Kindling Relationships

Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
May 19, 2009

Kindling relationships
Author: HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN, Reformer Staff


Tuesday, May 19 NEWFANE --

A lot has changed in education since Kindle Farm first opened its doors in 1996. And as the independent school for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities enters its second decade, the school is making some big changes of its own. Kindle Farm has a new director and assistant director, and is changing the way it works with the school districts that send students.

Dana Gordon-Macey, who has been at Kindle Farm since 2000, will be taking over as executive director in July. And a long-time teacher and campus supervisor, Drew Gradinger has been named assistant director to work with Gordon-Macey and the board as the school enters its 13th year. School founder Bob Bursky left this year, and in September it will be the first time the school has opened without Bursky. Gordon-Macey said the change in leadership has everyone at the school thinking about what is special about Kindle Farm. "It's important to stay relevant in the educational marketplace," she said. "You don't do as well if you stay stagnant. To grow and flourish you have to change."

When Kindle Farm opened, school districts were quick to send some of their most challenging students up to the new, small school in Newfane. Now, with more pressures on school district budgets, schools are developing their own programs. This has led to schools holding on to some of the students who may have been sent to Kindle a few years ago, and in turn students who may have been sent to more expensive, out-of-state schools in the past, are now going to Kindle Farm.

The school is recognizing that shift and starting to work more closely with area school districts, Gordon-Macey said. "Districts are taking their time before making the decision to send a student to an alternative school and this has led to a more complicated set of issues," she said. "We want to work more with the districts so we are teaming together to always make the right decisions for the kids."

Gordon-Macey was hired at Kindle Farm in August 2000 as a special education case manager and she became academic coordinator and then academic director in 2005. Gradinger came to Kindle Farm about 11 years ago. He was hired as a paraeducator, and then went to school to get his master's degree. He came back to Kindle Farm to work as a technology specialist and then became campus supervisor for the Newfane campus.

Gradinger said in the time that Kindle Farm has been operating, administrators have recognize the importance of working with students during transition periods. It can be difficult to leave a home school and move to a new school away for home, and it is also hard to go back. In addition to working closer with districts, the school also recently hired a manager to work with the students, their families and their school to help make the change easier. "We're figuring out new ways to meet the needs of our students."

According to Gordon-Macey, the school is also making changes back in the office and she said the administrators and the board have a better handle on the finances than ever before. Still, with all the changes going on at Kindle Farm, she said the school still is run day-to-day with the same principles it had when Bursky started it in 1996. "We're teaching these students how to build relationships and we want them to understand what it is like to stand in someone else's shoes," said Gordon-Macey. "As the school grows, we want to keep our spirit of creativity while making good decisions to ensure our longevity. We're moving forward as an organization."

Kindle Farm is holding an open house on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. at all three campuses. Call 802-365-7909 for information.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reform-er.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.

(c) 2009 Brattleboro Reformer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
Record Number: 12401280