Year in review: A look back at education - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Year in review: A look back at education

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

If you had to pick one word to sum up education this year, "change" might suffice. From a new president at the University of Vermont, to new math requirements for high school graduates, even new foods in the school cafeteria, students, faculty and administrators faced change in 2012.

Even the state's education chief faced change, when Vermont lawmakers voted to make the commissioner's job a cabinet position. Armando Vilaseca would need to reapply for his job, now called secretary.

"I'm very interested in it. I enjoy this job," Vilaseca said.

And taking on a new job -- Thomas Sullivan became president of Vermont's only public university this year. His appointment was announced in February. He arrived to take the helm at UVM this summer.

But are Vermont's own high school graduates ready for UVM and other institutions of higher ed?

"It's critical that they have the skills that make them eligible for higher education," says Governor Peter Shumlin.

In an effort to boost college readiness, and improve math scores statewide, the governor and Vilaseca announced a plan that mandates algebra and geometry for all high school graduates in the state. They also want those courses taken in the first two years of high school. Until now, the requirements have varied district to district.

2012 also saw its fair share of controversy.

"The teachers agree to have a contract that does not call for automatic step increases when the contract expires that is a huge concession," said Darren Allen of the VTNEA during a strike this past year.

Teachers in the Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union hit the picket line, closing schools in five towns for two weeks. Like other contentious battles over school contracts this year, negotiations centered on pay increases, health insurance and working conditions. Strikes were averted in three other districts: Addison Rutland, Addison Northeast and Windham Northeast.

In Burlington, the issue of racism took center stage. Superintendent Jeanne Collins came under fire by some who said she didn't do enough to fix racial problems in the city's schools. Students had complained about racial slurs from other students and a lack of action from administrators.

"Now I feel strongly that it is really important that we move together and move forward as make this plan work. I hear the commitment of the board to make this plan work," Collins said.

Collins then offered up a five-part plan to address the problems.

Finally, when the new school year commenced this fall, students across the state faced more change -- not in the classroom, but the cafeteria.

"I had to see how many calories are in every meal, which there were really unlimited calories before," said David Horner with the Richmond School Food Service.

New rules from the USDA placed limits on calories, how much grain and protein kids can eat each week, and other requirements. They've meant challenges for school lunch preparers across Vermont.

It's been a year of both challenges -- and change -- in the Green Mountain State -- for all in education: our students, those who teach them and those who oversee Vermont policy.

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