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ANWSD communities strive to work together

VERGENNES — Did you know that in 1870 Addison had 10 schools and Ferrisburgh once had as many as 17 schools? It may come as a surprise that Charlotte and Monkton were also once part of the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union. Change in education is as perennial as mud season and foliage season in Vermont. Because of this, as a new district, the Addison Northwest School District, or ANWSD, recognizes the need for developing community and student voice for the five-town area that is now a unified district.
The Community Engagement Committee (CEC) was created for just that purpose in the summer of 2016. This ANWSD board committee meets monthly and is comprised of students, teachers, community members, board members and administrators.
The purpose of the committee is to engage the five town communities in topics of interest, promote collaboration between the board and the schools/communities, and provide avenues for student voice and leadership opportunities.
The CEC began its work in the fall of 2016 and hosted evening forums, attended faculty meeting discussions and visited back to school night events in all the schools. The committee also spent some time delving into the history of the schools in the five towns to gain a further understanding of how the present day schools had emerged.
The CEC later shared this PowerPoint presentation at a community event. You can view the ANWSD history presentation online at anwsd.org.
This work was a collaborative effort to develop the new ANWSD district vision statement, which was adopted by the ANWSD board in 2017. It reads: “We envision a kind, collaborative, and creative community for all that nurtures a diverse and accessible learning environment. Students will flourish as critical thinkers and productive citizens, cultivating resilience in an ever-changing world.”
200 RESPOND TO SURVEY
The CEC work during this past school year began with a survey in the spring of 2018 with over 200 respondents. Committee members learned the public’s preferred communication strategies are surveys, evening community forums, seeking information on the website and in the school newsletters.
In the fall of 2018, the CEC offered a two-part series of student-led forums with the overarching focus on the future of the ANWSD complemented by a series of surveys for ANWSD staff and community members that could not attend. Those surveys were posted on the district’s website and social media venues. The forums were funded by a grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation.
These forums enabled students to take the lead in soliciting public thoughts on how the schools can creatively address declining enrollment, how ANWSD can best maximize its resources, what programming people would like to see offered, discuss what the Vergennes-area schools do well, and what the concerns are moving forward.
The Community Engagement Committee will be sorting through all the feedback that has been collected these past few months and provide a summary to the ANWSD school board. As the school district moves forward, the ANSWD recognizes that community input is vital to a vibrant school community and school leaders welcome the public at all school board meetings and events.
ANWSD will be facing some difficult decisions ahead and the CEC and ANWSD school board will be asking the community to participate in more CEC events in the fall of 2019. Please check your local school newsletters, websites and other venues for future events and lend your voice.

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