Principal’s Message 2021
To the Derby Community:
What a year it has been! We thought last year was difficult, but this year seems even more demanding as we continue to navigate the impact of COVID-19. Thankfully, we have an outstanding staff and Board of Directors that have pressed on and continued the commitment to education that our community deserves. We all care so much about our children and our community and have persevered through all the trials and tribulations, and yet, in 2021, we were not without our triumphs.
We know the best place for children is in our school, and we were 100% committed to in-person learning, and a safe, healthy environment for our children and staff. In 2020-21, we had a relatively low case count, and based on the quiet COVID summer and guidance from the Agency of Education, we began the year with less restrictions than the year before. As you know, with the fall of 2021, COVID-19 raged in the NEK and Orleans County, our school was impacted and many classes went remote and our entire school went remote for 1.5 weeks. It was very disruptive to many. While COVID ran rampant, we returned to many of the restrictions we had in place the year before. Like the year before, our staff, and especially our children, were resilient and handled the changes to our processes and routines with aplomb. Parents have been accepting and positive about the changes, and we thank them for their help in providing a safe environment for children at school and at home so that we can keep the school open. We have now implemented a Test to Stay program that allows all close contacts to stay in school with a daily negative test. This has made a huge difference and we are able to keep more children in school!
You may know that we have received federal funds (ESSER) to help keep schools open for in-person learning, meet students' academic, social, emotional and mental health needs, and address disparities in educational opportunity made worse by COVID-19. After surveying families and having open discussion at each board meeting, we made a plan to hire an additional intervention teacher, a literacy coach, a social worker or guidance counselor, a priority substitute teacher, expanded Encore after school programming, an additional custodian, as assessment team, personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies, and an outdoor learning pavilion. These resources have definitely served their purpose.
We continue to prioritize social emotional learning (SEL) and restorative practices for all of our children. This was also noted as important in our parent survey. SEL and restorative practices have been so beneficial for our children and staff in this time of a global pandemic. All teachers are teaching these skills in order to meet the universal mental health needs of our children, which are greater than ever before.
We continue to strive to ensure Derby Elementary is equitable for all children. Equity has never been more important as the pandemic has highlighted inequities in stark relief, especially in terms of access to nutritious food, technology and the internet. The federal government and State of Vermont have provided free meals to all children this year. Thanks to funds reserved by taxpayers in years past, we are able to make all field trips free to all children. Donations have been pouring in to support our Back Pack Program that supports 30 - 40 families with back packs of non-perishable and fresh groceries throughout the year. We work to make sure all children have access to our programs, regardless of income, race, gender, identity, ability, etc. We continue to scrutinize our systems, programs, traditions, and practices to make sure that personal and social circumstances of our children, which are often far beyond their control, are not obstacles to achieving educational potential. An equitable education system helps all students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be engaged and become productive members of society.
To advance academic excellence as well as equity, and despite the hardship that the pandemic is causing, teachers at Derby and across NCSU have spent time this year engaged in professional development in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which gives all students an equal opportunity to succeed. This approach to teaching and learning offers flexibility in the ways students access material and show what they know. UDL also looks for different ways to keep students motivated. The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning. It's about building in flexibility that can be adjusted for every child's strengths and needs, benefiting all learners.
In addition to honing their practice with UDL, K-6 teachers at Derby and across NCSU are implementing a new literacy program that includes Interactive Read Alouds, Guided Reading Group books with lessons and Book Club books. We have seen such a difference here - children have a new found love of reading! Children are making connections and are vastly improving. Our teachers are working very hard to learn and put the program and strategies into practice by participating in grade level professional development and monthly Professional Learning Communities analyzing student data and determining next steps for students.
This is my last year as the principal of Derby Elementary School. I wish to thank the community for the support you have provided to help Derby Elementary School become an equitable and safe place for teaching and learning. The school program and the opportunities within it have grown so much in the last seven years. The Derby community should be proud of the school and the caring people who work here. Derby is known as one of the best schools in the area for a reason. I feel privileged to have worked with a caring staff and Board of Directors, past and present, who are so dedicated to improving the education and social emotional well-being of our children for the betterment of our community. Thank You.
With Tiger Paw Pride,