Note: These minutes should be considered preliminary until they are approved at the next Policy and Amendment Committee meeting.
Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) Policy and Amendment Committee
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Regular meeting 2:30 pm
Hybrid meeting: WSESU Central Office, 53 Green St., Brattleboro, VT and
Remotely via Zoom
Policy and Amendment Committee members present: Deborah Stanford (DS, Chair), Tim
Maciel (TM), Anne Beekman (AB, via zoom), Eva Nolan (EN, via Zoom)
WSESD/U Staff and Administrators present: Superintendent Mark Speno (MS), Mo Hart (MH),
Michael Kelliher (MK), Paul Smith (PS), Kerry Amidon (KA)
Guests attending: Liz Adams (LA, via Zoom)
Call to Order
Chair DS convened the meeting at 2:31 pm and read the hybrid statement.
I. Approval of Minutes and confirmation of next meeting date
The minutes of 10/17/23 meeting approved by assent.
The agenda was amended to correct the updates from the 10/24 Board Meeting:
• C9, D11, and F2 went for a first reading (not second) on 10/24 and will go for a second reading on 11/14.
The next Policy and Amendment Committee meetings are scheduled for:
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
II. Updates from 10/24/23 Board Meeting
• The following policies were readopted on 10/24: E10 (School Crisis Prevention and Response), E15 (Security Cameras), and F9 (Student Alcohol and Drugs).
• The following policies were presented for a first reading on 10/24 and will go for a second reading on 11/14: F2 (Bus Discipline), D11 (Public Complaints about Personnel), C9 (Board Commitment to Non-Discrimination).
D1 Personnel Recruitment, Selection, Appointment, and Background Checks
• Reviewed edits from prior meeting.
• D1 will go for a first reading at the 11/14 Board meeting.
F1 Student Conduct and Discipline
• At the last meeting, Mike Szostak spoke about restorative practices and gave suggestions for F1. TM incorporated these suggestions into a draft of the policy, but the new draft has not yet been received by the committee.
• F1 will remain on hold until next meeting, awaiting the new draft.
• Following a review of the minutes from the 10/17/23 Policy and Amendment Committee meeting, an individual on the Dummerston LC requested, via email to DS, a briefing at the next LC meeting on possible LC involvement in restorative practices. DS did not feel that it was her role to provide this briefing and reached out to MS to confirm. MS agreed and the suggestion was made to share the request with the LC chairperson and the principal.
D7 Volunteers and Work Study Students
• Edits made on D7 at the previous meeting were not reflected in the version attached to the agenda for today. The February 1, 2023 date still needs to be removed.
• LA sent an email outlining the state requirements regarding placement of children in vehicles, seatbelts, and car seats (23 V.S.A. § 1258). The question arose whether to insert the language from LA’s email into D7 or to simply reference the statute. LSP-2 (Transportation – Pupil Transportation Utilizing Private Vehicles) will eventually be rescinded, so some felt it could be useful to include the details in D7. MH and MS will add language about seating arrangements to D7.
• At the last meeting, there was a discussion about the difference between fingerprints and background checks. Background checks will be an annual requirement and fingerprints will be completed once. MH and MS will add this to D7 as a separate paragraph.
• A short discussion followed the question of what happens if a volunteer is convicted of a crime. How does the school district find out? The background check should show a conviction within the state. It should be part of the volunteer agreement: If a volunteer is convicted of a crime, they are obligated to notify the school district. This will be added to the language in D7.
• D7 will remain on hold to review edits at the next meeting.
G8 Continuous Improvement Plan
• G8 has been on hold for a while. The proposed draft of the policy was read aloud and sparked considerable discussion. Highlights from the discussion include the following:
• A request to change the word “biannually” to “twice a year” to eliminate possible confusion.
• With a policy that is undergoing such extensive revisions, overlaying the edits on the old version becomes confusing. It was decided to rename the draft version of the policy“G8 – Continuous Improvement Plan draft 11/7/23” and present it side by side with the old version.
• After reading the second paragraph (“Implementation”), there was extensive debate on what level the CIP should exist at, SD or SU.
o The policy seems to be talking about “a” CIP. If it’s a single CIP, does that indicate it is for the SU?
o This is currently an SD policy, and the SD Board is invested in it.
o Raises the question of whether there should be a school-level CIP, a district-level CIP, and/or a SU-level CIP? Are we talking about one plan (easier) or three different plans?
o Later in the document, it mentions principals, which brings it to school level.
o There could be one district-wide plan, with sections for schools. The school plans would be subsidiary.
o If it’s at the SU level, need to be clear that we want more than the 5-member SU board to have a voice—don’t want to eliminate the voice of the SD Board.
o One possibility is that it could be an SU policy, with language that SD components will be approved by SD board, Vernon components approved by Vernon board.
o A question was raised about the word “approval” in the policy, with regards to the Board approving the CIP. (“The CIP will then be presented for a review, discussion and approval at regular board meetings.”) Is the Board approving/voting on the CIP? Tag the word “approval” for further discussion.
o Need to have district-level representation (Board, LC) for the CIP so the community doesn’t feel left out.
o The Implementation paragraph mentions the CIP being developed in the fall [“The Superintendent, after collaboration with the School Board and the administration at a fall retreat, will develop a continuous improvement plan (CIP)…”] The suggestion was made that the June retreat may be better for timing for the CIP planning process than a fall retreat.
• After reading number 1 under “Implementation” (“The CIP will be developed using student performance data and climate data obtained from state and local assessments…”), the discussion circled around the use of data to develop the CIP andthe type of goals to set.
o What data does the Board need? How does the Board get that data?
o Perhaps there needs to be decreased reliance on Panorama. Ongoing assessments throughout the year could provide measurable data. There are all sort of ways to judge climate at school.
▪ The goal in the CIP of increasing the positive response to the kindness item on the Panorama survey is not accurate since climate is measured in many ways.
o The data is viewed as important, but it’s not always clear how it is translated into informed decisions.
o How will the Board know if the district has achieved any progress if there are notmeasurable goals?
o An important part of planning is to use SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). The challenge for a district CIP, is how to choose goals that are concrete and SMART — that covers a lot.
o If the goal is to improve school climate, how do you know if you have achieved that?
▪ Need to identify something focused, a proxy for “students are kind to each other.”
▪ TM sent out an academic research paper about measuring kindness, written in psychometric language, that could be worth reading.
▪ The number of incidents that come to an administrator’s desk can be monitored. If that number decreases, something is happening.
▪ Approach it as a conversation. Do kids feel schools are kind? If there is a dip, have a conversation rather than judging.
o Suggestion was made that there may need to be more language in the policy about measuring academic success. There was a concern, however, about how specific the policy could be.
• An individual raised the question: What are we trying to accomplish with this policy?
o What are we trying to solve? Fix?
o Does a policy do that? Fix? Or does it state the obvious? Or both?
o Isn’t the CIP done just to satisfy the AOE? Aren’t we just doing it just because they require it?
o We’re here to help the district improve. What business does not have goals?
o The CIP is just one of these goals.
o The CIP is complex and encompasses so much of what we do.
• After reading through to the end of the policy, DS noted that a number of issues had been raised and asked if there were further comments at this point.
o The CIP is not a “kitchen sink” — it’s not a plan for everything, but for areas that are demanding focus for the upcoming year.
o Where are the flashing red lights? Hypothetically, what if all Panorama indicators were at the top? If SEL is not a flashing red light, should it still be in the plan?
▪ The CIP shouldn’t be a deficit-based plan.
▪ If we’re getting good results, do we keep doing what we’re doing?We can’t make the plan everything every time everywhere.
▪ We’re not in a utopian world where the SEL is perfect. We’re dealing with human beings.
▪ Would we want to make the plan about those flashing red lights (which will probably include school climate) rather than specifying school climate precisely?
o We should be looking at all the data and looking for flashing red lights, but we should also constantly be talking about what is working.
o We need to have a measurement of what we want to get to.
▪ Part of this is the measurement standard we use, and that is something that always needs to be assessed and reconsidered. Is the measurement—how we are getting the data—reliable? None of this is cast in stone, and that is part of the issue.
o We are looking to ensure that we pause and review the process, and to make sure we’re using the best data. Maybe that can’t go into the policy, but that moment of pause and review is important. But we don’t want to just rubber stamp twice a year.
▪ Ask “Why?” every step of the way.
▪ Go into it as skeptics and not as rubber stamping.
o The end product is better when all the stakeholders contribute to final product.
• It is too soon to run G8 by the principals. There are still things to resolve.
• G8 is on hold for further reflection.
F36 Student Freedom of Expression in School Sponsored Media
• Hannah was going to share F36 with appropriate people. She would like see the word video included. MS will talk to MH about the wording.
• F36 will remain on hold.
F32 Student Self-Expression and Student Distribution of Literature
• F32 now includes the edits discussed at the previous meeting.
• By consent of committee, F32 will go for a first reading at the 11/14 Board meeting.
G13 Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources & the Internet (New title: Responsible Computer, Network & Internet Use.)
• G13 was reviewed with the edits from last meeting in place.
• It was noted that parents have to sign off on the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), but references to the AUP were among the strike outs in the revision of G13. The AUP line on page 2 and paragraph on page 6 will be retained.
• PS will let MH know about this edit and G13 will remain on hold until the next meeting.
Agenda for the next meeting (11/21) will include:
F1, D7, G8, F36, G13
F34 to be moved up and linked with a new policy sent out, District Policy on Gender Freedom in Schools.
Meeting adjourned 4:34 pm
Notes taken by Anna Monders (recorder)
Submitted by Tim Maciel (vice chair)