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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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News from Keri Gelenian

August 6, 2016

Dear Rivendell Families, 

I hope everyone has been enjoying the great weather and has time to squeeze in a few more fun weekends. The staff returns to school on August 19th. Monday, August 25th is the first day back for students. We have twelve new students entering RA this fall, some from local districts and some new families from out of the area. We will also have one exchange student. We will do all we can to make our new students feel welcome at RA.

Academic Success and Career Readiness:
Last year at this time I noted that if our science NECAP scores were strong, we would have accomplished our goal of achieving strong 11th grade scores in all subject areas: math, science, reading and writing. Those science scores did come in strong. We are hoping for a repeat performance.

For the past four years we have been closely tracking the performance of students who fail one or more classes. We have analyzed the causes for the failures and experimented with a variety of ways to support the success of these students.

A new pattern is emerging. For three years, the number of failed classes increased dramatically at the end of the second trimester. At the end of the year we would see a slight dip in the number of failed classes. This year that changed. For the first time, the number of failed classes dropped at the end of the second trimester (from 107 failed classes to 67 failed classes). At the end of the third trimester, we saw a slight increase (to 76 failed classes). Thus, the number of failing grades is shrinking. We are seeing more students with GPAs in the 75-85 % range. And, students with higher GPAs are more or less holding their own. Our goal is to maintain and improve this upward momentum.

Student Support:
For the first time in four years, we will be starting the school year with a support team. And, strategies for individual students are in place at the start of the school year. Carol Sobetzer has time in her schedule to work with individuals or small groups of students who might need extra support. Regina Ritscher will return at the start of the school year as our Title I tutor, working mostly with students in grades 7-10. Cindy McLaren, our 7th and 8th grade School Counselor, will have time in her schedule for short check-in sessions with students. Robert Bryant will be here on Thursday's for short meetings with students in grades 9-12. Visions will offer afterschool academic support for students. We will continue the model that we used last year – students were spread out around the school to work with teachers in small groups. Mr. Reichert will keep the library open after school Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We hope to continue to have National Honor Society students available as tutors. Coach Thatcher will start soccer practice with 45 minutes of homework time.

Early College:
We are continuing to see more students enroll in college classes. Vermont's early college initiative will cover the cost of Vermont college and community college classes. See http://www.rivendellschool.org/schools/rivendell-academy/guidance/academic-opportunites for more information. To get a tuition voucher, go to http://www.vtdualenrollment.org.
Last year we had several students take classes at CCV in Norwich. The classes count for both high school and college credit. NH students can take college class credit through E-Start for $150.00. Through the Running Start program, all students taking physics or calculus at RA can earn college credit. We continue to encourage students to take courses at Dartmouth College.

Technology:
Last spring every 9th grade student had the opportunity to receive a laptop. We will continue our 1:1 initiative by offering a laptop to incoming 9th grade students. We are at a point in our instruction where computers in 9th and 10th grade are a common part of instruction. Before the start of the school year we will hold a 1:1 laptop orientation meeting for parents and students entering 9th grade.
By the start of the school year we will have a new media lab in the room behind the library in the lower East Wing hall. The lab will have a combination of Macs and PCs. We will also have a large format color printer in place. The machines will face forward to make the space more functional for instruction. The room will be used for Mrs. Barsamian's new graphic design/yearbook class, digital photography, and Mr. Bristol's digital video class. In addition, we will use it to publish our newspaper, Raptor Connection and Asterisk, our literary magazine. The lab will greatly enhance our use of the digital equipment we already have and the special technology skills of staff.

New Staff:
We have hired Gary Ackerman as our Digital Project Leader. Gary will work with staff and students in developing new technology skills. Gary comes to RA with a very strong background as a teacher and a technology leader in northern New England. We are very excited to have him on our staff.
In addition to Gary, we have one other new staff member joining us. Last year we lost Meredith Hyder to a move out of the area. Kolin Kepler is her replacement in 7th and 8th grade humanities. Kolin comes to RA via Alaska and, most recently, Hanover. Kolin grew up in Anika, Alaska, a tiny remote village of 250 inhabitants. He attended the Universities of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage where he earned degrees in Journalism (minor in Arctic Skills), History, and Secondary Social Studies. He taught three years in Bethel, Alaska before moving to Hanover, where he has spent the last year working as a Special Education Assistant at Hanover High School. We are very pleased to welcome Kolin to our community.

RA Activities:
At the end of last year, we gave students a list of RA extracurricular activities. In Advisory, every student listed the activities that were of interest to him or her. We found that a solid majority of students were interested in at least one extracurricular opportunity. I have included the list in this mailing so that RA families can see what is available to students. Our goal is to get every student involved in at least one activity this year. Please call if you have any questions about the offerings.

Advisory- Respect, Responsibility, and Choice:
Our Advisory program took a big step forward last year. The main purpose of Advisory is to build a common culture of respect, responsibility, and choice. We want students in Advisory to work together as a team, despite individual differences, likes and dislikes. We want them to learn to be helpful contributors to the Advisory group and the entire RA community. This isn't easy work. We want students to take responsibility for their actions and interactions with their peers and teachers, especially when they mess up. All mistakes are acceptable as long as people see mistakes as opportunities for improvement. We want students and teachers to work toward academic success, independence, and a productive future life. We want them to make productive choices. For example, this year every student in the school had a choice in selecting a summer reading book. The question is whether or not students chose a biography that was about a person they really admired or whether they chose a book because it was short and they had seen the movie. We need to constantly reinforce the message that if students don't take control of their lives, others will be glad to tell them what to do. Making a choice to challenge oneself, think critically, problem-solve rather than complain, and be helpful to others and self will all open doors in the students' lives – NOW and in the future.

We are going to continue to push our students and ourselves to build a school that offers a very unique, high quality educational experience for students inside and outside the classroom. Every gain that we have made is testimony to the hard work of the teachers and staff in the district. We have come a long way and the journey continues.

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Best,
Keri J. Gelenian