February 9, 2024
Dear Burlington Community,
Happy Black History Month. In schools the past few days, I have seen public spaces dedicated to uplifting Black history, culture, and lives. I have also seen teachers and students leaning into this learning. At EMS, Ms. Wyndorf’s 6th-grade Humanities class kicked off Black History, Present, and Futures Month by each dedicating their learning to someone. While it may sound like a small thing, this is an excellent example of deep learning as students make personal connections to their learning. As these students go about their learning, they will have a real-world connection to their work and a concrete example of the reason this learning is important.
As we take time this month to explore Black history, I have three aspirations for us as a community. First, it is my hope that this month will provide us all the opportunity to learn and teach about Black excellence and Black joy. Second, I hope we will all find the time to reflect on our own actions and biases (both implicit and explicit) and how those connect to our lives in a white supremacy-culture. And most importantly, I hope that we all take strides to continue this work of learning, reflecting, and growing into March and throughout the rest of the year.
Budget Update – On January 17th, the School Board approved our recommended budget for next year. When we first created our budget, we believed that as part of the new Weighted Pupil law (Act 127), we would be eligible to cap the tax impact of our spending decisions at 5%, instead of 6.59%. (This number is in addition to the 9% tax increase due solely to the Common Level of Appraisal adjustment I previously wrote about.) However, the legislature is now considering eliminating this 5% spending cap for all school districts. Although it is not ideal for the law to change after budgets pass, the good news is that during our budget development process, we worked very hard to keep new spending at a minimum, knowing that the cap would eventually sunset and we would be required at some point to pay for all new costs incurred. This means that while other districts may be hit hard, this potential legislative action will only cause our tax rate impact to increase by another 1.59 percentage points. If this cap goes away, the total tax impact of our budget (including the CLA), would be 15.6%. In terms of dollars for our community, for those paying income property taxes on the value of a $370,000 home, taxes will increase by $836 a year instead of our projected $749. Although this is disappointing, we are hopeful that Burlingtonians will see that we purposefully developed a level service budget because we knew the tax impact would be significant this year and that our decisions would also have long-term ramifications. We continue to monitor this development and contribute feedback to ensure the changes minimize any adverse impacts on us as much as possible.
For more on our budget, including all presentations and our budget info one-pager, visit www.bsdvt.org/budget
Signing Day – Yesterday was a special day as we celebrated National Girls & Women in Sports Day with a Signing Day ceremony for five student-athletes in front of family, friends, coaches, teachers, staff, School Board and community members. Congratulations to Rukiya Awayle (SUNY Delhi; Basketball), Brooks DeShaw (Middlebury College; Soccer), Elsa Sanborn (Bates College; Nordic Ski), Amelia Dion (Smith College; Soccer and Track & Field) and Gillian Fairfax (Bowdoin College, Nordic Ski) for their commitments. WPTZ/NBC 5 had some great news coverage! On the way to this event, I was feeling pretty proud of our district and feel that way even more now. I truly believe BHS is the best high school in the state (or in Providence or DC) in the curiosity, openness and overall accomplishments that we see from our students, our inclusive nature, and our committed faculty and families.
HMS MLK Learning – In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the entire school engaged in this learning based on this resource from the King Center during the foundations block. Our goal is to make sure that Dr. King’s legacy of the Beloved Community is living in our school culture. He will be celebrated once again during the opening of our auditorium in February, as part of our Black History month events.
Upcoming Equity Workshop: Neurodivergence; Celebrating Unique Minds – Wednesday, March 20, 6-7 pm via Google Meet or in person at the Integrated Arts Academy Library – Instead of focusing on problems and deficits, this workshop will focus on neurodivergence as a strength. We will review terms and definitions and share tools for educators and families to support students on the autism spectrum. This workshop will be co-facilitated by BSD Equity Instructional Leader Autumn Bangoura and BHS alumni and Disability Advocate Eva Edwards-Stoll:
We are Hiring! We have a number of positions open in BSD! We are hiring for food services and for evening custodians. We also have a few teaching positions open, as well as some positions with students that do not require a teaching license, such as Behavior Interventionists, afterschool staff, and Paraeducators. No matter what your skills are experiences are, we have something for you! BSD offers competitive wages and benefits and a rewarding work environment. Apply today!
BSD’s Annual Survey Administration Dates – BSD’s Annual Survey (formerly known as the Restorative Culture Survey) will be open for administration from Monday March 18th to Friday April 12th. Please mark your calendars. Mika Moore and Karyn Vogel will work with sites to develop a plan for administering the surveys to staff, students, and families during this window.
Savings The development team, including BSD leadership staff, approved a 5th round of recommended value management (VM) changes totaling approximately $608,000 in savings. The changes do not affect form or function and include product substitutions for ceiling materials in the commons and exterior soffits, reducing exterior LED strip lighting, and reducing the amount of entrance pavers. Total approved VM savings to date is approximately $3.64 M. There are several remaining VM options currently being considered by district leadership. If these remaining options are accepted, the total and final VM savings will be close to $3.9 M. As a result, it looks like we will need to take the $500,000 for LEED improvements out of contingency.
Demo Demolition of Building E superstructure is complete with foundations/slab 70% complete and Full demo and soil removal still planned to be completed by mid-March. Building F abatement is essentially complete and demolition of the superstructure is planned to begin today or early next week; this should be completed by the end of February with demo of the slabs/foundations and soil remediation on track for completion by late March. EV’s target completion date for all building demo and abatement and soil remediation is still late March.
Audit – The FY23 audit and management letter are posted to the BSD budget website and will be discussed at Tuesday’s Finance and Facilities Committee meeting. We received a “clean” audit that was free of material weakness or significant deficiencies. The audit confirms our available surplus of $2.4 million for the FY25 budget, as planned.
HMS Stormwater We have gotten a grant to complete a needed stormwater project at Hunt. This project is scheduled for this summer’s construction season. We will have a set of plans to review soon so we can figure out the logistics of where the digging is and where the equipment will be located during construction. We are considering moving the middle school summer programs to Edmunds this summer to avoid the construction and should be finalizing the decision one way or another in the coming weeks.
Rockpoint The demo and abatement work at Rock Point is well underway and the contractors are mapping out where all of the new building systems will be installed and we are making progress on all of the site work permits.
IAA We have completed several site visits with contractors that are bidding on various scopes of the IAA renovation and will have bid packages to review soon.
Special Education Compliance – BSD was moved into Targeted Monitoring for special education compliance as a district by the Agency of Education (AOE) as part of their annual compliance review process. Corrective Actions to address this include BSD completing in-person sessions with AOE representatives, obtaining required technical assistance and submission of new data collection for annual review dates for all meetings between March 1 and May 15, 2024 to the AOE for review, plus correction of all individual instances of non-compliance indicated from the November 2023 submission. We are in this position due to the staffing issues we’ve experienced in the Student Support Services Department over the past two years. Now that Executive Director Kellie Klasen is in her role in the middle of year two, and we reorganized the team to have two excellent educators as Associate Directors to support the work on the ground level, Erika Suanders and Jen Doyle, we will be in a much better position. We are committed to ensuring full special education compliance as we know this is the foundation for an excellent program for students with disabilities.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Writing – One of our programmatic goals to improve special education services is to focus on the quality of IEP’s to improve services for students with disabilities. The Student Support Services team has been facilitating direct training on IEP writing with our special education teachers this school year. The Student Support Team is focusing on helping teachers and staff build their skills to ensure that appropriate individualized plans are written, timelines are followed, and families are involved in the process. This work also directly supports Strategic Plan Priority Area 1: Belonging and Well-being for all of our students because we know that when we provide excellent programs, students feel connected to their education and school communities.
BTC Registration – Burlington Technical Center is accepting applications for all programs! Students can apply on our website at btc.bsdvt.org through our easy-to-use online application. Our priority deadline is March 8th, and programs fill up quickly, so apply today!
State Champions – BHS is marking the 11th consecutive season we’re hoisting State Championship banners, congratulations to the following Indoor Track student-athletes:
- Winslow Sightler ‘24 – Shot Put State Champion (back-to-back) and New England Qualifier
- Amelia Dion ‘24 – 3000m State Champion and New England Qualifier
- Avi Yagoda ‘24 – 1500m State Champion and New England Qualifier
- Ahmed Diawara ‘25 – 300m State Champion and New England Qualifier
- Jack Foster, Ahmed Diawara, Avi Yagoda, Desmond Snyder – 4x400m State Champions and New England Qualifiers
- Vivian Halladay – Shot Put State Runner-Up and New England Qualifier
- Nadia Sylla – 4th Place Shot Put and New England Qualifier
- Sean Fialko-Casey – High Jump State Runner-Up and New England Qualifier
- Other New England Qualifiers: Elliot Fontaine, Grace McHenry, Grace Park, Tessa Napolitano
Weather at Your School – If you started Friday watching the weather on WPTZ, then you already know that Sustainability Students and staff began the day off bright and early, gathering before 7AM to give live weather updates! This all began because students in third grade are studying weather and climate, part of the last Literacy unit. The school reached out to the meteorologist at WPTZ to ask if anyone would be interested in being a guest speaker in the class. WPTZ said yes and also offered this opportunity to get lots of kids involved. It was an exciting morning and a great example of deep learning – the third graders were able to connect directly with someone who does for a living what they were studying. I would not be surprised if we see some future meteorologists develop out of SA!
Horizons Retreat – At Horizons, one of our alternative high school programs, our community’s guiding principles heavily emphasize student ownership and self-directed learning experiences. An essential part of this process is involving students in the design and execution of our mission. Below are photos of the recent Horizons student retreat that centered around exploring and enhancing the school’s climate and culture. The day was filled with insightful discussions, student reflections, and what Principal Riley believes is a shared commitment to positive change.
HMS Basketball March for Our Lives – The HMS girls basketball team held a ‘March For Our Lives’ awareness event before their game last night. The goal was to bring awareness about gun violence. WCAX interviewed some of our Hunt student-athletes to hear how they are feeling about gun violence in our Burlington community and why they chose this topic. Check out the two segments they did!