GMUSD discusses BFK, buses, and contract increases

At their April 21 meeting, the GMUSD Board continued to discuss the “Portrait of a Graduate” program and its potential benefits. Photo provided

CHESTER, Vt. – During their April 21 meeting, the Green Mountain Unified School District Board listened to a presentation for the “Portrait of a Graduate” program, presented by Jeff Korchinski from the nonprofit “Battelle for Kids.” The board asked for further details before approving the $38,000 program, that would, according to Korchinski, “Re-envision and transform their school systems,” and would be paid for by ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) funds. Bus ownership was also discussed, and contract extensions and salary increases were approved.

According to Korchinski, BFK would facilitate the five-month, district-wide process, helping the district engage a large group of stakeholders including educators, students, parents, community members, business leaders, board members, administrations, and those of different religious and cultural backgrounds. The participants would be known as a “design team” and would meet four times over the course of several months to establish a vision and align the organization, all to “prepare students to be effective and accountable and responsible citizens in our communities,” says Korchinski. That initial work would eventually lead to a strategic plan and a three-to-five-year roadmap for implementation.

Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman said that the BFK was very helpful in pulling together focus groups from several stakeholder categories in order to help define what it means to be a successful graduate, all culminating in a vision statement that can be shared.

Board member Steve Perani questioned whether the district didn’t already have a pretty good idea of what success means, to which Fierman responded, “I do not have a clear idea of what this community, as a whole, believes.”

Korchinski clarified that their company facilitates in a constructive way, helping to provide specific insights about what different skills and competencies kids would need in the future to be successful, not only in college, but in all trades. BFK also works with teachers to integrate these into a curriculum.

Board member Josh Schroeder reminded the board that they had talked about establishing some sort of vision statement last year, but that they had gotten nowhere and needed help. Fierman agreed, saying that they would be putting together a new vision statement and suggested utilizing BFK, so long as the board majority supported it. She followed by saying she would not have suggested the program if they did not have the ESSER funds available.

By the end of the discussion, the board agreed to get additional details and provide case studies for the next meeting.

Board Chairman Joe Fromberger gave an update on the Professional Development Advisory Committee. Fromberger and Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District Board Chair Paul Orzechowski have met with Fierman and determined that the committee joint board will include 12 members, consisting of two board members from each of the two boards, one teacher from each of the five school buildings, a parent from each of the two districts, and one administrator. Fromberger said he would pick two board members that would work well on the committee, as well as appointing an alternate.

At the April 13 LMHUUSD meeting, Orzechowski had said the committee would consist of 11 board members, but his breakdown of participants did not include an administrator. The committee joint board will be an advisory board, and will make a recommendation impacting the 2023/24 school year.

During a discussion of new hires, Fierman announced that current CTES and Cavendish Fletcher Community Librarian Kata Welch has accepted a position as the new school librarian at CAES, following the retirement of CAES Library Media Specialist Kim Farrar.

The new full-time CTES School Nurse will be Andrea Donahue, who is currently the CAES School Nurse. Amelia Carson will fill the open nursing position at CAES. The current GMUSD Spanish teacher was also offered an extended contract.

The board tentatively approved a request by Sandra Russo, board member from the Cavendish Library, to install a shed next to the library for storage purposes.

In the TRSU Board update, Fromberger said that non-bargaining staff, during open session, voted to offer non-bargaining TRSU employees a 3.5% increase and voted to extend Fierman’s contract for an additional two years, citing the move as a vote of confidence in her ability “to take us forward.” Fromberger also said that a motion has been made to change the titles and registrations for the buses from TRSU to GMUSD, but that it was not approved.

Fromberger said he was personally appalled when he learned that TRSU owned the buses but that the GMUSD was paying for them. Fierman said that since transportation is managed through the TRSU, including the employing of bus drivers, buses, whether owned by GMUSD, LMHUUSD or TRSU, are handled through the TRSU. Fierman suggested that rather than spending the money to retitle the buses now, when new buses are procured, those could be titled and registered under GMUSD.

TRSU Facilities Director Todd Parah added that the $40,000 tech reimbursement they receive from the state could be jeopardized by a title change. Board member Deb Brown suggested they delay action so as not to risk impacting those funds.

Following an executive session, the board approved: a 3.5% salary increase for all GMUSD non-bargaining employees; one-year contracts for both CAES Principal Katherine Fogg and CAES Assistant Principal Nicole Luz; a two-year contract for GMUHS Principal Keith Hill; and 3.5% salary increases for all three.

The meeting opened with former board member Abe Gross making a statement from the floor to clarify his remarks made during their March 23 special meeting, during which he pointed to certain failings of CAES. During this April 21 meeting, Gross apologized for not making his comment clearer, stating that he held the administration and board responsible and not the teachers, who are the least paid and most committed in the system, and specifying that he was not pointing to particular individual.

Gross outlined three changes that could be made immediately, including: changing the driveway and traffic patterns to improve pick-up at CAES, saying that it might be achieved through a selectboard special project or with the help of a donation from an abutting landowner; change enrollment to CAES so that classrooms are smaller by bussing Gassetts students to CTES rather than CAES; and change weekly schedules so teachers are fully compensated for their collaborative work, instead of forcing them to forego the work or do it on their own time, “Because it’s essential work.” He ended by saying, “Changes are needed. Please do not fail to make them.”

The last day of school for Green Mountain UHS, CAES, and CTES is Tuesday, June 21 for students, and Wednesday, June 22 for teachers.

The GMUHS High School graduation is scheduled for Friday, June 17.

The next GMUSD Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at 6 p.m. at Green Mountain High School.

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