School Notes: Marion Cross School’s Bill Hammond Earns National Recognition

  • Bill Hammond, middle, gets a congratulatory handshake on April 11, 2012, from Norwich school board chair Neil Odell after signing his contract as the new principal of the Marion Cross School in Norwich, Vt. Superintendent Frank Bass is at left. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, April 17, 2017

To this day, many of the Hanover High students to whom Bill Hammond taught math and then English, and whom he directed in the drama program for more than two decades call him Mr. Bill.

Since Hammond started herding pupils in kindergarten through grade 6 in and around Norwich’s Marion Cross in 2012, his teachers and Dresden School District Superintendent Frank Bass have been calling him The Ringmaster.

In August, the National Association of Elementary School Principals will declare him its National Distinguished Principal for 2017-2018.

“What’s funny is that for the longest time I wasn’t interested in moving up to administration,” the 55-year-old Hammond said last week. “I saw the kinds of things that principals had to contend with and wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on. And I really loved teaching where I was.”

He started thinking differently after the principal position at Hanover’s Ray Elementary School opened up in 2010. After he didn’t get that job, Hammond spent 2011-2012 pursuing principal certification from the Upper Valley Educators Institute (UVEI), and collected it right around the time Hanover High and Marion Cross School were shopping for principals.

After the Dresden School District hired Justin Campbell to run the high school, Bass encouraged Hammond to shoot for the Marion Cross position.

“He was an icon with the people in that (high school) building,” Bass recalled last week. “He didn’t need to go anywhere. … But I thought he could bring something different to the table (at Marion Cross).”

Among the differences that Bass noticed were Hammond’s instincts to look at a bigger picture — beyond the tendency to focus on test scores, on one-size-fits-all disciplinary issues and on tracking of students toward particular subjects.

“I was really interested in researching how the brain works, and working with teachers on dealing with child development and areas of growth,” Hammond recalled. “When I got started there was still a lot of labeling of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ kids. I always thought that we have a great deal of both responsibility and power to help kids develop their behavior, to not think of themselves as troublesome. … We also understand mental health a lot better than we used to. If you’ve got someone with diabetes, you’d figure out what they need to live a more comfortable life.”

Hammond added that his own teaching evolution from math through English led him to “think about education as being about learning in general, not so much learning individual subjects. It’s about learning how the world works, how you work in the world, helping kids explore what kind of contribution they want to make.”

The way Hammond applied that philosophy over his first five years at Marion Cross impressed Bass beyond his initial expectations.

“Kids see things in multiple perspectives, from multiple angles, like a symphony,” the superintendent said. “Bill understands that, and he has an uncanny ability to pull all that together.”

In hopes of earning Hammond the Vermont Principal Association’s elementary school Principal of the Year award, Bass pulled together endorsement letters from former teaching colleagues, the parent of a student, school board members, other administrators, alumni, a police chief and a current student.

“When I first heard that someone else (Moretown Elementary’s Duane Pierson) was named principal of the year, I was at first very deflated,” Bass said. “Then they said (Hammond had) been given the national award, which ended up being an even better fit.”

For Hammond, the recognition from his peers is the latest in a string of good fortune, as well as incentive to remain in education into his 60s.

“I’ve been lucky very often in my career,” he said. “It’s still a lot of fun.

“I only want to do it for as long as I feel useful.”

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Cells

Another spring, another flood of STEM-related achievements by Vincent Moeykens and fellow students from Windsor Schools.

For the third year in a row, Moeykens, now a junior, will represent Windsor high school and Vermont at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles next month. There, he and two students from South Burlington High School will compete for shares of more than $4 million in prizes and scholarships.

Moeykens, who also recently co-captained Windsor’s 3-D modeling team to a second-place finish at the Vermont championships, earned the ISEF trip for the project he presented at the recent Vermont STEM Fair at Norwich University in Northfield. His presentation, using machine-learning algorithms and methods to analyze and predict stock prices, also made him eligible for one of Norwich’s Next Generation Scholarships, along with fellow Windsor students Lucia Blanchard, Jacob Curtis and Brianna Diggs.

All four Windsor students also were invited to enter the Regeneron Science Talent Search. On March 24 at the Vermont 3D competition, the Windsor high school team of Moeykens, Diggs, sophomores Serene Martens and Alexander Townsend, and eighth-graders Michelle Townsend and Maurice Day had placed second with a model of the Asher Benjamin-designed Cox House in Windsor.

Moeykens’ other achievements at the Vermont STEM fair included a $200 prize for entering the top project in computer science, and a certificate and a $75 gift card from the U.S. Navy and Marines for presenting one of the top three projects in any category.

Meanwhile, Windsor middle-schoolers Travis McAllister and Jack McGrath qualified to compete for a trip to Washington, D.C., in October for the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) contest. The duo’s project also earned them a silver medal for ranking among the top 30 in all age groups at the state STEM fair, as well as $100 each for the top project by a team of students in grades 5 through 8.

Also earning a medal at the Vermont STEM fair was Woodstock Union High School’s Morgan Biele, who struck gold for a project that placed among the top nine in all age groups. In addition, Biele qualified for a Next Generation Scholarship from Castleton State University, for presenting the first place project by a high school sophomore or junior corresponding to a major in that college’s natural-sciences department.

The Weathersfield School’s Brandon Hennessey won a medal from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for presenting one of the top three projects by a student in grades 5 to 8, as well as a silver medal for placing his project among the top 30 in all age groups. And the state chapter of the Sigma Xi honor society awarded $100 to Claire Coates of Woodstock Union High School for presenting one of the top two projects demonstrating good research techniques.

By finishing 13th out of 194 teams at the New England district championships of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition, the Grasshoppers team of students from around the Upper Valley earned a trip to the FIRST Robotics world championships in St. Louis in late April.

From the two dozen members of the Grasshoppers, competitors on the drive team that made the grade for the world competition were Mascoma Valley Regional High School students Ray Gonzalez, Emma Grodan and Zoe Grodan, Hartford High senior Spencer Rugg and home-schooler Jason Armstrong. Their coaches are James Cole-Henry and Andrew Alvarenga.

Mascoma Valley Regional High School students Kylie Sumner and Kaitlyn Seamans qualified for the global finals of the Destination Imagination problem-solving competition with their performance at the New Hampshire tournament on April 2 in Nashua.

The Mascoma team made the grade for the finals, which will take place in Knoxville, Tenn., in late May, by combining their STEM skills with improvisation, theater arts, writing, project management, teamwork and community service to place second in the Service Learning Challenge competition for high-school teams.

To learn more about Destination Imagination, visit destinationimagination.org.

The Write Stuff

Dartmouth College undergraduate Yixuan He wrote the top-ranked essay in her age group while Richmond Middle School student Sophie Usherwood earned honorable mention in her division during the recent national contest sponsored by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM).

He had advanced to the national competition when her essay, “Persisting Through Barriers of Inequality: A Biography of Dr. Seema Nanda,” won top honors in the annual contest held by the math department at Dartmouth. Usherwood had won the middle-school division of the Dartmouth competition with her “No-Recipe Math: Rosa Orellana’s Mathematical Journey.”

Other Upper Valley students whom the Dartmouth math department recognized for strong essays, by division, follow:

High School — Nanako Shirai, Hanover High School, first place for “A Profession Made for Women.”

Middle School — Nina Sablan, Marion Cross School, second place for “Melanie Dennis: Making Connections through Mathematics” and Helah Snelling, Richmond Middle School, honorable mention for “Ms. Kono’s Favorite.”

Collegiate Recognition

Ohio’s College of Wooster recently awarded its Elias Compton First-Year Prize to Thetford Academy graduate Ian Mundy. Mundy, now a sophomore, received the prize for achieving “the highest standing in scholarship” during his freshman year.

Thetford resident Thaddeus Buttrey and Hanover’s Liam Gantrish earned places on Kalamazoo College’s dean’s list, for their academic performance during the winter term of 2017.

Prep School Props

The Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Mass., recently named Woodstock resident Shannon Duffy to its chapter of the national Cum Laude honor society for students of independent schools. Duffy, a senior, was one of 17 NMH students elected for maintaining outstanding academic records during their junior and senior years.

Screen Time-Out

Plainfield Elementary and Kimball Union Academy are inviting parents to the academy’s Flickinger Art Center on May 1 for a showing of Screenagers, the 2016 documentary about people struggling to help their kids strike a balance between their non-digital lives and the enticements and pitfalls of social media, video games and addiction to the internet.

The screening will start at 7 p.m., followed by a reception with light refreshments. Admission is free. To learn more, visit screenagersmovie.com or type Screenagers into the search engine at imdb.com.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Education-related news and announcements also can be sent to schoolnotes@vnews.com.


Marion Cross School in Norwich includes grades K-through-6. An earlier version of this story misstated the grades at the school.