The meeting started with a couple community comments. Ember Quinn spoke about it being trans awareness week and offered to talk to anyone genuinely interested about trans issues. A student commented on the flagpole policy and urged the board to approve putting up another flagpole for students to fly special interest flags.
The finance report showed that everything so far is on track. About a quarter of expenses and revenue are accounted for so far. Central Services expenses look high, but aren’t because of the timing of how they are spent. The only thing running high are supplies most likely because of inflation.
The MMS principals did their report. Goal one is student achievement and success. Early release days are currently being used to look at the STAR assessment data that was recently administered. This measures growth not proficiencies. This means that 50% is the normal growth a student should be showing. Scores for all grades in math and reading were above 50% except 8th grade reading and 5th grade math. Fifth and 6th grades have WIN (What I Need) blocks for those students who need extra work in those areas. Those students who don’t need extra help instead take world languages. Goal two is social emotional health and wellbeing. The new fitness center is being used and staff and students are being trained on the new equipment. The first round of DESSA assessments were administered and 86% of students are typical or above which is on par with the national average. Goal three is family and student engagement. Student of the month award and the first dance took place and student led portfolio conferences are wrapping up.
In committees the strategic planning committee met and looked at professional learning presentation. They talked about making CIP goals permanent, do shorter term goals below that and then have immediate goals to meet. The policy committee is busy with several new VSBA policies in December. The facilities committee looked at the Herrick Ave and capital improvement plans. They are proceeding cautiously with Herrick Ave because of community feedback. They are prioritizing repairs. The roof and plumbing will both need to be addressed which together will cost around $15 million. The finance committee hasn’t met yet.
The superintendent’s report was short. She announced that a new nurse has been hired. However, there will be a lot of nurse absences coming up and board member Melinda Young will be subbing. Amy also expressed appreciation for the faculty and staff and how hard they are working.
There was a presentation on the changes to the school start times which will take place next year. They went over feedback from the recent survey that went out to family, staff and students. There were several barriers to changing the start times including parental work schedules, childcare and afterschool activities. Ultimately, there was no ideal solution and the change ended up being minor. MHS will go from a 7:20 start time to 7:30 and the school day will end at 2:30 instead of 2:35. The MMS start time will be 7:40 instead of 7:15 and end at 2:40 instead of 2:20. MES will start at 8:40 instead of 8:30 and end at 3:40 instead of 3:30. Between presentations Kumulia expressed that he had a great time attending the outstanding teacher awards.
The next presentation was the progress report. The school administered a new proficiency assessment this year called the VTCAP. This can’t really be compared to the previous assessment, SBAC, until the state does a linking study. This should be available in December. The STAR assessment shows the growth of students and was administered early in the year, so it reflects the summer not instructional time. The board set goals for both literacy (20% increase in proficiency) and math (pre pandemic numbers) to be met by June of next year. In the lower grades the district uses Fountus and Pinnell (F&P) assessments. By this metric, proficiencies increased in grades 1-3. The VTCAP data showed that Milton proficiency rates in reading are lower than the state averages in almost all grades except 7th, 8th and 9th. The highest rate was Milton’s 8th grade at 66%. The lowest rate was 25% for Milton’s 5th grade. If compared one for one with the SBAC assessment the increase from last year was 13%. However, this will probably change once the comparison study between the assessments is released. Reading growth according to the STAR assessment is above average for all grades. In the math VTCAP assessment no average was above 50% except the 6th grade state average. The lowest rate was Milton’s 5th grade at 16%. The only grade that performed better than the state was 9th at 39%. According to the STAR assessment the only grades showing above average growth are 2nd, 8th, 9th and 10th. The science VTCAP proficiency rates were 45% or below for Milton and the state with Milton performing below the state in most grades. Proficiencies were followed by behavior data. MES and MHS both showed a decrease in major referrals since last year, while MMS increased by almost 30%.
There was a presentation about the English Language Learner Programming (ELL). There has been a sharp increase in ELL students in recent years. Many students are those whose families have moved to Milton from Burlington or Winooski. There is a wide range of abilities, and some students also have learning disabilities. ELL services include small-group acceleration services, teacher consultations, weekly planning meetings, annual testing and home liaison services. It takes about seven years for a student to test out of ELL services. There are currently 36 ELL students in MES and 15 ELL students in MMS/MHS. Those numbers are projected to increase. There are a variety of languages spoken in MTSD with Bosnian, French and Nepali being the most widely spoken. At the end of the presentation Amy suggested MTSD might want to consider providing teachers with more English immersion training to meet this growing need.
There are two out of country MHS overnight field trips being planned for next year. One is to Iceland, and one is to Germany and Austria. These are being brought to the board early to start coordination now.
The board discussed more about questions that will be on the Herrick Ave survey going out to the community shortly after Thanksgiving.
There were several policy first reads. All are VSBA required polices and include B7 Tobacco, C3 Transportation, F1 Travel Reimbursement, and F3 Operations-Based Response to Violent Intruder Drills, Fire Drills and Emergency Preparedness. The flagpole policy was up for second read. The board discussed putting up a new flagpole which this policy calls for. Melinda expressed that feedback that came from students was in support of a pole and feedback from parents was the opposite. The school administration has expressed they don’t want the responsibility of flying change campaign flags within the school. Kumulia’s proposal remained unchanged. He wants only the US and state flags to fly on school grounds to make things simple and to avoid controversy. If a new pole must go up he wants two thirds of the student body to be in support of whatever flags are raised. Jenn showed support for Kumulia’s proposal. One student rep also agreed that a majority of the student body should be in support of a flag that is raised, but wasn’t sure how to measure it.
There were several community comments at the end of the meeting. Shawn Tatro offered to donate $4000 to erect a student flag pole, but with the stipulations that flags could only fly for 30 days at a time and only once in a given year. He also expressed that the new school build should be put on the back burner. The student that spoke at the beginning of the meeting commented again that a new flagpole should be erected right in front of the school to show solidarity and support for the cause and the rest of the community would be forced to see it unlike if the flag was inside the school. Diane Barrows said that she thinks flags should be inside the school and does not support a new pole. A community member wanted some clarification on the time change. Crystal Gingras wanted to know the details of how many staff answered the survey for the time change vs how many are in the district. She also wanted to know how many students were approached about the flagpole policy and how long the BLM flag has been flying. Lastly, she wanted to know if the flagpole is so important for the student body, why other student groups had not asked to fly different flags before now. There were two online comments, one asking how much a new pole would cost and one in support of a new pole. Ember expressed that the purpose of the flagpole would be to fly the flags of marginalized groups so it would be hard to get the majority of student body to support them.