It’s never too early to think about going back to school, especially for administrators at Lamoille South Supervisory Union, which oversees schools in Morristown, Elmore and Stowe.
Superintendent Tracy Wrend and her team have been busy preparing for the beginning of the first school year after the Vermont Board of Education forced a merger between the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts as part of its mandate to consolidate schools to save money.
The brand new board, Lamoille South Unified Union School Board, which features three members from Stowe, three from Morristown and one from Elmore, met July 9 for a four-hour retreat to get to know each other and work toward setting goals for the upcoming school year.
“The new board is working really well together already and focused on developing a work plan and goals for the upcoming school year that keeps their eye squarely on what’s best for all of our students,” said Wrend.
The board looked at three major areas: policy and governance, quality and equity, and capital and facilities.
“The retreat was very productive as it not only gave us an opportunity to get to know each other, but also gave us a chance to identify our one-year goals for our new district and then draft a work plan for the year based on those goals,” said Cara Zimmerman, former chair of Stowe School Board and chair of the new board.
The board now has a draft work plan, which it expects to finalize at the next meeting on Aug. 5. That plan will shape next year’s agenda, according to Zimmerman.
“We also have identified core values and goals that will help us to navigate the myriad of unanticipated issues that will arise throughout the school year. … We also participated in some exercises designed to acknowledge and identify potential challenges and mapped out a plan to work through them. We developed a protocol for dealing with issues that have the potential to push buttons so that we can stay focused on delivering on our promise — to provide our students with a high-quality education,” she said.
Penny Jones, the board’s representative from Elmore, called the retreat an “invaluable team-building exercise. I think the biggest challenges will be learning the uniqueness of each community and what is important to each and how to best make sure the needs of all students and school facilities are met within the financial constraints of the budgets,” Jones said.
Tiffany Donza, another Stowe representative to the Lamoille South Unified Union board, said that “the foundation of our work is to do what is best for kids, continuing to provide high quality education … What is and will continue to be the most challenging part of the forced merger is the fact that three communities, with different tax rates, that don’t share a common school have been forced to put together one budget across seven schools,” Donza said.
“Maintaining the uniqueness and community values of the schools while at the same time of solving any inequities that exist will be difficult but I believe can be achieved. Everyone needs to remember that equity doesn’t mean exactly the same, it means that every student has the opportunity to get what they need to succeed,” she said.
New principals, summer lunch
The supervisory union has also been working with three new principals, Gretchen Muller at Stowe High School, Nina Slade at Stowe Elementary School and Matt Young at Peoples Academy Middle Level, to prepare them for their first days of school.
Lamoille South Supervisory Union has also been providing free meals to kids in the region, through summer programs at Stowe Parks & Recreation Department and other school-sponsored or community-based events, Wrend said.
About 120 kids get breakfast regularly, and 190 kids get lunch, according to Wrend’s assistant Lisa Cross.