In our first meeting this month we approved three new School Resource Officer (SRO) contracts with the Saint Albans City Police Department. The contracts are for one year, with options to renew for two additional years with no rate increases. This is a good deal for the district.
Primarily, those officers will be at BFA, SACS and SATEC, but because we are a single district and now have three SROs, the officers will be able to spend time at FFCS too. Currently, Fairfield doesn’t have enough students to warrant a full time SRO.
BFA will have Cpl. Paul Moritz back, SACS will have Sgt. Paul Talley, and SATEC will have Officer Kit Hansen. All of the principals have been very happy with the SRO program.
District Cell Phone Policy
I’ve heard from principals that the new cell phone policy at our Pre-K-8 schools is going well. I also was able to talk to some teachers at the BFA open house, and they said that they have had a lot of success enforcing the rules that they already had at BFA around cell phone use. They said that students have been more focussed in class because they don’t have the distraction of a cell phone. Teachers are modeling good practices as well, and keeping their phones stored during the day. They also said that this wouldn’t have been a success without the acceptance of the students, so they were very proud of the way the students have reacted.
Proficiency Based Grading and Transcripts
In 2013, the Vermont State Board of Education adopted the Education Quality Standards, which describe what a high quality education in Vermont looks like, and gave school districts several new requirements. One of those new requirements was to implement Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements. That means that we would have to:
“require that schools’ graduation requirements be rooted in demonstrations of student proficiency, as opposed to time spent in classrooms. This requirement will take effect in Vermont beginning with the graduating class of 2020.”
And now here we are - this year’s senior class are the graduating class of 2020. In 2014 and 2015, the BFA staff spent a lot of time figuring out what the proficiencies in each department were going to be. Then in 2016, that year’s freshman class started to be graded using proficiencies. It was a lot of work, and there was a lot of learning about a whole different way of recording a student’s progress.
Where am I headed with this? At our second meeting in September, we heard from parents and students that they were worried. It’s time to apply for early admission at colleges and their transcripts weren’t ready. The information that was on the transcripts was inaccurate or confusing. They were worried that they would miss out on scholarships if there wasn’t a GPA or class valedictorian. These are all valid concerns, and not something that we want to add on to an already stressful time for our students.
It turns out that we made mistakes. There were some proficiencies that weren’t recorded properly. There were some incorrect calculations on the transcripts. A combination of things went wrong. So we brought in extra resources from the Central Office to help, and in the end, we believe that we now have a simpler, easier to understand transcript that accurately reflects student learning. It’s been a trying process, and we are sorry for that.
Several people commented during the meeting that they were concerned that colleges outside of New England are not aware of Proficiency Based Grading. Preston Randall of the BFA Guidance department answered “I’m committed that the school counselors will call colleges with seniors, to be able to have conversations with colleges, particularly the colleges that geographically will be less familiar with the changes that are happening around New England with proficiency based education. We are happy to make those phone calls.” I firmly believe that Preston and his fellow counselors are going to look out for our students.
Susan Palmer, BFA Drama teacher, spoke to us about her work integrating the arts into different classes throughout the District. She is currently working with English, History, Social Studies, and Foreign Language teachers to show them how they can “use Theater to make their classes more interactive.”
For example, one English teacher found that Theater gave her another way to assess the knowledge of a student. She was working with students on analyzing text to determine what the author was trying to convey. “Some students may not be able to write out, or explain it, but if you ask them to get up … and make sculptures with their bodies to show what a character is feeling in a particular scene ...“ then you realize that the student is able to analyze the text for meaning. Pretty neat to think that you can use Drama in this way.
Another BFA teacher, Mike Campbell, worked with his students last year on an Immigration unit. As Mike said, students learn and retain the most knowledge when they are able to teach what they have learned to others. So, having a culminating event for the unit that involved the students designing and performing in a play about immigration, gave them that chance to teach others. And according to the assessment Susan gave the students at the end of the unit, it worked! For example, 56 out of 63 students said that this was a useful way of learning, and 52 out of 63 said that they had a deeper understanding of immigration issues in the US.
Susan has done a great job working with students throughout the District, and I look forward to what she does next.
Our SRO contracts contain an SRO Mission Statement:
To promote and foster:
A positive understanding of each student’s responsibility to respect the rights of others;
A safe environment for adults and children, both at school and at school community events;
An understanding and interest, by students, of the role of a law enforcement officer.
Pretty valuable mission I think.