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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Welcome to RES, John Hansen!

It’s a busy world we live in. I’m busy. You’re busy. John Hansen, the new principal at Reading Elementary School, is busy, and that might be a bit of an understatement. He’s been on the job since the beginning of the year, and since he is part-time here and at Prosper Valley, he shuttles between two locations (the other being Woodstock Elementary School given the fact that Prosper Valley is closed due to the mold issue).

The telephone, a now ancient piece of modern technology, is a huge help for busy people. Instead of trying to coordinate a meeting place for John and me, we spoke over the phone. In twenty minutes, I had plenty of information to write about him and welcome him to our wonderful little town. I’ve employed the phone to do interviews with Gerry Marletta to welcome him and his family to Reading. On that occasion, the phone saved me from traveling to Felchville in the middle of a snowstorm. I spoke with Linda Hitchcock on the phone so I could welcome her and her husband to Reading through my column. Then, the phone saved me time. That was a godsend because November was a busy work month for me.

The phone played the same role for John and me. However, I know what I missed by not going face-to-face with him: seeing his sincerity and passion firsthand.

It’s too bad not everyone is as well-qualified to hold the position of molding our children’s future as John Hansen. Being the principal of a small school is nothing new to him. For 15 years, he held that job in Sandwich, New Hampshire. The school population was anywhere from 60 to 105 children during his time there. In October of last year, he took over at Prosper Valley and its 90 kids. In January, he took on Reading’s school.

“A small school is like a big family,” John says of one of Reading Elementary School’s greatest strengths. "It's not just a bunch of students." He likes the fact that in a small school, the students not only know their teacher but also know every teacher. John is also aware, of course, of the financial issues that come with small schools; however, he sees the value to learning and the growth of the children enrolled of the sense of familiarity inherent in a small school.

At both Prosper Valley and now at Reading, John instituted a period of observation to get a feel for the how the school operates. He’s content right now with taking it all in. “I like to watch for a while before throwing out any new ideas,” John says.

One change he did implement at Prosper Valley was more outdoor time for the children than they had. “There’s a lot of learning that can happen away from a desk,” he says. One of the things about Reading ‘s school that John was surprised to learn is it has an outdoor classroom. I can imagine he is thinking of ways to use that unique learning environment.

Welcome to Reading, John! I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, but in the meantime, I wish you good luck!

Thanks to all who braved the cold last Saturday to attend the Still Hill concert, the first in the Reading Recreation Commission’s series of benefit concerts. And thanks, of course, to Still Hill for their music. They played two sets of great music (including several Beatles songs, which made me very happy). All told, they helped the Reading Recreation Commission raise over $650 that will be divided evenly between The Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, the Reading Green Spaces Committee, the Reading PTO, and Upper Valley WISE. We also collected two brimming boxes of food that are being donated to the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf.

One thing struck me about the night. I was talking to Rob, who is the guitarist in the band, and he told me they loved the acoustics in the hall. Reading Town Hall was built in 1912. As you may know, such halls were the hubs of community gatherings way back when. The curtains on the stage tell of the auditorium’s use for plays and similar productions. Jim and Sue Mulder showed me a cash book, an out-of-state antique-sale find, for the hall that documents the weekly receipts for movie screenings through several years in the 1920s. It’s nice to think that with the series of concerts, the hall will be reclaiming some of its entertainment-venue past.

If you feel like you missed out on a fun night (hint: you did), don’t fret. The next concert in the series happens on February 9 at 7pm at Robinson Hall (aka the upstairs of Town Hall). The performer will be singer/songwriter Dave Richardson. I’ll have more information about him closer to the concert date.

One more thank you goes to Bob Allen, who performed nothing short of a miracle. The hall, even on a five-degree night, was quite toasty, thanks to Bob’s careful curation of the coals in the furnace.

Esther and I were riffing on ideas of how I should title my column. “Hot Time at Town Hall” and “Cool Music, Warm Hall” were two that we came up with. When it comes to headlines, I tend to run to more descriptive less poetic lines. However, if allowed myself some license and the paper allowed me a long title, it would read “A Small Town Shares Its Big Heart With Lots of Music and Lots of Help to Local Organizations.”

Happy birthday Danni Margaret Jenee (January 18), Samantha Donald (January 19), and Eric Joyal (January 20)

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on January 17, 2019.

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