Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"


I'd like to welcome you all to the second edition of the 2017-18 Wise Owl, and I'd like your feedback! The Owl will be updated every two to three weeks, and our goal is to make it an important source of information for the whole MPS community. This second edition is primarily news and information based, but look for more celebrations and fun in future editions. Again, I'd love to hear from you!

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as we get closer to fall!


UES Parents Group Meeting: TOMORROW, September 13, UES Cafeteria, 6:00
UES Snack Program Begins! Monday, September 18
Union Elementary Open House: Thursday, September 28
No School (In-Service Day): Friday, October 6
Kids Cup! Sunday, October 8
No School (Columbus Day): Monday, October 9
Picture Make Up Day: Thursday, October 19

Before We Get to the Info, However,... We had a wonderful opening for our Kindergarteners last week! Here are a few shots of the action:

UES Parents Group Co-Chair Heidi Groff and her daughter Ella greet Kinder parents with donuts and coffee.  Thanks Heidi!

Assistant Principal Mrs. Beaupre staying dry with some of our new Kinders

Getting ready to line up just as the rains came!

Mrs. Whalen leading her first line into class

Walking School Bus!
Our first week of the Walking School Bus was a big success, and it's our hope that these can continue each Wednesday morning right through the winter!  For those new to Walking Wednesdays, here is how it works:

Children/families meet a UES staff person at one of three locations -- Shaw's with Mr. Hennessey or Ms. Parker (by the Red Box), the Capitol steps with Mrs. LaFleur or Mr. Williams, or the VCFA green with MJ or Nurse Sarah.  At 8:00 sharp, the groups enjoy a vigorous walk to school together, meeting on the UES playground.  The Walking School Bus Team hopes to have the Bus go right through the winter every Wednesday, and you are all welcome to join us -- these walks are a perfect way to start your day!

Nurse Sarah and MJ with the College Green bus!

Mr. Hennessey with the Red Box Crew!
Kids Cup!

Kids Cup and Fall Festival Fundraiser for the Union Elementary School Parent’s Group to be held October 8 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

This year, the Union Elementary School Parents Group has a fundraising goal of at least $15,000 to support a variety of school-related activities, supplies, and appreciation that directly impact the classrooms, teachers and students.

For 2016-2017, the UES Parents Group met our goal of raising over $10,000! We made around $5,000 at this event alone last year.  With the money raised we supported many classroom projects, programs and field trips that totaled over $10,000!

The Parents Group hosted key events at the school including two Scholastic Book Fairs, a Movie Night, Bingo & Ice Cream Social, a lighting set for the first annual Lip Synch Battle, a Teacher & Staff appreciation breakfast (including a monetary gift to every staff person in the building!  A First!), entrance fees for museums and field trips including several transports by bus, STEM learning equipment, books, stools, dyslexia glasses, racism training and other school needs not included in the school budget.  All proceeds raised by the USPG directly supported classroom programs, field trips, scholarships and teacher and staff appreciation gifts.

This year, we are holding the Second Annual Kids Cup and Fall Festival  focusing on community, health, and fun. We hope you can join us on October 8, 2017, at 11:00 AM at Montpelier High School for this fun and exciting event!

Registration and Check in begins at 11:00 AM and the one mile fun run begins at 12:00 PM.   This year the Main Street Middle School and Montpelier High School will be participating as well.  Help us make this event a continued success!
The Kids' Cup is a 1 mile fun run along the Montpelier Bike Path. The Kids Cup event will begin and end at the Montpelier High School and the Montpelier 5K for older kids and grownups will commence at the High School track at 1:00 PM

Then the fall festival begins!  The Fall Festival will provide an opportunity for the community to participate in fun, games, music, and food. Tickets to use at the Fall Festival will be for sale at the event.  We will be accepting credit cards and cash.

Please consider supporting this annual event. All the proceeds of this exciting event will directly impact the teachers, students and community of the Union Elementary School.

You will be receiving this week in your elementary child’s folder, a paper Fundraising Form, or, if you prefer, you can go online and submit your donation(s) and registration that way.  If you do use the paper form, please turn it into Diana or Pam at the UES office with your donations (cash and checks) no later than October 4, 2017.  Please visit the website to make donations and register at http://www.montpelierkidscup.myevent.com/3/fundraiser.htm

Being Ready for the Rainy Weather Please do your best to ensure that your child is dressed appropriately for the weather.  We strongly believe that every child needs to have adequate time to move and play outdoors daily, so we’ll be going out even if it’s chilly or there are sprinkles.  Rain jackets and boots are a must! Generally speaking, we'll be going outside for recess unless there is thunder and lightning in the forecast or there is an absolute downpour. Everyone will have a better experience if they’re comfortable and prepared, so please bear this in mind as your child heads out to school each morning.

Paperwork Reminder The community has done an EXCELLENT job getting updated paperwork into the office. Thank you! We still have a few families who need to have clear and updated plans for after school turned in however. If we don't have a clear plan for your child each day, they will be staying with us in the office until we can get hold of you. No fun for anyone! Please have your updated after school plan in to your child's teacher no later than this Friday. Your teacher will be reaching out to you in the next few days. Thank you for your help with this!

Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture The Summit School is starting this week! If you want to register or have any questions about their offerings, please reach out to them directly using the contacts below. This fall's classes:

Summit After-School Music Classes - Fall 2017

Join the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture for Session 1 of our after-school music classes at Union Elementary. We will be offering unique classes for different levels of World Music Chorus, African Drumming, 2 levels of Ukulele classes, Beginning Guitar, and Introduction to Fiddle!

​For more information and to register, visit: www.summit-school.org
After-School Programs Coordinator, Dana Robinson, E-mail: director@summit-school.org   / Phone: 802-793-3016

Session 1 - Begins Tuesday, September 12th
Ukulele with Teddy Pi  (K - 2nd Grades)
7 Tuesdays - Sept 12th - Oct. 24th
2:45-3:30pm | Cost - $105
Discover the magic of the marvelous ukulele! A class for beginners.

Ukulele with Heidi Wilson (2nd - 4th Grades)
7 Tuesdays - Sept. 12th - Oct. 24th
2:45-3:30pm | Cost - $105
For kids who have some ukulele experience. Learn Chords, Songs, Melodies and Heidi's magical stories.

World Music Chorus with John Harrison (All Grades)
7 Tuesdays, September 12th - October 24th
3:40-4:30pm | Cost $105
Sing traditional songs and play musical games from around the world, as well as a few from right here at home.

Wednesdays    (New Class!)
Introduction to the Violin with Emma Back (3rd & 4th Grades)
12 Wednesdays, Sept. 13th  - Dec. 13th
(no class Nov. 1st)   2:45-3:30pm - Cost $180
Take your first steps in learning the fiddle. Balance the bow, and play your first tunes! 
Inexpensive Violin rental available through Vermont Violins.

African Drumming with Jordan Mensah (All Grades)
7 Thursdays, September 14th - October 26th
2:45-3:30pm - Cost $105
Learn Traditional African Rhythms and Culture with master drummer Jordan Mensah

Intro to Guitar with Rich Colombo (3rd and 4th Grades)
7 Thursdays, September 15th - October 26th
3:40-4:30pm | Cost $105

We’ll have lots of fun learning our first chords, strums and singing folk, blues and traditional songs.

From the UES Parents Group:

Hello UES Parent Community:

We are holding the first meeting of the 2017-2018 school year this Wednesday evening in the UES cafeteria from 6:00-7:30 PM and YOU are invited! 

As always, childcare will be provided by the remarkable Kristina Kane (art teacher extraordinaire). Thanks, Kristina!

This school year we plan on meeting the second Wednesday of each month in the school cafeteria from 6:00-7:30 PM.  It is possible that not all future meetings will need the full one and one-half hours, but we felt it was prudent to schedule this time in case it is needed.  

The AGENDA for the first meeting is as follows:
1. Introduction of group and the USPG:  mission, projects and leadership (Heidi)
2. Treasury report (Heidi & Bianca)
3. 2017-2018 events and projected income,
Including sign ups (Heidi)
4. Discussion of budget and reserve issues (anticipated expenditures) (Heidi, Jill & Bianca)
5. UPP update 
6. Pending funding commitments and pending requests not yet decided (Heidi)
7. Theresa Giffin retirement gift (Heidi)
8. Incorporation of Pre-K parents (Heidi)
9. Directory update (Jill)
10. Box tops (Tracy)
11.  Lost and found (Heidi)
12. Future topics (Heidi)

Hope you can join us!  Again, childcare will be provided by Mrs. Kane (thank you, Kristina!), so bring the kids with you!  

Just a reminder that there is a Facebook page that has photos of our UES lost and found.  These items live in the cafeteria.  Check it out:

Parking Out Front Finally, a quick reminder about parking in front of the school at the beginning and end of the day...

If you need to be at UES for a meeting or to pick up/drop off your child, PLEASE do not park on the UES side of Park Avenue from 7:30 to 8:30 and from 2:00 to 3:00. (The sign below says 2:30 to 3:30 -- we will need a new sign!). This is the time our buses line up to drop off and pick up our students, so that side of Park Avenue needs to be totally clear for logistical and safety reasons. Thank you all for your cooperation!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Wise Owl: September 1, 2017

September 1, 2017

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"


I'd like to welcome you all to the first edition of the 2017-18 Wise Owl, and I'd like your feedback! The Owl will be updated every two to three weeks, and our goal is to make it an important source of information for the whole MPS community. This first edition is primarily news and information based, but look for more celebrations and fun in future editions. Again, I'd love to hear from you!

Some news and information that will be helpful to know as the school year begins!


Kindergarten Open House: Today! 3:15 - 4:15
No School (Labor Day!): Monday, September 4
First Day of School for Kindergarten: Tuesday, September 5
Picture Day! Wednesday, September 6
PreK Meet and Greet: Thursday, September 7
First Day of School for PreK: Monday, September 11
Union Elementary Open House: Thursday, September 28
No School (In-Service Day): Friday, October 6
Kids Cup! Sunday, October 8

Before We Get to the Info, However,... I wanted to share some terrific action shots from the first day of school! This is the positive energy we all felt throughout the first two days! It was such a great start! (Families: if you want digital copies of any of these pictures to be shared with you, just let me know!)

OK, and now the information...  (I know, there's a lot here -- please take your time!)

Open House 2017!  The Union Elementary Open House will be on the evening of Thursday, September 28 from 6:15 to 7:15.  Our Open House will be an opportunity for PreK-4 families to join their children in classrooms and share their work with each other.  Families will also have an opportunity to join their children in their Integrated Arts classes and meet Counselors and Special Educators throughout the evening.  The evening will officially begin at 6:15, but families are welcome to come and go at any time within the 6:15 to 7:15 hour. Please contact me or your child's teacher if you have any questions -- we look forward to seeing you all and showing off the great things happening at UES!

Morning Drop Off and Afternoon Pick Up Procedures:  A number of years ago, the UES Parents Group helped to create a new drop off and pick up procedure for families driving their children to school.  This highly successful set up improved safety and congestion in a big way!  I continue to marvel at the cooperation and patience I see in front of our school on a daily basis.

For everyone's review:

The UES Drop Off and Pick Up is the designated area on School Street, inside the barriers, for parents unloading or loading their children by private vehicle. The area is separate from the bus unloading /loading location, so there is no conflict with the two operations. 

For everything to function safely and smoothly, several procedures must be followed:
 Enter the barricaded area on Loomis Street from School Street. No U-Turns, please.
 Cars should line up single file, along School Street waiting to enter the “unloading/loading 
zone” (the barricaded area).
 While lined up on School Street, please do not block the exit to Cedar Street.
 Students should only be dropped off and picked up in the barricaded area (not on the corner or on School Street).
 Pull up as close to the crosswalk as you can. Avoid dropping off in front of the stairs.
 After dropping off, please exit forward onto Loomis Street. 
 Do not park in or block neighbor driveways unless you have permission from homeowners.
 Drivers should remain in their car. 
 Parents wanting to enter the school must park in available street parking spaces.
 Have all your materials for school ready before drop-off. 
 Keep goodbyes brief; other drivers will be waiting behind you to discharge children.

Time Saving Tips:
 Arrive early for the morning drop-off. The busiest time is five minutes before the start of classes. Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the final bell, when the traffic is lighter.
 Arrive later for the afternoon drop-off. The busiest time for the afternoon pick-up is before the bell rings and right after. Arrive 5 minutes after the dismissal bell and the wait time is less.
 Adjust for rain. The number of cars will increase when it rains. Be patient, and plan on spending a small amount of additional time.

Call In Procedures for Absences and After School Plans  In order to ensure that we know where all students are and where they are going at the end of the school day, we'd like you to be aware of our procedures concerning absences and after school plans:

PLEASE CALL your student in absent before 9:00am to the front office (225-8200)
PLEASE CALL After school changes in before 1:00 pm to the front office (225-8200)

PLEASE DON’T text or e-mail after school changes.
Snack Heroes The UES Snack Program is on! There will be more info to follow, but we anticipate a mid-September roll out date. Thanks to Snack Coordinator and UES mom Bianca Magiera for her many years of service and hard work making our healthy snack program thrive! If you have any questions about the Snack Program or would like to volunteer (yes, we still need volunteers on Wednesdays!), contact Bianca directly at:


I think that will do it for now!  Get ready for the next Wise Owl next week!  Have a great long weekend with your friends and families!

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