & 21

We have discussed in past CSD Spotlight articles the many ways in which music and performance are beneficial to students—and it bears repeating that, in addition to encouraging creativity and relieving stress in students, music helps develop children’s language skills, listening skills, self-esteem, sense of camaraderie and collaboration, and much more. Colchester School District is very proud of its talented student musicians.

And now, students at Porters Point School are preparing for their upcoming performance of Go Fish! by John Jacobson and John Higgins—a mini-musical celebrating how our individual differences make us special and how it takes all kinds of people to make a world filled with harmony.

Please join us on Wednesday, February 20 and/or Thursday, February 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the community theater at Colchester High School to enjoy the free performances! The two performances will be quite different from one another because each will consist of different performers; half of Porters Point School performs in the Wednesday event, and the other half performs in the Thursday event. In this way, a far greater number of students will have the opportunity to participate in leading roles—and there are even parts that are ideal for some of our more bashful students!

For more information, please call PPS at (802) 264-5920, or e-mail music educator Martie Mutz (mutzm@csdvt.org). You can also check out the Music at Porters Point School blog to learn more about the performance and about our young students’ study of music.

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Posted in Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Community, District Office, General, Other Important Information, Science Labs & Instructional Center at CHS, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

PLEASE READ: Important Budget Information

We are working hard to make the Colchester School District FY 2014 budget information as widely available and accessible as possible. We ask everyone to review the budget materials, ask questions, and generate dialogue as you consider your vote. As is stated in the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, we work to “generate positive awareness of school activities and services and to encourage effective dialogue within Colchester and beyond.”

The superintendent’s recommended FY 2014 budget can be found here. It offers financial information as well as information about per-pupil spending, cost-related factors to consider, and other helpful information about our schools.

And did you know that the budget includes funding to support improved building security and monitoring? Included in the budget is funding for:

  • Main and secondary entry systems
  • Replacement of unsecure doors
  • Upgraded door locking systems
  • Improved monitoring systems

The School Budget Book for FY 2014 can be found here. This is a very comprehensive document that includes general information as well as information about revenue, Act 68 and the tax rate, the core budget, enrollment, debt service, the Consolidated Federal Program Spending Plan FY’14, and the budget vote.

Information about expenditures can be found here.

Information about revenues can be found here.

Information about the tax impact can be found here.

Would you like a quick fact sheet about our FY 2014 budget? Please click here!

Would you like a quick fact sheet about the bond for renovations to the Colchester High School science labs? Please click here!

Would you like to request an absentee ballot? Please click here to find out how!

All of this information can also be found on Colchester School District’s website. You may also stop into the administrative offices at 125 Laker Lane to request copies of the materials and ask questions.

We are working to continue the critically important work of strengthening our schools and our community. Please vote on Tuesday, March 5.

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Posted in General, Malletts Bay School

Valentines for Veterans

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
Maya Angelou

MBS students with their valentines for veterans
MBS students with their valentines for veterans

Malletts Bay School third- and fourth-grade art students have been busy creating valentines for the Colchester community’s veterans.

As part of the students’ work in Mrs. DeCoff’s class, they have spent time learning about who veterans are and why it is important that we think of them often and thank them for their service. A parent volunteer delivered the valentines to the VA Outpatient Clinic at Fort Ethan Allen.

A student's handmade valentine
A student’s handmade valentine

MBS paid tribute to our veterans earlier this school year, as well; fifth graders did various projects honoring the nation’s servicemen and servicewomen as part of CSD’s ongoing efforts in facilitating civic engagement.

If you would like more information, please e-mail art teacher Mrs. DeCoff (decoffk@csdvt.org) or call Malletts Bay School at (802) 264-5900.

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