GM board hears comments on early release for teacher training Decisions to be made at meeting with LMH board on Wednesday

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

There was plenty for the Green Mountain Unified School Board to do last Thursday night, with its annual reorganization, its regular slate of reports and a lengthy executive session to discuss not renewing the contract of a teacher. But the board allowed extra time to take public comment on a proposal to extend the weekly early release for professional development that Cavendish Town Elementary has used for many years to all of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union’s schools.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman lays out the choices around aligning school schedules for professional development. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

During the February GM board meeting, TRSU Superintendent Lauren Fierman said that the Act 46 merger did not create a single schedule across the supervisory union and that four of the five schools do not have the weekly early release that has been a decades old tradition at Cavendish Town Elementary.

“If that is a benefit for one of our schools, it should be a benefit for all of our schools,” said Fierman., “I believe there is a clear benefit for our teachers and therefore for our students from having this.” Fierman also acknowledged that establishing such a program needed to be weighed against the costs.

And the parents who commented during last Thursday’s meeting spelled out those costs, mostly addressing the gap in childcare a weekly early release would create, but also how much in-person instruction children have missed during the pandemic.

Parent Trisha Paradis said there was a bigger issue for her son who — between the 2018 flood at Chester-Andover Elementary School and the pandemic — has not yet had a full year of school.

“Kids need in-person instruction. One size does not fit all,” said Paradis, comparing the size and demographics of GM’s two elementary schools by pointing to the class sizes and the numbers of special education students at each school. “It’s important to support teachers, but find a balance,” said Paradis. “Kids need to be in school.” Chester-Andover Elementary has 240 students in K-6 classes while Cavendish has 81 with some classes of fewer than 10 students.

Rosamund Conroy echoed that saying that she was opposed to the plan “not only on childcare, but also on learning loss.”

Melanie Zacarias asked why Tuesday was chosen for early release. Fierman said that was still on the table. Board member Katie Murphy, speaking as a parent,  suggested that a full day of professional development once a month would be “more beneficial” than than two and a half hours weekly.

“My request to the board,” said Fierman, “is that we are all doing this or none of us are doing (the Cavendish model) at this moment. If the board decides that, the board can also decide that we are going to look at a different process – say once a month – or that we’re going to form a committee to decide on other things that are out of the box.”

Audience member Justin Lewis noted that the vote was next week and he did not think that the public knows what the structure of the plan is, while other parents felt that the lack of answers on child care pointed to an incomplete plan. A number of those commenting and at least one board member asked for better communication from the schools. It was noted that the school board provides very detailed minutes, but not everyone wants to read pages of minutes just to find out what is happening.

Asked how the success of the program would be measured, Fierman said the school would be looking to see if students are more engaged and if assessments (such as test scores) improve.

What are school boards asked to decide on Wednesday?

CTES has released its students at noon on Tuesdays for the past 30+ years. The afternoon time has been used for teachers professional development. Superintendent Lauren Fierman has said she believes that the five schools in the supervisory union should be on the same schedule and that the time available for professional development should be aligned.

So, on Wednesday March 23, the boards of the GM district and the Ludlow Mt. Holly district will take comment from the public and decide whether to standardize schedules across the supervisory union and whether to use the CTES weekly early release model or to adopt or create another model. This is what’s on the table if the proposal passes:

  • The SU’s four elementary schools and one high school would operate on the same schedule beginning in the 2022-23 school year and the schools would either use an early release model like Cavendish’s or create another one for regular professional development.
  • Fierman says that regular professional development work will help teachers get up to speed with new programs and state mandates and this will benefit students.
  • If the Cavendish model is adopted, the current “in-service” days would be eliminated. All of the schools hold five in-service days for a total of 40 hours of professional development work. Fierman noted that 2.5 hours per week over a 36-week school year would amount to 90 hours.
  • If the Cavendish model is not adopted, the SU will revisit the question of how to best deliver professional development.
  • The superintendent said that the schools recognize that the early release will cause childcare difficulties for families and is exploring after-school programs that could help, but no solution has been found yet.
  • Fierman has said that a uniform schedule will only go into effect if both district boards  — GM and Ludlow-Mt. Holly — vote in favor of it. If one votes it down, the uniform schedule will not go into effect. If the boards agree to a uniform schedule, they will have to decide whether CTES’s Tuesday early release will be in the schedule for the next school year.

The joint board meeting at Cavendish Town Elementary will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday March 23 and the public may attend in person or via Zoom. To join the meeting go to . The address of CTES is 573 Main St. in Proctorsville.

Reorganization and non-renewal

The board returned Joe Fromberger of Andover to the roll of chairman

At its first meeting since the Town Meeting Day elections, the board conducted its annual reorganization although Cavendish representative Abe Gross asked that the process be delayed until his town holds its meeting later this month. Chairman Joe Fromberger – who was re-elected to that post – rejected that suggestion and the reorganization moved forward with Dennis Reilly elected vice chair and Lois Perlah continuing as clerk.

Gross also mounted objections to the code of ethics agreement that the board has adopted for the several years, saying that he has a standing objection to something that is non-binding. The agreement – which  has been characterized in the past as a state ethics code – is actually the product of the Vermont School Boards Association.

Board member Abe Gross reads from Robert’s Rules of Order regarding small boards

In a board retreat last summer, VSBA  Director of Education Services Susan Holson said that while a board may adopt the code, the “best practice” is to have members sign it so the public can see who did not. Holson did not discuss whether a board member might have a legitimate objection to some portion of the association’s code. Fromberger said that a copy would be circulated for signatures at the next regular meeting in April.

Shortly thereafter Gross also sought to have the board move from using a “small board” version of Robert’s Rules of Order to the full and more formal version, which limits debate as well as the chair’s participation in it. The board did not make the change.

A list of public notices by municipality can be found by clicking ‘Public Notices’ on the Telegraph’s top navigation bar on any page

Among other items in the reorganization, the board added The Chester Telegraph  to the Vermont Journal as a paper of record for legal notices. This follows the recent renewal of that status by the Chester Select Board earlier this month. A paper of record is where a municipality posts notices that are required by statute such as the warning for annual meetings.

The board went into an executive session at the end of the regular meeting for a lengthy discussion on whether to renew the contract of science teacher Karen Surma. After the administration made what one board member described as a “very detailed” presentation and members had a chance to ask questions, the board decided not to renew Surma’s contract.

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