Posted in Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Porters Point School, Union Memorial School

Are Colchester Schools Efficient?

The following letter was written by Colchester School Board member Craig Kieny:


In March 2013, I was elected to the Colchester School Board. My reason for seeking election was that I was as frustrated as everyone else with increases in property taxes, and I decided the best way to do anything about it was to run for election.

One of my main goals was to make sure the school district minimized its costs by operating efficiently. That will be one of my goals for as long as I am on the board.

To monitor the efficiency of the schools, I look at data provided by the Vermont Agency of Education regarding per-pupil spending, student/teacher ratios, New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores, and others metrics. Here are highlights of what the most recent available data shows:

  • Of the 11 school districts that offer K-12 programs, 3 districts (27.2%) have lower per-pupil spending, when Special Education expenses are excluded.
  • Of the 28 senior high schools, 5 (17.8%) have a higher student/teacher ratio than Colchester High School.
  • Of the 25 similar-sized middle schools, 3 have a higher student/teacher ratio than Colchester Middle School.
  • Of the 25 similar-sized elementary schools, 0 have a higher student/teacher ratio than Malletts Bay School.
  • Of the 41 similar-sized elementary schools, 9 (20.2%) have a higher student/teacher ratio than Porters Point School and 11 (26.8%) have a higher ratio than Union Memorial School.
  • The student/administrator (principal, assistant principals) ratio for CHS and PPS are average for their respective school type and size.
  • The student/administrator ratios for CMS, MBS, and UMS are in the lower half for their respective school type and size. In the case of MBS and UMS, this is due to the size of the schools. For CMS, this is due to the need to address specific issues.
  • NECAP scores for eleventh graders are among the highest in the state for all subjects.

I don’t like paying a penny more than I have to for anything than I have to, and I bring this mentality to my work on the board. The above data suggest that the schools are operating relatively efficiently.

The data also suggest that it is expensive to operate schools in Vermont. After we have an approved budget, I hope to ensure the district continues to look for ways to operate efficiently and address statewide issues to further improve the cost efficiency of Colchester schools.

Please vote on June 3.

Craig Kieny
Colchester School Board member

Posted in Colchester Middle School, General, Malletts Bay School, Student Spotlight, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan, Wellness

MBS Osprey Flying to Texas to Represent Vermont! (Contains Video)

Malletts Bay School fifth-grader Shea Barber has been selected as the Fuel Up To Play 60 (FUTP60) 2014/15 Vermont State Ambassador and will represent Vermont at the Student Ambassador Summit in Arlington, Texas, in July!

MBS fifth-grader Shea Barber will represent Vermont at the Texas event in July
MBS fifth-grader Shea Barber will represent Vermont at the Texas event in July


Jaycie Puttlitz, CSD’s wellness coordinator,
has worked closely with a group of fifth graders at to create a Fuel Up To Play 60 team in order to engage students in augmenting our schools’ wellness-related activities.

MBS's Fuel Up to Play 60 Wellness Committee with CSD's wellness coordinator Jaycie Puttlitz on May 9
MBS’s Fuel Up to Play 60 Wellness Committee with CSD’s wellness coordinator Jaycie Puttlitz on May 9

Shea, who was selected to represent Vermont in Texas based largely on his diligent work in these efforts, will receive leadership training with other FUTP60 ambassadors at the Texas event. The district’s program adviser will also learn more about what we can do to support student wellness in the schools.

FUTP60 programming has funded a wide variety of wellness-related initiatives in your schools, including a breakfast-in-the-classroom program, a smoothie bar, an NFL alum’s visit to Colchester Middle School, and more.

On May 9, MBS hosted a field day in part to celebrate this success. Please click here for a video of a day in the life of Colchester School District, which includes footage of the field day.

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Wellness is a major component of the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017. Would you like to know more about what your schools are doing to promote and facilitate wellness? To date, we have nearly ninety Spotlight articles relating to wellness in our Wellness category, and we also have our Wellness at CSD blog. Please take a moment to check them out!

For more information, please e-mail CSD’s wellness coordinator, Jaycie Puttlitz, at puttlitzj@csdvt.org.

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, General, Other Important Information, Programs, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

A Hands-On Approach to Life Beyond the Classroom (Contains Video)

As we’ve mentioned before, 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.

Colchester Middle School recently hosted its annual Career Carnival, granting students the opportunity to engage in a number of college- and career-related conversations and activities. Please click here for a video of a day in the life of Colchester School District, which includes footage from the Career Carnival.

With the goal of connecting school and skill sets to students’ lives beyond graduation, the event was designed to demonstrate the vast opportunities awaiting the students and the ways in which those various opportunities combine to make a community and an economy thrive.

A committee championed by CMS’s Kara Pawlusiak that included teachers, parents, and engaged community members organized the event (as is affirmed by the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017, which specifically encourages community involvement in our schools). Community representatives from an array of industries supported the effort, providing career-oriented, hands-on activities and real-world challenges in order to demonstrate what their jobs actually entail.

The 2014 Career Carnival presenters spanned an immense variety of career fields:

Culinary
Chef Christine Frost from the Essex Cook Academy

culinary 3_s

Communications
Keith McGilvery and Jennifer Reading with WCAX
Brent Hallenbeck with the Burlington Free Press

WCAX's Keith McGilvery and Jennifer Reading offered a presentation about communications to students
WCAX’s Keith McGilvery and Jennifer Reading offered a presentation about communications to students

The Arts
Abby Manock
Andy Duback with Duback Photography
Libby Davidson with Starflower Studio

art 3_s

Fitness
Danielle Vardakas-Ducko with Honest Yoga
Jen Barden with Spotlight on Dance
Sarah DeGray with REV Cycling Studio

Animals
Wendy Sorrell with the UVM Extension’s 4-H and Youth
Dr. Nancy Frantz with Milton Veterinary Hospital
Joan Powell and Sam Bigger with the Farmhouse Center

Lola the therapy dog pitches in
Lola the therapy dog pitches in

Health and Wellness
Dan Curry with Appletree Bay Physical Therapy
Jessica Barrow with Champlain Valley Area Health Education Center
Dr. Thomas Ruescher with Timberlane Dental Group
Dr. Jessica Stadtmauer with Mountain View Natural Medicine

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
Mark Lagerquist and Bob Zwonik with IBM

Information Technology
Ed Booth

Law and Public Safety
Jeffery Fontaine with the Colchester Police Department
Michelle Bourgeois with Colchester Rescue
Attorney Matt Shagam

The US Border Patrol landed a helicopter on the CMS/MBS green, much to the delight of the amassed crowd
The US Border Patrol landed a helicopter on the CMS/MBS green, much to the delight of the amassed crowd

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Marketing and Advertising
Peter Mitchell and Jordan Carrell with Burton Snowboards
Lindsey LaCross with WPTZ

Banking and Finance
Betty Koshinsky with People’s United Bank
Trish Phelps with Vermont Federal Credit Union

Building Design and Construction
Jason Lavoie and Austin Chagnon with Lavoie Plumbing and Heating
Matt Pinard with Pinard Electric
Tricia Roy with Smith Alvarez Sienkiewycz Architects

Career Carnival_s

Tech Programs and Military
Center for Technology, Essex
Pilot Philip Small with the Army National Guard
Garrett Greer and Seth Fiore with the Department of Homeland Security

Carnival1_s

Auto and Aviation
Keith Schnabel with MasterTech Automotive
Rick Sylvester and students with Burlington Technical Center’s Aviation program

To learn more about what Colchester School District offers to help prepare students for their careers, please click here to read our primer about it, and be sure to check out an article about it in the May 2014 issue of Currently Colchester.

Many thanks to all of the community volunteers who helped to make this event possible!

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, Other Important Information, Programs

CHS Musicians Win Honors in NYC—Including An Invitation to Perform at Carnegie Hall!

Colchester High School’s musicians did Colchester proud in the Big Apple!

Members of CHS’s band and chorus programs performed in the WorldStrides Heritage Performance’s New York City Music Festival along with bands and choruses from all over the country and Canada on April 26, challenging them to collaborate and perform to their fullest potential in the midst of a rigorous competition.

The members of the CHS concert choir earned a gold medal for their performance, which also earned them an invitation to compete in the Heritage Festival of Gold at Carnegie Hall!

The CHS Concert Choir performed at the Riverside Church in the World Strides Music Festival held in New York City on April 26. The Concert Choir’s gold medal and score earned them an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall.
The CHS concert choir performing at the Riverside Church in the WorldStrides Music Festival in New York City on April 26. The concert choir’s gold medal and score earned them an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall.

The CHS chamber singers and chorus each earned silver medals. “This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our choral groups,” said Melissa Towle, CHS’s choral director.

The CHS concert band earned a silver award for its performance, and the CHS jazz band brought home a bronze award. “We couldn’t be more proud of all our students,” said Evan Peltier, CHS band director, of the program’s first-time performance in the festival.

The CHS Concert Band performing at the World Strides Music Festival held in New York City on April 26, earning a silver medal for their performance
Members of the CHS concert band performing at the WorldStrides Music Festival in New York City on April 26, earning a silver medal for their performance
The CHS Jazz Band performing at the Riverside Church in the World Strides Music Festival held in New York City on April 26, earning a bronze medal for their performance
Members of the CHS jazz band performing at the Riverside Church in the WorldStrides Music Festival in New York City on April 26, earning a bronze medal for their performance

The students also attended a performance of the Broadway musical Newsies and toured Battery Park, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and the Lincoln Center. In addition, they joined other high school music groups for a Staten Island boat cruise.

The CHS band and choral students at the Lincoln Center in New York City
The CHS band and choral students at the Lincoln Center in New York City

If you would like more information, please contact CHS’s Evan Peltier at peltiere@csdvt.org or CHS’s Melissa Towle at towlem@csdvt.org or call (802) 264-5700.

Congratulations and well done, CHS musicians!

Interested in your schools’ final musical performances for the school year?

  • On Tuesday, May 20, join Colchester Middle School for its spring band concert beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the CMS gym
  • On Thursday, May 22, join CMS for its spring choir concert beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the CMS gym
  • On Wednesday, May 28, join CHS for its band and chorus pops concert beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the community theater at CHS

All performances are free and open to the public. Please join us!

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, District Office, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Porters Point School, Student Spotlight, Union Memorial School, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Introducing CSD’s Very Own YouTube Channel! (Contains Videos)

We are pleased to announce the formal launch of Colchester School District’s YouTube channel.

Please click here to access it—there are already nearly fifty videos spanning several years!

We have a wide variety of communications avenues, and video is an important component in our outreach efforts.

Here are some favorites from the current video collection:

The MBS 2013 walk-to-school event

Union Memorial School 2013 teamwork with Tuberville

A particularly inviting physical education class

The 2013 Malletts Bay School and Colchester Middle School Back-to-School BBQ

A lesson in water conservation at Porters Point School

What makes Colchester proud?

Circle of Courage visits Malletts Bay School

The Colchester High School Hour of Code event

Colchester Middle School’s partnership with the Vermont Children’s Hospital

Colchester School District is working hard to enhance frequent and meaningful communications with the community. We invite you to have an inside peek into your community’s schools and the opportunities offered to Colchester’s young people within them. And we encourage you to share the videos with your friends and neighbors!

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.

cc_apr_PropertyValue

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 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!

CHS13_s

CMS9_s

MBS7_s

PPS3_s

UMS4_s

CHS12_s

CMS8_s

MBS6_s

PPS2_s

CHS11_s

MBS5_s

UMS1_s

CHS10_s

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.