Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Day FAQs and Responses - 2014

First Day FAQs and Responses

Last year I wrote up some FAQs and responses following the first day of school. I thought I would re-post a few of the frequently asked questions and updated responses here. Please don't hesitate to contact us for assistance with anything. We look forward to working together this year!

Q: What is the earliest I can drop off my child at RMS?
A: 7:30 AM each day. We do not have supervision in place earlier than 7:30 so we ask that you please don't drop off your child prior to that time. After 7:30 students may wait in the lobby, visit the cafeteria or play basketball/soccer in the gym. The bell rings for the start of school at 7:55.

Q: Do I need to purchase a RMS student planner?
A: No. We do make them available for purchase on a first come, first serve basis at the start of the year. Students may use any planner or organizer and in fact we encourage students to try different tools to find what works best for them. 8th grade students may wish to use their iPads this year as their primary planner/organizer.

Q: How can I find out more about the 8th grade 1-1 iPad program?
A: Please visit the 1-1 website accessible from the RMS web page and also feel free to reach out to our technology coordinator, Marty Warren, for assistance.

Q: Can my child change their schedule/elective?
A: Depends. Core classes are mostly locked in at this point unless there is a change in placement or a special circumstance. Elective changes can still be made over the first week of school as long as there is room in a desired course. Students interested in a schedule change should talk with their guidance counselor in the first week of the quarter.

Q: How do I add money to my child's cafeteria account?
A: The RMS tech department sent home an instruction sheet including online account information as part of the summer mailing. Students can also deposit cash or checks in the cafeteria each day before school or during snack.

Q: How do I log in to the Student Portal (grades/schedules/demographic info)?
A: The RMS tech department sent a single-sign-on instruction and log in sheet in the summer mailing. Once you have created your parent account you can add all of your RMS and HHS students for easy access to their Portal pages. If you have difficulties creating your account or adding your child please contact the RMS tech office. Frequent Tip: Create your account before trying to use the student ID number to add your child.

Q: Where do I find information about bus routes?
A: The SAU web page has the most current bus route information. You can also reach the bus company at 802-295-2414.

Q: Where can I find __ document or more about RMS?
A: We try and post most of our documents and information on our web page. Please take a look and let us know if you have suggestions for additional material.

Please contact us if you have additional questions. We are happy to try and assist you. I'll add to this list as we get closer to the start of the year if we have some recurring questions. Phone calls to the front office are also always welcome at 603 643 6040.

Thank you!
Mike Lepene
Principal RMS

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability

Last week I joined a team of educators from RMS at the Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the team, the other program participants and the facilitators. We spent four days immersed in discussions of sustainable practices and education opportunities. Participants worked on incorporating themes of sustainability into their curriculum and collaborated with other educators from around the United States. 

Here is the description of the institute as provided by Shelburne Farms:

"Education for Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Shelburne Farms and with our PreK-12 schools, university, and community partners. Spend four rich days with colleagues around the country at an informative and restorative institute created to provide an opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of Education for Sustainability. This week is part conference, part workshop, part retreat. We develop the institute based on participants' needs and assets; but we always ensure that educators have an opportunity to develop connections between curriculum and community, work and dialogue together, and reflect in an inspiring setting that models sustainability and systems-thinking."

The Richmond Middle School Sustainability Committee will incorporate the work of our team into their efforts this year. Some of the topics that emerged from the Institute:

-Exploring and pursuing the EcoSchools USA program as a way of organizing our efforts and recognizing our progress and success.
-Developing our definition of "Sustainability" and "Education for Sustainability" for our various stakeholder groups. Using these new definitions to work on a Sustainability Committee mission and also to find connections to our school Mission Statement.
-Combine our student and staff/community sustainability groups to create a single group with a diverse membership.
-Add "Big Ideas" of Sustainability to our curriculum mapping templates and effort. Provide support to teachers looking to integrate topics of sustainability into their curriculum.
-Support projects and programs aimed at making us a more sustainable organization. 
-Brand, Promote and Communicate our efforts.
-Utilize sustainability as an expanded framework for a healthy school environment for all.

Finally, in addition to the institute providing rich ideas and energy that will support our efforts to incorporate Education for Sustainability at RMS I enjoyed participating in this experience as a teacher. As a classroom teacher, the big ideas of sustainability were infused throughout my curriculum, classroom and practice. I found it incredibly satisfying to reconnect to something I was passionate about teaching and learning. In my role as principal at RMS I look forward to supporting and promoting the efforts of others to do the same.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dartmouth Instructional Rounds

I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in both the creation and implementation of a new Upper Valley Instructional Rounds group that is being coordinated by the Education Department at Dartmouth College. Instructional Rounds are organized visits by a variety of education stakeholders and experts with the goal of providing useful and actionable feedback to a school or organization. Typically, a problem of practice is identified by the building staff and leadership prior to an instructional rounds visit. This problem of practice is usually an instructional problem or opportunity that the host wants to explore with the ultimate goal of improving student learning.

The problem of practice is shared with the visiting group and sets the focus for the visit and planned observations of practice. Observers take careful descriptive notes and pay special attention to what students are doing and experiencing.

Following the observations, the visiting group will debrief their observations using a variety of protocols with the school or organizational leadership. The leadership will then develop a plan for distributing the key take-aways to members of their own organization so that actionable steps to improve student learning can be developed. For more on instructional rounds check out this article.

In the last year, our Dartmouth Upper Valley group visited Lebanon High School, Dothan Brook Elementary School, Richmond Middle School, Marion Cross Elementary School and Rivendell High School. At each school we examined a "problem of practice" identified by the staff of that building. Following observations of classrooms and teaching the group debriefed our visits and offered the building administration our feedback, questions and comments regarding their area of interest. Our group has varied in composition somewhat but has typically included school administrators, Dartmouth Education Department faculty and students, teachers, Department of Education officials and school district level administrators.

In addition to participating in our rounds visits I also am part of the steering committee that continues to develop our process and organizational structure of visits. This week we are meeting to try and discuss the following questions:

-Developing a problem of practice proved to be difficult for everyone involved last year—what can we do to scaffold?
-Ideas for 14–15 potential Rounds sites. Should we revisit some of our previous sites?
-Should we draft a mission statement? What would it include?
-Could we adopt/adapt some protocols and codify them in some way so that the Rounds process is clear and consistent?
-What are other Rounds Networks doing that could inform our work?

-What should the follow-up from a visit look like? Who would be involved? What do people need?

I'll post a follow-up after our meeting and also share some of the observations from the visit to Richmond Middle School from last year.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Building a Peer Feedback System

This afternoon we started the conversation as a staff about how to best design and implement a peer feedback system. This was a continuation of our school-wide effort to increase and improve collaboration.

We agreed that almost every teacher wants to improve. Further, this is a profession of learning and learners. We seek out opportunities to grow at conferences, workshops, colleges and universities, online PLCs, readings, school visits, and countless other avenues for professional growth. What we don't currently have is a robust and comprehensive strategy and system of supports for peer feedback.

As professional learners, we seek and crave constructive, actionable feedback. We are also fortunate to be surrounded by peers with vast experience and expertise as educators and content specialists. In order to be our best and grow as educators at the maximum trajectory we need to learn with and from each other.

Next year, we will commit to spending time in each other's classrooms observing, questioning, participating, and learning. We will spend the time to experience the learning environment each of us works so hard to create. We will invest in the conversations and sharing of our experience that provide essential informative feedback we can use to improve our craft. Along the way, we strengthen our relationships, our connections, and our sense of team and purpose. We will do this together.

As the leader of our school, I need to put the pieces in place to make this system grow and thrive. Obstacles and barriers need to be removed. Trust needs to be developed. Positive experiences need to be built upon and amplified. Adjustments and corrections will be made. I'm thrilled to take on the responsibility of making this a reality for our staff. As we work to become a cohesive and collaborative team pulling together I can't think of a better assignment.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I've been thinking about communication quite a bit in the last few weeks. Scenarios both at school and with our community all could have had better outcomes and understanding with stronger communication. Some questions I am reflecting on:

-How can I increase the opportunities for students to communicate directly with me and with the school leadership?
-Where are there unrealized opportunities to involve students in generating changes and strengthening our community and program?
-What leadership opportunities could we facilitate for students in all grades?
-How might we better invite student feedback and ideas for improvement in all aspects of our organization?

-How can I improve communication and transparency of decision-making with my colleagues?
-What is the best way to improve this communication? Different media? Changes to schedule? More invitations and opportunities to connect?
-Where is the balance between keeping everyone "in the loop" and also considering the privacy of the scenario and participants? How do I know if things are in balance or if we are missing the mark?
-How does my response to communications (or lack of) influence positive organizational behaviors and connections?

-How could I improve both the vehicles we utilize for communication and also the content of what we share?
-What additional tools might improve the reach of our communication efforts?
-Where can existing or new communication efforts be adjusted to change from a delivery methodology to more of a conversation?
-How might we better communicate the follow-up or next steps in response to feedback or new ideas?

-How can I better manage my "to-do" list such that I take those important additional opportunities to communicate informally and formally?
-How do I better convey our mission and vision to all stake-holders?
-Where can I create new opportunities for dialogue about what is important and how we can be the very best for our students?

A lot to think about and a lot to do. I know that these themes and ideas will be guiding questions as I continue my work in school leadership. Are there other questions we should consider? Feel free to comment or share your ideas.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Collaborative Culture

At yesterday's staff meeting we discussed the importance of developing a collaborative culture as a means of strengthening relationships and increasing opportunities for excellence. Here is a quick summary of what we talked about:

Collaborative Culture - A Vision for RMS
Staff meeting conversation 051514

We are one team and we succeed when we do things together. We are at risk when we do things in isolation or in competition with one another.

We need to strengthen who we are as individuals by strengthening who we are as a team.

With this in mind, all efforts and initiatives are subject to the question:

-How are you leveraging the talents, experience, and expertise of your colleagues, students, and the community to level up this opportunity?

Given this simple vision of a collaborative workplace … what is the foundational work we need to undertake?

-Put an emphasis on knowing and caring for each other. Positive working relationships don’t happen solely by proximity. They require effort and on-going care and attention.
-Focus on those efforts, initiatives, and ideas that maximize collaborative outcomes.
-Celebrate and appreciate the ideas and contributions of all members of our RMS community.

What is your vision of what this would look like? What work needs to be done to make this a reality? How do we make RMS truly an exceptional place to work and learn?

The staff generated ideas in small groups and then we took some time for individuals to share something they had heard or reactions to ideas that were put forward.  The conversation continues on a shared GoogleDoc and will be a recurring theme as we transition into the new year.

I believe that if we can commit to working together in a positive way we ensure we succeed with our goals and we create an even better educational experience for our students. Ultimately, we all want RMS to be the best possible place to learn and to work. I think we have the talent, resources, and collective excitement about learning to do great things.