VPA VISITS

VPA Visits features members of the VPA staff visiting schools around the state to listen, learn, and celebrate all that is happening in our Vermont schools. Do you have a school leader and/or school you’d like the VPA to visit? The primary contact for VPA visits is mmcraith@vpaonline.org

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Visit 11/15/19: Fletcher Elementary School

Principal: Chris Dodge (@FletcherFalcon) & VPA Visitor, Mike McRaith

On November 15th, we had the pleasure of visiting Principal Chris Dodge and Fletcher Elementary in Fletcher, Vermont, part of the Franklin West Supervisory Union. Leading a small school in Vermont means taking on all kinds of different roles and responsibilities. During our visit, Chris was filling in as the school nurse. Chris spends several hours per week dedicated to subbing and/or adjusting staffing in one way or another. This is just one of the challenges that Chris takes in stride as he continues to work closely with the staff to help the Fletcher Falcons soar. To view more pictures from our visit, view the VPA instagram feed

As a member school of the Franklin West Supervisory Union, Fletcher has been very active in sharing their story with their local community and beyond. Chris is a regular contributor to the district’s “Our Story” blog and thus has developed a great resource for colleagues to explore and learn together. The links below are related to some of the highlights that stood out during our visit.  

PBIS EXEMPLAR SCHOOL

  • Fletcher Elementary is a two-time PBIS Exemplar School. You can read more about putting the expectations of being “Respectful * Responsible * Safe * Caring”  at the center of their work in this blog post. Chris and his team also contribute to the district’s PBIS learning and growing together by presenting during their district’s professional learning days. 

STUDENT-LED HIRING 

  • Chris explained how he has been having students lead in hiring new staff over the past several years. While many schools may have a student on the committee, Fletcher students write the job description, call back candidates, conduct interviews, and make a recommendation to the superintendent. Chris explained the many tangible and intangible benefits to helping students learn these skills, honoring their voice, respecting their abilities/insight, and build ownership of school culture. You can read Chris’ blog post about student led searches and check out this NAESP article that featured Fletcher and their student led hiring practices. 

PHYSICAL HEALTH & MOVEMENT

  • With guidance and support from RiseVT, Fletcher Elementary is leading the way in building health and wellness into daily life for their students and staff. Brain-breaks, MindYeti, and GoNoodle, are all part of classroom routines, but it doesn’t stop there. Fletcher has asked the question, why not incorporate movement systematically into all that we do? For example–pairing particular yoga moves to key vocabulary words when working on reading fluency. Read more in this blogpost about their work and awards for building a healthy lifestyle culture.

UNITED NATIONS: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

FOOD CONSCIOUS

  • Like many schools around the state, Fletcher has taken action on incorporating healthy food systems into their learning and culture. Fletcher recognizes that connecting with local food producers provides great learning and community building opportunities. And concentrating on healthy food for all means clearer minds with more access to the prefrontal cortex for executive function and optimal learning readiness. Chris’ posts on good health and community food systems & harvesting new learning in the cafeteria

NATIONAL CRAYOLA GRANT WINNER

  • This year (2019-2020), Fletcher was one of twenty schools in the nation awarded a NAESP Crayola Creative Grant. Their project is called: Personalized Global Projects and features the essential question in student art projects “How can I make the world better?” Students will design their own projects that are art-integrated and address a big idea that is personally important to them. The projects will fit within one of the four school proposed themes, health and well-being, reducing inequity, quality education, and justice within institutions. 

In our visit, Chris also proposed another idea that the VPA’s Professional Learning and Support committee will be pursuing. He asked if the VPA might simply open the VPA conference room in Montpelier sometime this winter around the topic “Leading Small Schools”. We plan to select a date and pull this together, so watch for that announcement in VPA-LEADs. Thanks Chris! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Visit 11/5/19: Green Mountain Technology & Career Center

Director: Erik Remmers & VPA Visitor, Mike McRaith

On a cool and overcast November day, we had the chance to visit Director, Erik Remmers of the Green Mountain Technology & Career Center (GMTCC). The center is located in Hyde Park and is on the same campus as Lamoille Union High School. GMTCC also has two off-site locations, Forestry-Land Management in Hardwick, and Sustainable Agriculture/Food Systems at the nearby Robtoy Farm in Jeffersonville. The facilities, programming, and people that we met during our visit were excellent. The campus in Hyde Park is connected to the High School and is a modern, state-of-the-art facility with well equipped and thirteen (11 at the Hyde Park campus) expertly led programs. We strongly recommend looking through their program list to see just how comprehensive their programming and facilitates are. Just a few of the many things that were impressive on our visit included, national winners in Electric Technology, Culinary Arts with both front of the house and full kitchen lab, and a Computer Networking program with dedicated time and curriculum to cyber-security. Again, we recommend checking out all of their programs! Erik is in his first year at GMTCC, but was right at home giving a tour of the Hyde Park campus and a quick visit to the Robtoy Farm as well. At the farm we were able to see their new barn, chickens in the yard, large garden learning spaces, and a few goats too. To view more pictures from our visit to GMTCC, head to the VPA instagram feed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Visit 11/1/19: Champlain Valley Union High School

Principal: Adam Bunting, & VPA Visitor: Mike McRaith

In a short visit to Vermont’s largest school (by student population), we had a chance to catch up a bit with CVU Principal Adam Bunting. In the visit Adam underscored the importance of the longstanding and ongoing work of proficiency based learning at CVU, the importance of their new RISE program, and much more. Adam and his team have recently developed a student climate survey that has helped the staff identify students self-reported levels of feeling connected to community and a sense of belonging. That work was in part inspired by the work of author Johann Hari: Lost Connections. To view a few pictures from the our time at CVU, visit our VPA instagram feed.

CVU RISE Program

What’s Adam Reading? Lost Connections

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Visit 10/25/19: North Country Union High School , Coventry Village School, Brighton Elementary

Principals: Chris Young (NCUHS), Todd Rohlen (Coventry), April Lane (Brighton), & VPA Visitor: Mike McRaith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The VPA had a chance to head north to visit three principals and their schools, each from the North Country Supervisory Union. North Country Union High School (Chris), Coventry Village School (Todd), and Brighton Elementary (April) are three of the twelve schools in the Supervisory Union. It was great to be welcomed into these caring, hard-working schools and to catch up with their thoughtful and hard-working principals! Some of the themes that emerged on this trip matched themes that are surfacing in many areas of our work. Those themes include, but are not limited to, the complexity of the job, the need for full-day preschool, the importance of quality food/snacks, student voice, universal design for learning, broad school-wide training for supporting students with dis-regulation and trauma across settings, and the importance of strong school community connections. Check out more photos and learn more about just a few of the things happening in these busy, full, and vibrant schools on VPA Twitter and/or VPA Instagram

A Few Materials and Resources that Chris, Todd, and April are Using and Recommend:

Chris is using this resource for faculty meetings

April is currently using this resource (click to view website)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast Rec: by Todd (click to subscribe)

Podcast Recommended (click to subscribe)

Podcast: Click to Subscribe

Podcast-click to subscribe

 

 

 

 

 

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Visit 9/20/19: Randolph Elementary 

Principal: Erica McLaughlin, & VPA Visitor: Mike McRaith

When walking into Randolph Elementary School, you can feel a special combination of educator expertise and positive energy right away. The building was built in the year 2000. It is beautiful, well designed, and well maintained. And best of all, it is filled with a team of educators working closely together to support, inspire, and educate all of their lucky students. Erica McLaughlin, started as an assistant principal there 15 years ago and has been a principal for the school for the past 11 years. Erica’s good humor, dedication, and highly skilled leadership reverberates throughout the school. I learned all sorts of things from Erica, the students, staff, and teachers at Randolph Elementary. Here are a few highlights:

  • Emotional Stability: There is a clear focus on emotional regulation as the foundation for academic success. This is illustrated in a multitude of ways some of which are: 
    • accessible and well used PBIS 
    • before-school programming that includes yoga, mindfulness, reading, board games, and outside play
    • school-wide common language and practices for talking with and helping students regulate their bodies and emotions
    • Dedicated teacher mindfulness space
    • Healthy and well-timed snacks for students
    • Trained and available adults in well planned locations to support and guide students as they develop their own skills
    • Monthly professional learning for the faculty with Joelle Van Lent (trauma informed schools expert consultant)  
    • Teachers self-selecting into a book club (with Administrative support to buy the books) to read and discuss Happy Teachers Change the World.
  • RISE Program: Resilience, Independence, Success with friends & academics and Engagement in life. This program, housed at Randolph Elementary, was launched just this year for each of the districts’ three elementary schools to access. The program features a dedicated classroom with a social worker and mental health clinician working together for a caseload of students and families. They work to coordinate 360 services for their students throughout the day and beyond. Students are given expertly coached prevention skills, concentrated effort on their total environment, and caring and trained intervention as need arises.

  • Teamwork: Several times Erica emphasized to me how much she values the team she works with and the importance of their collective efforts. The focus on teamwork came up in the way in which the district elementary schools (Principals Pat Miller & David Roller) work closely together for matched programming and their comprehensive continuous improvement plans. Erica shared that both Pat and David were teachers at Randolph elementary before becoming principals at the other district elementary schools Braintree, and Brookfield. The three have worked closely together on the vision and growth for the system. The teamwork also was illustrated in the time that teacher teams are given as a priority to work on their WIGs (Wildly Important Goals), assessment data, and co-planning time, and was evident in the manner in which members of the staff interacted throughout my visit. 

I’m grateful to Erica and Randolph Elementary for their warm welcome and willingness to share a Friday morning together. Thank you!

What’s Erica Reading?

 

Dare to Lead

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

 The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

 

 

Videos that Erica Used to Help Begin this School-Year with the Staff: