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Friday, June 02, 2023



Rivendell Academy Reopening Plan

Rivendell Academy Reopening Plan

This plan outlines the opening of the Middle School on November 2nd and the High School on November 30th. 

News from Keri Gelenian


August 4th, 2020

Dear Rivendell Families,

In June we thought we would all return to school wearing masks, remaining physically distanced, and getting our temperatures taken. Reality slowly set in as our planning committee received guidance from the state and tried to imagine a “normal” school day under the health guidelines. In July we shifted our thinking and devised a plan similar to what many schools have now adopted, a blend of remote learning with in-school classes plus the option for some students to be fully remote. In August, as we considered the laundry list of issues with a blended model, we decided that fully remote learning was the best option for students, teachers, and our communities, at least through October 2nd. After October 2nd we hope to move to phase II with a hybrid model of in-school and remote instruction. It was a grueling process to come to this decision. For many reasons, I felt we came up with the best plan for Rivendell.

Fully remote learning was obviously the safest option for everyone. Also, our district has outstanding technology resources. Last spring our teachers and students turned on a dime to move to fully remote instruction. Our student and family surveys about remote instruction were largely positive, and staff worked hard at the end of the school year compiling ways we could improve remote instruction and preparing curriculum in the event we had go remote at some point this year. Ultimately the factors of safety and the singular focus on one learning platform steered us to this decision. We also felt that we could address the problems we identified last year.

Our biggest concern with remote learning last year was trying to get stable internet service to homes with unreliable internet service. Despite some success, there were still students who had to sit in library parking lots doing schoolwork. As a solution to our regional internet issue, we are offering a limited number of safe spaces at the Academy for students to access our internet. This year we have also addressed the middle school computer issue by purchasing laptops for all 7th and 8th graders. Math instruction was difficult on computers when we went remote last year. Eventually we provided math teachers with writable tablets that proved to be helpful. For 7th and 8th grade we purchased a fully digital math curriculum. Finally, we were not happy with the way we scheduled remote classes or with the uneven requirements for Zoom instruction. Our remote instructional plan addresses the remaining issues.

Our instructional approach reflects a modified version of the remote instructional structure of colleges. We will run our full academic schedule. Teachers will instruct each class twice a week using Zoom. Attendance is mandatory. Teachers will take attendance and report it to the office. Each student schedule will also show two office hours per week for each of their classes. These are times when the students can get extra help from teachers. Office hours are optional for students except when the teacher schedules a required meeting with a student. Special education teachers will have scheduled resource time and Learning Coaches will also schedule time to meet with students on their caseload. Academic mentoring with 9th and 10th graders will continue with Story. Advisory will meet via Zoom once a week as well. We feel that this approach plays to our strengths of our staff and school, while increasing safety and avoiding the litany of pitfalls with bringing students into school during these uncertain times.

Indirectly, we feel our plan also addresses the social aspect of our students’ lives. We know that families and students have made their own choices regarding the degree of social isolation they feel is necessary and can endure. This plan allows for these choices to continue to be made individually. We will try to keep Zoom time on any given day to three hours. The rest of the “school day” should be used to complete assignments. This arrangement should leave students with ample time in the day to do other activities (like help around the house). Agreed, this does not replace the type of peer and teacher interaction that we all enjoy the most; but wearing a mask all day with the same 8 students and teacher does not come close to the type of interaction that we all desire. Bussing and food will be provided for the small number of kids in our school. Hopefully the class interaction on Zoom, advisory meetings, and office hours will help mitigate the isolation students felt last spring. River Bend and Hartford students will follow the schedules of the tech schools, and we will provide any bussing as needed.

After the year begins, we will continuously take stock of our work and the health conditions in our area. We will also gather information from other area secondary schools to see how their models have been working. Although we are committed to our initial plan, our assessments will determine what phase II looks like.

We have scheduled family meetings for 7th graders and new high school students. There will be an open Q/A zoom meeting for all Academy families on Monday August 24th at 6 PM. You will receive more detailed information about the opening days of schools August 31st, September 1st, 2nd and 3rd. These days will be used to distribute computers, bring advisories together, and meet with teachers. Those details will be mailed out later.

We are deeply grateful for your patience these long months. We know that families are under extreme challenges with childcare, health care, and economic hardships. We will do our best to help in any way that we can. Please reach out to us with any needs that you might have, and we will do our best to work with you to find a solution.

Attached you will find the Learning Expectations & Guidelines for Rivendell Academy Students. It is important that you and your Academy student read this document. This document contains many important details about our remote learning plan. We have tried to make it succinct. If you have questions or see important omissions, please contact us.


Keri Gelenian
Head of Schools, Rivendell Interstate School District
Principal, Rivendell Academy
(603) 353-4321
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Remote Learning Expectations & Guidelines for Rivendell Academy Students
Fall, 2020

Expectations for Remote Learning

  • Attendance is mandatory for all Zoom classes and advisory. Teachers will record and submit attendance for all classes. An adult must report a student ill with a call to the office in the morning.
  • All teachers will use Google Classroom to organize class materials, receive student work, and provide feedback.
  • Students need to be prepared to participate daily in remote classes according to the school and class schedule.
  • By Sunday night or first thing Monday morning each week teachers will provide students with a schedule of weekly assignments, due dates, zoom calls, office hours, information about how to get additional help, etc. Assignments, materials, zoom meeting links, and the weekly assignment schedule will be posted in Google Classroom.
  • Regular teacher office hours will be scheduled twice each week so that students can get additional help in classes.
  • Special safe, supervised spaces will be made available for students facing technology difficulties at home.
  • Special education teachers and Learning Coaches will continue to follow IEP’s. Story Smith will continue to support Academic Mentoring students.
  • Counselors will be able to schedule individual zoom meetings with students.

Behavioral Expectations for All Students

  • Students are responsible for any school equipment that has been loaned to them, and they are responsible for any damage or misuse of that equipment.
  • Students cannot share log-in information for their device, Google Classroom, email, Zoom meetings, etc. They are responsible for any misconduct occurring through Zoom accounts, even if they claim that another person did it as a result of password sharing.
  • Students may not record meetings (Zoom, Google hangout, etc.) without the written permission of all those present and their guardians.
  • Students cannot access pornographic/adult material or graphically violent material through their school issued device.
  • Students are not to use their school issued device for social media. Any social media activity that violates school rules (harassment, bullying, etc.) that occurs from using school devices is subject to school discipline. Any serious bullying or harassment issue during school hours should be reported to the school.

Student expectations in a remote or hybrid learning environment.


  • You need to appropriately cite your work if using online or other sources. Failure to do so is considered plagiarism and subject to school discipline policies.
  • You may not access online resources, or outside resources, during tests or quizzes, unless this permission is granted by the teacher administering that particular test or quiz. Violations of this policy are subject to school discipline policies.
  • Your work is expected to be your own work. You MAY NOT COLLABORATE with other students unless the assignment or test instructions explicitly state that you may do so. Without such instructions you should assume that you CANNOT collaborate with other students. You may ask for written permission from your teacher if you wish to collaborate on an assignment. Violations of this policy are subject to school discipline policies.
  • During Zoom classes you are expected to follow the dress code policy found on page 16 in the student handbook. This can be found on the Rivendell Interstate School District website. Appropriate dress is important when participating in Zoom or other videoconferencing sessions with teachers and classmates.

Specific Expectations for Zoom/Videoconferencing


  • You cannot share access codes to Zoom meetings. You are responsible for any misconduct by others that occurs due to you sharing such codes.
  • Please be mindful of the background images that can be seen by your classmates and teachers during Zoom or other videoconferencing sessions. Graphic material, such as ‘pin up’ posters, or similar, must not be visible to other students. A quiet place with a non-distracting background is best. Lounging in bed, for example, while participating in a Zoom meeting is not “professional” or acceptable.
  • During Zoom or other videoconferencing sessions, turning on your camera is expected. Please be prepared to do that. It isn’t always easy, given our individual circumstances. It really helps us build our community during a very challenging time of learning.
  • If your internet does not support Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms, you are expected to call into the Zoom meeting using your telephone with the access codes provided in the posted Zoom invitation link. You must be identified in a Zoom meeting with your name (or a parent/sibling name if you need to use their device) If a random name or phone number appears in a Zoom waiting room, the teacher will not admit you to the class. You can text/email a teacher ahead of time to let them know the phone number you will be zooming from. Teachers will provide, in Google Classroom, any documents/images that will be screen shared in a Zoom class so that you can access them.

Students, staff and teachers should continue to plan, develop and implement PLPs that take into consideration learning opportunities which may encounter limitations.


Meet the Rivendell Academy Staff

Check out or updated Rivendell Academy staff booklet (updated summer 2020)

News from Keri Gelenian

August 3, 2018 Family Letter

August 3, 2018

Dear Rivendell Academy Families and Staff,

It is important that we take the time for a remembrance of Jack Isenberg, a remembrance not of our sadness, but of Jack's approach to living. Jack was an energetic and creative young person. He always had something to say, and he never failed to say it with gusto. He could be outlandish, thoughtful, and sensitive-all at once. We should all aspire to exhibit Jack's energy and fun-loving attitude toward life. Jack would want us to have fun, engage one another, be kind, and helpful. Let's give ourselves the best that Jack Isenberg gave to all of us.

With the help of Rowland Fellowship funding, the Byrne Foundation and the staff at High Tech High and Critical Explorers, all teachers in RISD have had consistent and high quality professional development opportunities over the last three years. We have invested time and resources in developing forms of instruction that emphasize deep, creative engagement with materials and ideas. Students' ideas now tend to multiply in our classrooms as their observations, questions and ideas build and expand rather than dwindle to a single "answer." Students display more comfort with ambiguity, shown by their perseverance and curiosity with purposefully complex instructional materials and projects. Teachers are more likely to probe students with legitimate questions about their thinking rather than questions that "guide" them to the answer in the teacher's head.
The most compelling development for us involves the relationship between Critical Exploration and project-based learning, specifically, astronaut projects-projects defined by a lofty challenge, high authenticity, student choice, interdisciplinary learning, community connections, and a public presentation.

We strive to develop curriculum and instruction that foster real-world connection beyond the classroom. In this way, the school benefits by being much more than an institution for educating the community's youth; it also becomes a center of learning, wonder, entertainment, and excitement for community members who engage with us. For example, the Quebec bike trip grew out of a Global Studies course. We received over $10,000 in community financing for the trip. The people our students and teachers met along their expedition were amazed that a school would create such a powerful learning experience for students. Both the Journal Opinion and Valley News
(https://www.vnews.com/Rivendell-Academy-bicycle-trip-14878142) wrote stories about the trip. We are proud of the ambitious adventure of our students and teachers.

Students' Work
Assessing the quality of students' work and allowing the public to examine their work are our primary forms of assessing our success. Our students' work has progressively improved in its overall quality, and the quality has become more uniform across all students. When you enter the Academy you see beautifully designed info-maps depicting the impact of bicycles in different countries created by Global Studies students. There are unusual plaster masks organized in genealogy trees looking down at you. Middle School students created these as part of a Genetics unit. The genealogies demonstrate students' understanding of dominant and recessive traits across generations. If you turn down the hall, work by 10th grade Biology students beautifully conveys the impact of genetics and cell division on the structure of protein molecules associated with genetic diseases.

Although the 9th grade monuments are no longer on display, I went to every 9th grader during the exhibition of their monument projects and asked them to explain the thinking behind their monuments. I met with students who looked me in the eye and spoke with confidence and pride about their work. Both 9th grade sections also published a book of personal writing that showed students' creativity and skill as fiction writers and cartoonists, and artists. The food and drinks prepared as part of the 7th and 8th grade Africa exhibition were delicious and their brochures all displayed qualities of well- designed print material. The Summer Academy students recently created a display of art and poetry. The art catches your eye. The poetry makes you think.

We will be holding more frequent exhibitions. We invite everyone to participate in these events and engage with students about their work. The exhibitions are designed not only to show what our students think and do, but they also are designed to make you think and learn.

The last two years in the district have been marked by transitions. Mike Harris' role as our transitional Superintendent ended July 2017 and Elaine Arbour moved into the position with new ideas for structures, policies and procedures. Michael Foxall's tenure as a two-year interim Principal at Samuel Morey ended this July. Julie Donahue has taken over as Elementary Principal with Tammy MacQueen as Assistant Principal. There have been some small shifts in teaching assignments in the Elementary Schools. Relative to the last 3 years, we have an influx of talented, new staff.

At the Academy
We have three new teachers, a new Middle School Counselor and a new Title I Literacy Teacher. Two teaching assignments have also shifted. Eight years ago, Michael Galli left an Elementary Principal position to serve as RA's Dean of Students. Michael has moved back into an Elementary Principal position, taking over as Principal at Warren Town School. At my urging, the staff developed several changes to our schedule that offer some exciting possibilities. Our advisory will also undergo some small changes.

Emily Cousens is taking over as our new Middle School Counselor. Emily recently finished her MA in Counseling after earning her BA in English and Creative Writing from New York University. Emily completed her internships at Kearsarge Elementary, Indian River High School and Mascoma High School. She served at the girls' Track Coach at Sunapee High School and Assistant Coach at Hopkinton High School. With the support of the board, her position is now full-time. Besides working with our 7th and 8th graders, she will spend two half-days with Counselor Ann O'Hearn working with the 5th and 6th graders at Samuel Morey.

Paul Ronci is our new High School English Teacher. Paul has a MA in Education from Plymouth State and a BA in Family Studies from the University of New Hampshire. He first taught High School English and Social Studies in an alternative program at Newfound Memorial High School before moving to the Middle School in 2008. He will be teaming with Kirsten Surprenant in 9th grade Humanities/ English as well as teaching upper-house English electives with a focus on Journalism and Media. Paul is also a musician, playing guitar in a local band.

Allison Lary will be teaming with Jennifer Bottum as our new Humanities/ Social Studies Teacher. Ally has a BA in History from the University of New Hampshire and an MA in Public History from Southern New Hampshire University. Recently she has been working as Special Education Paraprofessional at Indian River Middle School. She has previously taught Middle School History in Tennessee and Florida and coached track. Before teaching she worked as a Museum Educator in Tacoma, WA.

Christian Peterson is a new 7/8 Special Education Teacher. Christian has a BA in Justice Studies from Roger Williams University and MA degree in Human Resource Management from University of Phoenix and an MA in Special Education from Plymouth State. Christian has worked as a Special Education Teacher and Elementary Teacher at Piermont Village School since 2014.

Carolyn (“Carrie") Lang will be the Academy's first full-time Title I literacy Specialist. Carrie has degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Education of the Deaf from the University of New Hampshire and Smith College. She also has a degree in Remedial Reading and Writing from Southern Connecticut University. Carrie has taught teachers at the university level, while also serving as a Teacher of the Deaf in Trumbull, CT and New Haven, CT.

Laszlo Bardos will move from full-time math teacher to become our Digital Culture Leader and Calculus Teacher. With the help of a $10,000 grant from VSAC, Laszlo has created a wonderful maker space in the room at the top of the stairs. Besides a new 3-D printer, the room has workbenches, hand tools, sewing machines, and power tools. Laszlo is currently looking for grant money to buy a laser cutter.

Rachel McConnell will move into full-time Math position after student teaching with Doc Browne three years ago and filling in as a Math and Science Teacher over the last two years. Rachel has taught Chemistry and a variety of Math courses.

As I write this letter, we have not yet filled the Dean of Students position, but plans for interviews are underway. We expect to have someone in place in early August.

Schedule modifications
The staff and I worked very hard to make small changes. We set out to design a schedule that would better support:

  •  Collaboratively designed, rigorous, interdisciplinary projects
  • Common planning time and an expectation of collaboration 
  • Better utilization of staff expertise to create high quality, rigorous projects that integrate skills and content and well sequenced Critical Exploration materials and practices
  • Grade level teams that support one another in coaching students on the skills of life and develop the culture of the school
  • Time to offer flexible support tailored to the changing needs of students

With these goals in mind we came up with a schedule that gave teachers flexibility in teaming in a particular course on a trimester-by-trimester basis. For example Kirsten Surprenant will co-teach with Paul Ronci trimester one. This will allow them to work together to develop an integrated project in 9th grade Humanities as well as provide students with extra support, particularly in writing.

Support blocks
The schedule has two 26-minute blocks of time for teachers to provide more targeted support for students with particular needs. For example, if some non-special education students need targeted support in reading, there will be time in the school day for Carrie Lang to provide the support. Some students might simply need support in organizing and planning and getting a jump-start on homework. For one or two trimesters, juniors or seniors might take a SAT prep course. Students have these support blocks four days a week. All students will be required to focus on academics during this time.

Once every two weeks students will have a "clubs" block. We have been squeezing club time into lunch and other study blocks for years. A designated time gives all our students access to a variety of clubs at the Academy. Some of current clubs include Leo's Club, Queer Straight Alliance, Robotics, Makers Club, Student Advisory Committee, Chorus/ Theatre, Environmental Club, Outdoor Club, Travel Groups, Fencing, and National Honors Society. Teachers not currently affiliated with a club can co-advise or students can also approach them to start a new club.

Grade Level Teams
These teams will serve as an ongoing educational support team for students at each grade. One priority will be to make sure that students are getting the services they need to be successful in school, in particular that they are moved in or out of the correct support block. If the team sees that a student in a math intervention block has improved his or her math skills, they would move the student to a homework group. If we notice a change in a student's behavior, we can make a call home and notify a counselor to check in with the student. In the past, these types of discussions only happened once a week at the middle and high school level. They will now happen 4-days a week for 26 minutes. Expect more communication from teachers.

Advisors will continue to meet with their advisory group for the first 15 minutes of every day. In order to accommodate clubs and our support blocks, students will meet for a 30 minute advisory block once a week rather than two. Each advisor will be responsible for preparing students to use their digital portfolios to lead three-way conferences twice a year. The conferences are a time for students to present examples of their work, community, service and extracurricular experiences that demonstrate areas of strength and areas for growth. It will be a time where students can review their personal learning plans with their advisors and family members. In addition students and advisors in 8th, 10th and 12th grade will hold a round table each spring. This is a student led presentation by the student on his or her personal development and goals. In 9th grade advisories, students will be expected to at least plan a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) experience with the expectation that they complete a CYOA experience by 10th grade prior to round tables. Of course all students can have completed a CYOA at any time.
We have set a challenging agenda for ourselves-teacher collaboration and integration of content across disciplines, the creation of original and rigorous projects that engage students and community members through student-led exhibitions and provocative displays of students' work in the school and the community, more targeted academic support for students, greater communication with families, expanding the three-way conferences and round tables, engaging all students in clubs, and creating grade level teams that have time to discuss students' needs.

These changes build on what we feel has worked to engage students in meaningful learning and personal growth. More importantly, we have an extremely skilled and committed core of returning teachers, new staff with exceptional recommendations and credentials, and new resources with the Title I Literacy position, a new Middle School Special Education position, and an excellent maker's space to improve the skills and products of our students. This will be an exciting year. We hope you can join us often for exhibitions, sports, theatre, music and more.

Keri Gelenian
Head of Schools / RA Principal

Rivendell Booklet

This latest copy of our RA booklet gives you a taste of learning and life at Rivendell Academy. Please share it with friends and family.

News from Keri Gelenian, Head of Schools/RA Principal

Summer 2017

Summer 2017 Newsletter


Spring 2017

Spring 2017 Newsletter

Dear Rivendell Families,

“The Wizard of Oz” will be presented on May 11th, 12th, and 13th in the Rivendell Academy Gym. Times of presentation: Thursday, May 11th—6 PM, Friday and Saturday, May 12th and 13th—7 PM. This year we are offering special seating which includes reserving your seat in the first two rows, receiving a special printed ticket and a café chair. General admission will be paid at the door, with doors opening one half hour before show time.

Join us for this beloved tale, in which a Kansas farm girl travels over the rainbow to discover the magical power of home which has been entertaining audiences for generations. Dorothy Gale (Delaney Vogelien) a young girl living on a Kansas farm with her Aunt Em (Thessalie Butler) and Uncle Henry (Caleb Haehnel), dreams of escaping her mundane life (“Over The Rainbow”). The family’s mean neighbor, Miss Gulch (Moria Haehnel), threatens to impound Dorothy’s cherished dog, Toto, so Dorothy and Toto run away. They meet up with kindly Professor Marvel (Max Haehnel), who subtly convinces Dorothy to return home. Suddenly a cyclone hits, as Dorothy and Toto, seek shelter in
the house, they are transported to the Land of Oz. Join us as Dorothy travels the land of Oz with the Scarecrow (Teddy Wilkin), the Tinman (Caleb Day), and the Lion (Izzy Formica) to find the Wizard (Max Haehnel) and battle the Wicked Witch of the West (Moria Haehnel). Playing various other roles are Ariana Baumann, Cora Day, Shannon Fleming, Eadie Molesworth, Elizabeth Noyes, Sarah Parenti, Kelsey Peebles, and Adele Tilden. Featuring the Orford Ballet to include 24 munchkins, poppies, and jitterbugs! These are all students in the elementary grades! Directed by Anna Alden & Carol Sobetzer, set design and tech directed by Cami Buster, costume design by Brook Lewis with assistant Julie Ann Otis.

Tickets include special seating, $17.00/adult, $10.00/student, general admission $12.00/adult, $5.00/student.
For special seating please call Brenda Gray at 603-353-4321 ext 1225. For more information call 802-356-0363.


Winter 2016

Dear Rivendell Families

This fall our professional focus on critical exploration and project-based learning has started to take hold. Both approaches create greater equity and motivation among our students while also increasing rigor. Students in “right answer” classrooms tend to clam up. In contrast, a question about provocative materials like, “What do you notice?” opens the door to participation, collaboration and creative thinking. Students come to see that the ideas generated build upon one another in a way that deepens everyone’s understanding. In a similar way, carefully designed projects engage students with complex problems embedded in real experiences. Both approaches engage students in learning from one another and our larger community in a non-competitive atmosphere.

Project work and community participation this fall—Advisory Open House

We had a great night in October for families to get together for dinner and participate in advisory. We watched the student and staff videos related to our summer reading. It was great to see the students’ work. Families didn’t get to see the fun (and struggles) that students had in working together to create the videos within a tight time-line.


Our 9th grade humanities students began the year with a new approach to exploring the English colonization of New England. Students spent several days puzzling through detailed readings of primary source documents about the Pilgrims’ departure from Plymouth, England and their landing on Cape Cod, as well as descriptions of their settlement in Plymouth, MA. Students then spent a day at Plimouth Plantation and a cold, wet, windy hour on the Mayflower. The students’ detailed knowledge, from the vantage point of the documents they explored, created a powerful experience when they arrived at Plimouth. Students constructed boxes, which explored the larger theme of Encounters, a theme also reflected in diverse materials in English class. The boxes were dis-played at an evening exhibition, where students did a great job discussing their work.

The Silk Road

If you were lucky enough to attend the 7/8th grade Silk Road exhibition, you would have met a friendly camel, traded goods at various markets, tasted camel’s milk, eaten sweet Indian pudding, and met a variety of challenges that might have cost you gold or valuable water or food. The Silk Road project was cleverly designed as a “choose your own adventure” simulation that fully en-gaged “travelers” in an experience on the Silk Road. Like the 9th grade project, students struggled with complex texts, and maps together. Just as the 9th grad-ers’ readings enriched their experience at Plimouth, the 7/ 8th grade projects were influenced by students’ critical explorations of challenging materials in class.


In 9th grade physical science the students were involved in a mini-robotics competition. Design teams built and programmed computers to independently maneuver through a covered maze. Students could watch their robots wind though the maze (or crash) from smart phone cameras attached to the front of each robot. The final challenge for the design teams was to create a lesson plan and a programming task for 4th graders from Sammuel Morey and West-shire. The general consensus by the 9th graders was that the 4th grade students were quick learners.

Our direction

Again, we believe that carefully designed projects provide each student with personally relevant entry points to work that requires rigorous thinking. As teachers, the work challenges us to shift how we think about learning and knowledge, structure instruction, and assess students’ performance. This is not easy work, but we are not entirely on our own. This year’s Rowland Foundation Fellowship supported the development of materials used in the humanities projects. We also have a budding relationship with High Tech High, a group of schools recognized internationally for achieving a high degree of in-novation and equity though projects. This week Kirsten Surprenant, Doc Browne, and Story Graves have completed another Rowland Fellowship appli-cation designed to help us further develop our partnership with High Tech High. http://www.hightechhigh.org

First trimester student performance

Our students’ performance this first Trimester showed a drop in the percent-age of total classes failed, from 9.28% to 8.44%. This 8% threshold has been very hard to break. A significant change was the percentage of students failing one or more classes, 19.29%.

For the past five years at least 21% of our students have failed at least one class. This number was as high as 22.86% in the first trimester of 2012.

Tri1 Percentages:

tri1 percentages

The democratic process of school governance

As principal of Rivendell Academy and Head of Schools, school board meetings are an important venue for me to hear from community members.

Our school board meetings take place on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM. The meetings rotate between the district office conference room in the West Wing (lower building) and Westshire Elementary School. December and January include special budget meetings in preparation of the Annual Re-port and presentation of the budget at the town meeting.

The development of our schools requires increased community participation. These meetings provide community members an opportunity to address con-cerns to the board, hear reports from each principal, and the superintendent. There are usually one or more special presentations to the board by students or community members.

Upcoming dates:
Board meeting 1/3 Westshire
Budget meetings 1/10 Academy, 1/17 Westshire

Keri Gelenian

Fall 2016

Dear Rivendell Families

We have had a fantastic start of the year. Students seem happy, focused and engaged. After four years we now have all high school students on personal laptops and our technology has been working beautifully. Our new staff, Mr. Pilcher in 7/8 social studies, Ms. McConnell in math and Ms. Radney in Spanish are settled in and doing a great job. Our strong start is testimony to the professionalism and excellence of our teachers and staff.

Upcoming Events, which we would appreciate your input, please place on your calendar:

Rivendell Academy Advisory Open House

~Bringing Us Together in Meaningful Conversation~
Thursday, October 6, 2016
6:00pm – 7:45pm
Meet your student’s advisor
Overview of first month of school and future events
View student and teacher video projects
Meet other parents and staff

Sign-up for 3-way conferences

* Please note that 3-way conferences are November 4, 2016 not October 7, 2016
We are encouraging 100% participation at all grade levels. This is a time to come together as a school community. Each advisory is providing a baked good and coffee/tea will be available. Dinner will be provided for all soccer players.

We need Assistance in Creating an Afterschool Arts Program:

We held our first meeting with two parents, and we held an initial brainstorm meeting with parents and students on September 15th. Our second planning meeting is on September 28th from 6 - 7 PM at the academy. Our first initial project is organizing a fundraiser in December. We need your help, if interested please attend this meeting or call Brenda Gray at 353-4321 x1225.

3-Way Conference Change

We are moving the academy 3-way conference to November 4th from 11AM-6PM, families will schedule times at the  Advisory Open House. October 7th is a scheduled day off for students.

Honor Roll Reception

We will not have an honor roll recognition night at the end of the First trimester. We will however hold one recognition night at the end of Tri II recognizing high school students who made honors Tri 1 and Tri 2.

Fall Newsletter

Summer 2016 Principal's Letter

Dear Rivendell Families and Staff,

We are embarking on an exciting year. Our seniors are a small but powerful group, and we look forward to working with them this year.

Welcome Warren, Piermont, and Waits River families-- five Warren students and five Piermont students and one Waits River student will join our 9th grade class. Also, we are excited to meet our new 7th grade students and families! In total, we have twenty-two new students who have joined us.

I hope you read the entire letter, but feel free to read only what interests you. Section 1 introduces new staff. Section 2 describes the four educational initiatives that will continue to drive our work in the district. Section 3 presents small structural changes for the school year at the Academy.
Section 1: New Staff
Paige Radney is taking over for Mary Rizos in Spanish. Paige recently graduated with an MA degree from the University of Vermont. She has a BA in Spanish with a minor in international development, also from UVM. Paige completed her student teaching at Mt. Abraham Union High School. She comes highly recommended from her mentor teacher and university professors.

Doug Pilcher is rejoining us this year. He will be working with our middle school team teaching 7/8 social studies. In 2014-15, Doug served as a student teacher under the mentorship of Ms. Surprenant. Last year Doug taught 7th and 8th grade social studies at Warren. Since 2003, he worked as a program director for the Aloha Foundation. We are thrilled that Doug has returned to RA.

This summer Kate Paxton from the Upper Valley Educators Institute started working at the Academy as a principal intern. She has a doctorate from the Arizona State University in the areas of qualitative research and philosophy. She has been a teacher and worked in a variety of other administrative positions. Kate will be with us for the year on a part-time basis.

Rachel McConnell will be teaching several math courses as a replacement for Mr. Bardos who will spend a portion of his time next year doing work related to his Rowland Fellowship. She will also be teaching some 7th and 8th grade Title I support math classes. Rachel is another returning teacher. Last fall she worked as Doc Brown’s student teacher. Rachel has her BA in physics from Dartmouth and a teaching credential through UVEI. At last year’s robotics competition she demanded that she teach at the Academy. We are very pleased that we could make that happen!

We are currently interviewing for a new 7/8 counselor to replace Ms. McLaren who left this summer to take a position much closer to home.

Dr. Sarah D. Stearns will be working in the district as a school psychologist. She earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Kosair Children's Hospital/Bingham Child Guidance Center in Louisville, KY. Dr. Stearns has been in practice since 2000, first at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, and then at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Psychiatric Associates in Lebanon, NH. Dr. Stearns is skilled at treating disruptive behavior disorders such as ADHD and ODD, and can provide parent behavior management and anger management training in individual, dyadic, or group formats.

Ms. Rizos, although not teaching Spanish, will be working with the district part-time to develop grants and promote the district. She will also be working with the Vermont Folk-Life Council, which could provide us with some great ideas and resources. These connections are important. http://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org

Section 2: Our Work to Support Deep Learning

In last year’s spring newsletter I outlined four areas that will focus our professional work. We are committed to the development of deep, courageous thinkers who have confidence in themselves and know how to operate successfully in our complex world. These four areas work toward those ends.
Under each area I have bulleted information related to our planning in each area.

1) Build on and improve our advisory program including morning meeting
The central purpose of Advisory at RA is to support students in exploring their personal goals and direction in school and in life. It’s a place to build interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. It’s about Rivendell’s three big goals: Character, Community, and Scholarship (See attached advisory mission statement).

  • I sent a letter in July in response to student petitioners who were concerned about the changes of some advisors.
  •  We will be working on making small improvements to our advisory curriculum.
  • We are exploring partners and grant funding to provide more support for deepening our advisory work.
  • We re-established our Student Advisory Council.
  • The summer reading work is largely organized through advisories.
  • Jen Ellis will have time in her day to lead advisory improvements and work with the Student Advisory Council.

2) Deepen our expertise using Critical Exploration as an approach to learning www.criticalexplorers.org

Critical Exploration is an approach to learning that supports students in developing deep insights into their own thinking about concepts and ideas that are central to the subjects we teach. The process of Critical Exploration is inclusive to all learners—all ideas count. Judgments good or bad are left out of the conversation. We expect that ideas will change and develop, as some ideas become fodder for new ideas. The materials are rich, provocative, and complex. Teachers focus on understanding students’ ideas and push for the development of those ideas in unorthodox ways: not evaluating the ideas or leading students to an idea the teacher has in mind, giving students time to wrestle with their confusion instead of giving them the answer, and most importantly, devising on the spot questions that allow the student to think deeper by probing their thinking. This simultaneously gives the teacher more insight into the student’s thinking. Critical Exploration is based on the truth that teaching toward one set of pre-proscribed set of ideas severely limits the contribution of ideas and thoughts of students in a classroom, especially those ideas that go well beyond the “right answer given by fast thinking students.”

  • This year Rivendell principals and ten district teachers will attend three days of work with the Critical Explorers staff at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  • Rachel Sanders and Laszlo Bardos will begin working with teachers at Watertown, MA Middle School and the Critical Explorers staff. We hope other teachers can go to Watertown to work with their staff. Rachel and Laszlo will also begin working with teachers to develop high quality materials for Rivendell classrooms. The Rowland Foundation is supporting this work.
  • The District’s Committee on Learning will continue to support district professional development focused on Critical Exploration.
  • I am in the process of writing a chapter in a book on Critical Exploration. The chapter presents some new insights into the work.
  • We need to decide when and how to be more explicit with students about Critical Exploration, so they develop a deeper awareness of their own learning process.
  • We hope to have the Critical Explorers staff come to Rivendell to help support professional development.

3) Develop projects leading to public exhibitions
Project-based learning was a founding principal of our district. All classes at the Academy utilize project work as part of the curriculum. The scope of projects varies. When Eric Reichert teaches Writer’s Café, the project culminates in a book of meticulously revised student writing. Students this summer produced five videos of interviews with people with visible and invisible differences. Doc Brown’s flashlight project has been a staple of a unit in 9th grade physical science.

There are many important purposes for project work:

  1.  Projects ask students to put knowledge and skills to work in complex ways.
  2. Most people remember and value school activates that required them to make something, perform, or be active in the community.
  3. People learn from working together and learning to work productively with others is a valuable skill.
  4. Projects offer people opportunities to assume different roles.
  5. Audience is important. The reaction of an audience, good or bad, has more meaning than a grade.
  6. Projects ask teachers to assume different roles and relationships with students—one more like mentors and coaches.
  • Last spring Kirsten Surprenant and Story Graves spent two days in San Diego at High Tech High.
  • My friend, Rob Riroden, is the co-founder of the school. He will be coming to Rivendell on September 2nd to work with all district staff. We will watch and discuss an award-winning documentary about High Tech High, Most Likely to Achieve.
    September 2nd is a day off for students, but we want to include students. I will be asking different teachers to provide extra-credit incentives or community service hours for students who attend and participate in the day’s work.
  • We will be looking for funding to further our relationship with High Tech High.
  • Summer Academy students completed five video interview projects. These will be used as part of our summer reading curriculum in the fall for a real audience.
  • Kirsten Surprenant and Story Graves are designing a project for advisories to complete this fall. The projects will culminate in an evening Video Café at the Academy on October 6th from 6:00-7:30 PM. We expect parents and community members to attend this event (All staff are also completing the same project.)
  • 9th grade humanities students will work on a project leading to an exhibition first Trimester. The 7th and 8th graders will also work on project leading to an exhibition the first trimester. Project work will rotate to other teacher partners 2nd and 3rd trimester.


4) Develop our curriculum documents
For over a year the Academy staff has worked to develop a unique curriculum framework. The purpose of the framework is to give all teachers a common structure in which to create public documents that outline every Academy course.

We have worked on this slowly and the process has been difficult. We want our written curriculum to truly reflect our philosophy and educational values. The complexity of our work is testimony to the quality and dedication of our teachers.

  • We believe that Rachel Sanders has solved a nagging problem related to accreditation requirements that demand that we have rubrics to evaluate our “learning expectations.” Our curriculum committee will finalize these changes.
  • We will devote professional development time to writing our curriculum documents.
  • Gordon Christi-Maples has articulated the Academy curriculum work to the elementary teachers. We will add another 5/6th grade teacher to our committee to build continuity between 5th/ 6th and the middle school.

The Rationale for this work
These four professional areas put student learning in the center of what we do. Advisory is an about personal relationships, with specific purposes in mind-- becoming reflective learners able to develop a strong community and individual character. Critical Exploration puts students’ ideas at the center of the learning process. Projects and public exhibitions unify understanding and action with the purpose of having an impact in the world. Curriculum that rests on a framework of truth, choice, systems and change supports complex thinking, relevance, and impact. No amount of testing, standards, textbooks, or lectures compare to the virtues these ideas and practices can bring forth in our students.
How are Advisory, Critical Exploration and Projects and Exhibitions Connected?
There are several ways to answer this question. One way is to identify common educational values common to each area. Each of these areas of our learning culture places a high value on:
- Rich and engaging materials
- Complexity
- Personal effort based on skills that go far beyond traditional “academic” skills
- Academic skills learned in more authentic and personal ways
- Teachers as highly skilled mentors and coaches rather than “authorities” dispensing knowledge
- The multiplicity of good ideas rather than “one” right answer
- Collaboration and learning from peers and adults in the community
- Performances that reflect “real life” skills
- Autonomy and choice
- Respect for others’ skills and ideas
- Different roles and individual skills and abilities
- Revision and practice
- Low-pressure learning situations
- Creativity and imagination
- Fun
- Truth, choice, systems and change as an organizing principle for learning in all areas
We believe these common values can build an even more powerful and inclusive learning environment at Rivendell Academy and in the district.

Do these initiatives work in the larger educational environment that still focuses on test scores and right answers? Our SBAC and science NECAP test scores have ranked us as one of the top Vermont schools for the past 3-years. We do well despite the fact that we do not pander to the standards or the tests.

On August 24th I received our ACT scores. Last year, Academy students beat state averages in every area- college English comp (100%/86%), college algebra (100%/70), college social studies (100%/ 69%), and college bio. (80%/49%). The combined score ranking proficiency in all areas placed us at 80% compared to the state average of 49%. Unlike the SAT, the ACT tends to be taken by only the most serious students. Thus, these scores indicate that Rivendell’s best do better than the best in the rest of the state.

Overall, 83% of our students last year passed all their classes.

Section 3: Small Structural Improvements at the Academy

Study time
We responded to students’ suggestion to provide one longer block of study time, two days a week. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays remain the same as last year. The column on the right in the chart below shows the new schedule for Wednesdays and Fridays.
Monday and Tuesday (no change) 
11:29-11:59 Advisory
11:59-12:20 Lunch
12:20-12:42 Study (with advisor)

Wednesday and Friday
11:29-11:50 Lunch
11:50-12:42 Flex (students must first check in with advisor for attendance before leaving)

The “Office”
We have decided to implement mandatory academic support based on high school students’ Tri 3 grades last year. Responding to another student suggestion, we have created “offices” for these students, complete with their own desks and cubicles. Mr. Galli and Ms. Hall are creating the offices in the room at the top of the stairs in the East Wing and the Workshop room in the West Wing. Students will be required to be in the offices during Study and Flex times. They cannot leave. We will have
teachers in these rooms to assist students. When students are above a 69% in all their classes they can challenge out of mandatory academic support.

Ms. Hall and Mr. Galli will be meeting with every mandatory academic support student each week to check up on their progress and develop strategies for success. Additionally, Ms. Hall is investigating a computer-based program that will help keep students organized.

Better Data and Analysis
Mr. Galli, Ms. Oakes, and Mr. Ackerman are creating a data base for us to track the factors associated with students who fail classes at Rivendell. In the past we identified 3 factors: 1) missing assignments, 2) not taking advantage of opportunities for extra credit or test retakes, and 3) refusing help when it was available and offered. We firmly believe that the reasons for failure often are not related to students’ abilities, but a sense of futility that their effort will make a difference. Our goal is to try to address the sense of futility with more consisted support, strategies, and clearer structure.

New Handbook
Mr. Galli has rewritten the student handbook and Ms. Gray has reformatted the document. We will eventually combine our handbook with our program of studies in e-book format. We will also print a small number of hard copies to help support recruitment efforts.

Ms. Gray is heading up the yearbook, and we are using a new format that will give us greater flexibility in our layout and allow greater flexibility in ordering. The company that we are using is Picaboo in Hanover. Our yearbook chief last year, Megan Landgraf, worked at Picaboo and they might be willing to hire someone from Rivendell again this year. We need 2-5 dedicated students to begin work immediately. This could be a great Upper house project.

Back to School BBQ
We have not set a date for a back to school BBQ. We will make this decision as a staff when everyone returns.

Bus to Hartford Tech
We have made arrangements with Hartford and Thetford to run a bus to Hartford Tech. in the afternoon program. In the past students had to provide their own transportation.

Title I Support in 7/8 Math
Rachel McConnell will provide Title I support to students in math in 7th and 8th grade. The first trimester the support will be in the classroom and during flex time on Wednesday and Friday. Second trimester will schedule students in an extra support class. Every day.

After School Programing
We no longer have an after school Visions program. Students interested in afterschool opportunities should consider sports (including the fencing club) and robotics.

We will be asking for parent support to create an after school art program (Rivendell Arts Alive) and to organize a winter fundraiser to support the program. We have an initial $5,000 donation to begin the work. Our limited resources and faculty will require family leadership for this project. It has enormous potential for our students and school/ community partnerships.

News from Keri Gelenian, Head of Schools/RA Principal

May 2016

Dear Rivendell Families,

Events in May move us in many directions. We say goodbye to our seniors and introduce ourselves to our new seventh graders.

It is a time for reflection on the past year as we also begin planning for future. Here are some highlights.

Student Accomplishments

  • Trillium Cserr, a graduating junior, has been awarded a National Merit Scholarship Nomination as a result of receiving a qualifying score on her PSAT examination. Her score has placed her somewhere in the top 3% of PSAT scores nationwide. Trillium has also been awarded a writing award from the National Council of Teachers of English, thanks to a submission of her work by Eric Reichert.
  • Good luck to our seniors! They have made their plans for next year—work, military, and college. We have 26 seniors moving on to college.
  • Thank you Megan Langraff for taking on the yearbook as your senior project. We look forward to it. Hopefully someone or some people can fill your shoes next year!
  • Ms. Robison’s Women’s Literature class is creating a syllabus for restructuring the health curriculum to include such issues such as reproductive rights; consent; physical, sexual and emotional partner violence; and gender expectations and gender roles. Women’s Lit is also hosting a night of spoken work on May 26th from 6:30-7:30 in the multi.
  • On May 11th we received a phone call from a woman praising Will Ussler, Max Haehnel, and Isaac Martel. The caller and her husband were heading to Thetford Academy for an event featuring one of their grandkids, when they got a flat tire in front of Rivendell. The three boys rushed out of class and changed the tire. They also refused payment for work. The woman said she and her husband would have never made it to Thetford in time if it weren’t for the quick
    help from our students.
  • The front page of the Valley News http://www.vnews.com/A-Tree-Grows-in-Fairlee-Along-with-Student-Knowledge-1880893 showed Rivendell taking advantage of the unique opportunity to plant, nurture and record the growth of chestnut trees developed
    over decades of work by the American Chestnut Foundation http://www.acf.org/index.php. Doc Browne seized this opportunity when Rivendell parent Marcus Bradley secured saplings from the foundation.
  • As a result of years of work by Michael Galli, Nancy Hall and Cindy McLaren, we will have approximately ten tuition students joining our 9th grade class next year. These students will come from Warren, Piermont, and Waits River.
  • Brenda Gray has done the impossible! She secured a driver’s education teacher for a summer New Hampshire class. Rod Hull will be returning to teach the class. It is nearly impossible to find a certified NH drivers education teacher. We would love to have a local person get certified to teach the course! Anyone interested?
  • Nancy Hall and the Leo’s club combined forces with their sponsoring Lion’s Club Chapter to give eye tests to Rivendell stu-dents using a hand-held digital scanning devise.
    Jack Winxxx practicing as xxx Gray looks on.
  • Nancy Hall organized a comprehensive, experienced-based approach to introducing our students to Dual Enrollment and Early College opportunities. At the Norwich campus, CCV faculty gave our 9th and 10th students an overview of their classes. An excellent panel of CCV students, including our own Erin Lapine, gave a great overview of the rewards and challenges of community college.

The Past is Prologue

  • Mary Rizos and Jenny Ellis picked up the work started by former English teacher, Silas St. James in refocusing our advisory program. Mary and Jenny also broke the ice with the Rowland Foundation by submitting a very competitive application last year.
  • Following Jen and Mary’s example, Lazlo Bardos and Rachel Sanders submitted a Rowland Fellow application and received $100,000 to continue our work with Critical Exploration. Critical Exploration is an approach to fostering deep learning by engaging learners with materials that allow learners to naturally develop and further their own ideas. http://www.criticalexplorers.org/about/origins-inspiration/.
  • In two weeks Kirsten Surprenant, Jen Bottom and Story Graves will travel to San Diego to visit a very innovative set of pub lic charter schools known as High Tech High http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2015/03/ most_likely_to_succeed_a_film_about_what_school_could_be.html.
    These schools are unique in their singular focus on projects. As in Critical Exploration, the projects give students owner-ship over their learning. With scaffolding from the teacher, these unique projects develop creativity, a capacity to work in teams, problem solving and confidence. A real problem or question drives the best projects.

Where are we headed?

  • Build on and improve our advisory program including morning meeting.
  • We need to continuously improve our advisory curriculum. To do so we have rearranged some grade level advisors who will stay with their advisory group for two years. This gives advisors an opportunity to focus on two years of curriculum rather than four. The downside is that advisors need to get to know another set of 10-12 students every two years. We have reestablished our student advisory council and given them specific leadership responsibilities.
  • Deepen our expertise using Critical Exploration as an approach to learning. This work will continue to be supported by the district’s Committee on Learning through professional development activities and the work of Lazlo Bardos and Rachel Sanders with the support of their Rowland Foundation funding. We hope to create a deeper relationship with the staff of Critical Explor-ers, a group based in Cambridge, MA.
  • Develop projects leading to public exhibitions.
  • Next fall, at the end of the first trimester, the 7/8 students and the 9th grade humanities students will present a public exhibi-tion. Developing the projects and exhibitions will begin with a problem or question. We will judge our success by the impact that these projects have on the audience when students present their final work.
  • Continue to develop our curriculum documents.
  • RA’s thematic framework for curriculum (Truth, Choice, Systems and Change) and our learning expectations will continue to drive course development at RA. Our goal is to develop critical, pragmatic thinkers. We want Rivendell students to be well versed in considering these questions: What “truths” need to be brought to bear in understanding a significant problem or question? How are choices impacted by those truths? What systems are created or maintained by those choices? What choices impact those systems?

The Rationale

  • These goals put student learning in the center of what we do. Advisory is an about personal relationships, with specific purposes in mind-- becoming reflective learners able to develop a strong community and individual character. Critical Exploration puts students’ ideas at the center of the learning process. Projects and public exhibitions unify understanding and action with the purpose of having an impact in the world. Curriculum that rests on a framework of truth, choice, systems and change supports complex thinking, relevance, and impact. No amount of testing, standards, textbooks, or lectures compare to the virtues these ideas and practices can bring forth in our students.
  • These ideas and practices require patience and practice. We have produced examples of these ideas. We have experimented and reflected on those experiments. We are slowly gaining control based on what we have learned. We are novices. Yet, I am confident that with continued freedom to experiment, we will have a lot more to say and show for our efforts at this time next year.


I wish everyone a safe and happy summer.
Keri Geleian