September 27, 2021
Good evening BSD Community,
The development of our Strategic Plan is moving along nicely. We are using the process of co-construction, where the District works with the community to build our plan together. We are doing this in two key ways – empathy interviews and coalition building.
We currently have a coalition of 35 students, parents, staff, and community members who have been meeting regularly to work on the plan and drive the process forward. Community volunteers and coalition members have conducted more than 100 empathy interviews to hear about the experiences of individuals who are connected to BSD, and the coalition has used the information gleaned from these interviews to create user profiles that represent recurring themes that have risen to the top.
Now, our district leadership team and the strategic planning coalition are conducting a root cause analysis and developing plans to address those root causes. It has been interesting to see the overlap of themes from our leadership team and the coalition, which reaffirms the core work we need to do. One key theme is the need for systems to be able to implement the plans we develop. The feedback from both groups has been clear that we haven’t made the progress we would hope to make on past plans and we need better systems to ensure we make progress on this plan. This systems work will need to underlie all of our planning.
I am very excited about the direction of this group and the work of the coalition that will culminate in a plan designed to focus the District’s work for the next five years. It will also set a framework for how we work together as a community that is committed to shared goals and collaborates to achieve them. Please join us at the October 5 School Board Meeting where we will present an update and engage the board in work that mirrors what has been done by the coalition and BSD leaders.
Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out last week with a willingness to dive into anti-racism and anti-discrimination work in this district. Your messages have reaffirmed for me that our community is committed to ensuring every student, family, and staff member feels they are safe and belong in our schools. While we have work to do, I believe we are moving in the right direction. There is so much good happening in our District, a belief validated through my observations these past two weeks where I have seen students in third grade digging into complex texts and discussing friendship and empathy, instructional coaches eating with their students in the cafeteria to build relationships, and teachers and students greeting each other as they happily transition between classes. I am confident that by coming together, communicating, and modeling kindness towards one another, we can co-create a community that reflects values of equity and inclusion.
Please see below for a number of important updates.
Equitable Budgeting Kickoff – BSD is excited to announce our NEW equitable budgeting process! Join us for a virtual and interactive meeting on October 4 at 6 PM to learn more about our new budget model, a purposeful equity allocation for schools, how the budget process will be more influenced at the school levels this year, and how YOU can be involved in the creation of your school’s budget. We will hold the meeting virtually over Zoom and will stream and record the meeting on the District YouTube channel. See you there!
COVID PROCEDURE UPDATES – (View current procedures here.)
Return to School Policy after Sickness – If a student has been absent because they have developed COVID like symptoms for more than 24 hours, they are welcome to return to school when they feel well enough to be fully able to participate in learning activities, have had a negative COVID test, and have been without fever, diarrhea, and vomiting for 24 hours without the use of medication.
Field Trip Chaperones – Schools may now utilize family volunteers as field trip chaperones as long as volunteers provide proof of full COVID vaccination beforehand.
PCB Update – Consultants have now been able to completely identify and define the extent of development soils contamination at 52 Institute Road, but still have not completely defined the extent of PCB soil contamination. Soil sampling for PCBs will continue on November 30, as that is the next time the special drilling service needed is available. This sampling is a continuation of our effort to define the extent of PCB soil contamination around the old BHS/BTC buildings. We are hopeful this last round of testing will complete our efforts to determine the extent of PCB contamination in the soil.
Surveillance Testing Update and Hiring – Thank you for your patience as we have worked to roll out surveillance testing in our schools. Surveillance testing is being supported by CIC Health who have contracted with the State of Vermont. Unfortunately, we initially ran into issues operationalizing this software for all of our schools, which we have now resolved. More importantly, ran run into equity issues as the consent form for testing was initially only in English and we were told that due to liability our multilingual liaisons cannot offer translation services for families to complete these consent forms. We asked the state to offer consent forms in multiple languages on the CIC Health site and these went live at 5 PM today. We will be working to help our multilingual access the consent form in the coming days and weeks, as we are ready for all families to begin consenting to testing now by filling out the CiC Health Testing Consent form.
That said, it is important to know that on Friday we learned that the Agency of Education will be announcing several new COVID-19 testing programs this week and are pausing implementation of the current COVID-19 surveillance testing program. However, they still want us to complete the onboarding process, including having everyone fill out the consent form, as the options moving forward will likely use the same infrastructure.
Hiring for Surveillance Testing – In order to implement surveillance testing, we need your help! Depending on what changes are announced this week, we estimate that it will take between 20 and 30 additional staff to help us run this program and we are hiring now. If you are interested in helping with this important work, please apply today.
Vaccination Attestation Forms – 6-12th grade families, please remember to log in to PowerSchool to complete the “Vaccination Attestation Form” as soon as you can. Middle school families can also return the paper sent home week, and high school families should receive a copy of the form in the mail soon. It is very important that you complete this form; while I am in no hurry to remove our masking guidelines, the State is asking us to collect this information and it will help us to better understand the health of our schools. Remember, if you have questions about PowerSchool, please contact your school directly.
Student of Color Alliance – The Student of Color Alliance (SOCA) for middle schoolers will return again this academic year. The SOCA is open to all BIPOC middle schoolers; meetings will be held in person on Wednesdays beginning at the end of September and will be co-facilitated by Balkisa Omar and Raphaella Brice. More information regarding location and enrollment updates will be shared soon; please visit the website to read more about the goals of BIPOC Affinity Spaces.
Weighted Pupil Study – Thank you to all of you who participated and/or helped spread the word about the public hearing regarding the Weighed Pupil Study. There will be a second public hearing on October 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
Champlain – In a continued partnership with our friends at Juniper Creative Arts, Champlain 5th graders took a walking field trip to visit the new mural at 345 Pine St. The mural is a continued effort by Juniper Creative to create a series of murals, Afropolinators, spreading love and a message of antiracism across Burlington. Juniper features current and alumni students from Champlain in the mural. In addition, the first graders in Mr. Wallace’s class realized this week that the number of school days we’ve had also lines up with the numeric date on the calendar. The 15th of September was the 15th day of the school year. Numbers are EVERYWHERE! Talking about numbers is a great strategy to engage your children in learning. Doing this at bedtime is a great way to do that math engagement, almost by osmosis!
C.P. Smith – 4th graders in Ms. McSweeney’s class went sailing through our partnership with the Community Sailing Center on Thursday, September 15th. The students participated in classroom instruction on wind, weathering and erosion in the Lake Champlain area followed by a beautiful sailing outing with instructors from the sailing center. This is an element of our focus on Place-Based Learning. Students rode their bicycles to and from the lake and had perfect weather for their outing.
BTC Spaces in the News – WCAX stopped by Cherry Street, Gregory Street, and Williston Road this week. Check it out!
Athletics Update – Check out This Week in Sports! and mark your calendar for Homecoming Weekend 10/15-10/16! Come out and support all of our #BSDVTAthletics teams as well as the BHS Gender Sexuality Alliance who will be hosting our first-ever Drag Ball during the halftime show of the home football game!
BHS supports Winooski HS – Last week, the Winooski High School boys soccer team was met with racially motivated and violent language on the field from the opposing team and from spectators in the stands. In a letter to the community, Winooski Superintendent Sean McMannon said, “In Winooski, we are all tired of seeing our students targeted by this violence and we will continue to fight racism with them.” In a show of solidarity, Burlington High School athletes will be supporting our neighbors in Winooski by showing up for these students in attendance at their home game tomorrow, Tuesday, September, 28th. Join us in support of these students and the entire Winooski community by attending the game and wearing all black in support! There will be a bus leaving old BHS (52 Institute Road) at 6:00pm. The soccer game starts at 6:30pm. The bus will provide transportation back to old BHS after the game.