Roll call of new teachers grows in Williston

‘Aging population’ leads to new faces at Allen Brook, Williston Central schools

Sept. 8, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

New faces at Williston’s public schools include (clockwise): Debbie Donnelly, a WCS Swift House teacher; Victoria Francis, an early education initiative preschool teacher at Allen Brook; Karla Kennedy, who joins the WCS music department; Chris Rose, a Williston Central Full House math teacher. (Photos courtesy of the Chittenden South Supervisory Union)

More new teachers than usual are writing their names on the whiteboards at Williston public schools this fall, a trend that district principal Walter Nardelli credits to an aging population of educators.

Ten new education professionals have come on board within the district, four at Allen Brook School and six at Williston Central. Several of the fresh faces are in place due to retirement, as teachers like Gail Lyall at ABS and Susan Mahony at WCS chose to heed the final bell on their careers in education.

“When you hear about our ‘aging population,’ it’s true; there are a lot of veteran teachers out there, at the age when they could retire,” Nardelli said. “It comes down to picking the right year to do it; for a number of these people, it is just their time.”

Michael Moss replaces Lyall as a reading recovery teacher at ABS. Moss was previously a leader and trainer in the school’s reading recovery consortium, which provides training and professional development for all reading recovery teachers within the Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

Another teacher at ABS, Margaret Munt, is taking medical leave and will be replaced by Justine Benoit. A longtime paraeducator in the Williston schools, Benoit is expected to hold down the position until Munt’s expected return in January.

A grant written by Carter Smith will fund the position of early education initiative preschool teacher being filled by Victoria Francis. A speech and language paraeducator, Francis is currently working on obtaining her PK-3 educator’s license through the peer review process.

The class will focus on early learning opportunities for children at risk and some peers; Nardelli said such programs’ inclusion criteria are predominantly based on physician recommendations.

Aili Beeli rounds out the new faces at ABS, replacing Beth Sumner as guidance counselor. Beeli will split her workweek between Williston and South Burlington, where she also holds a position at the Orchard School.

Mahony’s replacement at WCS will come from within Swift House, as teacher assistant Debbie Donnelly will be stepping up into the vacated teacher’s position. Donnelly — who holds a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Saint Lawrence University — has also volunteered with the CY Mentoring Program, been a substitute teacher and fulfilled other responsibilities at the school.

Nardelli said that internally filling a position often proves advantageous for both the school and the individual, given the right situation.

“Of course we’re always looking for the best candidate, but it helps when it’s someone we know well,” Nardelli said. “With someone who has held a different position, we have better insight into them as a candidate. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it can work out really well.”

More lateral movement at WCS sees Chris Rose taking over as math teacher in Full House, replacing Kathy Rossier — who is shifting gears to become a middle-level math intervention teacher. Rose worked as a University of Vermont graduate intern under Rossier and Al Fletcher last year, part of a career change after 15 years in the local business community.

Rick McCraw takes leave after being hired as an administrator at U-32 in East Montpelier, paving the way for Justin Wills to join Swift House at WCS. Wills is a familiar face in Swift, as he served as an intern there while completing his master’s in teaching at UVM four years ago. He has spent the last two years teaching sixth grade at Swanton Elementary School.

Mathemetics will be the primary teaching responsibility for Colleen O’Brien, who joins Voyager House at WCS. O’Brien brings a decade of teaching experience to the position, most recently at the fifth and sixth-grade levels in Milton. She holds a master’s degree from Lesley College, and is continuing her graduate studies in Leadership in Science Education at Johnson State.

The music department at WCS will feature two new teachers, Karla Kennedy and Christina Kelsh. Winooski resident Kennedy “brings a wealth of background in music and theater to our program,” in the words of Nardelli, while Kelsh — who will teach at WCS on the short end of an 80-20 split with Westford Elementary — will help move music in Williston in a more modern direction.

“(Kelsh) has a lot of electronic music experience, such as composing with keyboards,” Nardelli said. “She is going to add a new dimension to our music program.”

Nardelli said the district’s vacancies drew a sizeable pool of applicants, with upward of 300 people applying for each of the classroom positions. One member of the School Board was given authority to offer positions and supervise the signing of contracts during the summer, and Nardelli said the Board will be presented with a “final roll-out” of all newly-hired teachers and administrators at its meeting on Sept. 14.





Nicole Gorman


Education: Currently working on Master of Education, University of Vermont, from September 2008 to present; Master of Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, May 2000; Bachelor of Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, May 1991.


Kathleen Kono


Education: Master of Music, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, August 1997-May 2000; Bachelor of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., August 1992-May 1995.


Kristin Lora


Education: UVM & Community College of Vermont, January 2005-June 2008; Bachelor of Arts, Vermont College of Norwich University, Montpelier, June 2002.


Annie Rosenthal

World Language

Education: Master of Arts in Psychology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., January 2004-May 2006; Master of Education, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, N.J., June 2002-May 2004; Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages, Universidad Metropolitana, Caracas, Venezuela.

Source: Champlain Valley Union High School