Tuesday, January 06, 2015


News to Know December 11, 2014

BERLIN NEWS TO KNOW  December 11, 2014
This  communication is put together and distributed on a volunteer basis by resident Corinne Stridsberg simply in an effort to share information and build community, it is not from the town of Berlin.
Please share this with your Berlin friends and neighbors.  If you're not already receiving this news directly by email, send an email to request this to corinnestridsberg@gmail.com.
"In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing." Theodore Roosevelt

Have you liked the Berlin, Vermont facebook page yet?  Great resource especially for breaking news...   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Berlin-Vermont/205922199452224

CANDY CANES at Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe - we've gone there with the kids, fun to do and it's a wonderful smell. Enjoy this WCAX video of how the candy canes are made. Hours and cost at end of video. http://www.wcax.com/story/27547139/destination-recreation-candy-cane-making

Below you will find:

   With the heavy snow that has falling in the area over night, it is important that you pay attention to your roofs, heavy snow loads can cause roofs to collapse.
   If you have any concerns do not hesitate to contact us!
   Dangers of Snow-Covered Roofs
   Picturesque snow-capped houses are charming, but don't be fooled by their delicate beauty. Snow has a great deal of weight, and that weight increases immensely when rain, ice and sleet are added to the mix. Two feet of snow on the average-sized roof can be the equivalent of 38,000 pounds, or 19 tons, NBC News reports. All of this weight puts stress on your roof and weakens its structure.
   Complicating matters more, the melting of this mass can cause water seepage, which can rot roofs, destroy insulation, flood attics, ruin gutters and damage the interior of your home.
   Before attempting to remove snow from roofs, take note that clearing roofs can be a dangerous task. Think twice before jumping on the roof with a shovel in hand, taking the wrong step on an icy roof can easily send you sliding down a slippery slope.
   Warning Signs That a Roof Is About to Collapse
   The obvious sign that a roof is about to give way is sagging. Also, if you hear creaking, cracking, popping sounds, you should get out of the building as quickly as possible, as these are strong indicators of an imminent collapse.
   Severe roof leaks, bowed pipes attached at the ceilings, cracks in the walls or masonry, doors that pop open, as well as doors or windows that are difficult to open are also signs people should look for.
   In addition to your roofs, take heed of decks. Often times they are DIY projects and may not be up to standard. This makes them highly susceptible to collapse under the weight of the snow and ice.
   Miles Silk Jr - Chief
   Berlin Vol. Fire Department
From December 4th-December 17th, Berlin Elementary school staff and community members will be able to pick a mitten from the school's Mitten Line and help support someone in our school community.
Each mitten will have a child’s gender, age and one gift on it. When you choose your mitten, please come to the main office. They will record the number on the back along with your name and phone number.
All wrapped gifts need to be returned by December 19th with the mitten attached.
Thank you so much for your generosity and for helping our school community during this holiday season.
Barre Farmers Market Holiday Market is Friday, December 12th 3pm - 7pm at the Old Labor Hall at 49 Granite Street in Barre.  Free admission.  Live Music.  Raffle.
First Congregational Church of Berlin - Wednesday, December 24 at 7:00 pm Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. All are welcome to join us for scripture, hymns, handbells and candlelight singing.
Find them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Congregational-Church-of-Berlin/336491369778762
Pub. 12/10/14
   BURLINGTON — The American Red Cross is encouraging donors to give a gift this holiday season by donating blood.
   The need for blood is constant and doesn’t get a holiday break, the organization said.
   In the Barre-Montpelier area, a blood drive is set for Dec. 22 at
Central Vermont Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
   The Red Cross will give all those who attempt to donate blood from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4 a long-sleeve Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
   Eligible donors with all blood types are needed, especially those with type O negative, A negative or B negative. To learn more about donating blood, where blood draws are taking place and to schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED-CROSS.
Some doctors are prescribing vegetables instead of pills ... buying local helps in many ways! http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/prescribing-vegetables-not-pills/?_r=0
Selectboard - Monday, Dec. 15th with a budget meeting at 5:30pm and their regular meeting at 7pm at the Town office. 
Development Review Board - Tuesday, Dec. 16th 7pm at the Town office. 
Berlin Economic Development Committee meets on Wednesday, Dec. 17th at 5:30pm at the Town office.
Note that the Town offices will be closing early on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and will be closed on Christmas and New Years Day.
Regular hours are posted on the Town website: www.berlinvt.org
When the Second Draft of the Berlin Elementary School budget was presented on 12/10 there were 11 guests attending the board meeting.  In addition to the second draft being presented, there was an additional list of potential cuts shared, information that the board had requested to see what cuts could be made to get the budget down more.  These potential areas include:
All of the above cuts won't necessarily be made, it's still in discussion and sounded like the Instructional Staff member was least likely to be cut.  Note these are in addition to the cutbacks that were made last year which included cuts to preschool, .2 FTE Art, .2 FTE PE, and .2 FTE Nurse.  There is no sign of restoring the time to Art, PE, or Nurse's positions. 
Contact board members with questions or comments.
Drafts of all the district school budgets can be found at: http://wcsuonline.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=274:school-budgets&catid=121:school-budget-information-&Itemid=174
The minutes from the First Budget Draft being presented Nov. 10th are on the school website and the Dec. 10th minutes should be there soon. (To find them: www.berlinschool.org - under "About" pick "School Board" , then on the right side pick "Minutes")
The next regular Berlin Elementary Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 12th at 6:15pm.  Finalized budget information is due at the Town Clerk's office that week to be included in the Town Report which will be going to print.
Pub. 12/3/14 Times Argus by Amy Ash Nixon
WCSU efficiency options include closings
   EAST MONTPELIER — Elementary schools in the U-32 towns have enough unused space that some could be combined and others closed, while U-32 could absorb sixth-graders into its middle school, according to an efficiency study of Washington Central Supervisory Union.
   A 38-page report that represents the first phase of the study will be presented to the supervisory union’s board at its meeting tonight at
6 p.m. at U-32, followed by a budget forum at 7 p.m., according to Superintendent Bill Kimball.
   Noting a trend of declining enrollment and escalating costs, the supervisory union executive committee commissioned the study by Michael R. Deweese, of Branch Schoolhouse Consulting LLC. It was completed this fall.
   “In short, WCSU’s plight mirrors that of
Vermont,” Deweese says in the report. “As enrollment has dropped (but beginning to level out), expenditures have continued to grow. An examination of WCSU’s possible efficiencies is a prudent activity.”
   The study involved a review of records and documents and interviews with administrators, supervisory union personnel and the superintendent. It also involved independent observations, the report notes.
   Deweese is a retired
Vermont educator who has worked for three of Vermont’s supervisory unions.
   The study quantifies the drops in enrollment in all five member towns during the last 20 years and five years: Berlin down 21.1 percent and 3.2 percent; Calais 34.2 percent and 7.8 percent; East Montpelier 14.3 percent and 14.7 percent; Middlesex 15.2 percent and 4.2 percent; and Worcester 41.9 percent and 16.4 percent.
   “The enrollment conditions of WCSU’s member communities generally follow the state’s overall trends,” Deweese notes.
   The supervisory union’s increase in per-pupil spending between fiscal years 2003 and 2013 was 65.4 percent, slightly above the statewide average over the period of 61 percent, his report says.
   Local spending was $16,972 per pupil in fiscal 2013, about $200 above the state average.
   Deweese outlines several opportunities for change, arranged around a series of themes.
   One of those is called structural opportunities and includes the option of moving all sixth-graders to U-32, where Deweese says a “restructured and expanded middle grades configuration” is possible.
   Whether that shift is made or not, there remains unused space at most elementary buildings, he writes. “While all schools have a tendency to capitalize on otherwise unused space, many WCSU classrooms are not at capacity, nor are all classroom spaces being used for classrooms. Through attendance zoning (or other logical mechanisms), one or more elementary schools could be closed, with the affected town school districts sharing building(s) and governance through formalized joint contract arrangements,” the report proposes.
   The theme of operations includes a suggestion to eliminate the current separate bus routes for elementary and secondary students, which Deweese says “duplicates miles and costs, and serves as a ‘driver’ in defining the school day for all schools.”
   “There are schools in
Vermont that have had success with elementary and secondary students co-existing on buses. Reducing two runs to one could yield bus contract efficiencies,” the report says.
   “Additionally, an examination of ridership on routes is currently under consideration, which could highlight the efficacy of the defined bus routes. If families are not regularly accessing the student transportation service, then route adjustments may be in order to reduce the number of ‘routes,’” Deweese suggests.
   Other areas that could generate operational efficiencies include business operations, centralized services, collective bargaining, human resources, professional and curriculum development, special education and technology.
   Deweese’s examination of governance and board structures includes such opportunities as expanding the work of the WCSU full board, streamlining the goal-setting process, remanding educational issues to the administration, restructuring principals’ roles with board meetings, reducing WCSU’s and U-32 policy committees to one, and establishing common policies.
   After tonight’s presentation, those at the meeting will split into groups and be asked to consider which changes would be easy and should be done quickly; which should be done because they will lead to better outcomes for students; and which have the most potential savings.
   Kimball said that in March the board will receive an analysis of costs and potential savings from the recommendations, courtesy of George Cormier, former Lamoille South Supervisory Union chief financial officer.
   amy.nixon @timesargus.com
Pub. 12/5/14 Times Argus by Amy Ash Nixon
WCSU district has consolidation opportunities
   EAST MONTPELIER — A consultant has determined that much of the elementary school space in the Washington Central Supervisory Union is underutilized.
   At a meeting of the WCSU board Wednesday to discuss possible steps toward fiscal sustainability for district taxpayers, the author of the study, retired
Vermont superintendant Michael Deweese, told representatives from the district’s five school boards he is not recommending that schools be closed. However, he drew attention to some facts about consolidation opportunities and gave more modest suggestions for consideration.
   Of 58 total classrooms in the five WCSU elementary schools, 41 are being used as full-time classrooms, meaning nearly a third do not house full-time classes, he said. Deweese’s information broke down how the classrooms are used in each school.
   Of 16 classrooms in Berlin Elementary School, 11 are used by a full-time class; in Calais, seven of 11 are being used by a full-time class; at East Montpelier Elementary, 11 of the 15 classrooms are in full-time use by a class; Middlesex’s Rumney Memorial School shows all eight of its classrooms in use by a full-time class; and of the eight classrooms in Worcester’s Doty School, just four are used by a full-time class.
   “That’s where you are at in terms of utilization. ... It does raise the question, do you have more capacity than you need,” said Deweese.
   One of the more radical ideas, on a list of 55, was to relocate grade six to U-32, creating even more space in the elementary schools, allowing for closure of one or more of them.
   “Am I telling you to close schools? No, I’m not doing that,” said Deweese. But that conversation is now on the table as the boards look to serve students and respond to cries from taxpayers to control spending and tax increases, an ever-growing chorus statewide.
   “While there would be complex collective bargaining matters requiring attention, and formalized arrangements would necessitate state action, this has successfully occurred elsewhere in
Vermont and can serve as models for examination,” Deweese said in his 38-page report. “Doty and Calais are two schools for initial consideration.”
   Of the need to look at the physical buildings in terms of efficiency, the report noted, “WCSU has six school buildings across its six districts, ranging in enrollment from an approximate low of 75 (Doty) to an approximate high of 801 (U-32). The schools are not operating at capacity, nor based on enrollment projections are they likely to in the foreseeable future. Maximizing school facilities could result in one (or more) fewer schools, thus saving operational and some personnel savings; it should be noted that not all positions at a closed school would be eliminated, although some could. More balanced and predictable teacher-student ratios are made possible with fewer facilities.”
   Deweese noted that “principals were clear that while some classrooms may not be regularly occupied (by) a class, that all were used at least part time for instruction (such as library, foreign language, math, language arts).”
   Finding ways to share services such as maintenance and building and grounds functions is another sensible step to be more efficient, according to him. Food service consolidation was another, and he suggested centralizing menu planning — capitalizing on commodities pricing advantages — and moving food services to the district rather than individual school level. “It would mean a shift to fewer kitchens,” he said.
   Deweese also urged the boards to look for opportunities to work with other districts to be efficient, a step already underway between U-32 and
   Another suggestion was to employ a school nurse leader and a school health services delivery model.
   “Your transportation system is solid, but it’s redundant. You know that,” Deweese added, saying the miles and costs are being doubled up, noting that kindergarten through 12th grade students are being put on the same buses in many areas, and it’s working.
   Other suggestions for efficiency include collective bargaining and direct deposit for all employee reimbursements.
   Deweese said some of the low-hanging fruit could be implemented quickly but asked board members to focus on the items that really jumped out for them.
   Stephen Looke, chairman of the executive committee of WCSU and an
East Montpelier board member, said the presentation was the beginning of a lengthy process.
   “One of the goals of the executive committee this year was to conduct an efficiency study to see where there may be efficiencies to be had,” said Looke, noting that board members received the report only Tuesday.
   Pads were put out for board members to submit questions. The executive committee will begin analyzing the report and input, and make a presentation to the full board in March, Looke said.
   amy.nixon @timesargus.com
Pub. 12/10/14 Times Argus by Amy Ash Nixon
   EAST MONTPELIER — Deep within a 40-page study on efficiencies commissioned by the Washington Central Supervisory Union’s executive board is a suggestion for the reconfiguration and consolidation of some elementary schools.
Opportunity 50 report, prepared by consultant Michael Deweese, a retired school superintendent from Vermont, identifies some 55 opportunities.
   The report suggests reconfiguring grades and schools in the supervisory union, and specifically points to two of the five elementary schools as being under-utilized: Doty in
Worcester and the Calais Elementary School.
   Each of the five feeder communities to Washington Central Supervisory Union now has its own elementary school; and each of those communities sends pupils in grades 7-12 to high school at U-32 in
East Montpelier.
   In the study, Deweese noted that “maximizing school facilities could result in one (or more) fewer schools, thus saving operational and some personnel savings.” Specifically, he mentioned Doty and
Calais as possible schools in that evaluation.
   In making the case before a full boards meeting of the supervisory union last week, Deweese noted the amount of under-utilized space at each of the union’s elementary schools. In many cases, extra classroom space is being used for other educational purposes, he noted, but not for full-time classes.
   Doty, with eight total classrooms, is using half of its classrooms, he stated in his report.
Calais Elementary School, seven of the school’s 11 classrooms are in use by a full-time class.
   In his presentation to the boards last week, Deweese shared historical enrollment information, showing declines in enrollment over 20 years across all towns.
   Charlotte Hanna, chairwoman of the Calais School Board, this week was asked to respond to her town’s school being specifically targeted for potential consolidation.
   School board members had not had a lot of time before last week’s unveiling of the study at the presentation to review the study, said Hanna, and this early leg of the study contains no cost information, she noted. The second phase of the study, now being undertaken, will include costs associated with the 55 possible changes toward greater efficiency.
   Superintendent Bill Kimball said that information would be available before Town Meeting Day.
   “The bottom line is that it’s so new none of us has had a chance to study it,” stated Hanna of the study. “And the cost estimates that I consider a crucial component won’t come in until March.”
   Hanna stated that the school being mentioned in the study as one that could possibly be on the table for proposed consolidation is now a topic that the board will be discussing.
   “So certainly we’ll start talking about it now, but I am not clear that any recommendations will find their way into our budget planning at
Calais Elementary School,” stated Hanna in an email.
   She went on, offering this context for the discussion ahead, “(The) Public Assets Institute tells us education spending has remained stable over time as a percentage of overall state spending; we have had very expensive mandates come from Montpelier with no matching source of revenue,” she continued. “And every school employee will tell you that the needs of all students have increased significantly in recent years, with real cost impacts. That’s the ‘we’re doing OK’ point of view.”
   She said Gov. Peter Shumlin and Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe are also right, however, that on the whole “we have concentrated on effectiveness (how well we’re doing) a lot more than on efficiency (how cost-effective we are). And
Calais, like every town, has experienced whopping tax increases over the past three years.”
   It has become a very personal discussion, she said.
   “I have stood up in front of taxpayers at town meeting and asked them to support that high level of increase — even though Calais Elementary’s budget added no increase to the total. I can’t keep asking in all good conscience,” she stated.
   According to Hanna, “A recent budget meeting at the school drew about 30 people; interestingly they represented all three points of view in roughly equal measure: hold the line on spending, cut significantly, and add what you need in order to continue the quality we have. It’s sure hard to know how to respond to that. ... But board members have a responsibility to taxpayers as well as to students, and we need to be responsive to both.”
   Chani Waterhouse, chairwoman of the Doty Elementary School Board, also weighed in: “The efficiency study commissioned by the WCSU presents very preliminary findings,” Waterhouse stated in an email. ... We will receive more detailed information in March about potential cost savings associated with the findings. ... I look forward to discussing opportunities to increase efficiency at Doty in the future, to ensure that
Worcester’s taxpayer dollars are used wisely.”
Washington Central Supervisory Union, 2014 Efficiency Study, Phase I, December 3, 2014
Michael R. Deweese, Ed.D., Branch Schoolhouse Consulting, LLC

This 34-page report can be found on the WCSU website

Below is a listing of the 55 "Opportunities" identified

THEME 1: Governance & Board Structures

Opportunity 1    Expand the work of the WCSU Full Board.
Opportunity 2    Streamline goal setting process.
Opportunity 3    Reconsider the composition and work of the Executive Committee.
Opportunity 4    Audit local board agendas.
Opportunity 5    Strengthen board agendas and management meetings.
Opportunity 6    Assert clear purpose for administrative reporting.
Opportunity 7    Remand educational issues to the administration.
Opportunity 8    Examine the responsibilities of board members as articulated in the "WCSU Roles and Responsibilities Manual for Administrators and Board Members."
Opportunity 9    Restructure principals' roles with board meetings.
Opportunity 10  Clarify accountability chains.
Opportunity 11  Make principals' responsibilities current.
Opportunity 12  Adopt an administrative compensation schedule.
Opportunity 13  Revisit the necessity for a governance role on the employment of central office administrators.
Opportunity 14  Annually subscribe to codes of ethics and protocols.
Opportunity 15  Delegate acceptance of all grants to the superintendent.
Opportunity 16  Reduce WCSU's and U-32 policy committees to one.
Opportunity 17  Establish common policies.
Opportunity 18  Remand responsibility for procedures to the superintendent.
Opportunity 19  Edit board presence on the schools' web sites.

THEME II: Operations

Opportunity 20  Audit the current district financial software
Opportunity 21  Examine the work-flow of the purchasing structure.
Opportunity 22  Enable electronic inter-agency payments.
Opportunity 23  Rethink principals' contract terms.
Opportunity 24  Consider the effects of principals managing contracts and vendors.
Opportunity 25  Use common bidding approaches
Opportunity 26  Know when to go "off" the state bid list.
Opportunity 27  Authorize bill payments in advance of warrants.
Opportunity 28  Reconsider purchasing and accounts payable practices.
Opportunity 29  Administratively re-norm formatting of financial statements.

Centralized Services

Opportunity 30  Design a shared services model for property services / maintenance / building and grounds functions.
Opportunity 31  Utilize the purchasing power of Vermont's FMDA
Opportunity 32  Consolidate food service functions.
Opportunity 33  Employ the "School Nurse Leader" school health services delivery model.
Opportunity 34  Restructure the student transportation system.

Collective Bargaining
Opportunity 35  Consider the impact of collective bargaining agreements on instructional leadership.
Opportunity 36  Use electronic payments required for all employee reimbursements.
Opportunity 37  Require direct deposit for payroll.

Human Resources

Opportunity 38  Consider the effects of limited human resources staffing at the WCSU office, and the related effect on principals' time.
Opportunity 39  Consider Information Technology and Human Resources as departments for joint agreements with the other supervisory union(s).
Opportunity 40  Install technology-based substitute management and human resource systems.
Opportunity 41  Share elementary schools' professional development in situ.
Opportunity 42  Use remote technology to make curriculum development more cost effective.
Opportunity 43  Enforce pre-paid or reimbursed professional development costs more strictly.

Special Education

Opportunity 44  Redeploy some education specialists through central assignments.
Opportunity 45  Continue to build on alternative student placement opportunities through regional collaborative ventures.
Opportunity 46  Assess the currency of the U-#32 special education services delivery model.


Opportunity 47  Standardize technology training.
Opportunity 48  Set design parameters for schools' web sites.
Opportunity 49  Switch traditional phone service to VoIP.

THEME III: Structural Opportunities

Opportunity 50  Reconfigure grades and schools.
Opportunity 51  Expand rights of transfer within the teachers' and ESP collective bargaining agreements.
Opportunity 52  Make alternative work years or schedules non-elective.
Opportunity 53  Provide more clarity on work day definitions.
Opportunity 54  Evaluate the school calendar.
Opportunity 55  Monitor U-32 Policy G16: Class (Section) Size.


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