People often ask me what the school board actually does. One responsibility is to create a vision for the district. How does the board develop a vision?
The board develops a vision for the district by engaging the community in structured and ongoing dialog. The vision is developed with community input, the board monitors how the vision is implemented and finally the board makes policy and budget decisions to support the vision. Another critical aspect of school board responsibilities is the partnership between the school board and the superintendent. It is the responsibility of the board to appoint a superintendent, provide a clear vision for the superintendent and for the superintendent to deliver on the priorities of the vision.” (See bit.ly/3Xh1KGO)
To fulfill our responsibility of engaging the community, we held four community forums, both in-person and on Zoom in October and early November. I have presented the points made by community members in response to our four questions in bullet form.
What is going well in the South Burlington School District?
• The roles of support staff at Orchard Elementary are becoming more defined.
• We have a wonderfully diverse community.
• Dedicated teachers and staff.
• Lunch provided to children under the age of 18 during the summer.
What are some challenges facing the district?
• Staff and students need to feel heard and supported as we recover from the pandemic.
• Overcrowding and aging buildings affect the learning environment.
• Access to administration and board members should be easier.
• We need to grow support for public education via civics classes and engagement from taxpayers even without students in schools.
What are the hopes and dreams for the South Burlington School District?
• An aspirational vision that brings us forward and maybe creates a new system where all can thrive.
• Professional development that inspires teachers, staff and students.
• Staff feels empowered and proud of what they are doing.
• Students are excited to go to school.
• The district develops a positive vision sooner rather than later.
What skills and abilities could help a superintendent, as CEO? We need a superintendent who:
• has aspirational goals for the future as the old model may or may not be working anymore.
• inspires all staff and students to feel proud of their work and happy to be in school.
• will work directly with our staff and “get their hands dirty.”
The community forums show that this community consists of kind and caring members who want to help and support our schools. When asked how community members could help, we suggest that everyone vote for the school budget on Town Meeting Day in March.
A caring, compassionate community such as South Burlington depends on an excellent school system as it is a public school that prepares the next generation to serve in the community and enables all children to reach their full potential so that democracy and the community continue to thrive.
When schools help all students achieve their full potential, we all win. Regardless of whether you have a child in school, education matters. In addition to voting on Town Meeting Day, we encourage everyone to attend the community forums that we’ll have in the future.
Last, the public is always welcome to attend school board meetings either in person or virtually.
In closing, it’s true that schools face ongoing pandemic challenges and let’s not forget that the school year began in the shadow of the horrific shooting last spring in Uvalde, Texas, at Robb Elementary School where so many children and teachers died.
Despite it all, our staff works tirelessly for the children of South Burlington. I encourage the community to show support for its schools, staff and children by voicing support for the budget on Town Meeting Day and offering positive and constructive feedback to the district in its community forums. We are all in this together.
Laura Williams is a member of the South Burlington School Board.