Shelburne School Directors hear about curriculum; prepare for Town Meeting

By Gail Callahan

The Shelburne School Board spent most of its 83-minute meeting hearing about accomplishments achieved by students and staff, while preparing for its annual presentation at Town Meeting.

The five-member panel heard from Shelburne Community School teachers Jessica Toulis, who teaches on Imagine, and Eric Brunvand, a Holden House faculty member, about Social Studies.

Toulis first told the Board that she and other teachers are now using a model called KUD – Knowledge, Understanding, and Does. Teachers can access this program to see how students are achieving and to track faculty input. She also noted that students in elementary grades study elements, including family heritage, culture, and community and start to acquire map-reading skills. As students move into middle school, topics include conflict, U.S. history, and World Geography.

The amount of time spent in the classroom on the subject, also varies, depending on grade level, Toulis said. At the kindergarten through second-grade level, children spend a “few hours” a week on the subject, while older elementary and middle school students spend entire blocks on the issue.

For his part, Brunvand informed the Board older students’ study area includes: conflict and change, geography, culture, and economics. In seventh grade, U.S. history moved to the head of the line, while eighth graders study the Civil War and events leading up to the end of the Cold War, he said. “This is an aggressive timeline,” Brunvand said.

Brunvand told the Board that he feels students leaving Shelburne Community School are prepared for Champlain Valley Union’s Social Studies courses. In ninth grade, students work on research and critical thinking projects, while sophomores, juniors, and seniors select from a list of electives in the Social Studies department.

Board members Kathy Stockman and David Connery met with Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pickney and the pair heard that Shelburne is a “well-functioning” panel. The discussion on Feb. 13 then opened up to how to attract new people to the Board and the need for tenure. Stockman and Connery supported asking former long-time members Grant Bush and Jed Graef to come to a meeting to discuss topics. No date has been set for that meeting, but Caffry, who will step down when he completes his two-year term, and Vice Chairman Bob Finn embraced inviting Bush and Graef to the table.

Then, Shelburne Community School Co-Principal Allan Miller updated the Board about a number of topics, including a spelling bee, algebra mid-terms, Shelburne’s successful campaign to become one of three Vermont Green Ribbon schools, and the visit of a teacher from Thailand, who spent two months teaching in Shelburne.

He also talked about school safety in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. He noted schools officials meet monthly to discuss school safety and students and faculty were preparing to practice an “intruder” drill. In the spring, Miller indicated the school would likely hold an evacuation drill. In emergencies when students and staff need to leave the campus, they walk a short distance to the Field House.

Miller also mentioned that various parts of the building can be sealed off if there’s an emergency in another section, but parents expressed concern about students walking through the Breezeway.

Finally, Caffry said the Power Point for the informational portion of March Town Meeting is complete. An update on NECAP scores will be added, he added.


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