GM board nixes early release, forms study committee

Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

School board chairs Paul Orzechowski, left, and Joe Fromberger preside over the meetings. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

In a long and winding meeting on Wednesday night, the Green Mountain Unified School District board eliminated the Tuesday early release for professional development at Cavendish Town Elementary School for the 2022-23 school year and, with the Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District, voted to set up a joint committee to study an “improved model” for professional development for all Two Rivers schools for the 2023-24 school year.

The scheduling decision comes on the heels of several meetings in which the public – especially parents – have been asked to comment on whether an early release for professional development should be instituted in the other four schools in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union. Most of those who have weighed in have been opposed citing the difficulty of working parents accommodating new child care schedules as well as the loss of in-person instruction when students have already lost so much during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman said she looks at the system as a whole, not as individual town schools. Telegraph file photo

Those in favor of the early release/professional development arrangement say that it’s part of the reason that Cavendish students do better on standardized tests than those in other schools in the SU. Opponents have say the test performance is a result of Cavendish’s small class sizes. Chester-Andover has 240 students in K-6 while Cavendish has 81.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman told the meeting that residents have looked at the schools as extensions of their individual towns while she has to approach the education system as a whole. Her objective, she said, is that all students get the same instruction with the same objectives and that all teachers get the same level of professional development.

“If I’ve got five third-grade classes in the same building, and I would tell you as parents … that four of the third-grade classes go home at three o’clock each day and one third-grade class goes home at 12:30, and the teacher in one class gets three hours of professional development while the other four don’t,” said Fierman who has spoken in favor of both more professional development and aligning the schedules of the schools in the supervisory union

GM board member Abe Gross calls Chester-Andover a failed school

After public comments were wrapped up, board member Abe Gross moved to “adopt the embedded collaboration and professional development model for the entire district after the current manner of Cavendish Town Elementary school, while maintaining the current number of classroom instructional hours of Chester-Andover Elementary School.”

GM board chair Joe Fromberger asked Gross to hold his motion until the board heard from Fierman, but Gross said that the board had heard from her on several occasions and that it was time to discuss it and vote.

Gross’ poster showing the percentage of proficiency in the elementary schools of the SU

Calling it a “tale of two schools” Gross put up a poster comparing test scores he had gotten from the supervisory union and asserted that Chester-Andover is a failed school. And he pointed to adopting the professional development model of CTES would be a step to take to “fix Chester-Andover.”

“I believe failed schools need fixing,” said Gross. “Let’s focus on improving our schools from the ground up. Let’s invest in our teachers and see the dividends in our students’ educations.”

Gross then went on to amend his motion to begin implementation on July 2, 2022. After some discussion, the GM board defeated the Gross amendment by a vote of 8 to 2.

GM board member Dennis Reilly saying he sees the loss of instruction in college freshmen he teaches

In discussion of Gross’ original motion, board member Dennis Reilly of Cavendish said that in his teaching job at Castleton University he sees how the freshman class has lost two years of education.

“It shows, it shows in their writing,” said Reilly, adding that he would vote no on the motion, but that the boards need to come together to decide how to improve professional development.

Board member and former teacher Lois Perlah of Chester spoke in favor of coaching teachers as “in-classroom professional development…where both the teacher and students can benefit.”

GM board member Deb Brown suggests a committee to create a professional development model across all the schools in the SU

Board member Deb Brown of Chester suggested creating a committee to work on a model for delivering professional development.

Cavendish member Julia Genoux said that while she did not like the direction the discussion was going, she pointed to the hiring of Amy Bohren as CTES principal as a huge asset who has “implemented numerous professional development programs.”

Now well into the second hour, Perlah asked what the LMH board members thought since she was under the impression that this was a joint meeting.

LMH board member Judith Pullinen speaking to her motion for five full days of schooling without early release for professional development

LMH board member Judith Pullinen moved that her board “maintain a five-day week with no early release for professional development.” But after several adjustments to the wording — including forming a committee to create an improved model for professional development — that motion was defeated in a 3 to 3 tie.

The GM board then voted down Gross’ motion to adopt the Cavendish early release model by a vote of  7 to 2 with one abstention.

After more than two hours, Gross said it was clear from the majority of comments that most people wanted to end the Cavendish early dismissal.

“Make that motion, I’ll vote against it. I’ll lose but it will be done for the next year,” said Gross.  “But then there are already mechanisms for how that professional development piece will be addressed in the future … make the motion – it’s an easy vote, up down”

Brown made the motion (for the 2022-23 school year) and Gross seconded noting that a second does not mean he was in favor of the motion but simply brings it to discussion. But there was no discussion and the motion passed 8 to 2, with Gross and Gignoux voting no.

Both boards went on to unanimously pass motions creating a joint committee to study an improved model for professional development to recommend for 2023-24.


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