July 31, 2008
By Tim Simard
In anticipation of the first Williston School District Conceptual Frameworks Committee meeting this Thursday, the School Board and administrators met for one final special meeting to finalize details on how the committee should proceed.
Frameworks facilitator Mary Jane Shelley of TriFocal Consulting was on hand to help board members and school officials put the final touches on the committee's assigned tasks during the Monday afternoon meeting, as well as determine the summer and fall meeting schedule.
The Conceptual Frameworks Committee, a group of administrators, parents, teachers and students, formed recently to develop a plan for the future of the school district.
Shelley reiterated the importance of the committee's work.
“The reason this is happening is because people have strong opinions and you're responding to that,” Shelley said.
The first meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday, July 31 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
In attendance on Monday were School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth and board members Laura Gigliotti, Deb Baker-Moody and Holly Rouelle. District Principal Walter Nardelli, Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks and Allen Brook School Principal John Terko were also on hand, as were Jude Newman, director of curriculum and instruction for CSSU, and Sandy Raymond, administrative assistant for CSSU.
During the three-hour meeting, the group discussed the desired outcomes of the Frameworks Committee, as well as what obstacles the committee may face.
Parks said she wanted to see transparency and trust return between the school system and parents.
“The community needs to start rebuilding trust,” Parks said.
Nardelli said he wanted to see the community share a common vision of the future of student learning. With the world moving so fast, he said he wants the community to look ahead, not behind. Several board members agreed.
“Everything that we do is to better the experience our students have in Williston,” Rouelle said.
Worth said she hoped for recommendations that would be feasible to implement, and wanted to determine classroom structures that would garner more support from the public.
“I think we have very high hopes for this committee,” Worth said.
Nardelli hoped the committee would understand that some recommendations may not be ready for implementation right away and some things could take years to take effect.
“No matter what happens, there will be educational gains and losses,” Nardelli said. “Even though the model may look great, there are still going to be some sides that are missing, no matter how you cut it. The committee has to realize that.”
Shelley told the group that achieving these goals would not come easily and they discussed what might get in the way of a successful Frameworks Committee.
“We're operating under a highly charged, emotional backdrop here,” Newman said. “Being able to suspend judgment will be real difficult for some folks here.”
Worth said she hoped rumors and misinformation would not spread, adding that the public would be able to dispel any rumors by asking members of the School Board via e-mail or by referencing the committee minutes online.
The group decided committee minutes would be posted on the school district Web site within five days after the meetings, with agendas being posted at least three days before meetings.
The group added to the Frameworks Committee ad hoc members Newman and University of Vermont professor Cynthia Reyes, a Williston resident and middle school education expert. The ad hoc members will not be voting members, but will be on hand during certain meetings to offer expertise and guidance.
The group also decided the School Board would hear the Frameworks Committee's final report and recommendations during the mid-December School Board meeting; the timeline will allow a board vote to be taken by January in time for school budget finalizations.
“All recommendations have to be reviewed and (calculated) out,” Worth said. “We're not sure what can even be implemented the following year.”
Nardelli suggested a community forum in January where the board could present the Frameworks recommendations and possible budget costs to the public.
“It's going to cost some money to do this,” Nardelli said. “I guarantee it.”
The group decided the public forum would take place on Jan. 8, 2009. The School Board then plans to vote on the recommendations at its Jan. 15 meeting.
While the Frameworks Committee is meeting, the public will have a chance to comment at the end of each session.
A Frameworks Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 14 was moved to Monday, Aug. 11 to accommodate scheduling conflicts. The meeting will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Williston Central School. The rest of the meetings are scheduled to take place two Thursdays each month through December.