Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reverse-Trick-or-Treating: Lawrence Barnes Kids Give Back on Halloween to Their Neighborhoods and the World

This Halloween, the Lawrence Barnes PTO is partnering with international human-rights advocacy group Global Exchange to educate our community about Fair Trade in the cocoa industry.

Lawrence Barnes students will join thousands of children across the US in "reverse trick-or-treating," giving samples of Fair Trade Certified™ dark chocolate to the houses they trick or treat. Fair Trade, denoted by the "Fair Trade Certified" label, is a monitoring and certification process that guarantees a minimum price per pound for cocoa. Fair Trade prohibits forced or abusive child labor, enables farmers to earn enough to meet their families' basic needs, such as health care, education, and nutrition, and requires sustainable farming practices, which protect the environment.

More information about this activity is available at www.reversetrickortreating.org.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lawrence Barnes PTO elects new officers

At the PTO meeting on Wednesday, October 10, new officers for the coming school year were elected:

Co-Presidents: Heather Riemer, Andrew Tomczak
Vice-President: Dylan Zeitlin
Treasurer: Megan Peek
Secretary: Siobhan Donegan
PTO Council Representative: Kirsten Berggren

Also, the PTO has set the date of Saturday, November 10th for a pancake breakfast fundraiser to benefit the healthy food options at Barnes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Board votes to keep 6 schools open

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Burlington Free Press
By Molly Walsh

The Burlington School Board on Tuesday continued to move away from controversial proposals to redistrict or consolidate the city's six neighborhood elementary schools in order to reduce high poverty rates at the two grade schools in the city's Old North End.

The board voted to keep open Burlington's six neighborhood elementary schools and tally up the costs of improvements needed at various schools for a "major bond" in 2008. The board also voted to spend about $35,000 in federal grant funds to hire a Colchester firm to survey Burlington parents on what constitutes excellence in the schools and what sort of specially themed school would appeal to them.

Tuesday's actions were the latest developments in a lengthy, emotional public conversation about socio-economic integration of students in Burlington. The new votes were not a surprise given that last month the board indicated in a straw poll that it was split on mandatory redistricting but strongly supported the creation of one or more magnet schools in the city, partly to attract middle and upper income students to the city's higher-poverty schools, Lawrence Barnes and H.O. Wheeler.

School Board member Chris Haessly, representing Ward 2, was happy to see the board take a step toward preservation of neighborhood schools. "That's an issue near and dear to me," he said. Haessly believes the board should try to spur economic integration with choice before it resorts to mandatory redistricting. "My personal feeling is, you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Vincent Brennan, a Lawrence Barnes parent and School Board member representing Ward 3, was relieved that school closure appears to be off the table. He voted in favor of studying the costs for major school improvements, which he believes are needed to change enrollment patterns.

"We need to do something bold like this, but at the same time, I don't think we need to blow up our whole system" to achieve the goal of socio-economic integration, Brennan said.

Not everyone was happy to see redistricting move to the back burner. Before the key votes Tuesday, supporters of dramatic action such as changing neighborhood school boundaries made one last pitch.

Nancy Radley, a teacher at H.O. Wheeler School, read aloud a letter signed by almost 30 Wheeler staff members. It said Wheeler students need to be educated alongside peers of "other races, religions, cultures and economic means" and urged the board to reconsider consolidation or redistricting. The letter acknowledged that those proposals were unpopular at public forums, but asked: "How much of this was a knee-jerk reaction to any change within our schools versus a well-thought out response?"

The letter also cast doubt on the idea that the "carrot approach" would attract middle class families to high poverty schools. "In considering other proposals, including magnets, we believe none of them has the drawing power to change the public perception of the Old North End neighborhood schools," the letter read. "We believe they will fail to achieve the desired results."

School Board members Barbara Crook (Ward 6) and Wally Elliott (Ward 4) said they were sympathetic to the teachers' viewpoint. Both voted against the resolution to maintain six schools, believing it could tie the board's hands in the future.

Other board members argued that at dozens of public meetings on the issue of socio-economic integration, parents overwhelmingly said they liked their neighborhood schools. "We need to listen to the parents," said Marrisa Caldwell, a Ward 3 School Board member.

The School Board voted to hire Fifth Element Associates of Colchester to conduct the study on magnet schools and school excellence. The survey will be funded with money from a grant that the district must spend by Dec. 30 or lose.