Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"


Some news and information that will be helpful to know as the summer approaches!


4TH Grade Celebration: TONIGHT, June 20. 6:00 pm, UES Auditorium
Report Cards and New Teacher Placements: End of the day, Wednesday, June 21
Step Up Day/Last Day of School: Thursday, June 22. Early dismissal at 11:30. The buses (for Grades K-3 only; 4th graders will be dismissed without buses directly from MSMS!) will run their regular routes!
First Day of School for Grades 1-4: Wednesday, August 30
First Day of School for Kindergarten: Tuesday, September 5
First Day of School for PreK: Monday, September 11

UPDATES ON NEW FACULTY AND STAFF: As the 2016-17 school year comes to an end, I wanted to update you on some of the comings and goings of faculty and staff.

With the retirement of Mrs. Giffin and the move of Mrs. Beaupre to the new Assistant Principal position, we have two new teaching positions open for next school year. One of these teachers will be joining our 3rd grade team, and one will be joining the 4th grade team. As of this morning, we are still in the process of conducting and finalizing interviews for both positions, so there will be some current 2nd and 3rd graders who will not know who their new teacher will be for Step Up Day on Thursday. Families of these students will be getting updates as they develop, and we can all rest assured that the hiring committees are setting up the highest bar to get the best candidates possible!

In other news, 4th grade Special Educator Dan LeFebvre will be joining Literacy Interventionist Jessica Kobb to form a Dynamic Duo of literacy intervention for the children of Union Elementary. This move is a long time coming, and we're very excited to have two such talented reading specialists working on improving the literacy skills of our 400+ students.

As a result of Dan's move and the departure of special educator Erin Davey (best wishes in your new adventures, Erin!), we had two openings on our Special Education team. I am happy to report that we have hired two outstanding and experienced special educators to join the UES Community! Joining the 2nd grade team will be Sarah Robbins, a long time special educator from Jericho Elementary who has just moved to the area. Joining the 4th grade team will be Montpelier resident (and MPS mom) Julie Smart, a long time special educator from the Rumney School. We are so happy to be welcoming these talented educators to our team!

LOST AND FOUND! We have a large pile of treasures in the hallway outside the main office ready to go home! When you see them, please thank UES Moms Jessica Robbles Worch for organizing the Lost and Found all year, and Allison Parrish for folding all the treasures this week! Folks, there is some great stuff out there -- come and get it! All items left after Thursday will be donated to the appropriate place.


Dear UES Families and Playground Donors,

Many of you may be wondering about the status of our project to rebuild and improve the Upper and Lower playgrounds at Union Elementary School.  

Work to prepare designs and get ready for construction continued throughout the school year. Please check out this update!


The Montpelier School District and the UPP Project Team (made up of interested parents and school administrators) had hoped to launch construction this summer.

However, soil samples taken in March, 2017 showed that there are contaminants in the site’s soils (at levels often seen on urban sites in Vermont’s downtowns.)  These results triggered a need to more thoroughly test and analyze potential soil contamination on the site (see below).

The District and UPP team are working to get this “site characterization” completed as quickly as possible, so that construction can begin in the Fall of 2017 or Spring/Summer of 2018.


Check out the large boards showing the designs for the new playgrounds!

The designs were developed through a collaborative process led by the Burlington-based design firm SE Group and Engineering Ventures, an engineering firm with expertise in stormwater infrastructure.


  • Adding areas for outdoor learning (like an outdoor classroom in the trees!)
  • Replacing old, outdated play equipment with great new climbing structures, swings, and lots of other features (sandboxes etc.)
  • Adding plants and trees for shade
  • Making the playground more accessible for children with disabilities
  • Creating a new amphitheater on the hillside where students and parents can gather, learn, or perform
  • Adding other features on the hillsides to make better use of limited space
  • Improving the management of stormwater runoff all across the site so the new playground will last!


Dr. Ricca sent all parents a letter on May 19 providing more details about the results of the March soil sampling. The District has hired an expert firm called The Johnson Company to help us better understand and deal with the urban contaminants in UES soils (which are at their highest levels three to seven feet under the surface, and which are also typical of downtown sites in Vermont).

We are also working closely with the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The next step is to design a more thorough sampling plan to fully characterize the quality of the soils. This more detailed sampling will allow the project team to:

  1. Make sure that the construction process (e.g. the digging that will occur) leaves clean, safe soils anywhere on or near the surface of the new playgrounds;

(2)   Identify the safest and more cost effective way to handle any soils that must be dug up during the project

This investigation and any remediation work needed to deal with the soils will cost money. The District is applying for grants from the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission to pay for this work!  We hope to be able to complete it expeditiously and with funding support.


Cost estimates for the renovation of the Upper Playground are available, and may be adjusted based on adjustments to the design selected after the soil sampling. Cost estimates for the Lower Playground are coming soon. We need to raise some more funds, and are pursuing many possible sources!


Base Budget $591,000
Additional Features $158,000

TOTAL: $749,000

RAISED TO DATE (as of 5/2017)

State Grants $150,000
MPS Board $305,000
Private donations $37,000
TOTAL $492,000


Please contact Chris Hennessey (chrish@mpsvt.org), Project Manager and MPS Facilities Manager Thom Wood (thomw@mpsvt.org), UES parent Sarah McKearnan (samckearnan@gmail.com) or any UPP team members below with questions.

The UPP Committee includes:
Theresa Giffin
Chris Hennessey
Terry Holloway
Stephanie Hurley
Sarah McKearnan
Clare Rock
Jenny Sheehan
Tolya Stonorov
Thom Wood

SPIRIT WEEK A BIG SUCCESS! Thank you to Shannon Miller and her 4th graders for organizing a very fun and successful UES Spirit Week last week! We saw Crazy Hair, team sports outfits, beach gear, bizarre inside/out combinations, and large groups of kiddos and adults dressed the exact same way! It was so much fun, and a great way to slide into summer!
Multiplicity Day!   3rd graders Henry, Evan, Tully, and Jeremy join me
to put together an impressive looking offensive line!

1st grader Willem and I celebrating our favorite day, Sports Day!
MURAL ON THE BARRIER! I'm sure you've all noticed the beautiful new mural on our formerly unsightly barrier in front of the school. A big THANK YOU is in order to UES dad Jay Ericson for spearheading the project, UES mom Tolya Stonorov for coming up with the design, and UES Art Teacher Kristina Kane for the artistic inspiration and organization of all the student painters! The UES Parents Group also provided financial support for all the supplies. Yet another example of our community coming together to make our school a better place! Here are some action shots of the fun:

UES AWARDED DIVERSITY GRANT! Congratulations to UES teachers Emily Wrigley, Hannah Barden, and Sylvia Fagen for being the recipients of this generous grant from the Rowland Foundation! Here is the press release:

"Even as the school year is winding down, Union Elementary School (UES), Montpelier is gearing up its professional learning for the coming year. UES has been awarded an Honoring Diversity Grant from the Rowland Foundation to support a multi-session professional development series for PreK-4 teachers on the topic of “how to talk with children about race and racism,” for the 2017-18 school year. The Rowland Foundation is a Vermont-based educational non-profit that provides grants to teachers who are leaders in school innovation. The UES Parents Group is providing additional financial support for this training series.

The school-wide diversity initiative will allow UES teachers to examine their own privilege and implicit biases, talk with professional peers about race and racism, and lead conversations with children about race, difference, and diversity. “Only nine schools in Vermont received this diversity grant award,” said Montpelier School District Curriculum & Technology Director Michael Martin, Ed.D. “We are thrilled with the project our UES teachers have developed to address equity. A deep understanding of cultural competency and implicit bias is more important than ever. This work is a critical part of our schools’ democratic mission.” Martin was a Rowland Foundation Fellow in 2009.

The UES team leading this work consists of first grade teacher Emily Wrigley and the district’s English Language Learning (ELL) teachers, Hannah Barden and Sylvia Fagin. “Because talking about diversity is sometimes, unfortunately, seen as primarily the role of the ELL teachers, we are excited a classroom teacher has taken the lead on this initiative,” said Sylvia Fagin. “Our aim is to equip all teachers with the skills and confidence to discuss race, racism and diversity with their teaching peers and their students.”

The professional project was the brainchild of Emily Wrigley, University of Vermont Teacher of the Year for the Montpelier school district in 2014. That same year she participated in a 9-week pilot course, entitled Talking with Children about Race and Racism, developed and led by the Peace and Justice Center, Burlington VT.

“I heard curiosity from my students about same and different, including skin color. For example, ‘Ms. Wrigley, I want to see the color of your skin right next to mine. Look, it’s freckly. Mine is the color of my Daddy’s coffee, that he likes to say is a little sweet and a little creamy’,” said Wrigley. “The opportunity to identify my own biases, discomforts, and confusions about race and racism prepared me to be curious, and routinely communicate with cultural comfort and intelligence among my students and their families. I’m excited our school was selected, and for the opportunity for my colleagues, our students, and greater community.”

The series will allow all UES educators the opportunity to systematically examine their classroom practices, reflect on their teaching in real time, and practice new language and skills within the framework of an intentional, supportive learning series. Rebecca Haslam, 2015 Vermont Teacher of the Year and founder of Seed the Way consulting in Burlington, VT, will facilitate the training series. The Union Elementary School Parents Group is providing additional financial support to this training series.

About The Rowland Foundation
(http://www.therowlandfoundation.org/) The Rowland Foundation provides opportunities for Vermont teachers to make a difference and to assume leadership roles in and beyond their own schools. For that reason we are excited to announce what we believe to be the timely "Honoring Diversity" grants. Open to all Vermont teachers, these grants are intended to bring together like-minded educators from around the state to enhance the conversation around individual differences.

About Montpelier Public Schools
(http://www.mpsvt.org) “Students will be capable, motivated contributors to their local, national, and world communities,” is the mission of Montpelier Public Schools. The school district’s values have been identified as: student-centered education, excellence, economic sustainability, passion, courage, and a safe, healthy, and caring environment. To learn more about Union Elementary School check out: http://ueswiseowl.blogspot.com To see Montpelier featured in Edutopia’s “Schools that Work” series, check out: https://www.edutopia.org/school/montpelier-high-school
Emily Wrigley’s grade one class, May 2017. Adults left to right - Sylvia Fagin, ELL teacher, Hannah Barden, ELL teacher, and Emily Wrigley, grade one classroom teacher

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as the summer approaches!


UES SPIRIT WEEK! Week of June 12 to 16 (Fun details coming soon!)
4TH Grade Celebration: Tuesday, June 20. 6:00 pm, UES Auditorium
Step Up Day/Last Day of School: Thursday, June 22. Early dismissal at 11:30.

WELCOME THE NEW UES ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: MRS. BEAUPRE! I am happy to officially report that our very own Linda Beaupre will be the new Assistant Principal of Union Elementary School beginning on July 1! Linda has been a valued teacher and leader in the Montpelier schools for many, many years, and we are so happy to have her bring her talents to this new leadership position at UES! Please congratulate and welcome Linda the next time you see her.

The new and dynamic duo
FIDGET SPINNERS AT UES I'm sure you have noticed these ubiquitous little spinny gadgets either at home or in the hands of your children's friends.  It has become clear after talking to faculty and staff over the last few weeks that these "fidget spinners" are becoming a distraction for too many of our students, and they have certainly disrupted many classes.  As a matter of procedure, toys are not allowed in school here at UES, and there is no doubt that these spinners should be considered a toy.

Beginning tomorrow, students will need to leave their fidget spinners at home or, at the very least, in backpacks out of sight and out of mind.  Ideally, they will be left at home.  Teachers are beginning to get this message out to their students today, and we really appreciate your support as we begin this new spinner-free school world tomorrow!

Attached below is an informative article from Money magazine on the struggles schools are facing with these gadgets.  Whether the fidget spinner craze is new to you or not, it makes for fascinating reading.  Of course, we're aware that there are probably articles out there suggesting these toys are great for kids in school, but my quick research indicates far more articles are out there saying otherwise.  If you have any questions or concerns about this, please let me know.  We were trying to ride this fad out, but it has become clear and apparent that we can no longer do so.  Thank you for your cooperation and support!

CHICKENS! For those of you who don't know, the UES community now has some new feathery friends on our lower playground. Thank you to Mrs. Pierce and her family for sharing some of their chickens with all of us! We have a beautiful new chicken coop placed next to the lower playground swing set -- stop by to check it out! The chickens appear to be very happy with all of the attention! From Mrs. Pierce:

"The chicken coop has been a rousing success with opportunities for peer education, care, learning, and love all throughout the day. The kids are enjoying collecting eggs every day, the Magiera family took home the first 1/2 dozen for all of their extra work with the coop.  Today we candled our guinea fowl and mallard duck eggs in the incubator - all seven are fertile and developing!" 

Fun times for all!  Here is an action shot:

Mallory and Georgia showing off their new eggs!
REMINDER: UES PARENTS GROUP MEETING TOMORROW! Below you will see the agenda for tomorrow evening's UES Parents Group meeting in the Montpelier High School cafeteria. In addition, the MPS School Board will be meeting following this, and an update on the Union Playground Project is on the agenda among other items. All are welcome to attend! The agenda from USPG Co-chairs Heidi Groff and Jill Remnick:

UES Parents:

Please join us for the last USPG meeting of this school year. You won't want to miss this one!  

We will be meeting from 5:15-6:55 PM in the Montpelier High School Cafeteria.  We need the extra long meeting time to cover everything. Kristina Kane has graciously agreed to come and do art with our kids, so you don't need to leave them at home.  Bring the kids!  

Following our meeting the MPS Board meets in the library.  We are holding our meeting at the MHS to encourage UES parent's to stay and voice their opinions on playground safety, UPP (playground project), food service and merger with Roxbury.  

Our packed agenda includes:

1.  Merger w Roxbury vote 
     (School Board members Jim Murphy & Steve Hingtgen)
2.  Annual Homeless Report
3.  Future of food service in MPS
4.  Health and safety cleanup 
5.  Playground project 
6.  USPG Board Elections
7.   iPads in K classrooms
8.  Teacher appreciation 
9.   Lip synch battle review 
10. Teacher retirements
11.  Kids Cup
12.  Lost and found and ECO
13.  Pre-K

Thank you!

4TH GRADE AT THE VERMONT HISTORY MUSEUM I had the pleasure of joining Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Hickey's 4th graders on a trip to the Vermont History Museum last week. If you haven't had the privilege of visiting this museum downtown, you really owe it to yourself to check it out! We had such a great time, and we would be hard pressed to find a better way to bring the Vermont History curriculum alive for our children. Aren't we so fortunate to be able to walk to so many interesting and exciting places only minutes away from school? Yet another reason why living in Montpelier is such a great thing!

Mrs. Pierce's 4th graders getting the tour
UES YEARBOOK COVER Congratulations to 4th Grader Veda Gahagan and 3rd Grader Ava Richardson for being selected as this year's winners for the UES Yearbook Cover contest! Veda and Ava's cover designs were selected by our Yearbook Committee from nearly 30 other excellent submissions. And a big thank you to Linda Beaupre for taking on the coordination of the yearbook this year! Here are Veda, Mrs. Beaupre, and Ava celebrating at last week's school assembly:

Mrs. Beaupre with the proud winners!
THE KINDNESS CHALLENGE! The 2017 UES Kindness Challenge was such a success this year that we decided we needed to celebrate! We had a rare beautiful day in early May, and a spontaneous Dance Party to celebrate our community's commitment to kindness was the result! Over 500 students and adults enjoyed a warm, sunny afternoon dancing on Park Avenue with our new UES Mascot, Swoop! Here are some action shots of the fun:

At our most recent School Assembly, all the Kindness Challenge winners were honored:

Finally, for many years here at UES, students earned "Hoots" for demonstrating all the components of CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control).  You may remember seeing all of these little, green mini-certificates in your child's backpacks!  Well, this year we have switched to something different, and students and classes have been earning "Gems" for demonstrating CARES to our space and to each other.  The Gems have proven to be a big hit!  The next time you're in the main office, take a look at our constantly growing collection of gems in the fish tank.  We're already getting close to the next school celebration!

4th Grader Austin showing his enthusiasm for the gem filled tank!

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..