By GEORGE FJELD
BRANDON–The OVUU board met on Tuesday, September 19 and immediately went into executive session to discuss labor relations. No action was taken. Following the executive session, there was a presentation on safety and mental health in our schools. Tyler Weiderman reviewed the district’s policies on egress from buildings, option-based drills, and threat-assessment oversight. Visitors will have to show ID when entering school buildings during school hours. Emergency operations are defined for each building and are specific to each building. Fire drills and option-based drills were reviewed. Mr. Weiderman advised that through training, people are empowered to make decisions in the moment. As part of a lockdown, there will be an announcement of where the violent person is, to give people the option to barricade the doors or get out of the building. There needs to be age-appropriate communication with the students–the practice is the same, but the delivery is different.
Marsha Bruce and Taylor Lanpher presented on mental-health services. Ms. Bruce noted that national data indicate that one in five children experiences signs of mental-health problems. At all OVUU schools, there is a layered system of support for school-based mental health services that begins with schoolwide preventative systems of support that are teacher-driven. The second layer is targeted supplemental interventions and support that can include actions like small group interventions, peer counseling, or targeted social-skills training. The next layer of support would be intensive, individualized interventions. Ms. Bruce stated some of the reasons for mental-health programs is for increased school success and helping to develop decision-making and interpersonal skills. In order to reach those goals, it is known that it helps if a student can remain in an environment to learn to interact with peers and authority and follow rules. These are areas that could be addressed by mental-health services. Ms. Lanpher can be engaged in level 3 and 4 support for children and can also be involved in a threat assessment to help the child get more connected to the school and provide clinical support. Ms. Bruce noted that communication is the most important thing and through contracts there is communication with the provider that is not a closed door. There is some information the clinician cannot share but there can be discussion about plans. Schools are in it together and there is a cooperative agreement with Rutland Mental Health that is funded through Medicaid dollars. If the district were to purchase all services, the cost would be double.
Kristin Hubert stated that Covid derailed the accountability system in Vermont and it is known that short- and long-term school closures had an impact. The Agency of Education is looking at school assessments and graduation rates and has released a snapshot of the schools to determine if a school is doing what it needs to do. There are schools in this district that are flagged for marginalized students: Otter Creek Academy and Lothrop. Parents will be invited to review what is happening in the improvement process. Deb Alexander will be providing assessment results to the Board in October and noted the district made a good amount of progress last year. Now that the district is hitting the ESSER cliff–a term to denote the point at which Covid-era ESSER funds will run out– it is not sure if some programs can continue. Ms. Hubert noted there was not a district in the state that did not get a checkmark. Most schools and districts did see improvements last year, but with the ESSER cliff there will be concerns. ESSER I,II, and APR ESSER are federal education funds set up during the pandemic and are set to expire in 2024.
Progress was made on OVUU board annual goals and priorities which will be continued at the second meeting in October. Superintendent Hubert advised that the district looks at the budget school by school and asks each principal to provide their vision and priorities. The central office then comes together to talk about the district and what is to be prioritized. She noted it would be an important conversation to have post-merger and post-pandemic to know what students and families want to see out of their schools. Ms. Bertrand noted that the Board’s vision is outlined in the Board’s Ends policy and questioned if there is something within the goals that the Board wants to focus on. Mr. Thornton suggested hearing from the Superintendent as to what a one- and five-year plan would look like. Ms. Bertrand stated that at the second meeting in October, information on the prior task force will be reviewed and the superintendent will be asked to provide her one- and five-year plans. Ms. Hubert noted that most strategic plans are ten years with outcomes in the first and fifth years. This is what the administrators and she are trying to do this year and administratively there will be a 10-year plan. Ms. Bertrand noted the goals and priorities discussion will continue at the second meeting in October.
Full meeting minutes are available at https://www.rnesu.org/page/district-information-school-boards-otter-valley-board-meetings-agendas-minutes