Wednesday, March 8, 2017

February 21st Meeting

The Essex Westford unified school board met on February 21st in the Essex High School library.  Draft minutes may be read here. Highlights of the meeting include:

-The School Board of the Essex Westford Educational Community Unified Union School District (EWSD) approved the first consolidated budget for the new unified district. The FY18 budget of $75,287,014 represents a 2.41% increase from the combined and unduplicated FY17 budgets of the districts, and can be expressed as an expenditure of $15,961.19 per equalized pupil. Tax rates in Essex Junction, Essex Town, and Westford are all projected to decrease as a result of the tax incentives built into Act 46.

-The Board also approved the warning for the Annual Meeting. In addition to the budget question, voters will decide on articles creating a capital reserve for the new district and appropriating $1.209 million to it. The capital reserve will be used to provide funding for  major projects such as replacing roofs.

-First readings occurred for policies C5: Weapons and Firearms, C9: Nutrition and Wellness, and F1: Travel Reimbursement.

The next regular board meeting will occur on Tuesday, March 7th.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 7th Meeting Recap

The Essex Westford Educational Community school board held a regular meeting on February 7th in the Essex High School library.  Draft minutes may be read here. Highlights of the meeting include:

-Michael Smith, chair of the Prudential Committee (Essex Junction K-8 schools’ legacy school board, which hands over school operations to the new unified district at the end of June this year), reported on their discussions with the Village Trustees about the future of the Park Street School building. Not actually serving as a school for the district, this historic building is mostly used to house EJRP preschool programs, the ACE alternative high school program, and a conference room. Its maintenance costs exceed its usefulness to the district, so the Prudential Committee recommends transferring the property to the Village Trustees. This decision will come before Village voters at the Annual Meeting for a voice vote.

-Work on the budget continues. Marilyn Frederick presented on a number of budget topics including Act 66 preschool, technology, and capital reserves. The full presentation can be accessed on the board website.

-Policies D2: Grade Advancement, Retention, Promotion, and Acceleration of Students, and D5: Animal Dissection, were approved on second reading.

The next regular board meeting will occur on Tuesday, February 21st.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 17th Meeting Recap

January is a busy month for your Essex Westford unified board! Amid a series of budget meetings, the board held a regular meeting on January 17th in the Essex High School library.  Draft minutes may be read here. Highlights of the meeting include:

-Erin Maguire and Dylan McNamara presented on the Support Services budget. EWSD special educators, counselors, nurses, social workers and preschool teachers serve approximately 587 students. A great piece of news coming out of unification is that registration for Act 166 preschool is being streamlined within the district. This will save money and make the system easier for parents to navigate. The district contact for preschool registration will be Johanna Simmons, and information about registration for Fall 2017 will be available very soon!

-The board was informed that the date set for EWSD’s annual meeting budget hearing conflicts with Passover this year. Passover and Easter dates are determined based on a lunar calendar, and therefore have a certain chance of conflicting with any standing meeting set in March and April. In consideration of constituents who celebrate Passover, the board voted to move the 2017 budget hearing to April 4th.

-The board was sorry to receive the resignation of district CFO Katherine “Deac” Decarreau for personal reasons. The board accepted her resignation with gratitude for the intense work ethic and insightful approach she brought to reconciling the ETSD and CCSU budgets over the last several months. Budget planning has been a team effort involving central administration and building level leaders, current and former district financial staff, and outside consultants, and this team will be more than sufficient to putting the finishing touches on the budget. In consideration of the ongoing work of the district, the administration will begin the process to hire a new CFO in the coming weeks.

-The board directed the administration to put out an RFP (request for proposals) for transportation options for the new district. The working proposal for Essex Junction, based on research into the best practices of districts nationwide, is that older students who live a mile or more from school, and younger students who live a half mile or more from school, would be offered transportation. Transportation companies responding to the RFP will provide input on the cost impacts of various approaches to busing, which can then inform the community, board and administration as we work together to determine what transportation should look like in the new district.

The next regular board meeting will occur on Tuesday, February 7th. There will not be a budget meeting on January 24th, but the board will meet on budget matters on Tuesday, January 31st at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Essex Westford School District Superintendent Hire

Following an extensive review of candidates, the newly formed Essex Westford School District Board of School Directors has appointed Beth Ellen Cobb as Superintendent commencing July 1, 2017.

Ms. Cobb, of Lyndonville, a career Vermont educator,  is currently Superintendent in the Orange East Supervisory Union in Bradford where she has been employed since 2010. A graduate of Lyndon State College, she received her Master of Education degree from the University of Southern New Hampshire. She is also a graduate of the Snelling Center Vermont School Leadership Project and the Vermont Superintendents’ Association Leadership Academy.

Martha Heath, chairperson of the EWSD School Board said “The Board is delighted to welcome Beth to our newly structured community school system. Beth’s experience in the classroom, her successful track record as superintendent, and her knowledge of curriculum and instruction are notable strengths. Known for her passionate and collaborative leadership style, Beth is a great person to lead our district through this transition and beyond.   The feedback we received from the many constituent groups who interacted with her during school visits and staff and community forums was overwhelmingly positive.  She communicated a profound enthusiasm for bringing people together to enhance student opportunities.
We look forward to Beth joining us on July 1.”

“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve the communities of Essex and Westford as the superintendent,” said Cobb. “Throughout the past month I have had the pleasure of learning about the two exceptional educational systems.  I look forward to leading and facilitating the collaboration as they become one, while maintaining a focus on what is best for the students.”

The Board’s appointed Search Committee interviewed seven candidates from a pool of 28 applicants. The finalists -- Ms. Cobb, Ned Kirsch, current superintendent in Franklin West SU and Dr. Jay Badams of Erie, PA -- comprised a group of three very capable and talented leaders. Dr. Badams is pursuing a similar position in the Hanover, NH/Norwich, VT school district.

Heath acknowledged, “We were fortunate to have a quality group of applicants from which to choose. I wish to thank the students, staff, parents and community members who participated in the varied internal and community forums and provided the Board with essential feedback. I also wish to extend the Board’s appreciation to our Search Committee who worked tirelessly throughout this process.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 3rd Meeting Recap

The Essex Westford Educational Community Unified Union School District board held its first meeting of 2017 on January 3rd in the Essex High School library.  Draft minutes are posted here.  Highlights of the meeting include:

-District CFO Deac Decarreau presented the base “rollover” budget to the board. This budget has been adjusted and compiled to reflect what it would cost to provide the same services in the 2017-18 academic year as in 2016-17. Some reductions were noted, such as a bond payment that is being retired and the fact that we will only be paying one superintendent. Since this is a base budget, it reflects no additions to services, even ones that are likely to be necessary (such as busing Westford students to Essex High). Proposed additions will be covered in the next four meetings which address sections of the budget in greater detail.

-The board approved three policies on second reading: Student Attendance, Student Privacy Rights, and Prevention of Harassment, Hazing and Bullying of Students. Policies can now be viewed in a handy central location on the new district web site a short time after they have been approved by the board.

-Brendan Kinney, who is heading up the board’s subcommittee work on transportation, discussed with the board the timeline, the work to define equity, and our goals for engagement.

The next regular board meeting will occur on Tuesday, January 17th.  Each Tuesday this month, however, will feature a budget work session. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and learn about the budget process.  Topics that will be covered are as follows:
Tuesday, Jan. 10: Administrative Budget (Central Office and District Wide Expenses)
Tuesday, Jan. 17: Special Education Budget
Tuesday, Jan. 24: Pre-K-12 Budget

Tuesday, Jan. 31: CTE Budget and Recommended Capital and Transition Budget

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

School Board Budget Workshops

In January the EWECUUSD school board will be conducting budget workshops every Tuesday evening. On January 3rd and January 17th, the workshops will be part of the regular monthly meeting agenda. The other Tuesday meetings will be solely focused on budget discussions. All meetings begin at 6:30 pm and take place at the Essex High School Library.

Members of the public are welcome at these and all meetings of the unified school board. Please consider taking this opportunity to learn more about the nuts and bolts working of the district as we plan for the 2017-2018 school year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Superintendent Search Community Forums

The candidates for superintendent of the new Essex Westford Unified Union School District will be
participating in community forums and final interviews with the school board on January 4th and 5th.  The community forum with candidate Ned Kirsch will be at 6:30 pm on January 4th, the forum with Beth Cobb will be at 7:40 pm on January 4th and the forum with Jay Badams will be at 6:30 pm on January 5th. All forums will take place at the Essex High School Library.

Members of the public are welcome and encouraged to take this opportunity to meet the finalists for the superintendent position in the unified district.