Message from Our Superintendent

Message from Our Superintendent

L MillingtonDear Parents, Friends, Students, and Faculty,

It’s been a long winter. Busy, to be sure, but long. It’ll be nice to wander out of this office soon, and over to the athletic fields to watch our teams get ready for their spring contests.

We are still riding some very positive momentum from our recent visits with Rebecca Haslam and Calvin Terrell, both of whom came (separately) to speak with students, faculty, and community members about racial equality, bullying, and building a kinder, more inclusive school community. Calvin’s visit followed on the heels of several weeks’ worth of discussions and assemblies and planning for a Racial Justice Social Alliance, and faculty/staff workshops on dealing with issues of race and violence. More than 150 students staged an unsanctioned (but supported) walkout to protest school violence, support school safety, and memorialize the students who were killed this winter in Parkland, Florida, following a school shooting. And 12 students traveled with a number of teachers to Washington DC in late March to participate in the March For Our Lives.

These are vitally important topics of discussion and action, and I have been extremely pleased to see the response, not only from our students, but from parents and community members as well. It seems that every week we read about another school shooting. And the common refrain of “this kind of thing doesn’t happen here” is beginning to wear pretty thin. Unless people are willing to sit down with each other and talk honestly about race, bullying, gender orientation, and a host of other issues, “this kind of thing” can happen anywhere.

I could not be more proud of our students, nor of this community, for the work I see happening in this important area.

Like most school districts in Vermont, we continue to make progress on implementing Act 77, sometimes called the “Flexible Pathways” initiative, but also connected with the move to “Proficiency Based Learning and Assessment.” In its simplest form, proficiency based learning is rooted in students being able to demonstrate that they have learned the body of material they are being taught.  In the past, students could technically get a “D” in a course, and gain credit for that course even if they didn’t understand the course material. We were essentially giving them credit, and advancing them towards graduation, simply for putting in “seat time.” Today, students have to demonstrate proficiency in a subject before they will be advanced towards graduation.  There are numerous “performance indicators” (think of them as “mile markers”) that students have to achieve before we will be able to say they have demonstrated proficiency.

And “flexible pathways?”  Flexible pathways are essentially avenues for learning that allow students to pursue their interests; develop their aptitudes; build on their strengths; and address their weaknesses in an academic or other setting that is most appropriate for them. For some that will be traditional classroom instruction; for others an independent study or internship. For still others it could be early college or courses at the Tech Center.  Flexible pathways allow students to work towards proficiency (and graduation) as they prepare for college, a career, a trade, or the military.

In addition to the above, there is so much more going on. We continue to work on aligning our classroom instruction to the skills and knowledge being assessed by state and federal agencies; we continue to hold parent/community meetings to hear and respond to your concerns; we are working to attract tuition students from Chelsea and Rochester (as well as other area towns); and we continue to look closely at our class sizes and student/teacher ratios to ensure students are getting the programs they need to succeed, while remaining sensitive to budget issues and managing costs.

As always, I deeply appreciate your patience and support. The work we are doing is vital and important, and we are already beginning to see some very positive results.

Layne W. Millington
OSSD Superintendent

P.S. Our annual Statement of Non-Discrimination can be viewed or downloaded from the "documents" box to the left.