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August 19, 2022, 12:11:56 AM

 
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Topics - vtgoober

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In October, the BFA-Fairfax Scholars' Bowl team qualified to attend the Small School National Championship Tournament based on their performance at a VT-NEA Scholars' Bowl regional tournament.  The tournament will be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota on May 2-4, 2014.  It is our goal to send this team of student to Minnesota to compete.  In order to achieve this goal, we will need to raise approximately $3500 to cover registration, airfare, and lodging for the team.  We hope that YOU will be able to help the team of high school students achieve this goal.  We have received $1300 from BFA-Fairfax Co-Curricular and Enrichment funds so far to cover registration costs and a portion of the hotel costs, but we are still need to raise $2300 in order for the students to be able to attend.  We are hoping to receive sponsorships from a variety of groups, individuals, and organizations to help provide the funding for this opportunity. 

BFA has qualified for a National Tournament only one other time in the 10 years that we have had a Scholars' Bowl team.  For a variety of reasons, that year we opted to attend a more regional tournament at Yale University instead of traveling to the National event in Atlanta.  The students enjoyed being on the Yale campus and competing in the event, but, honestly, being a small school from Northern Vermont, we were a little overwhelmed by the larger schools and prep schools that we met.  The tournament in Minnesota will pit us against schools that are similar in size to BFA-Fairfax, which will make the competition more equitable and enjoyable for the students.  While traveling to Minnesota does add to the cost of attendance, the experience at the tournament and in the city (and nearby Mall of America!) will be invaluable to the students. 

We hope that you will consider supporting our trip to the Small Schools National Championship Tournament in Minnesota.  The students have worked hard to qualify for the event and will continue to prepare to compete at the highest level.  Your donation will help us get there.  Any and all financial support will be beneficial and greatly appreciated.  Please contact me if you have any questions or require any additional information.  Thank you for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,
John Tague
BFA Scholars' Bowl Coach


Donations can be sent to:

BFA-Fairfax Scholars' Bowl Team
c/o John Tague
75 Hunt Street
Fairfax, VT  05454

Thank you!

2
Monday night the Fairfax School Board voted 3-1 to include Full-Day Kindergarten for the 2011-2012 school year. 

The most recent data collected from a survey conducted by the elementary principal in September 2007 showed 50% of surveyed parents opposed moving our 2/3 day program to a full day program.  Two years ago when full-day kindergarten was before the board,  the school administrators and Board asked for public input over the course of several meetings, took appropriate measures to notify the public when board discussion on this topic would be occurring, and even formulated a committee of school employees, parents and community members to study the issue.  This time that was not the case. 

This time, a last-minute petition was presented to the board on Monday night in conjunction with a letter from administration and staff asking for this discussion to be reopened.  These individuals were the only people aware that there was going to be a discussion occurring at Monday night’s board meeting about including full-day kindergarten in the 2011-12 budget. 

Yes, kindergarten was listed on the agenda posted late last week outside the library as shown here:
5.   Board Business                               
a.   FY2012 Budget – Action
b.   Approve FY2012 Legal Warning – Action
c.   Approve FY2010 Audit Report  – Action
d.   Approve FY2012 Announced Tuition Rate – Action
e.   Approve Revisions to Parks & Recreation Agreement – Action
f.   Merger Update
g.   Kindergarten
Anyone looking at this posted agenda would not know that kindergarten was being discussed as part of the FY2012 Budget that was set for ‘action’ or a vote on Monday night.  In fact, it clearly reads that this topic was to be brought up after the budget vote was taken.  It is also not clear by looking at the agenda that the discussion was going to be about full-day kindergarten.  The agenda given to school board members goes even further and reads as “g. kindergarten discussion.”  Was it even possible or appropriate for them to vote on this discussion item?
 
The deceptive presentation of this item on the agenda was further compounded by school staff asking for community member signatures inside the school building during school hours on Monday in clear violation of school policy.  I am also equally disturbed by the consistent pattern of inconsistent and contradictory information presented to the board and public over the past three years on the topic of kindergarten.

The cost of including full-day kindergarten has been a constantly changing one.  Each presentation by the same administration on the cost of including a full-day kindergarten program has used vastly different figures.   When first presented in 2008, the cost was presented at roughly $70,000 with an additional $10,000 towards afternoon busing taken from the co-curricular budget.  This number then became $40,000 a short time later after some refiguring.  On Monday night, the board was told yet again a different number.  Does anyone actually know the true cost of adding this program at this point?  Where was the public presentation on these true costs and figures?  It would be great if the administrators and school board would be honest and upfront with the community of Fairfax in representing the entire cost of adding on a full-time kindergarten program.

For the 2008-09 school year, a 4-day per week full-day intervention program was created to support the students who were determined to need additional services through assessments made by the kindergarten teachers; this was presented as best practice by the administration.  These identified students are deemed to be in need of services for only a portion of the year at a time.  After reassessment, students are dropped from the intervention program and return to the same extended day schedule as the rest of their peers.  This practice certainly seems to speak against the need for full-day kindergarten for all.  Additionally, there is no data from our own school regarding the effects of its full-day intervention program for the students it has served over the past couple years.  This small group based intervention program targeted to those most in need of further support will be taken away with the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program. 

For the 2009-10 school year, a fourth kindergarten classroom and teacher were added in order to reduce class size.  The argument presented by the same administration to taxpayers and the board was that reducing class size was best practice for kindergartners because it allows teachers more time to spend with each student while creating a more relaxed classroom atmosphere among other benefits.  This argument was repeated again for the 2010-11 school year in order to keep the four extended day kindergarten classes even though enrollment numbers were lower than expected.  These statements are in direct contradiction to those made that class size doesn’t  have an impact made by the same administration while advocating for a full-day program to be implemented for the 2008-2009 school year (in lieu of 4 classrooms with reduced class sizes at the same cost).  Monday night the same administration presented a full-day program for 2011-12 consisting of only three classrooms, meaning increased class sizes to over 20 kindergarteners per class again, as best practice.  It certainly seems that what is best practice or in the best interests of the students is not what we have been voting on for the past several years but what suits the whims of the administration and staff. 

I feel this was a well-orchestrated and deceitful way for the elementary administration and school board to sneak in a hot and divisive budget item without clearly alerting the public that full-day kindergarten was being introduced as a budget item at the eleventh hour for the 2011-12 budget.  This lack of proper notification did not afford the parents, providers, and community members opposed to the inclusion of a full-day kindergarten program the opportunity to speak.   Monday night, the board was supposed to be finalizing any last edits after months of budget work and voting on a budget and warning to submit to the town clerk for Town Meeting Day.

Instead, this school board acted without integrity.  It is their job as our elected officials to make sure that the budget process is one that is open, honest, transparent, and completed in an ethical manner.  Being a community member that has followed the kindergarten issue closely for years, I was shocked this last minute budget addition was allowed especially since this very same board had already discussed the kindergarten program during its budget meetings this year and had stated that full-day kindergarten would not be put in the 2011-12 school budget. 

Considering the immense community outpouring on this divisive issue each time it has come before the board, I was incredibly disappointed as a parent, taxpayer, and community member that there was not a forthright public announcement to the community about this item in the agenda, in the school newsletter, on vtgrandpa.com, and in the Fairfax News as has been done each time in the past.  It is difficult to trust an administration and board that picks and chooses when it will inform the parents and public on major decisions like whether or not to include full-day kindergarten.  It is difficult to trust an administration and staff that seems to change what they state is best practice every year or two as well. 
Aside from the issue of how this came before the board last evening is the issue of whether there is any benefit to the 5 year olds of Fairfax to move from our current 2/3 day program(also called extended day) to a full-day program.  People tout that research states there is.  This same research also clearly states that extended or 2/3 day programs are considered full-day programs by researchers.  People claim one of the benefits of moving to full-day programs is socialization; however, this same research states that full-day programs actually have lower rates of pro-social behavior.   This research also clearly states that by 3rd and 4th grade at the latest you can’t distinguish between children who attended full-day, extended day, or half-day kindergarten programs.

We are being asked as taxpayers to pay the added expense every year for a full-day kindergarten program when people are struggling to feed their children, when people are accessing state aid programs at record rates, and when people are lucky to be employed.  It seems inappropriate to be adding programs and staff salary increases in this hidden manner in a budget that has staff losing their jobs, staff having reduced hours, and existing programs being reduced and cut.

We will be told a lot about how other communities, including Fletcher and Georgia, have moved to full-day programs.  The teachers say that we need to do it now because they did.  As parents, we have been known to ask our children if their friends are all jumping off a bridge, does that mean they should too?  Just because another community does something, does not make it in the best interests or appropriate for our community. 

What exactly do any of us know about the full-day kindergarten program that was voted on?  We could refer to the fact sheet put out by this administration in 2008 to seek some insight, except the only information provided during Monday’s board meeting on the full-day program was about recess and this contradicted their fact sheet as well.  The fact sheet from 2008 states there will be 2 20-30 minute recesses for our kindergarteners; the same administration stated during this board meeting that there would only be one.    It is difficult to trust an administration that keeps presenting conflicting or inadequate information.  It is difficult to trust a school board that accepts such contradictions without question.

We heard a lot Monday night from some board members about the need for them to listen to the administrators who are making the recommendations about what is best practice.  Whatever happened to listening to parents?  These children are ours.  We are their first and their most important teachers throughout their lives.  We are responsible for the adults they become.  However, parents have been made to feel incompetent in how to support their children’s education throughout this process.  They are often faced with the ‘we are the teachers and therefore know best’ attitude.  I am a parent who is also a licensed teacher and wholeheartedly does not believe that full-day kindergarten is in the best interest of our children or my children. 

I would encourage community members to attend any school board meeting (2nd Monday of each month, 6:30pm in the library) and Town Meeting Day (Saturday, February 26th in the elementary gym) to let board members know that this kind of underhandedness is not how we want our board, administrators, and staff to operate.  I would strongly urge each Fairfax resident to vote NO to this behavior, NO to full-day kindergarten, and NO to the Fairfax School Budget for the 2011-12 school year.   

Respectfully submitted,
Patricia Hendee

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