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Windsor Talks School Goals: Downsized, But Not In Decline

David Baker, center, superintendent of the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, speaks at a public meeting hosted by the Windsor School Board in an effort to draft a new strategic plan for the town's school system at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vt. on November 11, 2013. Aporoximately 55 parents, grandparents and community members were in attendance. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

David Baker, center, superintendent of the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, speaks at a public meeting hosted by the Windsor School Board in an effort to draft a new strategic plan for the town's school system at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vt. on November 11, 2013. Aporoximately 55 parents, grandparents and community members were in attendance. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

Windsor — Self-confident students with a well-rounded academic experience who are problem-solvers and involved in the community. That was a small sampling of the ideas presented at a community forum Monday night on the future of Windsor’s schools.

About 60 attendees at the two-hour forum at Windsor High School spent most of the evening in groups discussing ideas on three questions about hopes and dreams for students, the ideal school experience and what qualities students will need to contribute to the global society. The thoughts will be collated and organized, Superintendent David Baker said at the end of the session, and used to develop a new vision and mission statement for the district.

“We have not had a revision of our mission/vision statement for quite a while,” said School Board Chairman Amy McMullen, explaining the reason for the forum. The vision will lay out what residents want for the schools and children, she said.

“The mission is the guideline. How do we get to that vision?”

The district will then write a strategic plan with benchmarks to measure the progress of the mission statement, McMullen said.

In her opening remarks, McMullen quickly put to rest rumors that had circulated on social media web sites that the meeting was to announce the closing of the State Street School and Windsor High School, presumably because of the enrollment decline the last 10 years. The schools, which are connected, can handle 900 students but current K-12 enrollment is around 530.

“It is not in the short-term plan or the long-term plan. It is not on anyone’s agenda,” McMullen said about closing either school.

Baker said there is no doubt the enrollment landscape is changing across the state, with declines in the south, Upper Valley and Northeast Kingdom. But in the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, the four towns — Hartland, Weathersfield, West Windsor and Windsor — have agreed to work together and provide more services districtwide.

“We want to talk more about getting these economies of scale,” he said.

But Monday night was more about formulating concepts for student achievement both inside and outside the classroom. There was also talk about community involvement for those without children in the schools.

The attendees broke into groups of about seven or eight and brainstormed on the three questions McMullen presented at the beginning.

Some examples of what should be considered for the vision and mission statement included: excited to come to school; empathy for others; confident to take risks; know how to seek out job opportunities; a strong work ethic; more choices for students; confident to be able to make a difference in a global society; and a high quality and well-balanced education for all.

“Every child should be able to do what he or she wants to do and is prepared for that,” read one statement from one of the groups.

Judy Hayward, with the Preservation Education Institute in Windsor, said it is important that students appreciate the “built and natural environment” of Windsor “because it is so exceptional.”

There was also a comment on the role of the family in ensuring student success.

“We wish all kids come to school prepared,” said Nicole Willey. “That puts responsibility on families as well as the school.”

Erin Rockwood, an employee of the district, told the board at the end, don’t go it alone.

“Our community wants to help put Windsor on the map and make it a strong place to help kids be successful,” she said. “We are here to help you. You don’t have to do it by yourself.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.