February 13, 2019: Penguin Plunge and lots more ...
I hope Williston families are enjoying this mid-week snow day. For administrators, it's generally a chance to get some quiet work time in the office and get caught up on a few things. I for one am enjoying the opportunity! I hope your day includes at least some play in the snow and that all our Williston students get their taste of snowy fun outside!
It is always inspiring to participate in the Penguin Plunge for the VT Special Olympics. This year was no exception. With over 40 brave students and adults plunging this year, the Williston Schools team was the second highest fundraising school team of the entire event, raising nearly $17,000 for the VT Special Olympics. That is an impressive accomplishment that we should all be proud of. I hope our team grows to even larger numbers next year. Parents should know that they are welcome to join the team and jump along side their children. We have had students as young as kindergarten participate (last year) in this event! You should also know that the Williston Schools directly benefit from this event as well by receiving funds for our unified sports teams at WCS. Congratulations to all our brave penguins and all those who made a donation to support this great cause. $20,000 here we come!
Theme Week Food Drive - Williston Community Spirit
The overarching theme for next week's annual celebration at WCS is "Williston Community Spirit". To help celebrate that theme we are sponsoring a food drive and collecting canned and dry goods all this week and next Monday for the Williston Food Shelf. The food shelf would be grateful for all types of non-perishables but is most interested in cans of protein-rich items, spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, tuna, canned fruit, macaroni and cheese boxes, tomato products (sauce, diced, etc), and jelly. Any student who brings in food this week and next Monday morning will be entered in a raffle to win exciting Williston wear "swag" to be given out at the Theme Week assemblies on Friday, 2/22. Students are entered into the raffle once for every item they bring, with no maximum number of entries. During theme week, a team of 5th - 8th grade students will be designing and building a food sculpture to align with our theme of community spirit which will be proudly displayed in the Community Room. We will be sure to capture pictures of what promises to be an inspiring sculpture before the items are delivered to the food shelf after school on Friday, 2/22.
Williston Schools App Gets a Reboot!
- Did you know there was a free App for the Williston Schools?
- Did you know you can receive free push notifications on your cell phone about important school announcements, emergency closings, and athletics?
- Did you know you could use the App to quickly navigate to some of the most commonly requested school information, like our school lunch menu?
- Well, our APP has been recently updated and is ready for uploading to your favorite device. It works on iphone and Android platforms and is free.
- Search for the app on the itunes store or Google Play by typing Williston School District in the search bar.
Door Security and Traffic Flow
So far the minor change in door security procedures at WCS has gone smoothly. As a reminder to WCS families, the only two doors now opened in the morning for student entry are the main front entry doors and the Bell Tower doors on the back side of the building. (If you are not sure of what the Bell Tower doors are since we no longer have a Bell Tower : ) please see the short video below. We do continue to have some challenges with traffic flow at our busiest arrival and dismissal times and are asking your help in improving the situation. Most of the dangerous traffic flow issues at WCS are caused by people parking their cars in no-parking zones, especially on Library Lane across from the DAML and on the road that leads to the Town recreation fields. This creates a tight squeeze for our buses and other through-traffic causing frequent back-ups that sometimes extend to Rte 2. These parking patterns also creates tricky pedestrian flow mixed in with moving vehicles, which can be a dangerous combination. We are asking drivers picking up at WCS not to park in these two locations, but instead, please use marked parking stalls on the road to the recreation fields or in the main parking lot in the back of the building. Thank you for your help in keeping all our students safe and traffic moving as smoothly as possible during our busiest transition times.
We are convening a small group of concerned and enthusiastic parents who are interested in looking at our traffic flow concerns and investigate potential solutions. If you are interested in joining this group, please send me an note: email@example.com. I expect the group will require 3-4 hours of meeting time between now and Memorial Day weekend. For everyone else please see the very brief video below illustrating some directions related parent pick-up and drop off.
January 16, 2018. Thoughts for a new calendar year.
This turn in calendar has prompted the typical annual reflection for me, as it does for so many of us, about resolutions. This year my thoughts have centered around the question of "what's really important?" vs "what am I going to do differently?" For me, having downtime with my family over the break really helps to get the reflective juices flowing. As some of you know, I come from a relatively large family. I'm one of seven siblings and each of us "kids" has between two to five children in our own families. When we get together it makes for a wonderful and boisterous chaos with bodies, food, and laughter everywhere you turn. It's not all fun and games all the time. Like in any family, there are rough spots, underlying family tensions, illness, and loss. I understand how fortunate I am to have my family as a support in my life and am mindful not to take this incredible gift for granted. In addition to a few days with the larger Marino clan (30+ of us), I had a few quiet days with just my own a immediate family here in Williston. Both halves of the holiday break were amazing in different ways, and both experiences served as a good back drop for wrestling with the "what's really important?" question.
Beyond the super obvious affirmation that it is the connections and unconditional love of family that matters most, I had some more nuanced reminders and discoveries, thanks to a combination of small moments that came together. One of these was one that occurred at school, before the break. I was walking in the hallway at WCS and happened to be behind a student and school adult who were walking and talking together. The conversation they were having was about dogs and dog training, but it didn't take me long to realize that I was witnessing some very powerful teaching and learning happening before my eyes, and the learning had very little to do with dogs. The adult was clearly fully present in the moment, making all the moves that show someone they are truly being listened to. After a few moments passed, I began to hear the adult weaving in some big and generalizable life lessons related to the topic at hand that I could see had direct relevance to the student. The student gobbled these up like they were his favorite dessert, not the outcome of some arduous school lesson. This was no accident. The adult was thoughtfully integrating a skill set that simultaneously reflected sophisticated skill and deep caring. He was taking advantage of the moment, being fully present to the student and seizing the opportunity for learning, even if the student didn't realize class was in session.
The second small moment occurred when I came into the office over the break to do some work and I had the opportunity to read a card that a student had left for me on my desk. At one point in the half-page note, the student wrote, "I like how you greet everybody in the morning. Even me! And I like how you say "hi" to people when they walk by you in the hallway." I appreciated how this student was specific about his noticings instead of just saying, "I like how you are nice." The note was a timely reminder about how little things done repeatedly over time, like saying good morning and making eye contact with students, can have a significant impact on potentially lots of kids. It was also a reminder to keep these habits up, because they matter.
Shortly after returning from the break I was sharing with a colleague about an interesting book I had just finished, "Educated", a memoire by Tara Westover. I would highly recommend this book. The author artfully tells her personal story of growing up in rural Idaho as part of a family whose parents held extreme survivalist views and beliefs. She tells a fascinatingly compelling tale of the struggles, conflicts, and eventual moments of "education" she experiences against dramatic odds. The colleague asked me about the author, "Was there a key moment / pivot point in her life that made the difference?" After giving my response, (in fact there was a key moment, but I do not want to spoil the book for any of you who may want to read it) my colleague went on to say how she was really thinking about the power of small moments that she has with students in the context of her very busy day. She had come to believe that all these moments presented tremendous opportunity for positive impact, and had decided to be very intentional about noticing these moments and capitalizing on them.
These scenarios have converged on me in a way that has me re-tuning my radar to be aware and present for whatever moment I happen to be in, and remember the profound power of very short, small, interactions. I believe these opportunities, repeated over and over, can really add up and make a positive change in our school and beyond. In our Williston Schools of WCS and ABS I get to view so many of these opportunities every day. I am grateful to be surrounded by caring professionals who are always modeling being fully present for our students in even the simplest of ways. It's great to know this is one resolution that I will not have to go it alone on.
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.", - Maya Angelou
December 4, 2018. Some news and updates about School Safety:
One or two times per year, I like to use this Bell article to provide Williston Families with updates about the work our School Safety Committee is doing to help our learning community be as prepared as possible. The committee knows that one important element in this work is effective communication between school and the homes of our families. This is more than just common sense, it is what the experts recommend as a best practice. Here are key pieces of information that you should be aware of. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions if you have them.
Who is the Safety Committee and What do we do?
The Safety Team is a passionate group made up of school staff, faculty, administration, a parent, local emergency responders, and Town and community partners. Our mission is to continuously improve the knowledge, skills, and preparedness related to personal and institutional safety, especially in the schools of Williston. Please click on the link below to view a slide show that was shared at our Safety Open House / Meet and Greet that occurred in November at ABS. This slideshow provides a handy summary of who we are, what we do, and how we go about our work. The team has recently added a parent member, Mr. Peter Ferguson.
Parent Expectations in an Emergency:
It's important that parents have a clear understanding of what to do in the event of an emergency. We hope this document (linked below) provides you with this information. Please call or email if you have any questions.
New Door Security Procedures
We have recently taken a critical look at our door security procedures and have updated these to match the new entry configuration at WCS and to provide better accountability for visitors who may be unfamiliar to our amazing receptionists, Laura Gigliotti at ABS, and Amy Benoit at WCS. As a result of these updates, family members or visitors who come to school to pick up a student will be asked to show photo identification if these individuals are unfamiliar to our receptionist. This will occur even if you have notified the school of the pick-up arrangement in advance. The school wants to be certain that we verify the identity of anybody picking up a child and that these individuals are approved to do so. You can help by letting your relatives or friends know who may pick up your child to be prepared to show photo ID. You can also help by making sure your child's emergency contact card is up to date with the information related to who is allowed to pick up your child. If the school is ever unsure about this in a given situation, we will alway err on the side of caution and reach out to you by phone for verification. SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: Another scenario you may encounter when visiting during school hours is that the receptionist may ask you to turn towards the camera so that they can see you more clearly. People are bundled up in the winter time and it is sometimes more difficult to see faces under hats and hoods. Thanks for understanding if Laura or Amy ask you to turn to look at the camera so that they can verify who it is they are buzzing into the school.
Facility Threat Assessment Completed at WCS
Also undertaken during the busy month of November, a facility threat assessment was conducted by officers from the Williston Police Department. Two specially trained WPD officers spent a day at WCS to see how our facility and procedures stack up in terms of safety, security, and preparedness. The Safety Committee looks forward to reviewing the results to inform ongoing enhancements to the facility and procedures. We are so appreciative of our partnership with the Williston Police and their offer to complete this objective analysis for one of our schools. We will pursue having the same assessment completed for ABS in the coming months.
Staying Current With Best Practices in School Safety - VT Governor's School Safety Conference
Having our local emergency responders present at each of our monthly Safety Committee meetings certainly helps us stay in tune with up and coming best practices with regard to school safety. However, this is an area in which practices are evolving rapidly so it is important that we keep up to speed. To this end, a group of our Safety Team attended last month's Governor's Safety Conference to learn more about best and promising practices in School Safety. At the conference, I had the honor of co-presenting at one of the breakout sessions with Emily Harris from the Vermont Department of Public Safety. The Safety Team members who attended the conference will be reporting out on their learning at this month's committee meeting. Here's a picture of the group who attended from our Williston Team.
See Below for previous installments from Lead Principal, Greg Marino
The Power of Partnerships, October 31, 2018
There's no escaping the energy in the air at both schools today. Halloween certainly brings a special excitement among our students. Though school adults do our darndest to downplay the holiday, we know what most of our students are thinking about. As a Dad, I honestly like it best when Halloween falls on a weekend and we can get into the "spirit" a bit more as opposed to squeezing trick-or-treating in between dinner and bedtime. Though not my favorite holiday of the year, I do look forward to our pumpkin carving night. Here are the results of our carving handy work this year at the Marino house.
Thank you Williston FAP!
Speaking of Holidays, as we head into November, we begin to set our sights on what happens to be my favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. For me, it's all about seeing and spending time with family, enjoying a special meal together, and all without the sometimes distracting trappings of the other holidays. And then there's watching the NFL on TV. Though it's good to be mindful throughout the year of what we are grateful for, the Thanksgiving holiday is a great reminder to pause and reflect on the people, places and things we have in our lives that we can sometimes take for granted. As a school, we are truly fortunate for the people and partnerships we have that help us support students in their learning. Schools are people; the Students, Families, Teachers, Staff, Administrators, and the community. The partnerships we have among those groups make what we do possible and certainly more powerful, effective, and lasting. One partnership that we are so grateful for is the one with our Families as Partners group, FAP. The FAP does so much behind the scenes to support learning for all students at both of our schools. One major way that the FAP supports learning at the schools is through the mini-grant. Just last month the FAP awarded $10,000 worth of mini-grants to teachers across both school in order to support new and innovative learning opportunities for your children. Many of these creative ideas would never come to fruition with the generous support of the FAP and the dollars from the annual fund. In addition to these mini-grants, the FAP also provided the funds for the purchase of additional AED's in each of our schools as well as new outdoor picnic tables at WCS. These things were possible thanks to families making contributions to the FAP annual fund. I caution us all not to take these supports for granted. If you have not had an opportunity to make a contribution to the annual fund yet this year, I encourage you to do so. I have heard FAP representatives say often that any amount is appreciated. You can find a link to the contribution page in this and every addition of the School Bell.
School Safety Team Open House this Friday, 11/2, 7:45 - 8:30 at Allen Brook
As many of you know, the Williston School Safety Team is a group made up of faculty, staff, administrators, and community partners who gather each month in an effort to enhance school safety and overall emergency preparedness. The team takes this work very seriously and values our partnerships with the community agencies that help keep us safe, like State and local police, Fire Department, and the Vermont Department of Public Safety (VDPS). I hope that many of you stop by to the open house this Friday morning for a chance to meet members of the safety team, ask questions, and learn more about our important work.
Enjoy some images from out and about our amazing schools.
September, 2018: Last Wednesday I had the excellent fortune of attending a conference last along with other members of the Williston and CVSD leadership teams. The featured speaker was Author / Educator, George Cuoros. Mr. Cuoros writes a weekly blog which I follow faithfully and authored the book, Innovator's Mindset, which I would recommend to anybody interested in innovation or education, and especially, if you are interested in both of those things, like I am. Throughout the day, Mr. Cuoros challenged the audience of VT educators to get past our own preconceived notions about what education is supposed to look like and empower our learners to take risks, "push buttons", pursue areas of passion, and take control of their own learning. One quote from the day, among many, that resonated with me was a definition he offered for the word Risk.
"RISK: Moving from a comfortable average to an unknown better."
He reinforced this theme of risk-taking throughout the day and reminded us educators not to be afraid to hand the learning over to our students more often. He also reaffirmed the belief that as educators we need to be voracious and insatiable learners, pursuing our own growth of knowledge and skill with every new day. Adnd we need to make this quest visible to our students. In today's world of accessibility to information, there is no excuse for sitting back and resting on what we currently know and how we do things. We are compelled to model a hunger for searching out what is next and to consider what might be. We need to give our teachers and students the license to take risks and explore new pathways to learning. One simple, but powerful example of this is illustrated in the short YouTube video below. Enjoy the video and the other celebratory images of learning at Williston I have shared below! Also included below is a short video about the completion of the WCS renovation created by the Town of Williston, and which aired on the new public access Williston TV show.