Posted in Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, District Office, General, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Personnel, Porters Point School, Town of Colchester, Union Memorial School, Videos

Video Featuring Our Community Members and An Update from the Town of Colchester

Many thanks to the ever-increasing numbers of community members who participate in the annual community dinner before the Colchester School District and the Town of Colchester’s annual meetings. To view a video containing some of the highlights of the March 3 gathering, please click here.

  • Would you like a quick recap of the Town Meeting Day results and how you can offer feedback?
  • Would you like information about an upcoming free breakfast event?
  • Want to know what will be constructed on the site of the old Friendly’s Restaurant at Exit 16?

Please click here to find out more—access the Town of Colchester’s update for the week ending March 7, 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 Middle School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Employee Spotlight, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Another CMS Teacher Honored for Innovative and Transformative Use of Technology!

As technology changes rapidly, our students are able to keep up and participate in many new opportunities as a result of having access to technology and knowledgeable teachers.
—Carol Smith, CMS science teacher


Colchester Middle School science teacher Carol Smith has been recognized by Vita-Learn for her innovative use of technology in her classroom!

Vita-Learn seeks to encourage teachers to push their own comfort levels and boundaries as they utilize the many technology tools available, and it celebrates teachers utilizing technology in order to prepare students for real-world situations.

Carol Smith, who has been with CMS since 1994, is one of only thirty teachers around the state recognized by Vita-Learn this year for working to incorporate classroom technology in meaningful ways for the benefit of students. She will participate in a round-table discussion with educators from around the state in Montpelier next month, during which time, the participants will share the projects and innovations for which they were nominated in order to bring back new ideas for further technology implementation to their schools.

“Our teachers are making efforts to utilize classroom technology, and we continue to seek innovative, real-world, meaningful ways to ensure that Colchester Middle School students are prepared with the technology skills they will need in college and in their potential careers,” she said.

The particular project that sparked Ms. Smith’s nomination was an outgrowth of a summer graduate course, “Google Tools for Schools.” Ms. Smith said, “As a result of needing to better address the Common Core State Standards in reading and writing, I designed a Google Site that housed an entire research project electronically. Students had choice of an essential question concerning reintroducing endangered species into Vermont or protecting against non-native species. I pulled together multiple media sources so that each student in the class had a different species to read or view as they became experts. Each seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher and special educator also contributed articles and media sources; hence, it fostered collegiality and collaboration within our department. Students conducted all of their work using our new Chromebooks, which allowed them to easily use the Google Tools incorporated in the project. They created Google Presentations … and students even used an app currently in beta production that allows users to visually record themselves discussing their project while displaying their electronic projects. These were shared with one another as a way of learning about each of the different species. Furthermore, I connected with a colleague teaching in the Palm Desert region of California … ultimately, our classes did a Google Hangout [which is similar to Skype] to share projects, meet one another, and compare Southern California and Vermont. It was 25 degrees here that day, and we laughed when we heard them complain that it was so cold there at 60 degrees!”

She further explained, “The project was collaborative among both students and teachers, and it offered choice, used multiple different types of technology, met multiple Common Core State Standards, and extended beyond our school and immediate community. All CMS seventh graders participated in the project with their science teachers; therefore, it met the requirements of innovative and transformational. Students used multiple technology applications, learned about real-world issues concerning species in their state, took positions about those issues, collaborated with one another outside of the classroom, and worked globally with another class across the continent.”

Ms. Smith is also part of CMS’s original “Google Team” and has participated in coursework to become familiar with the many, many Google apps and programs and their direct applications to instruction. “CMS piloted and is now taking the lead on incorporating the Google domain, and it features in our curriculum and daily instructional practices,” she said. “Students receive and submit work electronically. They also collaborate online in real time with peers. As technology changes rapidly, our students are able to keep up and participate in many new opportunities as a result of having access to technology and knowledgeable teachers.”

This is not the first time that a CMS teacher has received this honor. CMS’s Jennifer Roberge was honored at the 2013 Project IGNITE Recognition Luncheon for her leadership in implementing Google Apps for Education at CMS (to read more about that, please click here).

The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s pathways include 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. There is a lot of forward momentum in our schools on these fronts. Furthermore, the Vermont Technology Grade Expectations outline major focus areas in education, and among them are digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts, so this work is particularly meaningful and relevant. (To read an earlier Spotlight article discussing other efforts in technology integration around Colchester School District, please click here.)

Congratulations, Ms. Smith and Colchester Middle School!

For more information, please contact CMS at (802) 264-5800, or e-mail Carol Smith at smithc@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 Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, District Office, General, Grants, Malletts Bay School, Other Important Information, Personnel, Porters Point School, Programs, Union Memorial School, Videos, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

IMPORTANT! Introducing a Must-See Mini-Film

We think you’re really going to want to see this mini-film.

An engaging inside tour of your schools … surprising facts about school funding … a helpful discussion about what the budget might mean for you …

Please click here to watch the film.

This film is also streaming on LCATV; you may click here to view it, or tune into LCATV’s Channel 16 to catch one of its ongoing showings.

We are working hard to make the Colchester School District FY 2015 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.

All of this information can also be found on Colchester School District’s website. You may also call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999 or stop in 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 4.

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, Community, District Office, General, Other Important Information, Personnel

School Board Chair Offers Letter to the Community

Colchester School Board Chair Michael Rogers offers the following letter to the community regarding school budgets.

Dear Community of Colchester,

The school budget is put to bed, so to speak, and we hopefully await Colchester residents’ support of our efforts. Reflecting back on our work, I recall a well-written article by Emerson Lynn, co-publisher of the Colchester Sun. In his January 2 article entitled “An Opportunity, Not a Crisis for Vermont,” he stressed the need for school districts to find constructive ways to fund education—to reorganize, to do more with less, and to reinvent the way we work, not only for cost savings but also for the betterment of our students. As a board member who has been looking at the numbers over the past few years and more recently during this year’s budget process, I ask how?

I have been observing or have been involved in Colchester education for the past thirty-five years. I’ve seen smarter and more energetic individuals come before me to serve the community, and now, as the chair of the Colchester School Board, I am walking the same path, examining the same issues, and dealing with the same taxation issue as those who came before me. Why? There seems to be a perception among taxpayers that the school board has absolute power with regard to the operation of the schools—but in fact, many of the school board’s decisions are predicated on guidelines mandated by the federal and/or state government. In the past, some have pointed fingers at school boards and suggested this or that as the source of a problem. However, unless the state legislators formulate changes to schools’ operation and funding, I see little flexibility to make major changes in the local school budget.

I would love for Governor Shumlin and Emerson Lynn to come into our Central Office with their best bean counters and try to find more than bubble gum money that we are overspending in our school budget. I believe the school board members and the district’s administrators take pride in the educational accomplishments here in Colchester. Our per-pupil spending is below state average and one of the lowest in Chittenden County. Our test scores are some of the best in the state. We have done more with less, which speaks very well for the district’s employees. Those who have examined our operation have remarked about our efficiency—including Lawrence O. Picus and Associates, who conducted an extensive case study of Colchester High School at the request of the Vermont State Legislature in order to ascertain how such improvements in academic performance were accomplished without high spending and without high teacher salaries. The report regales CHS as a model for other high schools across the state.

We have to play by the rules laid down for us, and these rules cost money. To lower the cost of doing business in the Colchester School District, our legislature needs to change the rules. My fellow board members and I live in this community and have families in this community … friends and neighbors that we see daily. If we had a magic wand to lower taxes while continuing to offer the same quality of education and still follow the guidelines established by the federal government, would we not shout out to the world that we had found the secret to budgeting?

I do not serve as the school board chair for the money or the power; I suspect that most of the folks in Colchester would not recognize me on the street. I serve because, when the students of Colchester enter the work force or apply to Saint Michael’s College, Middlebury College, or any other college of their choice, I hope that our efforts within the school district allow them to excel in such endeavors.

Sincerely,

Michael H. Rogers
Chair
Colchester School Board

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

Posted in Community, District Office, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Porters Point School

CSD to Begin PPS Principal Search

Colchester School District will soon begin its pursuit of a principal for Porters Point School.

As is described in the position’s posting, the district seeks an individual to assume full responsibility for the daily operation and supervision of assigned school staff, programs, and facilities. In this role, he/she will involve parents, students, staff members, central office, and the community at large, as appropriate.

A selection committee consisting of teachers, administrators, parents, and other community members will screen and interview candidates, recommend final candidates to the Colchester School Board, and more; some members of the committee will also visit the candidates’ current schools as part of the search process.

PPS Principal Jim Marshall will retire at the close of this school year after an illustrious three-decades-long career. Identifying an educator qualified to assume his role is important, and the district is already mobilizing to ensure a comprehensive search and a smooth transition. Our plan is to recommend candidates to the school board during the week of March 31, 2014.

If you would like more information, please contact our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999, or stop in to see us at 125 Laker Lane.

Your schools and your town government 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!

Posted in Accountability, Colchester High School, Community, District Office, General, Other Important Information, Personnel

Teacher Contract Negotiations in Open Session on January 28

The Colchester School Board and the Colchester Education Association will meet on Tuesday, January 28, in the library at Colchester High School for contract negotiations. This meeting, which begins at 5:00 p.m., is open to the public. To view the meeting agenda and other information related to contact negotiations, please click here.

As a friendly reminder, the district and the school board are working to further encourage community involvement and engagement. Click here to submit a question (or e-mail SchoolBoardQuestions@csdvt.org) and enter your contact information and question.

If you are unable to attend the school board meetings but would like to stay informed and/or to hear the response to your question, you can read the meeting minutes on www.csdvt.org, or watch the meetings on Lake Champlain Access Television (LCATV) on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 a.m. The school board meetings also stream at www.lcatv.org.

If you would like more information, please call our administrative offices at (802) 264-5999, or stop in to see us at 125 Laker Lane.

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, District Office, General, Other Important Information, Personnel

Colchester School District Holds Open Negotiations Between Teachers and the School Board

Superintendent Larry Waters offers the following letter to the community regarding a groundbreaking approach to negotiations.

“Once again, the Colchester Education Association (CEA)—which represents teachers—and the Colchester School Board (CSB) have entered another round of contract talks. Historically, such negotiations have occurred behind closed doors (i.e., in executive session) with little or no information released to the community, and only when the final language was agreed upon were the terms and conditions provided to the public. This approach—akin to sharing the ending of a book or movie with someone but leaving out the story—left many community members skeptical about the negotiations’ process and outcome.

“For the first time, and in a monumental and progressive transformation, the CEA and CSB have agreed to hold as many negotiation sessions in open meetings as possible. This simply means that the board will call its meetings to order, allow for public comments, and then conduct contract negotiations that are open to viewing by the community.

“This concept sounds relatively simple but is in fact challenging for both parties. How were the CEA and the CSB able to arrive at this point?

“The prevailing notion about negotiations is generally that the parties begin at diametrically opposed positions with the hope of eventually arriving at a mutually acceptable compromise. Though this frequently holds at least some truth, there may be a more effective and increasingly beneficial strategy to employ. Suppose we begin by discussing the goals we desire to achieve in the negotiations process … and perhaps we discover that we share the same goals?

“One would think that, if we have similar goals, achieving agreement might be easier. The following list of goals was established during the first round of discussion:

  1. Recognize the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017 and its pathways as a guide to decision making
  2. Provide students with rigorous educational programs and teachers who have highly proficient instructional skills that address our current and future learning needs
  3. Provide professional development programs for teachers so that they may implement strategies that address the needs of all students
  4. Recognize highly skilled teachers with competitive salaries and benefits that reflect the community’s ability to fund them
  5. Conduct the negotiations process in a professional and respectful manner
  6. Build trust and transparency with the Colchester community, and
  7. Achieve a multi-year agreement that makes Colchester School District an even better school district than it already is for students, teachers, support staff, administrators, and the community as a whole.

“The next task was to firmly establish ground rules that would align with the goals, and this is where it gets a bit sticky. Ground rules are essential to negotiations, creating a set of terms to which each party must conform in order to best facilitate the process. With little doubt, the most challenging ground rule was how to allow public viewing of a board meeting regarding a very sensitive and often emotionally charged topic. In such a scenario, one’s expressed position on an issue is apparent to all in attendance and is therefore subject to varying opinions—both positive and negative.

“So far, both parties have met twice, and most of the meeting time was conducted in open session. This is unprecedented in Colchester, Vermont, and in most districts across the country. What is even more interesting is that both parties are committed to the practice; both parties want to share their story with you, their community.

“The meetings will undoubtedly move to executive session for some items, such as compensation. To keep the Colchester community informed, I will provide prior notice of the meeting agendas and whether we can expect the parties to move to executive session. Parenthetically, one of the established ground rules is that each party must provide a majority of agreement in order to motion for an executive session.

“I encourage our community members to engage in this historic and transformative process; meeting agendas are always available on www.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 Accountability, Budgets, Colchester High School, Community, General, Other Important Information, Personnel, Town of Colchester

Updates! Get Your School Budget Information and Town Government Weekly Update Here!

Remember … you do not need to wait until Town Meeting Day to learn more about the budgets! Please click here to access a wide array of school-budget-related information. We are working hard to make the budget information as widely available and accessible as possible; we encourage everyone to review the budget materials and ask any questions you may have.

If you would like to know more about what has been going on within the various departments of your town government, please click here to view the Town of Colchester’s update for the week ending January 17, 2014.

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, Employee Spotlight, General, Grants, Other Important Information, Personnel, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Expanding Professional Development for Teachers and Why It’s Important

With grant funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Colchester High School science teacher Kara Lenorovitz recently honored Colchester School District by presenting at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual fall meeting in San Francisco, having been selected to do so by the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) program.

Ms. Lenorovitz joined teacher Tom Lane of Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax and St. Michael’s College’s Miranda Lescaze at the San Francisco meeting. (To read a brief feature about Ms. Lenorovitz’s San Francisco presentation, please click here, and to view her presentation materials, please click here.) More than 22,000 earth and space scientists, educators, students, and other leaders gathered to present groundbreaking research and connect with colleagues as part of the December 9–13 event.

“It was incredibly powerful and reaffirming to both attend and present at the AGU conference,” Ms. Lenorovitz said. “Having the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge scientific findings across the multifaceted disciplines of Earth science, network with researchers and educators from around the world, and to partner more closely with RACC colleagues represented unparalleled professional development. Learning more about the complexities of climate change and educator professional development opportunities offered by other national and international organizations truly highlighted that the broader RACC research focus and model of authentically integrating both high school teachers and students in a vibrant research community is a unique, dynamic, and effective model.”

Ms. Lenorovitz has participated in the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) program, which is part of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)—which is itself a NSF-funded collaborative research effort between university researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and high school teams throughout New England, New York, and Puerto Rico—for four years. She also mentors CHS students in EPSCoR-related efforts; last school year, three CHS seniors focused their efforts on understanding how storm events impact phosphorus levels in streams in various areas of different land uses and were later recognized for their contributions to climate change research. (Read more about that impressive feat here!)

CHS has participated in the Streams/RACC project for all six years of the program’s existence (the name morphed to Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) after its third year). Because science teacher Will Warren led the CHS team for the first two years, two science teachers and thirteen students have been actively engaged in this research initiative over CHS’s six years of participation.

Why is this important?

Exceptional teachers and teaching opportunities best position our students for success. Teacher collaboration is a critical element of student success (please click here to read a Spotlight primer about it), as are strategic professional development opportunities. In addition to serving as an elemental component in CSD’s teacher evaluation model (please click here to access our three-part primer about it), professional development is also the foundational aspect of in-service days (please click here to read more about them). Students’ ability to participate in hands-on, experiential learning is critically important, and your schools work to provide as many hands-on opportunities as possible for students—from pioneering a first-of-its-kind sustainability initiative and partnering with UVM to conduct atmospheric research to working with a state official to design simple water filtration systems … and from seeking grant funding to support the construction of a human-powered generator to teaming up with Colchester Police Department to explore forensics, your schools work to align with the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s many pathways, including Pathway A: High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Pathway B: Technology Infrastructure and Integration; Pathway C: Learning Outside Our Four Walls; and Pathway E: Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners. And we are having an astronomical reach—literally; did you know that one of our graduates is a flight controller for the International Space Station?

Hands-on study and application of science is important because making real-world connections to abstract classroom learning piques student engagement and attention—thus encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and enhancing learning. It also strengthens students’ observational skills and allows them to actively engage in their learning, providing additional sensory activities and expanding their curiosity. Our students are busily preparing for careers that do not even exist yet, and as such, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are of even greater importance; students must be able to translate the theories and concepts they learn now toward applications they will use in their careers that have yet to be developed. Facilitating an increased emphasis on hands-on education—and providing opportunities for leadership development and career preparation in the process—is an excellent example of the forward thinking that the district works hard to promote and encourage. In order to do that, we must have quality teachers. To have quality teachers, they must have relevant, meaningful, and ongoing professional development.

In short, expanded professional development for teachers equals enhanced experiential learning—and thus greater success—for our students.

For more information, please call CHS at (802) 264-5700.

Your schools and your town government 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!

Posted in Colchester High School, Employee Spotlight, General, Personnel, Wellness

CHS Teacher Named VT Health Teacher of the Year

The Vermont Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (VTAHPERD) has given a Colchester High School educator its top honor.

Melanie Laquerre recently received VTAHPERD’s Health Educator of the Year award, which recognizes outstanding teaching in health education, at a ceremony at Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa in Stowe.

Melanie Laquerre at the award ceremony in Stowe
Melanie Laquerre at the award ceremony in Stowe

She spent nearly a year conceptualizing and designing her signature course, “Food: From Soil to Stomach,” collaborating with UVM Extension in order to develop curriculum that was appropriately challenging for high school students (you can read more about the class, which explores the various aspects of food—including growing, cooking, and eating—through an eclectic assortment of subject matters like nutrition and obesity, conventional versus organic agriculture, food miles, sustainability, the treatment of animals in food production, and the global implications of the production and transportation of our food supply, by clicking here).

Melanie Laquerre and CHS Principal Amy Minor at the award ceremony
Melanie Laquerre and CHS Principal Amy Minor at the award ceremony

Melanie also collaborates with other schools within the school district to help establish connections with a wide variety of students and to create collaborative learning opportunities. (Click here to read about a taste-testing event, and stay tuned for an upcoming article discussing her work with waste awareness and recycling efforts.)

Melanie’s honor speaks to the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s efforts with Pathway F: Wellness-Oriented, Balanced, and Healthy Learners.

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!