Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 10, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

Happy Spring Everyone!
(We're finally going to feel it this week!)

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as spring and warmer weather make a welcome return!


April 12: UES Parents Group Meeting (see below), 6:00-7:00
April 13: All School Assembly, 8:30 (Meet our new "Wise Owl" Mascot!)
April 17-21: April Vacation -- NO SCHOOL
April 28: UES Lip Synch Battle! 6:00
May 3: "Animals" 2nd Grade Performance, 6:00
May 10: "Vermont Variety Show" 4th Grade Performance, 6:00
May 17: Kinder Art Show Celebration, 6:00
May 25: "Wing It!" 1st Grade Performance, 6:00
May 29: Memorial Day -- NO SCHOOL

UNION PLAYGROUND PROJECT UPDATE For those who haven't heard, the project is still on track!  The UPP committee has been meeting regularly all year, and we still hope to break ground with Phase I of the project this summer.  Unfortunately, there have been a number of roadblocks concerning the condition of the site that have slowed the process, and our plan is to meet with the School Board in early May to update them on what we're facing.  As anyone who has spent any time on our playground can attest, our beautiful school is saddled with a very challenging site!

In the meantime, the committee's plan is to draft an update to share with the community as soon as possible.  In fact, I will be addressing the Union Parents Group on Wednesday, April 12, and I would love to have as many of you there as possible to hear what's going on and ask questions.  SE Group, the design firm that is working on the project, shared some design and budget updates with the UPP Committee last Thursday, and I will share them with you all when we gather this Wednesday.  I hope to see you there, and please stop by or reach out if you have any questions before then.

The UPP Committee meeting with SE Group representatives last week
UES PARENTS GROUP MEETING Yes, the next Parents Group meeting is Wednesday evening from 6 to 7. Here is the busy agenda:

Please join us Wednesday, April 12 from 6:00-7:00 in the Union Elementary School cafeteria for the next Parent's Group meeting. You are invited!  Have the kids?  As usual bring the kids --  Kristina Kane (art teacher extraordinaire) will be doing something fun with them!

On the agenda:

Chris Hennessey, Principal, UPP playground update.

Interim playgroup cleanup project (Jay Ericson)

Election of Officers

Reschedule May meeting

Jody will be presenting the Financial Report
And review of expenditures

Other business

New topics for future meetings

Hope to see you there!

BINGO! Once again, Bingo Night was the place to be in Montpelier on a busy Friday night! A packed house filled the gym for a spirited few hours of Bingo fun, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and fabulous prizes! Congratulations to UES moms Emma Bay-Hansen, Karen Supan, Abbie Lever and other Parents Group members for running a spectacularly tight show and raising over $1300 for Union Elementary in one fun, snowy night! Here are a few action shots courtesy of Emma...

Fresh haircuts and snappy bowties (courtesy of MJ)

Excitement builds as everyone waits for their last number!

A full house!!

MATH FAIR WINNERS! Mrs. Blodgett's 2nd graders won 1st Place at last month's Vermont State Math Fair! Wow! From Mrs. Blodgett: "We read the book If You Hopped Like a Frog by David Schwartz. This book showed us some of the amazing abilities and features of certain animals. The author helped us think about what OUR bodies could do if we had the same amazing abilities as these animals. We used measurement, addition, multiplication, and division to figure out how far we could hop if we were frogs, how wide we’d be able to open our mouths if we were diamondback rattlesnakes, how long our necks would be if we were cranes, and how far we would be able to leap if we were fleas. The class created self-portraits depicting how far they could open their mouths if they were diamondback rattlesnakes. This unit was a great way to integrate math, science, literature, and art!"

Proud 1st Place finishers Nora and Indy
UES KINDNESS CHALLENGE! UES has been having so much fun this early spring participating in a "Kindness Challenge"! Children who are being kind to each other have been randomly selected to win some really fun prizes, to include having lunch with Mr. Hennessey, enjoying mango in the Mango Room with MJ, getting a tour of the ever-fascinating UES basement with Mr. Keller, and other great experiences! This month's winners: Micah Jacobson, Rowan Goldblatt, Mike Vitt, Cherylanne Magiera, Indy Roberts, Parker Schlegel, Allegra Muller, Maya Shea, and Mason Harvie. We have all really enjoyed this challenge! Here are some pictures to check out...

Yep, eating mango with MJ in the Mango Room!

Whoa!  A tour of the basement with Mr. Keller!
Some of the other winners...

HENNESSEY'S HOOTS! A Hennessey Hoot to...

* ... UES Custodians Todd Keller and Chris Luce for being Tooth Fairy Heroes (yes, there is such a thing)! From Instructional Assistant Melissa Mueller: "After Todd and Chris took apart all 3 drains in the cafeteria to locate a lost tooth of a first grader, Todd presented the student with a big picture of a tooth to give to the tooth fairy explaining that the tooth was lost in the drain.  This was so kind!!!!!!" 

The Tooth Fairy Hero at work!
* ... UES Instructional Assistant Laura Delcore for taking one of my favorite pictures in the nearly four years I've been your principal! A perfect one to end this Kindness themed Wise Owl -- check out these 1st Grade boys..

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

Happy New Year Everyone!

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as winter kicks into high gear!


January 25: Report Cards Mailed Home
January 30: District In-Service -- NO SCHOOL for students
February 16: Lantern Parade!
Feb. 25 to March 7: Winter Break -- NO SCHOOL

REPORT CARDS OUT THIS WEEK! Report Cards are being mailed out in the next few days! Please be on the lookout for them in your mailbox. Last week, I sent a letter home explaining the grading system and some other details about the report card, and I attach it here for you below in case you missed it. Please let us know if you have questions!

Report Card Message

SOME THOUGHTS ON A TOUGH MONDAY... Many of us woke up on Sunday to the horrible news that a violent act had resulted in the loss of a member of our community. As the hours passed, we also came to realize the victim was not only a dad of one of our PreK students, but also a former aide to a number of students both here at Union and at Main Street. There is a lot of info out in the social and traditional media world about Markus Austin and this terrible tragedy right now, but I am certain of this: this gentleman was a kind and talented caregiver who had a positive impact on the UES community in the brief time he was with us. Those who worked with Markus (he was an aide in my daughter's class before I arrived at UES) were in a state of shock and grief yesterday. His time with us was truly memorable and positive; he made a difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable children.

But, we all came to school and took care of our students and each other, as always. I was so proud to be a part of this school community yesterday! Dealing with grief and loss in a meaningful, supportive way while in a large community is always very challenging, but the professionalism and kindness displayed by your teachers and staff yesterday was such a reassuring and comforting experience. Your kiddos were in excellent hands! School Counselor Suzanne Francke shared some wonderful resources for dealing with grief and children with us yesterday, and here is one that we think could be helpful for you and your family:

Facts for Families Dealing with Grief

Finally, Markus' co-workers at Washington County have put together a GoFundMe page for his family.  They've already raised a lot of money, and we could all put them over the top! The link:

Markus Austin helping little ones with their Snowball Tree, Winter of 2013
RUBIK'S CUBE FUN WITH MS. LLOYD'S 4TH GRADERS Last month, I was walking around the 4th grade hallway making the rounds, and I wondered what was going on with all the Rubik's Cubes I was seeing. The kids were really focused, and I simply couldn't believe how quickly these 9 and 10 year olds were flying through this challenging puzzle! If you're in my demographic and came of age during the Cube's early heyday, you'll remember a lot of confused and frustrating rainy days trying to figure this thing out. Or was that just me? :)

Six of Ms. Lloyd's students volunteered to show us all how it's done. This is worth checking out -- four minutes of your time well spent!

MHS MENTORS Did you know that a large number of Montpelier High School students come over to Union every Wednesday morning to be Play Mentors with our students? Thanks to Suzanne Francke and MHS's Matt McLane for coordinating this wonderful program! The mentor who happens to be my daughter (Olivia, just to my left below) has loved the experience, and I know all of our students really look forward to it every week!

Some of the Best and Brightest of MHS!
SNACK HEROES NEEDED! Snack Hero Coordinator Extraordinaire (and UES mom) Bianca Magiera is looking for volunteer heroes for Fridays! If you can help her, please contact Bianca at Thanks!

WE LOVE PRE-K AT UNION ELEMENTARY! I often hear this about our new PreK program from people who've been at Union for years: "It's like they've always been here!" What a wonderful addition to the UES community these little ones and their teachers have been! Congratulations and gratitude to Morgan Nicastro, Peggy Watson, Aimee Weddleton, Robyn Fleming, Brenda Bolio, and Emily Cooke for creating a thriving learning environment for our youngest students almost literally from scratch this summer! They are an excellent team, and, my goodness, are they ever a talented group of educators who love working with little ones! Stop by for a visit the next time you're walking to the cafeteria...

The afternoon crew
The morning crew

HENNESSEY'S HOOTS! A big Hennessey Hoot to...

* 3rd Grader Evan Coates for his excellent leadership skills in helping us with our bus evacuation drill last month! Evan made all of the children feel totally safe as they practiced evacuating the bus in an orderly fashion.

*  UES Mom Adrienne Gil for joining us at our January Assembly to celebrate the 16 students who raised over $100 for the UES Parents Group at our Kids Cup this fall!  This was a highly successful fundraiser and a really fun event too.  We can't wait for next year's Cup!
The very proud fundraisers!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

Happy Holiday Season everyone!

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as colder weather comes around the corner (November was a busy month!):


December 6: December All School Assembly, 8:30 in the gym
December 22: UES Festive Winter Concert! 6:00 in the auditorium
December 24 - January 1: Holiday Break! School reopens on Monday, January 2.

UPP UPDATE! There is a lot going on with the Union Playground Project! Here is the latest from the UPP team:

WALKING SCHOOL BUS The UES Walking School Bus Wednesdays are continuing through the winter! Yes, even on the coldest of days! Come join us at Shaw's, the State House, or the college green at 8:00 sharp each Wednesday. We hope to see you! A Hennessey Hoot to MJ, Sarah Mele, Samantha Funk, Emmanuel Williams, and Sylvia Fagin for joining me in keeping the "bus rolling." It's a terrific way to start the day.

COLD WEATHER PRACTICES/PROCEDURES It hasn't really happened yet, but the cold weather will get here eventually! The faculty and staff of UES strongly believe that our children need as much time as possible running and playing outside, even during the cold of our Vermont winters. For our students to enjoy this time on the playground, it's essential that they come to school with adequate snow gear to keep them warm and dry. There are certain mornings and days, however, where it really isn't safe to be outside no matter what they're wearing due to extreme conditions. The procedures we follow are straightforward and in general practice around the state: if the temperature (with wind chill) is at 0 degrees or above, we'll be going outside. On cold days, we monitor the local conditions very closely at this weather site:

Local AccuWeather Forecast

This is an excellent site, and it will take you directly to the conditions and forecast for Loomis St. here in Montpelier! You can't get much more local than that! Again, please make sure your child comes to school prepared for the conditions, and please let me know if you have any questions. If you need assistance getting appropriate gear for your child, let us know in the front office right away; we have quite a supply of gear on hand here at UES!

UES DELAYED OPENING PROCEDURES: Speaking of cold weather, winter will soon be in full gear, and with the unpredictable weather comes the possibility of cancellations or delayed openings for school. We certainly got our first look at the crazy Vermont weather on Tuesday!

Here is what you need to know in case Mother Nature throws a snow or iceball at us one of these mornings. You will receive a robocall from Dr. Ricca as soon as the decision is made to either delay or cancel school. For delays:


Buses will run exactly two hours later than normal.

9:30     Teachers arrive 

10:00   UES doors open; IAs arrive; buses begin to arrive; we're open for business!  Students should arrive no earlier than 10:00 to ensure we have enough supervision.

10:00-  Students will begin arriving to class; transition time; Morning Meeting.

10:25   UES schedule officially begins.  Students will proceed as normal where the schedule would be normally at 10:25.  Lunches will not be affected.  The Snack Program will not be running on delayed opening days.

VETERANS DAY PARADE! In a month of many highlights, we have to mention the honor of participating in this year's Montpelier Veterans Day Parade. Another Hennessey Hoot to music teacher Samantha Funk for her organizational efforts and enthusiasm in planning this event. It's safe to say that our veterans greatly appreciated our presence! I'd also like to thanks MHS principal Mike McRaith and MSMS principal Pam Arnold for encouraging their students to join the audience on a cold, rainy day. It was such a joy to march through town with all our students cheering us on! Here are some pictures from this special day:

1st GRADE BUG PARADE! The UES community was treated to a wonderful Bug Parade last month by the 1st grade team! It has been so much fun to learn about our insect friends again after so many years! Here are some of the little bugs in action:

HENNESSEY'S HOOTS! A big Hennessey Hoot to...

* ...UES Mom Jessica Robbles-Worch for taking the lead on our Lost and Found this year!
*  ...the UES Parents Group for the tremendous amount of work they put in to the Scholastic Book Fair!  As usual, it was a great success!  Here is the crew hard at work:

*  ...2nd grader Kianan Griffin for taking the lead on the composting program during 2nd grade lunch.  I've been able to watch this young man in action, and he is highly organized and industrious!  The man at work:

Kianan at your service!
* anonymous young man who was at the breaking point with having to keep tying his shoes!  He took the matter into his own hands, as you can see below.  I have become highly proficient at helping little ones tie (and untie) their shoes down low to the ground, but I had never seen an effort like this!  Wow!

How would you handle this one in a busy hallway??
AND FINALLY... A THANK YOU TO THE MPS COMMUNITY Losing a parent is never an easy experience for anyone, whether the loss is a sudden occurence or after a lengthy illness. No matter what the circumstances, it's tough! The very sudden passing of my father at the beginning of the school year was indeed a very difficult event for me and my family, but I still think about the overwhelming kindness and support we all received from so many of you in this wonderful community. The many cards, calls, and conversations warmed my heart and made a sad and trying life event so much easier. Thank you all!

Dick Hennessey with his oldest boy, 1968.  The plaid shorts, striped shirt,
and epic attempt at a mustache were inspirational and the stuff of legend.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wise Owl: March 15, 2016

March 15, 2015

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as spring comes around the corner:


March 15-17: Kindergarten Registration (please help us spread the word!)
March 18: Bingo Night at UES! (See below)
March 23:  Montpelier Community Forum #4:  "What's In A Grade?", MHS, 5:30-8:00
March 24:  3rd Grade Puppet Show (See below)
March 31:  4th Grade Art and Storytelling Community Night
April 1:  Parent Conferences -- No School
April 7-8:  Spring Book Fair!
April 18-22:  Spring Vacation!

THANK YOU! Town Meeting Day was a day for the MPS community to give thanks, and not just because of the overwhelming way in which our community supported our school budget (by nearly a 3 to 1 margin!). I'd like to lead off this Wise Owl by offering a heartfelt thank you to Lowell Vanderlip and Sue Aldrich for giving so much of themselves to our community while serving on the Montpelier School Board. Serving and volunteering on a school board requires a calm, visionary, and patient approach while being able to listen to all sides of some often controversial issues. Lowell and Sue served us with honor. Thanks to both of you!

WELCOME NEW SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS!  Best wishes and a sincere welcome to new school members and UES Dads Jim Murphy and Peter Sterling!  An official (and late) welcome is also due to Bridget Asay, who has shaken her interim status and become an official, full-fledged member of the board.  Again, best wishes to all three of you!

BINGO NIGHT! THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 18! One of the biggest family events of the year is on for this Friday! We hope to see you at one of our most valuable fundraisers for a night of Bingo fun and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream! If you have the night free, you and your kiddos won't want to miss this! We also really, really need volunteers! The details:

UNION PLAYGROUND PROJECT UPDATE: The night of February 13 will go down as one the more memorable evenings in recent UES history. Those of us who attended the Give It UPP Gala fundraiser were treated to a wonderful evening of fun and community spirit! The whole experience really showed us all what a joy it is to live and work in this community. I share with you below the Press Release the UPP team put together following the event. It truly was a special evening, and, just as importantly, we made a ton of money for our playground! Thank you all! The press release:

“Give it UPP” Gala Draws 300 Plus to Raise Funds for New Playground

"Near record breaking cold last Saturday evening did little to deter hundreds if Montpelier residents from donning semi-formal attire and heading out to a gala to raise funds for a new upper and lower playground at Union Elementary School in Montpelier. 

The gala took place at the Vermont College of the Arts’ Alumni Hall, which was donated for the event.  Silent and live auctions and a donation drive matched by an anonymous donor raised over $21,000 for the project, which will renovate, repair and significantly improve the principal playground in Montpelier, a space used by more than 400 students every day during the school year as well as many other children living in or visiting Montpelier.  Net proceeds are just over $19,000.

“We are thrilled, and so appreciative of the generous giving we have seen from the members of this community – from parents, local businesses and community leaders,” said Jenny Sheehan, a parent of a second-grader and Kindergartner at Union and Co-Chair of the event. “The success of this fundraiser shows just how much this community wants a better playground, one that can more fully engage children of all ages in outdoor play and learning.”   

The gala, which featured music by the Dave Keller band, was organized to raise matching funds for a $150,000 grant awarded to the project in March 2015 by the state’s Land and Water Conservation Program, which is administered by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and funded by annual contributions from the National Park Service. The grant program requires the school district to provide matching funds totaling the same amount as the award – in the form of dollars or in-kind contributions or both.

Our administration is working closely with a group of dedicated parents to raise these matching funds and take full advantage of this huge opportunity to give our playground a much needed makeover,” said Chris Hennessey, Union’s Principal. “The project will include replacing older, malfunctioning equipment that is expensive to repair, addressing damage from storm water runoff and erosion, making better use of the space we have to enrich our kids’ activities, and making greater use of plants and natural materials that can connect them with the natural world."  

Other improvements planned by the school-parent team working on the project include greater accessibility for students and adults with disabilities.  Next year Union Elementary will launch a pre-school program, creating a pressing need to revamp the lower playground currently used by kindergartners with age-appropriate features for pre-school play and learning.    

 “It has been inspirational to see our community come together in recognition of the attention we need to give this critical recreational space in our City” said Kristin Darcy, a parent of two Union students and the event co-chair along with Sheehan. Just imagine gardening beds, a rebuilt outdoor classroom and performance space, inviting spaces for talking and quiet reading for both kids and adults, and many structures that will fully engage our children’s imaginations.”

Potential design ideas for the playground have been created by a University of Vermont landscape architecture class taught by Montpelier resident Stephanie Hurley,  This spring, the Montpelier School District and the UPP Project team will hire a designer to build on the design ideas already developed, and create a master plan and detailed designs for the site." 

UES CHORUS! 3rd and 4th grade families were treated to quite a show right before vacation when Ms. Funk unveiled the new UES Chorus at a beautiful performance in our auditorium. As I watched the children sing and be led by the talented Ms. Funk, I couldn't help but think that we were all seeing the beginning of many wonderful performances on the UES stage! Families were then treated to an art show put on by Mrs. Kane in the cafeteria that showcased the talents of our students. Clearly, the performing and visual arts are thriving at Union Elementary!

The performers shine under the lights!
3RD GRADE PUPPET RESIDENCY! Speaking of the arts thriving, the arrival of March means it's time for the annual 3rd grade Puppet Residency! For the 11th year in a row, the No Strings Marionette puppet troupe will share their talents with our 3rd graders. The big show is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, March 24 -- you won't want to miss it!

Puppet Master Dan Baginski works his magic!
Dan firing up the 3rd graders for the work ahead
MAIN STREET MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS AT UES! For the second year in a row, Main Street Middle School Students have joined many of our 1st graders for science classes. This program, known as TRY (Teens Reaching Youth), has been a huge success! I was privileged to join 8th graders (and UES grads) Catherine, Gavin, and Grace in Mrs. Dostie's class last week, and I was very impressed with their lesson on the translucency of different materials. Very challenging material for typical 1st graders, but these middle schoolers presented a beautifully engaging and joyful lesson -- the children were having so much fun with them! Here are a few action shots:

Gavin and Catherine show Kianan how it's done (or is it the other way around?)
Grace assisting Maeve and Alex
Catherine and Mabel -- 8th grade and 1st grade partners in learning!
NEW UES MESSAGE BOARD!  A huge Hennessey Hoot is due to UES moms Terry Holloway and Clare Rock and UES dad Dan Clar for the beautiful work they did in designing and building our new UES Message Board!  Come by and take a look the next time you stop by -- it's located on the side of the storage shed at the entrance to the upper playground.  It's beautiful, and I think you'll see a clear Dr. Seuss influence in it's design!  Here is a group of 3rd graders expressing their approval...

You can tell spring is coming with the variety of these outfits!
MORE HENNESSEY'S HOOTS!!  A Hennessey Hoot goes to...

*  Mrs. Pierce's 4th graders, including Eliijah, Beckett, and Tori, for taking the lead on the UES recycling program.  These students are highly organized, and they make Mr. Keller's job so much easier!

Keeping UES clean!
*  UES Kinder Owen for showing so much self-control in the hallway that he got a special visit and Hoot from our newest superhero, Super Self-Control!

Who is that masked man??