Rightfully so, much has been made of the proposed tax increase in Montpelier, based on the budget that was adopted by the Montpelier Public Schools Board of School Commissioners. The details on the FY14 Budget can be found at www.mpsvt.org. I would like to take some time to shed more light on what is happening in our schools and why I firmly believe that the educators and students in Montpelier Public Schools are worthy of this tax increase.
I have been very clear about my professional opinion regarding the landmark No Child Left Behind legislation. It is not realistic to expect 100 percent proficiency in any one area for any one child, any one adult, or any one human being. We don’t expect that (nor do we get that) from any other professional that we come into contact with. As the educational leader of this district, what I expect to see is growth and improvement from year to year. With that in mind, consider the following data points earned by the students in Montpelier Public Schools during this past fall’s NECAP testing:
n In Reading, across Grades 3, 4, and 5 students demonstrated increased proficiency every year since 2007 and currently we have the lowest level of students below proficiency in eight years.
n Our eighth-graders in Science earned the highest proficiency in five years and earned an 11percent increase over scores in 2011. Further, in Writing this same group of students increased proficiency 10 percent from the previous year’s scores.
n Our juniors at Montpelier High School earned increased proficiency in three of the four subjects they test in: Science (24 percent increase since 2010), Writing (25 percent increase since 2010), and Math (28 percent increase since 2009 and top proficiency in the state of Vermont).
This is just a snapshot of what we do in this district on a daily basis. It is in no way the definition of what we do or who we are. However, this demonstrates growth and improvement from year to year — a reasonable expectation for the school district in the capital city of Vermont. And there is more work to do.
So if the data is just a snapshot, then who are we?
We are the professionals that keep your children safe on a daily basis. We are the educators who thoughtfully, carefully, and with children in mind, design lesson plans and units that are engaging and creative and capture the minds of your children. We are the guidance counselors that listen, empathize, and dry tears. We are the food services personnel that prepare healthy meals to feed your children. We are the instructional assistants who meet the individual needs of your children. We are the nurses that have both Band-Aids and watchful eyes for unhealthy choices impacting your children. We are the coaches that teach primary skills in sports and educate on the nuances of the games that we (and your children) love. We are the facilities staff that makes each building a warm and inviting place to come to on a daily basis, after it has been full of children and adults the day before. We are the administrators who ensure that bullying, hazing, and harassment have no place in education. We are the board members who agonize over the reductions in personnel, knowing that each individual in this school district has a profound impact on the life of a child, and more often than not, on the lives of many children.
What do we do? Education is what we do. Educators literally make hundreds of decisions a day in classrooms, hallways, offices, and cafeterias that have tremendous impacts on the children we teach; and often we do it in less than favorable circumstances (such as standing in front of a class or in the presence of others) with less than all the information (such as whether or not our student ate a reasonable meal in the morning, following how much sleep the night before). We are often compared to doctors and lawyers; doctors and lawyers see patients and clients on an individual basis. We call that tutoring.
The 21st century is a complicated place for children, and those who graduate do not enter a multiple-choice world. Instead, they enter a world where there are so many claims to what is true and good. We strive to be models of what is true and good in Montpelier Public Schools.
We show our children what we value by what we choose to pay for and without question, the most valuable resource we have in our district are the employees of Montpelier Public Schools. I hope that on Town Meeting Day on March 5, the voters of Montpelier will support the budget adopted by the Board of School Commissioners. Please show our children what we value.
Brian G. Ricca is Montpelier’s superintendent of schools.
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