Champlain Valley School District transition is moving along smoothly

By the CVSD Board of Directors

We are off to an amazing start. The process and early outcomes of consolidating the governance of our schools to create Champlain Valley School District are surpassing our hopes. While the transition has required tireless hours from the central office staff, it has been both positive and smooth. More importantly, we are beginning to realize the multiple opportunities from this merger, opportunities that will positively impact student learning and that is what gets all of us excited. To better explain the learning opportunities that we are capturing, we went right to Superintendent Elaine Pinckney with some questions.

Q: What are the primary outcomes you hope to gain from the merger?
Pinckney: Our goal for this merger is to provide the most effective education system –one that provides all of our students the greatest educational opportunities, ensures equity across all of our schools, and provides operational efficiencies that will reduce costs over time.

Q: Those are certainly noble goals. What are some concrete steps you are taking to meet them?
Pinckney: We are focusing on best practices in all areas and providing opportunities to learn from each other, both at the teacher and administrator level. We are developing ways to better understand the differences that exist across the district, to evaluate the efficacy of our practices, and to come to agreement about what must be the same, in the name of equity, and what can be different. In the process, we believe that our system will mature into one that provides the best opportunities for our students in the most efficient way.

Q: You mention “provide all of our students the greatest educational opportunities,” can you tell us more specifically how you are working to meet that goal?
Pinckney: The first opportunity is to a world-class education. Our focus on learning proficiencies, learning design and growth indicators opens the door for each and every student to develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions required in a complex world. Our commitment to personalization ensures that all students will develop to the full extent of their interests and abilities.

Q: How are you proposing to balance equity of resources and opportunities among schools, while maintaining the individuality that makes each of the schools special?
Pinckney: We are having deep discussions about which areas and practices are fundamental to a quality education and which are discretionary. We have developed systems to understand how our resources are allocated. This has led to discussions about the “best way” to structure a particular component – from class size/configuration to intervention models, to administrator structure. This, in turn, has led to discussions about the efficacy of particular models or structures. It brings us back to effectiveness and efficiency – the best educational system at the best cost.

Since we were also curious about the opportunities our merger will offer special education, we next spoke with Meagan Roy, the district’s director of special services.

Q: What opportunities from the merger have been captured immediately and what opportunities from the merger are on the horizon?
Roy: Special education has the advantage of having begun the work of consolidation more than two years ahead of the full consolidation of the district, so we’ve been able to realize these opportunities already. I would say the biggest opportunity we’ve had is being able to move forward a common vision for instruction & intervention. Our work toward consolidation has meant unifying our practices and programming across the district. Secondary to this, but related, is that we’ve been able to look closely at special education staffing patterns across the district and have begun the (much slower) process of creating equity.

Q: What is remaining the same and noteworthy, even though we have merged?
Roy: In special education, the part of our work that we’ve not changed is our belief that decisions regarding special education are best made when they are done by those closest to the student – and therefore we’ve maintained a strongly building-based leadership and decision-making structure. We have identified high level standards of practice that outline our beliefs about what works for students, and ensure that decisions are in alignment with those practices…but beyond that, decisions are local.
Next month’s column will explore the impact the merger has had on our finance system and budget process.

CVSD’s Community Budget Forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7, Room 160 at Champlain Valley Union High School.

This will be a great opportunity to understand the district’s budget process and financial outlook, especially now that we are consolidated. Additionally, this will be an ideal time to engage with the principals and board members around what you value most in our schools. In order to make it accessible to families, childcare and food for children will be provided. Since we really want to hear what is on your mind, we are also providing an online Community Input Form for those who cannot attend. Link at: tinyurl.com/CVSDCommunityInputForm. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

For more information, visit the CVSD Board of Directors website at cvsdvt.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/ChamplainValleySchoolDistrict/.

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