ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Assistant Superintendent Donna Leep said Wednesday that Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark Elementary would be two of the four schools participating in the newly implemented SWIFT grant.
Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca announced in early September that Vermont was one of five states selected by University of Kansas researchers to implement the $24.5 million kindergarten-through-eighth-grade national education initiative organized by University of Kansas researchers. The program aims to help schools across the country focus on addressing potential areas of concern, including behavior, academics, and family issues.
New Hampshire, Maryland, Mississippi, and Oregon were also chosen, based on criteria that included their locations in rural, urban, and high-need districts. Each of the five state education agencies, in collaboration with the SWIFT Center, identified four local supervisory unions to take part in the grant program.
From throughout the state, the SVSU was selected, as well as Grand Isle Supervisory Union, Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union, and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. Within each supervisory union, four schools will participate.
In addition to Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark Elementary, Leep said that Mount Anthony Union Middle School and Pownal Elementary are also being considered to participate in the process. However, she noted that a final decision by the SVSU board has yet to be made.
Wednesday, Leep, along with SVSU Superintendent Catherine McClure, Bennington Elementary Principal James Law, Molly Stark Elementary Principal Donna Mackenzie King, SVSU Special Education Interim Director Wendy Pierce, and SVSU Early Childhood Director Karen Burnell met with SWIFT organizers in Berlin for the Vermont SWIFT planning meeting. The organization's mission and concepts were discussed by members of the Agency of Education.
"We talked about the ways that they will help us build connections and partnerships that will in turn accelerate the SWIFT implementation," Leep said. "We really want to bring the community into partnership with the school."
Leep said the meeting was also a perfect opportunity to meet the individuals who would be working closely with the schools and realize the roles each would play during the four-year process, and the five domains the organization promotes: administrative leadership, multi-tiered systems of support, integrated education framework, family and community engagement, and inclusive structure policies and practice.
"We look forward to building on the strengths our schools already have," Leep said. "The organization is really about how to facilitate our current processes and will offer us resources which will lead to greater student success."
Bennington Elementary's Law noted he is happy that his school has been chosen and that he thought the day in Berlin was well spent.
"It sounds to me that the organization holds a great deal of promise to look closely at our practice here and how we might be able to benefit our students and their families," he said. "Our teachers have been working hard but our test scores have not reflected that. We want to show more success in the future."
Mackenzie King concurred, adding that she appreciated coming together as a group to discuss the process and the futures of the schools.
"I came away feeling that their mission really is to engage in a transformation process with families, communities and the school, in order to achieve equity and excellence for our students," she said. "What they do fits in to what we are currently doing. The outside help will help us organize the transformation that we are already in the middle of. It will be nice to have fresh eyes."
Members from the SWIFT organization will meet with area schools later this year, according to Leep, once it has been decided exactly which schools will be participating in addition to the two elementary schools.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.