News & updates

News & updates

Elementary StudentRandolph Elem. Team Awarded For Work with Blind Student

Three-Member Team Recognized For Efforts

By Zoë Newmarco - Courtesy of The Herald, June 3, 2021

Like many preschool students, 4-year-old Wyatt Hallock loves reading, counting, and singing—but unlike most preschoolers, Wyatt can’t see, and so the efforts of school staff to support him are different than supporting many other students.

Those efforts, by the Randolph Elementary School staff and faculty who work most closely with Wyatt were recognized this spring, when a trio of educators were honored for their “outstanding visual support to a student with visual impairment” with an award from VABVI (the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired).

Named in the award were Hallock’s case manager Susan Lancy, his preschool teacher Abby McFadyen, and paraeducator Nate Schwartz.

VABVI’s Stephanie Bissonette, the director of child services and a teacher of the visually impaired explained that each VABVI teacher works with about 25 students and their schools. Of those, each teacher gets to select one school’s staff and/or faculty to receive the award, she explained. It’s unusual that the full team at a school receives the award, she said. But, she emphasized, Randolph Elementary’s support of Hallock was so outstanding that she wanted to be sure Schwartz, McFadyen, and Lancey were all recognized.

“The three of them really did a phenomenal job working together to make it as accessible as possible,” said Bissonette. She added that the team at Randolph Elementary has been excellent about communicating and collaborating with VABVI to support Wyatt. For example, she said, as the students got ready to graduate from preschool this year, McFadyen, Wyatt’s teacher, made sure to send Bissonette a copy of the award each student gets at the end of the year, so that Bissonette could make a Braille version for Wyatt.

Lancey, the case manager, explained that although she’s worked with visually impaired students in the district before, Wyatt is the only student she’s ever worked with in the district who is unable to see at all. Part of the school’s efforts have been to support Wyatt as he learns how to use a cane as he walks, she said.

She noted that despite the pandemic, some students, such as Wyatt, were able to be in the school four days a week to make sure they were receiving the supports they need, that can’t be provided remotely.

Receiving the Award

Lancey explained that both she and McFadyen were under the impression that just Schwartz would get the award.

While Schwartz was kept entirely in the dark, Bissonette coordinated with Mc- Fadyen and Lancey to find a time when all three of them would be there for an award ceremony.

When the time came, all three were surprised to learn they’d receive the award. With a small ceremony at the elementary school, Lancey, McFadyen, and Schwartz were each presented with a certificate designating them as “outstanding educators.”

Schwartz emphasized that although they don’t do the job for recognition, receiving the award was very touching. He added that because of his experience working with Wyatt, he’s decided to pursue a master’s degree in working with blind and visually impaired students.

“It was a huge gamble for the family to take that risk,” of sending Wyatt to school, said Schwartz. “I’m so happy that it’s paid off and that they’re happy with the job we’re doing.”

Of all three of the Randolph Elementary team, Schwartz works most closely with Wyatt, providing one-on-one support. When Wyatt goes to kindergarten next fall, Schwartz will continue to work with him a few days a week.

“To be honest, Wyatt’s the real star in my opinion,” said Schwartz. “He shows up every day and … he’s smiling. You’d think he’d have a really hard time with [things] like a chair that was in a different place the day before—things we don’t think about— but he’s just the sweetest, best-natured kid.”

Although last year Wyatt had gone to school for some services a few times a week, this year was the first time he was a full-time student four days a week. The shift to sending him to school was a hard one, said his mom, Steffani Hallock.

“I’m so used to fighting for that boy,” she said. A Facebook group for parents of blind and visually impaired children had warned her of “horrifying” experiences working with schools to develop individualized education programs (IEP). But as soon as she met with the superintendent and special education director, she felt better. Since that initial meeting last year, the team at Randolph Elementary have continually amazed her with the support of her son, she said.

During the first IEP meeting for Wyatt last fall, Hallock was particularly impressed by Schwartz’s willingness to advocate for her son.

And she added, Wyatt adores school, and especially spending time with Schwartz.

“I don’t think any staff deserve it more than these three! Of course, I’m biased,” she acknowledged with a laugh.

Expanded PreSchool Offered at all Elementary Schools

All three elementary schools in the Orange Southwest School District (OSSD) will offer expanded options for preschoolers beginning fall of 2021. The move is in direct response to the loss of these services over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We saw a real drop in preschool enrollment during the 2020-21 school year,” said Braintree School principal Pat Miller, “which, of course, was not completely unexpected. But to help mitigate that lost experience for preschool aged children and their families, we’ve made the decision to significantly expand preschool options this coming fall.”

“Beginning this August,” Miller said, “any district student who is four years old by September 1 can attend preschool four days a week for a full school day - free of charge; and any three year old can attend for a half day, also free of charge. Families of three year olds can choose either the morning or afternoon session.”

According to Miller, all three elementary schools will be offering the same programming for the same hours.
“We are really excited to be able to offer this opportunity to families in our community,” Miller said. “Full day programming for four year olds has long been a goal of ours.”

There are currently openings at all three schools for both three and four year olds. Parents who are interested in enrolling their children in one of these programs are encouraged to contact Stephanie Reyes at Randolph Elementary School for registration paperwork. Stephanie can be reached at or 728-9555. 

Braintree Students Talk, Write About Earth Day

Four students from Braintree Elementary have written about Earth Day, and their essays are now posted on the website of VT Attorney General TJ Donovan.
Take a moment and read their thoughts on protecting our world and our beautiful state. Follow this link to the essays:  VT Attorney General Web Site

S'mitten With Reading a Success at Brookfield

Our annual reading challenge, ‘S’mitten With Reading’ was a success. On Monday, we had a whole school celebration with our first community circle outdoors since late fall.  Each teacher shared highlights from their classrooms. It was great to learn how our students expanded their knowledge, widened their areas of interest and broadened their reading choices to include nonfiction, poetry, series, and chapter books. Afterwards, students enjoyed traveling through six different activity stations organized by Mr. Keenhold and Miss Aubrie.

The Brookfield School Club is once again providing the funds for each of our students to have a $6 ‘coupon’ towards the purchase of a personal book to keep for their very own.  Media Specialist Christine Gilbert shared copies of the Scholastic Books flyers appropriate for your child(ren) through the LMC Google Classrooms linked to the Learning Hub. 

In some cases, a student has expressed an interest in a book that is a little more than six dollars.  If that is the case for your child and you approve their selection, please send in the additional monies needed through your child’s “Home to School” folder.  Classroom teachers will collect the funds and then hand them over to me.  

All book choices will be finalized by April 15th so that the books will be here the week after our April school break. If you have any questions, please contact Christine at 276-3153.

Pat Miller Will Retire at End of the Year

Braintree School Principal Pat Miller has announced her intention to retire at the end of the current school year. Here is a letter she send to students and families on January 11, 2021:

I am writing to let you know that I have decided to retire at the conclusion of this school year. It has been an honor and a privilege to work in the OSSD for so many years. The level of commitment and dedication shown to the students of Braintree by teachers and staff members of our little school is far superior in Braintree than in many other schools. I will greatly miss the caring team of professionals in Braintree and most of all the children.

The best part of my day is when I help to cover in a classroom, listen to children read or just observe the wonderful learning on a daily basis of each class. I feel extremely fortunate to have been the principal of Braintree Elementary and will cherish my memories for many years to come. I look forward to spending more time with my daughters and grandchildren and hopefully doing a bit more of pottery, reading and hiking.

The district will form a search committee to find a good match for Braintree and several faculty members from Braintree will be on that search committee. We will keep you informed throughout this process.

Braintree Students Learn About - and In - the Great Outdoorspicture of an outdoor shelter

Outdoor learning is nothing new for students at Braintree School. They’ve been studying and working in outdoor classrooms for years. So when COVID-19 came along and schools throughout Vermont began moving classroom activities outside, Braintree Elementary was way ahead of the curve.

“There are so many exciting things happening at Braintree right now,” said Principal Pat Miller. “We have two completely different - permanent - outdoor classrooms being built, which will enhance our outdoor learning in so many ways. Thanks to a very generous grant of $15,000 which was written for us by The Arts Bus and donated by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous; and the efforts of two local people who have deep ties to the school, outdoor learning at Braintree will take a huge leap forward this fall.”

“Bethel musician and longtime volunteer Spencer Lewis is working with us to develop and build a classroom area made out of stone,” she said. “And Josh Axelrod, husband of Misse Axelrod, our Farm to School Coordinator, will be building a structure made out of trees from their farm with a metal roof and a fire pit in the center. He built one of these on his own farm and when I saw it, I thought ‘it’s beautiful - we have to have one at Braintree.’”

According to Miller, one of the two classrooms (Josh’s) is under construction now, with the other (Spencer’s) scheduled to get started soon.

Miller also noted that between the grant from the individual who wants to remain anonymous, Braintree’s Farm to School Grant, a small grant from Vermont Rise, and a grant from the Vermont Principals' Association, the two outdoor classrooms will be fully funded through grants. What’s more, she said, a number of teachers have developed their own areas outside this year and are using these spaces for instruction.

“We have at least four areas with stumps for children to sit on and some even have a fire pit so we can stay warm on chilly days,” she said. “It’s so gratifying to see the many ways our teachers make use of our beautiful surroundings to enhance learning for their students.”

In other outdoor-related news, Miller pointed to two recent hires that have brought with them a wealth of knowledge about outdoor learning.

“Our preschool classroom and the kindergarten/first grade class have several new components included in their outdoor classroom areas,” she said. “First, we have an extremely experienced preschool director/teacher (Harriet Hart) who will be doing professional development with all of us throughout the year to enhance our learning on outdoor education; and second we have Aubrie Howard, our new Family and Student Support Specialist, who has a long history of teaching outdoor education as both a Wilderness Therapy Guide in Montana, and with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Both of these individuals bring so much to the classroom.”

Braintree Elementary Awarded Farm to School Grant

Braintree Elementary School was one of just seven schools throughout the state recently awarded a $15,000 Farm to School Grant from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM).
The VAAFM hosted a celebration of the Vermont Farm to School and Childcare Grant Program at the Vermont State House on Wednesday, March 12, where it recognized seven school communities and two early childcare organizations with important grants to support their local food programming.
farm to school grant winnersThe program strives to improve the education and health of Vermont’s students, as well as positively impact the local economy, by providing Vermont schools and childcare programs with technical and financial assistance to develop and execute farm to school and farm to childcare programs. These programs integrate fresh, healthy, locally grown foods and nutrition education into Vermont’s cafeterias, classrooms and communities.
On hand to present the awards was Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Health Commissioner Mark Levine and Education Secretary Daniel French.
“We’re so excited about receiving this grant,” said Misse Axelrod, founder and director of the Vermont Farm and Forest School in Roxbury, “and we look forward to digging even deeper into growing a strong Farm to School Program here at Braintree.

When students are connected to the food they eat, they are more likely to make healthy choices and eat more fruits and vegetables. The school is excited to cultivate relationships with local farmers through on farm connections, local food in the cafeteria, and plans to bring the community together through farm and food. The grant will give the school the support they need to make this all possible.”
Axelrod has been working with the Orange Southwest School District and the Farm to School Coordinator since 2019. The Vermont Farm and Forest School works with a dozen schools in Central Vermont and statewide on farm, food, nutrition education.

Vermont is a national leader in farm to school programs and activities, and has played a major role in helping secure hundreds of thousands of federal grant dollars for farm to school programs throughout the state.

March is Youth Art Month at Randolph Elementary

Artwork from Randolph Elementary SchoolIt's Youth Art Month at Randolph Elementary School (and across the country), and our student artists will be participating in several art presentations at the Vermont Statehouse and at Chandler Gallery. Our theme this year is "eARTh" which celebrates the 50th anniversaries of Earth Day and Vermont Green Up Day. Several of our pieces will be displayed along with other PreK- grade 12 work from around the State in an effort to show how art can reflect, communicate and illustrate our roles as stewards of our planet.

Artists have long used their work to inspire others to appreciate and respect the natural world, and our students are adding their voices to this tradition.

The RES exhibits will include painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing from all OSSD students, PreK through grade 6. Preschoolers created a collaborative earth and earth prints while Kindergarten students made clay pieces about
endangered Vermont species. First and second graders created an installation of imaginative colorful plants, bugs, and fish, reminding us that nature inspires our imagination. "Save Life on Earth" is a collection of realistic animal portraits created by third and fourth graders that reflects their interests and the development of their observation skills; while complex, made from clay Earth Guardian sculptures were crafted by fifth and sixth graders. Their painted forms were inspired by indigenous people from Central America complimenting one of their theme units this year.