June 10, 2022
Dear BSD families, staff, students, and recent grads,
What a great day to cap off an amazing year! Congratulations to the Class of 2022 and thank you to all of our families, staff, and students for helping make 2022 a year to remember. The last few weeks have left countless smiles on my face as our students and staff have really brought positive energy to every activity and lesson. I have witnessed students in the YES program flying planes at the airport, sixth graders at Hunt building boats and having boat races in the classroom, science experiments with eggs being tossed off of buildings at EMS, and lots and lots of kids hugging.
My wife, who was a teacher for many years and now works with students from schools across multiple states, recently went on a trip to Camp Abnaki with our twin third graders at Flynn. During that overnight, she sent me a text that said she had never seen more kind and patient teachers and staff. And while she was talking specifically about our Flynntaskic teachers, her note reminded me that I see this every day in all of our schools. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to go through this year with all of you!
As I reflect back on this year, I can’t help but be in awe of all our students have accomplished. As I shared this morning at graduation, in the audience today we had a US Presidential Scholar, two National Merit Scholars, two Eagle Scouts, EMTs, State Champions, certified phlebotomists, National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society members, and this year’s Golden Wrench Award winner. Our graduates are leaving BSD to join the workforce, serve in our military, go on a journey of self-discovery, or attend great schools like Princeton, Wesleyan, Miami, American, USC, Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, Occidental, Vanderbilt, Wentworth Institute of Technology, UVM, Champlain, Drexel, Brown, Skidmore, Georgia Institute of Technology, and so many more.
Perhaps more importantly, is the work our students have done to create a sense of a culture of community and belonging. I saw this love for the community in my Superintendent’s Student Advisory group, through students cheering each other on in the stands and at theatrical and musical performances, and through student participation in the Summer Racial Justice Academy, our strategic planning process, our SRO Task Force, and, of course, the first-ever halftime show Dragball in support of our LGBTQ+ community.
Every day I am reminded of how lucky I am to work with the students, staff, and families in BSD. Thank you all and congrats again graduates and to our new sixth graders and ninth graders who have “moved up” after wonderful ceremonies today.
P.S. On our last day of school, no cases of COVID in our schools were reported today!
Important BHS/BTC 2025 Update – This Tuesday, the school board met to discuss a proposed shift in the design of our new high school and technical center. One factor behind this is that we have learned that the City’s recommended amount for a bond is $150m, though the City has been clear that this number is not set in stone and may be moveable (we are in daily collaborative communication with City leaders around the bond). The other factor is that our current estimate for remediation of the site is $29m and while the most recent legislative session wrapped up with PCB remediation funds included in the State budget, they only allocated about $20 million to support efforts across the entire state, and have yet to announce how to access these funds. We will continue to aggressively seek funding and have brought on a partner to help with this effort, but despite other efforts to garner federal, state, or local funding to support this project, we have not received the needed financial support.
This means that the total anticipated cost of this project is $210m. I have worked hard with my team to identify $25m in BSD resources and funds to support this project. This includes the $10m from ESSER we’ve been talking about this year as well as about $5 million out of our budget and surplus funds which I believe we will be able to set aside over the next five years (including $1.5m that has already been approved). And finally, I believe we should take $10 from the 2017 Capital Plan Bond and redirect those funds to support this project as this is truly an emergency and is in the same spirit of those funds to address deferred maintenance, capital improvements, and space constraints.
However, even with $25m set aside, a $150m bond gives us only $175 million of the $210m needed to complete the project as planned. On the other hand, after hard work from Director Gingold and BTC Teacher Moses Daly, we recently learned that BSD would be receiving $10m from the US government, via Senator Leahy, to support the cost of building an Aviation Education Center at the airport.
The reality of our present financial crisis coupled with the prospect of building at the airport leads me to believe that this is the right time to reconsider the location of a few of our programs. So on Tuesday, I discussed the possibility that we move our four largest mechanical programs (Auto, Airframe, Aviation, and Manufacturing) to this Aviation Education Center space. By consolidating these larger programs at the airport, we believe we can shrink the size of our proposed BHS/BTC 2025 building, producing an anticipated cost saving of $20m. Even so, there is a real possibility, as you may have seen in the media, that could still leave us a funding gap of about $15m to complete the project.
With all that in mind, we have decided to cancel this week’s Schematic Design Public Forum, and will instead hold another special board meeting on Tuesday the 14th to discuss our options moving forward. Despite these challenges, I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead and what is next for BHS/BTC 2025. Please save the date and plan to join us at the next public forum now scheduled for June 29.
2018 $70m Bond Clarification – In 2018, Burlington taxpayers supported a $70m bond to partially demolish, renovate and rebuild BHS. It is important to know that all but $4m of that bond has been returned or was never borrowed in the first place. The $4m that we did spend was spent on the design of the ReEnvisioning project (when we thought we were moving forward) and hazardous materials testing (including PCBs). As we look to voters for a bond in November, please know that we are not asking for a bond on top of the previous amount, as we no longer have access to those funds.
Welcome New Directors! On Tuesday night, the board approved my recommendation that Damon Peykor be named our new Director of Student Support Services. Damon is currently the Interim Dean of Student Support Services at Excel High School in East Boston, MA. In this role, Damon oversees all special education evaluations. Last year he held a similar position at Excel Middle School. The board also recently approved Lyall Smith for the position of Director of Property Services. Lyall, who will join us in July, has worked on behalf of Vermont schools since 2003. He has extensive experience in school operations, maintenance, and transportation management. He also has experience managing capital improvements to schools (most notably, the major renovation to Williston Central School) and is familiar with the new state laws related to PCB testing and remediation. He currently serves as the Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds for Williston Central School and Allen Brook School, part of the Champlain Valley School District. Welcome Damon and Lyall!
Welcome New Principals! We are pleased to announce that Jim Kelley has been named principal of Hunt Middle School (HMS), Nikki Ellis has been named principal of Flynn Elementary School, and Kolby Snellenberger has been named principal of Edmunds Elementary School. All three candidates were approved by the Burlington Board of School Commissioners at a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, May 24.
Best of Luck Doug Davis! This April, our amazing Director of Food Services Doug Davis let me know that he will be retiring at the end of the school year. As a longtime BSD champion and employee, Doug has served BSD for 25 years! Doug’s vision, compassion, advocacy, and knowledge will be deeply missed and I hope you will join me in congratulating Doug on retiring and wishing him the best of luck!
Destruction of Records – BSD will be destroying Special Education records of students who were evaluated for Special Education services prior to 2015 while they were either Homeschooled or attended a Private School in Burlington. lf you would like your child’s Special Education records of evaluations done by BSD prior to 2015 while your child attended one of the settings noted above, please contact the BSD Special Education office at 802-864-8456 or write to Diana Langston to request these records by June 17, 2022. After that date, the records will be destroyed.
Summer Meals are Back – The Burlington School Food Project will once again be offering free meals for all kids under 19 at four sites open to all. All sites will serve Monday through Friday from June 20 to August 12th (but closed July 4).
Riverside Neighborhood (669 Riverside Avenue): Lunch 12:00-1:00
South Meadow Neighborhood (South Meadow Drive): Lunch 12:00-1:00
Franklin Square Neighborhood (North Avenue): Lunch 12:00-1:00
Roosevelt Park Neighborhood (Oak Street): Supper 5:00-6:00
S.O.A.R. Begins! We are excited to kick off district summer programs on Monday, June 27th, 2022. More than 425 BSD students have registered to participate in the S.O.A.R. Summer Learning Program, the Burlington Winooski Middle School Summer Program, and the BHS Summer Transitions program. These students can look forward to five weeks of high-quality academic and enrichment programming, participation in art, gardening and community service projects, field trips to local partners such as the Community Sailing Center, Audubon Society, Petra Cliffs, Burlington Surf Club, Combat Fitness, DragonHeart Dragon Boat Racing, Shelburne Farms and more. These programs are free with breakfast, lunch, and transportation provided. The District is also looking forward to continuing partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club, Burlington City Arts, Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, the Fletcher Free Library, King Street Center and Sara Holbrook Community Center to increase access and opportunity to high-quality summer opportunities for students across the city.
Condoms, Dams, and Feminine Products – To remain in compliance with new Vermont Laws, access to condoms and dams will be provided to students aged 12 and up next year. Middle and High Schools will have condoms and dams available to students as outlined in our district protocol for availability. In addition, schools are now by law required to provide Feminine Hygiene Products in the majority of women/girls’ and gender-neutral bathrooms. We will provide pads in elementary and middle school building; tampons and pads will be provided at the high school.
P-EBT – The State of Vermont will provide P-EBT cards to families of any student who has missed at least one day of school this school year due to a Covid-related excused absence or a Covid-related school closure. BSD will be providing the state with a list of all students who meet this criteria. If your contact info in Powerschool is incorrect, you may not end up receiving a P-EBT card, even if you are eligible to receive one. If your name and address are not correct in Powerschool, please log in and update it or call your child’s school or your Multilingual Liaison and give them the correct information.
Not all families will receive a card and some cards may have more money loaded onto them than others. The amount of money on the card will depend on the number of months that a child missed at least one day of school. To learn more, please visit the State’s P-EBT website.