Welcome back to school from the holidays! I want to take a moment to pause and thank you for all you do for the children and the future of Burlington. Your support in shaping the direction of the schools and the learning of all children is significant to the future of this City and the success of our students.
We are at an exciting time. Just to name a few things:
*The magnet schools are doing magnificently, as measured by both test scores and the evaluation of parent involvement by Fifth Element Associates, a local research and assessment firm.
*The high school transformation is underway with relevant, technology-rich, student-centered learning on the rise and proficiency-based education under development with a timeline.
*The middle schools now have technology in the hands of all 6-8th graders and, as a result, teaching and learning is undergoing an incredible transformation at that level with all students given the equitable opportunities of accessing learning.
*Three of our schools have had complete renovations leading to buildings that are energy efficient and more conducive to 21st Century learning. Two additional projects are currently in the planning phase.
*Diversity and equity has been elevated to a greater role in our work with students, with active learning and growth occurring and a greater use of data to assess equitable learning opportunities for our students.
*As a result of our work transforming the schools, we have passed over a decade of budgets and partnered with nationally renowned critical friends who wish to help us continue to grow and move forward.
*Our test scores continue to rise, with six schools increasing by over 10% this past year.
*Our English Learner Language students and New American community are more engaged and partnering with us to improve communications needed for student success.
*Our students and our faculty continue to be award-winning and leaders in the State and National scene for education.
There are many more things to rave about in Burlington Schools; this is just a flavor. And YOU are a part of making this happen. I applaud you and wish all of us continued success in 2014.
*2014-2015 Budget Process
Money for education in Vermont is pooled and divided among all the schools in the State. Spending for Burlington Schools is determined by both the State and the School Board of Commissioners. Given the Vermont funding system, spending per equalized pupils is the indicator we are focusing on as our primary guide to spending, particularly as our enrollment continues to increase.
In the FY15 budget, we are including expenditures that have been part of the program for several years but not included in past budgets. This leads to a higher percentage increase in FY15. Our turnover in Business Managers in the past four years and an archaic accounting system, as well as the receipt of unanticipated expenses, has created a snowball effect from one year to the next. We now have better financial management systems and software that are helping us to identify the real cost of existing programs. Significant costs have also been shifted to the District from the federal and state government as well as city pension and fees that we must absorb.
In September, the Burlington Board of School Commissioners reached out to residents with a desire to get input from voters on program priorities prior to making budget decisions. A community survey was conducted via the District website, through schools, at coffee hours, and also at PTO and NPA Meetings. The survey asked for input on program priorities. This information was used to develop proposals for further public comment and input, with the goal of bringing greater transparency into identifying the values of the Burlington community for its schools. The Board and the District would like to extend their appreciation to all who participated in the Survey and who continue to be engaged in this process. The information gathered was strongly considered and helped to inform the budget proposal and decisions made.
The Board created a budget proposal in early December and gathered input on the proposed budget on December 16th and 19th. The Board then met on January 7th to further refine the proposal and will meet again on Tuesday, January 14th at 7 p.m. in the Burlington High School Cafeteria to finalize the budget for a March vote on Town Meeting Day. Additional budget information can be found at: www.bsdvt.org.
As always, I welcome comments, suggestions, and observations. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802.864.8474. Also, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @BTVSchools to keep up with all that is happening in the Burlington Schools!