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Superintendent: Monday's Presentation Designed to be Informational

"Possible action" is standard working for agenda items.

Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway was clear on a couple of things regarding her scheduled Monday presentation to the Board of Education regarding potential school restructuring.

It is designed to be informational and is is not within the realm of state school reform initiatives.

"This is something we have been talking about in Vernon, and I will be making a presentation on a request from the Board of Education," she said.

Board of Education Chairman Dean Houle said Conway's presentation is in response to a board request for more information on Feb. 27.

The Board of Education has called a special meeting for Monday at 6 p.m. in the school administration building on School Street.

There are just two items on the agenda:

• A discussion and possible action regarding the health insurance carrier bids.

• A discussion and possible action regarding the structure and organization of the local school system.

Regarding the latter item, Conway said she wants to outline the possibilities for board members, including what a reconfiguration might entail, the cost and logistical matters regarding any changes.

She gave as one example, putting grades together under one roof.

A huge advantage, she said, would be five or so teachers for each grade under one roof, which could foster teamwork.

"Not only would you have five first grades together, for example, but the teachers as well. It would be good for assessments and the teachers would be together always to share ideas."

She said there is a downside to such a move as well.

"A big disadvantage would be potentially losing the buy-in by families," Conway said.

Conway said if anything were to be put on the table, it would be to "improve learning in the classroom."

She said some type of locally imposed reform could be inevitable with five of the seven schools in town not making the grade in terms of federal No Child Left Behind standards. And Center Road School is on notice, which would leave only Lake Street School in good standing if Center Road does not reach the testing standards.

Conway was firm in maintaining that her presentation is designed to bring the board members up to speed. The wording "possible action" is standard for agenda items.

"The board may or may not take any action," she said. "But I want to give the board members all the information on this potential local initiative."

Vernon Resident April 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Good to see Mary Conway acknowledge the obvious displeasure from the community regarding putting grades together under one roof. "A big disadvantage would be potentially losing the buy-in by families,".... If there are advantages as she infers, I would be interested to see the studies that support this...
Mark Kalina April 02, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Families with more than one child in elementary school have the potential problem of conflicting events, schedules and for that matter and the inevitable fundraiser... The sense of community and support (PTO for example) may disappear with such a change (how can you support multiple schools from a parental perspective?). The potential need for more extensive busing and increasing the time a child may have to travel to their school on the other side of town may become problematic. I can only think that the bus schedules will become "byzantine" under such a structure. Not to be underestimated, younger children also interact and learn from older children and what I would call "informal mentoring". I would hate to see the local "education incubator" known as the traditional elementary school disappear because of a new unproven educational fad. The effort to consolidate and gain "synergy" may have a deleterious effect on other aspects of education/school life. The board needs to look long and hard not only at the pros of the plan, but consider the cons as well and not make a snap decision. Just some of the considerations from a parent's perspective the board needs to think about.

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