Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oct 30

Upcoming Dates of Note  
  • Early Release Day (noon dismissal)- Wednesday, Nov 6
  • PTO Screening of "Bully"- CBMS cafeteria- Thursday, Nov 7th- 6:30-8:30PM
  • School Board Meeting- Tuesday, Nov 12 - 6PM - CBMS library
  • PTO Meeting- Wednesday, Nov 13- 6:30PM - CBMS library
  • CBMS Concert- Wednesday, Nov 20- 5-8 Band and Chorus- 7PM start
  • Parent Conferences- Nov 25, 26
Advisory Group, or AG as we call it at CBMS, is an integral and important part of any developmentally appropriate Middle School, CBMS included.  At the core of this structure is advocacy and connectedness, and assurance that each and every child at CBMS is well-known by at least one adult staff member.  Our AG groups are purposely small, with 7-9 students per AG, and each AG includes a mix of students from grades 5-8.  Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) are coming to Vermont Schools beginning next year, and we will be looking hard at the AG structure to see if this is the engine to drive PLPs.  For more on Middle School Advisory in general, click here to read a good article from the Association for Middle Level Education.  

Fall Parent Conferences for grades 5-8 are happening on Monday, November 25th and Tuesday, November 26th, between 3PM and 8PM.  Sign-ups will be on-line again this year, and the system will open up on Wednesday, November 13th and close on Wednesday, November 20th.  Details on how to sign up will be coming via a Cougar Comments next week.  

“Looky Loos” - An ART Commission! CBMS artists were recently commissioned to produce and install an artwork to cover the windows between the learning center and the library.  The artists determined that since everyone who goes by the learning center tends to “looks in,” the artwork displayed there should be the opposite – people “looking out.” Artists in grade 5 & 6 volunteered to create glue resist pastel paintings to fit this space. Drop by the learning center and “look in!” Many thanks to the artists who contributed to this project: Kylee Aldrich, Sarah Kate Smith, Annie Foregger, Izzy Lamphere, Sierra Hayes, Kaylee Forkey and Maggie Alberghini.  Continued work is underway to add an artwork in the inside window-surface, so folks inside the learning center will have an improved view.

E-Community Bulletin Board- Notes have been added for the GMPA Nutcracker and a fundraiser for Tyra Izor - Click Here to access.

Solar Note from Jason Gibbs, WDSD School Board Member and Duxbury Resident- this message was posted to the Duxbury Front Porch Forum last week
Solar Energy @ CBMS
As the facilities and maintenance liaison for the Waterbury-Duxbury School Board, I'd like to offer some useful background on the 150 kW solar array under construction at CBMS.  

In partnership with local partners Green Lantern Capital and SunCommon, we are excited to be moving forward with installation of a 150-kilowatt solar energy system at Crossett Brook Middle School in Waterbury.

Under the terms of an innovative financing agreement with Green Lantern Capital, the school district is guaranteed to generate more than $4,000 each year in revenue, with none of the risk of owning a system and the option of purchasing the array (and all of the financial value of its generation capacity) in later years.

More specifically, Green Lantern Capital is Vermont’s first tax-equity financing program for solar projects. Their offering provides the school district with free installation and immediate savings on utility bills. It will also give us a chance to effectively evaluate the longer-term potential of the solar energy system to determine if the school would like to purchase it at a steep discount in the future, perhaps as low as 55 percent off the original price.

For the school, there is no operational, maintenance or insurance cost — these are covered under the terms of the agreement. This is an important point: There is no upfront, or ongoing cost to the school district under the terms of this agreement.

The school board is excited about saving taxpayers more than $4,000 each year, and we are equally enthusiastic because we believe it will serve as an educational opportunity for our students and community as a whole. Hosting this solar energy system will save us money, set an example and provide a real contribution to local, clean energy production in our communities. 

In fact, combined with energy efficiency measures, existing rooftop solar panels and our sustainability program, this system makes our school district the most environmentally responsible and energy efficient in Vermont -- proving schools can be leaders in energy innovation and save money.  

Procedurally, the project was on the agenda of monthly meetings of school board for nine (9) months beginning first in November of 2012. Agendas are publicly available in advance of each meeting and each meeting is publicly warned. Several news stories in the Waterbury Record noted discussions on this project.

Before voting to move forward we also advertised and hosted a special meeting on the project. The special meeting was promoted in the Waterbury Record, mentioned in a news story, and addressed in a letter to the editor that I penned encouraging community members who could not attend the meeting to contact us directly with their questions and comments.   The special meeting focused on providing community members the opportunity to see the foot print (the footprint of the array was staked out for a month prior to the special meeting and those stakes were left in place for several months after), view the computer aided designs, audit the financials, ask questions and express their opinions. A half-dozen community members participated in this meeting. There were no objections raised at that meeting, or any of the 8 previous public meetings where the topic was discussed, but a lot of very good, probing questions were asked and answered. 

Minutes for each of the board meetings can be viewed here:  https://sites.google.com/a/wdsdvt.net/wdsd/meeting-minutes  

In addition to the 10 public meetings, I spoke with Waterbury LEAP, solar panel manufactures and installers, legislators, prospective investors and municipal officials who have, or are pursuing, solar energy systems (including some who have worked with our third party financing partner). With all of this input in mind, and with guidance from mutiple sources, we issued a Request for Information (RFI) that produced a variety of options for our consideration. These options helped us to narrow the design and financing options.  We later issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) -- which we issued twice to ensure we had options to consider -- and narrowed those responses down to a preferred option after hearing presentations from the two finalists at one of our public meetings.

At the board's request, the supervisory union's finance director conducted a comprehensive and independent financial analysis of the most attractive financing option.  This financial analysis was revisited, and reevaluated, at other key milestones -- including when we selected a final installer and before we signed an agreement.  Ultimately, it was this financial analysis -- coupled with a financing option that significantly limits the district's downside risk -- that lead to the board's unanimous vote to proceed. Please note that our final agreement was also reviewed in great detail, and at multiple points, by our attorney.

As for regulatory oversight, energy projects are regulated by the Public Service Board under what is known as Act 248 (Which is like Act 250 for energy projects).  Given the location, generation capacity and public process this was squarely within the board's jurisdiction.  

As you can see, the solar array will be placed on slightly less than an acre on the southwest side of the hill in front of the school, above the athletic field near the entrance.  It connects directly to the school's power system and from there to the power grid.  It is not, in any way, related to any other proposed project in Waterbury or Duxbury.  

Thank you for your interest in this project and the opportunity to share more details with more neighbors.

If you have any other questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me or other members of the board.  

All the best,

Jason Gibbs

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