TRSU board talks strategic planning, principal searches

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Two Rivers Supervisory Union board meeting last Thursday fell just short of one hour and would have been shorter but for a lengthy discussion over scheduling a board retreat to work on a Strategic Operating Plan.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman explains the idea and the process of a strategic plan. Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

Superintendent Lauren Fierman told the board, “We need to know when we are setting up initiatives, what it will look like when they are successful and what the time frame for that is.” She noted that there is regular updating and revision of best practices and curriculum, but Fierman recommended setting up a committee of board members and others to look at “what we want our supervisory union and our districts to look like three to five years from now.”

Fierman said that by engineering this backward, the board would be looking at its ultimate goal, deciding how you will know when you reach the goal and finally planning on how to get to the goal. “That will mean we have all created a shared definition of success. Until we define the goal we are struggling for the direction,” Fierman said, adding that this lends transparency to the schools’ efforts so the community can see “something concrete” that is happening.

Board member Joe Fromberger says he is in favor of planning, but ‘don’t expect miracles.’

“To do that you’ll have to decide whether you want to see that happen in three pockets – the SU deciding something, each district deciding something or whether you want to have it happen in a more global way,” said Fierman who advocated for working from an SU level with sub-levels at the district and finally at each school.

She said that a first step would be “a discussion that goes beyond 10 or 15 minutes at a board meeting.”

Board member Joe Fromberger said that, in his experience, long-range plans get changed and not accomplished, but that doesn’t mean the schools shouldn’t have a plan. “Don’t expect miracles out of this process,” said Fromberger who suggested forming the committee after Town Meeting Day elections.

Based on Fromberger’s comment Fierman agreed that waiting to begin putting together a group might be the best course.

Testing up in air; guidance for sports under Covid, not for ‘recovery plan’

Fierman noted that the schools have not yet received a final word on whether standardized testing will be done this year. One purpose of such testing is accountability measures for some federal programs. Those were waived last year and may be waived again this spring but until that is known, the schools are planning for the “Smarter Balance” testing to happen in April and May.  Fierman said an answer is expected by the end of February.

When Fierman spoke on Thursday night she noted that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, high school sports were still restricted to scrimmages within each school rather than inter-school competition but that she hoped new guidance would be forthcoming. In fact, at Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference on the following day, the state opened high school sports to competition between schools with limitations on the number of games per week and no spectators.

The SU will have to prepare a “recovery plan” for helping students to manage their mental health and academic progress as they return to school in the fall, but Fierman told the board the template for the plan is not expected from the Agency of Education until late this month or early March.

One principal search winds down, another is extended

Fierman said that on Feb. 1, the Ludlow-Mount Holly district had held an open forum with a candidate for the principal position at Ludlow Elementary ahead of an interview with the LMHUUSD board on Monday, Feb. 8. That board voted to hire the candidate, Cathy Farman, at that special meeting and will discuss a contract with her in executive session at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

At the other end of the SU a search committee charged with filling the Green Mountain High principal post was made up of board members, teachers, administrators, parents and one student. The committee reviewed more than 20 applications including that of interim principal Michael Ripley and according to Fierman decided that the search would be reopened.

“The committee was looking for a candidate who demonstrated excellence in several areas including instructional leadership, organizational leadership and relationship building,” Fierman, told The Telegraph, “and while several candidates met that standard in some areas, no one had reached it across the board.”

Fierman said the search was still early enough in the year that good candidates could still be available to apply and noted that anyone who had applied in the previous round could apply again.



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