Randolph Union High School

Randolph Union High School

Welcome to Randolph Union High School!

We'll be using this page to highlight all the great things that are happening here -- every day -- as our students prepare for life after RU. So check back often and soon! (Also, follow us on Facebook to keep up to date on activities and events)

Want to know what our PBL classes are up to? Check out their Winter 2018 Newsletter by clicking the Newsletters tab in the documents box to the left!

RU Students Seek to Raise Awareness About Racial Justice

Will Co-Host Conference for Schools Across Vermont May 29

Sometimes it’s a lighthearted joke about someone’s ethnicity in the hallway. Other times it’s a harmless comment tied to someone’s racial background – maybe in the locker room or on the ball field. But according to students in Emily Therrien and Dana Decker’s Racial Justice Project Based Learning class, the jokes are anything but “lighthearted” and the comments are not “harmless.”

“They are stereotypes,” said senior Zi Booska, “and regardless of whether or not the people saying them understand that, it doesn’t change what they are, and it doesn’t change how they feel.”

“There’s a lot of obliviousness out there around what it means and what it feels like to be different,” he added, “especially in a state and community that’s predominately white.”

In an effort to build awareness around what Booska and others in the class see as a problem that runs deeply in the community, they petitioned – and gained approval from – the administration to raise the Black Lives Matter flag earlier this year.  But the pushback from a number of community members caught them a little by surprise.

“The reaction to the flag was mixed,” Booska said, “and I guess we expected that. But we didn’t expect that some people would react as negatively as they did, and what that tells me is that there are people in our community who don’t realize, or don’t really believe, that we have a race problem.”

“I think part of the problem is that a lot of people see the Black Lives Matter movement as political,” said Sophomore Emily Baker. “But it’s not about politics. It’s about creating awareness around treating people the same regardless of their skin color. One of the comments I heard was ‘Why do you even support that movement – you’re not Black?’  I think a question like that goes right to the heart of the matter…it’s not about being Black. It’s about being human. By flying the flag, we’re trying to point out that we support people of all races and ethnicities...it’s precisely because we’re not Black that we need to fly it.”

“Another part of the problem is ignorance,” said Senior Brandon Ryan, “and by ignorance I mean unfamiliarity. This is not a particularly diverse community, and most people here have never had to deal with being stereotyped or singled out for being different, so they don’t really understand the problem. Sometimes that lack of understanding leads to misunderstandings, and sometimes it leads to fear. Fear makes people insecure, and insecurity leads people to put up walls.”

According to many of the students, the problem also exists among some members of the faculty and staff.

“I definitely think there are teachers and staff members here who make assumptions based on perceptions around race and ethnicity,” said Senior James Grandy. “In the real world it’s called profiling, and it’s no different here.”

“I’ve been outraged by things I’ve heard in these hallways,” Booska said,  “and right in front of teachers…but nothing gets done about it. There are seldom any consequences. It’s like they think it’s just harmless joking around.”

“What happens,” Booska said, “is that the kids using those words say they ‘didn’t realize’ their comments might be hurtful or inappropriate. But I promise you they’d never make those comments if they were among a group of minorities.  There is a sense of ‘supremacy’ when a group of white kids can make jokes or comments – even lighthearted ones – in front of a single person of color.”

“A big part of the solution,” said senior Keegan Jarvis, “is education and awareness. I joined this class not because I’ve ever been the victim of racism or profiling. I joined because I saw it happening to my friends, and I wanted to do my part to put an end to it. By creating awareness, not just of the problem, but that there IS a problem, we can begin to address it.”

And addressing the problem they are.  The class, in conjunction with a class from South Burlington High School, will be hosting the Conference for Vermont Schools Against Racism on Wednesday, May 29, from 10 – 2 at Randolph Union High School. The conference will focus on discussions and workshops for fighting racism in Vermont schools.

“I'm exceptionally proud of these students,” Supt. Layne Millington said when asked about the upcoming conference. “They've identified and advanced an issue of social conscience that is vital to the safety and equality of not only our students, but to the greater community as well.  Finding their voices and speaking their truths provides courage to anyone who may be suffering injustice and inequality to do the same.”

34 (Plus) Years of Health and Inspiration
Todd Keenhold recognized for service to area youthTodd Keenhold

When Todd Keenhold arrived in Randolph as a brand new physical education instructor – 34 years ago – he underwent some significant culture shock.

“I had just spent the last four years working and studying in Ithaca, New York, a very lively college town,” he said laughing.  “Let’s just say Randolph was a considerably different community.”

Fortunately for decades of area young people, Keenhold found his way. And since those early days, he has made significant contributions to students and families in the Randolph, Braintree, and Brookfield communities.  “I bought a little school house in 1985,” he said, “and maintained a long distance relationship with my partner, Beth, until she graduated from college. She moved here soon afterwards, we got married, and we raised our family here.”  And for the entire time he has been here, he has facilitated physical education courses for the community’s youth.      

“For the past 34 years, Todd organized and led the annual Run for Health race,” notd Deb Lary, a high school teacher and longtime colleague.  “Because of him, my daughter’s interest in running began at the age of five and her passion for it turned into a scholarship at Norwich University.”

Keenhold is also an avid swimmer and swimming coach. 

“Both of my children participated in Todd’s swim team, the Randolphins,” Lary said, “and they have beautiful form now because of him.  When my daughter was in sixth grade one of her classmate’s home burned to the ground and she arranged with Todd to support her with a swimming fundraiser.  My children are only two examples of the hundreds of kids in whom Todd has helped form an interest in good health practices and it would be impossible to count the number of children, co-workers and community members who have benefited from his work.”

Randolph Elementary School teacher Julie Hinman had similar praise. “Todd shares his love of swimming and skiing with the entire community,” she said, “and has led a number of wellness events over the years. During one of his swimming events I learned how to make my stroke more efficient.  He has led outdoor snowshoeing and skiing events at his home and he stays with the beginners to help them feel comfortable.  He has also facilitated adult dodge ball events through Bethel University, creating a great mix of socializing and activity.” 

“Todd also is known for teaching fairness and respectful behavior during games,” Hinman said.  “It’s so helpful and important.  We make use of his rules when we’re on the playground during recess and when we get stuck, we ask students ‘What would Mr. Keenhold do?’ so that we can follow his lead.”

Because of some recent revisions to scheduling and licensure requirements, Keenhold is now teaching physical education in four of the district’s schools, including the high school (brand new for him).

“I’ve created a program called Individualized Learning Opportunities,” he said. “If a student prefers to engage in a specific physical activity rather than attend the regular physical education classes, they may do so over a 16 week period of time provided they also read and summarize eight research articles about physical fitness and create their own wellness plans. It’s been an interesting transition spending some time here at the high school,” he said, chuckling. “I mean, I pretty much know all these kids. When they’re five, all they want to do is run like crazy and do everything you say. When they’re fifteen…well…not so much! But it’s been fun.”

Keenhold also provides alternatives for students who are not comfortable with specific parts of the required physical education courses.  “If a student doesn’t want to participate in basketball, for example, he or she may use the weights and fitness equipment during the class.  I am never going to make students do something they aren’t comfortable with,” Keenhold said. “My grading system is based on a willingness to try and a consistent demonstration of being respectful.”

A Brief Setback

Despite his love of activity and physical wellness, in 2010 Keenhold began experiencing some significant pain.  “I really felt crippled,” he said. “My hips had become so arthritic that it became more and more difficult to move. I really didn’t want to go through a hip replacement because I felt I was just too young.”  Instead, he opted for a surgical procedure wherein they scraped the arthritis out of his pelvis.  “Not the most pleasant thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said, “but since then I have had much more mobility, I have lost weight, and I now spend several days a week swimming 3000 yards at the end of the school day.”

And as for the future?  As a member and consultant for the International Society of Physical Education of Young Children, Keenhold has been invited to present his thoughts and ideas on best practices for teaching physical education to young children in China next year – something he is currently writing a book about with Dr. Kira Maehashi, a professor in the Department of Health Science and Social Welfare at Waseda University in Japan. He led a similar program for Japanese teachers in Japan back in 1995. “Physical education programs are still fairly new and in development in many Asian countries,” he said, “and it’s exciting to be able to share my thoughts and expertise on health and wellness with such a wide range of people.” 

And when he’s not in the gym (or pool, or on snowshoes, or skis)?  You might find him at one of any number of nightspots around Vermont playing guitar and covering for The Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan. “I’m out there on stage about 100 times a year,” he said. “Hey, you’ve got to keep it interesting.”

ETC Theater Company Presents: The Diana Tapes
Picture of a poster announcing the play The Diana Tapes
A new play about Diana, Princess of Wales, premieres at Randolph Union on March 14th – where young thespians are making a habit of introducing new work to the Upper Valley. 

When asked why the troupe chose to offer an untested script by a young NYC playwright, director Brian C. Rainville said “The kids and I look for new, engaging stories.  28 Marchant Avenue, the musical version of Mary Poppins, and Mastering the Art entertained and enlightened.  That is the essence of theater.”
Rising sophomore Allison Johnston has the plum role of Diana. According to Johnston, “[Diana] was a real, deeply troubled person who struggled with abuse, eating disorders, and constant media attention.  It wasn’t easy to find a place within the monarchy.  Diana was a modern woman, grappling with issues that continue to plague us today.”

For cast and crew the play also served as a seminar.  Senior Philip Papp explains; “Every show reveals another time and place.  In many ways the climate of 20 or 30 years ago doesn’t seem that different.  Media and celebrity were still deeply intertwined.  One could not – and can not - exist without the other.”

Courtney Clement, a relative newcomer to the RU stage, is clearly excited about the world of the play, noting “today we are still inundated by media, particularly electronic media.  This script offers a look at the people who profit by exploiting others – and how some utilize media to help advance their own career and interests.”

Rounding out the cast is freshman Ilya Andreyev, who portrays journalist Andrew Morton.  “The play is part history, part fiction, and part something else.  It looks at a range of issues – including the stereotypes that women are overly emotional, and unable to operate media.  Yet here’s a beautiful, powerful woman who crafts a very clever book – perhaps the most brilliant divorce petition ever.”

“The Diana Tapes” will be performed at Randolph Union at 7:30 p.m. on March 14-15 and at 2:00 p.m. on March 16.  All tickets are unreserved, and available at the door.  The box office opens 45 minutes before curtain.  Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for students.  Homemade treats are available during intermission, proceeds from which underwrite student participation in the annual NYC theater trip.

RUHS Music Department Making Some Changes
Courtesy of The Herald, January 03, 2019Photo of Music Teacher Ray Cole
by Martha Slater - Photo by Dylan Kelley

Now halfway through his second year as the music teacher and band director at Randolph Union High School, Raymond Cole would like everyone to know that he is working on making some changes to the department’s offerings.

“I direct the jazz band, regular band, and chorus, and teach all of the music classes here,” explained Cole, who grew up in Manchester, graduated from Burr & Burton Academy and UMass, and taught one year at a middle school in Massachusetts, before coming to RUHS.

“The marching band here is important to the town,” he noted. “However, I feel that throughout the past couple of years, with the decrease in the number of students at the school and the change-over from the previous band director, Josh Stumpff, who had been here for 15 years before he left, the program has changed.

“We lost quite a few students in both the chorus and band, as well as the jazz band, and with that, the interest in the marching band, as well,” Cole added. “Currently, the marching band does three performances during the year—Memorial Day, the Fourth of July parade, and the Rutland Halloween parade.
“Students don’t have the pride in the uniform that they used to,” he continued. “You want them to feel that putting on the uniform represents not only their pride in their school, but pride in themselves.”

‘Marching’ on Pause

Cole said that “in order to re-center our core curriculum, we’re going to pull back on some things that the marching band does, and show the music department in a different light. We’ll still have band and chorus and jazz band, but the band won’t march, because there is less student interest and enthusiasm to wear the uniform and take part.

“We are still doing some incredible things in the music program,” he said. “For example, in the past couple of years, we’ve given two concerts—one in December and another in March—with the band, chorus, jazz band, and the two middle school ensembles. And this year, we’re adding a third concert in May—a ‘pops’ concert at Chandler Music Hall—featuring quite a few pieces that I hope people will recognize.”
Cole feels that student interest in the music program, in general, is “constantly growing.”

He said that since he came to RUHS in the fall of 2017, the number of students in school ensembles has doubled.

“In addition to the performing ensembles, we also have a strong digital music program, where the students who don’t generally play an instrument get to create digital music.

“Outside of our school performances, we have students auditioning and being accepted for the All- State band and chorus,” he added. “In mid-May, the RUHS music department sponsors a ‘Night of the Arts,’ which features mainly seniors doing senior projects that involve performance.

“For example, last year we had a student exhibiting a CD of music that he had written, and there was also a drag performance—a variety of things.”

The department’s next performances will be March 21 and 22, with one night featuring the middle school students, and the other one spotlighting those at the high school.

“I want to make sure that the community knows that we’re just taking a ‘hiatus’ from the marching band—it will be back, and we will still participate in the Memorial Day observance, but we won’t march in the parade,” Cole concluded. “We have a vibrant music program, which is constantly growing. We’re just taking a break to re-establish our core musical values.”

Senior Phillip Papp is Named VT Presidential ScholarPicture of Phil Papp

Senior Phil Papp was notified this month that he has been chosen as one of a small handful of Vermont Presidential Scholars for 2019.

The Vermont Presidential Scholars Program is a statewide recognition of academic, service, and leadership excellence. Outstanding students from the state of Vermont 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 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.

According to Drama teacher Brian Rainville, Phil is presently enrolled in (3) Ap courses - Lit, Calc, and Stats.  “Not a typical senior year,” Rainville said. “So many students just want to coast to the end of the year  and run down the clock to graduation.  Phil's entirely different in that regard - he's a tremendously curious, hardworking, and bright young man.”

What’s more,” Rainville added, “Phil is a scholar, artist, and athlete.  In addition to building a fine transcript filled with our most challenging coursework, Phil is a pillar of the theater program.  Regardless of the scope of his role, Phil continues to come in on construction days, and for sessions where we're cleaning the auditorium and organizing storerooms.  He has an abundance of talent, but there's a kind, curious, gentle personality that consistently shines through.  That's one of the things I've enjoyed most about Phil, he's a genuinely nice person.”

Beyond the fine arts wing, Rainville said, Phil is also a member of the jazz and marching bands, as well as an accomplished athlete.  “Phil embodies so much of what public education is about.”

Randolph Union Explores ‘Restorative’ Conflict Resolution
Courtesy of The Herald, November 15, 2018
By Zoë Newmarco

As the restorative justice project based learning program at Randolph Union High School (RUHS) is held for the third year in a row, students, staff, and faculty involved are trying to spread awareness and acceptance of the program’s practices.

“[Restorative justice] is not a distraction from school work,” emphasized Principal Elijah Hawkes, “it’s an investment in the whole child.”

According to Hawkes, restorative justice has an important role to play in building strong community within the school. He believes it is important to examine how traditional disciplinary measures in response to rule-breaking can go hand in hand with restorative justice practices. Restorative justice is a system that aims to support offenders in reconciling with both victims, and the broader community, through a cooperative process.

Traditional responses—such as detention, suspension, and expulsion— remove, or “exile,” the student from the school. Such punishments can be valuable, he said, but only if students believe the community values them, and wants them to succeed.

Hawkes explained that by using the practices to focus on building community within the school, and on the re-entry of students that have been expelled, the restorative practices should make an “exile” all the more meaningful if, and when, it’s necessary.

According to Angela Bauer, the current leader of the restorative justice project, the restorative practices primarily revolve around holding “circles,” or in-depth group conversations the seek to resolve, or prevent, conflict.

The content of the discussion can range from supporting a student who is struggling in school, to resolving a bullying incident, or many other potentially difficult topics. For example, a circle might consist of a student who broke a rule, any students or staff who were harmed by the rule breaking, any witnesses of the event, and a facilitator who was not directly impacted by the event.

The facilitator asks the group pre-determined questions, such as “What is one thing each of us needs to feel okay and move past the situation?” By utilizing a talking piece, an object held by the person speaking, to designate that it’s their turn to share, the facilitator ensures that each person is given a chance to answer to each question.

Ultimately, Bauer explained, the goal for every circle is that the participants come out feeling that the situation has improved.

Project Based Learning at RUHS - It's been a busy year!Students taking part in a training exercise

All of the PBL groups are collaborating with one another, asking good questions, and building momentum as teams and engaging with the community.  Several of the groups attended the UVM ropes course last week, as a way of developing as a team and seeing what they could accomplish as individuals when pushing themselves outside their comfort zones.

The Interact PBL was paid in full on 2 Kiva loans that they granted last year, so they are able to fund more and their first blood drive of the year is being planned for October 4, here at Randolph Union. 

Digital Music students have been making great music and are looking forward to creating a collaborative album as well as playing their music on a couple of local radio stations.  The Food Systems PBL went apple picking last week, and at the very beginning of the year initiated composting (along with Ms. Hester-Reyes' Bodies of Atoms class). 

Restorative and Racial Justice PBLs are working intensively developing a knowledge base that will allow them to accomplish their goals, while the movement PBL is setting goals, experiencing a lot of joy as they work together and dreaming big about a collaborative block party that at least 4 of the PBLs hope to host in collaboration with the Randolph Area Community Development Corp (RACDC) in  the spring. Planning will kick off with a panel of people who have planned large community events representing Gifford Hospital, the Gifford Auxiliary, the Randolph Recreation Department and Chandler Center for Performing arts, as well as RACDC, presenting to a group of students and helping them understand the logistics related to planning a large event. 

Hugh Garavan, Professor of Psychiatry from UVM came and presented to the Learning Brain PBL do help them develop deeper knowledge around how the human brain develops and grows. Students were deeply interested in the presentation and students asked in depth questions, to collect information as they prepare to visit the Reading Brain Lab at Dartmouth College in October.

Eighth graders engaged with Lt. Scott Clouttre of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, he came in well prepared having read their questions and thought about their concerns and was able to really connect with them. Questions covered a range of topics from concerns that arose when students read the book, The Hate U Give, about bias in policing, to questions about Lt. Clouttre’s career path.  In mid October students will conduct interviews with people who are committed to making their communities a more inclusive, just and beautiful place.