Monday, February 16, 2015

Wise Owl: February 16, 2015

February 16, 2015

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"
Some important news and fun celebrations to share as we gear up for February Break. Stay warm everyone! When we return, we'll only be weeks away from spring! Right??

WINTER CARNIVAL 2015! The Big Event is finally here! And the good news is that it's looking like we're going to get a little break with the extreme weather for Wednesday's Lantern Parade! There are no changes to the schedule at this point, with the exception of the Rainbow Ice Sculpture work being moved from yesterday to Tuesday afternoon. (Thanks to UES mom Marni Leikin for making that very sound call!). Children, faculty, and staff have been hard at work getting their lanterns ready for weeks. Check out some of their work below:

PERSONAL DEVICES AND CELL PHONES AT UES It's recently come to our attention that there has been some significant misuse of personal devices and cell phones by some of our students (some as young as 1st grade), both inside and outside of school. In addition to some instances of anonymous, mean communication, we have also been hearing that some students are accessing inappropriate material and sites on their devices while at school and on our buses.

I have been working with older students and their families navigating this very complicated issue for years, and I have rarely found it desirable to engage in an outright ban of devices for many reasons. It has become clear to all of us at UES, however, that personal devices at the elementary level are fraught with risky and dangerous implications and are simply not necessary. Many of your children's teachers already have their students keep devices away during school hours, but this approach has not been universally applied at UES.

As of this morning, the UES community will begin an "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" approach to all personal electronic devices for our students: if your child has a device and does not need it for emergency communication with you, they should keep it home at all times. If your child has been given a phone for emergency contact with you, it will need to be turned off and in their backpack (or turned in to their teacher) upon arriving at school. Any devices seen in school, including the playground and buses, will be confiscated with a phone call to the parent to come in and pick it up.

Again, we know this is a very complicated issue, but we firmly believe that the safety of all our children can be seriously compromised with unsupervised use of these devices. Please think about how easy it is for you to accidentally access inappropriate and sometimes even scary material on your devices, and then think about one of our children seeing it. This happens in schools around the country every day! There are an enormous number of resources online to help parents with keeping their children safe on the internet; here is a good place to start:

We all appreciate your cooperation with this, and I welcome your questions and concerns.

COFFEE WITH THE PRINCIPAL! Beginning on Thursday, March 12, I'll be starting a series of monthly "Coffee with the Principal" gatherings with parents and community members, and I'd like to invite you all to join me! These gatherings will be 30-40 minute presentation/Q & A sessions focused on important topics of the day. Our first topic will be Internet Safety For Young Children (see above!), and School Counselor Mrs. Francke will be joining me. Knowing that different times work better for all of you, we'll be giving the presentation three times (beginning of the day, lunch, and after school) on the 12th to see what works best for the most people. I'll have more details in the next Wise Owl, and, in the meantime, think about what topics should come up next!

MONTPELIER IS #1! This shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us, but according to Best Choice Reviews, Montpelier is the #1 out of 50 ranked small towns in America! Check out this very interesting list below. How many of these beautiful towns have you been to?

100TH DAY OF SCHOOL! Anyone who happened to visit Union last Monday may have noticed groups of Kinders searching the halls for numbers 1 to 100 in a variety of hidden spots as a way to celebrate the 100th day of school. Well, the number 100 happened to be in my office, so I got to see many of the children very excited to come to the end of their journey! They were even greeted by a special guest:

Mrs. Dostie's class gets a 100-worthy hug!
Mrs. Koch's Kinders at the Finish Line!

SCRIPPS SPELLING BEE! The Scripps Spelling Bee is coming to UES right after vacation! Twelve to fifteen top spelling 4th graders will be our unofficial "test pilots" on the morning of Wednesday, March 4. They will be followed on Thursday, March 5 by our 5th graders, the winner of whom will get to represent Union Elementary at the state bee at St. Michael's College on March 19! More details will be coming home with your children by the end of the week.

"I THINK I CAN" BY THE MSMS PLAYERS Many of our K-2 students were treated to an outstanding performance last Thursday of "I Think I Can", a one act play performed by our MSMS drama club. The play as described by the players:  

"I Think I Can is a one-act play produced by the Main Street Middle School Players for audiences in Kindergarten through third grade.  Here is the plot: a ten-year-old girl, Becky, struggles to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, but her real problem is lack of confidence. Her cat, Professor, leads her on a fantastic journey exploring different jobs that eventually help Becky see that she can accomplish many important things if she believes in herself.  The play carries this important message to its audience with physical humor, audience participation, and plenty of funny situations."

It was a terrific show!  Some highlights:

The big crowd awaits the show!

UES Alumnae on stage!
LOST AND FOUND UPDATE If your child is missing any clothing items, now is the time to come in and check out our Lost and Found! All items in the Lost and Found will be recycled and/or donated this Friday, February 20.

BOX TOPS! From UES Parents Group mom Jenny Sheehan:

"Thank you to all who have sent in Box Tops for Education!  This fall we earned $341.30 from submitted boxtops. Last year we raised $861.00 from boxtops and we hope to raise a similar amount or more this year!  If you have more boxtops to add to our collection, please send them in by Thursday,February 19th to the UES main office or to your child’s classroom. Any questions please contact Jenny Sheehan at"

HENNESSEY HOOTS!  A "Hennessey Hoot" to:

*  all of the volunteers who joined over 35 UES students on the relatively balmy (10 degree!) morning of February 4 for the annual Winter Walk to School Day!  Joining me that morning were (and I hope I got you all) Cathy Clements, Mayor John Hollar, Theresa Giffin, MJ Jennings, Emmanuel Riby-Williams, Diana Hart, Harris Webster, and John Snell, and we all got to join the kids for some hot chocolate and tea before school!  The regular Wednesday walks will resume some time in March -- details to follow.

Dez and I discovered that John Snell knows a thing or two about trees on our walk from the Co-op!
* to the UES Winter Carnival Committee for their incredible devotion and commitment to making this event fun and memorable for the whole community!  A big Hennessey Hoot to Diadel Ortiz, Sharon Pine, Melissa Parker, Chris Parker, Wendy McGuiggan, Jeffrey Jarrad, Jenny Sheehan, Marni Leikin for their time and efforts, with the loudest Hoot going to Kristina Kane for her organization skills and amazing leadership!  

* all of our Kinders and their 5th grade buddies, who refused to let the cold heart of Mother Nature get them down!  When they came to school last week to discover a fresh new mountain of plow-made snow, it didn't take them long to make the best of it!  We were all overjoyed to see our new, low cost play structure:
Kings and Queens of the Mountain!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wise Owl: February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015

"Have You Seen the Owl Today?"
Welcome to the Union Elementary Wise Owl!  We hope that you enjoy this new way of learning what's going on at UES! I'll be updating the Owl every few weeks with both news and celebrations, and our goal will be to send it to as many members of the UES community as we can. If we have your updated email address, you'll get it!

BINGO at UES! If you and your children were fortunate enough to have attended Bingo Night at UES a few nights ago, you know that there was no better place in Montpelier to be! What a wonderful display of our community at its best that was! The packed house contributed over $1200 to UES Parents Group programs! It was a great night! Here are some highlights of the fun:

Packed house!
UES Alumnae and "Topping Masters"

Big Winner #1
Big Winner #2!
The Winner's Circle!
WINTER WALK DAY THIS WEDNESDAY!! With temperatures forecast to rise above zero for Wednesday morning (!), UES is ready to join schools throughout the northeast and Canada for a Winter Walk to School Day! Have your children join six of us at 8:00 at various strategic spots around the city to have a brisk healthy walk to school! Hot chocolate and celebrations will await the walkers when we arrive! Please check out this link for all the details:

TASTY TESTERS! I was recently invited by UES mom, physical therapist, and "nutrition master" Liliane Savard to join Mrs. Pierce's class in a "Tasty Tester" session to pick a favorite muffin to be served in the UES cafeteria! Did you know that UES qualified for a School Wellness Grant this past year? Liliane and MPS Food Director Betty Hammond have been using these funds to improve selections in both our cafeteria and our snack program, and, even better, our students are getting to pick their favorites! Check out this link for more info on the grant and the Tasty Tester program:

Mr. Hennessey and Mr. Watson finding the muffins to be...  tasty.
NAEP: The National Assessment of Educational Progress This Tuesday, all UES 4th graders will be participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national standardized test administered annually by the U.S. Department of Education in selected schools across the country. UES 4th graders have participated numerous times over the last decade (my daughters took the tests three years ago), and we look forward to doing our part! Parents can check out this NAEP link below for more info:

NAEP: FAQ for Parents

5th Grade Transition Night at MSMS The next 5th grade transition info night at Main Street Middle School is scheduled for this Tuesday, February 3 from 6:00 to 7:00. Though the discussion will focus on next year's 5th grade, all members of the community are welcome to join us. We hope to see you there!

New Student Teachers at UES! Let's all please welcome both Katie Swick and Jacob Parker to the UES community! Mrs. Swick has begun her student teaching practicum with Susan Koch's 1st graders, and Mr. Parker just started with Lara Slesar's 3rd graders. A big UES welcome to both of you!

Mrs. Swick
Mr. Parker

CARES Assembly! Mrs. McGuiggan was "Hennessey Hoot-Worthy" and more for her excellent idea to have faculty and staff nominate members of the UES community for CARES Awards at our last assembly! Her 4th graders did a terrific job leading the student body and creating a show that was both entertaining and well run, and there were no shortages of worthy candidates for CARES awards! Some highlights:

The ever-assertive Mrs. D!
The constantly-cooperative Ms. Stetter!
WINTER CARNIVAL UPDATE The UES 75th Birthday/Winter Carnival is kicking into high gear, and we want to make sure you have this big event in your calendar! From Mrs. Kane's press release:

Union Elementary School invites the entire Montpelier community to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our school building!  Please join us for an evening lantern procession on Wednesday, February 18

Our lantern procession will begin at 6:00 pm at Union Elementary School.  Led by the samba band Sambatucada, we will parade from the school to the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where we will celebrate on the VCFA Green with rainbow ice sculptures, music, hot chocolate and cider!  This is the main event of our first-ever UES Winter Carnival, which will take place the week of Monday, February 16 through Friday, February 20.  

Our parade is made possible with the support of Coldwell-Banker Classic Properties and is funded in part by a “Community Arts Grant” awarded by Montpelier Alive and funded by the Downtown Improvement District Assessment.  We thank Lake Champlain Chocolates and Champlain Orchards for their donations. 
Local artist Gowri Savoor will be guiding UES students in making their lanterns during a ten day art residency from February 2-13, thanks to the “Artists in Schools” grant awarded by the Vermont Arts Council as well as the support of the UES Parents’ Group and The River of Light in Waterbury.  All K-5 students will create a hand-made lantern from sustainable materials including willow and tissue paper. Lanterns will be suspended from bamboo poles and lit with battery operated LED lights. 

Montpelier residents and community members are invited to create their own lanterns at free daylong lantern making workshops on Saturday, February 7 and Saturday, February 14.  The workshops are sponsored by Hunger Mountain Coop, Coldwell-Banker Classic Properties, and The Montpelier Senior Activity Center.  For more information regarding the parade and the lantern workshops, please visit <

Finally, the plan is to have a wide variety of ice sculptures up on the college green, and we're going to need your help! For more info, check out this link:

VOLCANO BUDDIES! Mrs. Quinn recently invited me to join her 2nd graders as they taught Mrs. Dostie's kinders all about volcanoes! It was great to see these 2nd graders have so much fun sharing their learning with their kinder buddies!

NEW UES LISTSERV! Many of you got my message last week about the new UES LISTSERV, but just in case you didn't see it, here it is again...

Dear Members of the Union Elementary School Family:
At a UES Parent Group meeting, the parents present discussed the need to improve communications with one another and the school.  In response, we created the “UES Families" LISTSERV to organize and connect parents, caregivers, teachers and administrators in ways that constructively support UES.  This LISTSERV is a two-way communication vehicle that enables discussions related to school, activities, and education.  
  • Do you  want to start an after school club and connect with others in the UES community with a similar goal?  This LISTSERV can help find partners to work with.
  • Would you like to become more informed with the school budget process before voting? This LISTSERV can be be used for such inquiries and to announce relevant meetings.
  • Did you wish that you heard about the World Chorus before you booked your after school activities?
  • Would you have liked to know about the UES through the Box Tops campaign before you sent out the recycling?
Regardless of how often you are able to actually be at the school, "UES Families" will enable you to easily interact with others. If you are worried about an excess of emails, fear not.  The LISTSERV is hosted on google groups, which allows you to control how often you receive messages (e.g., individual emails or as a digest).
"UES Families" is managed by parent volunteers and not the UES administration.  The LISTSERV will be moderated to ensure that discussions are appropriate and follow the etiquette described below (The key point is to be respectful.)   If you have any questions, email
We look forward to meeting you on “UES Families"!

Alison Lamagna, Marni Leikin, Edisa Muller, Laury Saligman, Jenny Sheehan,
OPTION 1:  Follow the link:  If you don’t have a gmail account or want to use your non-gmail for this LISTSERV, check out our helpful hints:
OPTION 2:  If you don’t like online systems, just  write us at and tell us your child’s teacher or your role at the school (e.g., 2nd grade teacher).  

When posting comments, it is expected that users maintain respectful dialogue and will adhere to the following LISTSERV etiquette:

  • Absolutely, no negative remarks of  parents, teachers, or administrators
  • No solicitations or classifieds
  • Limit messages and use “Reply to Sender” whenever possible

HENNESSEY HOOTS (A Special Dad Edition)! A Hennessey Hoot goes to ...

* UES Dad Justin Turcotte for joining Ms. Freeman's 1st graders to show off his awesome sushi making skills. 

Sushi definitely makes us happy!
* UES Dad Eli Rosenberg for joining Mrs. Mello's 1st graders to show off his tremendous knowledge of Japanese language and culture.

Learning to make origami animals!
Kimono = Authentic Learning Experience!