Rivendell Interstate school district click for home

mission statement click for home

Friday, January 19, 2018

facebook

News From Keri Gelenian

Summer 2013

Dear Rivendell Families,

I hope that everyone has had an enjoyable summer. I would like to welcome all the family members of our new 7th grade class, especially the families from Warren who will be joining us this fall. For all our families, but especially for new Academy families, please know that our goal is to provide the best education possible for your son or daughter. If you have a concern please contact us immediately. The sooner we know about your concerns, the sooner we can work together on a solution.

The Summer Academy and SummerScapes have just concluded. The Summer Academy was a new program for 7th and 8th grade students. I would like to thank Chris White, Tracy Nathan, Tim Alvarenga, Willie Johnson, Amber Brooks and Autumn Brooks for all their hard work making this new program a success. Check out the website to see the students' work – click on the link for "Rivendell Academy Survival Summer." I would also like to thank Tammy McQueen and her amazing staff for putting together another excellent SummerScapes program for our students of every age throughout the district.

The first day of school, August 26th, will be here before we know it. Our traditional potluck barbeque to kick off the school year has been moved to the first week of school – Thursday, August 29th from 5:30 – 6:45 p.m. You will receive more information about that shortly. I hope everyone has time to squeeze in a few more fun weekends. We have been planning for the start for the 2013-2014 school year since last spring and have a number of exciting new ideas planned for this year.

New staff:
Cindy McLaren is replacing Kris Widmann as our 7th and 8th grade counselor. Cindy has an MA in Social Work from UNH and has 12 years of experience as a counselor in elementary, middle and high schools. She has directed the Student Assistance Program for a high school for nine years, coordinated homeless student programs, provided drug and alcohol counseling and family counseling, written grants, and advised a Students Against Destructive Behavior group. For three years she was the case manager in an adult mental health center. She comes to us highly recommended, and we are thrilled to welcome her to Rivendell Academy.

We are currently involved in a search for an English/Humanities teacher to replace Mr. St. James and an atten-dance secretary to replace Mrs. Murphy. We were sorry to lose Mr. Dubois in the special education department. Because of the low number of special education students, he will not be replaced next year. Mrs. St. Pierre will continue working with some 9th grade students.

Focus on student learning:
Teaching has historically been an individual effort. The general trend has been for about 50% of all teachers entering the classroom to leave within five years. Our society rarely acknowledges the intellectual and emotional demands of teaching. Given the demands of teaching we cannot afford to keep it an individual effort. Our integrated social studies and English courses and math and science courses have started to get people planning together and teaching together.

Our number one purpose is to develop students' intellectual abilities. We want students to think critically and express themselves clearly and effectively about the important concepts within each of the courses we teach. Starting in the third trimester last year, I spent a great deal of time in classrooms working with teachers on curriculum and instruction directed at expanding students' capacity to think for themselves, enjoy the process, and develop confidence in what they know and can do. As a result of that work, I wrote two documents to provide a starting point for deeper discussions and innovation concerning curriculum and instruction.

This deeper work on instruction will build on successes indicated by our NECAP scores last year. If the science tests come in as strong as the 11th grade math, reading and writing scores, we will have had strong scores in every area; something that hasn't been accomplished in at least four years. We'll know in August. Our next goal is to try to do a better job supporting our struggling students. We still have too many students failing classes each trimester and far too many students with multiple F's.

Summer reading and a change in attitude:
For this year's summer reading, student government selected books that reflected the theme of survival. The main characters in many of the books not only endure difficult circumstances but regain their place in the world as whole human beings.

When I came to Rivendell three years ago many students complained about the summer reading. At our awards assembly this year, I asked if any students had finished their summer reading books. At least six hands went up. I believe the negativity has changed because of the brilliant idea of student government members two years ago to organize the reading around a theme and offer student choice. The summer reading is now a community activity used to start the school year together.

Advisory and electronic portfolios:
We have made minor adjustments in the schedule to allow for a short morning advisory every day. Our classes will remain 65 minutes. We will have a full 25-minute advisory meeting every Tuesday.
As part of advisory, students will be required to develop electronic portfolios for major projects in all classes. These portfolios will be a vehicle to support each student's growth and development while at RA, and it will be a place for students to present their work to peers, other teachers, parents and community members. Especially for juniors and seniors, the portfolios will be useful as students look for jobs, apply for scholarships and apply to college and technical schools.

Other new developments:

  • Doc Browne is offering a robotics elective based on the same hardware used in the regional and national robotics classes.
  • The fencing club is ready to be launched this fall.
  • Work in the West Wing (gym, hallways, offices and classrooms) is progressing smoothly thanks to Gary Collins and the contractors.
  • The Athletic Leadership Council will start their first full year of work. The ALC was formed last year to involve athletes in service and leadership activities in the school and district.
  • Mademoiselle Keefer is making plans for the arrival of the French students.
  •  At present, seven students from Warren will join our 7th and 8th grade classes, one exchange student is coming from Germany, one homeschooled student is entering high school classes and one freshman has transferred into the district.

Get ready for a great school year.
Best,

Keri J. Gelenian
Head of Schools

 

August 7, 2013

Dear Rivendell Academy Families,
The yearly NECAP testing is linked to a goal set by the state of Vermont. Any school that does not meet a pre-established target (Annual Yearly Progress or AYP) in reading and/or mathematics for two consecutive years becomes designated as a school in improvement. Furthermore, the AYP target increases every three years. The ultimate goal is for every student to test proficient in reading and math.

The Academy did not hit the AYP target in mathematics in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, designating us as a school in improvement. The upcoming school year is our second year of school improvement. Because this is a multi-year process, we remain identified under the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) accountability system. If we meet the AYP targets again this year, identified status will be removed.
Armando Vilaseca, the Vermont Secretary of Education, has sent us letters of commendation indicating:

  • we have met the AYP targets for last year and
  • the percentage of all our students in the proficient or above category for NECAP scores in both reading and mathematics is 15% - 20% above the state average.

Our scores put us in the top 10% of all schools in the State of Vermont. Over the past two years, we've made changes that have helped us address improvement status. Among the changes, we have integrated mathematics and science in grades 7 and 9 and hired new faculty. More significantly, our improvements are not a result of "teaching to the test." Rivendell teaches students to think.
Parents can monitor students' grades on the parent portal and contact the school immediately with concerns about your son's or daughter's performance in any subject. Parent communication is always welcome.

Sincerely,
Keri J. Gelenian
Head of Schools

 

Spring 2013

On April 30th, Ms. Hall, Ms. Widman, Mr. Galli, and I had the pleasure of bragging about our students at a meeting of Warren families interested in sending their kids to Rivendell. Representatives from other schools talked about school programs. We talked about the quality of Rivendell students as friends, learners, leaders, helpers, and problem solvers.

We stressed that we know our students well. Knowing the students is the starting point of all education. Strong programs begin with seeing the whole student and building the learning environment accordingly.

We have made progress in developing an ethos of respect and responsibility at RA, but I also know that we have work to do. There are students in the school who feel isolated. I know that pockets of bullying and harassment ebb and flow.

Porter Miller, an Orford educator and consultant, spoke at the Academy recently about human potential—seeing risk as an opportunity for growth, being fearless in the face of failure, and using setbacks as opportunities for finding new paths. I would argue that reaching for greater potential develops from a strong sense of personal responsibility, being accountable for your actions, gaining respect by not disrespecting others, and seeing yourself as a choice maker who has control of your destiny. This is a difficult path. It means not playing the victim, casting blame to avoid admitting your contribution to a problem, making excuses or rationalizing your behavior.

In thinking about responsibility, two types became clear to me: one involves taking positive action and the other involves resolving a problem or conflict. The work of Ms. Rizos and the 9th grade class with their plastic bottle recycling program reflects the first type of responsibility. There wasn't a direct conflict or breach of trust.

People saw an opportunity to do some good, and they took action, which helps the environment and saves the school money. It might also make money for the trash company.

The other type of responsibility involves a conflict of some sort—disrespecting someone, not following through with a commitment, putting someone in harm's way, etc. Negative emotions are triggered. In these cases people often lose sight of long-term negative consequences because their view is clouded by short-term payoffs (prestige, safety, maintaining status). These situations tend to have the greatest negative impact on self, others and the social environment.

At the Academy we have been building the first type of responsibility, filling a need, by encouraging student voice and empowerment. Student government's role in planning the summer reading program or the work of the entire school in raising money for Leukemia research through the Pennies for Patients campaign are examples of the first type of responsibility. 

Addressing the second type of responsibility is much more difficult. No one wants to admit they have done wrong, even when the negative consequences weren't intended. These cases trigger self-defense strategies of blame, excuses, or rationalization kick in. These self-protecting behaviors are negative at two levels. At the first level, the person escapes earning back trust, respect, freedom, self-worth or forgiveness. Even worse, the selfprotecting behavior makes it nearly impossible for the person to learn to behave differently in the future and change what might be a negative pattern. In another iteration of this type of behavior, a person or people form a negative judgment about someone without discussing it directly with the person or other people involved. The judgment can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy or scapegoating.

At the Academy, we have been dealing with this more difficult type of responsibility issue by investigating situations, interviewing people, observing situations, describing situations, and writing contracts that attempt to get people to respond differently to circumstances that cause them difficulty. We attempt to listen. Sometimes we bring people together to talk it out. When the behavior has a significant negative impact on self, others, or the community, we take more immediate action, which usually involves removal or a referral elsewhere.

Positive change begets more of the same. The support between the boys' and girls' soccer teams is better this year than it was last year. I would hope that next year the mutual support is even stronger. A year ago student government complained about the summer reading, but they also took responsibility for making improvements.

This year's government made even more improvements. Two years ago students' complaints about the TIPS program led to the creation of an internship program that students like. A parent call recently helped to improve a bad situation.

Yet we still need to do more to develop a community where more people understand that taking responsibility helps everyone achieve goals that are important to them. As I have tried to do in this article, we need to articulate a philosophy of responsibility. We need to develop simple ―assignments‖ that hold people accountable for solid evidence when making allegations. We need to call out behavior that supports a culture of complaint rather than a culture that supports investigation, dialog, listening, ideas and actions that test solutions. We have come a long way, and we have some miles yet to travel.

Some Recent Happenings at Rivendell:

  • Congratulations to junior Richard Otis for being one of 25 students, nation-wide, to receive the prestigious Lenore Annenburg Scholarship, which provides full tuition and room and board to the student's college of choice.
  • 6th, 8th and 9th grade Warren students visited. We hope all of them join us next year!
  • The French trip was the best ever. (Student drinking reflected the sort of issue that prompted my discussion of responsibility. The two students who stepped forward reflect the level of responsibility that we feel all students should work to achieve.)
  • Doc Browne and the Robotics Team took a second place in their first competition.
  • Ms. Sanders and Doc Browne led the first ever southwest national parks trip. The group hiked and camped in Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
  • Ms. Alden and Mr. St. James and the ―Hello Dolly!‖ cast have been working hard to prepare for opening night on May 16th.
  • Coach Thatcher, Mr. Galli and 8 Rivendell athletes traveled to Essex High School to learn how to start a student-led athletic leadership team.
  • Ms. Moffatt had the wonderful idea of purchasing a ping pong table for the café. Students and staff love it (especially Mr. Steckler and Mr. Newsted).
  • Any current sophomore interested in trying to receive a paid internship at CREEL next summer should see Ms. Hall for application materials.
  • Alex Rand made us all envious with his slides from his trimester abroad in Costa Rica though the CIRENAS program. A CIRENAS representative will be at Rivendell on May 21st to encourage students to apply for next year.
  • Thanks to all the Juniors and Junior Advisors for hosting an excellent prom. We had a great mix of students from grades 9-12.
  • Plans for the summer reading are underway.
  • We have developed a new structure for 7th and 8th grade summer school.
  • The Academy staff is working to design electronic portfolios. Thanks to Ms. Surprenant, Mr. Bardos and Ms. Martino for their hard work in getting this project underway..
  • The Yearbook is done and paid off. Ms. Barsamian and her staff are now busy on the Community Resource Directory.
  • The student government is making adjustments on Spring Fling to include some community service beyond the school.
  • We have made plans to upgrade computers at the Academy next year.
  • Academy teachers are working to improve the integration in math and science and English and history that we began this year.
  • Thanks to everyone who helped with fundraising this year, especially Lisa Hinsley with her tireless efforts on behalf of the 8th grade spaghetti fund raiser, Judy Siemons' generous contribution to the Senior Class Raffle and Heidi Peyton and Ariana's Restaurant for their contributions to making the Rivendell Abroad fundraising one of the most successful ever.
  • We are sad to lose three members of our staff at the end of this year. Ms. Widmann, 7/8 school counselor, has accepted a full-time position in Grantham. She has done great work for Rivendell. Ms. Murphy will be leaving the front desk in the office to pursue her interests in gardening, photography and accounting and to lend a hand at Ariana's Restaurant. Tom DuBois, Special Ed Case Worker & instructor, has figured out a way to combine hispassions for teaching and cooking and will become the Culinary Instructor at River Bend in the fall. We will miss his subtle sense of humor...and drum expertise at Winter Carnival!
  •  Congratulations to Mr. Newsted who is getting married this summer.
  • A number of Rivendell students are pursuing track & field this spring with great results:
  • Practicing with Thetford Academy's Track & Field team and in Rivendell colors, Andrea Haehnel, won her division with a 9' pole vault, beating her personal record by nearly a foot! Sam Emerson tied for 5th place in the high jump and 6th in the 100m dash at the Slater Invitational and Liam Fleming recently brought in a 2nd place in the 3000 meter.
  • Practicing with the Thetford Junior High Team and in Rivendell colors, Bodie Avery placed 3rd in the Relay Race and Owen Pelletier finished 1st in the Hurdles and Long Jump (15'4‖) at recent meets.
  • Practicing with Chelsea's Track & Field Team and dressing Independent, Senior Molly Pierson had the 3rd longest Shot Put in her first meet.

Thanks to everyone for their hard work and dedication this year!