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Sue Bush
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Beth Keplinger Named Principal Of Stamford School

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, June 09, 2006

Beth Keplinger has been selected as principal of the Stamford Elementary School.
Stamford, Vt. - Beth Keplinger was selected as the new principal of the Stamford Elementary School by unanimous vote of the school's Board of Directors during a June 8 meeting.

"I Have A True Investment In This School"

Keplinger, who will celebrate her 34th birthday on June 10, will fill the void left at the death of longtime, highly respected school Principal Leo Ethier. Ethier died earlier this year after a brave battle with esophageal cancer.

Keplinger was a member of the school board but was not involved in the hiring process. She resigned her school director post immediately upon being told that she was the chosen candidate, said board Chairwoman Cynthia Lamore.

Keplinger said she is honored and pleased to be chosen as Ethier's successor.

Her mother, Deborah Norcross, completed her student teaching requirement at the Stamford school under Ethier's guidance when Keplinger was a baby, she said. Keplinger, her husband and two sons live in town and when the young family moved to Stamford, Ethier shared a recollection with her.

"When we moved here, he said to me 'how about that, I held you in my arms as a baby,'" Keplinger said. "It's hard to believe that this is real. It hasn't sunk in; it's at that 'wow, I'm the principal' stage. It's hard that Leo isn't here to share this with me."

Keplinger and Lamore said that contract details are being discussed and that an annual salary has not been set at this time.

Keplinger's board seat will likely be filled by an appointment until the March 2007 town election, when the term will be filled by an elected individual. An appointed person could seek election if they chose. No one had been appointed to the post as of June 9.

18 Candidates

Lamore said that Keplinger was considered the best applicant from a pool that attracted 18 candidates from across the country. Educators from North Adams, Pittsfield, Stamford, Vt., Maine, Wyoming, Tennessee and North Carolina submitted applications for the post; board members whittled the group to five finalists, Lamore said.

Keplinger is presently a music teacher at the C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams. She will be in place as principal at the start of the 2006-07 school year, she said during a June 9 interview. Plunkett Principal Stephen Smachetti was informed that she had applied for the Stamford post, Keplinger said.

Keplinger earned a master's degree in music at the Michigan State University and has been a music teacher for six years. She is certified in educational administration and earned those credentials at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She successfully completed all requirements for certification in 2003.

Her children are 4 and 7 years old, and as an educator and a parent, education is a high priority, Keplinger said.

"I have a true investment in this school," Keplinger said. "I live here and my sons go to school here. Some people consider a smaller school to be a stepping stone to something else; for me, this is where I live and I plan to be here for a long time."

Plans are underway for a July 13 open house at the school so that people can meet Keplinger and acquaint themselves with the school. Although Keplinger is a town resident and the family is active within the community - her husband is a member of the town volunteer fire department- she acknowledged that she does have to shift an identity perception just a bit.

"A lot of people know me just as 'Jacob's mom,'" she said with a smile.

School Secures "Safe Routes To School" Funding

School directors have learned that the school was selected by the Vermont Safe Routes To School initiative to receive up to $1,500 in grant funds for each of the next two years. The revenues will enable the school to participate in the program, which promotes safe walking and bicycling routes to the school.

Lamore said she believes that the school is in line to receive the maximum award.

The school's application was considered to be of the highest quality, according to a grant notification letter.

"We received a total of 39 eligible applications and the quality of submissions was very high," stated the letter from Vermont Safe Routes to School Coordinator Jon Kaplan. "This speaks to the level of effort that you put into your application to result in it's selection."

The grant is administered through a cooperative effort of the state Department of Transportation and is expected to be implemented in conjunction with an existing state Coordinated School Health/Wellness team strategy.

"Essentially, you will be receiving support for your programs through various services that the Agency of Transportation is contracting," according to Kaplan's letter.

Possible Sidewalk, Crosswalk Construction

The long-term goal is qualification for federal funds that are expected to be available to participating "safe routes" school districts and that would fund construction of new sidewalks, crosswalks and installation of lighting and signs that notify drivers of an upcoming school zone and walking or cycling students.

The area being considered for future sidewalk construction is the area between Mill and Jepson roads, she said.

During the upcoming school year, students are expected to learn about safe cycling and walking, and the instruction is likely to include "dress rehearsals" that will focus on younger students, said Lamore.

"We are lucky that as a small school, we can do these dress rehearsals with younger kids, and include the older kids to help the little ones," she said. "[Program administrators] are strong on the bicycling aspect because of the physical exercise and the social interaction.We are going to bring back our bicycle racks, which have been in storage, and we hope they'll get some use."

Community Benefits

The impacts of the program could extend well beyond the school, Lamore said.

"Our school is the center of the community," she said. "With this program, when the parents who live along the side roads want to come out with their toddlers and go to the school to swing or play, it will be safe."

The program will involve the entire school community, Lamore said. Plans are to introduce program components to the library and the school kitchen.

"We'd like to get the library involved, the cook involved; we'd like to really promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles," she said.

The town's senior citizens have expressed support for the program because of the potential of sidewalk construction, she said. Many seniors are avid walkers, and sidewalks would improve their safety when they walk along the roads. Involving the seniors in the program could help the students.

"We are trying to establish a 'Walking Wednesday' program for the seniors because Wednesday is when they have a meal at the school," Lamore said. "Perhaps they could spend the afternoon at the school and help the kids with walking home."

"We are very excited about this. We see a lot of good coming from it."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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