News & updates

News & updates

Isaac Kaplan Running in Cross Country MeetRU’s Kaplan, Strong & Steady, Qualifies For New England Championships

Courtesy of The Herald, November 8 2018

It’s been more than five years since RUHS senior cross-country runner Isaac Kaplan first toed the line in a Randolph uniform. This Saturday, he will compete in his final cross-country race as an RUHS student when he competes at the New England Interscholastic Championships in Manchester, N.H. Kaplan qualified for this race by finishing 21st overall across all divisions at the Vermont State Meet on October 27.

State Meet

Kaplan wasn’t the only RUHS athlete who competed in the State Championship meet at Thetford Academy on October 27. A total of 11 RUHS athletes raced in three different races.

First, the varsity girls competed in the Division-III championship race. The Ghosts were paced by sophomore Olivia Kaplan, who finished 27th overall in a time of 24:32.

She was followed by junior Sarah Garvin, who completed the five-kilometer course in 25:48, good for 39th overall.

The girls did not have enough athlete to score as a team, and the team championship was handily taken by the ladies from Bellows Falls Union.

The varsity boys were the next competitors for RUHS, and by the time they were racing, the snow had begun to turn over to sleet. The Ghosts were ranked fourth in the state coming into the day. They were led by Kaplan, who was second overall in the Division-III race in a time of 18:02.

He was followed by a tight pack of sophomore Josh Mather, senior Brandon Ryan, and freshman Cameron Kennedy in 23rd (19:55), 24th (19:55), and 25th (20:00) places respectfully. Those four scorers secured a fourth-place finish overall for the RUHS boys team.

Thetford Academy, the host school, placed first overall in the team competition. Also competing in the Championship race for the Ghosts were senior Philip Papp, 29th (20:19), senior Liam Connolly, 42nd (20:51), and junior Adam Norton, 49th (21:22).

The RUHS boys also had two competitors in the boys’ Challenge race, where the JV runners from all three divisions compete. Freshman Chandler Anderson was 47th overall and sophomore Jordan Ryan was 67th in a field of 240 athletes. Anderson and Ryan were the top-two Division-III finishers in the challenge race.

Coach Ben Weir was satisfied with the results, “It’s been a long season, but the kids have been putting in the work and it paid off today. On the boys’ side, well those times would’ve secured a second-place finish three years ago, the division is just a lot more competitive than it used to be, so we had what I think was a pretty good race, and had to settle for fourth.”

Weir was also happy for Kaplan, who qualified to New Englands this year after just missing the cut last year. “Isaac was five seconds away from qualifying last year, so I’m happy that he got in this year. There just isn’t an athlete in our community who works harder than he does to find success on a regional stage, he’s run about 3,000 miles in the past years, and that work is paying off.”

New Englands

On Saturday, Kaplan will travel down to Manchester, N.H. to compete at Derryfield Park in the New England Interscholastic Cross Country Championships. He will race against the top-25 individuals and six teams from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (Massachusetts doesn’t compete in this championship).

Used to being toward the front of races, he will be playing a different role on Saturday, as the race will be fast. The last time New Englands was held on this course, more than 130 boys went under the impressive 17:00 mark for the 5K race, while 25 boys covered the course under the elite time of 16:00. Although Kaplan is the only athlete to have qualified out of the White River Valley, he will be joined by local athletes from U-32, Woodstock, and Thetford, as well as the rest of the Vermont delegation, which is largely made up of Division-I athletes from larger Chittenden County Schools.

Regardless of his result, it will be Kaplan’s last time covering the 5K distance in an RUHS uniform. He will join the other seniors, notably co-captain Brandon Ryan, in hanging up his cross-country spikes for good, at least until his collegiate racing career begins.

Palestinian Exchange Student ‘Open to the Whole Picture’ at RU

Courtesy of The Herald, October 25, 2018
By Cecile SmithPhoto of Exchange Student

Seventeen-year-old Salma Asleh of Arraba, Israel is one of the new faces among RUHS’ class of 2019. A recipient of the prestigious State Department-sponsored Kennedy- Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) scholarship, Asleh said she has arrived to Randolph “very open to the full picture.” The YES program facilitates cross-cultural high school exchanges between the United States and a host of countries with significant Muslim populations.

When asked how her hometown, a mostly Palestinian community of 25,000, compares with Randolph, Asleh paused before pointing out that there are many more lakes in this area than in hers. It’s also colder here, she said matter-of-factly. So far, she said in her nearly perfect English accent, it has been hard for her to “pinpoint” how Vermonters are different from her compatriots. Cuisine, however, is an area of greater clarity, and Asleh noted that

“Middle Eastern food uses a lot of spice and seasoning, which is not very much used here. It’s a lot of strong flavors.”

Unlike in the U.S., lunch is the main meal of the day and the occasional family barbecue is a cause of much excitement, she said. Family, overall, is a key component of Asleh’s culture and in her free time she is often with her parents and siblings.

The youngest of four siblings, Asleh stands out in not wanting to pursue a career in the sciences—her sister and brother are physicians, and her other sister is studying electrical engineering in Tel Aviv. Despite being enrolled, like most of her schoolmates, in primarily science and math courses in Arraba, the soft-spoken young woman’s eyes light up when she talks about her passion, the violin, and her goal to enter a conservatory in Europe.

While she is in Vermont, Asleh takes weekly lessons in Montpelier under a Montreal-based violinist. Her international learning experiences, however, go way back—several years ago she and a few peers traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to participate in the World Scholar’s Cup.

Back home, the teenager enjoys her own area’s rich cultural history, her family’s picnics in the countryside, and visits to Jerusalem, a two-hour drive away, to visit historic sites and to pray at the mosque. Although her town is predominantly Muslim, Asleh explained that intermarriages between Muslim and Jewish people are not totally uncommon.

While Israeli-Palestinian affairs are rife with violence, in the northern part of Israel, where Asleh is from, she said she has experienced very little of the pressure and political tension felt more strongly in Gaza and the West Bank. “I kind of feel bad to say it,” she said, “but I’m kind of lucky where I live, because it’s not the main focus of conflicts.

“It’s just the political side of it that’s really bad,” she continued, citing examples of people in the West Bank who may have “never talked to a Jewish person, or never seen one, or interacted with one, which makes things a little bit more intense. [There are] people on each side very much preoccupied with all of these ideas about the other side or person.”

Here in the U.S., the observant exchange student has had the opportunity to learn more about her own culture in addition to this one, she said. Roadtrips to Rochester, N.Y., and to Pennsylvania have seen Asleh engage in many thought-provoking conversations with her host mother, Melissa Scalera, she said. Often, the former will have to turn to the World Wide Web in order to clarify a point about Palestinian history or politics.

One of her main goals for her time in Randolph is to develop more self-confidence and to form lasting relationships. Asleh is well on her way to both.

RUHS Breaks Breakfast Barriers, Introduces Grab & Go Cart
Courtesy of The Herald, October 11, 2018

It’s no secret that school-day mornings can be a hectic and rushed time for students and parents. This can mean that students are missing out on the most important meal, the one they rely on to fuel them throughout the day. That’s why Randolph Union High School has invested in new equipment to offer school breakfast later in the morning, allowing all students a fair shot at a healthy breakfast.

In the past, RUHS students had about a two-hour window to get breakfast at school in the café. Many students were not always able to do so in that time period, whether due to late attendance, classroom schedule, or that they just weren’t that hungry that early in the morning.

Now, due to a $2,850 Fuel Up to Play 60 grant from the New England Dairy & Food Council, made possible by the dairy farm families of Vermont and New England, students have access to healthy foods later in the morning with a new Grab and Go Breakfast Cart. The cart, located in an easily accessible hallway location after the morning bell, allows the school to reach students in between classes, offering nutritious breakfast options.

“The kids love the new breakfast cart,” said School Food Service Director Karen Russo. “It has room for expanded breakfast choices, an eye-appealing magnetic sign promoting breakfast on the go, and ice bins for perishable items like yogurt and milk. Our goal is to reach those students that are not able to eat breakfast at home or are just not hungry first thing in the morning.”

Since the start of the school year, Randolph Union High School has seen a 25% increase in student breakfast participation, thanks to the new breakfast cart. It’s a number the school expects to rise as the school year continues, and it’s an important bump, because research shows that students who eat breakfast are more focused throughout the day, have better school attendance, fewer trips to the nurse’s office, and increased test results.

The New England Dairy & Food Council provided Fuel Up to Play 60 grants to nearly 20 schools in Vermont in 2017, and dairy farm families of Vermont have contributed more than $175,000 to school breakfast and lunch programs over the last five years throughout the state.

German Students Visit RUHS/RTCC

Students from Cuxhaven, Germany
Ten students from the port city of Cuxhaven, located in the Lower Saxony region of Germany at the edge of the North Sea, will be spending the next ten days exploring Vermont, attending classes at RUHS and RTCC, and renewing ties with friends in the Randolph area.

The exchange, initiated by Vermont Technical College over a decae ago, has become an annual tradition with students from both countries taking turns visiting each other’s schools and learning about the educational and career opportunities both provide. When VTC eliminated the program in 2012, RUHS saw it as a chance not only to continue a longstanding relationship, but also as an opportunity to broaden its students’ knowledge of and interest in European cultures.  

“This year,” according to teachers Deb Lary and Dot Goulet who are coordinating the trip, “the German students will be visiting the Vermont State House, taking a tour of Vermont Technical College, and visiting various tourist and cultural sites around Central Vermont, including Ben and Jerrys, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, the Green Mountain National Forest, as well as a number of local attractions, such as Eaton’s Sugar House, Quechee Gorge, and VINS. When they’re not on the road, the students will be spending time with their host families and shadowing RUHS and RTCC students.”

According to their chaperones, the German students are also very excited to be able to spend time in Boston and New York City on either end of their trip. A closing pot luck dinner and ceremony will be held on Tuesday evening, October 2 at the Brookfield Town Hall (by the floating bridge) at 6:45 pm. Former host students and families are welcome and encouraged to come.

irst RU Summer Institute Success!
students explore carpentry at summer institute
From July 9th through 20th, twelve 7th and 8th graders participated in the first RU Summer Institute, organized by RU 7th grade science teacher, Kerry Hazard and led with support from Media Specialist Michelle Holder and Cathy Ingalls. Generously funded by a grant from the State of Vermont, the sessions took place during two sunny weeks in which students normally are on vacation.

“We invited 22 students to join us this summer,” Hazard said, “and about twelve showed up. I think some were a little leery at first, a little shy, but it didn’t take long for them not only to settle in, but to start having fun. They participated in hands-on learning experiences, learned strategies about working coorperatively through team building exercises, prepared and shopped for meals, gathered data, practiced digital documentation skills, and even built amazing bat houses.”

“The experience was completely unique,” said Michelle Holder, Director of RU’s Media Center. “It wasn’t camp, and it certainly wasn’t a traditional summer school. Really, you could say the students created their own kind of learning environment. We’d do some activities around a particular topic, farms for example. Then we’d take a road trip down to the farm. There we’d learn not only about caring for animals and the land, but the financial aspect of running a farm as well. That, in turn, led to students connecting math skills with everyday activities. All in all, it was a very practical way of learning through doing.”

“The academic work focused on literacy, math and science as it related to the environment and projects in the community,” Hazard said.

“There were also a variety of fun field trips. Students learned about invasive species, animals, and helping the environment through visits to local woodland areas, the Ayers Brook Goat Farm, the White River National Fish Hatchery, and the ECHO museum in Burlington. Through these visits, students learned the importance and application of math and science in the world around them. Whether it was shopping for our week’s groceries, or learning about which goats will produce the most milk, it was clear that math in school has practical and important applications.”

“What we hoped,” she said, “was that we could give the students a better mindset for learning. That nearly all of them asked if they could come back next summer made us feel we’d made some progress in that direction.”

“In keeping with our transition to proficiency based instruction and assessment,” Holder said, “throughout the two weeks, students were also engaged in using social and transferable skills that will help them as they move into the next grade level. Days ended with students reflecting in their own personalized blog. Each Friday, we celebrated the week’s accomplishments.” 

According to Hazard, she’d like to see the institute become an annual event, and possible expand it down to the 6th grade. In the meantime, by all accounts RU’s first Summer Institute was a huge success.

Harwood, Northfield, & RU Begin 2-Year Agreement in Girls Ice Hockey

Harwood Union High School (HU) and Northfield High School (NHS) recently received approval from the VPA’s Activity Standards Committee to begin a 2-season cooperative team for varsity girls ice hockey beginning this winter 2018-19. Randolph has traditionally played with Northfield High School, and will be part of the combined team.

The cooperative team was passed by the Committee on Friday, August 3rd with representation from HU’s Chris Langevin, Athletic Director. Cooperative agreements between schools are designed to provide relief to school districts experiencing shrinking student bodies and, as a result, athletic teams with fewer participating student-athletes. By nature, a cooperative team is rooted in the premise that both schools would otherwise not be able to sponsor a specific sports team without working together with a nearby school(s).

Considering shrinking team numbers at HU and NHS & the smaller number of athletes playing youth ice hockey in those school districts, a cooperative girls ice hockey team provides a way for athletes to continue competing at the high school level. “When we looked at our numbers for the upcoming girls hockey season, it was clear that we had to look at what our options were for the betterment of our programs and the safety of our players,” explains Harwood Athletic Director, Chris Langevin.

Northfield/Williamstown Athletic Director, TJ Powers, offers “Northfield has a proud history of competing in girls’ hockey and it’s hard to see the numbers as low as they are.  In an effort to keep interest in hockey for the future, it is important to have an option for our girls to keep playing.  This cooperative team with Harwood looks to be the best, but hopefully temporary, solution for now.  We are excited to work together!” 

The Harwood/Northfield cooperative team will practice daily at the Ice Center in Waterbury. The team’s home games will primarily play at the Ice Center, but the schools’ ADs will also look to bring home games to the historic Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield. While the newly combined team may be comprised of athletes from all three schools – the rest of the state can expect to see the team competing in the newly formed“Tier 2” of Girls Hockey (playing a mix of both Division 1 & 2 opponents). The new cooperative team looks forward to having head coach Mike Vasseur leading the girls in 2018-19. Coach Vasseur was previously the head coach for the Harwood varsity girls ice hockey team.

'Service Learning' Students Return From Nicaragua


Here is their their own words:
On April 15th, 17 students and two teacher chaperones from Randolph Union High School traveled 21 hours to San Ramón, a small rural town in the northern area of Nicaragua. These students, all enrolled in either Spanish classes or a Service Learning Project Based Learning course at Randolph Union, started the 2017-2018 year with the goal of teaching lesson plans to Nicaraguan students in elementary schools, and engaging with kids of all ages.

The purpose of these lesson plans were to give students one-on-one attention, as well as to address one Nicaragua's problems, a high rate of illiteracy, which is due to a lack of accessible education and resources. In order to meet this goal, each student wrote their own children's story initially in English, then translated them into Spanish. Each of them chose a different animal native to Vermont to write a story about, illustrate, and then “test run” the final product, thanks to the help of Randolph Elementary students.

The group worked in cooperation with a non-profit organization called Planting Hope, which is based in Montpelier and San Ramon, Nicaragua. Beth Merrill, the director and founder of Planting Hope, assisted the group with their planning and nica3work while in Nicaragua. Planting Hope’s goal is to “enhance educational opportunities, support grassroots initiatives and foster cultural exchange” while bringing groups of high school students with lesson plans and unique ideas into these environments to give the local students an opportunity to learn and fully engage in the lesson plan.

When students arrived in Nicaragua, they read their stories and worked with the lessons plans that were developed to expand on their stories in classes ranging from 30-40 elementary students. The RUHS group stayed with host families San Ramon and as student Anna Jickling observes, “I noticed that all the host families, although having little, were willing to open their doors and hearts to us and give us a real taste of what Nicaraguan life is really like.”

Over the course of 10 days, the Randolph students visited two elementary schools, one high school, and a Planting Hope library where students came to gather and participate in activities. Their lesson plans shined at each school they visited as the Nicaraguan students participated with open hearts, minds and beaming smiles! RUHS student Zi Booska says, ”seeing the children's faces light up after we read our stories to them really showed me how much of an impact we made on their day and potentially in their life.”

The afternoons were spent engaged in enriching cultural activities where the RUHS students got to hike to a coffee plantation, learned to paint using a unique local technique (coffee based paint), visited a weaving cooperative, and made jewelry using local seeds.

The schools in Nicaragua are much different than the elementary and high schools in the United States. A lot of the kids in Nicaragua do attend school on a normal weekly basis. Some kids are not able to commit to the normal week schedule, because they have to help their parents in the coffee fields throughout the week. The Nicaraguan education system offers weekend schooling for these students and older adults who choose to get their high school degree if they did not already have it.

The schools in Nicaragua do not have nearly as much funding from their government as we do here in the United States. There can sometimes be up to 30 to 40 students per one classroom/teacher. This makes it difficult to give the students the individualized learning that most students at can get in the classroom at RUHS. When the students from RUHS were in Nicaragua, they visited only three out of five schools that were on the trip’s itinerary. The reasoning behind this was because the Nicaraguan government cancelled school because of the mass protests that were taking place in many of the cities in Nicaragua. Being in the country during a period of social and political unrest was in itself a substantive learning experience for the 17 students.