The last day of school has a certain flavor — sunlight streaming brightly through windows and dappling checkered floors and beat-up desks, the sky a beckoning, boneless blue, the sense that whatever the teacher’s saying can wait a day, a season, since it’s quieter than the birdsong outside.
Monday’s Stowe School Board meeting carried that sense, too, from the cookies placed on the table by chair Cara Zimmerman to honor Stowe Elementary School principal Marty Lacasse’s retirement to the thanks handed around the table for the board members.
Monday’s meeting was the Stowe School Board’s finale, except for one meeting planned in December to review the final audit from the current school year.
As of July 1, the new Lamoille South school board will oversee schools in Stowe, Morristown and Elmore, the result of a state-ordered merger of the school districts.
Monday’s meeting was “the last of a lot of things,” said Zimmerman, one of three Stowe representatives on the new Lamoille South board. “We as a board will begin to think about where we are as a larger district.”
But, just like the last day of school, there was still work to be done.
A group of parents thanked the board for its research on how the new proficiency-based learning and grading will affect college applications, but said it wasn’t enough — they needed more information.
“We are all terrified because our kids have one chance at this, and they are the first team out,” said Linda Hunter, mother of a Stowe High student.
The board showed how the Class of 2020’s transcripts will look when presented to college admissions officers.
Each transcript will be sent with a page profiling the school, so admissions officials can get a sense for where a student stands in relation to other students.
The board told parents that grades earned before the proficiency-based system kicked in will be on a separate sheet, as will a report on the student’s “scholarly habits” — his or her commitment to homework, behavior in class and dedication to learning.
Another sheet will summarize a senior’s “mastery report” for the first and second quarters — whether the student was above, below or right on target for the proficiency expectations for each class.
Parents can request that a Quarter 1 sheet be sent instead of the mastery report summary, which includes both first and second quarters, said Tracy Wrend, the school superintendent.
Early college classes, as well as classes taken online, won’t be factored into the student’s GPA and instead will be included separately, said Tracy Wrend, superintendent of Lamoille South Supervisory Union.
A mid-year letter was sent to college admissions officers, explaining that the school had switched to proficiency-based grading.
Parents wanted more answers about whether their kids have a fighting chance to get into the colleges they want with the new system.
“We hear you saying it’s exemplary, but as parents, it’s not enough,” Hunter said.
Kim Bruno said she wanted all the information distilled into a single page. In talking with college admissions officers, she found that they have only a short amount of time to review each application, and a one-page document is easier for them to take in.
School officials promised to continue fine-tuning the college application process for proficiency-based learning.
The board is working on a property transfer — passing along Stowe School District buildings — the elementary and middle/high school — to the new Lamoille South district, with the understanding that if it decides to close any schools in Stowe, the buildings must be offered to the town of Stowe for the price of $1.
“My stomach’s uneasy already,” said board member Tiffany Donza. All five board members fought the state-ordered merger.
But just as students have to walk through the doors and graduate, so the board had to finish up its business.
“You’re readier than you think you are” to look toward what’s next, Wrend told them.
She and the board took some time to distill their hopes and dreams for the next board and the new district.
“I hope we can develop a regional identity” that’s broader than just Stowe, Morristown or Elmore individually, Zimmerman said. “My hope is that we can break down perceived barriers and leverage the strengths of both (the Stowe and Elmore-Morristown) districts. Where you come from doesn’t dictate where you go.”
“As a combined board — not that we chose to be combined,” Donza began. She will be on the merged board with Zimmerman and Leigh Pelletier.
Donza said she hopes the new board will be on the track the Stowe board has followed, “reflecting and preserving community traditions.”
Pelletier also touched on the differences among schools in the three towns.
“We don’t need to make them equal to serve both communities,” she said.
Board member James Brochhausen’s ideas were revolutionary — he thinks a combined Stowe-Morristown-Elmore middle and high school should be built at a middle point, and Peoples Academy in Morrisville and Stowe Middle/High School should be closed. The current elementary schools would stay open.
“If you’re going to be a prudent spender,” it would be better to build one new building than renovate two older ones, Brochhausen said.
Other board members seemed amenable to Brochhausen’s idea, showing a little bitterness about the forced merger.
“It’s time for us to be in the driver’s seat,” Donza said.
When the Vermont Legislature doesn’t “feel we can any longer support two high schools,” it may force another plan on the three towns, just like it forced the merger, Zimmerman said.
“We are better off preparing for our future than being handed our future,” she said. “I think we’ve got to get out ahead of this.”
Stowe Middle School principal Dan Morrison urged the board to consider those most affected — the kids.
“They are a little tired of adults making all the decisions for them,” he said. “Don’t forget the student voice.”
At the end of the meeting, board members acknowledged that different minds from theirs will have to bat these ideas around.
Zimmerman thanked Lindsay Lamb and Brochhausen, the two Stowe board members who won’t be on the new Lamoille South board, and with that, the Stowe School Board dissolved, its members patting each other on the back and chatting like graduating schoolmates.