This week's guest columnist is Sorsha Anderson, Administrative Assistant
Dear Rumney Families,
As a fellow Rumney parent, my position in the Rumney office has offered me a unique vantage point on how our children spend their days at Rumney school. I hope you will indulge me as I share a few thoughts from my time behind the glass.
My job here has involved a little of absolutely everything so it was difficult to settle on a topic for the newsletter. I am not sure if this job has elevated my multi-tasking abilities to ‘superpower’ or completely burnt them out (please don’t mention that to my new employer!) But for what it's worth, I’ve decided to use ‘Bus Notes’ as my lens.
You know, those after-school plans I am always bugging some of you about? Every day I compile something called Bus Notes. On a single sheet of paper, I record dismissal plans for 161 K-6 students (and sometimes a few pre-K). You have probably seen me at the end of the day, outside on the curb with this colorful marked-up sheet of paper, on the move, maybe at half a run –I sincerely hope I never actually knocked anyone over– trying to make sure the students are in fact headed toward their proper destinations. I almost always got it right; yet, I assure you I remember every single time I didn’t.
But don’t get me wrong, I love doing Bus Notes. Preparing them is the favorite part of my day. Every day at 3 pm, I deliver these notes to every classroom. I (try) to sneak in quietly and drop them off without disturbance. This is a normally calm time as classrooms are finishing up their work for the day. During this walk through the school, I have the privilege of seeing each classroom in action. I see a 3/4 teacher reading aloud to a group of students, enrapt and comfortable on the meeting rug; I see another teacher with an army of parent volunteers assisting students in some serious hands-on-learning during ‘workshop’ time; I see a classroom of kids flushed and happy returning from a prolonged outdoor learning segment on the Nature Trail; or a 5/6 classroom busy with focused and smiling students finishing up their end-of-day classroom responsibilities. For four years, I have had this daily glimpse of our classrooms in action and now I want to share it with you. I want you to know that when, as a parent, you wonder (as we all do now and then), ‘Is my kid in a good place?’ Is he or she learning? Does s/he have a good teacher? Yes. Yes. Every child in this school has an amazing teacher.
So, as I prepare to deliver my final round of Bus Notes today, I want to thank you for allowing me to work for you, including the daily opportunity to glimpse our classrooms from the inside. Thank you for your support, humor, smiles, challenges and encouragement. I have loved getting to know and appreciate the Middlesex School Community in this deep way.
Have a wonderful holiday!
Dear Rumney Families,
This week I want to congratulate our fifth and sixth grade students on their hard work preparing for our science fair. The way these science projects work is that most of the experimentation is done right here at Rumney. Not only does this take a burden off families, but it allows us, the faculty of Rumney, to watch our young scientists in action. On Thursday, December 22 from 10:20-11:20 and 1:40-3:10, our students will present their research at our Science Project Learning Fair. I always enjoy browsing what they discover from their experiments in physical, social, and psychological science.
Why do I say ‘less of a burden to families’? Over the years, mostly through social media posts, I’ve seen members of my generation parent their children through year after year of science fair projects. While some parents relish the opportunity to spend a weekend, or two, or three, creating a science project with their kids, I have seen that most folks don’t. It also is not very fair to families whose parents need to work on the weekend, have younger siblings, or for other reasons aren’t able to use their home as a laboratory. I appreciate that Rumney teachers allow the experiments to be conducted here at school. And those experiments are fun to watch!
We will have an All-School Meeting next Wednesday at 9:15 AM. We have “hired” our 6th-grade Master of Ceremonies for the year and she will be leading the meeting. 6th-grade students will introduce the Science Project Learning Fair to the school, and then our band will treat us to their first performance of the year. Jingle Bells will suit the season perfectly, I think.
Quick bus parking reminder! Sometimes our buses arrive at 9 am or even a few minutes later. If you are dropping off a student any time before 9:20 am, please don’t drop off or park in the bus loop--there still might be a bus arriving and your car could be right in its way.
:( [sad face] after four years of dedicated and excellent “customer service" to our school community, our administrative assistant Sorsha Anderson is leaving her position at Rumney. Sorsha will be expanding her youth theater work with the Barre Opera House, and will also work as a Committee Assistant in our State Capitol Building during the legislative session. Those Rumney parents who work in the legislature, in the legislative council, or give regular testimony at the Capitol should keep an eye out for her and be sure to say "Hello!" from everyone at Rumney. We sure will miss her friendly efficiency, smile, and above all, her great sense of humor! Our new administrative assistant, Alissa Mathews, will be training with Sorsha next week, so if you drop in, please say "Hello" to her, too.
Stay warm and healthy!
Dear Rumney Families,
Thank you again for your attendance and support of our Artist-in-Residency program with the No Strings Marionettes Company. They will be returning Friday April 28 for a performance where our students can simply enjoy watching these master puppeteers perform their craft. This performance is part of our contract with them and will be a great bright spot during mud season.
A great Artist-in-Residency integrates artistic expression with the academic subjects, and this was no exception. Fifth and Sixth Graders are just beginning a literacy unit focusing on folktales from around the world, so how appropriate for them to learn about Chinese history and culture. Third and Fourth Graders are studying Vermont history, including Abenaki culture, so Abenaki folktales were an ideal show for them. Our primary unit performances focused on rhyming and vocabulary--essential areas of study for beginning readers.
I also commend so many Rumney parents for their commitment to this community by attending the performance. Taking a Thursday afternoon to spend at school shows all of us, and most importantly your children, how much you value their learning and this school community. This shows some of the best sides of our community.
Our community also has had a few bumps in the road recently, as some of you may have experienced and as is highlighted in the attached letter by Superintendent Bill Kimball. Sadly, there are members of this school community who feel socially or culturally excluded. Even the wonderful No Strings Marionettes performance demonstrated this--some students and teachers noticed stereotypical portrayals of Chinese and Native Americans and were offended by the attempt at Chinese accents and stereotypical feather headdresses.
Among the school faculty we have been working on recognizing and discussing the ways we can be more culturally inclusive and accepting of differences. We work to be welcoming of all cultures, races, learning styles and students with disabilities. Some of the school climate issues that have been raised recently make it apparent that we need to look at how Rumney CARES can better support acceptance of many kinds of differences.
We would like to harness the wonderful parent involvement and commitment to the school and bring you into the discussion. The entire school community can participate in making Rumney a more welcoming place for all students, including those with disabilities, of different races and from different cultural and socio-economic groups. I look forward to bringing greater awareness and compassion to all our endeavors at Rumney school. We will have learning activities that expand cultural awareness among students and the school community. Some of the most important words in Rumney CARES are Respect, Empathy and Acceptance. Please join me in helping insure we all extend these to every member of our school community.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this letter or this topic, feel free to contact me or Guidance Counselor Sharon Grossi.
Dear Rumney Families,
I hope that all of you were able to attend the performance by the No Strings Marionettes Company and all of our students. This three-week odyssey of a residency has been such a treat. In my office on Wednesday, through the wall I share with the art room, I could hear the happy sounds of students rehearsing. In different classes I saw students rehearsing with their puppets, including our pre-kindergarteners practicing the "Little Red Hen". We are all lucky to participate in a community which supports the arts and such creative fun.
This month, Rumney was busy with activities designed to improve teaching and learning. Each student participated in an "on-demand" writing prompt. In "on-demand" writing students are assessed on aspects of the craft of writing such as narrative technique, as well as grammar, usage and mechanics. While students have lots of practice with drafting and rewriting to produce finished writing pieces, with an "on-demand" writing prompt we get an understanding of what a student's best "first draft" looks like, an important indicator of what our young writers know and can do.
On Wednesday of this week, the Rumney teachers ventured to Doty Memorial School for a professional development module on "Clear Learning Targets" aimed at improving both instruction and learning. Every teacher in Washington Central Supervisory Union will participate in this same learning module this month. This module is designed to provide more effective support for all students being able to master the material expected at their grade level. When students in any class (K-6, from Music to Math) know exactly what the goal of a lesson is and what they are expected to learn in that class then all students have a better chance of mastering the material. Through improved supervision and evaluation, administrators across WCSU will be coaching teachers on how to make learning targets explicit and clear for students. When I visit classrooms, I observe instruction in action, see students apply and practice key skills, and then watch all this unfold into content mastery.
Teaching is both an art and a science, and good professional development enhances both of these, resulting in greater mastery for students.
This week's guest columnist is prekindergarten assistant, Honi Bean Barrett.
Thank you to the Middesex and Central Vermont community members who helped to make the 10th Annual Harvest Dinner another wonderful success. This event raised money for the Middlesex Food Shelf and the Rumney local food program. We are still calculating incoming donations and hope to reach our goal of $7000 (you can still donate!).
Guests at the dinner enjoyed a locally sourced dinner of apple cider, braised chicken, and roasted veggies. Our own Deb Lynne made gingerbread cake that was paired with Arne's Ice Cream. Ms. Kirkorian worked with students before the dinner so they could share the song "Thankful Most of All" with our guests. Students not only sang but helped to set up, sell raffle tickets, play music, and serve dessert. We had over 50 local businesses and artists, as well as many Rumney parents, donate items for our silent auction. We would like to extend an extra big thank you to this year's Anniversary Donors: Bear Swamp Veterinary, Middlesex Electric, and Noyle W. Johnson Insurance.
Thank you also to Jen Campbell, Chip Hedler, Andy Leader, Jen Campbell, Deb Lynne, Shona R. MacDougall, Jessie Alfarone, Emily Leader, Hannah O'Brien, Yana Poulson, Kate and Alex Reilly, and to the MANY other people who helped to contact businesses, collect donations, set up tables, serve dinner, provide entertainment, and clean up. THANK YOU over and over again for your help! We would also like to especially thank Liz Scharf who has organized this event for the last 10 years. Her commitment to our school and community are appreciated and we hope to continue this event with her support next year!
Dear Rumney Families,
Along with business as usual, this week has been geared to prepare for our Artist-in-Residency with the No Strings Marionette Company. Barb Poulson and Dan Baginsky produce puppet shows with colorful, imaginative puppets and dramatic soundtracks. Maybe you have seen them at the Children’s Tent at the Tunbridge Fair or in local First Night celebrations. Their performances are high quality and very memorable.
They were the Artists-in-Residency at Rumney in the fall of 2006. I was new here at the time and did not know what to expect, and by the time we got to the final performance, when every student in the school participated in the performance with a puppet they had made--I was a believer in the No Strings Marionettes and in the concept of an Artist-in-Residence as well. The No Strings Marionettes will bring the same successful formula to this year’s program.
The residency will begin on Monday and we will be working with them for a total of 11 days--first to make our puppets, then to record soundtracks and rehearse pieces and then finally to perform on December 1. The All School Performance will be at 2:00 PM that Thursday. We expect the gym to be filled to capacity with parents and family members who want to attend. For those of you who enjoyed the circus last year, I’m sure you will enjoy this year as well. And your student will have their puppet to take home!
This Artist in Residence is funded by a grant from the Vermont Arts Council. The Arts Council has been generous to Rumney over the years and has supported programs at Rumney. The Arts Council receives state funding, so the, the next time you see your local state representative, whoever he or she will be, you may want to mention that the Arts Council is a program worth supporting. If your new representative just so happens to be a former Rumney parent it should not be a tough sell!
The Artist in Residency is also supported by our PTO. This event is one of the most expensive programs which the PTO helps support. The cookie dough you buy, the tickets for the spring fair games, or any other money you send their way, most likely ends up getting spent on one of two programs--tickets for performances at the Flynn Theater or the Artist in Residence program. That is why I am never shy about voicing my support for this organization.
Please join us tomorrow night for the annual harvest dinner! This event raises money for both the Rumney Food Service Program and for the Middlesex Food Shelf, two worthy causes that help bring nutritious food to people! There will be excellent food and local talent: Mr. Hedler and local musician Andy Leader will be among the school and community members sharing their music. I look forward to seeing you there.
Dear Rumney Families,
Today was a rainy and cold day--just like almost every day this week! We did have the exciting addition of our Halloween costume dress rehearsal. I’d like to thank our Student Council for the idea and persuading me that it is really OK to have some fun for its own sake. I hope this was a good teaser for everyone for Halloween fun to come.
We do have a few expectations around Halloween that you should be aware of. Students should not wear costumes to school on Monday--it simply makes it too hard to concentrate during the day. We all know that Halloween is about candy, but candy is not a welcome addition to snack bags or lunches at Rumney school. I encourage you not to send any candy in at all. If it does appear, teachers may also instruct students to only eat one piece and leave the rest for home. Students are also not allowed to eat on the bus, and the temptation of candy on the bus could be difficult.
The cold and the rain don’t seem to be stopping our Kindergarteners from enjoying the Rumney woods in the ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) program. Each Friday afternoon they venture into the deep forest to learn about trees, plants and the local ecosystem. The Rumney woods were long ago an overgrown pasture, currently with no signs of recent logging or disturbance (other than trails for mountain biking and skiing) and a great natural laboratory for natural science instruction. Several parents have made a commitment to volunteer regularly in the program--it looks to me like just the right amount to keep the learning safe and supervised, and to support children’s natural curiosity.
I saw these same Kindergarteners working with their grade 5 buddies this week scooping seeds out of Delicata squash. That raised bed in our school garden where they grew yielded a tremendous harvest of tasty, perfect squash, as nice as any you might see at Farmer’s Market. We had Delicata Smiles for all-school snack today--crunchy on the outside, melting on the inside, and slightly carmelized. Did you mention candy? Who needs candy? We have Delicata Smiles!
To close for now, I’d like to give a shout-out to the faculty members who continue to support positive behavior on the school bus. Mrs. Woodard, Mr. Hedler, Mrs. Grossi and Ms. Sheldon continue to greet the buses each morning and check in with them on their way out. They are supporting the bus drivers, constantly adjusting the seating chart and paying special attention to the students who need extra encouragement and support. While things may not be perfect, for the most part our bus riders are able to get to and from school in a peaceful way that does not interfere with their learning. Please contact one of us if you have questions or would like us to know about any need for support on a particular school bus.
Enjoy the weekend!
Dear Rumney Families,
We really had some fun today at our All-School Meeting on Thursday. Our PTO members came in costume and talked up the fun free showing of Hotel Transylvania that is happening tonight. Come on in and enjoy good times and free popcorn! There will be even more fun in school next Friday when we have a “dress rehearsal” for costumes.
Our Student Council talked me into allowing some in-school Halloween fun. Students may wear ONE part of their costume to school. This provides plenty of room for creativity and fun. Have them make a thoughtful choice! Students will not be allowed to wear masks that cover their face, face make-up, or anything gross or scary. Remember whatever they wear will be there for everyone to seem, including our three-year-olds.
At the All-School Meeting we also announced the winner of the Chili Cook Off--Not only is that person a fantastic baker, she now turns out to be a chili maker too. The Golden Ladle Award was given to our own art teacher, Jen Campbell.
And I got pretty excited about a new fundraising activity by the Parent-Teacher Organization--selling Vermont-made cookie dough. PTO fundraising supports a number of very valuable projects including our artist-in-residence programs. Our students are encouraged to politely ask friends, neighbors and family members to purchase cookie dough for this excellent cause.
There was also a fair sampling of different kinds of learning activities at the All School Meeting: There were three different student presentations--an illustrated Fairy Tale written last year by a (then) third grade student; a presentation from Ms. Babcock’s grade 1-2 class on the growth mindset (several of these first and second graders made their first appearance behind the microphone at an All School Meeting); Aand a comprehensive reminder of all the ways we compost at Rumney School from six members of the school Green Team. Our student Master of Ceremonies chose volunteers who helped lead the school in singing “Baby Shark”--a favorite song at Rumney School.
We finished up with over 20 Rumney CARES Awards--written by faculty, illustrated and read aloud by students, each award an individualized testament to the exemplary behavior displayed by the recipient. For me, all these activities in the meeting mean I had a great day on Wednesday, because helping students prepare to lead the All-School Meeting is one of my favorite things.
Last, as soccer season comes to an end, I’d like to thank all our Soccer Coaches for the year. Our students love soccer and the opportunity for interscholastic play is a highlight for many of them. Coaches, thank you again for your help!
Dear Rumney Families,
I’ll be spending today, Friday, at the Vermont Academy for the Education of Young Children Conference. This is Vermont’s premier professional development opportunity for Early Childhood Educators. It has been many years since I have attended or presented at this conference and it is a treat for me to attend it again. My original training and licensure are an Early Childhood Educator, and, although it was before any of our current students were born, it doesn’t seem that long ago to me that I taught preschool every day.
2016-2017 is a watershed year for early childhood education in Vermont, at Rumney and in WCSU. Act 46 requires that all students ages 3 and 4 years old be able to attend 10 hours a week of high quality pre-kindergarten. All across WCSU, our prekindergarten programs are full and students are enrolled in partner classrooms at high quality child care centers. There are Middlesex children who are attending preschool at David’s House and Turtle Island enrolled as Rumney students.
This partnership between public schools and Vermont’s excellent network of child care centers and preschools is good for both students and families and will help public schools better educate students. Rumney students who have attended a year or two of our preschool program come to school itself knowing so much about the school: sure, they know the school principal, but they also know our nurse, librarian, music teacher, and administrative staff, as well as knowing the building and the playground. Having learned that Rumney is a joyful and caring place, they make friends and develop playmates with much greater ease.
Rumney preschoolers are in good hands with Ms. Caitlin, Mrs. Honi and Mrs. Danyew. Mrs. Woodard and Ms. Krikorian are dedicated to making sure each group has time in library and music class. When it is appropriate, we try to have them participate in school wide activities--next week they will be pressing apples with our Community Connections program leader Paul Dayton. Not to make light of a serious situation, but a few weeks ago, between pertussis and seasonal illness, we had a bit of a staffing shortage and I had the good fortune to spend a morning working in the preschool alongside Ms. Honi. Lucky me! There is nothing like spending some quality time with three- and four-year-olds. I’m glad to have so many of them enrolled at Rumney School.
Dear Rumney Families,
It is 6 o’clock on Thursday night. The weather forecast for Elmore, Vermont is beautiful. Every student at Rumney School has signed up for a hike. We have sufficient chaperones to take 66 students up to the Elmore Mountain Fire Tower. We have four field trip buses, 8 walky-talky’s and 12 First Aid Kits. We are looking forward to a magnificient hike today.
Ms. Grossi, Mrs. Israel, Mrs. Danyew and I spent every spare moment, and a few moments that weren’t spare preparing for every aspect of today’s all school hike. We have tried to make sure that each student has been able to grow and expand in multiple intelligences: kinesthetically, emotionally, socially and naturalistically. This hike could not come at a better time: students and teachers are exhausted from 5 weeks of school, two rigorous weeks of academics and assessment, soccer games and practices and all the other activities our students participate in. We all deserve a day in the woods and on the mountain and I hope this years goes as nicely as our past experiences.
I have a note to grade 6 parents--we are just about ready to send you a survey regarding our end of year field trip and our Grade 6 graduation. It should come out by the end of next week.
For everyone--I encourage you to attend the PTO's Chili Cook Off coming up on Saturday, October 8th. I want you to know I would be there if I could...I’m preparing to send another child to college next year, and this long weekend is a great opportunity for a couple of campus visits. Maybe our PTO friends can save me a portion or two from some of the notable chili entries.
For those of you who like to keep up with business of the Rumney School Board, this fall our meetings rotate amoung the WCSU schools. Our boards are utilizing a full board meeting format for information that all school boards should hear and discuss, and then breaking off into smaller meetings for local board business. This past week the full board and each WCSU school board met a Berlin Elementary School. Superintendent Bill Kimball gave an extensive presentation about student achievement and other measures of student success, and the full board had an opportunity to discuss issues common to all WCSU schools. Then the individual boards met.
The next such meeting will be at Calais Elementary School on October 26.
Thank you and enjoy the weekend.