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  Vermont School Boards Association                                    December 2011

  Time to Recruit New School Board Members
Nearly 1500 school board members serve          December 1, 2011
Vermont’s school districts on any given         TIME TO RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD
day. We are blessed to have so many
citizens willing to devote time, energy, and    Now is the time for Vermonters to con-
creativity to this essential role in our com-   sider running for election to their local
munities.                                       school boards. We all have many distrac-
                                                tions during the holiday season. Petitions
Each year on Town Meeting Day, ap-              to run for elected offices in most towns will
proximately 250 of those slots turn over,       be due by the end of January, so there will
with many brand new board members               not be a lot of time to take action in the
taking their place on boards across Ver-        new year. Now is a good time to con-
mont. All of us need to take very seri-         sider joining hundreds of other Vermonters
ously the recruitment of new board mem-         in serving your children, your town, and
bers. High functioning boards are created       your state as a school board member.
from committed, energetic, creative peo-
ple who can work with others.                   Here are three reasons why Vermonters
                                                should consider running for a school board
Face-to-face recruitment works best when
                                                seat this year:
seeking candidates to run for office. VSBA
urges all current board members to reach
                                                1. Our children deserve the best oppor-
out to those you know who could be strong
                                                   tunities. First and foremost, this is
                                                   about our children—all of our children.
                                                   All students need a world-class educa-
The article below will appear in Vermont
                                                   tion. We need board members who will
news media over the next two weeks. It
summarizes important considerations for
                                                                   TIME continued on page 6
potential candidates.

                                   In this issue...
   Fiscal Info for Boards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 & 14
   Reflections on a Strike . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
                                                                       Ken Fredette is a
                                                         com
                                                                       commercial diver

                                                                         a serves on
                                                                        the Wallingford

                                                            school board.

It gives me great pleasure to                                  tion, or…) from the local
share some thoughts with you as
           me                                                  level to a more regional
president of the VSBA. We’ve all at-                  governance model? How would it
tended functions where a speaker pro-
            nctions                            affect kids? Should parents be able to
fesses what an honor it is to be there, I’m    choose where their children attend school
sure, but let me say those words never         regardless of where they live? Should we
really rang quite true for me until now. It    invest more in distance learning? Should
is a privilege, indeed, to have the oppor-     we have statewide teachers’ contract?
tunity to represent school board members       Should we have a larger student-teacher
from across Vermont on the myriad educa-       ratio? Should schools be open year-
tion issues we face these days.                round? Should school board members be
                                               required to have a certain amount of an-
My position on most any of said issues is      nual training? How could these ideas
quite simple, and far from original: we        impact our kids?
need to know how it impacts the students.
Of course, there will always be some nuts      The list goes on, and there doesn’t seem
and bolts matters that need attention with     to be a shortage of opinions to be offered.
solutions that are pretty much no-brainers     Sometimes those opinions are expressed
(a roof in need of repair comes quickly to     to the public as if they are obvious facts,
mind). What I’m talking about are issues       when in reality they have just been pulled
that almost everybody seems to have an         out of a hip pocket. Sometimes those
opinion on that will have long-term effects    opinions are well thought out. As elected
on the well being of our children. Should      officials entrusted with oversight of public
we move from a Commissioner of Educa-          education, our job is to distinguish be-
tion elected by the State Board to a Sec-      tween the two. My job is to provide a
retary of Education appointed by the           conduit to help you do so.
Governor? How would it affect the kids?
Should we shift responsibilities for special   And it is an honor to be here.   
education (or curriculum, or transporta-
       A Board Member’s Approach to the Job
                                 John and Miriam Carver
One of the reasons a board member’s job           3. Represent the ownership, not a
is so difficult is that ‘the job’ is essentially      constituency. You will understand
a group responsibility. In fact, it is hard to       and personally identify with one
discuss how an individual is to approach a           or more constituencies more than
group task. Yet each board member has                others. That provincial streak is
a responsibility to come with an effective           natural in everyone, but your civic
mindset, to carry out his or her part of             trusteeship obligation is to rise above
preparation and participation, and to take           it. If you are a teacher, you are not
responsibility for the group. These are              on the board to represent teachers.
not always easy tasks.                               If you are a private businessperson,
                                                     you are not there to represent that
Some advice follows on the frame of mind             interest. You are a board member
and individual preparations necessary for            for the broad ownership. There is
a given board member to play an effective            no way that the board can be big
role in creating a productive board.                 enough to have a spokesperson
                                                     for every legitimate interest, so in a
1. Be prepared to participate respons-               moral sense you must stand for them
   ibly. Participating responsibly means             all. Think of yourself as being from a
   to do your homework, come prepared                constituency but not representing it.
   to work (sometimes the work is to
   listen), agree and disagree as your                              CARVER continued on page 4
   values dictate, and accept the group
   decision as legitimate even if not-
   in your opinion- correct. It is not
   acceptable, for example, to have
   opinions but not express them.

2. Remember your identity is with the
   ownership, not the staff. Identifying           Editor: David Cyprian email:
   closely with your staff will be inviting        Layout: Kerri Lamb email:
   in that you may be in conversation              Articles printed represent diverse points
   with them about issues more than                of view and may be controversial in nature.
   you will be with the ownership. You             It is the belief of the Association that the
   will come to use staff’s abbreviations          democratic process functions best through
   and shorthand language. Be care-                discussions which challenge and stimulate
   ful that you don’t become more                  thinking on the part of the reader. Therefore,
   connected with staff than with those
                                                   materials published present the ideas/
   who own the organization. Be a
   microcosm of your ownership, not
                                                   beliefs of those who write them and are
   a shadow you that staff. [Editor’s              not necessarily the views or policies of the
   Note: while the word staff is used in           VSBA unless so stated. This newsletter is
   this article, this concept includes the         distributed at no charge to all members of
   superintendent and principals in a              the Association. Contact the Association
   school environment.]                            by calling 802-223-3580.

CARVER continued from page 3                    in accounting, law, construction,
                                                or another skilled field, be careful
4. Be responsible for group behavior            not to take your colleagues off the
   and productivity. While doing your           hook with respect to board decisions
   own job as a single board member is          about such matters. To illustrate, an
   important, it does not complete your         accountant board member should
   responsibility. You must shoulder the        not assume personal responsibility
   potentially unfamiliar burden of being       for assuring fiscal soundness. But it
   responsible for the group. That is,          is alright for him or her to help board
   if you are part of a group that does         members understand what fiscal
   not get its job done, that meddles in        jeopardy looks like or what incidences
   administration, or that breaks its own       of fiscal health to watch carefully.
   rules, you are culpable.                     With that knowledge, the board can
                                                pool its human values about risk,
5. Be a proactive board member. You             brinkmanship, overextension, and so
   are not a board member to hear               forth in the creation of fiscal policies.
   reports. You are a board member              In other words, use your special
   to make governance decisions.                understanding to inform the board’s
   Listening while staff or committees          wisdom, but never to substitute for
   recount what they have been busy             it.
   doing is boring and unnecessary.
   Of course, it is sometimes important     8. Orient to the whole, not the parts.
   to get data through reports, but do         Train yourself to examine, question,
   not let that cast you in a passive          and define the big picture. Even if
   role. Even when you are receiving           your expertise and comfort lie in
   education, do so as an active               some subpart of the organization
   participant, searching doggedly for         challenge, the subpart is not your job
   the wisdom that will enable good            as a board member. You may offer
   board decisions. Make “show and             your individual expertise to the CEO,
   tell” board meetings passé.                 should he or she wish to use it. But
                                               in such a role, accept you are being a
6. Honor divergent opinions without            volunteer consultant and leave your
   being intimidated by them. You are          board member hat at home.
   obligated to register your honest
   opinion on issues the board takes        9. Think upward and outward more
   up, but other board members are             that downward and inward. There
   obligated to speak as well. Encourage       will be great temptation to focus on
   your colleagues to express their            what goes on with management
   opinions without allowing your own          and staff instead of what difference
   to be submerged by louder or more           the organization should make in the
   insistent comrades. You are of little       larger world. The latter is a daunting
   use to the process if full expression       task for which no one feels really
   of your ideas can be held hostage by        qualified, yet it is the board member’s
   a louder member.                            job to tackle it.

7. Use your special expertise to inform     10. Tolerate issues that cannot be
   your colleagues’ wisdom. If you work         quickly settled. Shorter-term more
                                                concrete matters can give you a
    feeling of completion, but are likely
    to involve you in the wrong issues.
    If you must deal with such matters,                   For more
    resign from the board and apply for a
    staff position.                                   board resources ...
11. Don’t tolerate putting off the big
    issues forever. The really big issues
    will often be too intimidating for you
    to reach a solution comfortably. Yet           benefits alive at all times. Converse
    in most cases, the decision is being           with staff, colleague board members,
    made anyway by default. Board                  and the public about these matters.
    inaction itself is a decision. Don’t           Ask questions, consider opinions,
    tolerate the naming of big decisions           and otherwise fill most of your trustee
    by the timid action of not making              consciousness with issues of ends.
                                               15. Squelch your individual points of
12. Support the board’s final choice. No            view during monitoring. Your own
    matter which way you voted, you                values count when the board is
    are obligated to support the board’s           creating policies. But when the
    choice. This obligation doesn’t mean           CEO’s performance is monitored,
    you must pretend to agree with that            you must refer only to the criteria
    choice; you may certainly maintain             the board decided, not what you
    the integrity of your dissent even after       opinion was about those criteria. In
    the vote. What you must support is             other words, the CEO must be help
    the legitimacy of the choice that you          accountable to the board’s decisions
    still don’t agree with. For example,           and in fairness cannot be judged
    you will support without reservation           against your opinion. You should
    that the CEO must follow the formal            present any opinion you may have
    board decision, not yours.                     about amending the policies, of
                                                   course, but not so as to contaminate
13. Don’t mistake form for substance.              the monitoring process.
    Don’t confuse having a public
    relations committee with having            16. Support the chair in board discipline.
    good public relations. Don’t confuse           Although the board as a whole is
    having financial reports with having            responsible for its own discipline, it
    sound finances.        Don’t confuse            will have endowed the chair with a
    having a token constituent board               special role in the group’s confronting
    member with having sufficient                   its own process. Don’t make the
    input. Traditional governance has              chair’s job harder, rather ask what
    often defined responsible behavior
    procedurally [do this, review that,
                                                   you can do to make it easier. 
    follow this set of steps] instead of       John Carver created the Policy
    substantially, so beware of the trap.      Governance® board model.           Miriam
                                               Carver is a Policy Governance® author
14. Obsess about ends.      Keep the           and consultant. This article was reprinted
    conversation    about     benefits,         with permission from the 1996 Carver
    beneficiaries, and the worth of the         Guide 2.
TIME continued from page 1                         tain or increase opportunity even as
                                                   resources shrink. We need board
    develop a vision for the educational
                                                   members who are willing to think cre-
    success of all our students, including
                                                   atively about how we broaden student
    those students disadvantaged by in-
                                                   opportunity in our own towns, as well
    come, language, or disability. We need
                                                   as through mergers and joint ventures
    board members who will chart a course
                                                   where that makes sense.
    for our schools to support and engage
    all students through meaningful learn-
                                                Vermont’s commitment to local oversight
    ing experiences and the full integration
                                                of education runs deep. On any given day,
    of technology. Finally, we need board
                                                nearly 1500 individuals serve on 280
    members who will help schools forge
                                                elected school boards, giving Vermont the
    strong partnerships with parents and
                                                highest board member to student ratio in
    community members to both support
                                                the country. Collectively, these committed
    and hold our schools accountable for
                                                citizens oversee the education of some
    delivering excellent results.
                                                90,000 children. It is not happenstance
                                                that Vermont ranks at or near the top na-
2. The future of your town and Vermont
                                                tionally on most major indicators of educa-
   depends on education. Education is a
                                                tion quality. Just as it is true that children
   major economic driver. When families
                                                perform better when their parents are in-
   are choosing where to live, the quality
                                                terested and engaged, education in a
   of education is high on the list of crite-
                                                community is better in a strongly invested
   ria. Businesses often consider overall
                                                local district.
   community climate and quality of
   schools when choosing where to lo-
                                                Each year, approximately 250 school
   cate. Now more than ever, school
                                                board positions turn over. Vermont needs
   boards need to take this challenge
                                                committed citizens to step forward to
   seriously. The governor has spoken
                                                serve. Strong board members are in-
   about Vermont being “the education
                                                vested in education excellence, willing to
   state”. Each local board must be con-
                                                focus on a broad range of concerns (not
   cerned that for their students, their town
                                                just a single issue) and able to work with
   is “the education town”! Vermont’s
                                                other board members, administrators, and
   success is the collective success of all
                                                citizens. Their job is not to run the
   local boards.
                                                schools. Rather, they are trustees on
                                                behalf of the community, assuring the
3. The economy demands a creative ap-
                                                delivery of quality education and good
   proach. Many of us have not seen an
                                                value for taxpayers.
   economy like this one. Education is
   being asked to do more with less and
                                                Now is the time to consider investing in
   to figure out how best to manage
                                                your children and your community and the
   shrinking enrollment. Vermont needs
                                                future of the state of Vermont. If anyone
   creative school board members who
                                                has questions about the role of a school
   will seek innovative approaches to this
                                                board member, call the Vermont School
   dilemma. We must find ways to main-
                                                Boards Association at 802-223-3580.     
                  Regional Meetings Wrap-up
                                  By David Cyprian
In September and early October, VSBA Executive Director Steve Dale and I hit the
road and met with board members at ten locations representing all eight regions of
the Association (we split two of the larger regions into separate meetings). From this
view, the meetings were a success in that Dale and I were able to exchange ideas
and viewpoints with a diverse cross-section of board members, reaffirming the As-
sociation’s positions on certain issues while causing us to rethink and adjust our un-
derstanding on others. It was also a good opportunity for many members to meet and
connect with Dale for the first time (he joined the VSBA this past January).

Some of the topics that generated the most conversation included: 1) How VSBA could
improve its support for boards during collective bargaining negotiations, 2) whether
expanding public school choice (as proposed by Gov. Shumlin) would be good for
education, and 3) the extent to which board development workshops should be made
available and expected of novice and experienced school directors.

A full slate of regional officers were also elected from each of the eight regions to serve
on the VSBA Board of Directors. At our annual conference in October, statewide of-
ficers were also elected, and together, the regional and statewide officers comprise
the entire Board. We look forward to working with them as VSBA continues to reas-
sess and refine its positions and priorities over the next 12 months.   
              2011-2012 VSBA Board of Directors
  Officers                            Regional Officers
  President                          Jane Low, Addison Pres.
  Ken Fredette                       Kristin Bristow, Addison Vice Pres.
                                     Ed Hemmer, Bennington-Rutland Pres.
  1st Vice President
  John Fike                          Joe LaRosa, Bennington-Rutland Vice Pres.
                                     Deb Cogan, Caledonia-Essex-Orleans Pres.
  2nd Vice President                 Ray Lewis, Caledonia-Essex-Orleans Vice Pres.
  Emily Long
                                     Darren Carner, Chittenden-Grand Isle Pres.
  Treasurer                          Jill Evans, Chittenden-Grand Isle Vice Pres.
  Ken Swierad                        Elaine Carpenter, Franklin-Lamoille Pres.
                                     Judy Schultz, Franklin-Lamoille Vice Pres.
  Past President
                                     Chris Preston, Washington-Orange Pres.
  Kalee Roberts
                                     Ann Howard, Washington-Orange Vice Pres
  Member-at-large                    Russell Capron, Windham Pres.
  Peter Herman                       Richard Werner, Windham Vice Pres.
                                     Carl Groppe, Windsor Pres.
  Junius Calitri                     Jeanice Garfield, Windsor Vice Pres.

                      Vollmer, Governor Headline
                       VSBA / VSA Conference
                                         By David Cyprian
                                                 by 4th grade, and that middle and high
                                                 school students should be exposed to
                                                 age-appropriate workforce experiences,
                                                 including an internship opportunity prior
                                                 to graduation. Shumlin also suggested
                                                 that more could be done to link high
                                                 school and college coursework, such as
                                                 expanding dual enrollment so that high
                                                 school students graduate with several
                                                 college credits already completed. Lastly,
                                                 the Governor made clear that he does not
     VSBA President, Ken Fredette & Former       believe in extensive standardized testing
    VSBA Associate Director Winton Goodrich
                                                 in schools, nor does he support mandatory
The annual VSBA                                                      consolidation of small
/ VSA Conference                                                     schools or small school
took     place     on                                                districts.
October 20-21 at
Lake Morey Resort                                                    Congressman Peter
in Fairlee, VT, and a                                                Welch offered some
majority of attendees                                                lunchtime      remarks
indicated that they                                                  and was followed
were pleased with                                                    by a congressional
this year’s speakers                                                 panel         featuring
and      workshops.                                                  representatives from
Governor Shumlin,               Congressman Peter Welch              each    member        of
Congressman                                                          Vermont’s Washington
Welch, Commissioner Vilaseca, NSBA
President Mary Broderick and national
education reformer Jamie Vollmer
headlined the two-day event. In between,
many others presenters offered specific-
interest workshops and Friday’s lunch
featured some light-hearted ribbing and
acknowledgement of Winton Goodrich,
who left the VSBA in August. What
follows is a brief description of some of
the highlights.

Gov. Shumlin outlined a vision for
educational priorities that he supports and
other that he does not. He stated that all
students should be reading at grade level                   VSBA President, Ken Fredette
delegation. The speakers highlighted the
contentious political climate in the capitol
city and described their perspective
on the interplay between the Obama
administration and Congress on ESEA
reauthorization and the NCLB waiver

Mary Broderick welcomed the conference
attendees and commented on the
energetic and pro-education spirit she
had experienced in her time in Vermont.
Broderick than explained how she became         Sorsha Anderson, Middlesex School Board Member
involved with the National School Boards       voicing her opinion with Past President Kalee Roberts
Association after a stint as president of               at the 2011 VSBA Business Meeting
her state association in Connecticut.
She then commented on some federal
education policy issues, particularly
explaining NSBA’s perspective on the
ongoing congressional reauthorization
of the No Child Left Behind Act and the
Obama administration’s solicitation of
NCLB waivers for states.

Jamie Vollmer spoke about his personal
journey from businessman, to professional
education reformer, to a “reformed”
education reformer. Vollmer’s message
centered on the need for schools to
adapt education delivery to the needs of
an information-age society. In particular,
Vollmer emphasized the need to involve
the larger community outside the school
in a “great conversation” about the future             Junius Calitri, long standing Cornwall
                                                              school board member
of education and priorities for an effective
education system. Vollmer theorized
that without robust community support,
transformative educational change is
nearly impossible to achieve.

Thank you to the attendees and
our workshop presenters. We
hope to see many of you at next
year’s event! 

                                                      Dinner at the 2011 Annual Conference
VSBA—WHAT IT DOES                             • General support for school boards re-
The Vermont School Boards Association           garding collective bargaining—general
exists to support high quality education        preparation and information for boards
through effective school boards and strong      on current contracts
public education policy. It provides five      • Vermont Education Policy Services (in
major services to members.                      conjunction with VSBIT and VSA)
                                              • Potential support for legal action having
Advocacy                                        significance for boards statewide (e.g.
• Representation in the general assembly.       lawsuit, unfair labor practice, etc.)
  Bill monitoring and testimony.
• Bi-weekly newsletter during the legisla-    Consulting Services on a Fee-for-
  tive session: “Education Legislative Re-    Service Basis
  port”                                       • Superintendent Searches
• Federal legislative advocacy through the    • Superintendent Evaluations
  National School Boards Association          • Strategic Planning
• Representation in education policy for-     • Governance Studies
  mulation with governor, legislature, and
  DOE                                         TO ARRANGE FOR VSBA SERVICES,
                                              CONTACT KERRI LAMB AT
Board Development                             800-244-8722 or
• New member orientation for all newly
  elected board members                       STAFFING TRANSITION
• Ongoing board training opportunities        2011 has seen many changes at the Ver-
• Phone consultation for board members        mont School Boards Association. At the
• On-site workshops or meeting facilita-      first of the year, Steve Dale took over from
  tion                                        long-time Executive Director, John Nel-
                                              son. Winton Goodrich, who had been
Communications                                VSBA’s primary outreach person, left the
• VSBA Website                                organization in August to become the As-
• VSBA DVD Lending Library                    sistant Superintendent in South Burling-
• Bi-Monthly newsletter: From the Board-      ton. A new staff team is gradually taking
  room                                        shape to serve our members. We are a
• Regular e-mail VSBA Update for School       small organization and all chip in to get
  Board Members                               work done. However, general staff re-
• Education Legislative Report (during        sponsibilities are emerging as follows:
  legislative session)
• School Board Resource Directory             VSBA Staff
• Media outreach on key issues                Steve Dale, Executive Director: Steve
                                              brings a Master’s Degree in Education and
Legal and Policy Services                     a wealth of experience in teaching, human
• Updates on changes in law and regula-       services, public policy and management
  tion                                        theory and practice. He served on a
• Phone consultation around legal ques-       school board for five years. Steve can be
  tions                                       a general go-to person for requests for
• Legal training for boards and superinten-   assistance. During the legislative season,
  dents                                       he will spend the majority of his time in the
Statehouse. He also does some direct support work for

Nicole Mace, Associate Director for Legal Services: Ni-
cole began work on October 17. She holds a Master’s
Degree in Public Policy as well as a law degree. She is
a licensed attorney and will specialize in guiding boards
toward answers to their questions. She will also develop
a special expertise in collective bargaining and in school
district policy. Nicole will provide some back-up support
during the legislative session, but much of her time will be
spent fielding/general inquiries from boards. Learn more
about Nicole on page 12.

Kerri Lamb, Operations Manager: Kerri has been the
go-to person at VSBA for the past eleven years. She
maintains the VSBA website and produces video and print
information for members. She also handles most admin-
istrative support functions for the organization. When in
doubt about who to call, contact Kerri at 800-244-8722.

Board Development Specialist: This position is under
recruitment. The new person will be organizing a state-
wide approach to new board member orientation and to
ongoing board development. The new person will also
provide specialized workshops and facilitation services
for individual boards.

David Cyprian, Legislative Analyst: David’s position is
supported jointly by the VSBA, the VT Superintendents
Association and the VT Principals’ Association. David
does detailed policy analysis, monitors bills in the State-
house, and produces communications including From the
Boardroom and the Education Legislative Report.

Additional Contractors Assisting VSBA
Laura Soares, Policy Governance Coordinator and Board
Development Consultant: Laura has been on the Ran-
dolph board for many years. She has also served on the
VSBA board and has worked with VSBA in supporting
Policy Governance practices. Over the next year, Laura
will gradually phase out of this role as she assumes the
position of CEO of the Vermont School Boards Insurance
Trust. If you are seeking Laura’s assistance, contact
Kerri or Steve.

                              STAFFING continued on page 12
STAFFING continued from page 11               seeking help with a formal governance
                                              study. John will help the district clarify its
                                              objectives and will help identify possible
John Nelson, Coordinator of Vermont           consultants to do the direct work.
Education Policy Services: John was the
former Executive Director of the VSBA.        Other Consulting Services: VSBA works
John is working very part time to update      with a number of consultants around board
model policies and to support individual      development, strategic planning, superin-
boards who have struggled to keep poli-       tendent search, and superintendent
cies updated and relevant. John can be        evaluation services. General requests for
contacted directly through VSBA to ex-        any of these services including workshops
plore his services.                           and retreat support should contact Kerri
                                              or Steve.
John Everitt, Coordinator of Governance
Consultation: John was the former Super-      The VSBA will continue to take form over
intendent of school districts in Montpelier   the next year. We will keep you apprised
and South Burlington. John works for          of evolving roles. We urge you to avail
VSBA on a very part time basis to serve       yourself and your board of our resourc-
as the primary contact person for districts   es.
                 New Associate Director
           for Legal Services Joins the VSBA
                       In October, Nicole     citizenship, and life. Mace also served
                       Mace joined the        as a member of the Burlington and Win-
                       VSBA as Associ-        ooski High School Transformation Steer-
                       ate Director for       ing Committee, where she focused on
                       Legal Services.        building systems to engage the commu-
                       She comes to the       nity effectively in school transformation
                       VSBA from Voices       planning efforts.
                       for Vermont’s Chil-
dren, a children’s advocacy organization,     Mace holds a law degree from the Univer-
where she served as Research Director         sity of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science in
and Senior Policy Advocate for two years.     Public Policy and Management from Car-
Mace focused on identifying strategies to     negie Mellon University, and is a member
ensure our local systems have the re-         of the Vermont Bar. She is thrilled to be
sources and support they need to provide      a new member of the VSBA team. “I look
an excellent education to all our young       forward to getting to know board members
people, particularly those who struggle       from across the state as we work togeth-
due to barriers created by disability, pov-   er to expand educational opportunities for
erty, or language. She was a member of        all children, strengthen quality educa-
the Pre-K-16 Council, where she advo-         tional governance, and promote strong
cated for approaches that support stu-        community support for our schools.”
dents living in poverty to access high
quality educational opportunities that pre-   Mace lives in Winooski with her husband
pare them to succeed in college, career,      and daughter.  
          Mary Gilbert Retires from the VSBA
                                  By David Cyprian
Hardworking, no-nonsense administrative       Every time I saw her in the hall and she
assistant Mary Gilbert retired from           began a conversation with her trademark,
her everyday position at the VSBA             “Oh, I don’t know …” I inevitably found
on November 30. Mary had been an              myself agreeing with her wisdom on those
indispensible fixture at our offices for        particular human traits of arrogance, self-
17 years, even in a part-time capacity,       importance, and indulgence. Still, other
and prior to that, she worked for our         people’s problems rarely seemed to bring
officemates at 2 Prospect Street, including    her down; it was as though Mary knew that
the Vermont Principals’ Association, the      she had already baked her own personal
Vermont Superintendents Association           recipe for peace and happiness while the
and the Vermont School Boards                 rest of us were still thumbing through the
Insurance Trust.                              cookbook. Working alongside such a
                                              centered soul was always a treat.
Mary has a well-earned reputation for
arriving early, pitching in wherever she      Although we expect to see her helping us
can, and going about her business with        in short stints going forward, the VSBA
an unflappable and cheerful demeanor.          wishes her the very best in her retirement.
More than a few of her colleagues were        She lives with her husband George in
charmed by her strong traditional values      Williamstown, where they operate a
starting with family, simplicity, and work.   Christmas tree farm, not far from many
Reliable, thoughtful, and earnest, she is
a great friend to many that have known
                                              limbs of her large, extended family. 
                 STATEWIDE FY2013 FISCAL
       By Bill Talbott, Chief Financial Officer, VT Department of Education
December 1, Tax Commissioner Mary             Governor Shumlin is hoping to avoid
Peterson sent her recommendations to          an increase in the education tax rates
the Legislature for the key FY2013 state-     by encouraging school districts to keep
wide education tax-rate components for        education spending at the same amount
school budgets. The recommendation            as this year. He recently noted that the
acknowledged that under current law the       total number of school staff has begun to
base education amount (which has been         decrease, which many have expected to
frozen at $8,544 since FY2010) should         see given the declining pupil counts over
be increased by 4.1% to $8,891. If the        the past 14 years. Continuing this staff
Department of Education’s estimate that       decline should make it easier for boards
education spending will increase 1.7%         to hold the line on spending. If districts
statewide in FY2013 holds true, the           do keep spending level in FY2013, the
statewide homestead tax rate must be          Governor recommends that the base ed-
increased by $0.02 (to $0.89) in order to     ucation amount increase 2.1% to $8,723
ensure sufficient revenues for the Educa-      and that the base education tax rates
tion Fund. The nonresidential rate would      would remain at $0.87 and $1.36. The
also be required to increase $0.02, to        result would be that most districts that
$1.38.                                        level fund would have a marginally lower
                                              equalized (i.e., pre-CLA) homestead tax
                                              rate in FY2013.                       13
         Governor Recommends Level-funded
                Education Spending
                     By Steve Dale,VSBA Executive Director
On December 1, Governor Shumlin pub-          4.    We appreciate the fact that the Leg-
licly urged boards to again level-fund              islature and Governor have to juggle
education budgets for FY2013. He be-                many considerations in address-
gan his comments with very high praise              ing competing interests statewide.
for the work done by boards, and then               However, we are concerned that the
announced that if boards are able to                Governor’s proposal would under-
level-fund education, we will not need              fund the base education amount for
any statewide tax increase. We are all              the third year in a row. This follows
painfully aware of the ongoing economic             a 2012 “permanent reduction” of $23
challenges faced by Vermont and the na-             million in the state’s annual contribu-
tion. School boards have done extraordi-            tion to the education fund, an action
nary work controlling costs over the past           that helped close state government’s
two years. The VSBA response is as fol-             budget gap, but which shifted Educa-
lows:                                               tion Fund costs to the property tax.
                                                    We are concerned that ongoing ac-
1.   We appreciate the Governor’s rec-
                                                    tions of this kind will erode our ability
     ognition of the hard work done by
                                                    to provide quality education and will
     boards to date.
                                                    likely result over time in significant in-
2.   We appreciate the severity of the              creases in property taxes, contrary to
     economic times facing all of us and            the intention of Act 60/68. 
     all boards take very seriously the
     need to be as frugal as possible
                                                         Want more?
     while assuring quality education for
     our children.

3.   Although some school districts will
     be able to approve a level-funded
     budget, there are many upward pres-
     sures including salary, health insur-
     ance, and energy costs. After two
     years of level (or decreased) funding,
     level funding across the state may            Visit the VSBA website to find...
     not be possible while also meeting            • Streaming videos on varying
     the needs of students. Early projec-               topics;
     tions from the Department of Educa-           • Examples of governance study
     tion and Joint Fiscal Office estimate               documents;
     that education spending will increase         • Legislative information;
     1.7% this coming year.                        • Teacher negotiation data;
                                                   • School model policies;
   Reflections on a Nine-day Teacher’s Strike
            By Sean-Marie Oller, Chair, Mt. Anthony School Board
All the member school districts of the        felt that the communities they represented
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union           could not afford to let this happen. Four
including the Regional Technical Center,      months later, teachers responded to the
with the exception of the Woodford school     imposition by electing to strike.
district, have had a single Collective Bar-
gaining Agreement (CBA) for the last 17       So, what lessons can I take away from this
years. This CBA covers close to 400           experience?
teachers. From my perspective, the bar-
gaining team had many challenges to           I believe we did the right thing when we
overcome. I say this because of the diffi-     voted to impose a contract but it was not
cult economic times as well as the desire     easy. When the strike started on October
for a more equitable K-12 contract in terms   19 after an all-night negotiation session,
of student contact time.                      all involved hoped it would be resolved
                                              quickly. Perhaps we should have followed
We started the process of negotiating a       the advice, “Hope for the best, plan for the
new CBA in December 2009; the prior           worst.” With nine days gone from our
contract expired on June 30, 2010. In the     calendar, the boards were racing to figure
18 months that followed, there were face-     out how to plan make-up days for stu-
to-face negotiation sessions, proposals       dents, in service days for teachers, and
exchanged, mediation and participation in     state assessment requirements after
fact-finding. During this time the board       missing parts of NECAP testing. Over
team modified many of its original re-         three meetings, the Mt. Anthony board
quests. However, these efforts failed to      discussed extracurricular activities and
result in a contract acceptable to the        whether they could continue during the
teachers. Under Vermont law (Title 16,        strike; at the third meeting, we reversed
chapter 57), after all the steps above were   our initial decision and allowed varsity and
followed, school boards have the author-      senior activities to proceed. After the sec-
ity to impose a one-year contract. On June    ond day of the strike it was decided to
20, 2011, the seven boards represented        provide food at local firehouses and com-
in the CBA unanimously voted to impose        munity centers so students would not go
a contract for the FY2011 school year (the    hungry.
year which had just finished), and the
boards pledged to continue negotiating for    It also became obvious that the boards
the upcoming years.                           would have benefited from a comprehen-
                                              sive communications plan. During the
Imposing a contract was a step that was       strike, board members often found them-
not taken lightly. Nonetheless, had the       selves on the defensive in the “court of
boards not imposed a contract, teacher        public opinion.” The Vermont-NEA em-
salaries would have automatically in-         ploys someone to handle communications
creased, teacher contact time with stu-       and there is no reason they should not
dents would have remained unchanged           have someone who reaches out to the
at the secondary schools and teachers         public. However, the SVSU school boards
would have continued to pay 15 percent        do not employ a communications special-
of their health care insurance. The boards
                                                              STRIKE continued on page 16
STRIKE continued from page 15                 to media relations. We learned that the
                                              media is bound by a rigid schedule so it
ist so there were times when the public       is important to have board contacts that
was only hearing one side of the story. In    are available in a timely manner. If one
hindsight, perhaps we should have des-        side has a spokesperson on scene and
ignated a single board member spokes-         the board has no clear spokesperson or
person to handle public comments regard-      one who is unavailable, reporters still have
ing the strike.                               to file a story. It is critical that boards make
                                              an effort to reach out to reporters and
Out of an abundance of caution, our board     share their perspective.
team often sent out communication that
contained some very precise and lengthy       There was some disagreement in our
language explained in legal terms. While      district about whether contract negotiation
these statements were accurate, I believe     meetings should be warned to the public.
they were not the kind of messages that       While I know that those meetings will usu-
wins hearts as well as minds. The board       ally take place largely, if not entirely, in
team was resolved not to negotiate in the     executive session, I believe they should
media and adhered to the original ground      be warned so the public knows about
rules on communications that had been         them. Because some meetings were not
set with the teachers. The ground-rules       warned, some members of the public were
called for no communication with the pub-     unaware how the issues that led to the
lic and the media on the terms of the         contract imposition were discussed over
contract negotiations. At the point when      the prior 18 months and did not just crop
the teachers elected to strike, the union     up last summer. There were also disputes
began reporting information in carefully      as to the commitment to negotiate and it
worded statements that I believe were         was unclear which side had done more to
misleading to the public. The public should   cancel prior negotiating sessions.
have been able to hear from both sides in
language that explained not just what was     There’s no denying that the process was
happening but how it affected them on a       hard on the boards and the school com-
personal level. Vermonters can make up        munity. Both sides believed that they were
their own minds if they have the informa-     right and both want the public’s support. I
tion. We have a duty to remind them, for      think it would be naïve not to be aware
instance, that when the boards are trying     that in a negotiation, the other side may
to save money on health insurance, it is      be looking for ways to make you look bad.
on behalf of the people who live in our       Therefore, I believe it’s also important to
towns and pay property taxes. We wanted       plan for a healing process following the
community members to know how the             resolution of the strike. We are still early
boards wanted more student contact time       in that process ourselves. Communication
with teachers and how their was inequity      will be a key element. We need to remind
between elementary and secondary              ourselves that we need each other’s trust
teaching schedules.                           and support to reach the real goal of all
                                              this structural work: The education of our
During the strike, our area had the rare
experience of having both our local news-
papers and several television stations            Sean-Marie Oller is chair of the Mt. Anthony
covering the story. Board members need                   school board and is a member of the
to be savvy and thoughtful when it comes                      SVSU supervisory union board.
                                  Budgeting Tips
                                                  duty to meet the educational goals set
                                                  by the boards with sound fiscal over-
                                                  sight and efficient use of resources.
                                                  These procedures include frequent
                                                  monitoring reports that update the
                                                  boards on the overall financial picture
                                                  of their districts.

                                                  Kay states that it is the role of admin-
                                                  istration and not of the board to manage
                                                  line items in the budget. In lieu of fre-
                                                  quent line item reports, the information
                                                  OSSU provides to boards focuses on
By David Cyprian                                  analysis of revenues and expenditures,
                                                  and monitoring actual expenditures
By the time this issue reaches your mailbox-
es, it will be crunch time for school budget
                                                  versus budgeted expenditures. Analy-
development in most school districts around       ses also include expenditure compari-
Vermont. This critical and difficult work is       sons over time and across districts.
not made easier by the trying economic cir-
cumstances including high unemployment,           Kay believes that budgeting is a year-
stagnant housing values, and reduced state        round process in the sense that boards
support for public education. From the Board-     should constantly be evaluating student
room spoke with three school superintendents      outcomes against the goals of the dis-
about specific techniques and approaches
                                                  trict so that when budget decisions
they and their boards use to encourage pro-
ductive meetings and effective budget devel-
                                                  must be made, the comprehensive
opment.                                           analysis will have already occurred.
                                                  Therefore, although budget-related
Brent Kay                                         conversations occur over 12 months,
Superintendent of Orange Southwest S.U.           relatively few budget deliberation meet-
 Brent Kay emphasizes that it is the              ings are necessary to finalize deci-
 board’s role to set a vision and clear           sions.
 expectations for the district and student
 outcomes, and to monitor progress               Frank Perotti
 against those goals, but that the admin-        Superintendent of Springfield S.D.
 istrative team should professionally de-         Frank Perotti’s first priority in working
 velop and manage the budget. Instead             with a new board is to ensure that the
 of engaging in micromanagement, the              district has an active strategic plan in
 boards of the Orange Southwest S.U.              place that addresses the needs of the
 (OSSU) maintain extensive policies and           district and the community’s vision for
 procedural and process manuals that
 detail how the administration will fulfill its             BUDGETING continued on page 18
BUDGETING continued from page 17             makes frequent use of media to com-
                                             municate school and budget issues to
 its children and school system. His         the community at large, particularly utiliz-
 boards must be focused on what they         ing their local public access channel.
 need to achieve as a district and must
 set policy that conveys these expecta-     Tracy Wrend, Lamoille South S.U.
 tions to the administration.                Tracy Wrend approaches the budget as
                                             a whole-year all-board member process.
 Springfield S.D. has a formal budget         Wrend notes that there are three com-
 committee comprised of two school           ponents of budgets (revenues, expendi-
 board members and several community         tures, and tax implications), and the tax
 members with diverse viewpoints on          implications are generally unknown until
 school priorities. This committee moni-     very late in the process. Therefore, the
 tors the budget and breaks out into         board must have already completed
 subcommittees that then meet with indi-     evaluations of programs and services
 vidual building and program leaders.        against best practice research, cost
 This helps to develop a deeper under-       analyses, and the vision for the district.
 standing of the specific goals and chal-     Then, when tax information becomes
 lenges within the school system.            available, the board is prepared to make
                                             sound final decisions in a limited time-

                                             Wrend encourages her board members
                                             to each take responsibility for chunks of
                                             the budget. Then board members can
                                             make time to meet with senior staff to
                                             understand the context and prior deci-
                                             sion-making that went into that section
                                             of the budget. Communication lines
                                             must be open between the administra-
                                             tion and the board, among board mem-
                                             bers, and between the board and the
             Frank Perotti                   community. She believes board mem-
                                             bers should not be shy about working
                                             with the administration to develop talking
 Perotti also emphasizes frequent and        points to use when discussing the bud-
 transparent communications around           get.
 budget issues. All expenditures large
 and small must have a paper trail for       Wrend emphasizes that all budget deci-
 monitoring and justification. Board mem-     sions must be made with students in
 bers are given frequent reports on the      mind – the students in school today and
 actual expenditures versus budgeted         the children that will be attending 20
 expenditures including a comparison to      years out as well. This requires budget
 prior years. The administration strives     decisions to be filtered through a for-
 to keep all board members apprised of       ward-looking vision for the schools in
 budget issues in a straightforward man-     addition to a pragmatic analysis of to-
 ner that can be explained in a supermar-    day’s fiscal and educational environ-
 ket conversation. Springfield S.D. also      ment. 
              Board May Request Authority to
                Improve Energy Efficiency
                                  By David Cyprian
Are buildings in your district candidates                              s
                                              To learn whether buildings in your school
for energy efficiency improvements?            district may have eligible cost-effective
Depending on the condition and age            improvements, contact Norm Etkind, the
of a school building, new technologies        School Energy Management Program
in lighting, insulation, and heating may      Director, who can conduct a free building
dramatically improve a building’s energy      energy audit and answer questions
usage and efficiency. For many projects,       about potential energy improvements
the potential for savings is so significant    (email, or call 802-
that the money saved would immediately        229-1017).
exceed the cost of principal and interest
payments on the project!                      What follows is ballot language that your
                                              school board could use to request this
Projects that meet this standard are nearly   authority from district voters:
“no brainers” and boards would be wise to
consider the investment. Nevertheless,         Shall    the     electorate  of    the
in today’s tight fiscal environment, many       ________________ school district
boards may be reluctant to ask voters          grant general authority to the school
repeatedly for authority to borrow money       board to incur debt for cost effective
for a series of efficiency projects, even       school building energy improvements
when the savings from each project             at any time during the next five years,
would be real and immediate.                   not to exceed $350,000 per building
                                               in any three-year period, provided
Therefore, the 2011 Legislature created an     that the avoided costs attributable to
opportunity for school boards to request       the financed improvements exceed
from its electorate a five-year window          the annual payment of principal and
in which the board could incur a limited       interest of the indebtedness, and that
amount of debt solely for making energy        the debt incurred is payable over a
efficiency improvements to buildings.           maximum period that does not exceed
Specifically, in a single ballot item, the      the useful life of the improvements,
school board can request the authority         but not to exceed ten years?
to borrow no more than $350,000 per
building during a five-year period, if the        No indebtedness shall be incurred
purpose of the borrowing is make energy        unless Efficiency Vermont, an
efficiency improvements that will save          independent licensed engineer, or
more money annually than the cost              an independent licensed architect
                  of the debt service.         has certified to the district the cost
                     This provision was        of the improvements to be financed,
                     approved as section       the avoided costs attributable to the
                     32 of Act 58, and         improvements, and the adequacy
                     the language can be       of debt service coverage from the
                     found in 16 V.S.A. §      avoided costs over the term of the
                     562(11).                  proposed indebtedness.  
     A Sound Investment for Years to Come
Choosing the Right Energy Upgrade for Your School
                     By Richard Donnelly, Efficiency Vermont
Making an investment in today’s economy       What do you need to know to evaluate
may seem like an ill-advised endeavor,        the opportunity?
but low-risk, high-return investments
still abound — and your school can take       You need only to know these three basic
advantage them. By investing in energy        things to determine whether an energy
efficiency opportunities in your facilities,   upgrade is a solid investment for your
you can cut costs now and well into the       school:
future, helping to ensure your school’s
current and long-term fiscal health. These     A) Scope of work – what, precisely, is
opportunities may not be immediately             being proposed as a project?
apparent, but it doesn’t take much to find
them.                                         B) What are the estimated costs of
                                                 implementing the project?
How to uncover your school’s energy-
saving opportunities                          C) What are the estimated savings your
                                                 school will achieve by implementing
Speak with your facilities manager               the project?
and principal. Chances are, they’re
already aware of multiple areas for
                                              Once you have these, calculating the
energy savings. Ask them whether they
                                              rate of return is simple. This is a good
have a recent “SEMP” report from the
                                              point in the process to contact Efficiency
School Energy Management Program,
                                              Vermont. Their expertise will be helpful
which would detail the opportunities
                                              in verifying your projected return on
available. Let your school community
                                              investment, and they will partner with
know that you’re interested in supporting
                                              you to create a sound financing plan
projects that reduce energy usage. They
                                              (including Efficiency Vermont incentives).
will likely have good ideas as well.
                                              Some funding strategies have little to no
                                              impact on a school’s budget, making it
                                              even easier to move forward.

                                              For more information on how to take an
                                              energy efficiency project from start to
                                              finish, see Efficiency Vermont’s Making
                                              the Grade: a Step-by-Step Guide for
                                              School Energy Champions, available
                                              online at
                                              or by calling 888-921-5990.
              Richard Donnelly

    Should we consider heating our school
             with wood pellets?
That’s the key question that many                           The pricing of pellets versus the
schools are seeking an answer to. To                          cost of fuel oil is very attractive.
help with that decision, this year the Chip
and Pellet Conference is adding a special            Heating with pellets is one way to utilize
track to inform decision makers about                a renewable resource that supports good
pellet systems and their applicability               forest management and employment in
for schools and other commercial/                    the forest industries while saving precious
institutional users. The conference will             education dollars.
be held at the National Life building in
Montpelier on Monday, January 16.                    A link to further information about the
                                                     conference will be posted as soon
                                                     as it is available on the Vermont
                                                     Superintendents Association’s website
                                                     management-program.php. If you are
                                                     interested in more information on pellet
                                                     systems, for answers to your energy-
                                                     related questions, or to see if your school
                                                     is eligible to receive a free school energy
                                                     audit contact:
                                                     Norm Etkind, Director, School Energy
   Pellet furnace at Elm Hill School in Springfield   Management Program
There have been many changes recently
that improve the viability of the pellet             Phone: 229-1017      
option for schools:
      There       are   now     pellet
         manufactures in Vermont and in
         nearby states.

        Pellet suppliers are now willing
          to enter longer-term, stable-cost

        There are more efficient, cleaner-
          burning, automated pellet boiler

        Newer systems require little

        More local contractors are
                                                              Pellet silo at Craftsbury Academy
          familiar with the systems and
          how to install and maintain
 Safe Drinking Water,
 “What role does the
 School Board play”?
                  By Paula C. Jackson
                     VT Rural Water Association

In Vermont many schools have their           operating permit describes the water
own drinking water source which serves       systems components to include standby
school staff and students. This drinking     disinfection or continuous disinfection.
water source falls under the same federal    The operating permit also lists any
and state regulatory requirements as a       required water treatment such as
municipal or community drinking water        corrosion control. Every 3-5 years the
source.      School boards are tasked        Vermont State Water Supply Division
with heavy agendas which don’t always        sends out sanitary surveyors to inspect
include the drinking water system until it   your water system and make sure it is
is in an urgent state.                       in compliance with federal and state
                                             regulations. When they have finished
What is the chain of command when            the sanitary survey they issue a new
it comes to drinking water system            operating permit.
1. The EPA (Environmental Protection         EPA and the state of Vermont Water
    Agency)                                  Supply Division requires water systems
2. State of Vermont Water Supply             to have a certified water operator. The
    Division                                 state of Vermont manages the Operator
3. The School Board                          Certification Program which provides
4. Responsible person (i.e., the             guidance and training options to water
    Principal)                               operators. The water operators are
5. Water Operator: Predominantly the         responsible for up keep of their Water
    maintenance/custodial staff or a         certification. School boards often do not
    contract operator                        budget money for Operators to keep up
                                             their certifications which require travel,
The EPA develops the regulations which       training session fees and certification
include which contaminants schools           renewal fees.
must test for and the frequency. The
state of Vermont Water Supply Division       What responsibilities does the school
ensures that the regulations are being       board have? The biggest responsibility
followed and that contaminant testing        of the school board is budgeting for
is being done according to the federal       water system costs. In order to budget
regulations.                                 for water system costs the school board
                                             needs to know some of the federal and
EPA and The Vermont Water Supply             state regulations and requirements that
division require an operating permit         must be adhered to. Here is a basic list of
for all water systems. This operating
permit is like a driver’s license. The
                                                              WATER continued on page 23
WATER continued from page 22
budget items a school board must take into
consideration when developingg     
their school budget. Keep in                 cfm?t_id=49&s_id=50s/Drinking-Water-
mind that a water systems   ms               Booklet.pdf
will have unexpected failure
of equipment that won’t be         
budgeted for. Every water                    drinkingwater/schools/guidance.
system will have different                   cfm#sdwa
operating costs depending
on size and complexity.                      Vermont Water Supply Division
 Operator certification / upkeep of         resources
     certification                            http://www.
 Contaminant sampling                      vermontdrinkingwater.
 Permits                                   org/
 Maintenance
                                             Contact Paula
Resources for learning more about            Jackson at pjackson@
your school water system
EPA Resources for school water

                                         Non-Profit Org.
     Vermont School Boards Association    U.S. Postage
     2 Prospect Street                         Paid
                                           Permit #222
     Suite 4
                                         Barre, VT 05641
     Montpelier, VT 05602-3579

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