New faces join the Williston School District (Sept. 4, 2008)

Sept. 4, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

As the 2008-2009 school year kicks off, students and parents may notice several new faces roaming the halls of Williston Central School. Several new staff members have taken jobs with the school district, including lower house teacher Anthony Poppolli and upper house teacher Jason Lamb. The district also hired Scott Wagner over the summer as the new food service director.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Anthony Poppolli starts this year as the new first and second grade teacher for Pinnacle House.  

Anthony Poppolli

Poppolli starts this year as the new first and second grade teacher for Pinnacle House, which used to be Journey House before it changed its name. Poppolli, a native of Massachusetts, taught elementary school in Chelsea before taking the position in Williston. He accepted the position in June.

Poppolli received his teaching degree from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and is currently working towards his master’s in education leadership at the University of Vermont. His wife teaches kindergarten in Barnet.

Poppolli said he loves to teach first and second graders and the foundations of future learning are built first in the earliest grades. He said he couldn’t imagine teaching any other age group.

“They’re like sponges, they soak it all up,” Poppolli said of his students. “You can really have fun with them.”

Poppolli said he likes to teach his students the importance of self-esteem and community and thinks Williston is the perfect school for that. He said he likes the teachers he works with and thinks the high standards of Williston will “force” him to become a better teacher.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Jason Lamb, a new teacher for Swift House, is taking over for Gary Howard, who retired in June.  

Poppolli said he also hopes to add energy, creativity and “a little weirdness” to the school and to Pinnacle.

“This school is absolutely incredible,” Poppolli said. “I’m really lucky to be just part of it. It’s such a positive school.”

Jason Lamb

Lamb, a new teacher for Swift House, is taking over for Gary Howard, a language arts and social studies teacher who retired in June. Lamb is picking up where Howard left off, teaching the subjects to seventh and eighth graders, as well as fifth grade math. Lamb accepted the position in July.

Lamb is new to the multi-age system of the Williston schools, but he likes the setup.

“It creates a nice dynamic,” Lamb said. “It’s nice to have all four grades learning together.”

Lamb also said he likes the opportunities the four-year groupings allow for student and teacher bonding. He also likes the camaraderie he sees at the school and within the houses.

“There’s a real sense of community with the staff, teachers and students,” Lamb said. “That’s one of my first impressions.”

Before moving to Vermont, Lamb taught for four years at the Nottingham School in Nottingham, N.H., where classes were not split up into houses and there was no multi-age system. Before that, he taught one year in Washington state after getting his master’s of education at Western Washington University. An avid outdoorsman, Lamb said he’s happy to be moving to the Green Mountains. Lamb grew up in Massachusetts.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Scott Wagner, the new food service director, took over the job this summer.  

Lamb said he’s always liked teaching middle school students. He said the students’ energy levels and liveliness make for a dynamic learning environment.

“They still get really excited about learning at this age, especially if you know how to motivate them,” Lamb said.

Scott Wagner

Wagner, the new food service director, took over the job this summer. Prior to Wagner’s arrival, Leo LaForce, the food service director for Champlain Valley Union High School, managed Williston’s program after long-time director Lydia King resigned in February.

Wagner was the food service director for Northfield School District and has 16 years experience in the food service industry. He is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute.

Wagner said the staff has been “incredible” in acclimating him to the Williston schools. He said he’s instituted new changes in the food program and looks to make more as the year progresses.

“We’ve had a pretty basic start,” Wagner said. “As we get our feet wet, we can expand our offerings even more.”

Currently, Wagner and his staff have created four different stations: a deli with made-to-order sandwiches, a hot sandwich bar, a main meal line and a make-your-own salad bar. The four stations have been split into two lines and so far, Wagner said, everything has run smoothly.

Both Allen Brook and Williston Central schools added five minutes to each student lunch in an effort to give children more time to eat.

Wagner is also looking at ways to tie the program in with local farms and food sellers. He said he’s been in contact with several local groups that are looking forward to providing quality and healthy foods. He said he’s already received the first delivery of vegetables from Williston Central School’s garden — fennel, tomatoes and garlic.

In recent years, Williston’s food program has run high deficits, much of it attributed to low student participation. Wagner said he wants to see participation increase, and cited better food and more choices as some keys to success. Also, he plans to “keep things simple” and control costs.

He said the program recently purchased new, reusable trays instead of the standard trays that can be thrown out. Wagner added that in order to decrease the deficit, he would have to look to the future in order to save money down the stretch.

“We have to think of this as long term,” Wagner said. “It’s been in emergency mode here for the past couple years.”

Wagner said he also plans to revamp the breakfast program, stating some houses are planning to come down mid-morning to allow students to get a snack or late breakfast. He’s also added hot breakfast options every day.

Overall, Wagner is optimistic he can create the best possible food service program and reduce the high costs.

“Right now is the time to make a big improvement on what’s been done in the past,” Wagner said.