Letter to the editor: New VUHS student schedule has been well prepared

I provided feedback a few weeks ago relating to my experiences with the Vergennes High School parent information night of Feb. 5, 2019. The main topic of discussion was the well-planned 2019-2020 High School student schedule improvements that will be realized in the fall of this year. The presentation by Principal Stephanie Taylor, Chief counselor Jay Stetzel and Laura Smith, with a follow-up questions and answer period was extremely helpful. This put to rest lingering concerns relative to the educational plan and schedule transition. I left very secure and pleased with the knowledge gained and the well-thought-through and researched initiative.
Wanting to learn more, I was able to easily locate the sources cited at the presentation on this particular evening. Exhausting my search and reading on every component of valued material, I learned the planned schedule transition is spot-on with current educational trends. The design reflects a better focus on preparing all the student body for the next life experience after high school. Using the major mechanism of Vermont Act 77 under statute 16 VSA 941, our school and district are on a solid course of academic success using the Flexible Pathway of Learning set by the state. These mechanisms include but are not limited to: dual enrollment, early college programs, work-based learning, virtual blended learning, career and technical education and personalized learning.
The move to a more robust class scheduling system will provide all students with a reliable foundation and pattern for their post-high school pursuits. Vermont schools using this template and formats have already demonstrated academic achievements. The credible articles I did locate on the subject matter also supported the findings of progressive academic success post-graduation at a national level.
In fairness to the opposing point of view, the limited number of articles were only generalized op-ed pieces that had emotions driving the narrative. I was not able to find evidence-based results that implied negative outcomes. The validation of this transition will come with measuring and producing statistics in the academic scoring over time.
Moving to feedback from my initial discussion on this subject, I was pleasantly surprised with a majority of the private email messages supporting my commentary and the VUHS progressive move toward all students’ future success. The numerical percentage of messages in support of the improved schedule was 75 percent from the typically silent majority. There were also some commentary points that I had not contemplated. One that stood out to me was the student/teacher relationship would undergo a strengthened bond when working closely with them for a full year … “excellent point,” I thought.
The negative feedback focused on what was perceived as a lack of communication from VUHS relating to the change. My sense is this was not the case. I went back through my emails and was able to locate very early messages from last year regarding the coming improved schedule changes. I recalled my family also had nightly supper conversations dating back to the 2017-2018 school year, when it was actually first being discussed and considered. We find supper time a great collective segment of the day to discuss issues and gain understanding of the day’s events.
Finally, the ongoing transparency and improved communication of the district leadership, VUHS leadership and the faculty continues to keep us very well informed and up to date. An example was last week’s email from VUHS that enclosed a very well done summary and FAQ. This demonstrates the continued teacher/parent engagement which is desirable and reassuring.
As a conclusion I offer this, Don’t just take my individual opinion. In fairness, I wanted to learn more and conducted my own research on the subject matter to explore both sides of the issue. What I established is that this improved schedule is the progressive regional and national academic trajectory in contemporary high school education. I encourage you to consider a fair and level review of the credible literature from the published academic experts. The current student body and all future student bodies will be set on a successful Flexible Pathway to Learning due largely in part by the foresight of the VHS faculty, leadership and district.
Doug Sutton

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