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

Groundbreaking Outdoor Classroom Now Open for Instruction!

Malletts Bay School fourth-grade teacher Kate Ellingson instructs her students in the school's new outdoor classroom.
Malletts Bay School fourth-grade teacher Kate Ellingson instructs her students in the school’s new outdoor classroom.

In our April 3 Spotlight article, we announced the construction of an outdoor classroom at Malletts Bay School in collaboration with community volunteers and students from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

And now that outdoor classroom is ready and open for use!


Watch the outdoor classroom’s construction in action in this Fox 44 news story. And please click here to view this WCAX news story, which offers not only a peek at the classroom’s construction but also its use by fourth-grade teacher Kate Ellingson’s class (check out her classroom blog here).


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The outdoor classroom boasts bird feeders, a footbridge, picnic tables, benches, a chalkboard, and more.
The outdoor classroom boasts bird feeders, a footbridge, picnic tables, benches, a chalkboard, and more.

“Studies show that schools that used outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education saw significant gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math,” said UVM student and project consultant Jason Marchand. “We believe that experiential learning in an outdoor classroom can only complement the curriculum-based teaching that occurs within the confines of a traditional classroom. We hope to provide these students with the necessary space to reap the benefits of learning in an outdoor setting, as well as to provide them with the opportunity to change the way they look at education.”

This project speaks directly to the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s emphasis on High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Learning Outside Our Four Walls; Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners; and Wellness-Oriented, Balanced, and Healthy Learners.

For more information, please call MBS at (802) 264-5900.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, Currently Colchester, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, District Office, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Porters Point School, Programs, Union Memorial School, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Friendly Reminder: CSD Proposed Budget Reductions

(This information originally appeared in the April 17 edition of Currently Colchester, which was delivered to all homes in Colchester.)

Following the defeat of the budget on March 4, the Colchester School Board directed a targeted budget reduction of $475,331, which would result in a proposed budget of $35,532,781—an increase of $1,034,935, or 3 percent.

The three-step process for this reduction included reviewing the items that were added to the budget for next year to determine need and priority, completing another review of expenditures to determine areas where possible reductions might be made and the impact of those reductions on programs and services, and collaborating with principals to determine other areas for reductions and the impact of those reductions.

The result of this work includes the following reduction areas and amounts:

    1. Teacher contract salaries (hiring salary limits for at least seven openings): $84,441
    2. Special education support staff (elimination of special education position): $21,000
    3. Maintenance (use of capital reserve fund): $50,000
    4. Technology devices at CHS and CMS (eliminate devices planned for grades 7–9): $150,000
    5. Math lab support staff (no math remediation at CHS): $16,990
    6. Eliminate support staff at CMS (reduce office/library personnel): $23,092
    7. Technology integration specialist (eliminate K–5 technology instruction support): $77,814
    8. Currently Colchester publication (eliminate monthly publication): $14,000
    9. Other (related amounts to above): $5,407

Total Amount of Reductions $442,744

The summary of the superintendent’s proposed budget going before voters on May 6 is as follows:

Budget amount: $35,565,368
Increase amount: $1,067,522
Percentage amount: 3.09 percent
Tax increase amount: 3.69 percent
(This tax increase amount is based upon a Homestead Tax Rate of $0.98 per $100 of equalized value.)

Although increasing classroom technology integration is paramount not only to the district’s vision and strategic plan—written collaboratively with the community—but also in meeting requirements established by the Common Core State Standards—the budget reductions necessitate the elimination of this line item.

What else is particularly important to note?

The Vermont State Legislature is responsible for determining the Homestead Tax Rate, which greatly influences tax increases. This year, the legislature originally chose a rate of $1.01—which was 7 cents higher than last year’s—and it is upon the $1.01 rate that the original FY 2015 budget proposal was based. Recently, however, the Vermont House voted in favor of H.889 (which sets the property tax rates and base education amount for FY 2015). The bill, which is introduced by the committee annually, this year also includes a variety of changes to education financing laws and states the General Assembly’s intent to transition to an education financing system that relies less on property taxes and more on an education income tax. H.889 recently set the base homestead rate at $0.98 per $100 of equalized property value, up four cents from fiscal year 2014.

We encourage citizens to review our comprehensive budget-related information, available on the district’s website. We also encourage community members to call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999 to ask questions.

The above chart offers a summary of Colchester School District’s FY 2015 expenditures by function. For more detailed information, please visit www.csdvt.org/budget.
The above chart offers a summary of Colchester School District’s FY 2015 expenditures by function. For more detailed information, please visit http://www.csdvt.org/budget.

What would the FY ’15 school budget mean for my taxes?

The following table provides information about tax increases based upon property value. For example, the taxes for the owner of a property valued at $300,000 whose total household annual income is greater than $90,000 would increase $151.

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The following income-sensitivity table illustrates the tax increase for property owners whose total annual household income is $90,000 or less. For example, the taxes for a property owner whose total annual household income is $65,000 would increase $26.89.

Approximately 60 percent of Colchester taxpayers will benefit from this income-sensitivity mechanism.
Approximately 60 percent of Colchester taxpayers will benefit from this income-sensitivity mechanism.

Questions? We’re here to help. Please call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999 if you would like more information.

Please vote on Tuesday, May 6.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Primer Series, Programs

Autism Awareness and Information About CSD’s Special Education Programming

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, faculty and staff at Colchester Middle School wore special T-shirts supporting raising awareness for this neurological condition.

The T-shirts have an autism awareness logo on the front and CMS’s name and location printed on the back. Principal Dawn Gruss and special educator Deb Gay spearheaded the initiative in an effort to celebrate all students’ unique individuality.

CMS faculty and staff wore autism awareness T-shirts every Friday throughout the month of April in a show of support
CMS faculty and staff wore autism awareness T-shirts every Friday throughout the month of April in a show of support.

Autism’s prevalence is increasing in the United States. “As a school, we are striving to learn more and better ways of serving, guiding, and empowering our students to live independent, productive, and fulfilling lives,” Ms. Gay said. “What better way to show that than by wearing the T-shirts each Friday in April?”

As we have discussed in the Spotlight before, special education—of which autism is a part—is a vast and complex subject encompassing a host of factors regarding specific classifications of needs—and the process of identifying and qualifying them—as well as the various approaches to instruction, specialized services, funding, and even legal issues. The school district tailors instruction through a variety of measures to students with identified, explicitly defined disabilities through alternative learning environments, individually tailored instruction, adaptive materials and equipment, modified curriculum, and so on.

(CSD’s special education program has received high praise from the state; please click here to read more about it.)

To read our primer about special education, please click here, and please click here to access the Vermont Agency of Education’s Special Education Rules document.

For more information about CMS’s celebration of Autism Awareness Month, please call (802) 264-5800. For more information about CSD’s special education program, please call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Accountability, Budgets, Community, Employee Spotlight, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Town of Colchester

Town Updates, Tax Information, Coffee and Conversation, and More

Would you like to see an overview of the Town of Colchester’s proposed budget reductions? Please click here to view it.

The Town of Colchester’s website offers information about the budget, as well; please click here to access it.

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    • Want to have coffee and conversation with town officials and discuss the budget or any concerns you may have?
    • Curious when the new CCTA service will begin and what it will mean for Colchester?
    • Interested in learning how many calls for service your police department has recently managed?
    • Care to join us for National EMS Week and Family Fun & Safety Night?

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    Please click here to find out more—access the Town of Colchester’s update for the week ending April 25, 2014.

    When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Community, General, Other Important Information, Town of Colchester

Volunteer for Green Up Day on May 3!

Volunteers are needed to help with Colchester’s annual spring cleaning on Green Up Day, Saturday, May 3.

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Starting at 8:00 a.m. on May 3 at the Colchester Police Department at 835 Blakely Road, day members of the Colchester Conservation Commission—coordinators for Colchester’s Green Up Day—will distribute bags and road assignments to residents. Cleanup of litter along town roadsides, parks, and waterways is scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to noon, followed by a free hot dog cookout for volunteers from noon to 1:00 p.m.

Although advance registration is not required, scout troops, youth groups, churches, neighborhoods, and other groups are asked to call (802) 862-9807 to speak with Tim Moran, Colchester’s Green Up Day coordinator, in advance to arrange for an area to clean up. Volunteers are asked to call even if they want to clean up the same area as last year in order to ensure that the area does not get assigned to another group.

Volunteers are not required to pick up trash for the entire four hours and may select their own road or area to clean, provided that it has not already been assigned. Instructions on where to leave bags for pick up by the Town’s road crews will be provided when volunteers receive their bags. Volunteers are reminded to separate scrap metal and tires from other roadside trash.

For questions, or to sign up a group, please contact Tim Moran; he is available at (802) 862-9807 or via e-mail at tgmvt@comcast.net.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Programs, Student Spotlight, Union Memorial School

Did You Miss the CSD Art Show?

As we’d mentioned in our April 8 Spotlight article, the annual CSD Art Show was held April 15–18 with an artists’ reception event on April 17.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it, here are just a few of the many beautiful examples of artwork created by students from every school in your district!

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For more information about the art show, please e-mail CHS art teacher Anne Cummings or call (802) 264-5700.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Other Important Information, Programs, Student Spotlight, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

CHS Student to Compete in National Competition in Kansas City … and More About Career Readiness Training (Contains Video!)

A Colchester champion is ready to take on fellow champions from around the nation in Kansas City, Missouri, at the end of June!

CHS student Raymond Donnelly, Jr., a Colchester High School senior who is enrolled in courses at Burlington Technical Center (BTC), won a bronze medal for collision repair and a gold medal for auto refinishing at the March 29 SkillsUSA competition. Donnelly competed against fifteen other talented students from all around the state and made an impressive showing, earning him the right to compete against other gold medalists from all across the country later this year.

Colchester's Raymond Donnelly, Jr. at Burlington Technical Center following his receipt of gold and bronze medals in the March 29 SkillsUSA competition
Colchester’s Raymond Donnelly, Jr. at Burlington Technical Center following his receipt of gold and bronze medals in the March 29 SkillsUSA competition

The annual SkillsUSA event required a great deal of support from area organizations, including Direct Auto Body, Shearer Chevrolet, Rotunda’s Auto Body, Progressive Insurance, State Farm Insurance, and Enterprise, all of which contributed funding, volunteers, and/or event space. SkillsUSA, founded in 1965, focuses on excellence in job training and in citizenship. Ed Companion, an auto body instructor with BTC, said of Donnelly, “He’s a great kid—very deserving. He’s an excellent student; I can’t say enough good about him.”

Donnelly was not the only Colchester student to achieve recognition in the event. CHS senior and second-year BTC welding student Jordan Darrt participated in the SkillsUSA welding competition against seventeen other competitors from around the state and won the bronze medal. The all-day event was held at the Advanced Welding Institute (AWI) in South Burlington.

CHS senior and second-year BTC welding student Jordan Darrt won a bronze medal in the competition
CHS senior and second-year BTC welding student Jordan Darrt won a bronze medal in the welding competition

And 2013 CHS graduate Nicholas Scibek, a post-secondary aviation student at BTC, earned a gold medal in the post-secondary aviation maintenance technology competition.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, arguably, one of the main purposes of education is to prepare students for life beyond the classroom—the component of daily living that involves supporting one’s self by means of employment. Certainly, the skills developed through the study of varied subject matters and disciplines plays a significant role in that. There are a number of programs and initiatives in place at CSD that are geared specifically toward assisting students with the nuts and bolts of planning for their future careers. From College and Career Week at CMS to facilitating exposure to a number of growing sustainability-focused employment fields and from providing interactive, work-related experiences in our community to championing career preparedness through extracurricular offerings, a lot of work is being done in these efforts.

At the Center for Technology—Essex (CTE) in 2012, a group of female students from Colchester Middle School got to roll up their sleeves and try out educational programs that are considered by the US Department of Labor to be “nontraditional” for females (which it defines as occupations “in which women comprise 25 percent or less of total employment”). The event—dubbed “Girls Can Too!”—was designed to encourage young women to consider the vast educational and career opportunities available to them in areas they might not otherwise necessarily even know about. The students had an opportunity to participate in hands-on activities pertaining to careers in engineering and architectural design, computer sciences, building technologies, computer animation and web design, automotive technologies, natural resources, and agri-science technologies.

Chainsaws! Heavy equipment! Pneumatic impact wrenches! Circular saws! It was a pretty exciting day.

Click here to see a video clip of the students in action.

To read our primer about college and career readiness planning at CSD, please click here.

The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s pathways include High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Learning Outside Our Four Walls; and Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners. Skills training opportunities such as these well complement the vision and strategic plan.

For more information about career planning at CSD, please contact any of your schools, or call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

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

CHS Musicians Perform in New England Music Festival

Among the musicians performing in the recent New England Music Festival—the eighty-seventh year for this prestigious event!—were CHS band students Chris Triplett, Matt Waters, and Connor Zwonik.

Senior Matt Waters, senior Chris Triplett, and freshman Connor Zwonik at the eighty-seventh-annual New England Music Festival in Bennington
Senior Matt Waters, senior Chris Triplett, and freshman Connor Zwonik at the eighty-seventh-annual New England Music Festival in Bennington

All three musicians auditioned in December for this highly selective ensemble featuring the best high school musicians from all over New England. Senior Chris Triplett was selected for euphonium, and senior Matt Waters and freshman Connor Zwonik were selected for percussion. They performed under the renowned Dr. Peter Boonshaft, a professor of music and director of bands at Hofstra University, director of the graduate wind conducting program, and conductor of the Hofstra University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band.

CSD’s student musicians have long commanded attention regionally and nationally. A number of CSD students perform with the Vermont Youth Philharmonia (VYP) Orchestra (please click here to watch a short video of the VYP’s recent performance at Colchester Middle School). In 2012, former CHS student Lauren Zwonik was the only Vermont student to participate in the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. In 2013, the National Association for Music Educators selected a composition written by former CHS student Jacob Morton-Black for a prestigious honor.

Alan Greenspan, Condoleezza Rice, Paula Zahn, Woody Allen, and a host of others credit their musical education for their notable professional successes. (Please click here to read more about that.)

To learn a bit more about CHS’s music program and about some of the many benefits of music education, please click here.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Accountability, Community, General, Other Important Information, Town of Colchester

Town of Colchester’s Weekly Update for April 18, 2014

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  • Care to know more about the revised Town of Colchester budget up for vote on May 6?
  • Want to know when the Colchester Village Park Phase 1b construction is expected to be completed?
  • Interested in learning more about the upcoming Touch a Truck event?
Firetruck instrument panel
Fire truck instrument panel

Please click here to find out more—access the Town of Colchester’s update for the week ending April 18, 2014.

When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community! Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the Spotlight.

Posted in Accountability, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Other Important Information, Programs, Science Labs & Instructional Center at CHS

Update on the CHS Science Classrooms’ Revitalization

(Adapted from CHS Principal Amy Minor’s letter in the April Laker View.)

Many, many thanks once again to the taxpayers of Colchester for the opportunity to renovate the science labs and instructional center. Construction will officially begin on Friday, April 18, at 2:45 p.m.!

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All CHS science classrooms will be closed following students’ return from spring recess; these classrooms will be under construction for the last six weeks of school, and general contractors will be working in those classrooms throughout the day. Please note: any individual hired to work on the renovation project will have undergone a background check in order to do so.

A considerable amount of construction equipment outside of the building on the side that is closest to Colchester Middle School, near rooms 109 and 111 (far left-hand side of the building if looking at CHS from the front) is anticipated. CHS respectfully asks that all students and parents stay away from that area of the building during construction. Visitors attending sporting events are asked to not walk around that side of the building; instead, please park in the large CHS parking lot and walk around the back side of the building to access the softball field, or park at CMS, as it is closer.

Design of revitalized classrooms and laboratories
Design of revitalized classrooms and laboratories

All CHS science teachers have been relocated to other spaces at CHS for the final six weeks of school (to view the temporary classroom relocation plan, please visit the Laker View online by clicking here). In order to avoid the costly renting of mobile classrooms, CHS worked hard as a school to coordinate the use of every possible space in order to relocate science classrooms for the remainder of the school year.

If the project goes smoothly, our hope is that it will be completed on or before August 22, 2014. We look forward to sharing future updates about this project!

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Your schools and your town are working hard to engage our community. Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to The Spotlight. When we’re all informed, we make a stronger community!