Beginning in July, TVSB Chair Seth Boyd noted, all decision-making authority would lie with the Twin Valley board.
Although the boards’ usual Wilmington meeting place is Deerfield Valley Elementary School, the interior of the elementary school building is currently under renovation to become Twin Valley Elementary School in the fall.
Boyd said construction on the middle/high school in Whitingham was set to begin soon. “We have our Act 250 permit in hand, and hopefully we’ll have our fire permit tomorrow. We’re comfortable with the (construction) budget. We’re still in the early stages of adjustment, but there’s no new budget concerns.”
Board member Phil Taylor said the board was still being “cautious” regarding the budget. “There are a lot of things in there,” he said. “We want to make sure we have the ability to go back and pull something out and say ‘let’s do it this way.’ We’re getting in the same mode for the middle/high school that we were for the elementary.”
Taylor has been working with a crew of summer workers to move furniture, equipment, and materials out of classrooms. Later this summer, he’ll be doing the reverse, moving things back into the classrooms in preparation for fall classes. “We’re going to try to move back in as things are completed,” he said.
Board members also approved the expenditure of about $49,000 in this year’s fund balance for the purchase of 17 Smart boards. Smart boards are an interactive multimedia computer white board for classroom use. Under the board’s plan for the new Twin Valley Elementary School, there will be a Smart board in every classroom. DVES Principal Rebecca Fillion expressed concern with the purchase, noting that it was four short of the amount needed to outfit every classroom. “We’re not cutting from the original intent,” said board member John Doty. “This is just a way to finance some of them now.”
“I have a sense that there are some board members wondering about all 22 Smart boards,” Fillion said.
“We’re either all in, or not,” said Taylor.
“The plan has been justified,” Boyd said. “We’re just here to decide whether we want to spend the $49,000.” Board members voted unanimously to support the proposal.
Windham Supervisory Union schools may soon have a new superintendent, according to Boyd. He said the superintendent search committee had narrowed their search down to two candidates who are scheduled for interviews this week. “Hopefully we’ll have successful interviews and will be able to recommend a candidate to the supervisory union board,” he said.
The committee’s last search ended without a suitable candidate. Assistant superintendent Nancy Talbott has been acting as interim superintendent since the resignation of former superintendent Jack Rizzo.
Boyd also updated board members on progress on two separate studies regarding supervisory union services in the region. The first, a study undertaken with Windham Central Supervisory Union to explore how the two supervisory unions might “collaborate” or share resources, has been completed and a meeting will be scheduled to present the results. A second study for a “boundary change” in WSSU’s area of responsibility includes four other supervisory unions in southern Vermont. That study, Boyd said, is just getting underway. “This could be an exciting study,” he said. “The state has their eyes on it because nobody else in the state is looking at anything like this. We’re taking a student-first approach.”
In other matters, Wilmington resident Richard Sugarman asked the board about the number of students who graduated this year, noting that newspaper articles on the graduation said there were 23 graduates at ceremonies earlier this month.
“When we voted on the school budget, there were 34 students,” he said. “What happened to all the students?”
Twin Valley High School Principal Bob Morse said three students didn’t pass and were unable to graduate. Several others had attended school in Brattleboro, and didn’t want to attend the Twin Valley graduation. Some, he said, went to Twin Valley but didn’t want to attend graduation at all. “So they’re accounted for,” Sugarman said. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
Sugarman also brought to the board’s attention a school rating website on which Twin Valley’s rating was unfavorable, he said. Morse said the ratings were based on input from users, with little input for Twin Valley schools. “If a few parents wrote in, that would be different,” he said. “Some schools have promoted this, sent a letter home asking parents to give good ratings to their schools.”
“You might want to consider that,” said Sugarman. “When people are thinking about moving here and they look on there and see these ratings, it doesn’t look good.”
“I think we should be careful about confusing superficial image and substantial change,” Taylor said. “Everyone here is looking to see a new Twin Valley, not just a facility, but curriculum and programming standards. Construction is taking a lot right now, but starting next year we’re looking to dramatically transform our middle/high school.”