Washington Central Story
WCUUSD Community Newsletter - August 18, 2023
Winding down and starting up...
I recently heard someone describe August as the "Sunday" of the school year. It's that time of year when we are a little sad that the fun and relaxation of the summer is ending (although it's not quite over), and yet there is excitement, nervousness and anticipation of what is to come. It's been wonderful to see students back on our athletic fields this week, teachers dropping into their classrooms and working together on curriculum and summer work, administrators preparing for the school year, and our amazing facilities staff working incredibly hard to make sure our buildings are ready for us in just a few short days.
Of course, this summer is different than in years past. There is a weight on our shoulders, knowing that our communities are still reeling and rebuilding from this summer's flooding. We know that the excitement of the school year brings with it additional stress and challenge for our families and staff impacted by the storms. Below I will share some information and resources - and here I want to share that our schools want to help and support you, now and as we navigate the recovery moving forward.
There is much information in this back to school newsletter! I hope you are all able to enjoy the last few days of summer, and I look forward to seeing you in a few short weeks.
- Meagan Roy, Superintendent
In this issue...
- Flood Relief Supports
- Strategic Planning Update & Opportunity to Engage with Us!
- Safe & Healthy Schools: Important Information About Safety Drills
- Humanity & Justice: Something to learn
- Academic Achievement: VTCAP Results Coming Soon!
- Courtesy Posting: Fill the Form
- Board Vacancies: Come Join Our Team!
- Upcoming Board meeting information
Flood Relief & Recovery Support
We know that the immediate and long term impacts of this summer's extreme weather require support. We also know that summer is a difficult time for families and community members, because our schools' ability to locate families and offer support is limited. Over the past several weeks, the VT Emergency Management Services, the Vermont Agency of Education and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have worked with central Vermont superintendents to try and ascertain what we need most. Our biggest request was for assistance with locating families who may have been displaced, so that we are able to reach out and support them. I am grateful for the inter-agency collaboration; just last week, we were given access to data from VT 211 that will allow us to cross reference those who have reported flood impacts with our own student lists, giving schools the ability to reach directly out to families who may need to hear from us. In addition, next week we will be visited by a representative from FEMA who is working directly with schools to help us best understand the ways to support our families.
I am hopeful that this increased collaboration can allow us to be as responsive as possible for our families. In the meantime, here are some links to supports that may be helpful to you or a friend, family member or neighbor. Please share widely! And don't hesitate to reach out to your school. As we return to buildings, we will be better able to rely on our systems of support to help you identify and secure help.
Families who may be displaced:
- Resources to Support Families Experiencing Homelessness
- Your children can still go to your local school even if you are temporarily displaced! Kerra Holden, WCUUSD Director of Student Support Services, is our Homeless Liaison. Her role is to support school stability for students who may be experiencing homelessness
Beginning Phase II
Summer has been busy for the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. As we transition into the next phase of this process, we begin to solidify the input and feedback from Phase I Community Conversations into a draft of our Vision & Core Beliefs. This vision will help form the basis of strategic goals and action steps.
Important for us in this phase is seeking a different kind of input and engagement. Our focus will be on having more intimate, more localized conversations with a variety of community members about our draft. The Steering Committee has been working to plan and organize those focus groups, which includes identifying the various individuals and groups that we want to have represented. From families to students, teachers to community members, and more critically, those in our communities who are traditionally left out of such conversations - that is our focus.
There is still an opportunity for large scale input, though! Read below for some information about ThoughtExchange, a new platform we are piloting that allows us to engage with our communities and house all of our Strategic Planning information in one place.
To further support our Strategic Planning work, we are excited to partner with ThoughtExchange, an interactive engagement and communication platform used by many Vermont schools. We will begin by using a new tool called an "exchange" to gather input. An exchange is a unique two-way process that brings people together on important topics, and replaces the methods used in traditional surveys with a naturally collaborative platform. This newsletter launches our first exchange! Participants can confidentiality share their ideas in response to an open-ended question. Once participants have shared their own ideas, they are asked to rate the thoughts that others have provided on a scale of one to five stars based on how much they agree with the idea or how important they think it is. In the final step, participants can view how the thoughts in the exchange have been rated by the group. This experience is a more sophisticated way to gather data, allowing respondents to react not only to the questions provided, but also to other people’s thoughts and responses. See below for a link to participate in the exchange, and please share with friends and community members!
In addition, we are working with ThoughtExchange to develop a “Community Hub”, which is a place to house all of the information about our Strategic Planning Process. We hope this will be helpful in assisting our communities to see the through line in this process, and stay updated with each phase. You can find a link to the Hub here:
Safe and Healthy Schools
Important Information for Families
By now, you know that WCUUSD has been working to revise its crisis response protocols and implement a more strategic "options-based response protocol" in our schools. You heard a bit about this in our final newsletter of last year, and some of that introduction is repeated here, both for those who are reading it for the first time and for all of us as we approach this transition.
It is important to know that this work is part of a comprehensive program in Washington Central to improve physical security and school safety programs in each of our schools. Our work is largely focused on critical relationship building and student support structures - as we all know that identifying those who need support and responding quickly is the most critical way to keep our community safe. In addition, Vermont passed a law at the end of last year's legislative session requiring that all schools adopt an options-based response system in additional to several other requirements (see here for more information about S38).
At the recommendation of the Vermont School Safety Center, Vermont's Agency of Education and Department of Public Safety and the U.S Department of Homeland Security, we will begin the transition to what is known as an “options based” response protocol for addressing the unlikely event of an active threat in our schools. An options-based protocol empowers people to choose a response to an active threat situation based on the information they have in the moment, known as situational awareness. It teaches individuals to use the information at their disposal to do what they think is best to keep themselves and others safe.
When our faculty and staff return for preservice this year, they will be learning about the options based protocol, “Run / Hide / Fight”. The training, which will be ongoing, will consist of facilitated group discussions about the protocol and how to apply it to various scenarios. We feel strongly that it is critical to start with the adults in our building for training. Our District and Local School Safety Teams will develop an iterative planning process so that drills can be planned in advanced and feedback can be gathered after each practice. In general, while older students are aware of the possibility of school violence and can benefit from this training as an important life skill, younger students need only be instructed - as they are now - to follow the direction of their teacher as quickly and quietly as possible. This year's drills will begin with facilitated discussions involving adults only and will take place during staff professional development time. Students will participate in the regular and required drills throughout the year.
The Homeland Security website about the Run / Hide / Fight protocol can be found at this link. There will be an opportunity for an information session for parents in each school to provide an overview of the protocol and answer any questions you may have. Parents will be notified before and after any training session involving students. Our school counselors and guidance departments will be providing accommodations for students who may be especially sensitive to these discussions.
School violence is not something anyone wants to think about, but in today’s world we must do the best we can to be prepared. Thank you for your support in this effort and continue to look for further communications from us in the next few weeks.
Humanity & Justice
Did you know...
...that July was Disability Pride Month? It is an opportunity to honor the history, achievements, experiences, and struggles of the disability community - and to celebrate with pride the differing abilities we all live with. Disability Pride month is celebrated in July because it marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that broke down barriers to inclusion in society.
Check out these resources that center the voices and experiences of individuals with disabilities:
Coming Soon...VTCAP Results
The Agency of Education has released student reports from last year's VTCAP (the Vermont Comprehensive Assessment Program). You will remember that VTCAP is Vermont's new assessment system, and replaced the annual program known as SBAC and the Vermont Science Assessment. Students in some grades took these assessments last spring. We’ll be sending results home in the weeks to come - stay tuned!
Fill Out the Form!
Through Vermont’s universal meals program, public schools offer free breakfast and lunch to all students. Even though meals are now free to all students, our schools still need to gather family income data. We need your help!
You may not have filled the form in the past. But filling the form this year will help us run the Universal Meals program and keep it affordable. It's about more than meals. By filling out the form you:
Help our school/schools access millions of dollars in federal money for education
Help students in our district and across Vermont access healthy, nutritious food
Keep education taxes from going up in our community.
When your child starts school in the fall, your school will ask you to complete an income form (either a USDA School Meals Application or a Household Income Form). The form should only take a few minutes to fill out. Privacy of the income information you provide is protected by law. Please reach out if you have any questions.
Be a part of the WCUUSD Board!
WCUUSD School Board Vacancies: Berlin & East Montpelier
Our district is governed by a 15 member board that serves Washington Central's five town-based elementary schools and U-32 middle and high school. We have 3 Board Members from each town that represent the hopes and dreams of ALL of our students and residents in ALL of our schools and communities.
If you live in East Montpelier or Berlin and are interested in serving on the School Board please send a letter of interest addressed to the WCUUSD School Board to School Board Chair: Flor Diaz Smith at email@example.com or mail it to 1130 Gallison Hill Road, Montpelier VT 05602
Upon receiving applicants, the Board will to conduct interviews and appoint a new Board Member at an upcoming Board meeting - perhaps as early as next week. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about what a School Board Member does and what is the time commitment. No expertise needed, just a willingness to learn with us and help with the work. We have a very thoughtful and fun group. Please join us. The commitment to serve on the Board will be from September until next March when you can decide if you want to run for election in 2024.
WCUUSD Board Meeting
Check out our website for more information and for the link to join this virtual meeting: https://www.wcsu32.org/domain/272