BENNINGTON -- The Bennington and Woodford school boards met on Wednesday, with both paying tribute to the five-year Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union career of retiring superintendent Catherine McClure.
McClure, who will have her second transitional meeting with interim superintendent-elect Jim Culkeen on Friday, will end her term as superintendent on June 30. McClure had originally intended to resign from the position earlier in the year, but agreed to stay on until June after an initial superintendent search failed to meet the required criteria for candidates.
In Woodford, chairman Mark Tilley presented McClure with flowers, saying, "We appreciate the dedication you've shown us. You've really helped this little school out."
"Yes, yes, yes, to all of that," said board member Avis Bruce-Hurley.
In Bennington, chairman Ken Swierad said, "On behalf of the children of Bennington, we really appreciate all the work you do."
McClure responded that she will still live in the area, and intends on visiting lots of school events, though probably many fewer board meetings. "Thank you for all your support during my five years," she said.
The Bennington board also saw a presentation on School Action Plans from Maura Hart, school effectiveness coach. "What are the things needed to make a school system successful?" she asked the board members.
"Discipline," answered Swierad immediately. His fellow board members followed suite with their own ideas: Teacher collaboration, consistency, communication, active parents, leadership, up-to-date materials, flexibility, and a focus on children's' needs.
"Everything you've mentioned here is included in the Green Mountain Star Program at Molly Stark and Bennington Elementary," said Hart. McClure was quick to mention that Monument Elementary also participates in the program. Hart went on, saying that the standards imposed by the "No Child Left Behind Act" are unrealistic, which is the act's biggest downfall. "It's not realistic to have 100 percent of students proficient at every skill at every level," she said.
Green Mountain Star, on the other hand, is based on a multi-tiered system of support that says about 75 percent of children fall into "Tier 1," which means that they are able to succeed in a normal classroom environment. About 20 percent of students fall into "Tier 2," who can succeed with individualized attention in certain areas. "In the middle tier, this kid just doesn't get this one aspect, say, how to write a five-paragraph essay," said Hart.
In a MTSS school, she said, teachers will focus on the needs of those students, and give them the extra attention they need to help them past the subject they're struggling with. Finally, "Tier 3," which makes up about five percent of the student population, are special needs students that need even more focused attention.
Hart said the schools are working on implementing these research-based principles, but that it typically takes 3-5 years to fully implement. "So I don't want to hear you asking next year why teachers haven't made all these changes," she told the board.
The BSD board also answered questions about the effects of the supervisory union not receiving grant funding for the MOSAIC after-school program, as it had in years past. Bennington Elementary is trying to set up a four-week summer program, as has been offered in the past, but the details are not yet finalized, according to principal James Law. "That will use up basically all of our available funds, so there would probably not end up being any fall after-school programs, unless we can find funding elsewhere."
Bennington Elementary and Molly Stark both received funding from MOSAIC, and will likely have to charge parents who enroll their children this year, although Law assured parents that the fee would be nominal, around $4 per day.
Monument Elementary did not receive funding from MOSAIC, and its summer program will remain unchanged from last year.
Board member George Sleeman expressed concern that some parents might not be able to afford to send their kids to Bennington Elementary or Molly Stark summer programs without financial support. SVSU CFO Rick Pembroke brought up a fund the board had created a scholarship to help fifth graders attend summer camps several years ago, and that it was possible those funds could be tapped to help families afford those programs. The board agreed to meet again within the next few weeks if that proved to be a viable option.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB