GMUHS board OKs limited school choice, restraint and seclusion policy

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2015 Telegraph Publishing

At its regular monthly meeting, the Green Mountain Union High School Board of Directors adopted limited school choice for seventh and eighth graders, as well as a restraint and seclusion policy for disruptive students and heard a presentation on the proposed town water project from town government officials.

Assistant Superintendent Linda Waite and Principal Tom Ferenc explained a new program that, if approved, would allow a limited number of middle school students to opt to transfer from Green Mountain to Black River or vice versa.

According to the agreement before the board, six students from each school could attend the other school with parents being responsible for transportation. The arrangement will be evaluated each year and renewed by a vote of the school boards. A lottery will be held for the six positions available, but once enrolled in a transfer school, a student can continue there until graduation even if the program is discontinued by the school board(s). The agreement was approved by the board, with chair Alison DesLauriers asking that the agreement be placed on the October meeting agenda to be re-evaluated.

Board member Kelley Kehoe, far right, gestures as she make a point during last weeek's GMUHS Board of Directors meeting. All photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click to enlarge.

Board member Kelley Kehoe, far right, gestures as she make a point during last weeek’s GMUHS Board of Directors meeting. All photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click to enlarge.

The new policy on the use of restraint and seclusion, which was reviewed at the April meeting, was adopted unanimously. The brief statement of policy says that the district and the supervisory union won’t subject students to inappropriate restraint or seclusion as defined by Vermont Board of Ed rule 4500 and that the school system would set up procedures to do this and report on how this is working every year with recommendations for changes.

Select board member Arne Jonynas, a former GMUHS board member, and Chester Town Manager David Pisha told the board about the proposed $4 million water project that would put a water tank on the hill east of the school and replace the aging asbestos/concrete pipe that supplies the eastside of town with water.  In addition to the eastern site (139 acres that would be purchased from O’Neil Sand and Gravel, according to the plan) Pisha said that the town looked at property owned by the town behind the school as well as a site he described as “theoretical” near Grafton Road.

According to Pisha, although the town wants the O’Neil property for the water project. “We’d like to create a trail up there.” Pisha envisioned a hiking trail system that could link up with the existing high school trail and spoke about the desire to preserve deer wintering grounds and get rid of “invasive species.” Pisha didn’t offer a timeline or cost accounting for those future plans.

Saying that he probably shouldn’t get gravel involved in the discussion, Jonynas pointed out that the idea is also to use the property for gravel extraction.

Chester Town Manager David Pisha speaks with GMUHS board members about the proposed water project that could be placed on adjacent property and include gravel extraction.

Chester Town Manager David Pisha, standing, speaks with GMUHS board members about the proposed water project that could be placed on adjacent property and include gravel extraction.

“It’s a safe bet there’s a large quantity to supply the town,” said Jonynas, noting that the town’s work would be limited in scope and the worst case (if the gravel project didn’t pan out) would be a lower cost water project and 139 acres for the town to use for hiking trails and hunting.  Jonynas saw this as an addition to the 500 acre town forest and the 15 acres behind the Academy Building.

Pisha said that while the O’Neils were proposing to blast ledge, the town’s gravel extractions would be much more limited.

“So there won’t be crushing?” asked board member Bruce Parks.

“There would be crushing,”  replied Jonynas.

Noting that any work on that property – including the water tank installation – would require an Act 250 permit, board chair DesLauriers pointed out that the school board would have party status in that process.

In other board news:

  • Ferenc directed board members to a 48-page booklet with suggested talking points, answers to frequently asked questions, suggested editorial and an “elevator speech” designed to explain and support the implementation of  Act 77.

The act, which was signed into law in June 2013, calls for each student to have a personal learning plan and be graded by proficiency-based learning. The booklet likens the changes to remodeling a house in which there will be “dust, noise and inconvenience” and —  in an interesting mix of metaphors — looks to “an orchestra”(the community at large working in harmony) to remodel the house that is the educational system. Board members were asked to read the booklet before the June 11 meeting, when they could discuss the “flexible pathways” described in the new law.

  • Waite said that the Two Rivers Supervisory Union is starting to use a new computer-based student data management system. The system,  which cost about one-fifth of the Power School program that manages information on grades and attendance, will centralize student information and move away from paper records. “If records are not going to be on paper, but on a computer program,” asked board member Hank Mauti, “who has access to the information — the state?”

Waite said that teachers have access to the records of their students and principals have access to the records of  all his or her students. She added that she is confident in the security of the system.

  • Ninth grade language arts teacher Jory Hearst has resigned effective at the end of the school year. Many board members praised Hearst’s work.  “Our loss is Burlington’s gain,” said DesLauriers. “We will miss her.”
  • Student Isabelle Cameron reported on a language immersion trip in which 13 Black River and four Green Mountain students traveled to France to attend a local school. Isabelle showed slides of the trip and noted that the French school day is longer than Vermont’s. She also presented a video of the trip made by student Sadie Wood. Sarah Ripley, student rep to the board, reported on the spring break trips, upcoming standard testing, National Honor Society induction and ongoing sports programs.
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