By Gareth Henderson, Standard Staff
The Woodstock Union High School and Middle School have seen several administrative positions filled this year under a new structure, and the Windsor Central Supervisory Union’s new superintendent is overseeing efforts to improve communication between the school and the community.
These developments come after the WUHSMS Board in April approved a plan to transition to a single administration for grades 7-12, after years of the high school and middle school having separate administrations. At the time, some parents and staff complained that there had not been enough communication with them about the plan as it took shape.
In an interview last week, new Superintendent Mary Beth Banios said that, to boost those communications in the short-term, the SU has entered into a short-term contract with communications professional Kim Jackson, to help introduce the new administrative team to the community. A Facebook page is being created, Banios said.
“We need to do an excellent job of communicating with people about the new structure at the high school, and communicate the intentions,” the superintendent said.
In the long-term, she added, the SU is trying to get a communications intern into the district for assistance with a broader communications approach using social media, video and other tools “at a really high level.”
On the matter of communications with staff, Banios said it was too early to give details, but said she’s working on that area of the SU’s communications as well.
“One of the values that I hold is the idea of a teacher voice in decisionmaking, and I’m looking to put in mechanisms that allow for teacher voice and teacher leadership,” Banios said.
Recently, WUHSMS Principal Garon Smail said the administration is working on a Frequently Asked Questions sheet for parents, in order to clarify who to turn to for answers on specific school topics in the new structure. Smail also said the new administrative structure will allow him to do more “big-picture community engagement,” helping to connect with the community outside the building more often.
In June, the SU hired longtime science teacher Jennifer Stainton as the full-time curriculum coordinator
and hired Heather Lawler as the associate principal – both new positions within the 7-12 structure at WUHSMS. Hannah Leland is the new dean of students.
Smail said Stainton’s “real focus right now, has been working on all our standard curriculum practices and assessment practices.”
Under the “7-12 Leadership Transition Model” approved in April, a key part of the associate principal’s job is to oversee interdisciplinary teams for grades 7, 8 and 9 – which, Smail previously explained, is designed to make transitions between those grades smoother.
The plan also includes several main goals, including sustaining middle and high school best practices that are already working, and emphasizing “collaboration among faculty, staff and administrators across grade levels and alignment of curriculum across grades.” Under the new 7-12 structure, Smail said last week, it’s “easier to offer a great diversity of programming school-wide.” He also noted that some programs were 7-12 already, like foreign language, and that the arts program shares teachers.
Administratively, Smail said, the new structure avoids duplication of tasks that might have occurred when having two administrations operating in the same building.
Last week, Banios said a major focus this summer has been building a strong leadership team at the supervisory union. The SU had a two-day administrative retreat, something Banios said had never been done before. At the retreat, held at the national park’s Forest Center, SU officials worked on goal-setting for the year.
“Thinking deeply about (communications) around the (Act 46) merger” was a big part of that retreat, Banios said, noting the “challenges and difficult feelings” that around around Act 46. As a result, she said, SU leadership came up with three key messages: 1 – we can solve more problems and provide more opportunities when we work as one; 2 – we can take on complex issues while valuing and respecting individual communities; 3 – our intention is a win-win, not a win-lose proposition.
This article first appeared in the August 24, 2017 edition of the Vermont Standard.