Home News and Features MRPS Approves Diversity and Collaboration, Narrows Public Participation

MRPS Approves Diversity and Collaboration, Narrows Public Participation

brick building front facing door with
Main Street Middle School. File photo.
Montpelier Roxbury Public School Board vice chair Mia Moore established stringent guidelines at its April 5 meeting. After that, the board approved library and diversity policies and heard a presentation on special education. 

Public Comment

Moore told the public that they were only allowed to speak in this opening section of the meetin, for no longer than two minutes each. However, MRPS policy “A21” states the “[p]ublic may address the board outside of the designated public comment time if given permission by the chair.”

Richard Shier, a member of the public, asked the board to consider offering the city of Montpelier use of an area next to Montpelier High School as an alternative space for a new recreation center. Moore responded “Our practice and actual procedure — we don’t respond to public comment in meetings, so we just listen and express gratitude for you showing up. Thank you so much.” 

Moore did not offer information on how the public can get an item on the agend, or how to request a public hearing on a topic. 

Consent Agenda

In one motion, the board approved the following in its consent agenda:

Policy on Library Materials: The Montpelier Roxbury school libraries will follow the policy, approved at this meeting, that its schools are committed to inclusiveness and  diversity “by promoting the use of high-quality and high-interest literature in formats that reflect the diverse developmental, cultural, social, and linguistic needs of all learners and their communities.”

Superintendent’s report: Bonesteel reported that ten caregivers met regarding a hazing, harassment, and bullying policy and procedures in the district, and seven met to discuss literacy curriculum development and plans for capacity building next year.

Board work plan: The board will finalize its priorities and indicators of success, which include community engagement, and develop a work plan for meeting these during two summer retreats, both open to the public.

Matt McLane and board member Emma Bay-Hansen will be reviewing applications for new student representatives to the school board on May 3.

Changes in Special Education

Peggy-Sue Van Nostrand, director of student services, presented a special education and section 504 overview. Van Nostrand said Vermont special education rules revised last year will be fully implemented July 1, 2023. Students on individual education plans are entitled to direct instruction, accommodations, and modifications in order to progress in general education and in individual skills goals. 

Rule changes that will have the biggest impact on special education staff and students include more flexible funding, which allows for staff to plan lessons and teach together. It also allows special education teachers to work with general education students. The revised regulations also require identification of special education eligible students through low academic and functional skills. Identification of specific learning disabilities has switched from a mathematical model in which low scores indicate a learning disability, to a cognitive model, in which how the student does or doesn’t process information indicates a learning disability. Montpelier will set up procedures so that there is consistency throughout the district in implementing these radically new rules. 

Van Nostrand said she is improving parent training; improving how special education and general education teachers work together; catching struggling students early; and quantifying overall success. There will be a school psychologist on staff next year who will assist in achieving leadership’s guiding principle that ”All students are general education students,” she said.

A needs assessment of the district for instructional improvement was completed by The Ability Challenge, a nonprofit organization that helps schools to deliver special education programming. Their report will be presented at the April 19 board meeting.

Policy Monitoring Reports

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion monitoring and budget execution reports were accepted. The diversity policy requires the board to review policies with an equity lens and using the equity policy review tool, which it has started to do.