Saturday, September 8, 2018

Champlain’s Designated Employees to Address Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying

In adherence to Burlington School District policy, every year our school designates employees who receive training as investigators of accusations of harassment, hazing, and bullying (HHB). Anytime faculty, staff, parents/guardians, or students believe that student interactions may be considered HHB, they should report their concerns to a Designated Employee (DE) right away. 

By addressing potential or actual HHB quickly, we: 

• Stop the problem from worsening 

• Support students who have been harmed

• Educate students and parents/guardians about HHB policy and prevention

• Provide opportunities for healing the harm and rebuilding relationships

• Prevent those who engaged in HHB from repeating their mistakes and causing further harm
Please read more about Burlington’s HHB policy and Champlain’s prevention methods in our 2018-19 Family Handbook, available at: Printed copies can also be found at school.
Champlain’s Designated Employees (DEs): Principal Dorinne Dorfman, school counselor Kaitlyn Morrissey, and planning room paraeducator Emmie Headrick

Welcome Back and Connecting the Dots Between Classroom Management Practices

Weeks turn to days of anticipation and excitement for the new school year. Since Open House and the first day, our students are smiling broadly and chatting excitedly, like a long-awaited family reunion. At Champlain, everyone is listening and contributing positively to the climate we want to create. Throughout September, one can see team building, group sharing, individual reflecting, and mindfulness in every classroom. Students caring, trusting, and bonding build each class community, expand academic achievement, and help close the achievement gap.

Many Burlington community members have heard about Restorative Practices, a major district initiative to reduce suspension and improve student learning. Many parents have heard of PBIS, the Positive Behavior and Intervention System. Still others may remember the Responsive Classroom, which spread across Vermont some twenty years ago. Each approach to classroom management and the school-wide discipline system brings evidence-based practices that improve student behavior and school climate.

Champlain Elementary School combines these approaches in several ways. The Responsive Classroom lays the foundation of the (once) groundbreaking Morning Meeting and other daily routines that instill a sense of responsibility in every student. PBIS adds another layer of consistent language across the grades (think of “Be safe, respectful, and responsible”), and sequential consequences for addressing students’ misbehavior. Staff recognize students going the extra mile with a token system of school-themed cards, which is especially motivating for younger children. Everytime a class reaches one hundred cards, they enjoy a special celebration, such as extra recess; every time the school reaches one thousand, all students enjoy a special activity. 

The first step or tier of Restorative Practices returns to the very successful Morning Meeting model, aided by a talking piece, allowing only one person at a time to speak, and a centerpiece, which draws in children’s attention to the Restorative Circle topic. Opening with a quote, the teacher then leads one or more rounds of questions, such as, “What does listening from the heart mean to you?” or “How can we make our recess feel safer for everyone?” Tier II Restorative Practices include peer mediation and circles to address misconduct. Tier III is the reintegration of a student back into the community after a conflict or suspension. With academic excellence at the center, these three approaches strengthen our school community.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

An Interview with a Very Special Champlain Nurse, Ms. Nancy Pruitt, Thank You for 2017-18 & Summer Fun!

An Interview with a Very Special Champlain Nurse, Ms. Nancy Pruitt 
Beloved Nurse Nancy Pruitt retires from the Burlington School District this month. In honor of her service, she has the last word in the Blue Note for 2017-18.

DD: How long have you been a nurse? Can you discuss your roles and experience?
NP: I have practiced forty-three years as a pediatric nurse. I began my career at Duke University Medical Center on a pediatric oncology medical floor. My next position was in a pediatric emergency room. After practicing in the hospitals, I received a master’s in pediatric nursing. Since that time, I have practiced in community based, preventive health settings. I have worked in the Burlington School District for twenty years; sixteen of those years have been at Champlain.

DD: What is the best part of being a school nurse?

NP: Every day is different. It never feels routine or predictable. I love the variety of situations. There is a constant opportunity to cultivate new relationships with students, staff members, parents and community members.

DD: How do you manage to stay calm when things get difficult?

NP: When I think of some of the serious emergencies I have encountered in the school such as grand mal seizures, serious head trauma, a significant laceration or fracture, the “Nurse Nancy” calm affect seems to “kick in.” I may feel quite stressed internally but know it is essential to remain calm to provide good care.

DD: What are your favorite things about Champlain?

NP: I really enjoy the varied demographics of the South End community. The staff members are highly talented, creative and wonderful. The parent community is so supportive of our school and has faithfully volunteered every year to help with the health screening process. I feel quite fortunate to be a part of this remarkable school community.

DD: What do you plan to do in retirement?

NP: I will be able to visit my family and friends in the South more frequently and recharge my accent ☺. I plan to have more sunrise and sunset walks at Shelburne Farms. I love outdoor activities and look forward to more time to hike, kayak, cross country ski and snowshoe.

Thank You, Champlain Community, for a Wonderful School Year!
2017-18 proved to be an extraordinary year of continual learning and community building, together creating a very special, safe, and caring place for children to grow. Champlain’s faculty and staff integrated new ideas and programs, collaborated with dozens of dedicated community members, and unified to overcome challenges to bring about the best outcome. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone - students, teachers, staff, parents, guardians, students, and families - who contributes to and strengthens our children’s education and world. From volunteering in Morning Champions and classrooms to chaperoning field trips and co-curricular activities, from taking calls at all hours from the principal to joining meetings with children and parents to truly dig deep and make a difference, your efforts will never be forgotten.

Champlain’s Parent-Teacher Organization brought together parents to organize and fundraise in order to expand our students’ learning opportunities. Students enjoyed cooking with the Charlie Cart, planting in the garden, trying healthy and local dishes, performing, weaving, drumming, learning foreign languages, and delighting at the Harvest Fest and the Fun Run.

Free Summer Fun for Everyone! 
The summer break allows students greater flexibility and spontaneity, and keeping up their skills will best position them for success in the fall. Every day, Champlain educators encourage students to do at least one of the following activities:
  • Read a book
  • Write a story 
  • Draw from observation
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Practice fractions
  • Practice times tables
  • Learn the names of trees, plants, bugs & birds
  • Practice spelling unusual words
  • Study grammar
  • Play an instrument
  • Sing and make up new songs
  • Dance and make up new dance moves
  • Cook for friends and family
  • Play outside
  • Learn about science and history
  • Direct and act out a play 
  • Practice athletic moves, such as a soccer banana kick
  • Clean up till it’s spotless
  • Create a nice outdoor play area
  • Play school and be a nice teacher
  • Learn to play bridge, mahjong, chess, and/or backgammon 
  • Prepare a picnic with friends
  • Plant and tend to your own garden
  • Go to the library often for activities and new books
  • Do crafts like making jewelry, knit or weave
  • Ask an adult or friend to show you a new skill
  • Play charades 
  • Join summer activities in your neighborhood
  • Create new cartoon characters and a comic book
  • Build a birdfeeder
  • Write a play and plan the costumes and make-up
  • Go for a walk with an adult you care about
  • Call a family member whom you don’t see often just to say hi
  • Write riddles to share during lunch at Champlain
  • Set learning and other goals for 2018-19
  • Decide what you want to be when you grow up
  • Work towards personal goals

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Makes the Spelling Bee So Special? An Interview with Champlain’s Spelling Bee Coaches and Students

On May 18, selected Champlain fourth and fifth graders will compete in the Burlington School District’s elementary spelling bee. Teacher Sarah Legault and parent Kate Kenny have organized and coached our students to perform their best! Here they share their perspectives on the big event with all six participating fourth-grade students chiming in.

DD: How do students get involved in the spelling bee?

SL: I told all fourth and fifth graders about this year’s spelling bee. Of course students were very excited and remembered clearly who was on the spelling team last year since Champlain took home the trophy!

KK: All fourth and fifth grade students who were interested in taking part in the SB could get a list of the regular spelling words from Sarah. We then invited any interested future SB participants to take a spelling quiz at the beginning of March. We gave them thirty random words from the list and the six students who spelled the most correct words were selected for the team.

Claire Chutter-Cressy: Ms. Legault got me really excited, and I knew I had to try out.

DD: How do they prepare?

SL: Our spellers spend a lot of time practicing at home and of course at school. We examine word parts, prefixes, suffixes, word meanings and patterns, and the tricky words. Kate and I meet with our spellers 2-3 times a week before school and during lunch.

KK: Rather than try to memorize the words by rote, we work on the rules of spelling and then, with it being the English language, lament how many times these rules are broken and spend some time looking at the anomalies. We also fill out a worksheet which I use when teaching foreign languages, whereby students write down the word which they may find tricky twice, then cover it up, write it again, check it, and write it again. Research has shown that if we write a word several times, we have a better chance of retaining its spelling.

Annie Harte: Ms. Legault and Ms. Kenny are great teachers! They have taught us so much, and they put in so much hard work and effort! This experience has been a lot of fun and we have worked incredibly hard as one team.

DD: Do students forget the spellings after it's over, like cramming for an exam?

SL: I don’t think so! Our students are taking a deeper approach by analyzing spelling patterns and learning prefixes, suffixes, and Latin and Greek origins.

KK: They don’t seem to. I think, because we work on rules, patterns and identifying anomalies, the students are developing a good understanding of spelling.

Miles Kenny: No, I think I’ll remember the words forever.

DD: Why is the spelling bee such a big event in the Burlington School District?

SL: It’s a great way for our district to come together as a whole community. We are making spelling exciting!

KK: I really don’t know! I came to it fresh, last year!

August Bauer: Tons of schools come and the winner gets a trophy!

DD: Did you participate in the spelling bee or a similar competition when you were a child?

SL: Although I was never in an official spelling bee, I always had a passion for spelling, reading, vocabulary work, and handwriting when I was in elementary school.

KK: No – we only moved to Vermont from England nine years ago, and spelling bees do not take place in the UK. This is, for me, quintessentially American.

DD: What is usually students’ favorite part of the spelling bee? What is your favorite part?

SL: My favorite part is the preparation for the actual bee! I’m so proud of these motivated, devoted, and passionate spellers. They put forth a high-level of commitment. They embraced the growth mindset and weren’t afraid to make mistakes, knowing that mistakes are valuable! In the end, it’s not about winning, it’s about working together as a team and enjoying the journey.

KK: Last year was the first time that Sarah and I coached the spelling bee team, so I only have that experience to draw on, but I would say that the students’ favorite part is the competition. I remember turning up with our six participants (who were wearing regular clothes) at the Miller Center and seeing the other five Burlington Elementary School participants proudly wearing their schools’ t-shirt, and Sarah and I looked at each other and said, “Oh, boy! This is a big deal!” And it was a big deal. I was so pleased with how seriously all of the participants took the competition. Three to four hours is a long time to sit quietly on show in a room full of parents, teachers and adjudicators, but all thirty-six participants did this so well. It’s also rather nerve-wracking to stand up in front of a crowd and to loudly spell a difficult word. Again, they all did this so well last year. Of course there were, and will be, mistakes, but I was so impressed with the maturity which the participants displayed in the face of making a mistake and how they got right back up in the next round and had another go. I think the students, too, enjoyed having the opportunity to show-off how hard they had worked and how many words they had learned. They definitely enjoyed working as a Champlain team and were very supportive of each other. The fact that we won last year was, of course, a huge bonus!

Jack Tomlinson: Winning!

DD: What else would you like to share with the Champlain community about this topic?

SL: The Champlain PTO generously donated team t-shirts and a fun treat for our hardworking spelling team! Thank you for your continued support!

KK: The students and I have had so much fun preparing for this SB. They are always raring to go on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and this reflects, I think, how hungry students are to learn and how they relish a challenge. The actual competition is such a wonderful chance for them to work as a team, to experience what it feels like to speak in public, to succeed in spelling a difficult word, but, also, to experience disappointment when they make a mistake and to learn how to bounce back from this disappointment in order for them to do their best in the next round. These are great lessons for life.

Morgan Davis: Don’t be scared of new things!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Celebrating Champlain’s Talent Show!

On Wednesday, April 18, Champlain Elementary School presented an extraordinary talent show, featuring dozens of K-5 students in twenty-seven acts. To prepare, students participated in an audition and a month of after-school rehearsals with the support of their directors, fourth-grade teacher Lisa Goetz and parent Jessica Blackman. Like all show business, the behind-the-scenes preparations required dedication and coordination. How can elementary-age children look like shiny big stars in a gym? Ms. Goetz arranged a professional sound engineer and hired the Anthill Collective to paint a bold backdrop announcing, “Celebrating Champlain’s Talent!” Fourth graders Cora Lea, Samara Berman, Julianna Bridges, Annie Harte, and Jane Laramee managed the many stage operations to whisk performers and props on and off stage.

Performing before a live audience of hundreds packed into the gym demonstrates not only practiced talent, but fearlessness. Many Champlain faculty and staff attended, joining Champlain’s extended families. All of our performers deserve recognition for their personal achievement and contribution to our school pride! MC Ms. Goetz launched the night with gratitude to all and enthusiasm for every number. Sasha Moneagudo, Aven Smith, Sabrina Borrow, Lucia Esckilsen, and Stella Esckilsen danced and performed gymnastic feats – choreographed twirls and cartwheels – to “Cotton Eye Joe.” Next was Arthur Lea, who, back in kindergarten, began asking when Champlain would have a talent show. Nearly two years and many conversations later, Arthur rode his skateboard across the stage, turning and flipping and beaming in this special moment. Together, two of our youngest students, Alana and Hazel Berman, sparkly dressed for Broadway, played the piano singing, “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Playing “Minuet 2” on the violin, Aven Jorgenson showed two years’ achievement on a very difficult instrument. Not to be outdone, Owen Guyette and Hunter Stratton dribbled basketballs over one hundred times. Dressed as a duo in matching outfits, sunglasses, and hairstyles, Rozella VanTubergen and Taylor Montani danced and lip-synched to “I’m a Lady.” Jump ropes and hula hoops were the order of business for Prabita Gurung, Miranda Rectenwald, Lucille (Lulu) Colman, Ruthie Shover, and Mae Dery. Decked out in matching colors, Tegan Bushey and Fiona Agnew stopped the music with jokes, most memorably, “What’s a bunny’s favorite dance?” Answer: Hip hop.

No Vermont talent show is complete without the state song, “These Green Hills.” Ella McCormack sang with love in her heart wearing a dazzling sequin dress. Countless hours of practice paid off when Lydia Allen played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in perfect time on her violin. “Wild Thing” on the electric guitar has no parallel, and when Elliot Throop strummed the chords and offered the audience to join, they resounded the lyrics, enthralled. Darth Vader took center stage on the piano with Jack Dion hidden underneath to play the theme song of Star Wars. The mood lightened when Yusuf Ibrahim and Khalil Philie invited members of the audience onstage for magic tricks with playing cards and balloons. Marina Twohig and Cameron Gurry followed with dancing and lip-synching to, “Your Lips are Moving,” in perfectly coordinated outfits. Accompanied by Champlain alum Laura Zhou-Hackett and wearing exquisite Chinese dresses, Tess Ewoldsen and Lisa Zhou-Hackett performed “Jasmine Flower” on the violin. In a very grown-up voice with a British affect, Teagan Berquist sang, “I Don’t Know My Name.” Mother and daughter duo, Jessica and Julia Blackman, played two songs together on the piano with proud concentration on synchronization. Intentionally unlisted in the show program was Champlain’s faculty/staff surprise dance to “The Cupid Shuffle,” which they (somewhat) secretly practiced for weeks.

When Emanuel Jorgensen played the guitar and Holden Mulvey sang, “Count on Me,” adorning bright hats and suits, one could feel the crowd’s excitement for the cherished chorus, rocked out by two budding stars. Jamming on the djembe drum, Kezia Bibens led the beat with backup percussion of fellow fourth graders. John (Bowie) Creason commanded 115 seconds to create his magical symmetrical speed painting. “Rainbow Rocks” was Beau Wallace’s song choice for breakdancing with impressive leaps and spins. On the piano, Aiden DePolo spread his hands wide to perform, “Where’s My Mind.” At that very moment, a sunray beamed on his face and keyboard. Felix Roesch worked up his diablo, spinning to a blur and tossing into the air, followed by a quick dance of “the floss.” In sophisticated dress, Kaiya Corbett danced in rhythm and smiled with contagious joy to the tune called, a propos, “Confident.” “The Entertainer,” played on the piano by Miles Kenney, reminded that, through the decades, the classics stay true. Chaplain’s talent show concluded with a kindergartener’s act by Andre Redmond singing, “The Way I am,” in a powerful voice far larger than his young size. This finale pronounced that Champlain’s talent has years ahead to grow and thrive. A HUGE thank you goes to director Ms. Goetz, our students, our Parent-Teacher Organization, and the many volunteers who made this performance possible! This was a night to celebrate and remember for years to come!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Students Visit Champlain’s Evacuation Site at CrossFit Gym

The State of Vermont requires all schools to conduct one to two drills each month, alternating between “Evacuate the Building” (fire drill) and “Secure the School” (lockdown). This practice teaches expectations during emergency situations to staff and students. Over a year ago, Champlain faculty practiced the protocol, “Evacuate the Building,” and walked to our primary evacuation site, CrossFit Gym, at 39 Birchcliff Pkwy. Conducting a whole-school evacuation site drill annually is best practice. After many successful drills with students increasingly following directions, Champlain is now ready for a whole-school evacuation drill. This is long overdue, since last fall Champlain was evacuated and the Burlington Fire Department arrived to inspect the building before we could reenter. (Something burned in the kitchen.) Had the warm September sun not shone and snow was coming down, we may have needed to move quickly to our evacuation site.

Yet students know nothing about Champlain’s evacuation site. Years have passed since the last such drill. Our Safety Incident Command Team has found another way to acquaint students and staff to the protocol as an effective learning opportunity. First, members of Champlain’s Safety Team will present at an all-school assembly on April 16. We will demonstrate the protocol with a map and student volunteers, whose job it is to, “ listen and watch.” In an emergency, directions can change and, “We walk and sit quietly and don’t talk.” The next day, each grade level will visit the site separately. A representative of Champlain’s Safety Team will meet them in the lobby and repeat the steps they learned at the assembly. With the Safety Team leader in front, the classroom teacher behind each class, and other staff interspersed with students, they walk straight out onto the sidewalk and go right along Pine Street. At Birchcliff Parkway, they turn right and continue until they arrive at CrossFit Gym. They will go inside and sit together for a minute while the Safety Team leader explains that, in case of emergency, they would wait here until we can re-enter our school, or their parents or a bus picks them up to take them home. Then we will walk back to school the same way we came.

St. Anthony’s Church on 305 Flynn Avenue is Champlain’s second evacuation site, in case circumstances prevent us from going to CrossFit. The reunification site at that location is the church’s parking lot.

Champlain’s reunification site is the parking lot in front of CrossFit. In case of a real emergency in which we needed to evacuate the building for an extended period of time, parents/guardians will be notified and requested to pick up their children. Given the traffic that would ensue, Safety Team members and city traffic monitors and/or police would help keep the process safe.
Technically, anytime students leave campus as part of the school day becomes a field trip. This edition of the Blue Note is the parental notification of this off-campus activity, likely the least fun field trip our students will ever experience! Families are encouraged to talk about the “Evacuate the Building” drill to Champlain’s evacuation site and encourage children to stick to their job: listen and watch, walk and sit quietly, and don’t talk. Please be aware that additional steps are always taken to support individual students who struggle with drills. If any questions arise, please contact me.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Planning Class Configurations and Student Placement in 2018-19 and Champlain Students Present Peer Mediation at the University of Vermont

Planning Class Configurations and Student Placement in 2018-19
After months of dialogue, Champlain’s faculty and administration have arrived at a plan for grade levels in 2018-19. With sixteen homerooms, every year we carefully track enrollment to determine which grades will have two sections and which will have three. At all times, Champlain must have at least two grade levels with only two sections or else we run out of classrooms. In 2018-19, Kindergarten and grade 4 will be divided into two sections. Grades 1, 2, 3, and 5 will be divided into three.

After two years of multiage classes in grades 4 and 5, the 2018-19 school year will return to single-grade classes. This decision grew directly from our experiences, weighing the pros and cons of multiage. We found that the most important component of multiage - looping with the same teacher and class for the last two years of elementary school - could be preserved if the current fourth graders remain with their teachers next year. The single fourth grade class will be divided between the three (currently 4/5) sections, with approximately twenty students in each.

Another important topic of discussion was the opportunity for content specialization. When teachers share students across two or three classes, each teacher can specialize in one to three subjects. For example, at Edmunds Elementary School, students in two second-grade classes learn science, social studies, and writing from one teacher and mathematics from another. Both teachers have their own “homeroom class” for morning meetings and reading instruction. This model is most likely to take place in grade 4 in 2018-19. Many Champlain students have grown accustomed to changing classes, learning from different teachers for thirty-minute Boost activities, determined by their skills in specific areas, such as text comprehension or subtraction facts. Often students change groups based on their strengths and growth.

Champlain’s class placement process has begun and will continue through the summer. The contractual commitments and teachers’ professional decisions of the Burlington School District limit our ability to definitively assign teachers to specific grade levels. For this reason, families cannot be informed of their 2018-19 teacher until midsummer, when we will send a letter from the new teacher, welcoming students to his/her class.

Class placement requires a rigorous process to create equitable, balanced classes. Teachers begin by creating a profile for each of their current students based on this information: 
Free/reduced meals eligibility
English Learner 
Special Education, 504, or Educational Support Team Plan
Reading Proficiency Average
Math Proficiency Average
Special Services Score
Social, Behavioral, and Personal Development
Behavior referrals
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. The procedure does not consider older siblings’ placements, since this factor can also lead to imbalanced classes. If the number of students in an area, such as English Learners, cannot be evenly divided, then teachers look to the other criteria for evening out the total score. Grade levels are labeled A, B, or C instead of teachers’ names.

Please see me if questions arise. The spring can be a thrilling time of renewal, with many hands-on activities for students. Yet it can also be a time of tumult and change. Champlain educators will do our best to ensure a smooth transition from winter to spring to summer and, hang on to your hats, fall 2018!

Champlain Students Present Peer Mediation at the University of Vermont
Fourth-graders Annie Harte, Nyankor Ateny, Julianna Bridges, James Keats Overman Smith, and fifth-grader Marcus Bussiere presented to over one hundred attendees at the University of Vermont's Restorative Practices Professional Development Workshop on Saturday, March 24. Fifth-grader Lila Boyd was instrumental in planning the skit and practicing as a peer mediator, but could not attend the conference. Fortunately another opportunity awaits this student group on Thursday, April 5, when they will present to the Burlington School District’s Restorative Practices Team. At UVM, first Julianna and Annie presented our school’s peer mediation program in full detail. When handed the microphone after the girls, Dr. Dorfman breathed and said, “I’m kvelling,” before describing the role of peer supporters in addressing student misconduct. “Kvelling” is a Yiddish word for swelling or gushing with pride, usually towards one’s own children.
Second, the five students demonstrated a twenty-minute peer-mediation session: Annie had punched Marcus on the playground after he cheated from her math test. PM supporter Nyankor was busy teaching mindful counting to calm Annie’s temper and planning room paraeducator Kendre Guinane recommended Annie meet with the guidance counselor. Keats facilitated brainstorming solutions while Julianna wrote on the board, circling those they agreed upon. They apologized. Marcus would admit cheating to their teacher, and Annie would tutor him in math.

Third, the audience asked questions about training, scheduling, feelings, and much more. Educators from the two other presenting schools, Edmunds Elementary School and Union-32 Junior-High School, joined the Q&A. The only student presenters, Champlain fourth and fifth graders, shone like the stars they are!

Champlain’s Reading is an Investment Program Winner: Congratulations students on completing the 2018 Reading is an Investment program. This year, over 5,000 students from over 70 schools submitted reading logs, entering themselves into a random drawing for one of twenty $250 VSAC college savings accounts. Congratulations to third-grader Emma Stearns! She has been selected as one of the winners!