Ask the Superintendent

Email Questions to askthesuperintendent@vernon-ct.gov


Questions and Answers:

1/6/15 Question:  My child and kids from 50 other minority families from the same religion, go to Center Road School.  During my last parent/teacher meeting, I suggested having Kosher/Halaal food available for Jewish/Muslim students who have to follow and comply with some religious instructions/requirement when it comes to food.  I, as a parent, would like my child to enjoy his lunch at school with other students in a way he won't feel left behind.  My request is for the management to kindly consider serving Kosher/Halaal food in school cafeterias.  It is my dream to see students from all different faiths enjoy their respective food at school.  Please advise if I can be of any assistance.  (Edited)

Answer:   Our schools offer a vegetarian item daily at all schools.  Also, in recent years, we have changed the yogurt we serve to one that is kosher http://www.upstatefarmsfs.com/yogurt/single-serve/).   The only pork based item that is on our menu is the ham we use for deli meats. Also our hot dogs are all beef and the sausages we offer are either turkey or chicken based products.

We are required to accommodate students with disabilities or food allergies.  Parents of children with food allergies are required to provide documentation from a medical professional stating the restriction with suitable alternatives.   We are not required to provide alternate meals based upon religious reasons, vegetarianism, or personal preference.

In order for us to offer kosher meals that would meet the USDA guidelines, we would need to purchase frozen premade meals that cost significantly more then what we receive in reimbursements and there is no guarantee that the integrity of the meal would stay intact because none of our kitchens are kosher.

12/16/14 Question:    I have heard that a former student was allowed to walk through Rockville High School without a pass because he looked like a student.  This is very alarming.  How is a student who does not even go to Rockville High School allowed to enter the school and walk around, especially almost two years after Sandy Hook.  Why did the district buy buzzer systems and have fully staffed security personal who did not ask for a school ID.  The school did also not go into lockdown.  (Edited)

Answer:   Rockville High School Principal Andrew Rockett informed me that the person who entered the building was a former student known to Rockville High School personnel.  Often, Rockville High School gets many such returning students, especially around the holidays, and they come for a variety of reasons – to visit former teachers (they are directed to wait until school is dismissed), connect with the School Counseling Department for records, act as guest speakers, act as mentors, etc.  When the former student left the front desk area without permission (the staff usually has the person wait for someone from staff to pick them up though sometimes a pass is given to certain areas – for contractors, meetings in guidance, etc.), security and administration were notified, and the School Resource Officer ensured the former student left the building immediately.

Because the former student was known to the high school staff, this incident was treated as a former student out-of-area rather than an unknown adult in the building.

As a more general matter, all schools let parents, students and the general public into the building after a visual inspection in the vestibule and stopping at the front desk after entry. Dozens of parents and members of the public arrive during the course of the day – for various teacher and counselor meetings, to pick up and drop off students, etc.  Visitors are asked for identification – typically a driver’s license – prior to being provided with a visitor’s badge and an escort.   

12/5/14 Question:   Due to the fact that Vernon Public Schools was assigned as an Alliance District we have received funding and resources for approximately 5 years.  What happens to the resources such as teacher training, curriculum, etc. when the 5 years ends? Also, what will happen to our designation in the state if we don't come out of the bottom 30 districts?

Answer:   We are unaware of a decision at the state level to continue funding for the Alliance Districts after the five years of the initial grant; however, we do expect the funding for the full five years.  In Vernon we are starting to prepare for sustainability of the positions that we created in the grant by moving some of the grant funding to the local budget in each of the next three years.  In anticipation of this, funding in Year 3 of the grant (the current year) was used not for new positions but for things such as books, technology, and technology infrastructure as well as professional learning opportunities for teachers.  At this time, we are unaware of plans that the State may have for the continuation of the designation “Alliance District” after the five-year period.  

12/3/14 Question:    I was wondering how I can make a formal request to keep my child at the same elementary school for his last year next year.  In a few weeks, we will be moving to another district in Vernon.  My child has been at our neighborhood school for three years now.  We have moved a handful of times in his life and he now has established himself at a wonderful school.  I also feel that I have a good relationship with the school.   We currently drive our child to and from school, and would continue to do so next year, if possible. (edited)

Answer:   According to Board policy #5117 – School Attendance Areas –Students may attend a public elementary school out of the student’s attendance area provided the parent/guardian has made a written request to the principal of the out-of-area school with a copy provided to the Assistant Superintendent and all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The student moves from one Vernon elementary school area to another Vernon elementary school area after the start of the second semester.
  2. The principal determines that there is space available based upon class size at the appropriate grade level.
  3. Parents are responsible for transportation of students who attend schools outside of their assigned school area.
  4. After completion of the school year in an out-of-area school, the student/s must return to their in-area school as determined by their home address.

These guidelines do not apply to students transferred by the school administration.  The superintendent has the authority to transfer students on an individual basis in collaboration with the family of the student and in the best interest of the student.”

Please submit a written request to the Superintendent’s Office and I will review your request and respond accordingly based on Board policy.

12/3/14 Question:  Is it possible to set, approve and publish the 2015/2016 academic calendar sooner than last year?  The current schedule was approved on 3/24/14, but we need that information sooner, please.

Every year we are making decisions in December about family vacation dates and summer work commitments, which is difficult to do not knowing the upcoming school year's calendar.  It's always a guessing game, making conditional commitments and holding our breath until the school schedule is published. 

I know a tremendous amount of coordination and planning goes into setting each school year's calendar, and I would guess there are some factors like snow days that are difficult to schedule.  I would appreciate learning more about what factors are considered in scheduling, and beginning a discussion on if/how these factors could be ironed out earlier so a school calendar can be approved sooner.  Any improvement over 3/24 is welcomed!

Thanks for your consideration.

Answer:  I will present your request to the Board of Education Chairperson and ask if we can place the 2015-2016 school calendar on the Board of Education Meeting agenda prior to March 2015. In the past years I have met with a “Calendar Committee” made up of parents and staff to create a draft school calendar.  We have also waited until March of each year so that we can compare Vernon’s calendar to other local school district calendars.  Also, please note that beginning, in the 2016/2017 school year, all school districts will need to follow the Uniform Regional Calendar that will be developed annually by our Regional Educational Service Center, CREC.

12/2/14 Question   I don’t have a question but I wanted to take the time to tell you how much we love VCMS since Mr. Harrison has taken over.  VCMS was just ok when my child started there 3 years ago.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great; but, wow, now it’s a great school.  Mr. Harrison and all the staff are so welcoming, happy and great at keeping in touch with parents.  The entire staff seems so much happier; Mr. Harrison himself is a breath of fresh air, and the vice principals are very good at their jobs keeping the kids behaving.   We really couldn’t be happier with VCMS!!

Answer:  Thank you so much for your comments about the VCMS school community.  VCMS is a great place to grow!

12/2/14 Question:  There is often a lot of talk about the "Achievement Gap" and the effect poverty has on school achievement, but my question is, how are the top-performing students doing compared to other towns in CT and across the nation.  We don't often hear about that.

The "gap" is considered a problem, but isn't it true that a large gap also shows that many are doing well in school?  That means we need to raise the students considered "low-achieving", but at the same time not lose sight of the efforts of the higher-achieving students.

Answer:  Vernon Public Schools’ higher achieving students are achieving commensurate with their peers across the nation.  We have been revising curriculum in all areas which provides all students with multiple opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels.  We are offering more Advanced Placement and Early College Experience classes to our students which provide them opportunities to earn college credit while in high school. 

Poverty has become a huge factor in the lack of preparation many of our students have before they begin school.  For example, a child living in poverty, may have a vocabulary of 2000 words while a child experiencing rich vocabulary and life experiences as a young child may have a vocabulary of 4000 words.  That gap continues to widen as each school year passes.  In Vernon, the percent of students living in poverty has doubled in the past eight years (21% to 42%). 

3/6/15 Question:  Is there any way the school websites could be updated with the date (with current snow days taken) of the last day of school.  I have an estimate of what the new day would be but would like to see if the school agrees.  This, of course, is with consideration of more snow days possible, especially with the winter we've had this year. It is now the beginning of March and would like to begin making more definite plans for summer camp and a June vacation once school is out. Thank you!

Answer:  Currently, the school district has had five (5) snow days (no school).  These five (5) snow days will be made up at the end of the school year.  As of today, March 6, 2015 the last day of school will be Wednesday, June 17, 2015.  We are in the process of updating the school websites to reflect this new last day of school. 

 

 


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Vernon Public Schools Mission Statement

The Vernon Public Schools, in partnership with family and community, is committed to provide a quality education, with
high expectations, in a safe environment where all students become independent learners and productive contributors to society.