What’s new at school?

What’s new at school?

Windham County schools prepare for the start of a new academic year

Academy School

School starts: Annual meet and greet on Wednesday, Aug. 29, from 2 to 3 p.m. First day of school for students is Thursday, Aug. 30.

• Changes in staff: Jane Geidel and Michael Lonergan are joining the fifth-grade team as classroom teachers. Matt Greene is the new physical education teacher. Monique Antaya is the new behavior interventionist; starting as special education teacher is Ashley Haynes, and Liz LaVorgna and Abby Wicker are joining as paraeducators. Kelly Dias is entering her first year as principal after serving a year as assistant principal and years of teaching at Vernon Elementary, Oak Grove School, and Academy School. Jon Sessions, a special educator who has taught at Oak Grove and most recently at Academy School, will be serving as the new assistant principal.

• Changes in curriculum: The school aims to implement a new core literacy curriculum that would provide a more well-rounded, consistent approach to teaching literacy across all grade levels. “We are committed to responding to the needs of many students and families in our community by providing outreach support through our school counseling and social work department to families in need,” Dias said.

“Finally,” she added, “we continue our commitment to learning in our natural world through our new natural playground, and our forest areas that play a central role in the days for our younger grades especially, and offer a world of hands-on learning opportunities.”

• Parent and community interactions: Academy School stresses the importance and pride of the strong community that surrounds it. Principal Dias noted that she “would like to continue to increase our community partnerships with businesses and organizations in the Brattleboro area.”

• Summer improvements: The Academy School has added a new natural playground, and our forest areas that play a central role in the days for our younger grades especially, and offer a world of hands-on learning opportunities.

What is the biggest challenge facing education? When asked about goals and challenges for the upcoming school year, Dias answered, “One of the most exciting parts of working in a schools is that our learning is never done. We all learn every day how to better educate and engage our students. I am looking forward to finding ways to create my own traditions, and to continue to bring families to our school as much as possible.”

Bellows Falls Union High School

• School starts: There will be a spaghetti dinner for incoming freshman on Tuesday, Aug. 28, and the first day of school for all students is Aug. 29.

• Changes in staff: There will be a new school superintendent, Christopher A. Pratt, and a new assistant superintendent, Linn Carey.

• Parent/Community interactions: BFUHS continues SAP (Student Assistance Program), which provides prevention and intervention of student drug use. The school also continues its collaboration with the River Valley Tech Center in Springfield.

What is the biggest challenge facing education? Assistant Principal John Broadley commented that a challenge for the school year would be “finding the level at which each of our students are at and helping them grow from that level", and encourages the community to “be supportive in all that their children do in their school life."

He also noted the schools musical and art programs and encouraged the community to continue supporting all the programs the school has to offer.

Bellows Falls Middle School

• School starts: The first day is Wednesday, Aug. 29. There will be a sports meeting on Aug, 30, at 5:30 p.m., for student athletes and parents.

• Changes in staff: Dana Aquadro will start as assistant principal.

Brattleboro Area Middle School

• School starts: Aug. 30, school starts for seventh grade only. Eighth graders join them Aug. 31.

• Changes in staff: Gabrielle Polito will start in special education; Amanda Nash and Chris Brewer join as academic support; Rebecca Twaites leads Team Taurus English; Jill Sprague and Patrick Johnson start as paraprofessionals. Michael Lonergan has resigned as English teacher. Caitlin Campbell has left her role in academic support to take another position in the district.

• Changes in curriculum: The school has added an additional academic support teacher to address the needs of students, as well as three paraprofessionals to begin a program to support students who have behavioral challenges. There has been development on the school's multi-tiered system of support, including improvements to the daily skills block and utilization of student performance data to target instruction to support their individual needs.

• Parent and community interactions: WSESU has reached a new contract with Kuzmeskus Travel to provide transportation for students, as well as a consultant from the University of New Hampshire, who Principal Keith Lyman said will “work with the school's administration, leadership team, and staff to improve and enhance our systems of communication and to develop the effectiveness of our leadership team.”

• Summer improvements: Many classrooms were repainted. Air conditioning was installed in an interior classroom space used for specialized summer instruction. Repairs were made to the sidewalk and parking areas, and improvements were made to walk-in coolers in the cafeteria.

Goals and challenges: Lyman aims to promote “more student centered work, in order to really get to know each individual student and create curriculum that is individualized. Parent engagement [with the school] is a struggle when students hit middle school, so some of the student-centered approaches will hopefully engage parents more.”

Lyman also reminds parents that alcohol and tobacco use are part of the community and “we are trying to raise awareness about it for students and parents. Those things are more prevalent than [one] might think, and parent involvement is going to be a big factor in preventing it.”

Brattleboro Union High School

School starts: Friday, Aug. 30.

Staff changes: The BUHS School Board accepted the resignation of VPA Academy Coordinator Karen Trenosky. Rene McIntyre has been hired as a math teacher, replacing Ryan Connors. Gregory McLane has been hired for the social-studies department.

Summer improvements: The school has installed new energy-efficient walk-in coolers for the cafeteria. The track has been resurfaced. According to the school's Facebook page, “We specifically would remind all community members that wheeled vehicles, including strollers, can damage the track and are not permitted.”

Compass School

School starts: Compass School begins its 20th year on Aug. 26, beginning with an orientation for new families in the morning and a community work day in the afternoon. All families with children attending should plan to participate in activities such as gardening and building cleaning. Following that, the school year officially begins Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Changes in staff: Julia Taylor, a humanities teacher and college counselor, leaves after 16 years at Compass; Emma Schneider has been hired to fill that void. Amar Langsdorf will work in both the middle-school humanities and Spanish departments.

Changes in curriculum: Director Rick Gordon, citing a student suggestion, hopes to bring more inspiration into the curriculum by focusing on courage and the things people are doing to make the world a better place.

• Summer improvements: In addition to curricular and staff changes, Compass also received a more literal paint job that covers the entirety of the exterior of the building.

Goals and challenges: “I think the biggest education challenge nationwide is: How can we make sure every kid gets an education where they thrive?” Gordon said. “I think what people are asking is, 'How can we provide opportunities for every child?' [...] and the way the community can support that is by supporting diverse learning opportunities.”

Dummerston School

• School starts: First day of School is Thursday, Aug. 30; teacher in-service days take place Aug. 27-29.

Grafton Elementary School

• School opens: On Tuesday, Aug. 28, from 2 to 3 p.m., an open walk-through will allow families to see classrooms and meet staff. First day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 29.

• Changing personnel: Liz Harty joined the staff as principal. The school also welcomes Angela Cartier (third- and fourth-grade combined classroom teacher), Kim Abrams (fifth-grade teacher), Margie Ottenbreit (special education teacher), Liz Bourne (Librarian), Scott Rebbie (art teacher), and Tammy Armstrong (paraprofessional) to the staff.

• New programs or curriculum changes: This year, the school is continuing to use Investigations 3 for math and Lucy Calkins Units of Study in writing.

• Summer improvements: The school has a newly painted exterior, part of the interior, and a new roof over the ramp into the building. Grafton Elementary also formed a partnership with Grafton Nature Museum for the Outdoor Classroom, used regularly by students in all grades (K-6).

Green Street School

• School starts: Thursday, Aug. 30. (Kindergartners end at 12:15 until their first full day, Sept. 10.)

• Staff changes: A new kindergarten teacher, a new sixth-grade teacher, a few new paraeducators, three interns, and a school social worker have all joined the staff.

• Curriculum changes: A new program will fuse art into the kindergarten curriculum.

• Parent/community interactions: Green Street School continues their STEP/Planning room (Supportive Teams for Educational Progress), a behavioral intervention program that offers services ranging from behavioral observation and teacher consultation to creation of full behavior-support plans.

• Summer improvements: This summer, the school installed a new outdoor classroom for the whole school. Principal Mark Speno believes “that the new outdoor classroom will increase the engagement of outdoor learning for all students K-6. Classroom teachers will be able to take advantage of this new space for story time, science lessons, and more.”

Goals and challenges: Speno talked about the importance of teamwork, stating that all teachers will work in teams to develop and support one another's curriculum. “At Green Street School, student needs are the top priority. The staff embraces a 'can do' attitude, knowing that collaboration and teamwork are essential to the success of students and to the professional goals of the staff.”

Guilford Elementary School

• School starts: First day of school, Thursday, Aug. 30; kindergarten orientation/pre-kindergarten visitation day, Thursday, Aug. 23.

• Parent/Community interactions: Guilford continues the Farm to School program, where students spend time gardening, cooking, and visiting local farms.


School starts: The year-round, independent INSPIRE School started the school year July 9. The current academic year continues until June 14.

Recent improvements: A commercial kitchen and domestic kitchen has been added to the facility. Executive Director Troy Kennett hopes that this, coupled with a greenhouse built by students last year, will increase on-site training and exposure opportunities.

• Goals and challenges: “The biggest challenge we face is increasing partnerships with surrounding districts for the purpose of strengthening school programs,” Kennett said. This challenge comes with the goal of “allowing students to transition back from out-of-district placements or remain in their home districts and not be placed away from friends,” he concluded.

Jamaica Village School

• School opens: Wednesday, Aug. 29 (K-6); Thursday, Aug. 30 (preschool).

• Parent and community interactions: First Day Celebration, Aug. 29, where parents are welcomed to join students in the morning to meet teachers, get information about the year, and for a song. The School Board has released a timeline for the 2019-20 school year budget deadlines. A decision about the timeline must be made by October. Jamaica Village School families and other residents are welcomed to attend meetings and give feedback.

• Other news in the school community: The school has become trauma-informed, which means “ the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress,” according to Treatment and Services Adaptation Center (traumaawareschools.org). The school maintains a valued partnership with the Stratton Foundation, and as such will be a winter clothing distribution site for the fall for the nonprofit's Pass It On clothing drive.

Leland & Gray Middle-High School

• School starts: Grades 7 and 8 begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and high school students begin on Thursday, Aug. 30.

• Changes in staff: Mike Harrigan will start as the dean of academics and instruction; Carter Spear joins the faculty as a counselor; Lauren Shockley will begin as the school nurse; Chris Hughes starts as a daytime custodian. Matt Clark is the new middle school social studies teacher, Rory O'Donnell becomes the new high school social studies teacher, and Caitlin Saunders starts the new high school mathematics teacher. Emily Evans will begin as the special education case manager. Bob Thibault enters his third year as principal.

“I consider myself very fortunate to be entering my third year at L&G,” said Thibault. ”We're a great little school which emphasizes that our small size better positions us to know every student well, and to provide a high quality education on a personal level.”

• Changes in curriculum: Leland & Grey will continue with teacher training from the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Literacy Network, and there will be new teacher training from Dave Melnick (NFI Vermont) on trauma-informed schools.

• Parent and community interactions: The middle school will continue to partner with the Tarrant Institute (UVM), a foundation that aims to support technology integration in middle schools as a means of increasing student engagement.

• Summer improvements: Due to funds from a school-safety grant from Vermont Emergency Management, a new ID card access system, complete with “airphones,” has been installed. The library has been re-carpeted and painted.

• Goals and challenges: “One upcoming challenge is that the new West River Educational District board continues to look at systemic changes in quality and efficiency,” Thibault said. “They are currently considering bringing sixth grade to L&G, and we are excitedly working with them to demonstrate how this could be done.”

Marlboro School

• School opens: Wednesday, Aug. 29 for grades K-8; Tuesday, Sept. 4 for preschool.

• Changing personnel: New staff members include Amanda Georgeson (preschool teacher), Emily Walsh (kindergarten teacher), Patti Donnelly (preschool and kindergarten assistant), Liz Greco (fifth- and sixth-grade teacher), Kalya Wood (physical education teacher), Jamie Schilling (preschool-fourth grade art teacher), Donald Saaf (grades 5-8 art teacher), and Sara Sherritt (nurse). Christine Moyer (special education teacher), Ellen Martyn (kindergarten), and Sue Aldridge (art) retired in the spring.

• Summer improvements: Marlboro Elementary welcomes a preschool opening in the fall. The kindergarten, first-, and second-grade classrooms have also been renovated, and upgrades to the playground as well as an addition of a preschool playground have been made. Eight faculty members and 24 students will join the school community.

Oak Meadow School

School starts: Oak Meadow's distance-learning school is asynchronous, meaning that students may apply and start throughout the year.

Changing personnel: Steve Lorenz, former head of the Grammar School in Putney, has been named executive director.

Changes in curriculum: Oak Meadow is now offering a new and revised grade 8 curriculum, which includes pre-algebra or algebra I, civics, physical science, and English, which features a new reading list.

Open house: Oak Meadow will hold its annual fall Open House on Oct. 13. All are welcome to come and browse the curriculum, meet the teachers and staff, and network with other homeschoolers and distance learners. Vermont-themed refreshments and fun activities are also offered.

Putney Central School

School starts: Friday, Aug. 30. Parents are caregivers are invited to “First Day Hurray.” Parents/caregivers are strongly encouraged to attend. “We'll have lots of important info to share, introduce new faculty and staff, spend times in classrooms, and wrap the morning with Kerri [Harlow] and Steve [Hed]'s trademark family BBQ!” staff members have written on the school's Facebook page.

Summer improvements: The middle-school boys' bathroom has been renovated as part of a program that has tackled all six of the school's rest rooms one at a time each year. With the help of friends from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, improvements have been made in the School Forest. The Facebook page noted that the workers “have widened the trail known as Frog Highway to make it safer for walkers, particularly those with little feet, and are building a stair-step transition into part of the Princess Pine trail, which is also a big safety improvement.”

Changes in curriculum: Middlebury-based Vermont Folklife Center conducted a three-day workshop at PCS on teaching ethnographic techniques for eight educators from the southern part of the state. The program “gets Vermont students out of their classrooms to learn from their diverse communities using media-making tools to document - and ultimately share - their experiences,” according to the program's website.

The Putney School

• School starts: Classes will resume on Sept. 3.

Saxtons River Elementary School

• School starts: Classroom visitation day is Monday, Aug. 27, from 3 to 4 p.m. Principal Nancy Erickson said “this is a great chance to explore the building and meet all the teachers.” The first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 29. Supervision on the playground starts at 8 a.m., with line-up at 8:18 a.m.

• Changes in staff: Jennifer Vaughan is the new full-time nurse; Loretta Rose will be teaching a grade 4 class; Casey Sault will be the Title I teacher for grades K, 1, and 2. Amanda Theberge is joining the faculty as the reading teacher, and Laurie Neff is starting as the new paraeducator in grades 3 and 4.

• Changes in curriculum: Five classroom teachers, a Title I teacher and the principal are currently taking a course focused on implementing small-group instruction in literacy. “We will be using many of these strategies this coming year,” Erickson said. “It is so effective to have a team approach when taking on a new challenge.”

• Summer improvements: New shades were installed and wood floors from the 1915 portion of the school have been refinished. “Burt Lawrence and Gary Kinney do a fabulous job of making the building shine for the new school year,” Erickson said.

Goals and challenges: Erickson also commented, “I believe the biggest educational challenge for our K-4 school is to be sure all students become proficient readers and fall in love with reading. Being able to read well leads to academic success, success in life, and life long learning.”

St. Michael's Catholic School

School starts: The school season for St. Michael's School begins with an ice cream social on Aug. 29, and the first day of school follows on Aug. 30.

Changes in staff: Four new members will be joining the staff: two within the front office and two more in the high school. Sandy Gauthier and Lyndsay O'Neal will be starting as Administrative assistant and Admissions and Development Director respectfully, while Joshua Dione will join the humanities department and Aimie Jacques begins work in both the humanities and art departments.

Changes this year: Principal Elaine Beam was also excited to discuss the school's new food service supplied by the Putney Central School, which is a farm-to-table program that receives food directly from local producers. In addition, the school is set to have its first graduating class in 50 years. This has led to St. Michael's School taking on the alumni association formed by the previous graduating class in order to add their upcoming group of graduates.

• Goals and challenges: “I think it's the stigma that private schools are only for students who really excel or are for wealthy families,” Beam said on the subject of the biggest challenge that the school faces. “Many of our students receive scholarships and are supported by the community. We're a Catholic school that is open to all students.”

When asked what the community could do to fight this stigma, she urge, “Come and visit us. Come and and take a tour because we work with each family individually.”

Twin Valley Middle-High School

• School starts: There will be a welcome barbecue for incoming sixth graders and all new students and their families on Monday. August 27, at 6 p.m. The first day of school is Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Principal Tom Fitzgerald commented on the schedule of activities for the first day of school. “We are working on our opening day with students, which will begin with a keynote speaker, barbecue lunch for all, some goal setting and some house activities and what has become a tradition, class tug of wars!”

• Changes in curriculum: Twin Valley enters its third year of its implementation of proficiency-based grading, established because of the Vermont's proficiency-based graduation requirements. All but seniors will be on this system. The school also enters year two of the House Initiative.

• Parent and community interactions: Twin Valley has the goal to become a trauma-informed school. “We are training staff in restorative justice and restorative practices which will be the cornerstone of that work,” said Fitzgerald.

• Goals and challenges: Fitzgerald also spoke of the obstacles the school has. “We face the same challenge every year that all of the small schools face, declining enrollment. Because of that we struggle to maintain programs. We see a lot of kids fall for 'bigger is better.'

“If people would take a good look at us and realize we are a very different place (both physically and philosophically) than we were before consolidation, it would help,” he said. “We are doing a great job with proficiency based learning. I am very proud of my staff and our kids.”

Vernon Elementary School

• School starts: The first day of school for students is Thursday, Aug. 30.

• Changes in staff: Vernon Elementary welcomes new sixth-grade teacher Shannon Miner, new behavior interventionist Leeanne Hadsel, and new Planning Room CoordinatorAmanda Daniels.

• Changes in curriculum: The school has added a STEP room that will provide additional behavioral support and coaching for students and staff.

• Parent and community interactions: Principal Mary Ross said she is “excited to start the 2018-19 school year in collaboration with the Vernon Preschool and Vernon Recreation Department.” The school will also partner with the Boys and Girls Club, Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, and Food Connects.

• Summer improvements: An updated school sign and new sidewalks will welcome all Vernon Panthers for the 2018-19 school year.

Wardsboro Elementary School

• School opens: Wednesday, Aug. 29.

• Changing personnel: Trisha Clark will take the place of Katie Addona as the preschool and kindergarten teacher. She will be joined with Julia Slone as the music teacher.

• New programs or curriculum changes: The fifth- and sixth-grade classes will be taking a trip to Lowell, Mass., on Sept. 12th to see the former textile mills. The after-school program will resume the week of Sept. 17.

• Parent/community interactions: Sept. 12 is Back to School Night, while Sept. 20 is the Back to School Lunch. The community can help Wardsboro Elementary by supporting the students and volunteering.

• Summer improvements: The school had a new roof put on over the summer and a fence added to the border of the playground.

Westminster Center School

• School starts: The first day of school for students is Wednesday, Aug. 29. Inspired by the school's viking mascot, the theme for the school year is “Join the crew. Do the work. Enjoy the Voyage.”

• Changes in staff: Scott Febbie joins as the new art teacher.

• Changes in curriculum: The school has elected to use a new Expeditionary Learning's English Language Arts curriculum. There is also a newly redefined framework of specific goals around “Habits of Character,” wherein the school will be doing spot checks and monitoring throughout the year so the community see the institution's progress in this goal.

• Parent and community interactions: Westminster Center School continues “Studio Y Goes West” - an integrated project-based arts experience. In May 2019, students will lead conferences.

• Summer improvements: Some classroom floors have been replaced, and the library and Westminster West School building have been repainted.

West River Montessori School

• School starts: The year for West River Montessori begins with a family picnic on Aug. 25, followed shortly by a orientation for new and returning families on the Aug. 28. An orientation week for new students will follow, starting on Aug. 29 and lasting until the 31st. The school year will begin on the Sept. 4.

• Goals and challenges: “Montessori is such a different environment,” Director Renata Sawyer said in regards to challenges that the school faces. “We really develop individual curriculum for each child's needs...so we don't have problems like normal education faces. Maybe just more people knowing about Montessori,” she said. “A lot of people don't know a lot about it.”

Windham Regional Career Center

School starts: Thursday, Aug. 30.

New staff: Ray Dunn was welcomed as the interim director of the WRCC. Nancy Weise was named special-needs coordinator, and Diane Nuzzo was named outreach coordinator. The latter is a grant-funded position.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates