Message from Our Superintendent
Message from Our Superintendent
Dear OSSD Community,
I was hoping to post this message earlier, but as folks can imagine the past two days have been busier than usual. I want to thank the parents and families who have sent words of support but equally so those that have emailed their questions and concerns. I will try to answer the most common ones in this email and will also set up an open forum next week to communicate directly with members of the community – that date and time will be emailed out before the end of the day on Friday.
Please know that in any situation like this, there are two separate investigatory processes that occur. The police look for actions that constitute a crime, and if the evidence exists, charge the individual. The school looks at the actions of students and determines if those actions are detrimental to themselves, to the school community or to the efficient operation of the school. If a student’s actions cross these lines, they are assigned consequences commensurate with the impact of their actions in a form designed to change their behavior. To be just and fair, an incident needs to be investigated, and the student given due process before any determination can be made. Given that the incident was not found to be criminal, the school immediately engaged in its investigation, will carry it out justly and fairly, and apply whatever consequences are appropriate. Because we are dealing with minors, folks will need to understand that details beyond this are confidential.
In terms of safety at the schools, I am a Randolph resident and my own sons attend the district; one is at RES and the other is at RUHS and both were in school today. As unsettling as the world may be at times, you have a faculty, staff and administrators who care deeply about the students and who are fully dedicated to their safety and wellbeing. Your children are as safe as we can possibly make them. As adults, it is important to remember that our children look to us in times of need and learn how to respond to the world based on our actions. Yes, we want them to be cautious, but I would argue that we do not want them to be paralyzed by mistrust and unnecessary fear. There is some risk in every action we engage in, it does not mean we should never act.
The district has been actively studying the security of our schools since early October. An outside agency examined each school in the district and provided us with an audit to help inform our decisions on not only our safety protocols, but also on the physical structures we have in place to protect students. We engaged in a community safety survey with nearly four hundred respondents to determine the highest level of building security we could put in place without alienating students, faculty, parents or community members. All of this information was compiled and used to create a plan to upgrade security across the district which is currently being put into place. $95,000 in physical structure upgrades have already gone out to bid and are awaiting allocation of funds. $50,000 in communication upgrades are in the works to ensure we have the bandwidth, range and stability to communicate effectively during an emergency. The full faculty will be trained in the ALICE protocols -the associated online materials have already been purchased and the training days are set for the fall. I wish it could happen faster, but it is moving forward as fast as we can push it.
Before closing, I would remiss if I did not once again thank the dedicated support we have received from the Randolph Police Department and the Orange County Sherriff’s Department. Their work is crucial to ensuring school safety and we are grateful for their ever-caring presence. If you sent me an email in the past day, please know that I will respond as soon as I am able, hopefully by day’s end on Friday.
Supt's regular message resumes:
It’s been a long winter. Busy, to be sure, but long. It’ll be nice to wander out of this office soon, and over to the athletic fields to watch our teams get ready for their spring contests.
We are still riding some very positive momentum from our recent visits with Rebecca Haslam and Calvin Terrell, both of whom came (separately) to speak with students, faculty, and community members about racial equality, bullying, and building a kinder, more inclusive school community. Calvin’s visit followed on the heels of several weeks’ worth of discussions and assemblies and planning for a Racial Justice Social Alliance, and faculty/staff workshops on dealing with issues of race and violence.
More than 150 students staged an unsanctioned (but supported) walkout to protest school violence, support school safety, and memorialize the students who were killed this winter in Parkland, Florida, following a school shooting. And 12 students traveled with a number of teachers to Washington DC in late March to participate in the March For Our Lives.
These are vitally important topics of discussion and action, and I have been extremely pleased to see the response, not only from our students, but from parents and community members as well. It seems that every week we read about another school shooting. And the common refrain of “this kind of thing doesn’t happen here” is beginning to wear pretty thin. Unless people are willing to sit down with each other and talk honestly about race, bullying, gender orientation, and a host of other issues, “this kind of thing” can happen anywhere.
I could not be more proud of our students, nor of this community, for the work I see happening in this important area.
Like most school districts in Vermont, we continue to make progress on implementing Act 77, sometimes called the “Flexible Pathways” initiative, but also connected with the move to “Proficiency Based Learning and Assessment.” In its simplest form, proficiency based learning is rooted in students being able to demonstrate that they have learned the body of material they are being taught. In the past, students could technically get a “D” in a course, and gain credit for that course even if they didn’t understand the course material. We were essentially giving them credit, and advancing them towards graduation, simply for putting in “seat time.” Today, students have to demonstrate proficiency in a subject before they will be advanced towards graduation. There are numerous “performance indicators” (think of them as “mile markers”) that students have to achieve before we will be able to say they have demonstrated proficiency.
And “flexible pathways?” Flexible pathways are essentially avenues for learning that allow students to pursue their interests; develop their aptitudes; build on their strengths; and address their weaknesses in an academic or other setting that is most appropriate for them. For some that will be traditional classroom instruction; for others an independent study or internship. For still others it could be early college or courses at the Tech Center. Flexible pathways allow students to work towards proficiency (and graduation) as they prepare for college, a career, a trade, or the military.
In addition to the above, there is so much more going on. We continue to work on aligning our classroom instruction to the skills and knowledge being assessed by state and federal agencies; we continue to hold parent/community meetings to hear and respond to your concerns; we are working to attract tuition students from Chelsea and Rochester (as well as other area towns); and we continue to look closely at our class sizes and student/teacher ratios to ensure students are getting the programs they need to succeed, while remaining sensitive to budget issues and managing costs.
As always, I deeply appreciate your patience and support. The work we are doing is vital and important, and we are already beginning to see some very positive results.
Layne W. Millington
P.S. Our annual Statement of Non-Discrimination can be viewed or downloaded from the "documents" box to the left.