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??