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Changes await pupils at MUHS, MUMS

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury-area middle- and high-school students will return to classes on Wednesday to find some new teachers and new campus improvements.
Middlebury Union Middle School Interim Principal Patrick Reen anticipates an incoming 2012-2013 class of 311 students for grades 7 and 8. That’s the most enrollees at the school since 2007-2008, he noted, and the largest seventh-grade class since 2002-2003.
Helping to greet those incoming students will be several new hires, including Jennefer Eaton, the dean of students/director of athletics and activities; P.E. teacher Justin Martelle; special educator James Robinette; English teacher Elise McCormick; paraprofessional Kate Epperson; and technology specialist Nathan Sloma.
Hiring wasn’t the only activity accomplished by school administrators during recent months.
“This was a pretty busy summer as far as building projects are concerned,” Reen noted.
Specifically, roofers last week were putting the final touches on the new MUMS roof. Voters overwhelmingly approved the roof replacement project last March at a cost of around $1 million. Part of this project included adding a considerable amount of insulation, which Reen is confident will help reduce heating bills this winter. 
Workers recently sanded the MUMS gym floor to bare wood and brought it  back to like-new condition, complete with a new paint scheme, according to Reen.
Field drainage work on campus is finally complete and has stood the test of some recent downpours. Additional lighting in the parking area is complete, creating a safer environment for evening functions. Additional signage to Deerfield Lane will help reduce the speed of cars traveling on that short stretch of road, noted Reen.
School staff will have at their disposal a new phone system that was installed and activated on Aug. 21. It is a system that includes a combined total of around 400 telephones used at Middlebury Union High School, MUMS, Mary Hogan Elementary, the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) and the Addison Central Supervisory Union administrative offices.
MUHS ACCREDITATION
Meanwhile, MUHS has welcomed one new teacher and will showcase a plethora of campus upgrades to an incoming class of around 630 students. That’s 17 less than last year, noted Principal William Lawson.
Physical education Teacher Dana Poulsen joins the staff that will, with the students, enjoy the fruits of summer labors that have produced (aside from the aforementioned phone system):
•  A new sidewalk at the maintenance building to improve safety.
•  New scoreboards in the gym.
•  A new press box at the Doc Collins field donated by the Friends of Middlebury Football.
•  A new student entrance door by the choir room.
MUHS officials will be getting the school in top order for an Oct. 28-31 visit by a 16-member accreditation team representing the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). It is a process that MUHS went through a decade ago, according to Lawson. Accreditation of public secondary schools by NEASC indicates the school has conducted a self-evaluation of all of its programs and  has hosted a visiting committee to evaluate the institution in terms of its own stated educational goals and the seven standards for accreditation of the Commission on Public Secondary Schools, according to the NEASC website.
“They will spend long hours in the school during the day and night, visit the classrooms and review our self-study,” Lawson said of the accreditation team. “They will either corroborate our report, or if they see something else, add that.”
Accreditation from NEASC becomes particularly important as graduating seniors apply to colleges.
“The colleges want to know with a degree of confidence that the high school is accredited and meets certain standards,” Lawson said.
At the same time NEASC looks at the school, MUHS will  deal with its recent placement on the federal Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) list for the first time. The AYP list is related to the No Child Left Behind law, which requires that each school set a establish “a timeline for adequate yearly progress.” Lawson said MUHS joined the AYP list (earlier this month state officials announced that 215 Vermont schools did not make adequate yearly progress and 80 did) solely due to 2011 New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores not meeting the state’s annual measurable objective threshold, primarily in math. This means the Vermont Department of Education will assign MUHS a coach to “lead us through self-assessment tools, identify priorities we need to work on and put us in a school improvement plan,” Lawson said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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