The Colchester School District has had a consistent history of strong student achievement, even when compared to other districts in Vermont. This can be seen using common measures like the old NECAP and now the new SBAC assessment that is given in the spring. These results have not been an accident and could only happen through the intentional and coordinated work of administrators and teachers that took years to develop. It is part of the work done in good educational systems that the public rarely sees or recognizes.
One good example was the work within K-5 for the past 3 years to fully implement a curriculum that supports the Common Core State Standards. When the new standards were published and approved by the Vermont Board of Education, every district in Vermont had the same objective, to prepare their schools and their students for a new set of standards that would be more rigorous than previous years. Starting with the Director of Curriculum’s office, a plan was devised to move this process throughout the system that was clear, focused, progressive, and accountable. Using knowledge and research that defines best practice, this included aligning all common assessments to the standards and using those results to monitor the progress of students learning. It included developing, with the teachers, grade level curriculum maps that would be used to guide instructional expectations throughout the year in all schools and the grade level conversations around instruction.
The current step now involves looking more closely at instruction. One area in particular the district has focused on is word study; a critical skill needed by students to be successful. The district has developed a strong and sequential process with the curriculum maps to ensure all students have the specific skills in this area. Word study provides students with opportunities to investigate and understand the patterns in words. Knowledge of these patterns means that students needn’t learn to spell one word at a time. This skill has many benefits for meeting both reading and writing expectations by grade but also will be critical throughout their lifetimes.
Teaching is a complex process that requires a strong knowledge base in both content and pedagogy. For systems like Colchester to support this work successfully also requires strong leadership, clear vision, focused goals, and the needed resources in people, time, professional learning, and materials. All of them singularly are important but it is only when they are combined are processes liked this successful and sustained.
At the Board of Education meeting on January 19th, Amy Minor was named as the new Superintendent of Schools for the Colchester School District starting July 1, 2016. Mrs. Minor has worked in the district for 17 years, where she was the high school principal for 10 of those years. Starting immediately, a transition process will begin to make this change as seamless as possible for both the high school and the district. The community is very fortunate to have Mrs. Minor in this role to continue the reputation of Colchester for educational excellence.
In the recent Colchester Sun article placed on the front page of this week’s paper, the headline read “Taxes Up, spending down in school budget proposal”. That was wrong. The headline was supposed to say “Taxes Down, spending up in school budget proposal”. In an email exchange with the writer, Jason Starr, and Superintendent Waters, this was acknowledged and a correction is scheduled to be in the paper next week. It was important that the district took immediate steps to communicate this before next week so the public would have the correct information on this important topic as soon as possible. In the last blog that was published on the budget before the vote, the district wants to reaffirm that there was an increase in expenditures of 4.1% but a decrease of 1.8% in the current per pupil spending from the previous year. This will result in a tax decrease of 4 cents compared to the current year.
Previous blogs have provided information to the public on Act 46 and it’s impact on the Colchester School District Budget process for 2016-17. Entering this budget cycle, the Colchester School District has had a reputation for low per pupil spending while having consistent high student results on state assessments. This has been recognized beyond the community as exemplified in the Picus Report as Colchester having a model school district on all measures. Even with its’ history of low spending while achieving high student achievement results, passing budgets has been challenging and has resulted in significant reductions over the years. Through the passage of Act 46, the school board was given both a percent (2.35%) and an average per pupil spending figure ($13,851) that they needed to stay under or match to avoid an additional tax penalty if they exceeded those parameters. At this moment in the process it looks clear the school district will not only stay within those limits but will show a decrease in per pupil spending when compared to the 2015-16 school year.
The plan under consideration shows an increase in expenditures of 4.1%, but an increase in Net Equalized Pupils of 118 additional students that came primarily from the pre-kindergarten population due to Act 166. This will add significant revenue to the budget next year. On the expenditure side, the district needed to add an additional teacher at grade 3 to address increased enrollment, another IT position to address needs for increased support as technology expands, and added funds to support needed professional development and athletic programs. The increase also reflects added costs for fixed expenditures like salary, benefits, and operations. When all put together there was a decrease of 1.8% in the current per pupil spending compared to the 2.35% figure of per pupil spending that was allowed. This will result in a tax decrease of 4 cents compared to the current year.
Under Act 46 the framing of the Article for the March ballot will also look different than the past. At this time if the current budget under consideration is passed by the Board it would read as follows:
“Shall the voters of the school district approve the school board to expend _$37,914,750_ which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year? It is estimated that the proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of _$13,297.47_ per equalized pupil. This projected spending per equalized pupil is _1.8%_ lower than spending for the current year.
It is expected on January 19th, the board will provide the final approval so the budget can be warned for voter consideration on March 1st. If any member of the public would like to share their perspective or have any questions on the proposed final budget, it is encouraged they attend and participate at the January 19th meeting.
The Colchester School District will be holding an open house for parents who may be interested in attending the pre-school program for the 2016-17 school year. The open house is intended to explain the program and answer questions that will be important considerations for each parent as they prepare to make this decision. Please see the information below and we hope you are able to attend.
When: March 28th at 8:30 and 10:00
Where: Mallets Bay School
Who: Children who will be at least 3 years old by August 31, 2016
What: Half-day program starting the Fall 2016
Please contact Nancy Smith for an appointment at 264-5894 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 19th the community will have the opportunity to meet the finalists under consideration for the new Superintendent of Schools in the Colchester School District. The information is as follows:
Meet & Greet Finalist Candidates for Superintendent
January 19, 2016
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Colchester High School
Rooms 105-107 & 117-119*
*Candidates will spend 30 minutes in each room.