Randolph Union Middle/High School
Randolph Union Middle/High School
Welcome to Randolph Union Middle/High School!
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Grant Funds Help RUHS Teacher Diversify Curriculum
Courtesy of The Herald January 09, 2020
By Zoë Newmarco
Thanks to funds from two grants, Randolph Union High School teacher Emily Therrien is taking the lead on efforts to expand the curriculum for the benefit of a diverse range of students. Therrien, who typically teaches five classes and runs an advisory, is down to just two this year. The rest of her time is filled with work associated with the grants.
She was awarded a grant of $100,000 from the Rowland Foundation, an organization that offers 10 grants annually to secondary educators in Vermont who propose projects designed to improve the culture and climate in their schools.
A second grant of $32,200 from the Agency of Education was awarded to the high school [to be] used specifically for professional development on the subject of “equity literacy,” Therrien said.
“Equity literacy is really just about being … able to recognize the ways in which the world and our society are structured in ways that benefit some over others,” she explained.
Therrien noted that the Rowland Foundation grant allows her to have much broader goals than the AOE grant, although the projects under both grants complement each other. A significant portion of the money from the Rowland Foundation will go towards the costs of a substitute teacher for most of Therrien’s classes, as well as other costs associated with the work she does under the grant.
“Our grant project this year is looking at equity in public education and examining the ways in which we can develop curriculum and programs to ensure that all students see themselves represented in the curriculum,” said Therrien.
She wants to make sure that, through the curriculum, “students are exposed to the world beyond Randolph— just exposing them to different perspectives, while at the same time validating their own identities and who they are.”
Therrien spent the first semester of school in the “research phase” of her work under the Rowland Foundation. She said she’s been looking into other schools that have created similar professional development programs and curriculum changes to support students from many backgrounds. She also took a course called Equity Pedagogies and Integrated Curriculum, and it was focused on examining the development of equitable and representative curricula and teaching practices.
During the spring semester, she plans to visit programs that have implemented similar work, such as the one at Casco Bay School, in Maine. She hopes that at the end of the school year, the school will have a more permanent version of the staff training around inequities in place, both for current staff and any new staff or faculty hired by RUHS.
Therrien said that while balancing her teaching work and her grant work can sometimes feel like having “two full-time jobs,” she is very excited to be doing this work.
She noted that efforts to better include a wide range of students in the curriculum is not new to RUHS. One example, she said, is the racial justice project-based-learning class, which often takes on projects to address issues of racism within the school.
Project based learning director Lisa Floyd is also enthusiastic about Therrien’s work with the two grants this year, she said. Floyd and fellow RUHS educator Angela Bauer were co-recipients of a Rowland Foundation grant in 2015, which they used to make improvements to the high school’s advisory program.
Floyd emphasized that she appreciates how Therrien recognizes that the work done under the two grants has the potential to have “real impact on real students,” and to set high expectations for both students and staff.
“[Emily] is able, as a social studies and English teacher, to provide historical context for students and help them see how events in the past impact our present,” said Floyd. “I believe her equity work will benefit the Randolph Union community for years to come.”
RU Senior Serena Hanrahan is Named VT Presidential Scholar
RU Senior Serena Hanrahan was notified this month that she has been chosen as one of a small handful of Vermont Presidential Scholars for 2020.
The Vermont Presidential Scholars Program is a statewide recognition of academic, service, and leadership excellence. Outstanding students from across the state are selected based on nominations from teachers and administrators. High schools can nominate up to one female and one male in both the general and, for the first time, the Arts categories, and CTE centers can nominate up to two students. Selection committees then identify 10 male and 10 female students in the general nomination process, 5 in the Arts students, and 5 CTE students.
The 25 Vermont Presidential Scholars will be invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes some of the country’s most distinguished high school seniors. The program honors students who show exceptional academic achievement, talent in the visual, creative and performing arts, and accomplishment in career and technical education fields. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.
“Serena has shown a truly independent and self-reliant ability that exceeds almost all of the other students with whom I have worked,” said school Guidance Counselor Kara Merrill. “She knows what she wants out of school and is easily able to advocate to reach her goals.”
According to Merrill, Serena approaches whatever she does – sports, academics, hobbies, interests – with a level of maturity not often seen in young people her age.
“Serena [approaches projects] with a vision. For her senior project, cake baking and decorating, she developed a plan, found the best people possible to help her, and put forth her best effort. By the end of last summer, she already had logged more hours than is required for the entire year-long project! And this is just one example of how Serena approaches all the challenges in her life.”
English teacher Jamie Connor called Serena “probably the best student she has ever worked with” in part because she is honest, genuine, and unafraid to voice her ideas.
“Serena is simply the best,” Connor said, “because she is intrinsically motivated to find value in her learning and she always engages fully. She is the best because she is so generous with her time and energy, finding a way to balance school, family, sports, work and friends. To say she is deliberate is an understatement. Serena, quite frankly, possesses too many incredible qualities to capture in a single letter.”
Following graduation, Serena will enroll at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she’s been accepted into the Baking and Pastry Arts program.
No Easy Task: Engaging Students to Meet the Challenges of Our Time
RU Principal Elijah Hawkes shares some thoughts and insights on how to engage students to prepare for, and meet, the challenges they will face following graduation. Sometimes, the answer lies just beneath the surface. You can read the whole article here, courtesy of VT Kids Magazine.
OSSD Focuses on Free Breakfast for All
Program Helps Stem Hunger and Stigma
Courtesy of The Herald, October 31, 2019
Story by Zoë Newmarco; Photo by Bob Eddy
Since October 14, free breakfast is available for all students at Randolph Union High School and Randolph Technical Career Center, thanks to funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and additional state funds.
Director of Targeted Services Dorinne Dorfman explained that part of her job is to examine all of the factors that would prevent students from performing at or above grade level. “And hunger is a culprit,” she said. Within the first two weeks of school, Dorfman had discovered that at least five teachers were feeding their students in class.
“Free breakfast is a low-hanging fruit,” said Dorfman, noting that in Vermont and across the country, teachers often spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket to provide for their students—everything from school supplies to clothing.
“There’s no free boot program, but there is a free breakfast program,” said Dorfman, noting that Braintree and Randolph Elementary Schools have already been serving free breakfast to all students prior to this year.
Qualifying for Program
Over the summer Dorfman, who is new to the Orange Southwest district this year, met with Food Service Director Karen Russo, and the two discussed pursuing free meals for high school students.
“As the district’s food service director, I felt that it was my responsibility to investigate providing free school meals to children in our community,” wrote Russo in an email to The Herald. “40% of our students that attend Randolph grades seven-12 are below the poverty level. Offering free breakfast to all students rids of the stigma that some students may think is out there even though that information is strictly confidential.”
Russo noted that every year she looks into which food service funding programs each school in the district is eligible for. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced meals in Brookfield is too low for that school to be able to provide free breakfast to all students.
During the first two weeks of school, Dorfman, Russo, and a handful of teachers started a campaign to get as many families as possible to fill out the paperwork needed to determine whether they qualify for free or reduced meal prices, under the federal program.
Dorfman estimates that during the campaign, “many dozens of forms” were handed out, but that once completed, the forms get processed by someone else through a confidential process, and so she does not know how many families actually filled out the form.
Ultimately though, approximately 40% of the student body qualified for either free or reduced meal prices under the federal requirements, according to Dorfman.
State funds then cover the remaining portion of reduced meal costs, allowing the district to provide free breakfast for all students.
Dorfman explained that making free breakfast available for all students is important, because she feels the federal threshold for qualification is too low.
“It may look like a lot of money if a family of four is getting $2,000 a month,” said Dorfman, “but … that’s gone just when the bills are paid.”
Prior to serving free breakfasts across the board, the school served about 120 students each morning. With the beginning of the new program, about 200 students have been eating breakfast at the school.
“We really want to make sure that [the students] are getting nutritious food,” said Dorfman, noting that not only does research show that being well fed contributes to higher performance in school, but that it also lowers the likelihood of childhood obesity.
Dorfman hopes that eventually the school may be able to provide free lunch and an after-school meal to students, but that to qualify for federal funds for those programs, the school would need a much higher percentage of students to be eligible free or reduced price meals.
Agatha Christie is coming to Randolph Union
This October, RU’s young actors and technicians will perform the most famous of murder mysteries!
Nearly 70 years after it opened in London, “The Mousetrap” continues to delight audiences. It is the longest running play in the history of theater.
See the making of the play as filmed by RTCC's Digital Film Program here.
Agatha Christie was a master of detective fiction - and remains best selling novelist of all time. More than two billion copies of her work are in print.
Getting permission to perform the work required approval from Christie’s grandson, guardian of the family legacy. “I never expected the kids and I would get a contract,” explained RU Director Brian Rainville. “This was a huge ask. Christie created the murder mystery.”
“The Mousetrap” is a classic whodunit, a template for murder mysteries that would appear in film and on television for generations. “What people often don’t suspect is that Christie’s play is very, very funny” noted Director Rainville. “She writes brilliant comedy – while posing essential questions about the loss of empire – and talent overcoming restrictions dictated by class and gender.”
Although the cast and crew has gathered for just two rehearsals, an elaborate set is taking shape. The stage in Murray Auditorium is filled with antique furniture, Persian rugs, and artwork from four continents.
“Theater is time travel,” suggested Director Rainville. “One of my mentors continually invoked L.P. Hartley, who famously said; 'The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.' That’s our theme this season.”
March will bring an adaptation of “The Cake,” a new play about the clash between a baker and a same-sex couple. “I bought this script last spring” said Director Rainville “when individuals insisted during community forums that their views were neither heard nor respected. This show is about real people who have fundamentally different beliefs. It’s not a story I expected to tell, as I needed permission to cut language and trim dialogue. Yet the playwright was tremendously gracious in allowing this incarnation of her work.”
Two other big projects are on the horizon for RU Theater. Thanks to a range of institutional and private donors including the Lamson-Howell and Byrne Foundations, high-density mobile shelving will be installed in the costume room. The renovation will allow the 3,000 piece costume collection to grow while largely eliminating the need to work from ladders when accessing garments. And before the academic year is over theater students and their intrepid director will enjoy the 17th Annual New York City Theater Trip!
RU’s director had surprisingly little to say about what he’s planning for 2020-2021. Even though it will be Rainville’s 25th season of theater in Randolph, he wasn’t willing to discuss show titles. “It’s not that it’s too early,” said the director as he sat in Murray Auditorium, “I’m waiting for confirmation on the second contract. Everything should be in place when “The Mousetrap” opens October 18th. The kids and I will make an announcement in the show program. You’ll just have to be here to find out!”
Welcome to New Faculty and Staff!
RU is pleased and excited to introduce the new faculty and staff that will be joining us for the 2019-20 school year. Each of these teachers and educators bring unique talents and a special love of learning to our school, and we look forward to welcoming them (and you!) on August 28.
- Christie Blodgett, Special Education paraprofessional
- Katherine Brown, 8th grade English
- Dorinne Dorfman, Joining the administrative team as the Director of Targeted Supports, working with grade teams to ensure all students on 504 and EST plans are getting the supports they need.
- Cynthia Glenn, HS math, Algebra
- Jennifer Grace, Health office part-time (Wednesdays)
- Samantha Holmberg, 10th grade English - for Emily Therrien’s 1 year sabbatical.
- Jillian Hutchins, Special Education paraprofessional
- Nancy McNally, Special Education Teacher
- Jennifer Moore, Part-time music teacher, also at the elementary level
- Shanna Moyer, HS Science, Biology and AP Biology
- Tim Moynihan, HS Math, Geometry and Robotics
- Julia Schuster, Grade 9 Social Studies
- Katie Vincent-Roller, World Languages
RU’s Innovation Center Fosters Growth of ‘Applied Learning’ Skills
This spring, RUHS engineering students, working in the school’s new Innovation Center, used their math, communication, and fine motor skills to design and create original lighting fixtures. They used the school’s new 3D printer to create the housing for the electronics, and utilized its new laser cutter to cut and etch the design. Then, just like it happens in the real world, they presented the idea to local light manufacturer LEDdynamics.
It’s all part of a new addition to the middle and high school curriculum, designed to help students connect the writing, language arts, math, and science concepts they learn in the regular classroom to real-world projects and solutions outside of the classroom.
Ken Cadow, RU’s director of career pathways and workforce development, believes the Innovation Center could be many students’ ticket to better jobs following graduation, as well as a more focused and productive college experience.
“The world is rapidly changing,” Cadow said. “And it’s more important than ever that students coming out of high school are on a track towards something, be it college, a career—or both.
“When they’re able to connect what they’re learning in math class to a real-life application or solution,” he said, “or when they can use their language arts skills to put together a presentation on something they’ve designed or created, they begin to understand why it’s important to learn the subjects they are being taught; and how they can use that learning to better their lives. Education actually begins to come alive for them.”
The Innovation Center, Cadow said, is actually a resource for everyone in the school, not just students in the engineering class.
“The space can be booked much like the media center is,” Cadow said. “It can be booked by any faculty member in support of a whole class project, or by individual students who wish to demonstrate independent learning (instead of, for example, writing a paper) for any class, in accordance with their personalized learning plan. It’s not meant to be an alternative to the current curriculum, but rather embedded into it.”
Local Business Support
“The other reality,” Cadow said, “is that Vermont is losing its young people in droves. We are incredibly fortunate to have companies like LEDdynamics and GW Plastics right here in central Vermont that not only have made a commitment to staying in the area, but are literally inviting our students into their buildings and working with them to create future career opportunities.
“With their support, investment, and guidance, graduates coming out of RU who want to stay in Vermont have exciting and lucrative employment options—and they can begin investigating and preparing for those options while they’re still in school.”
According to Cadow, the Innovation Center is gearing up for a busy year when school resumes in late August.
“As the possibilities for growth and exploration in the Innovation Center become more evident,” he said, “I expect more and more teachers and students will begin utilizing the resources here to connect what is being taught in the classroom with challenges, applications, and solutions in the real world. I call it ‘applied learning’ and it’s been extremely satisfying to see students— and faculty—begin to embrace it.”