Spotlight – Superintendent’s Column (4/16/14)

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you got to enjoy some of the sunshine we have had of late; spring really is nearly here and the sun is badly needed for us all!

It has been a difficult late winter so far and I regret the anxiety and stress the rejected budget has put on all of us. There are many unknowns at this point. It is anticipated that the Board will settle on a budget within a week or so, and then we will need to see if a budget vote will pass, but at least we will know what our “default” budget will be if it does not pass. Many of you have come to Board Meetings to listen and share. I appreciate that. It is helpful to have participation from all who work so closely with our students and understand the impact of decisions being made. Unfortunately, there is no “easy” way out of the budgetary limitations we are facing and ultimately there will be impacts felt. We will survive it together and keep focused on our students in front of us and our families. Hang in there, spring is coming.

The current budget timeline is: 

  • Finance Committee Meeting tonight (no Public Comment as it is a recessed meeting from last week.)
  • Full Board tomorrow night.
  • Possible Full Board next week.
  • City Council April 28th.
  • Full Board April 29th with a budget decision made.
  • Communicate the budget and educate the community in May.
  • Vote June 3rd, with absentee and walk-in ballots possible 15 days prior to June 3rd.

This timeline can change; stay tuned and stay involved.

 Enjoy spring break!

Jeanné

 

 

North Avenue News – April Superintendent’s Message

*My Turn: Excellence and Equity in Burlington Schools 

In Burlington, we have the unique honor of educating a multilingual and multicultural student population. All of our students benefit from the diversity in our schools, as does our City. Our young people are gaining an understanding of various languages, ethnicities and cultures, learning to communicate across cultures, and to navigate diversity and race. These are essential skills in a globalizing world.

The rejection of the school budget will have deep and lasting consequences threatening the quality of education that all of our students deserve and need.

In June 2012, I pledged to the Burlington community to put the District on the path to the elimination of racism and inequities in the Burlington School District. The work of ensuring equitable access to a high-quality education for all of our children remains incomplete and urgent. But much progress has been made in several areas identified in the plan Diversity: Our Gift and Our Future. We have:

• Updated harassment and bullying policies and procedures, so that parents and students clearly understand how to report incidents and understand what will happen when they do.

• Redesigned the Equity Council, made up of teachers from each school who are trained to infuse equity goals and cultural competency across the District.

• Revised processes to eliminate implicit biases in the process to address these barriers to hiring a high-quality, diverse faculty and staff.

• Provided professional development and cultural competency training to administrators, teachers and staff to increase our capacity to facilitate discussions of race and equity in our schools.

• Released the first annual Equity Inclusion Report, which will provide a means for monitoring progress in eliminating disparities in academic achievement, climate, inclusion, and District resource.

• Improved communications and supports for New American students and their families, including the development of a family-friendly report card for these students.

• Evaluated our secondary English Language Learners Program and incorporated the program review recommendations in the revised BSD ELL Strategic Plan.

*FY2015 Budget Timeline for a June 17 Vote

The Board is working to finalize numbers for an FY15 budget proposal. We anticipate bringing a proposal to the community in mid-April for comment, to approve a final proposal at the end of April and then vote in early June. Stay tuned and be heard in this process!

*Hunt Middle School Principal Announcement

It is with great pleasure that we announce a new Principal for Hunt Middle School as of July 1, 2014, Leonard Phelan. Currently serving as a middle school principal in Harwich, MA, Phelan is an experienced administrator whose middle school experience, work with Common Core and STEM, and his building of community will add value to our work in Hunt Middle School and Burlington School District.

Visit www.bsdvt.org to read the full press release.

*RECAP: New American Parent Meetings

A total of 65 parents attended two meetings on Saturday, March 8, to learn more about issues impacting their students at the secondary level in the Burlington School District. Equity Director Henri Sparks and ELL Director Linda Walsleben presented about maintaining confidentiality, preventing theft and providing academic supports for students. Parents identified additional topics to be addressed at future meetings.

View the presentation here: http://bit.ly/1diEccL.

*Snow Days / Last Student Day 2014

As a result of two snow days this year, the students’ last day is now June 11 and the teachers’ last day is now June 17. Any more snow days will result in additional days being added on.

 

Spotlight – Superintendent’s Column (4/2/14)

Greetings All,

As everyone knows, we as a District are in a difficult time. With a failed budget vote, we now face needing to implement Reduction in Force deadlines which cause great anxiety throughout the District. I am very aware that we may lose some excellent teachers before we are able to recall them and I deeply regret that. I appreciate that people are active in sharing the impact of RIF and budget decisions with both the new and current Board. We will have to make cuts; I am doing all I can to make the fewest reductions in personnel as possible. Our students need all of us. 

The new Board reorganization meeting has been changed to April 7th at BHS, due to charter language. Please share that update, as I know many are interested in attending. Your voice matters. 

Recently I wrote an op. ed., which I wish to share with you here.

Excellence and Equity in Burlington Schools 

In Burlington, we have the unique honor of educating a multilingual and multicultural student population. All of our students benefit from the diversity in our schools, as does our City. Our young people are gaining an understanding of various languages, ethnicities and cultures, learning to communicate across cultures and to navigate diversity and race. These are essential skills in a globalizing world.

The rejection of the school budget will have deep and lasting consequences threatening the quality of education that all of our students deserve and need.

In June 2012, I pledged to the Burlington community to put the District on the path to the elimination of racism and inequities in the Burlington School District. The work of ensuring equitable access to a high-quality education for all of our children remains incomplete and urgent. But much progress has been made in several areas identified in the plan Diversity: Our Gift and Our Future. We have:

• Updated harassment and bullying policies and procedures, so that parents and students clearly understand how to report incidents and understand what will happen when they do.

• Redesigned the Equity Council, made up of teachers from each school who are trained to infuse equity goals and cultural competency across the District.

• Revised processes to eliminate implicit biases in the process to address these barriers to hiring a high-quality, diverse faculty and staff.

• Provided professional development and cultural competency training to administrators, teachers and staff to increase our capacity to facilitate discussions of race and equity in our schools.

• Released the first annual Equity Inclusion Report, which will provide a means for monitoring progress in eliminating disparities in academic achievement, climate, inclusion and District resource.

• Improved communications and supports for New American students and their families, including the development of a family-friendly report card for these students.

• Evaluated our secondary English Language Learners Program and incorporated the program review recommendations in the revised BSD ELL Strategic Plan.

Jeanné

 

 

RIF Process

This year, with the budget defeated, Burlington School District is facing a larger than usual “RIF” or Reduction in Force process in order to make all options available to the Board as they decide a new budget proposal for voter approval.

Because the teacher contract and central office administrator contract have a March 15 deadline for notification of possible RIFs, these two groups received the first RIF notices. And because the teacher group is our largest group of employees, the list is quite large in that area.

How were the RIF positions identified?

As superintendent, I was asked to identify non mandated programs and staffing that we have. About 80% of our programs and related staffing is mandated (see zero based budgeting work http://tinyurl.com/lx9z67v). Thus, we have to look at programs that are valued but go beyond the basics. That started the RIF list identified positions.

On March 15, we notified the BEA  union president of a possible 48 positions being RIFfed. This post will focus on the teacher RIFs as there are so many questions in this area.

The process of reducing teaching positions and the associated rights to “bump” a less senior teacher or be recalled to a position is documented in the BEA Master Agreement, a copy is on the BSD website.  Specifically, articles 11, RIF’s; 14, Bumping; and 15, RIF Recall; cover this process.

Once the district identifies the positions for potential elimination, we then work with the BEA to identify the teacher currently holding that position. This is not an easy task, as we must first decide if the position is district wide or building based. If building based, the least senior teacher with the same license of the reduced position is subject to the RIF. If district based, such as unified arts at the secondary level, the least senior teacher district wide with the same license as the teacher in the reduced position is subject to RIF. Middle school positions are reduced by building by subject. High school positions are reduced by subject.

Next, before a teacher is sent a RIF notice, we must identify any vacant positions, such as retirements, and transfer them if they are licensed and qualified.

This process is completed by March 28. However, the list is not yet final even then. Next, teachers who have received RIF notices may then exercise their “bumping” rights. Bumping is the displacement of a less senior teacher in a position for which the RIF’d teacher is licensed and qualified.  This is a district-wide process, thus a RIFfed teacher who has seniority over another teacher in the district with the same license and qualifications may bump anywhere in the district. Teachers displaced by a RIF’d teacher may exercise bumping rights as well and may displace a less senior teacher in a position for which the initial “bumped” teacher is licensed and qualified district-wide. Another confusing factor is that an elementary teacher is licensed for grades K-6; thus an elementary teacher can “bump” into 60th grade or vice versa.

I have had questions about qualifications, particularly in the area of the magnet schools. This clause is not defined to identify the skills of the magnet school teachers at this time in the contract. Thus an elementary licensed magnet school teacher is on equal footing with a non magnet school elementary licensed teacher.

Finally, we have a RIF recall list. RIF’d and displaced teachers who are not transferred to vacant positions or cannot displace as less senior teacher are eligible to be on the RIF Recall List for two (2) years. Teachers on the RIF Recall List are recalled to vacant position in reverse RIF order, with the requirement that the teacher must be licensed and qualified for the vacant position.

We cannot RIF recall until we know what our approved budget amount will be this year. We can transfer to vacant positions as retirements and resignations come in. But total RIF recall depends on an approved budget.

This is a time of great uncertainty in the district. It is also likely we will lose newer teachers who are not able to wait for things to sugar out. I am very sorry for the anxiety this causes and hope that the budget decisions are made soon in order to keep as many new hires as possible.

BSD HR April 2, 2014

Spotlight – Superintendent’s Column (3/20/14)

Greetings All,

Hopefully we had our final March snowstorm—what a doozy! I understand Connect 5 did not work for some folks. If you don’t get a call, be sure to check the website, Facebook, TV, etc., and also be sure when you get back to school to check to see if your number is correct. Connect 5 lets us see if a call did not go through or if it was unsuccessful due to an answering machine or busy signal. It does call multiple times. We are working with the vendor on why some calls did not go through last week.

SCHOOL YEAR ENDING DATES. As a result of two snow days this year, the students’ last day is now June 11th and the teachers’ last day is now June 17th. Any more snow days will result in additional days being added on.

TEA WITH JEANNÉ. There is a lot happening in the District right now, with a defeated budget and much uncertainty. I am offering two Tea with Jeanné sessions in the next couple of weeks for anyone who wants to ask questions directly about anything in the District. Please join me if you are able:

*March 26th, 8:30—9:30 a.m., Maintenance Shop, 287 Shelburne Road

*March 31st 3:30—4:30 p.m., Champlain School

Teas are open agenda meetings for me to listen, answer questions and address rumors directly. Tea and cookies are provided!

LET’S TALK—Online Communication Tool. Building on our commitment to outstanding communication and responsiveness, Burlington School District has launched Let’s Talk!, a simple way to monitor the pulse of our community by giving parents, teachers, staff, students and community members a 24/7 outlet for ideas, concerns and praise.

Let’s Talk is a “button” that resides directly on the District website (www.bsdvt.org) and all school websites, accessible anytime, anywhere, from any device. The tool is based on the premise that every opinion is an opportunity for progress. It enhances and simplifies communication because — unlike postings on social media — Let’s Talk! allows every comment to be carefully considered and directed to appropriate staff for follow-up. Candid feedback is not only accepted, but appreciated. Check it out on any school or the District website.

Spring is coming!

Jeanné

Spotlight – Superintendent’s Column

Greetings All,

As you are now aware our budget was defeated significantly in this week’s vote. The disconnect between our growing enrollment and investment in quality programs, with an education funding system that resulted in an anticipated 9.9% tax increase (for a moderate 3.9% budget increase) hit the wall and Burlington voters expressed that they could not afford it any longer.

What are the next steps? We will have six new Board Members beginning in April and this Board will determine if we go back out for a second budget vote, and if so, what shall it be? Ultimately, if we have no approved budget by June 30th, we can spend this year’s budget amount plus any additional revenue. This will mean additional reductions of about $2M at the high end.

In the next week, I must prepare a reduction in force list in anticipation of what the Board decides and how we will end up with a spending plan. This likely means there will be many RIFs extended and some positions will likely be recalled this year, but not until late spring. This always causes anxiety and I am very sorry for that. Because of contractual deadlines, we must RIF first and then bring back as revenue is approved through a budget.

I will try to keep you up to speed as to the thinking of the Board. Basically, anything not mandated will be considered for             reduction. There is no doubt there will be an impact on the classroom and on programs. Of course, we will also seek non-program reductions as much as possible. We will get through this together. Please hang in there and ask questions as we go through this process. Thank you for your commitment to the children of  Burlington.

I wish to thank the following Board Members for their years of service and dedication to Burlington’s children as they leave the Board: Kathy Chasan (8 years), Bernie O’Rourke (6 years), Jill Evans (4 years), Rebecca Grimm (3 years), Erin Kranichfeld (2 years), and Linda Deliduka (2 years).

I also wish to welcome the new Board Members who will begin their terms in April: Kyle Dodson (Ward 1), Brian Cina (Ward 2), Charlie Giannoni (Ward 3), Scot Shumski (Ward 4), Stephanie Seguino (Ward 6), and David Kirk (Ward 7).

Jeanné

North Avenue News – March Superintendent’s Message

I hope everyone enjoyed the unexpected snow day on Valentine’s Day earlier this month! For a bit of fun, watch how J.J. Flynn was closed for a snow day by Lego Batman on the Jimmy Kimmel Show! tinyurl.com/oqrm39t.

*BSD 2012-2013 Annual Report – Now Available at www.bsdvt.org

What are we doing in the Burlington Schools? BurlingtonSchool District’s 2012-2013 Annual Report is now posted on the District website. Check it out. This exhaustive report includes the comprehensive budget for 2014-15, comparative data on school spending between Burlington and other Vermont communities, and a review of school accomplishments and assessments for the 2012-13 school year.

Along with the Annual Report, look at the eLearning site on the BHS website for a showcase of awesome work by students and teachers. http://bhselearning.blogspot.com/.

Also, check out the storify about the EMS Digital Learning Day at http://storify.com/TarrantInstitut/digital-learning-day-edmunds-middle-school.

Watch our students at C.P. Smith learn to code (at that young age???) at Math Coach Karyn Vogel’s blogspot: http://karynvogel.blogspot.com/.

And…see pictures of the BHS 9th graders experiencing Getting Real About Race on February 12th, with many partners in our community participating! http://gettingrealaboutrace2014.blogspot.com/.

These are just a few of the great things happening in our schools on a daily basis. I hope you visit online or in person and see what is happening with our students. 

*Budget

After several months of setting financial goals, reviewing all programs and setting priorities with community input, the School Board has settled on a budget for FY15 that is 3.9% higher than the current year and strives to maintain direct services to students while reducing programs that may not be sustainable. The anticipated tax rate for this budget is 9.9% due to a state increase in property taxes anticipated to be 5%, a 1.8% growth in the common level of appraisal (property values increase), and 3.1% due to the budget growth and student enrollment growth. More information can be found in the Annual Report, mentioned above. 

Significantly less than the previous two years, this budget allows continued focus on technology, high school transformation, magnet schools and quality instruction. Town Meeting Day is March 4th, but you can vote early by going into City Hall or by requesting an absentee ballot. Thank you for supporting Burlington Schools and Burlington students in the past several years.  

*Embedding Honors Into Humanities Classes

BHS staff and teachers will be holding a session to hear ideas, concerns and suggestions regarding changes in the 9th grade curriculum that will embed Honors work into classes, instead of having separate Honors classes. This session will be on Thursday, March 6th at 5 p.m., BHS Room C207/209. Also, please email your thoughts to Amy Mellencamp – BHS Principal at amellenc@bsdvt.org, Erika Lowe – 9th Grade English at elowe@bsdvt.org, and/or Amy Dickson – Teaching and Learning Environments Fellow at amy@partnershipvt.org.

*Contact Information

As always, I welcome comments, suggestions, and observations. Contact me at superintendent@bsdvt.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!