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

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