ACSD School Board Updates
Welcome to our School Board Page where we will be posting regular updates.
Letter from Victoria Jette, Facilities Committee ChairPosted by Erika Garner on 10/14/2020
The Facilities Committee met on Wednesday, September 23rd to hear from ACSD administrators Vicki Wells and Caitlin Steele about their long standing work on redesigning our system of delivering ACSD's academic program and special services to students. They gave us an overview of the IB experience, student supports and the educational vision for ACSD as it relates to the Facilities Master Plan (FMP). We had asked them to present how their work would look in both the three and four school model. It is a powerful presentation that I encourage anyone interested in understanding the educational impacts of consolidation to view the meeting recording posted on the Board and Committee Meetings page on the ACSD website at www.acsdvt.org/schoolboard. It was encouraging to hear how promising they feel the three school model is and great to be able to begin to imagine the dynamic school communities that we aim to create.
The next big step in moving forward with the development of the FMP is to perform a transportation study to ensure that we will be able to provide transportation services with reasonable ride times while building the diverse communities we seek. We will be focusing on this over the next few weeks.
The Porch Conversations have been well attended. It is inspiring to see people show up with thoughtful questions, listen and learn about the challenges facing ACSD. We are not alone in trying to figure out how to position ourselves for future success and stability in a time of rising cost and downward demographic trends.
(This letter appeared in the School Board Newsletter on October 14, 2020. The full newsletter can be viewed by following this link)
Letter from Victoria Jette, Facilities Committee ChairPosted by Erika Garner on 8/20/2020
Last week the Board had an in-person retreat to touch base, catch up and discuss how we are all feeling about Covid, reentry plans, consolidation, equity and our work around anti-racism. It was long but truly engaging.
The members of the Board are concerned about the impact of Covid on all district families. We worry about the students this district is charged with educating and caring for. We worry about their teachers. We worry about their parents and their parents' livelihoods. We worry about surviving this storm as a whole community and we appreciate the strength we see in our leadership, our teachers, our parents and students. As Bill McKibben so eloquently wrote in The New Yorker, we are lucky to live in VT. We know our neighbors and the tradition of looking out for one another. We want to thank everyone who is working hard to support this unprecedented start of school.
Many have shared concerns regarding timing of this work and the pandemic. We believe it is important to clarify the timeline we are currently working towards. We hope to have a comprehensive first draft by the end of the year. We will be seeking feedback and redrafting through the winter, as we are aiming to have the final draft ready by town meeting day in March. The implementation date will depend on the plan and future financial realities but our best guess is 2022/2023 school year or beyond. I believe that we would be shirking our responsibility as a Board if we allow the pandemic to paralyze us. Is it going to be easy? No. But as we discussed at our retreat, the Board is unanimous in its desire to keep going. We believe that the financial condition of the state is going to result in substantial cuts to school budgets. For the ACSD board to ignore these signs and not prepare the district to mitigate some of the harm those cuts will cause would be irresponsible.
Knowing and understanding the communities that make up the ACSD is the never ending work of the Board and our administrators. As a consolidated district this work started in earnest 5 years ago with the strategic plan when community members from across the district came together to create a vision. This vision led us to the International Baccalaureate initiative. As our school communities grappled with and embraced this transition we were delighted to see our teachers and school communities find strength in collaboration. We heard from principals, teachers, students and parents about the highs and lows of charting this new path. As we did then, we still attend gatherings, school events, student presentations and days of learning to understand what it’s like at the ground level where implementation happens. We read comprehensive monthly updates from each principal about what is going on in each school, their victories, and challenges day to day. We receive news, advice and input from community members all the time. We recognize we must continue to ensure there is constant flow of information between the Board and the community we represent. As part of our efforts to improve, below you will find additional ways the Board will be working to connect with the community as we move the Facilities Master Plan forward.
(This letter appeared in the School Board Newsletter on August 20, 2020. The full newsletter can be viewed by following this link.)
Letter from Mary Cullinane, ACSD Board ChairPosted by Mary Cullinane on 6/26/2020In March, as COVID-19 forced unprecedented changes for our learning community and created so much uncertainty for our district, state, and nation, the ACSD Board put the process of considering various facilities scenarios on hold. At that time, all attention had to be focused on ensuring our learners, families, educators, and staff felt safe and had access to needed resources. Now, as the consequences of COVID have materialized, we find ourselves facing a set of extreme circumstances that compel us to act.
The financial future of Vermont will be increasingly challenging over the next few years, facing an estimated $100 million deficit for this coming school year (FY21) and an even greater threat for FY22. We are not unique in this challenge. Districts around the country are anticipating cuts as high as 25%. Moreover, our state projects that this will most likely be a multi-year fiscal challenge and that spending cuts will not be limited to FY22. With deficits this high, we will be required to make significant cuts in all areas of our budget, including staffing. Clearly, this new financial backdrop makes our facilities discussion that much more urgent and imperative, and because of this we have resumed the process. Our responsible actions in this area will enable us to minimize staff reductions and allow us to continue towards our goal of providing an equitable and exceptional learning environment for all.
We are fortunate and grateful that with the work we have already done, we are poised to be proactive in addressing our financial challenges. We are committed to doing our best to focus the Facilities Master Planning process on keeping values of ACSD intact while creating new reality for how we deliver education to all students. And most importantly, we remain committed to improving our communication, engagement, and transparency during this process.
This is a lot. It’s unsettling and it calls on us to be open to ideas that we would once never consider. Please know, we recognize our responsibility to engage and maintain connection with our community stakeholders in multiple ways. Through COVID-19 we demonstrated that together, we can do things that seem impossible. With empathy and focus required now more than ever, we are working on multiple pathways for information dissemination, exchanges, and listening. We must all engage and with our new Board Update webpage currently in construction, you will soon be able to keep current on information and planning. For example, we will be scheduling “Porch Conversations,” both socially-distanced and virtual starting in July. I look forward to your invitation! We also encourage stakeholders to attend board meetings as the most direct way to receive information and hear how the board is weighing the issues. We anticipate decision points where we will seek community feedback regarding options and will be reaching out.
- We are examining 3 and 4 school models, given that these models can accommodate our student body using existing facilities and do not require us to propose a bond.
- We are now analyzing and understanding the next layers of need for the 3 and 4 school models. Principals are looking at capacity, educational programming, and staffing, for example. While there is no set timeline, this work will continue into the summer. Our goal is to get it right to the best of our ability with the data we have at hand. While the Board is considering the information provided by TruexCullins, board discussions will be ongoing regarding critical design elements such as creating diverse communities of learners, educational support services and transportation.
- Our current fiscal year (FY20) ends in June. We begin FY21 July 1st. Planning for FY22 begins in November. Given our budget challenges will be most grave in FY22, it is imperative that we are proactive, prepared and have a clear understanding of our options.
Above all, we want the ACSD community to understand that we are responding to this crisis so that we can continue the excellent work we do as a learning community. Financial challenges were already present, and the pandemic has only exacerbated them to a level of urgency that we cannot ignore. While the time frame may feel accelerated, we pledge to bring transparency and thoughtfulness to this process. We also recognize that during this time of COVID, anxiety is already high and our community is experiencing the pandemic in many different ways. We must look to each other for support, empathize with our neighbor and understand the work ahead will be difficult, but necessary.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing to support each other during these unprecedented times.
Mary(This letter appeared in the School Board Newsletter on June 26, 2020. The full newsletter can be viewed by following this link.)