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Monday, July 15, 2019

WNESU Center of Professional Development

I am very proud to announce that today was the first day for providing Profesional Development through our new WNESU Professional Development Center that is under the direction of  Director, Dr. Missy Wilkins. 

The first series that has been offered is called   The topic is Math, A Framework for Meaningful instruction and Differentiation.  Sandi Standhope is a consultant at Primary Math Consultant. She teaches at VMI and the all learners network. This week we are offering a 3 credit course through Castleton University. In addition to WNESU teachers, there are from Woodstock, Dorset, Manchester, Brattleboro and Dover, Vermont. We have 16 teachers taking the course.

Friday, July 12, 2019

WNESU K-12 Restorative Justice/Practices Program starting in the fall of 2019

WNESU Restorative Practices Program:
Windham Northeast Supervisory Union will be starting a K-12 Restorative Education Program starting in the 2019 - 2020 school year.   WNESU will be the first SU in the state if not New England to have a K-12 program. Through grant money, I have hired a Restorative Practices Coordinator who will be starting mid-May.   A restorative school is one which takes a restorative approach to resolve conflict and preventing harm. Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right.  In WNESU we are taking it a step further with the way we are incorporating it. Not only will WNESU be using it to teach students and teacher how to deal with conflict, but the new coordinator will work with other areas as well that directly tie to Restorative Education Program. The new program coordinator  Jesse Hall will oversee School Safety, Student Assistant Program (SAP), Tobacco Use Prevention, and the Home to School Liason. The coordinator will play the role of all training for students and staff in order to move to a student-centered approach to supporting students in educating them in making better decisions as well as supporting them in restoring any education they may have lost due to past struggles

Vermont Supreme Court denies last-ditch attempt to delay mergers

By Lola Duffort
Jul 1 2019 | 3 reader footnotes

About a dozen newly unified school districts came into being Monday after a last-ditch attempt to temporarily halt forced mergers under Act 46 was rejected by the state’s highest court.
Thirty-three school boards in the so-called “Athens” lawsuit – named for the first plaintiff district – asked the Vermont Supreme Court for an emergency stay in late June to press pause on the state-mandated consolidations while the justices weighed the merits of their appeal.
In a one-page ruling issued June 25, the court said no. In order to obtain the stay, the requesting party must prove that the stay is necessary to prevent “irreparable injury,” that it would not harm other parties, and it would serve the “best interests of the public.”
“Upon consideration of these factors, we deny appellants’ motion for stay or for injunctive relief,” the court wrote in a ruling signed by all five Supreme Court justices.
The court, which is weighing an appeal challenging the consolidation law on a host of constitutional and procedural grounds, could still ultimately decide in favor of the independent plaintiff schools boards, which still exist for the purposes of the lawsuit. But for now, unified, regional boards will be expected to take over the business of running the schools in the roughly 50 districts that had until now resisted merging together.
Between consolidations that took place during the law’s earlier phases, when districts were given tax incentives to pick their partners and merge, and those imposed by the State Board of Education in November, Vermont has seen a net reduction of 156 school districts.
Opponents of forced consolidations have fought for nearly a year, in the courts and in the Legislature, to find a way to put a moratorium on mergers, which were set by law to go into effect July 1. They had argued unified districts, once in place, would be impossible to untangle, even if the courts ultimately found the controversial law unconstitutional.
Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of bills to delay mergers, but lawmakers from both chambers were ultimately unable to reach a deal on compromise legislation before the end of the session in May.
And in March, Superior Court Judge Robert Mello also rejected a request for such a stay, writing in a lengthy order that the plaintiffs had “not shown a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits of their claim that the board’s actions in implementing Acts 46 and 49 are unconstitutional.” Mello ultimately dismissed the case on all counts, and the suit is now before the Supreme Court on appeal.
Assistant Attorney General David Boyd, who is leading the state’s defense in the lawsuit, said the Attorney General’s Office was “pleased” with the high court’s ruling.
Supreme Court justices hear arguments in April. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger
“A stay at this point would have been disruptive for school districts throughout the state,” he said.
But unlike Mello’s March order, which discussed at length core arguments at the heart of the lawsuit, the Supreme Court’s order provides few clues about how the justices feel about the larger case.
“One of the factors the court considered is likelihood of success on the merits. But the court did not break out the individual factors or discuss them separately so it’s hard to specifically read too much into the ruling,” Boyd said.
David Kelley, a Craftsbury Common attorney volunteering on the school board’s case, remains optimistic his side’s case is strong.
“I think there are so many different parts of the law, that as far as I’m concerned shouldn’t pass legal review,” he said.
But like Boyd, he thinks it would be unwise to read much into the high court’s latest ruling.
“I’ve been around long enough that when you go to court, anyone that tries to predict the outcome hasn’t been around long enough,” he said.
The two sides are still discussing a briefing schedule, but Kelley said he expected oral arguments before the court to take place some time in the fall.

U.S News ranks BFUHS

U.S News ranks BFUHS 12 in the state for Top schools in VT

  1. Bellows Falls Union High School
  2. Bellows Falls, VT | Bellows Falls Union High School 
  3.  #12 in Vermont Rankings#2,908 in National Rankings
  4. Bellows Falls Union High School is ranked 12th within Vermont. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® coursework and exams. The AP® participation rate at Bellows Falls Union High School is 35%. The total minority enrollment is 8%, and 46% of students are economically disadvantaged. Bellows Falls Union High School is the only high school in the Bellows Falls Union High School more
  5. School Data

Healthcare update

An Update from Your Statewide Healthcare Bargaining Team

The Vermont Commission on Public School Employee Health Benefits met on Tuesday for what was the first true negotiation session in this process. A prior meeting on June 5 was used to hear a presentation about Health Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, and funded-Health Reimbursement Arrangements. A session scheduled for May 29 was changed to a work session at the request of the Vermont School Boards Association team.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, your team presented the VSBA with a counter-proposal. Here are the highlights:

Duration of 4 years

Premium Share:

  • Year one status quo for all employees.
  • The Union’s proposal for income sensitivity is replaced by the following contribution to the premium proposal:
    • Years 2, 3, and 4 salaried employees would move toward an 80-20 split on premiums.  Employees at 80/20 would remain at that rate and those below would increase by 2 percent each year until the expiration of the agreement or at the time the employee contribution reaches 20 percent.
    • Support staff (hourly employees) would move toward an 85-15 split on premiums.  Those below 15 percent of the premium would see their contribution increase yearly by 2 percent until the expiration of the agreement or the time the contribution reaches 15 percent.  For those support staff who are above 15 percent, the employee share would decrease by 2 percent a year until the expiration of the agreement or at the time the employee contribution reaches 15 percent.  
Out of Pocket Reimbursements:

Your team proposed that a funded HRA be instituted at a set level for all employees.  This kind of HRA has no restrictions for those employees on Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VA benefits or those with adult children who are no longer dependents but can be covered until age 26.  The employee may utilize a full FSA with a reimbursement arrangement.  The funds not used for out of pocket costs may be rolled over into an account that will stay with the employee.  Additionally, our proposal includes a notional HRA that would allow employees with chronic conditions or an unforeseen need for greater utilization to have a maximum out of pocket costs covered by the employer in the same manner that it is today.

We believe this proposal meets the criteria set forth by the VSBA in their HSA-only proposal.  It acts as an HSA as it is money that is directly given to the employee in an account that can be saved on a pre-tax basis for later health care needs or retirement.  It has greater flexibility than the HSA as it has none of the restrictions and can be paired with a full FSA.

The second part, the national HRA, gives the employees who need greater out of pocket assistance a way to afford needed health care.

The total amount of both the funded and notional accounts are being calculated based off the money the VSBA has already offered the Union for out of pocket assistance and data from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the VSBA asked for an additional half hour to finalize a counter-proposal to ours, which was granted.  The Board proposed dividing the employees by licensed teachers and administrators in one group and then all other school and central office employees in a second group.

Duration 2 years

Premium Contributions:

  • Licensed employees all go to 80/20 in year one.  Year two increase by 1 percent to 21 percent share.  For every 8 percent of a premium rate increase, employees pay an additional 1 percent.
  • Non-licensed employees in year one all remain at the status quo for all features of insurance coverage including out of pocket arrangements.  Year two premium contributions increase by 1 percent and an additional 1 percent for every 8 percent of a total premium rate increase.  

Out of Pocket Reimbursements:

  • Licensed employees:  Platinum – HRA (not able to offer HSA for Platinum or Gold plan) $700 single, $1400 other three tiers.  Gold HRA $1000 single, $2000 other three tiers.  Gold CDHP HSA $1250/$2500.  Silver CDHP HSA $1200/$2500.  For those employees who are restricted from HSA (except adult children to age 26), the board will provide a mirror HRA.
  • No changes for unlicensed employees.
  • Licensed employees must work 30 hours in a full work week to be eligible for coverage.  This applies to unlicensed employees beginning in year 2. 
After a cordial and substantive discussion, the parties will meet again for their final bargaining session on July 17. If no agreement is reached, mediation will commence on August 1.

You can read the full union counterproposal here; you can read VSBA’s counterproposal here.

Additionally, Will Adams, a sixth-grade teacher from Hardwick who serves as your bargaining team’s spokesman, appeared yesterday morning on WDEV’s Dave Gram Show, daily two-hour news and call-in program. In it, he faced off against Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the lead VSBA negotiator, and Joe McNeil, the VSBA team’s hired attorney. You can listen to the segment, which starts 15 minutes into the second hour, right here. You’ll note that Will represented you and your fellow public school employees quite well.