Saturday, April 22, 2017

Young Composers, School Safety, Lyme Disease Prevention & Burlington Kids

Champlain’s Young Composers’ Club Celebrates Another Year
By Ms. Betsy Greene, Champlain Music Teacher

The Young Composers' Club is coming to an end for the 2016-2017 school year. This year's members are Cassie Beste, Ezra Case, Tommy Coleman, Devon Ellicock, Trudy Farrell, David Francis Lutz, Vivian Halladay, Reid Hathaway, Morgan Kenny, Max Rectenwald, Miles Romm, Macie Steiner, James Strouse, Abbot Terkel, and Daniel Wick. We are all proud of their music compositions and participation in the Young Composers' Club.

Additionally, ten members submitted work to be considered for live performance by professional musicians (Opus 32) through Music-COMP, an online mentoring community where professional composers and other project participants critique student compositions in-progress on a password protected website and make suggestions about possible changes and improvements. There were over one hundred student compositions submitted elementary through high school. A total of twenty-six compositions were chosen to be performed and three were from Champlain Elementary School with a total of eight from the Burlington School District! The Champlain students chosen for Opus 32 are Cassie Beste with Rise, Macie Steiner with Gallaxy, and Daniel Wick with European Village. Additional students chosen from Burlington are Anna Halladay (BHS/Champlain alumna), Alex Wick (Edmunds
Middle/Champlain alumnus), Nancy McNichols (Edmunds Middle), Isaac Dunkiel (Edmunds Elementary), and Emily McNichols (Edmunds Middle). Their pieces will be performed at the Opus 32 Concert on Monday, May 15, at 6:30 PM in Colchester at the Elley-Long Music Center. The concert is free and open to the public. Again, congratulations to all the young composers here at Champlain School and we hope you may be able to join us at the Opus 32 Concert!

Safety Protocols in the Burlington School District and at Champlain Elementary School
By Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Principal

On Wednesday this week, Essex schools experienced a “Secure the School-Lockdown” command in response to a possible threat to safety on its campuses. Staff and students followed strict protocols that required silence and confinement to rooms. Fortunately, everyone is now safe and school has returned to normal. All Vermont schools are required to adhere to strict safety protocols, taking every precaution to ensure safety at all times. Vermont also requires practicing Secure the School and Evacuate the Building procedures at least once a month. Typically every school maintains an Incident Command or Safety Team to prepare for and practice all commands. At Champlain we adhere to the Incident Command System, which is defined as:
a management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. ICS is normally structured to facilitate activities in five major functional areas: command, operations, planning, logistics, Intelligence & Investigations, finance and administration. (FEMA, Incident Command System Resources,

The members of Champlain’s Incident Command Team include Janet Breen (Acting Incident Commander) Ashley Francke (Communications Officer), Kendre Guinane, Greg Kriger, Carl Terry, Nancy Pruitt, Lindsay Wilcox, Jessica Villani, and Billy Boos. As principal, I am the Incident Commander; Ms. Breen fills this role if I am not on campus.

The Burlington Schools are extremely fortunate to have a quick, effective emergency response system. Most of Vermont requires many miles of travel for emergency services to reach the scene. BSD’s central office staff maintains safety protocols that have been distributed under the leadership of Rich Amato, a former Hunt administrator who continues as the district safety coordinator. This month he has arranged for Robert Evans, Vermont’s safety consultant, to visit every school building to meet with each administrator and safety team. Joining our meeting at Champlain was Marty Spaulding, director of property services. In early May Mr. Evans will submit a safety assessment report to our superintendent.

Health Room Update- Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, caused by infected deer ticks, is becoming increasing common in Vermont. There have been a number of cases reported in Chittenden County. The ticks infected are usually in the nymph stage and are quite small, about the size of the tip of a pencil lead. The best way to prevent Lyme Disease is to prevent tick bites. For more information go to or contact your doctor.
While outdoors:
*Avoid high grass and bushy area as much as possible.
*Wear long pants and long sleeves to minimize exposure to ticks.
*Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks out.
*Wear light colored clothing in order to see tics.
*Check for ticks could look like a speck of dirt, remove right away.
While indoors:
*Check your body and check your children, pay special attention to armpits, head, and folds of skin.
*Showering within a few hours of being outside may be helpful
What to do if you get a tick bite?
*Remove the tick with a fine tipped tweezers as soon as possible. It can take up to 36 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes the disease.
*Wash your hands with soap and water, and wash the tick bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Watch for symptoms of Lyme Disease:
*Symptoms may include fatigue, chills, fever, joint pain, headache. Often there is red rash around bite, this rash sometimes gives the appearance of bull’s eye.
*Call your doctor immediately if symptoms are present. Appropriate treatment of Lyme disease with antibiotics almost always results in full cure.

Burlington Kids Afterschool Registration for 2017-2018 school year is now open!

The Burlington Kids Afterschool Program is a collaboration between the City of Burlington, Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department and the Burlington School District! We offer after-school programming every school day after students are dismissed at either 1:50pm (Wednesdays) or 2:50pm until 5:30pm. To register, please fill out a registration packet located in the main office. Registration is first-come, first-served, and space is limited.

A New Look for Champlain Elementary School & An Announcement from Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization

A New Look for Champlain Elementary School
The Champlain community benefits from the talents and contributions from our parent and local community in so many ways, both visible and hard-to-see. This new look for our newsletter and letterhead is the result of a lengthy dialogue between artist and CES parent Glynnis Fawkes. Over the past two months, we have discussed ways of striking the right image for Champ. First we had to figure out just what distinguished a lovable sea creature from those angry or some other creature entirely. The faculty viewed drafts until we found just the right fit, closely resembling our creature in the learning center hallway. Ms. Fawkes also crafted the original font of “Champlain Elementary School” seen above, and created a color Champ as well.

This month the Society of Illustrators awarded Ms. Fawkes a silver medal for her graphic nonfiction book, Greek Diary, at the Annual Comics Festival MoCCAMs. Last year she was awarded for her book, AllleEgo. A wonder to behold of serious and comical illustrations, her professional work can be viewed at

All over Champlain, one sees any variety of Champ representations. Although we have updated our school letterhead to represent our mascot, we are not rebranding. Every Champ has a place on a poster, t-shirt, flier, etc. to represent Champlain. The Fawkes Champ fills an important need for an easily reproducible, black-and-white graphic design and a clean, “conversable” stationary. Champlain friends are always welcome to draw their version of Champ.

An Announcement from Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization
Are you interested in joining a board to help serve your local community? Do you seek to have a voice in the elementary school experience of your child? Your local Champlain Elementary PTO Board is currently looking for a few members to join an active, organized board to help support the Champlain school community. Your ideas and energy are welcome, and you will be joining returning members who have institutional knowledge of board operations, and who have a sense of the PTO activities that align with the school calendar. Help strengthen the school experience for your child, and others, when you volunteer to help support PTO activities such as Harvest Fest, book fairs, Box Tops for Education, Trivia Night, Fun Run, Green Up Day Tire Round-up, meetings with school board commissioners, and many other events.

This can't happen without volunteer efforts, and board members play a critical role in helping to support the PTO mission.  Responsibilities for maintaining a vibrant PTO are shared by many, and we seek your wisdom, energy, and contributions at any level.  Whether you may be interested in volunteering for a singular event, or might have interest in being a board member, we welcome your interest in serving your community.  Please contact PTO President Michael Fisher at to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

An Interview with a Very Special Champlain Teacher, Ms. Nancy Leon

DD: When did you first start teaching, and what did you teach?

NL: I spent a few years as a substitute in the Burlington District before I landed the first grade position at Champlain in 1987. With the exception of one year, I have been in first grade for my entire career!

DD: What is your favorite topic to teach?

NL: My favorite topic to teach is literacy. It's so important to every aspect of life. I personally love to read and want everyone to find that love of literature.

DD: In your view, what are the best things parents can do to support their children's success in school?

NL: Parents can talk to their children. Read with them, sing songs, make use of time in the car. Turn off those devices from time to time!

DD: Many teachers are baby boomers and are retiring quickly. Without their wealth of knowledge to benefit young teachers, what advice would you give them today?

NL: Pay attention to the small things the students say. Sometimes we let the little details go unnoticed and that's where we can pick up cues about what is going on with kiddos.

DD: What is one of your best memories of Champlain?

NL: I have so many memories from all my years at Champlain! There are hundreds of small moments, some with other teachers, some with parents, and of course many with students. There are too many hellos and goodbyes to mention. I have made some deep friendships and there have been many happy memories.

DD: What are your retirement plans?

NL: I'm not ready to completely leave the workforce, and hope to find a part time job in the area, but I plan to spend time traveling, reading, learning to knit, and volunteering.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Class Placement Process for the 2017-18 School Year

In spring 2016 Champlain’s teachers carried out a formal process for creating equitable class configurations for the 2016-17 school year. Fortunately a district coach met with me soon after I became principal to teach me the procedure. Months following, I consulted with other elementary principals and learned that each school followed nearly identical steps. Then in January, I presented these steps to Champlain’s faculty members, who gave me helpful feedback before finalization. At the March PTO meeting, I shared this information as well.

Typically high schools spend months creating a master schedule of class sections based on students’ requests, entered into a computer database and run through an algorithm that produces an efficient schedule. Hundreds of students multiplied by six to ten classes is the driving factor, though in schools committed to equity, students’ academic performance and demographic background factor prominently as well. School counselors or administrators will examine class enrollments for characteristics such as gender, race, eligibility for free meals, and eligibility for special education. Relying solely on software usually creates inequitable patterns. For example, students enrolled in Jazz Band may find themselves attending classes together much of the day. Or students enrolled in English Language class may be scheduled together for Algebra and World History. Students in Advanced Placement Biology might all be placed in the same PE or art class. Examining and rearranging individual students’ schedules by hand can break these patterns. In elementary schools, building heterogeneous (multi-level) classes starts with the students themselves, since they are together all day. Attending classes with kids outside their “homeroom” is the exception.

Bringing students together from many backgrounds develops the skills necessary to succeed in a diverse, democratic society. This is the promise and practice of public education, and a source of great pride in Burlington. I hear BSD parents praise our multicultural school community all the time.

In April, our teachers will begin the process of creating equitable classes for the 2017-18 school year. Each teacher will create a profile for each of her/his current students based on this information:
    1. Free/reduced meals eligibility
    2. Gender
    3. Race/ethnicity
    4. English Learner
    5. Special Education, 504, or Educational Support Plan
    6. Reading Proficiency Average
    7. Math Proficiency Average
    8. Special Services Score
    9. Social, Behavioral, Personal Development
    10. Behavior referrals
    11. Teacher Summary

Most of the criteria include a rating scale 1-4. The score is based on individual students’ learning and behavioral needs. The goal is for every class to arrive at the same total number. Grade-level teams build the classes by dividing each criterion equally. If the number of students in an area, say, English Language Learners, cannot be evenly divided, then teachers look to the other criteria to even out the total score. For example, this may mean adding one or two more students with lower reading scores. Most grade levels have three sections, each labeled as A, B, or C instead of teachers’ names. In 2017-18, due to the number of students enrolled, Champlain will have three sections of multi-age 4/5 classes and one section of fourth grade only. In summer parents will receive a letter from their child’s new teacher, welcoming him/her to the class.

An equitable strategy for developing new classes is best practice for an elementary school. Imbalanced classes result in reduced learning and increased misbehavior, which negatively affect individual students, personnel, and the whole class. Only by adhering to this procedure can we ensure equitable classes that provide the most learning opportunities to all students. For this reason, Champlain’s procedure will not include requests from parents/guardians for specific teachers or students in the class. The procedure will not consider older siblings’ placements, since this factor can also lead to imbalanced classes. As a result of Burlington’s teacher supervision and evaluation process, parents can be assured that their children will receive an excellent education no matter which teacher is assigned to the class. Champlain does not have theme-based classes; all follow a common philosophy and curriculum of student-centered and project-based learning based on shared high standards. To see Burlington’s curriculum in each subject area, visit:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Data-based Decision Making in the Burlington School District and Champlain Elementary

During last week’s inservice day and continuing through the month of March, elementary school homeroom (non-unified arts) teachers devote their professional meeting time to reviewing and analyzing their own students’ academic performance results. Together they sit with their grade-level team and compare scores in mathematics and reading from fall to winter assessments.

At each elementary school, the math and literacy interventionists play key roles in sharing this data. Supported by BSD coaches, they create a confidential “data wall” for teachers to easily review each student’s performance. Much of the data indicates specific skills, such as multiplication, division, and place value.

In kindergarten, teachers administer brief “screeners” for grade-level comprehension. In grades 1-5, the Fountas & Pinnell system assesses students in literacy three times a year, in which classroom teachers and their students work one-on-one to observe and document progress in reading and writing. Students performing on or above grade level have participated in a reading assessment from Teachers College of Columbia University. The Eureka math program adopted by the district also provides grade-level assessments on which students demonstrate their conceptual understanding and skills. During our meeting time, third-grade teacher Mr. Roger Klinger, literacy interventionist and special educator Ms. Terry Ryan, and math interventionist and fifth-grade math teacher Ms. Regina Miller have led a dialogue process for grade-level teams to identify new learning targets. From these plans, each teacher designs differentiated instruction to target students’ weaknesses, especially on key standards, and to challenge students who have achieved standards.

This data-based decision making allows teachers to teach with precise intentionality during the last trimester of the school year. Typically the last months fill up with field trips and special projects. Yet each student’s performance in math and literacy matters more than ever, and students participating in activities that address underlying gaps and advanced concepts take top priority through our last days in June.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March Arts and Champlain’s Spring Concert - School-day Pilot

March Arts
By Ms. Betsy Greene, Music Teacher, and Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Principal

In March, five extraordinary arts events take place at Champlain. The vision of our music and art teachers, Ms. Betsy Greene and Ms. Sonny Sammut, bring these invaluable learning and performance opportunities to our students. Months ago we began planning over email. Dr. Dorfman’s enthusiasm bubbled over when she wrote:

By the way, I will never stop appreciating or thanking you for the real music education you provide our students. This is because I never had such a teacher in elementary or middle school, and just like I didn't have Chemistry in high school, as a result, am disadvantaged as an adult. I never bothered with music in high school, so resistant I had become, despite the fact that my friends told me the chorus teacher was fabulous. This is a fascinating example to me about the "window" of time we have to reach kids. For some things, the arts especially, high school may be too late to draw them in.

Ms. Greene replied to the message:

Thank you for the incredible words of appreciation. Elementary school is the only time we are able to reach 100% of the school population for music education. You are right, if during this time, students not only grow musically, but have meaningful musical experiences, they will seek them out as adults and be more likely to use music in their everyday lives, like singing a lullaby to their children, dancing at weddings, going to music events, etc. Just being able to function socially with music and with their families creates community and bonding between individuals and groups. We may take for granted or sometimes forget the real importance of music education. And if we do not have people who are able to do music (sing, keep the beat, sense the emotion), we will not be able to use music to enrich our lives in these time-honored ways.

The first March event is the Burlington School District Strings Concert for grades 4-12 on Thursday, March 9 at 7pm, taking place in the high school auditorium.

The second March event is the Elementary Choral Festival organized by the Vermont Music Educators Association for fourth and fifth graders on March 10. The festival will be held at Mount Mansfield High School, and nearly one hundred students from all over Vermont will come together to rehearse, participate in a world drumming workshop, and present a concert at 5:30PM. The concert is open to the public. The cost is $5 for students/seniors; $7 for adults; and $15 per family. Fourteen Champlain Elementary Chorus students will participate in the new and exciting opportunity: Hawa Awayle, Rukiya Awayle, Mimi Dion, Devon Ellicock, Gillian Fairfax, Trudy Farrell, Ruby Hall, Oscar Jacobsen, Ceci Luce, Grace Maley, Anyier Manyok, Madison Palmer-Osborne, Abbot Terkel, and Annika Redmond. We are very proud of these fourteen students and all their hard work preparing for this event! Come join us for this surely remarkable concert!

The Annual Burlington City Arts Children’s Art Exhibition is this month’s third event. The show will hang in Burlington City Hall’s Metropolitan Gallery from March 8 to March 30. This annual art show celebrates the talent and dedicated work of elementary students from Burlington’s six schools. The Gallery is open from 8:30-4:30 each day, with an opening event on Wednesday, March 13 at 5-7pm. Artwork from the following students below have been work selected to be in the show this year: August Bauer, Sammy Berman, Evan Bretton, Eamon Brown, Rowan Clark, Tommy Colman, Ayanna Dayes,
Mae Dery, Amelia Dion, Serafina Erdogan, Lucia Esckilsen, Gillain Fairfax, Trudy Farrell, Layla Fisher, Dashiell Fleury-Bachman, Helen Franklin, William Haslam, Iris Hathaway, Miles Kenny, Morgan Kenny, Joe LaMonde, Greta Larson, Cora Lea, Amos Lilly, John Minor, Oliver Nichols, Brianna Partlow, Celia Rutter, Aven Smith, Emma Stearns, Marcel Vacariu-McLaughlin, Nora Vota, Geneva Walker, and Aleekeah Williams.

The fourth event features a performance by three Vermont Symphony Orchestra musicians for all Champlain students on Thursday, March 17. VSO musicians combine their concert with an educational workshop, “Drumshtick,” to enhance our students’ understanding of orchestral music. The show, “Percussion Means the World to Us,” “explores a culturally diverse repertoire and includes demonstrations of non-Western instruments. Through their sometimes zany humor they introduce children both to general musical concepts and to the family of percussion instruments,” (VSO Press Release, 2017).

Champlain’s Spring Concert performance, our final event, takes place on Friday, March 24 in our gym. Grades Kindergarten through second perform at 8:30am. At 9:15am, grades three, four, and five perform.

Champlain’s Spring Concert - School-day Pilot  
For several years, Champlain educators have considered moving the annual student music performance from the evening to the daytime. Among the Burlington elementary schools, not all have a spring concert, and only one hosts an evening event for upper grades. The decision to pilot the music performance during the school day was not the result of adults’ preferences, but based on best practices for students.
Smith holds holiday and spring concerts during the school day. Integrated Arts Academy has no spring concert, but gives many performances during their “Town Meeting” on Fridays at 2:15pm. Edmunds has no concert, but hosts a “Fine Arts Night” over two evenings. Sustainability Academy hosts their spring concert at 9am. This is the second year that Flynn will host a daytime concert for grades K-1 and an evening concert for grades 2-5.
Only during the day can we guarantee that every student can fulfill the expectation to participate in a school concert. Students who miss an evening performance tend to be those most disadvantaged, due to family circumstances beyond their control. Missing their class performance can produce feelings of embarrassment, disconnect, or shame.
Champlain is improving its music program by shifting the purpose of performance from a show for parents to an educational experience for students. Already our  Ms. Greene emphasizes that this is an “informance,” during which she explains their music lessons. With music twice a week, students have only 45 instructional hours of music curriculum in a year. We do not want to reduce this limited content by devoting classes to concert practice. Rehearsal time outside of music takes away from other subjects, which we already do for two weeks before the informance.
Students’ developmental differences cause reconsideration of the performances altogether. Specifically, music education in grades K-2 raises music aptitude. Emphasizing performance over development interrupts and diminishes this important process. A grade 3-5 concert would be more appropriate. As part of a vibrant music education program, every upper-elementary student needs to experience being a music performer and contributing to their class in a performance. In fact, self-selected fourth and fifth graders in the BSD strings program (March 9) and CES chorus (March 10) are performing this month during the evening, specifically so families can attend.
Champlain students are very fortunate that Ms. Greene is president-elect of the Feierabend Association for Music Education, a national organization for music educators. Her professor, Dr. Feierabend, has researched and written extensively on early childhood and music education, with a birth through adulthood approach to teaching and learning. For more information about this philosophy and practice, please visit the organization’s webpages: or
Our family-school partnership committee is discussing creative ways to include parents in our school community. We have planned a Champlain community dinner on Friday, April 14th at 5:30-7pm in the gym, and hope families will sing and dance together at the event.
Regarding Step Up Day for fifth graders, this had been scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 9th in the gym. Stay tuned (no pun intended)!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Teaching and Learning in K-2

Recently I had the privilege of observing teachers’ instruction in grades K-2 as part of Burlington supervision and evaluation program. In previous years observing in middle and high school classrooms, students noticed me with the telltale clipboard, but appeared uninterrupted from the task at hand. The older the class at Champlain, the more students seemed to understand my role. While kindergarteners saw another pair of hands, shouted hellos, showed their work, and asked for help, the second graders ignored my now-recognizable drill of sitting in a chair nearby or walking around to look at their progress, scrawling unintelligibly.

In one class, kindergarteners focused on three-letter “CVC words” (consonant, vowel, consonant, such as cat, dog, run, etc.), choosing crayons and pencils in rainbow colors. They sat in preselected groups at tables named for shapes. When their teacher announced, “1-2-3 eyes on me,” they stopped immediately to reply, “1-2 eyes on you” and listened for directions. Then they began an assessment: to try their best to write and draw in response to the “I like ______” statement.

In first grade, students learned all about penguins through multiple means. Their teacher engaged them in all learning modalities (whole-group, paired, and individual activities) and nearly every multiple-intelligence method (visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, and musical) while discovering the exciting world of penguins. Last Friday first graders presented their learning at an all-school assembly, complete with jokes and a dance that even the fifth graders joined!

The name of each of second graders’ table was a continent. On the rug together they craned their necks and raised their hands eagerly to answer their teacher’s questions based on the map of the world. Next she shared the names of countries from nearly every continent, from which students of the Burlington School District hail. Distinguishing between continents and countries was a key concept, and students colored specific countries on each page of an atlas booklet. Every student appeared hungry to learn all they could about our world.

In each of these three classes, student dug deep in areas that most adults pay little attention. How does a child’s brain learn to write, understand nature, and map our planet? These observations, a snapshot of dozens conducted since September, show that Champlain students learn their subjects in a thoughtful sequence, each lesson, unit, and year at a time. The facts and skills build up and spiral back, connecting between and across to ultimately establish a strong foundation. This foundation retains the upsurge of facts (such as U.S. History) and amassment of skills (like solving quadratic equations) in grades 6-12 and beyond.