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!

Come to Rivendell...

Keri Gelenian (Head of Schools/RA Principal, Michael Galli (RA Dean of Students) and School Counselors Nancy Hall and Kris Widmann met with parents of Warren, NH students last night, inviting them to consider Rivendell Academy as their student's school of choice for the upcoming year.

As part of the presentation, parents enjoyed the attached video featuring Academy students and faculty inviting the Warren students to 'Come to Rivendell...."

Take a look!!!

News From Keri Gelenian

April 2013

Dear Rivendell Families,

What Can You, as a Parent/Guardian, Do To Help Your School and Student?

1. Support for the Robotics Club
Kerry Browne is starting a robotic club. He has ordered one robot and is applying for a grant for another. The club will need some things to be built. He might also need tools and someone to help with fundraising. There will not be a lot of activity for a month or two.

Goal: Provide a strong foundation for the club‟s success through building equipment and developing resources.

Resources: There is money for materials. Parents of club members will likely be interested in helping.
Contact Doc Browne at if you would like to help out.

2. Spring Musical - "Hello Dolly!"
Anna Alden and Silas St. James will be running evening practices for about two weeks in the spring and there will be two or three evening performances.
Goals: Develop parent support for the spring musical:
A. Schedule parents to provide meals during evening rehearsals.
B. Schedule parents to monitor students during evening rehearsals
C. Organize concessions.
D. Increase ticket sales by using community list serves and other social media to advertise the musical in the community.
E. Play an instrument.
Resources: Parents of student actors and actresses.
Contact Anna Alden at or Silas St James at if you are able to help.

3. The Dartmouth Thayer School of Engineering Annual Open House,
Friday, April 19 from 5:30-8:00. There is no cost. Food is served. This is a wonderful event for all students, but especially those interested in science, engineering, computer technology, electronics and any sort of career related to building mechanical devices. http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/events/openhouse-2012/

Goal: Get at least 10 students, families, and several teachers to this event. Promote this event to the entire school.
Resources: We could get a bus or use school vans if we have enough students. (This would need to be planned well in advance as the event is over Spring Break.) We could see if science teachers would offer extra credit in science classes.
Contact Keri Gelenian at if you are interested

4. Baccalaureate
This pre-graduation event is run by parents of the graduating class. It is typically held at an area church on the Sunday before graduation. Contact Kathy Landgraf at for further information and to be connected with other parents interested in planning this event.

If you prefer, you can also call Nancy Murphy at 603-353-4321 x 124 to be connected with any of these staff members‟ voicemail.

News From Keri Gelenian

Dear Academy Families,

We had 91 students on the Honor Roll first trimester. Thirty students earned High Honors. We recognized honorroll students with an evening potluck in the Café. The food was great and students did a wonderful job presenting a number of special opportunities for Rivendell students. Thanks to all who attended.

This past spring, Rivendell families received a letter indicating that our math scores on the fall NECAP exam added us to the long list of ―improvement‖ schools in Vermont. I noted that the scores did not reflect the academic prowess of last year's junior class. My hunch that the juniors' science NECAP scores would vindicate them proved correct:

Level 4 (high) Level 3 Level 2 Level 1 (low)
Rivendell 2012 0% 40% 47% 13%
State 2012 0% 31% 42% 25%
Rivendell 2011 0% 5% 53% 43%
Rivendell 2010 0% 17% 67% 17%

Our challenge is to keep our scores consistently strong by focusing on more than test scores. Grades and performance follow expectations. We need to maintain high expectations. Rich curriculum develops understanding, enjoyment, and confidence. Projects, simulations, integrating instruction in math and physical science, multiple and varied forms of assessment, explorations of students' thinking in discussions, and a strong focus on literacy are all essential components of a rich curriculum in action. If we teach with these goals in mind, then our students will do well on whatever the next state or national tests look like. More importantly, our students will be able to use what they have learned.

Other Academic Issues

There has been a pattern over the past three years of a high number of failed courses at midterm each trimester. In general, the number of failed classes and students who have one or more F's drops by the end of the trimester. At mid-trimester this year, 29.82% of our students failed at least one class, and they failed 10.83% of all possible classes. At the same time last year, 28.57% of our students failed at least one class, and they failed 10.63% of all possible classes. Our goal for the year is to see the number of students earning one or more F's at the end of each trimester drop to around 12% (33 students), which should also significantly lower the percentage of failed classes.

There is no easy solution to this problem of student motivation. While the last two years have been focused on removing structural barriers to higher achievement (the schedule, curriculum, expectations, integration and staffing), the next two to three years will be spent developing students' sense of personal power to direct their lives and learning. A common misconception that some people are simply born smart and don't have to work hard erodes personal power. We all like some things more than others; everyone can make progress in areas that aren't their ―natural‖ interests; and ―smart‖ people work tremendously hard and often fail.

A current junior gave me some insight into the sort of change that improves student motivation. He said that he's grown as a student since 9th grade partly because he thinks classes have become more interesting. As an example he said that he likes the freedom of the honors challenge in chemistry. He explained that the students who elected honors in chemistry work as a team on the material with support from the teacher when they get stuck and they work at a faster pace than the rest of the class. What was really interesting was that he said that although they are working ―harder‖ (i.e. faster), the work doesn't feel harder because they are learning so much from one another.

Another case in point—because of integration of math and science in 7th grade, Mr. White and Mr. Steckler coordinated their topics: Mr. Steckler was teaching time and distance graphs through a project and Mr. White moved to that topic in the math book. Because of the coordinating curriculum in 7th grade, the students realized that the math book was incorrectly calling time and position graphs time and distance graphs. There is a significant difference. The students found other strange errors as well. This discovery and the level of thinking that students displayed developed out of our move to integrate the classes and develop a structure that allows teachers to work together.

The examples from chemistry and math reflect what I like to call intellectual integration, ideas coming together from different people and through different experiences that learners put together to advance their own thinking. A group of teachers in Cambridge, MA have been exploring ideas like this for a long time. Some of their work and ideas can be found at http://www.criticalexplorers.org/.

Fun, Character, and Success in Athletics

Congratulations go out to Coach Newsted and his Cross Country team. The girls placed 5th in the state and the boys placed 9th. Liam Fleming took a medal at State, placing 9th among more than 90 runners.
A referee summed up our soccer season in two emails, one sent to Coach Thatcher and the other sent to Coach Goodwin:

Bob (Thatcher)...the team played with a lot of heart and with great Sportsmanship... Please let them know that at least one official greatly appreciated their play, guts, attitude, and the way they supported each other no matter what was happening on the field. This is a team I will truly miss officiating as I always had these games circled on my calendar as events to look forward to. I know that not being on the winning side yesterday was tough for the crew, But I am equally sure they handled it with class—of course this comes from the top down—but nonetheless a credit to the boys."

Tim (Goodwin)...I am sure you and the team had hopes for another state title, so very disappointing. I did want to say that I enjoyed working your games very much. Your players clearly loved playing together and had a great chemistry on the field, never getting on each other, always in support and showed great respect for everything about the game. I am sure we'll start all over again next summer and I look forward to meeting the new players, but make sure the ones leaving know that at least one official will miss them!

Congratulations to the varsity teams and a big thanks to Jon Lester for coaching 7/8 girls, Tom DuBois for coaching 7/8 boys, Mel Emerson for his work with JV boys and Laura Haber for coaching JV girls.

9th grade Recycling

Rivendell Academy has been making progress with energy efficiency and recycling. Last year, Mr. Collins received a grant that refitted the entire school with energy efficient fixtures and lighting. He also purchased large recycling bins for paper and cardboard. This year, the 9th grade advisers and students have organized a plastic bottle recycling program. Students have outfitted the entire school with specially built boxes to collect empty plastic. They worked with Mr. Collins to find a way to get the bottles recycled. The Academy students have done a great job getting their plastic in the bins. Well done 9th grade!

Disc Gold Course Construction

Jon Lester's disc golf students designed and began building a disc golf course for Rivendell and the community. By the end of the trimester, they successfully installed the first three holes.

National Honor Society

On November 5th , the Academy inducted 6 new members into the National Honor Society: Junior Nathaniel Eastman and Sophomores Samuel Emerson, Miranda Garrow, Moriah Ludwig, Christian Parenti and Cassandra White. These new inductees join existing members: Seniors Stefanie DeSimone, Christian Knowlton, Sarah Landgraf, Meg McCormack, Christina Moreland, Ariana Murphy, Molly Pierson, Jack Steketee, Tala Wilson, Amber Wolf, and Stacie Wright, and Juniors Brandon Gardner, Andrea Haehnel, Josh Marshall, Richard Otis, and Megan Perkins.

Recruitment

On November 6th the Academy hosted forty-eight 7th and 8th grade students and four teachers from Waits River Valley School. We are actively reaching out to choice schools in the area to attract the type of deep thinking, energetic, independent learners who would flourish at Rivendell Academy. Student government members Tala Wilson, Jen Woodward, Christian Parenti, and Josh Marshall did a great job as guides, taking students to see eight different Academy programs. Scott Calhoun, Luke Bell, Megan Winagle, and Stefanie DeSimone gave excellent overviews of athletics and school culture.

Ski Thursday/Winter Activities Program

There will be no early release for the Ski Thursday/Winter Activity Program this year. All schools will dismiss students at 1:45 p.m. (the regular Thursday dismissal time).

The CSO will run their Ski/Skate program, as in previous years, on Thursdays from January 3rd through February 14th (the 14th being a make-up day). Academy students planning to participate in the Ski/Snowboard portion of the program must have registered with the CSO by November 30th. Those students will be dismissed at noon to catch the bus to the Dartmouth Skiway. Prior to departure, they must sign out in the office. As they will be missing their afternoon classes, they must arrange, in advance, for missed work and must remain in good academic standing.

The Academic and Bus schedule at the Academy for Winter Thursdays will be as follows:

  • The Warning Bell will ring at 7:55 a.m., as usual, and classes will begin at 8:00 a.m.
  • Each class will meet according to their regular Thursday schedule.
  • School will be dismissed at 1:45 p.m. and busses will run their regular routes.
  • The Late Bus will run as regularly scheduled.

There will be no Express Busses or 3:00 p.m. busses as there have been in the past.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Academy office at 603-353-4321.

Summer Reading Celebration at Rivendell Academy

Summer Reading Celebration at Rivendell Academy

Please come and celebrate Rivendell Academy's Summer Read theme - The bond between human and animal - 

Wednesday August 29 at Rivendell Academy. Sign in at the front office to participate in the following events:

  • 8:45-10:15 Documentary “Bearman” followed by a Q&A with the “Bearman” himself, Ben Kilham!
  • 10:25 – 10:45 Students Dalton Thayer and Brian George speak about their work with livestock
  • 10:45 – 12:15 Animal Arenda
    • Paula Harper from New England Search and Rescue
    • Cassady Clark from High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program
    • Dalton Thayer with draft horses
    • Brian George with oxen

July 31, 2012

Dear Rivendell Families and Students,

I hope that everyone is having a great summer. We are working hard to prepare for the start of school. Over the last two years we have made structural changes at the Academy and emphasized student voice and leadership in the school. We will continue asking our students to play a major role in shaping their lives and learning at the Academy. I am proud to say that changes that we made last year in creating the Upper House Project and Internship classes resulted from student suggestions. Our overall goal this year is to begin building on foundation that we have laid. Our expectations for our work and the performance of our students are very high.

The continuity that we have achieved, as well as the decrease in discipline issues, allows us more time to focus on student learning. I hope to spend more time in classrooms this year, possibly teaching or co-teaching parts of units. Independent critical thinking is the educational trademark of a Rivendell Education. Our ultimate goal is to strengthening students’ capacity to achieve their full potential as human beings. This work happens in our classrooms. To support I need to teach and be in conversations with teachers and students about teaching and learning.

Goals: We have some remaining work that we started last year that we hope to “complete” this year:

  • Use our Learning Expectations rubrics regularly to assess major projects, papers and performances.
  • Write a vision statement that reflects what we believe and practice.
  • Develop an advisory system that builds powerful relationships and furthers our goals of student empowerment and responsibility.
  • Reduce by 30% the number of students who consistently fail one or more classes (approximately 45 students each grading period).
  • Engage more students in co-curricular activities.
  • Develop more consistent requirements for Certificates of Initial Mastery in grades 9 and 10. 
  • Require more public presentations in which students demonstrate their learning.

 

Grading: Grading in the integrated classes (7th and 9th grade Algebra and Physical Science, and Humanities 7-10) will change because of the integrated nature of the curriculum. In some cases (and the better teachers get at integrating the more this should happen) one assignment will receive a grade in both classes.

  • Pending a final evaluation from the faculty, a student must receive a passing final grade at the end of the year (FAV) in BOTH integrated courses in order to pass both courses.
  • If a student fails one integrated course for the year, both courses must be repeated the following year. 
  • If a student fails one course, repeats both and passes both, the student will receive an elective credit for the course he or she passed twice.

 

Staffing: We have a few new staff joining us.

  •  Jonathan Lester will be teaching 7-12 health and PE courses at the Academy as well as 5-6 PE at Samuel Morey. Mr. Lester is the first Academy graduate to return as a teacher. He comes to us after completing (in three years) a degree in Kinesiology from UNH and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Physical and Health Education from UNH. He did his student teaching at Mast Way Elementary, Dover Middle School, Little Harbor Elementary School, and Newmarket Jr./Sr. High School. Many of our students will know Mr. Lester as their Water Safety instructor at Lake Fairlee.
  •  Laszlo Bardos will be teaching 9th grade Algebra in Physical Science, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Mr. Bardos received his BS from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. He has an MBA from Dartmouth and a Master of Arts in Mathematics Education from Western Governor’s University in Salt Lake City, Utah. He held a two-year temporary position at Hanover High, a part-time, temporary position at Lyme Elementary, and a he taught at Thetford Academy for three years before moving to Budapest Hungary for one year. He is also the author of a hands-on math activity book called Amazing Math Projects You Can Build Yourself. Mr. Bardos worked in business and technology before he discovered his passion for teaching.
  • We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to hire Robert Bryant from Second Growth (http://www.secondgrowth.org/) to work with students. Last spring Mr. Bryant worked with a few students to develop goals and skills to achieve those goals. He will also be available to work with all the staff to help students achieve their goals. Robert can also work with students with addiction issues and support students in the court system, especially those in diversion. The Academy will also have access to Second Growth’s Coaching for Captains program. Robert will be working at the Academy on Fridays from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Robert will work in Ms. Fariel’s office, which he will share with Mrs. Widmann, our 7-8 Counselor.
  • Pending Board approval we have an exciting new teacher in Spanish ready to start this fall.
  • Pending school board approval, we will be hiring someone to fill a multi-duty position (Yearbook Advisor, Upper-House Elective teacher, Upper House Project and Career Internship teacher and tutor).
  • Additional Federal dollars from Title I may allow the Academy to hire a Title I Literacy teacher to work with students and teachers on advancing the reading and writing skills of our students as part of the District Action Plan.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the beginning of the year BBQ. We have set the dates for the Family Meetings on the third Tuesday of every month from 6:00-7:00 p.m. As we did last year, we will rotate the locations. More information about these events will be coming home soon.

Best,


Keri Gelenian
Principal, Rivendell Academy
Head of Schools, Rivendell Interstate School District

June 2012

Dear Rivendell Families,
There has been much to celebrate at the Academy over the last month:

  • Everyone that I spoke to loved the senior trip to New York City. A special thanks goes out to Senior Class Advisors Bob Thatcher, Silas St. James, and John Bristol; Nancy Thatcher, Nancy Hall, and parent chaperones Dawn Stever, JJ Hebb, and Don Mitchell. We would also like to thank all the families and individuals who helped with fundraising, most notably, the special individual contributions.
  • NECAP results showed that our combined 11th grade reading and writing scores were the highest in Vermont. As a community member pointed out at the school budget meeting, our math and science scores need to improve. We hope that increased attention (especially in science) may start to show in our scores in the spring science tests (May 8th and 9th).
  •  Numerous students have received awards and recognition from several outside organizations. You will find a listing further in this newsletter.
  • Congratulations go out to Rivendell junior, Christina Moreland. Christina met the requirements to enter the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program based on her PSAT scores.
  • Big thanks go out to Rivendell junior, Kelsi Nanatovich, for organizing a very successful Ghost Out. A Ghost Out is a school‐wide simulation focused on raising awareness of deaths related to drunk driving.
  • A special thanks to Denise Riordan for organizing and chaperoning the trip to Spain.
  • Thanks to Jenny Silverstein for organizing a special NYC art field trip for a select group of Rivendell artists.
  • Each 7th grade student has been assigned a netbook that they will eventually be able to take home. The netbooks will follow students until graduation.
  • Thanks to Christian Knowlton and volunteers from his Scout troop for cleaning and repairing the greenhouse. Brynne MacMurtry has plants almost ready to be moved.
  • The school budget passed with a solid majority. Next year it would be great to have a larger turn out for the vote. It is an important part of our local democratic process.
  • Thanks to Carol Sobetzer and students for completing the yearbook. We look forward to seeing it later this spring.

Work Underway

  • Rivendell Academy received its accreditation four years ago by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Our first ever five‐year report is due to NEASC in March 2013. As schools move through the process, the evaluators expect to see growth and development in key areas.
    Specifically, NEASC is looking for us to design a school with a clear rationale and strong connections across the following areas:

  1. Stated values and beliefs
  2. Learning expectations
  3. Overall curriculum structure in the school
  4. Pedagogy
  5. Assessment of student understanding and skills

The connections must be clear on paper; understood by students, staff and families; and observable to visitors. In effect, we are being asked to demonstrate that we know who we are and to show that what we do improves the life and learning of our students. These are good things for us to think about.

Next year will be the second year of our new curriculum structure and schedule. In science and math, the courses will not be properly sequenced until the fall of 2013. Our Learning Expectations focus on seven areas (based on Rivendell’s Profile of the Graduate and the Strategic Plan):

  1. Literacy skills
  2. Math reasoning to analyze problems
  3. Effective communication
  4. Problem solving across disciplines
  5. National and global interconnections
  6. Personal responsibility
  7. Action on issues of public concern

Our work for the remainder of this year and next involves building more explicit links between these six areas, teaching and learning, and assessment in every classroom. As mentioned, curriculum will be integrated in several classes. We will work on improving the quality of projects that allow students choice in demonstrating their understanding. Teachers and students will use the Learning Expectations rubrics to evaluate the quality of major projects. We will try to link our students and curriculum to the world outside of the classroom. Our students will give more public presentations of their work and should want to do those presentations because their work has been truly meaningful to them. We will experiment with some type of portfolio that asks them to reflect on how work relates to learning expectations (areas of strength based on rubric performance criteria and areas for growth).

Everything that I described above already happens at Rivendell Academy. Our goal is to deepen and expand the good work that is already happening. Here is a very brief summary of some of what’s been going on in classrooms:

  • Stephen Johnson uses art and memoirs to teach history.
  • Jenny Silverstein has students write a great deal in art skills.
  • Eric Reichert’s students explore literature, the world, and themselves in their writing in Writer’s Café.
  • Doc Browne’s students use math to solve engineering design problems.
  • Rachel Sanders’ students recently completed a unit based on simulations of epidemics.
  • Rich Steckler’s students did outdoor field work to learn about stream ecology.
  • Chris White has math students work to solve sequences of problems that require them to create algebraic equations.
  • Christina Robinson and Meredith Hyder have created several integrated units focused on research, writing, and presentations.
  • Joe Beasley and Dan Newsted give students word problems that require multi‐step mathematical reasoning.
  • Silas St. James’ students explored setting, theme, character, and conflict in dramatic performances of novels they’ve read.
  • Students in Kirsten Surprenant’s American History course are currently researching Westward Expansion topics that will be presented at EXPO in May.
  • Bridget Fariel has placed juniors and seniors in job sites across the Upper Valley.
  • Denise Riordan has students write and perform skits in Spanish.
  • Gail Keefer’s two‐way exchange program with the school in Saverne, France takes our students to France and brings French students and teachers to us.
  • Bob Thatcher’s students learn to apply principals of physical development to programs that target their personal fitness goals.
  • Shawn Clough keeps students moving with numerous outdoor activities throughout the year, using the Cross Rivendell Trail and Lake Morey as an extension to his classroom.
  • John Bristol’s students learn video techniques and apply them to their own productions.
  • Anna Alden’s students in History Through Music create radio shows that link music to world events in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

There are two other areas that we will need to work on next year. First, we need to write a clear and concise statement about our values and beliefs related to our students’ learning. And second, we need to get more Rivendell Academy families and our communities involved in understanding and participating in the academic mission of the school. If we have done our work well, we will graduate students who have confidence in themselves because they know how to apply knowledge and skills and directed their own learning, taken college courses, explored the world of work, and been active in their communities and the larger world.

March 2012

Dear Rivendell Families,

Excellence doesn’t come easy. Here are some people who deserve special recognition for what they have achieved for themselves and for Rivendell Academy:

Congratulations to senior, Dylan Pelletier, for scoring his 1000th point on the Rivendell court. Dylan’s speed, strength, jumping ability, and agility make him an outstanding three-sport athlete. Dylan’s character and work ethic in the classroom also deserve recognition. Great job, Dylan!

Marshal Ivey’s artwork received an honorable mention from the judges at the 4th Annual Best of the Upper Valley High School Art Exhibit at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon. Stephanie DeSimone, Morgan Movelle, Amber Brooks and Kelsi Nanatovich also had their work accepted. Their art will be on display from February 17th – March 9th.

Thank goes out the Mr. Galli, Mrs. Surprenant, Student Government members and the entire staff for organizing a very successful Winter Carnival. Congratulations to the 7th and 8th grade students for being full participants this year.

This year’s 11th grade students deserve to be recognized for scoring an outstanding 91% pass rate on the state NECAP test in reading.  Rivendell’s 11th graders also had the highest writing scores of any school in the Upper Valley. Thanks goes out to Mr. Reichert for the great work that he did with our 11th grade students last year and to the work he and Mr. St. James did with the 11th graders this year in the writing course.

Big thanks go out to Mr. Galli and the Ice Jamz Committee - Mrs. Alden, Mr. Bristol, Ms. Blake and Ms. Drew, for organizing Ice Jamz II. Once again, we are blending outstanding musical talent from outside the area with our own outstanding Rivendell musicians and singers.

All of the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams have been well coached and played hard all year. Both varsity teams are taking talent and tenacity into the post-season games. We wish them the best. The boys have a phenomenal record of 18-2. On the last regular game of the season the girls beat # 1 ranked Oxbow.

Ryan O’Leary attended the New Hampshire’s Governor’s Institute. Great job, Ryan!

Learning and Responsibility at Rivendell

In a recent article in the Journal Opinion about NECAP results, I stated what I believe are the deeper issues with regard to student learning: Our job in the District is to develop students’ ability to think critically and independently. Our students need to be able to read well, communicate well, understand the relationship between math and science, to write to further their learning, and use numbers to answer real questions. They need to know to how to ask good questions. They need to learn to work effectively with others. An education at Rivendell or any other school isn’t about passing standardized tests; it’s about democracy; it’s about healthy communities; it’s about economic viability; it’s about a healthy environment; it’s about moral issues; it’s about the ability of our students to live rich and rewarding lives. If we are doing our job well, we should see evidence of these goals in our students’ work and we should see our students do well on any standardized test that is thrown at them.

With these larger purposes in mind the teachers are working hard on developing curriculum and analyzing learning in classrooms:

  • Teachers at the Academy have been working to develop curriculum for integrated courses in math/ science and English/ history.
  • Integrated classes will be taught by two teachers who will share students for 130 minutes. Students will receive one grade for both classes.
  • Students are taking finals and every final includes a writing component.
  • We are working on more ongoing and varied forms of assessment that are spaced out evenly throughout each trimester.
  • The District’s Committee on Learning is leading staff development, which is focused on having teachers analyze video of their teaching to identify the degree to which students are engaged in rigorous intellectual conversation.
  • We will be partnering with Boston Latin High School in piloting a new 9th grade physical science curriculum.
  • We implemented a mandatory academic support period for all students with a grade below 74%.
  • We will again hold a mandatory summer school for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students with poor grades. Students who do not make satisfactory progress will repeat the grade.

There are several general trends that I hope our work will address. First, I would like to see a stronger correlation between the grades of our top students and their scores on the SAT exam. My fear is that we are not asking our students to think deeply enough. Related to this, I feel that our students need to develop greater persistence, especially with multi-step problems in math and science that demand strong problem-solving skills. We also need to improve the quality of student discussions and writing when topics or questions demand synthesizing information and original thinking. We’re doing too much leading and feeding. Finally, I feel that we need to have honest discussions about accountability and responsibility. There are times when I feel that teachers and parents are working much harder than some students. The bottom line is that high school can be completed in 3 years, 4 years or 5 years. It’s a choice.

Mandatory Academic Support

Several weeks ago we implemented a mandatory academic support (30 minutes) for all students with a grade below 74%. We had a very large number of failing grades at the midterm report (177 compared to 91 failing grades at the end of the first marking period). The reason for the change was to discover if a more targeted approach to improve grades had an effect. We had done something similar during the first trimester with chemistry students and found that a significant number of grades improved.

There are two controversial issues with the mandatory academic support. First, the assigned students could only be with the teacher with whom they were assigned. Second, students with passing grades could not get help during academic support from teachers who were supervising assigned students. The reasons for these rules were to keep attendance and management issues tight (no going to get help then hanging out with friends with poor grades).

We are going to evaluate the results at the end of the second trimester and make adjustments accordingly. We hope the number of failed classes decreases, that more students begin to take responsibility for their work, and that we can once again allow all students to receive help during academic support. Other possible improvements would be to put two teachers in a classroom and have student tutors help other students.

New Three-Way Conference Format

I have received complaints about the structure of the conferences, and the turn out for them has traditionally been fairly low for the Academy. To address these issues, we have decided to hold conferences that would allow family members and students to meet with some or all of the student’s teachers. Conferences will be held on Monday, March 19th from 1:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. No appointments are necessary. Teachers will have student work on display and family members and students can meet to discuss students’ work.