Schools look for ways to reach out to community (9/10/09)

Administration enacting recommendations for equity, configuration

Sept. 10, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

As the new school year begins, the Williston school administration is busy implementing recommendations developed by the Conceptual Frameworks Committee.

Since last school year, the administration has worked to implement protocols for improved communication. This school year, the administration will develop the details of a new school configuration and review equity between classrooms. At the Sept. 2 School Board meeting, District Principal Walter Nardelli outlined work already completed and previewed upcoming projects.

The Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee formed last year and was charged with recommending changes in school communication, configuration and house equity. The committee provided several communication recommendations and developed four different reconfiguration plans. Over the summer, the School Board disbanded the committee and asked the administration to work on creating more equity between the district’s houses, classroom structures that hold multiple grades.

On Sept. 2, Nardelli told the board the administration has already begun its work on equity and will soon be asking for feedback from parents, teachers and students. He said the feedback would most likely come from an online forum later this month.

At the same time, Nardelli said administrators are planning for the reconfiguration that will take place in the 2010-2011 school year. In June, the School Board voted to adopt the Frameworks Committee’s Option A configuration plan. This plan will put all pre-kindergarten through second grade students at Allen Brook School and students in grades three through eight at Williston Central School.

Nardelli said he hoped to present finalized plans for configuration and equity in time for the yearly budget discussions.

“We hope to have this all wrapped up by December,” Nardelli said.

Much of Nardelli’s presentation to the board centered on the communication changes the administration has already put into practice. He said his team has been utilizing the School Bell and AlertNow phone system more effectively. But there are changes still to come, he said.

For instance, Nardelli spoke with the School Board about how the district could give more updates to the community beyond the reach of the School Bell, a newsletter sent primarily to parents. Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said the administration and board could send the Observer periodic letters to the editor about topics discussed in meetings.

The school is also considering the creation of an electronic notice or sign detailing upcoming school events, much like the one at Champlain Valley Union High School. Under the town’s zoning regulations, however, a sign of that type would not be feasible at Williston Central School. Instead, one could be placed near the fire station to highlight both school and town events.

Nardelli also said the administration is looking into hosting four community dialogue nights throughout the school year. They would be times when the administration could hear directly from parents on how the year is progressing.

“We’re looking at something we can dovetail onto when a lot of parents are in the building,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest change in terms of communication will be the district’s new Web site. Scheduled to be unveiled in October, the new site will make it easier for parents and community members to access information instantly, Nardelli said.

“It’ll be our number one communication tool,” he said. “It’ll change the way we do business.”

The Web site will offer different pages for each house, which will be standardized within the district. Not only will there be frequent updates on school news on the main site, but teachers will also be able to update the house pages daily.

All schools within the Chittenden South Supervisory Union are getting new Web sites, which will be uniform for every school in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston.

“It will give us all a commonality,” Nardelli said.