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February 2017

A Tribute to Laure Angel

in Uncategorized by

The U-32 community has been deeply saddened by the loss of beloved teacher and colleague, Laure Angel.  Laure passed away following a snowmobile accident on February 5th.  Laure was a native of France, due to be sworn in as a US citizen on March 20th.  She came to the US as a teenager, and graduated from the University of New Hampshire.  This was her sixth year at U-32.  Laure’s dedication to teaching, unstoppable curiosity and energy, insight, and love made her an incredible teacher, TA (teacher advisor), teaching partner, department head and union official.

Laure was engaged to be married to Kevin Wood, of Williston, with a mountaintop wedding planned for August.  Her faith and trust in her students extended to her wedding planning–she was delighted to be planning a wedding that was “student-run.”  She asked U-32 students to build centerpieces, take photos, play music, and design and make her wedding dress.

The tributes to Laure have been pouring in from all parts of the community.  In the words of those who knew her in each of her roles, we can sense her legacy to this community. Keep Reading

Stage 32 goes to New York City

in Arts in our schools by

Stage 32 took a 4 day and 3 night trip to NYC to do workshops with the Broadway Teaching Group. The crew learned from Broadway actors and creative directors, saw Hamilton (!!) and also met members of the original cast and crew. It was an awesome trip.

Bill Haines, Community Guy

in Student Activism by

We lost a very special man last month with the passing of Bill Haines. Bill was a powerful force for good who touched hundreds of people in our community.

Longtime teacher and community activist Bill Haines passed away in January.

Bill was a true activist, constantly organizing student involvement in the community, state and nation.  Bill taught at Montpelier High School for 32 years! Among other things, he worked on and created a handbook on student rights, a card catalogue of community resources, environmental initiatives, and various camping and canoeing activities.

In retirement Bill continued to inspire students through debate club, Project Citizen, We the People, student river cleanups … If there was a worthwhile community project, you can be sure Bill worked on it.

His leadership was grounded in his deep concern for his country, state, community and most of all, his students. Bill served on the Worcester select board for 12 years, was town moderator, served on the Doty school board, and served on the boards of several non-profits including Washington Central Friends of Education and Friends of the Winooski River. He also served on the Community Connections Steering Committee.

Bill met and married Leslie while both taught in Montpelier. They married in 1972 and built a house and moved in 1973 to Worcester where they raised two children, Liza and Cory, gardened, and enjoyed cutting wood. In his last years, he enjoyed his eight grandchildren, traveling with Leslie, the dog, Pickles, baking almond biscotti, reading, discussing politics and education, and canoeing with friends. Keep Reading

Robo Raiders Success

in STEM by
Robo Raiders Team 4946 waits in the bleachers for the Opening Ceremony to kick off the FTC Robotics Tournament. Pictured, left to right: Katerina Wood, Sophia Heinz, Frances Kaplan, Alexandra Reilly, Stephen Looke, Kieran Edraney, and Eric Jacobsen (Team Captain).

On Saturday, February 11, after working independently together since September toward building and programming a working robot, the U-32 Robotics Team, Robo Raiders #4946, competed in the all-day Vermont Regional FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) robotics competition, organized by UVM and held this year up at Essex High School. Paired up in alliance with a different team each bout, the Robo Raiders competed in five matches opposite two other alliance teams. They demonstrated cooperation, innovation, problem-solving, a sense of humor, grace under pressure, and “gracious professionalism,” a key tenet of the FIRST Robotics program. Special guest Governor Phil Scott spoke during the Opening Ceremony. In his remarks he mentioned that he once student-taught at U-32, and afterward he made his way over to “the pit” to meet the U-32 team and check out their robot. The Robo Raiders placed 13th out of 32 teams participating from across New England.

The Verizon Challenge

in Environmental learning by

By Jack Thompson, Logan Wood, and Henry Kasulka

Four years ago, Henry’s dad, Shawn Kasulka, started a FIRST LEGO League team. Henry Kasulka, Logan Wood and I (Jack Thompson) all joined. Ruby Singer and Jacob McCoy also joined, along with some other kids. For each year of FLL, you must come up with an innovative solution to a real-world problem. In our third year, we designed an app to try and reduce trash by telling people where to take recyclable items that they can’t just put in the recycling bin. However, we didn’t have the resources to actually make the app we designed. Then, this year, we learned about the Verizon challenge, and how it would give us the chance to make it all real.

East Montpelier students Henry Kasulka (Grade 6), Ruby Singer (Grade 8), Jacob McCoy (Grade 8), Logan Wood, (Grade 6), and Jack Thompson (Grade 6), who were recently recognized for their innovation and creativity!

We participated in a challenge, sponsored by Verizon. 1,800 groups in Vermont, including ours, would design an app and make a short video that would be inspected by Verizon. Whoever made the best video and app design would move on the next challenge: the regional challenge. All of the winning apps in the region (ours being New England) would be compared, and the best would be selected to move on to the national challenge, and then the winner of that would be given the resources to make the app. Unfortunately we did not make it past the regional competition. But there is still another chance! One additional app idea will also be a winner. People can vote for the app design they like best, and the one with the most votes will be the fan favorite winner. But you’re probably wondering about the details of our app.

For the Verizon App Challenge, we submitted our idea called Reuse-It. It is an idea for an app that would allow you to search up an item or any piece of junk you didn’t need. The app would tell you where to take it and what you can do with it. If you turned on your location, it would calculate the closest place you can drop off that item. We were also thinking of some cool additional features, like the “Junk Market:” a place where you could sell your junk that you had no more use for. Keep Reading

Winter Arts

in Arts in our schools by

ECO – Learning Through Experience

in Environmental learning by

By Sarah Kinter

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-January I visited East Montpelier Elementary School’s Kindergarten/First Grade teacher Jillian Zeilenga and her class for an “Educating Children Outdoors” [ECO] afternoon. Our learning theme was “Force of Motion,” a welcome antidote to  the raw cold of that afternoon.

East Montpelier Elementary kindergartners experiment with ropes and pulleys during their Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) class.

Mrs. Zeilenga’s and Mrs. Gariboldi’s students got all bundled up, prepared for outdoor learning, having participated in ECO one to two afternoons a week since September. EMES is blessed with beautiful woods behind the school which have long lent themselves to outdoor play and education. Introduced by Mrs. Zeilenga five years ago after seeing it piloted at Union Elementary School, ECO is based on site at EMES and co-taught by K-2 EMES teachers and ECO staff from the North Branch Nature Center.

ECO is the latest in a long tradition of environmental education programs offered at EMES. Four Winds, previously called Environmental Learning for the Future (ELF), was taught for many years at EMES and is currently offered at Calais, Doty, and Rumney Elementary Schools. VINS’ Environmental Citizenship Program and Angela Gibbons of Earth Walk are also part of this rich tradition.

ECO coordinator Angie Barger works with teachers to complement their own curricula with ECO’s standards-based curriculum. Teachers also draw from Four Winds. The core ECO routines form “the walls of the outdoor classroom. ECO makes familiar the child’s local ecosystem through their senses. They know what is beyond the wooded boundaries of the playground and how the seasons change because they learn and play in these woods every week” says Barger. Karen Liebermann, a parent volunteer, has noticed that the current 5th and 6th grade students that began ECO in Kindergarten and are now practicing Nature Journaling are “noticeably more comfortable and curious in the woods.” The program is also praised by fellow teachers Lisa Gariboldi and Beth Parker for fostering an “awareness of and appreciation for our natural world…while incorporating teamwork and community building.” Keep Reading

Common Level of Appraisal and other Mysteries of School Funding

in Educational Funding by

Town Meeting Day is right around the corner, so it’s time for an update on school funding and what we need to pay attention to in 2017.

Your school property tax: Your school property tax is a factor of four influences: the statewide property tax rate, school budget(s), equalized pupils, and the CLA, or Common Level of Appraisal, which equalizes property values across the state in order to make the statewide property tax fair. This system, created under acts 60 and 68, is designed to treat taxpayers and students in all Vermont towns fairly. Towns have equal ability to raise funds. The majority of taxpayers pay school taxes based on their income. Here’s how it works:

The statewide property tax: Under Act 68, the statewide property tax is $1.10 for residential property – your home – and $1.59 for non-residential property (businesses and second homes.) This rate is on each $100 of the property’s fair market value. When applied to all property statewide, this should raise enough to provide a basic education payment of $9,588 (the amount the state calculated is needed) for every equalized student* in the state. The statutory tax is rarely implemented. When there is a surplus in the education fund, the state may drop the statewide tax rate. For 2018, the Tax Commissioner has recommended the statewide property tax rate remain $1.00 residential and $1.55 non-residential.   

The school budget: The state calculated the educational spending per equalized pupil base amount of $9,588. It takes more than $9,588 to educate a student; how much more is what school boards wrestle with as they set their budgets. When the school budget is final, the state tax rate for residential property is adjusted to locally raise taxes for spending above the basic education payment. The residential tax rate adjustments reflect both the U-32 and elementary school budgets. The non-residential tax rate is fixed and is not changed by the school budget. However, both rates are changed by the Common Level of Appraisal. Keep Reading

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