Principal, vice principal bring new ideas
BY KATHERINE LAZARUS
BRANDON ––Neshobe Elementary has both a new principal, Vicky Wells, and a new vice principal, Daniel Raabe, ringing in the new school year.
Wells, 57, took the position on July 5 because, she said, “I love the community. My son went to school here for several years, and I felt drawn to being here.”
The new principal had been Director of Student Services at Addison Central School District for 17 years and has also been a classroom teacher and a paraeducator. “I realized during COVID how much I missed being in school. My experience culminates in this job,” she said.
A native of Massachusetts, but a Vermonter for the past 33 years, Wells graduated from Castleton University in 1986 with her bachelor’s in elementary education, minoring in special education and early childhood education, then moved to Brandon two years after when she got married to her husband Bob, 59. They have two children: Lindsay, 24, and Jon, 29.
Wells pursued her studies in education, getting a master’s in educational leadership from University of Vermont in 2003 and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies in 2007, also from UVM.
Wells said she was looking forward to the school year, especially after students had to do remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic. “It was such a difficult year, so I am excited about the ability to bring students back and have an opportunity to watch them thrive.”
The new principal will supervise over 410 students grades preK-6 and about 75 staff across the three buildings at Neshobe Elementary, all from the standing desk in her office. “I think better on my feet,” she said about the setup.
“My hope is giving the feeling that the kids feel truly cared for, respected, welcomed and are safe, especially after such a difficult year last year… My goal is to be here, to land, to see what works and go through the process of looking at what doesn’t work and make it better… There is forward movement to make that will come over the course of the year or a few years,” Wells said, referencing the Neshobe Elementary initiatives “Neshobe Cares” and “Neshobe Kindness.”
“For years, Neshobe has focused on caring for one another and a few years ago there was a promotion around kindness and thinking how we can weave that principle throughout the day for adults and students. It’s important to have kids be comfortable being who they are,” she added.
When the educator is not on her feet at Neshobe, she rides her pontoon boat with her family on Lake Bomoseen, though she plans to take it closer to where she lives in Brandon next summer. “That is my favorite way to spend a sunny weekend day and just relax,” she said.
Wells is currently planning the first school event — an open house on Sept. 23 that may be virtual or may be in person, she said. With the Delta variant on the rise, those details are still to be determined.
Neshobe’s new Vice Principal Daniel ‘Dan’ Raabe, 53, will accompany Wells to usher in the 2021-2022 school year. He came onboard July 12 with a bachelor’s in economics from Colgate University in 1990 and a master’s in education from Edgewood College in 2011. Raabe was a teacher for 18 years, then worked as manager of youth and education at USA Ultimate, a frisbee association, for four years and most recently returned to teaching as a long-term substitute at Middlebury Union High School for the 2019-2021 school years.
Also, this summer, he ran an ultimate frisbee camp this summer through Middlebury Parks and Recreation for kids in middle school and will probably find a way to throw a frisbee with a group of kids at Neshobe, he said.
“This is a different form of administration, so I am excited about the newness and challenge of it and working with the teachers. I researched this job before taking it and this school has a great reputation. It seems stable, there isn’t a lot of turnover and the fact that teachers stay speaks well of the school. It has a great culture that I’m excited to be a part of. Also, I knew of Vicky and she had a great reputation, so I’m excited to work with her,” Raabe said.
Of her new colleague, Wells commented, “He always has dug into the work and has been so great in supporting the work we need to do together to get moving forward.”
Raabe will focus on the discipline, transportation, food service, and some of the other pieces not always noticed, the principal said.
Unlike Wells, Raabe is relatively new to the area, having moved to Vermont two years ago because his wife, Heather, 53, with whom he has a daughter, Flannery, 24, took a position as Principal at Cornwall Elementary School. “We have a ton of family here and jumped at the opportunity,” Raabe said.
Looking ahead to the school year, Raabe said he will be asking the questions: “Are [the students] enjoying their education? Are they excited to be in the building?”
“You want to see kids who love their school,” he said. “With kids, it’s super important to build them up, help their self-confidence and don’t see a mistake as bad. I want to find solutions to problems; if (mistakes) aren’t negative, then it’s reframed as an opportunity to succeed.”
“I’m excited to start the heart of the job,” he added, “and with all their energy, the kids will make it fun. Working with kids, you get that instant gratification of smiles and silliness.”