Stories and updates from around campus

Welcoming New and Returning Faculty to Campus

Few Williston faculty members take the summer off in the true sense. Most delve into professional development at institutions across the country. Lori and Chris Pelliccia are no exceptions.

Lori, who teaches English, this summer completed an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She attended her fifth and final 10-day residency at the school, gave a lecture based on a critical paper she wrote, and held a reading of her creative work. She participated in a 12-session workshop group and attended lectures and readings given by faculty members and other graduating students. Lori began the program in 2012 and completed one semester of writing each school year. 

Her husband, Chris, a science teacher, began a Master of Science in science education through Montana State University. This summer, he completed two classes at Montana State in Bozeman, “Animal Biodiversity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” and “Project Microbe,” and two classes online, “Environmental Chemistry” and “Current Topics in Science Education.” He will continue taking online classes this school year and then will return to Bozeman in the summer of 2017. The graduate program usually takes 2.5 years to complete.

Track coach Martha McCullagh went to the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon where she volunteered and connected with Gabby Thomas ’15 who was participating in the event. 

Williston faculty-Emily McDowell, Sue Michalski, and Andrew Syfu began a master of arts in Teacher Leadership that Williston has developed in a partnership with Mount Holyoke. This is the first summer of this program. See more about the program here.

Kyle Hanford and Jacob Rivers of the English Department participated in a Bard Institute of Writing and Thinking program.

Michael Doubleday in the History Department participated in a Gilder Lehrman Institute program in Texas.

New Faculty Arrive on Campus

As the first day of classes approaches, new faculty members are joining returning teachers on campus, and all are setting up classrooms and preparing lesson plans. We’re excited to welcome the following teachers to our team of skilled and committed faculty:

Tom Beaton (College Counseling and Athletics) joins the Williston faculty from Tufts University where he has been coaching football. He is a Bates graduate with a degree in American studies. Tom will be a college counselor and athletics liaison who will work closely with the post-graduates. He is the head football coach as Williston joins the Erickson League this year, and will also coach basketball and baseball. Tom is already familiar with Williston as his brother Pat was a postgraduate last year.

Steven Berlanga (Visual and Performing Arts) joins Williston as the director of choirs and will teach all the choral music classes and advise the Teller Chorus. He is currently a doctoral student at Indiana University and earned a master’s degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in Music from California State Long Beach. He will coach volleyball and supervise arts intensive.

Katy Briedis (Mathematics) joins the Williston faculty from Cushing Academy where she taught math and was a coach and a dorm parent. As a Cushing graduate she knows independent boarding schools. She will coach lacrosse and work in the athletic performance program. Katy has a B.A. in Mathematics from SUNY Potsdam and an M.B.A. from Averett University.

Rachel Currie-Rubin ’01 (Academic Support Coordinator) returns to her alma mater to run the Academic Support program. Rachel has worked as a teacher, researcher, and education specialist. Most recently she worked for an educational research and development organization as a research scientist and instructional designer. Rachel has a B.S. from Ithaca College in teaching students with speech and language disabilities, a master’s in education in language and literacy from the Harvard School of Education, and a Ed.D. degree from Harvard in human development and education. Rachel will also coach ice hockey at Williston.

Erin Davey (Assistant Dean of Students) returns to Williston after working for a year at Pomfret School as an admission officer. In her role as assistant dean of students, Erin’s responsibilities include the director of student activities, the director of inclusion, and 10th grade class dean. She graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in sociology and has a master’s degree in sports management from Southern New Hampshire University. Erin will coach ice hockey and softball.

Kara DeMichiel (College Counseling) most recently served as a senior assistant director in the office of admission at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.  Her travel territory included the New England region and she coordinated the Student Ambassador program as well as enrollment event planning at St. Lawrence.  A graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, Kara spent her undergraduate years working in the office of admission followed by three more years at RIT on the admissions staff.

Ben Farmer (Admissions) is an admissions officer and will serve as head coach of the boy’s varsity basketball team as well as coaching in the football program. He is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in communications, and recently completed a Master of Education program at the University of Hartford. Before joining Williston, Ben served as an assistant coach at the University of Hartford and Wesleyan University.

Lee Greener ’06 (Director of Financial Aid) is a 2006 graduate of Williston who returns to campus after most recently serving as associate director of admissions at Miss Hall’s School. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina and a M.S. in higher education from Bay Path University. She will work in the afternoon program coaching ultimate frisbee.

Duncan Laird (Director of Psychological Counseling Services) is a clinical social worker who has had a private practice in the Pioneer Valley for more than 20 years. He has been the director of psychological counseling at the Bement School for 16 years and also worked as a psychological and organizational consultant for the Academy at Charlemont. He earned a B.S. in social work from Western Michigan and an M.S.W. from Smith College.

Matt Liebowitz (English) is an experienced English teacher who has taught in several independent schools and who has also worked as a journalist. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English and he earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He will serve as the school’s sports information director, and serve as the faculty advisor to The Willistonian.

Katie Loomis (Language) is headed back to New England after working last year at the Darlington School in Georgia. Katie is an alum of Kingswood-Oxford School and has been on the Williston campus as a competitor in several sports. She graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A in modern languages and literatures, and earned an M.S. in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her year at Darlington, Katie worked at Culver Academy and St. Pauls School. She will teach Spanish and coach cross country, swimming, and track and field.

Elibet Moore (English) knows independent schools well from growing up on the Lawrence Academy campus. She joins the Williston faculty after three years teaching English at Rumsey Hall School. She also has five years of experience working with adolescents at Wolfeboro in the summer boarding school program. Ellie graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in sociology. She will teach English, coach soccer and lacrosse, and serve as a dorm parent at Williston.

Colleen Norgang (Athletic Training) will be the head athletic trainer at Williston after serving in that role for six years at Kents Hill School in Maine. Colleen’s work at Kents Hill also involved teaching and running a dormitory. She earned a B.S. in athletic training from the University of Maine-Orono. Colleen knows independent schools having graduated from KUA.

Rita Plouffe (Language) will be teaching Chinese at Williston after working most recently at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. In addition to teaching Rita will be involved in the afternoon program. She has a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from Asia University in Taiwan and a master’s degree in secondary education in Chinese from Brandeis University.

Matthew Porter (Science) joins the Williston faculty as a teaching intern in psychology and as a three season coach. Matt graduated this spring from Trinity College (CT) with a B.S. in psychology. He is familiar with independent boarding schools having completed a post-graduate year at Choate Rosemary Hall. Matt coaches varsity football, track and field, and athletic performance.

Mia Smith (Mathematics) graduated from Williams College this spring with a B.A. in mathematics. She has been very involved in math communities both at Williams and beyond. She was a member of the Math Student Advisory Board at Williams, and her work also included MathCamps, a summer boarding program for exceptional math scholars around the world. At Williston, Mia will teach math, coach cross country and lacrosse, and serve as a dorm parent.

Welcome, new faculty, and to those returning, welcome back!

New Cross Country Course Approaches Finish Line

XC bridge from above editedThe finish line is in sight on a project more than five years in the making, as Williston’s Physical Plant staff puts the final touches on a new 3.1-mile cross-country running course this summer. Crews with a large crane installed a short span over a small stream in early August, representing the project’s most intense engineering work.

The new route, which will be composed almost entirely of grass and dirt, will replace a mostly-paved course that has been used by Williston cross country runners since 2003, according to Girls Cross Country Coach Greg Tuleja. “Our current course can seem more like a road race than a cross country race, although the runners love it because of the fast times,” he said. The majority of that course passed through property belonging to the City of Easthampton’s Nonotuck Park. This occasionally posed conflicts with events hosted by the city in space the course occupied. Automobile traffic in the park was also a concern.

bridge edited“The new course will be spectator-friendly and great for parents and our vast legion of fans,” Tuleja said, adding that, while the new course will take longer to traverse because of its surface, “it will be more of a pure cross country course than our current one.”

Now that the bridge is in place, work remains to clear the path. The trail has been plotted on a map, and on a recent day, Jeffrey Tannatt, director of Physical Plant, was in the woods with a clipboard and schematics, on what will soon become the course.

On the wooded portion of the path, crews will clear a trail 6-feet to 8-feet wide, then cover any exposed tree roots with 3/4″ crushed stone, followed by wood chips for a level surface, according to Joe Zewinski, grounds manager. On the sides of the bridge, workers will install railings or a bumper to keep runners safe, he added.

Charles McCullagh, Williston’s chief financial officer, said he hopes to have the new course completed as soon as possible, and said he believes it will be ready for the annual Shaler Invitational, a big meet Williston hosts in late October.

“It will be nice for the school be able to say, ‘This is our course,’” said McCullagh. “At least it’s all on our property now.”

The new course will cover trails in woods behind Galbraith Fields, and on fields around the school’s 8-lane track, tennis courts, and soccer fields.

“When it’s done it’s going to be one of the nicer courses that students will see in the course of a season,” McCullagh added.

The new course is one of a number of athletic facility improvements the school included in its campus master plan, which is being updated. Other projects in the updated plan include expanding the weight room in the school’s Athletic Center and making renovations to Lossone Rink and Galbraith Fields.

Communications Intern Nate Gordon ’16 contributed to this story.

Convocation Speaker Beverly Tatum Examines Race and Higher Education

Tatum 1200px
Submitted photo

Williston Northampton School is proud to welcome Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum—a researcher and author on race relations and a leader in higher education—to campus this fall for the school’s Convocation. Tatum, a former Williston trustee and a parent of members of the classes of 2000 and 2004, will address the school community during an event on the Quadrangle on the evening of September 16. Class dinners follow the event.

A 2013 recipient of the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award, Tatum served as president of Spelman College from 2002 to 2015. Her tenure as president was marked by a period of great innovation and growth. Overall, scholarship support for Spelman students tripled during her tenure, and opportunities for faculty research and development expanded significantly. In 2008, the school established the Gordon-Zeto Fund for International Initiatives with a gift of $17 million, creating more opportunities for faculty and student travel and increased funding for international students.

Alumnae support of the annual fund also tripled, reaching a record high of 41 percent. Campus improvements included the award-winning renovation of four historic buildings and the 2008 completion of a new “green” residence hall, increasing on-campus housing capacity by more than 25 percent and establishing the campus commitment to environmental sustainability for the 21st century.

These improvements served as the foundation for Strengthening the Core: The Strategic Plan for 2015, which focused on global engagement, expanded opportunities for undergraduate research and internships, alumnae-student connections, leadership development and service learning linked to an increasingly interdisciplinary curriculum.

Tatum is widely recognized as an authority on race relations and race’s intersection with education. Her areas of research include racial identity development, and the role of race in the classroom. She is the author of Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation (2007) and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race (1997) as well as Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community (1987). In 2005 Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field.  A fellow of the American Psychological Association, she was the 2014 recipient of the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.

She holds a BA in psychology from Wesleyan University, and an MA and PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as an MA in religious studies from Hartford Seminary. Over the course of her career, she has served as a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Westfield State University; and Mount Holyoke College. Prior to her appointment at Spelman, she served as dean and acting president at Mount Holyoke College. Tatum is married to Dr. Travis Tatum, professor emeritus of education; they are the parents of two adult sons.


Williston Plans to Generate 40% of its Power with New Solar Array

The Williston Northampton School has announced plans to build a 650-kilowatt solar array in Easthampton. A major milestone in our ongoing sustainability initiative, the array is expected to generate between 750 to 850 kWh of electricity per year. Between the new array and our existing rooftop panel system, we expect to draw 40 percent of our electricity from the sun.

Williston hired Pennsylvania-based Dynamic Energy to build the array on a 5.1-acre piece of property on Park Street, just south of the athletic fields. We hope to begin construction on the project this fall, pending the completion of all final approvals, and have already removed a collapsed barn in preparation for the work.

A planned solar array on this parcel would lower campus reliance on fossil fuels.

In addition to lowering campus energy costs, the array can be incorporated into our curriculum through an on-site classroom and direct-data feeds that math and science classes can use. We plan to make these resources available to students and faculty of nearby White Brook Middle School, as well as other Easthampton public schools.

Chief Financial Officer Charles McCullagh noted that the school’s adoption of alternative energy mirrors a national trend. More than 3,700 K-12 schools in the United States currently have solar systems, benefiting 2.7 million students nationwide.

Other recent green initiatives at Williston include solar panel installations on the Athletic Center and Lossone Rink, new computerized energy-management systems for some of the school’s buildings, and the installation of 29 hydration stations around campus, where students can refill reusable water bottles.

Williston officials first presented the plan to Easthampton Mayor Karen Cadieux, City Planner Jessica Allan, and Superintendent of Schools Nancy Follansbee last fall, and have continued to meet with the city’s Conservation Committee and Planning Board to discuss details of the project.

“This solar array is the result of a lot of careful planning,” notes McCullagh. “We are excited that it will allow us to offset electricity costs and create a new educational resource for use at Williston and Easthampton’s educational community.”

Williston Partners with Mount Holyoke College on New Master’s Degree Program

Beginning this summer, educators wishing to develop an expertise in independent schools can do so through a master’s degree program specifically designed with the unique environment of the private school in mind. Williston Northampton School worked with Mount Holyoke College in developing a Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership, with a Concentration in Independent Schools.

Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh
College Counselor Emily McDowell, right, discusses options with a student.

The new two-year program builds on the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership program that Mount Holyoke launched in May 2015, and similarly allows teachers to pursue their degree while still working as full-time educators. (In a nod to the athletic schedules of private schools, for example, no classes are scheduled for Wednesday afternoons.) The courses, which draw on the expertise of Mount Holyoke’s teacher-leaders-in-residence, as well as professionals from the Williston campus, will be available both in person and online, using video conferencing, with several classes offered during the summer, and a lighter load during the school year.

The first group of candidates includes three Williston faculty members—Emily McDowell, Sue Michalski, and Andrew Syfu—who were selected through an application process this spring, as well as two educators from The Ethel Walker School, in Simsbury, Conn. Williston is covering the cost of tuition for its faculty.

“Mount Holyoke has a great reputation and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with them,” said Williston Director of Curriculum Kim Evelti, who has been spearheading the initiative and is teaching the course “Independent School Topics.” Evelti, assisted by other Williston administrators and staff, will examine issues and challenges specific to private schools, such as the admissions process, alumni relations, advancement, and the social dynamics of students’ living away from home.

The degree program also requires a capstone project, in which candidates pursue independent research under the guidance of a teacher-leader coach. Evelti said that Williston teachers may involve the school in these projects, which can focus on topics both inside and outside the classroom.

“Teacher excellence has always been a priority at Williston,” said Head of School Robert W. Hill III. “This innovative program gives our faculty the opportunity to further their professional development in a format tailored to their needs and schedules.”

“This is a program I wish I had,” said Mount Holyoke’s Megan Allen, the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year who now directs the college’s Programs in Teacher Leadership. “Many of us who are working in education leadership have learned on the job, in the moment,” she added. “Mount Holyoke’s teacher leadership program wants to change the narrative.”

Stories and updates from around campus