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August 18, 2022, 05:42:54 AM

 
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Messages - vtgoober

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1
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the trip so far!  We have received close to $3200 so far!!!
The gofundme site will be closed at the end of the weekend, but donations can still be sent to the address listed above!
Thank you again....the team is very excited!!!

2
Another way to donate is through a gofundme site created by one of the students' family:

http://www.gofundme.com/759tmk?pc=tw_p2

Thank you all for your support!

3
Thank you! 
There will be six students and the chaperone/coach paid for.  An additional parent is going on their own to be a second chaperone.  We have to have funds raised no later than the beginning of April.  There isn't a set per family contribution, but each family will both contribute as each is able and assist with raising funds through family/friend contributions and seeking sponsors. 
Thank you again!!

4
I don't believe I am able to post their names. 

5
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!

6
Current News & Events / Re: New windows in school library.
« on: March 09, 2011, 01:35:28 PM »
Sorry for the confusion:  the frosted windows are for the library.  The improved supervision would be the office windows that would be larger and not frosted!!! 

7
Current News & Events / Re: New windows in school library.
« on: March 09, 2011, 09:11:12 AM »
I recently spoke with an administrator about this.  I was told the school board gave them the go ahead to collect bids on the cost of frosted windows in the library along the top of the wall that runs along the MS/HS hallway and for windows in the main office along that same hallway.  He said the funds were not in the FY 2012 budget that was just voted on, but would most likely come from this year's current budget or the capital improvement fund if the board gave approval after all bids were in and discussion occurred on the topic.

He said the office windows would be to improve office function...no one knows its there and makes hallway supervision a challenge.  As for the library, mainly to allow in more light and make it more inviting.  There would be impact on shelves; although he said they would try to minimize that impact.

That's all the info I have on it...hopefully that helps answer your question!


8
Last night (2/14) the Fairfax School Board held a meeting.  During this meeting, there was a community budget presentation.  Unfortunately our community was not given notice of this presentation as it was not included on the yellow budget flyer that was mailed to many residents nor was it posted anywhere in our community, on the fwsu.org website, on the BFA-Fairfax website, or on the BFA-Fairfax School Board Wiki.  This type of disregard to public notification laws does not instill trust in our Board and Administration, especially following the actions taken during their January board meeting. 

As an aside:  the yellow budget flyer that was sent out did have one line stating that kindergarten would be expanded to full day for all students.  This flyer was done a month after the board and administration snuck a full-day kindergarten program into the FY2012 budget without advance public notice during its final budget meeting.  This program inclusion and subsequent late notification flyer were done after all methods of recourse by Fairfax citizens besides voting were gone.  Keep in mind, this one line is all the information that has been released and publicized by the board and administration.  This notification does not even notify voters that there will be a change from 4 kindergarten classes down to 3 classes.  This notification does not mention any details about what the full-day program would be or the financial impact of its inclusion.  While the flyer did note some of the school-wide reductions made in order to come up with the budget, many of the cuts in staffing and programming were not mentioned. 

Voting NO to this budget and behavior is, in my opinion, appropriate.

9
Where am I coming from?  Why do I have such a strong opinion about full-day kindergarten?  How is it possible to be an educator and not support it?  Why should community members listen to my opinion?  These are all good questions, especially from community members like yourself who do not know me personally. 

First, let me say that I graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in math, early childhood education, and elementary education.  I hold an active teaching license and am certified from birth through grade 8.  While our family made the decision allowing me to be a stay-at-home mom since the birth of our second child, I have kept my teaching license current by continuing to take college courses.  I am an avid supporter of schools, teachers, and children.  I am an active volunteer at BFA-Fairfax.   With my oldest child, I volunteered in both his elementary and middle school classes.  With our second child, I ran the Small Wonders program in his preschool class, volunteered weekly in his kindergarten classroom and during special events, and continue to volunteer weekly in his current classroom.  I am very active in our school’s PTSA and have organized several teacher appreciation events.  I coordinate the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) program at our school, supplying students with free books three times a year.  I continue to coordinate the Hannaford Dollars program for the PTSA that I have done for several years to fund requests from teachers to provide additional opportunities to their students and activities to promote positive outcomes for our families and students.  I continue to coordinate the Price Chopper Tools for Schools program that I have done for several years that has funded the elementary recess materials for several years, a digital camera for the middle school, and much more.  As a Co-Liaison for our town’s Success By Six program, I have worked with the kindergarten teachers to help continue successful kindergarten transition activities for our incoming kindergarteners.  Within in our Success By Six activities, we work to help prepare our communities’ youngest citizens to be prepared for school and to smooth the transition to school for parents, teachers, and children.   As a Co-Liaison, I have also had the opportunity for the past few years to spend time monthly with every childcare provider in our community and have personally seen the dedication and devotion these educators bring to the children in their care while they work night and day to help mold our children as well.  I wholeheartedly support our school, our teachers, and educators across the board.

However, I do not support full-day kindergarten.  Being opposed to full-day kindergarten does not mean you do not support schools and teachers.  Being opposed to full-day kindergarten does not mean a person is not thinking in the best interest of children.  Being a teacher does not mean that you are automatically a supporter of full-day kindergarten. 
My opinion and opposition to full-day kindergarten has been consistent.  My opinion on these posts however has been adamant.  As someone who has been involved in kindergarten discussions for the past few years and attended board meetings whenever possible on this issue, I have become completely fed up with the constant contradictions, the lack of financial clarity, the lack of feasibility studies, …. The final blow for me was when the board at the administration’s behest snuck full-day kindergarten into the FY2012 budget without even notifying the public that it was being discussed after publicly stating it was not going to be included.  This level of public disrespect by our board and administration does not sit well with me.  My feelings on this have been present in every post, and I apologize if my tone has offended anyone. 

There are several factors I consider when casting a vote:  philosophical, financial, and ethical.  Even if something only costs $10, why buy it if you don’t want it?  Why buy it if you don’t believe it is in the best interests of the children?  Why buy it if it was acquired unethically and underhandedly?  Why buy it if you have a better use for that money?

For me, it is a combination of the three factors above.  I do not want to pay for something every year from here on out that I don’t believe in or support.  I also do not want to send a message to the board and administration that it is okay to treat the citizens of Fairfax with such disrespect.   

I do not have anything personal against any member of the school board or administration.  My husband is currently a member of the board and I consider other members of the board friends.  My problem in general is not with individuals of the board, but with the handling of this issue.  I cannot speak for any other teacher as to why they do or do not support full-day kindergarten.  I personally know teachers on both sides of the issue.  I am opposed to full-day kindergarten and do not believe it is in the best interests of our community. 

10
I am feeling terribly sad that Counselor may actually perceive parents and providers as he/she presented them in his/her January 31st post, especially since Counselor appears to be an educator in our school. 

What is striking me throughout these posts is the use of broad-based statements by pro-full day advocates about looking at the big picture and their avoidance of the details; the devil is in the details and the lack of any lasting impact is in the research. 

Pro-full day advocates always claimed that research was the reason to go to full-day, but when faced with opposing research then we needed to call a stalemate.  Then we needed to focus on the additional time teachers would gain with each student by moving to a full-day like our non-comparable ˝ day counterparts did, but when faced with minute analysis then it is arbitrary.   

Now the implication seems to be we must move to full days because teachers are the only caring adults and the only ones competent and skilled enough to make positive impacts in most children’s lives. Underlying this is that if we don’t say yes to full-day kindergarten then we are not being supportive of our school and our teachers who are the ones dedicated to our children.  By adding the 4th classroom and reducing class size, we already provided the additional space and time for teachers and children.  Teachers make more of an impact on individual students when class size is reduced.  With the small group based intervention program, we have provided the extra support some children may need for any number of reasons. With the addition of full-day kindergarten, this cost and time effective program will dissolve and the children specifically identified as needing more time will consequently receive less time for direct instruction.  Counselor stated, “What may be enough for one child is not enough for another.”  The intervention program addresses this concern already.

We do live in a culture that has more and more working parents.  However, we need to look at our community.  In Fairfax, there is a large percentage of stay-at-home parents as well as working parents who stagger their work schedules so one parent is there with the children during non-school hours.   A large number of our kindergarten students do go home at noon.  Those who do not go home go to caring and capable childcare providers who provide them with love, lunch and snack, rest, kisses and hugs, read them stories, play games with them, talk to them, and otherwise provide structured and unstructured opportunities to enrich their lives on a daily basis while they await their parent’s arrival.  The research does state that children need one adult who truly cares about them; it doesn’t say teacher. 

The cost of the noon bus run was already removed to get the $22,539 figure presented at the 1/10/11 meeting and used in my calculations. 

The current noon bus run is only comprised of kindergarteners who are not picked up split between 3 and 4 buses depending on the year.  The afternoon bus run, which currently lasts an hour for some, carries students on it from the kindergarten intervention program through grade 12 that do not have other transportation.  Adding additional kindergarten bodies to this afternoon run would impact the length of the bus ride.  If the length of the bus ride is a concern, the shorter one is at noon. 

This board and administration are asking the community of Fairfax to permanently increase the school budget for a full-day kindergarten program in these economic times without even telling us about its inclusion.  Even in good economic times, this is reason enough to vote NO to the school budget.

This board and administration are asking the community of Fairfax to give raises to certain kindergarten teachers and para-educators at the same time some staff are losing their jobs, some staff are having their pay cut, students are having time with other teachers in the school building cut, and programs that benefited our children have been cut or eliminated.  This is reason enough to vote NO to the school budget.

This board and administration are asking the community of Fairfax to permanently raise school taxes to pay for a full-day program that research clearly states has NO lasting impact and will increase class size in order to gain 1.42 minutes of direct teacher time per day per student.  This is reason enough to vote NO to the school budget.

By the way, I am a teacher so I have walked several miles in a teacher’s shoes.  This discussion is not about the nobility of the teaching profession; it is about full-day kindergarten. 
I will be voting NO. 

11
During the 1/10/11 board meeting, kindergarten teachers told the board that with the additional time a full-day would provide they would be able to spend more time with individual students, meet the needs of the current intervention or ‘at-risk’ students within the full-day setting (currently addressed by having the small group stay for a full-day four days a week), and have time to enrich the individual needs of those students above grade level standards.

What is the time per student difference between a 2/3 and a full day?  With our extended or 2/3 day program (4 classrooms & teachers from 8:10am-12:00pm next year), children are at school for 3 hours 50 minutes or 230 minutes/day.  Using the average enrollment of 60, there are 15 students per class.  Dividing 230 by 15 shows the teachers average 15.33 minutes per student per day.  With a full-day program (3 classrooms & teachers from 8:10am-2:45pm next year), the children are at school for 6 hours 35 minutes or 395 minutes/day.  Using the same enrollment, there are 20 students per class.  Dividing 395 by 20 shows the teachers average 19.75 minutes per student per day.  Subtracting extended day minutes from full-day minutes shows a total gain of 4.42 minutes per student per day.  Multiplying 178 school days by the 4.42 minutes equals a total overall gain of 786.76 minutes or 13.11 hours or less than 2 full days for the school year.  Going further to deduce the amount of academic time gained to provide the more individualized instruction promised by going to full-day, subtract 60 from full-day minutes for the non-academic additions of recess and lunch and do the same math.  This shows teachers average 16.75 minutes per student per day.   This provides a total academic time gain of 1.42 minutes per student per day.  This equals a gain of 252.76 minutes or 4.21 hours or less than 1 full day for the school year. 

From a simplistic fiscal standpoint, how much does this one day of added academic time cost? 
Taking the 1/10/11 presented figure of $22,539 as the cost of adding full-day kindergarten and dividing it by the 60 kindergarteners, we find the average additional cost per kindergartener for this one day equals $375.65.
How does this compare with the average cost per student across the rest of the budget? 
Taking the budget figure without full-day kindergarten included of $11,211,727 and dividing it by the last available enrollment estimate of all BFA-Fairfax students of 960, we will find the average cost per student per year.  To find the cost per student for one day, divide the yearly cost per student by the 178 school days for next year.  This equals a cost of $65.61 per student per day. 

We seem to have lost sight of the role of parents and childcare providers in the lives and education of our children because there is so much pressure.  There is so much pressure on teachers to meet standards that it skews how people begin looking at the big picture.  Everyone is doing what they have been conditioned to do—pushing larger expectations and pressures onto younger children.  However, moving to a full-day is not the only way to address the pressures.  Teachers and administration perceive and publicize that longer days are the only way to give them more space and time to deal with the increased pressures and provide the children with more individualized instruction.  I would contend that by adding the 4th classroom and reducing class size, we have already provided them the additional space.  It is not meaningful for our community to add a program if it is not quality.  Quality means fewer numbers and more one-on-one time, not more hours in a day. 

12
MKR is correct that the only people that can accurately answer the questions about curriculum are the board and administration.  They failed to provide the public with their opportunity to ask these questions with their actions on January 10th.  However, the public has been told repeatedly that the kindergarten curriculum will not have any additions or expansions to it by the administration in open sessions at repeated school board meetings and in their 2008 fact sheet. 

As for the current curriculum, the easiest document to read through when trying to ascertain what it consists of for kindergarten students at BFA-Fairfax is the kindergarten report card itself.  It clearly outlines the learning goals for the students to have gained by THE END of kindergarten and is in alignment with the DOE grade level expectations.  The Grade Level Expectations for kindergarten students can be found broken down by each grade level and content area by visiting http://www.education.vermont.gov/new/html/pubs/framework.html .

For those interested, here is a copy the BFA-Fairfax Kindergarten report card for ease:
(bold items are the topic headings)

Social Development:
-demonstrates respect for self and others
-performs effectively in a group
-gets along well with others
-stays on task
-participates in class
-follows directions
-manages transitions between activities
-demonstrates physical self-control
-manages feelings and frustrations effectively
Language Arts:  Reading:
Reading Strategies:  Demonstrates concepts of print by:

   Identifying key parts of book (front, back, print, illustrations)
   Distinguishing between printed letters and words
   Identifying first and last parts of a word
                Following text with finger pointing and demonstrates left to right and top to bottom directionality
   Meets standard for recognizing all upper and lower case letters
   Recognizes and produces rhyming words
   Segments words into syllables
   Identifies letter/sound relationship
   Spends time with a book as a choice
Reading Comprehension:  Reads for meaning, demonstrating both initial understanding and personal response to what is read
      Responds to simple questions about a books content
      Identifies and interprets key elements of a story
Reading Accuracy: 
             Meets kindergarten text level standards (From VT Dept. of Education Literacy Grade Level Expectations formatted by grade level “• Reading approximately 20 high-frequency words, including names, environmental print, sight words (as appropriate to the child’s personal and classroom experiences)”)
Writing Development:
   Pictorial:  Simple pictures
         Details pictures with verbal story
   Letterer:  pictures with random letters
   Copier:  uses words visible in classroom
   Labeler:  writes names and important part of a picture
   Sound maker:  uses the inventive speller (letter sound connection)
Writing Conventions:
      Writes left to right, top to bottom
      Begins to use spaces
      Writes his or her own name
      Uses correct spelling and/or phonetic skills to attempt a close approximation
Mathematics:
   Counts backwards from 10
   Counts 1-20, 1-35, 1-50
   Reads numbers  1-20, 1-35, 1-50
   Sorts objects using numbers
   Orders numbers 1-20, 1-35, 1-50
   Explores addition and subtraction (10 or less)
   Recognizes nickel, penny, and dime by name and face value
   Identifies circle, triangle, rectangle, and square
   Draws four basic shapes
   Measures with non-standard units
   Identifies clock and calendar as measurement tools
   Recognizes, describes, and extends simple patterns
   Sorts and classifies objects
   Interprets graphs and tally charts
   Makes predictions based on mathematical data
   Identifies ordinal numbers to the 10th place (1st, 2nd, etc)
   Solves story problems for quantities to 10 with manipulatives or drawings
Social Studies:
   My History:  Past and Present
   Map skills
   Interacting in positive ways
Science: 
   Weather
   Living and non-living
   Sorting and classifying:  liquids and solids

13
Again to clarify misinformation, I did not register just to post my view point as Counselor stated and did.  I registered on February 20, 2006; this is clearly seen if you click on my profile. 

I began this thread to notify the public, as my title indicates, that full-day kindergarten was snuck into the budget without advance public notice at the final budget meeting held on January 10th.  I then listened carefully to chatter around town for a few days, watched this very forum, and engaged in conversation with many community members following this board vote.  The news continued to be silent; no one knew about the vote, no one knew that full-day kindergarten was before the board, and no one knew it was up for a vote to be included in the FY2012 school budget.  The public was still not being notified that this very divisive issue was entered into the budget at the last minute that taxpayers would then be asked to vote on.  This troubled me deeply.

As I have continued to state, the budget process must be open, honest, and transparent at all times.  When it is not, trust is damaged.  Every time the topic of full-day kindergarten has been properly warned on the school board agenda, people from both sides have shown up, voiced their opinions, and asked questions of our administrators and board members.  As I will continue to state, this time our communities’ right to have this opportunity was denied to us. The agenda, posted late the prior week, just references "kindergarten" as an item to be discussed (not voted upon) and that it would be discussed after the passage of the FY2012 budget.  There was no notice that this was going to be discussed as a budget item or program addition during the January 10th meeting so people would know to attend and voice their opinion.  You cannot say this was adequately discussed in a public forum if no one knew it was going to be discussed except those select few who were solicited by school employees to go and support it.

This forum is a wonderful resource for our community (many thanks over to Henry); but not everyone reads it, most certainly not everyone that has an opinion posts it here, and it doesn’t replace the boards’ and administration’s legal responsibility to warn the public properly of agenda items.   I do appreciate the discourse this forum allows community members to engage in.  I personally have enjoyed using it for years to keep myself informed about the little happenings around our community that you can truly enjoy in a small connected community like ours.

Having said this, there are never zero budget implications when a recurring program is added.  All board members and the administration stated in open session on January 10th that the costs for full-day kindergarten would be included in the general school budget for FY2013; this means that Fairfax taxpayers would then pay the $25,000 plus any salary increases and additional program expenses fully.  I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand all the nuances of Medicaid dollars versus general budget dollars in compiling a school budget.  The federal Medicaid funds being used are derived from taxes as well though.  The only reasons Medicaid dollars are being used this year to fund the additional cost to add full-day kindergarten instead of these expenses being directly placed in the general school budget are:  1.  the board could still state it met the Challenge and 2. an additional $25,000 would have had to be cut from the general school budget in order to add in this program and still allow the board to meet the Challenge.  Did these Medicaid dollars suddenly appear overnight?  No.  If full-day kindergarten was something the administration wanted to advocate for, then it should have been done so in an open, honest, and transparent way over the course of the many budget discussions and meetings the board held this year that would have allowed the public its right to comment on the issue.  Instead, the board and administration told the public that it would not be a part of the FY2012 budget.  Then, suddenly and without notice, the administration and board made an about-face and slid it in the budget without advance public warning. 

This further strikes me as deceptive to sneak in a controversial program for one year with the advertising that it will not cost anything and then hit the taxpayers with the full cost (again the roughly $25,000 plus the salary increases and additional program expenses, if we trust the current figure provided by this administration) the following year as part of the general FY2013 budget.  Would the public even be notified of the breakdown of costs at that point because it is an existing program?  Or would it be hidden in the general ‘kindergarten’ line item for the budget for the year?  I personally don’t trust that the taxpayers would be notified. 

I went to the January 10th school board meeting to speak out against staff members petitioning in the school hallways during school hours.  This was important to me because our local Success By Six program received calls from parents who were made to feel uncomfortable by this because they were not in support of full-day kindergarten.   I was shocked to say the least when full-day kindergarten came up for a vote to be included in the FY2012 budget while I was sitting there.  I felt intentionally deceived by the agenda, the board, and the administration.  The agenda posted for this meeting clearly sold this as an item that would not be discussed as part of the FY2012 budget that was to be voted upon that very night.  This is compounded again by the board and administration haven clearly told the public that this program was not going to be added for FY2012 as well. 

Yes, I was able to speak out against full-day kindergarten during this meeting because I was accidentally sitting there.  Another parent who had been approached to sign the petition who was opposed to full-day kindergarten was also there and spoke in opposition.  It saddened and troubled me greatly to think of all the voices that went unheard and unsolicited from the board and administration that night.  My thought went out immediately to all the families and community members who I personally know who are opposed to full-day kindergarten, the ones I don’t know who are opposed, and those who are undecided who could have asked questions and been part of the discussion who would wake up the next morning not knowing something that was important to them was so silently snuck in the budget. 

There are a number of people who won’t speak their opinion because of fear of public backlash or ridicule that sometimes comes from publicizing an opinion.  It is difficult for parents and community members to speak publicly against a position that both an administration and their children’s past, current, or future teachers hold.  What is great about the country we live in is that we have an Australian ballot voting system.  People in our community get to go into the voting booth on Town Meeting Day and cast a vote or an opinion completely on their own.  This is where all registered voters in our community get to speak.  I have publicly stated I will be voting NO to this budget for many reasons.  The two main reasons are that I do not support full-day kindergarten and that I do not support back-door attempts to slide in controversial programming without advance public notice.

The unfortunate position the board and administration have put the community of Fairfax in with their actions on January 10th is that most people will go into the voting booth and vote on a budget that they do not know includes full-day kindergarten.  It was my hope in making this post to do my small part to alert the community to this slide-in item.
Frankly, I find it irresponsible to suggest that if the budget is voted down, that other programs may be lost like drama and so we should just support the budget.  This is simply a scare tactic. If the budget contains items you do not support, it is your right and responsibility to do your part to vote it down and make your voice heard. 

As far as what will happen, if consolidation occurs between Fairfax and Fletcher regarding the kindergarten programs, that will ultimately be up to the new Board and the people of both communities.

As for my statements regarding the research being irresponsible, I would encourage you each to read the research reports I cited and re-read my statements.  I did not say the research says nothing that could be read as support for full-day kindergarten.  The research I cited were compilations of research from around the country done by the US Department of Education and by a think tank (Rand) at the behest of Congress; they were not just based on one study.   I said the research I cited clearly states that the evidence demonstrates that full-day kindergarten does not provide a lasting effect.  That is all I said.  That is not irresponsible, it is re-stating what these very reports state.  I find it ironic that for years the biggest trump card supporters of full-day kindergarten, especially the school administrators and faculty, seemed to think they had was that "all the research supports the benefits of full-day kindergarten.”   Now that research is pointed out to the public to demonstrate that this is not the case, all of sudden the research simply results in a stalemate and we should not even be talking about it.

I am not Patricia and Co.  I am a mom, a wife, a teacher, a daughter, an employee, a community and school volunteer, and community member among many other hats that each individual invariably wears throughout the course of their everyday life.  I am also a Fairfax taxpayer who will be voting NO to the FY2012 school budget. 

14
My last post was primarily to respond with what information I have to concerns/questions that people have raised.  These concerns were not addressed this year during school board meetings due to the process the administration and board followed. 

The comparison to the transparency of my or anyone’s home budget is not applicable.  The school budget uses public funds, and laws exist to make sure that the budget is transparent.  Of course I expect the budget and the process to adopt it to be open and transparent; I would hope that we would all expect the same of any governmental entity.

For those who do not know, the school currently has a kindergarten intervention program for those students deemed by the kindergarten teachers to need it; this essentially equates to a full day at school for those students. This program began in the 2008-09 school year and run by a paraeducator (according to the administration, this is the third year of the program).  Full-day kindergarten was last considered by the board during the budget planning meetings for the 2009-10 school  year.  The intervention program, which had already begun, clearly was not started in response to full-day kindergarten being removed from the budget.  The kindergarten teachers themselves began to take turns running the intervention program during the 2009-10 school year.  The practical effect is that the school basically pays one full-time and three 2/3-time teacher salaries over the course of the year for the 4 2/3-day classrooms with the intervention program.  This program will be discontinued if full-day kindergarten is offered.  The administration has offered no data at this point about the effectiveness of the program, so we do not know how well it is working.

As far as the last time full-day kindergarten was put in the budget, we do not know how much support it had because it never reached a public vote.  The kindergarten committee formed during the 2008-09 school year, of which I was a part, did not unanimously support adding a full-day program but reached a compromise to recommend implementing a full-day gradually.  This recommendation was at first supported by the administration and presented to the board.  Before full-day kindergarten was eventually removed from the 2009-10 budget, however, the same administration had withdrawn its support and stated that it would implement full-day kindergarten immediately rather than follow the committee’s recommendation.

To clear up a misquote, the research reports I cited was not 10-15 years old but from 2004 and 2006.  The internet links were put in my earlier post to allow anyone interested to read the research reports cited.  Everyone can choose to believe what they wish, and everyone is free to say “I choose to believe that full day kindergarten is beneficial.”  The research, however, does not support the notion that full-day kindergarten provides any lasting advantage. 

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Cedarman asks:
“Is the proposal to go from 4 classes at 2/3 day to 3 classes at full day?

How large has the decline in enrollment been?
What would the impact to student to teacher ratios for kindergarten be if this change is implemented?”

Counselor says:
“I think full day kindergarten no matter how it is implemented with time for rest, relaxation and play is essential and inevitable.”

mkr says:
“I would like to truly hear what the teachers will do with the full day vs the current curriculum.”

There seems to be a lot of confusion over the costs associated with moving to a full-day kindergarten program that community members, including myself, are trying to figure out and guess at on our own.

Ansbaker says, “This isn’t a “research-based” discussion.”

These are all good points and questions that could have been asked if the public had been properly notified in advance of the proposal to add a full-day kindergarten program during the final budget board meeting of the year. 

This is the information I have:

The full-day kindergarten program that was voted into the FY2012 budget is for 3 full-day classrooms.  (Yes, the existing 4 2/3 day classes would become only 3 full-day classes.)  The administration offers that any parents opposed to full-day may pick up their child at noon, but there will not be transportation offered for this option. 

The school board also voted in a longer school day during the January 10th meeting.  School begins at 8:25 am currently; it will begin at 8:10 am beginning next year.  This will mean even earlier bus pick-ups.  Every year, some kindergarteners fall asleep on their bus ride home at noon as it is.  The school board also just formed a committee to look at consolidating Fairfax and Fletcher schools.  This too would have an impact on the length of bus rides on both ends of the day for our youngest students.

The typical kindergarten enrollment is 60 children.  In 2009-10, a fourth kindergarten classroom was added because the enrollment was to be 64 or higher; both the staff and administration argued that reduced class sizes were needed.  In 2010-11, enrollment is currently projected to be 60.  However, the average class size (according to birth record data) will continue to be around the 60 threshold for the next two years before there is a peak again of around 70 children.  This is not an exact science; some families do move away each year, but roughly the same number of families also move into town. 

There will be an impact on the student : teacher ratio.  Currently with 4 classrooms, there is a 15 children : 1 teacher and 1 paraeducator ratio.  With a move back to 3 classrooms, this will increase the ratio to 20+ children : 1 teacher and 1 paraeducator. 

As for the topic of rest, the administration has been clear that there will not be a rest time offered that has the children lay down and rest their bodies and sleep if needed.  According to the 2008 fact sheet (the only information this administration has put out to the public regarding its full-day kindergarten plans), a 15-20 minute “quiet choice time following lunch is a part of our elementary routine.”  Each elementary classroom offers this choice time as a transition from lunch/recess back to learning mode.  The State of Vermont requires childcare providers to provide a 30 minute rest time to the kindergarteners in their care.

According to the 2008 fact sheet, the administration has stated that, “there will be no curriculum additions as we move to a full day kindergarten.”

As for the issue of cost, the number presented to the board on January 10th was an approximate $25,000 increase over the cost for the kindergarten program that had been planned for next year. This increase seems to be lower for next year than previous years possibly because it represents the reduction in classrooms from 4 to 3 for next year, instead of previous estimates which compared costs for 3 extended day classrooms to 3 full day classrooms.  It is also possibly lower than previous estimates because it eliminates the intervention program which targeted the children with the greatest identified needs.  The previous shifting estimates of the increase were included in my original post.  The costs for next year, and next year alone, would be borne by Medicaid funding because the Board wished to still state that they had met the Challenges for Change initiative.  However, both the administration and the Board were clear that after next year the costs would be included in the general budget, thus having an impact on property taxes.  It is also important to note that the costs of full day will only rise every year as staff salaries increase.  It is unclear if this figure takes into account all of the incidental costs, like increased utilities, associated with this type of program addition.  At this point it seems very undocumented and unclear why these cost estimates shift each time this subject is brought up. 

According to ansbaker, this isn’t a research based discussion.  Yet, whenever administration and staff point out that our community needs to add a full-day kindergarten program, they state that research supports it and that other non-comparable communities are doing it.  The communities around us that have gone to full-day have been ˝ day programs.  Ours is not a ˝ but an extended or 2/3 day program.  If you negate the research discussion, then we are left with only copying non-comparable programs. 

Counselor says, “Please do not vote no, simply because you are mad at perceived imperfections or wrongdoings in the process (the petty vote).”  I would say that we are all role models for the children in our community.  If the administration wanted to add full-day kindergarten into the budget for FY2012, there was an open, honest and transparent way to do so.  It would have involved clear advertising of this agenda item, having financial information available to the public, having discussions over the course of the many budget meetings that take place each year, and taking public comment.  While this has been done before, there are currently Board members who were not involved in that previous discussion, the recommendations of the previously formed kindergarten committee were not followed, and no information about what the program will actually look like has been presented.  When elected officials form public policy that impacts every person in our town, the process matters.  Even if you wholeheartedly support full-day kindergarten, it is my hope that you would want your Board to properly investigate and consider the issue and elicit community input before putting it in the budget at the last minute when they had already stated that it was not going to be included.  I would hope that people would expect leaders and role models in our town to follow the process they were elected to follow even when it may go against their own personal views.   At this point, the only way for this to happen is for the taxpayers of Fairfax to vote down the FY2012 budget.

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