West River Education advisory councils invite community to help

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TOWNSHEND — Craig Roach wanted to know about the community he was joining when he took on the position of principal at Townshend Elementary School last year, so he formed a council to get feedback on what's going well and what could be better. And now with school choice being offered within the West River Modified Union Education District, he will have 17 new students coming from nearby towns to join his classes next year.

"Townshend Elementary School is a small village school but we're going to be getting a lot more students and communities from the outside," he said Monday during the West River district board meeting. "So I need to get a finger on the pulse of the people coming in."

Roach established a principal advisory council based off a memo from the Vermont Agency of Education. Similar programs will be rolled out in the other West River Modified Union Education District schools soon.

The councils are meant to assist principals with identifying the needs of students and ways to improve the school. But they can also help with things like hiring.

"A school council is a representative, school building-based committee composed of the principal, parents, teachers, community members and, at the secondary level, students," the AOE said. "Site-based decision making also allows teachers and administrators to work with parents and the community to become more responsible to the needs of a particular school's population."

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This year, after soliciting feedback from the council, Townshend Elementary adopted a new math program and an English Language Acquisition program in kindergarten. It held monthly Community STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Days. Art made in the school will be displayed at the Moore Free Library in Newfane and the Robert H. Gibson River Garden in Brattleboro. And the annual Townshend Pumpkin Festival will be held at the school.

Roach said the council at his school meets for an hour every month.

Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School is establishing a school advisory council with one middle school parent, two high school parents, one middle school teacher, one high school teacher, one administrator, one middle school student and one high school student. "Primary functions" include advising administrators on school operations and programming, providing insight. The school will be advertising the formation of the council and distributing applications.

NewBrook Elementary School is hosting a presentation about starting a council and recruiting members this month.

Jamaica Village School will be establishing a council in the fall.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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