Message From Our Superintendent
Dear Parents, Families, Friends, and Community Members,
What can I say about my first year at OSSD? It’s been long, interesting, challenging, but incredibly rewarding, and I’m pleased with the progress we’re making on so many fronts. The updates below really just scratch the surface of all that’s going on in the OSSD, but I’ll start with these, and provide additional updates throughout the summer. But first, I want to say thank you - for your continued help, support, advice, and patience. Together, we’re building something great.
Security Updates - As we head into the summer break, approximately two-thirds of the district faculty have completed or nearly completed the online portion of the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training. The formal training of all faculty will occur in the fall on the opening professional development days (August 23rd and 31st), which will allow the district to incorporate new safety procedures with the physical security upgrades that are taking place over the summer. We were able to take advantage of some extra money from the current fiscal year to begin that process, which should be complete by June 30. Some of the new upgrades include:
- Camera based buzz-in systems that trap a person in the atriums before they can enter the schools.
- Mechanical locks and knock boxes to aid law enforcement’s entry to the buildings.
- Alarming all doors so that school and district personnel know immediately if they are opened.
- Adding locking buttons to all doors in each building.
- Adding panic buttons to the main offices.
- Repairing door hardware that is worn or failing.
- Providing ALICE Training for all faculty, incorporates online and in-person training components.
State Financial Updates - On May 25th the Governor signed into law H.897 that changes the way special education is funded within the state of Vermont. Prior to this change, the state operated on a reimbursement system that gave money back to the schools for individual students served. With the adoption of H.897, however, districts will now receive a block grant of money, the amount of which is dependent upon a district’s total student population. Under normal circumstances this could be an effective way to force districts to adopt more effective and efficient mechanisms for service delivery; unfortunately, the situation in Vermont is not one of normal circumstances. The ideas and arguments underlying this new law rest on the assumption that these students need academic accommodations; and that is why it will fail, because the students we are serving on an expanded basis each year don’t have academic disabilities. They have emotional disabilities. Sometimes profound ones. When the block grant monies run out, there won’t be sufficient funds to accommodate the district’s out of pocket expense for serving this growing segment of our student population.
A better solution would be to provide funding for programs and enhanced laws that prevent abuse and neglect within families across the state, so that students are not being traumatized in the first place. Not only would this bring down the cost of providing special education services in schools, it would decrease the cost of administering social entitlement programs to the generations of adults these students are on the road to becoming. The state needs to stop looking for a quick fix in terms of its budget and look to long term investments that will pay back many times the initial outlay and which will continue to do so into perpetuity.
Re-Examining ENDS Data - As a system and school district, we have been, and we continue to work together to provide a more academically focused interpretation of the Board’s ENDS. The hope is to break the ENDS up (if you will) so that there can be a presentation at each of the monthly board meetings for an in-depth analysis of the district’s achievement relative to our desired state; which would, in turn, provide meaningful information to the district’s faculty that could be used to drive systemic improvements.
The largest part of our work in the coming year will be to determine or, in some cases to create, the measurement instruments that will be used to provide meaningful data on the district’s achievement of its ENDS. Once that process is complete, we will be able to set a baseline of where we currently stand and establish clear goals on where we want to be over the course of the next three-to-five years.
Continuous Improvement Plan - Finally, we continue to develop and implement our “Continuous Improvement Plan”, which focuses on Academic Proficiency, Safe and Healthy Schools, and High Quality Staffing. And while we’ve come a long way in each of these areas over the past year, we still have much work do to. For a full, detailed overview of the Plan; the challenges associated with it; a root cause analysis of why we are where we are; and our theory of improvement; I encourage you to take a few minutes to read through the plan, which you can find in the documents box to the left. I’ll caution you now – it isn’t easy reading. But it’ll give you an idea of the challenges ahead of us, and our plans for meeting them.
As always, I appreciate your ongoing input and support, and I invite you to join us at our parent/community forums, which are scheduled throughout the school year.
Layne Millington, Superintendent