May 28, 2021

Posted by Erika Garner on 5/28/2021

Welcoming the 6th Grade to MUMS
Our Transition to a 6 - 8th Grade Learning Community!

Dear ACSD Community,

As we reviewed community input on our shift toward a sixth-eighth grade model, we saw a common concern related to whether 6th graders are socially, emotionally, and academically ready for the transition to a 6-8 middle school configuration.  The MUMS team understands these concerns. We have built internal supports and safeguards to ensure all students and families receive the support they need.     

The Association for Middle Level Education endorses the latest research and best practices around serving adolescents. This research has informed our strategic plan for 6-8 grade configuration at MUMS. Highlights from this research include:

  1. Include the development of support services like a strong Advisory program and a comprehensive guidance counseling program 
  2. Develop bell schedules that allow for flexibility, team teaching, integration of classes 
  3. Implement a strong transition program that supports students and families as they prepare for the transition to middle school 
  4. Provide professional development for teachers to develop best instructional practices that support team teaching and integrated instruction 

As you review the bi-weekly MUMS transition communications, you will notice systems and structures that have been established to specifically meet the recommendations above. Some of these include our teacher advisory (TA) period, transdisciplinary approach to teaching, teaming model of MUMS teachers and staff, Skillz 4 Life course, Soar (literacy intervention), Homework Club, and the new WIN block.  This communication highlights additional supports provided at MUMS in the classroom, by our guidance team, and by our team of special educators. Our last communication on June 11th will also include information about FAME, our math intervention program.  We will continue to develop support programs and learning opportunities to meet the needs of ALL learners.

Michael Dudek, MUMS Incoming Principal
Andrew Conforti, MUMS Interim Principal



MUMS Booklet

Copies of the new MUMS Booklet will distributed to incoming and returning MUMS students when they are printed.  This booklet is full of details about MUMS and can be viewed online by following this link.


Supports for Students

There are many supports in place to support students through the transition into middle school and during their time at MUMS.

The support process begins well before students arrive:  


  • School counselors attend transition meetings with the sending teachers from all of our elementary schools to learn about each student.  
  • Copies of Educational Support Plans (504, IEP, EST) are sent to MUMS and planning for services has begun.
  • School counselors along with several MUMS students visit elementary schools to meet with incoming students to give an overview of life at MUMS and answer questions.
  • There are multiple opportunities for families to attend Town Meetings to learn more about MUMS and ask questions, several of which have already occurred.
  • Students attend move up day in June to meet their team of teachers and tour the school.
  • New student orientation is held the day before the first day of school. Students will have an opportunity to meet their TA teacher and TA classmates, tour the school and meet their classroom teachers.



Guidance Office


The MUMS Guidance Office has three school counselors and an administrative assistant who are available to help students and parents throughout the school year.  School counselors will loop with their students so that students will have the same school counselor for all three years they attend MUMS.  During the 2021-2022 school year Ilana Brett will work with 6th grade students, Darcey Wijsenbeek will work with 7th grade students, and Lauren Daley will work with 8th grade students.  Some of the guidance specific activities that happen during the school year include: 


  • Individual check ins with each student multiple times during the school year

  • Help students make decisions about elective classes

  • Schedule individual meeting with students when needed 

  • Attend weekly meetings with students’ team of teachers to discuss students and ensure all students have the supports they need

  • Host lunch groups - these are small groups of students who are more comfortable eating in the guidance office.

  • Facilitate guidance groups - these are small groups of students who have similar interests or would like similar supports.  The guidance team sends out a survey to students and families to gauge interest.  Based on the information received a variety of guidance groups are formed for each grade level. These groups are a great way for students to get to know each other.  There is always room for a student to either join an existing group or for a new group to be formed during the school year.


When a student would like to see a school counselor, they can stop by the guidance to set something up.  Parents are also welcome to connect with the guidance office at any time during the school year.  The guidance office can be reached by calling 382-1295.


System of Learning Supports
for MUMS Students 


MUMS has a robust support system in place to meet the needs of all students.  We utilize a Multi-tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) for students that encompasses multiple levels of teaming and instruction to support students’ learning.  Students come to MUMS with a variety of intelligences, strengths, and challenges in academic and social development.  Our goal is to support students proactively and utilize screening tools to monitor students’ progress in learning and to identify those that may be at risk for learning challenges in social emotional, literacy, and math skill development with caregivers.

If scores on screening tools, classroom learning activities, and/or progress reporting are low, faculty will review research based interventions to implement in the classroom for all students.  Student progress would then be monitored to determine if the interventions were successful supports for learning or if additional small group interventions are needed for individual students targeting specific skill areas.  This collaborative work in supporting students is completed in grade level meetings.

When additional small group interventions are needed, a team of support staff meet weekly to develop an Educational Support Plan with caregivers that reflects a response to learning data.  Literacy, Math, and Social-Emotional Interventionists then facilitate small group instruction and monitor progress on targeted skills.  If a student continues to demonstrate learning challenges after 3-4 interventions have been implemented, the team may recommend a referral for special education.  


 Student Services

Cassie Santos and JT Henley will be the MUMS Case Managers for students on 504 and IEP support plans during the 2021-2022 school year.  Educational Support Plans are referred to and supported by the Assistant Principal, Guidance Team, ESL Coach, Interventionist and include special educators and teachers as needed. We have received copies of educational support plans for incoming 6th and 7th grade students and have begun planning for the coming school year.  This includes building services into students' schedules with MUMS special educators and interventionists (math, literacy, and social-emotional learning (SEL)) and reaching out to schools and families for more information, as needed.  

Parents/guardians who have students on a 504 plan or IEP will be contacted at the beginning of the school year.  Parents who have specific questions or concerns they would like to address before the end of the school year, can reach out to Cassie Santo by sending an email to or by calling 382-1600.

MUMS Special Educators, Interventionists, and Case Managers meet regularly with each grade level team of teachers throughout the year to discuss progress and adjust services as needed to ensure all students are receiving the supports they need.



Big Brothers Big Sisters 

New Mentorship Program Available to MUMS Students

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ACSD has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont (BBBSVT) to launch a mentorship program for MUMS students at the beginning of the ‘21-22 school year.  This is a 1-to-1 mentoring program through which an adult volunteer is matched with a student .    


We are very excited about this program and the opportunity to support students during their transition into MUMS and throughout the middle school years.   Mentors are another positive adult role model to help your child on the path to success.  There are immediate and long-term benefits resulting from mentorship programs such as healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, increased attendance in school, better behavior at home and at school, and a decreased likelihood of substance abuse.  Visit the BBBS website to see an inspirational video on what it means to children who participate in this program. 


More information about this program can be found under News and Announcements on the homepage of the MUMS website.  Thank you to the ACSD Community Partnership Council for forming this partnership and helping to launch this great program.


Guidance Meet and Greet

Thank you to everyone who attended the Meet and Greet with the MUMS Guidance Team on May 25th.  If you weren't able to make it, a video recording is available by following this link.


MUMS Staff Members

2021 - 2022

Andrew Conforti
Assistant Principal
I have been working at ACSD for three years. I spent my first two years as the Secondary Special Education Coordinator which afforded me lots of quality time working at MUMS prior to being named Assistant Principal. I started my career in New Jersey as a paraeducator prior to earning my Masters in Teaching Special Education and Masters in Ed. Leadership. Over the course of my career I enjoyed teaching in two alternative schools grades 6-12 and two public High Schools. I have a deep love and appreciation for extracurricular activities and athletics. I have coached Football, Basketball, Lacrosse, and Track and Field at the high school level. When I was in grade school I enjoyed participating band, choir, musicals, and various clubs and I am proud there is a high level of participation and interest for sports and clubs at MUMS. I am excited for our students and community to return to school full time, for a full year, that will be full of amazing new experiences for our students, staff, and families. This will be a banner year for MUMS as our 6th 7th and 8th graders will have the privilege of building upon all of the great traditions at MUMS while establishing new and innovative ways to lead us forward. I can't wait for the 2021-2022 school year! Have a great summer, everyone!
Ilana Brett
School Counselor

I have worked at Middlebury Union Middle School since 1999, first as the Student Assistance Counselor and for the past 15 years as a Guidance Counselor.  Having received my Masters of Social Work from Simmons College in 1988, I am licensed as a clinical social worker and certified as a school counselor.  I have worked with adolescents in settings from residential care to outdoor education programs prior to working in the public school system.

I live in Lincoln with my husband, soon to be two dogs and a cat.  My sons are both out of college and living the dream in Wyoming.  I love to spend my free time hiking or skiing in any mountains I can get to.  I enjoy sharing my love of the outdoors with others and have run small outdoor groups with students during past school years.

I am extremely excited to welcome our new 6th and 7th graders to MUMS next year and all the energy they will bring.  I also look forward to our current 7th graders to experience a non pandemic middle school year.  I am really looking forward to working with 6th grade as their counselor for the year.  


Lauren Daley
School CounselorL

Hi everyone!  Welcome to MUMS! 

We are very excited to be welcoming both 6th and 7th graders next year- and our returning 8th graders too!  I am one of the three school counselors in the Guidance Office at MUMS.  Next year I will be working with our 8th grade team!  I have been a school counselor in ACSD for the past 12 years - 11 years at MUHS and 1 year at MUMS.  Something that I am most excited about for next year is to have our building FULL of students and energy!  
Darcey Wijsenbeek
School Counselor
I have spent the last 17 years working and playing in the woods at Camp Sangamon in Pittsford where I am currently the Assistant Director. After deciding to live in Vermont full time 6 years ago, I started working in local schools and found a match in supporting the social and emotional growth of students. I decided to head to UVM to do some more learning myself and here I am! I’m very much looking forward to joining the incoming 6th and 7th graders in becoming part of the MUMS community. Middle school is an exciting time of change and challenge and I look forward to helping you all find success in your journey!


Liam Battjes-Greenwood

Social and Emotional Leader

I'm entering my third year teaching at MUMS as the Social and Emotional Leader.  I'm really looking forward to the coming year's Skillz for Life classes because these three classes connect to bits of my own life.

The Sixth Graders will be going through a class called Rock, Water, Light and Air.  I worked with a program called Rock and Water when I was teaching in Australia.  This program helped middle school kids focus on when to stand strong and when to be flexible in their thinking and acting.  Rock, Water, Light and Air adds some wisdom from Circle of Courage, a program based on Indigenous Wisdom.  I have enjoyed learning from the Abenaki, Haudenosaunee (Mohawk),the  Kaurna of South Australia, and the Dune (Navajo) First Nations.

7th Graders will be focusing on Circle Up, Don't Spiral Down and learning to lead restorative and courageous conversations.  This also draws upon indigenous wisdom and connects to my work as Special Educator and Pastor who was involved in Restorative Justice Practices.  One summer, I was able to study on the Island of Crete in Greece and an institute for face to face peaceful conversation.

8th Graders will be focusing on Living with My Brain, and developing an understanding of brain functions and how this affects their management of emotions, ways of thinking and storing memories.  As a Special Educator in South Australia, I worked with students from traumatic pasts -- war zones, refugee camps and survivors of domestic violence -- who were also going through adolescence and working with a diagnosed disability.  I enjoyed helping students understand how their brains worked and sharing some coping skills.

One way my brain works best is by learning from my students and colleagues.  I look forward to some exciting years working with the diverse personalities of MUMS.



Elissa Starheim
School Nurse

Hi everyone! I will be the school nurse at MUMS and cannot wait to meet you. I will be new to the middle school this fall just like you and am moving to Vermont from Virginia, where I have been a nurse for about three years. My favorite thing about being a nurse is being able to meet people like you! Outside of work, I love hiking and being outside, so I am so excited to move to Vermont to explore everything your beautiful state has to offer. I hope you have a great summer and I look forward to meeting you soon!


Frequently Asked Questions

My child is on an educational support plan (504, EST, IEP) and I have questions about their services, who do I contact?
Families can contact the special educator or the interventionist working with their student directly.  Information on who will be working with students on educational support plans will be provided at the beginning of the school year.  If you are unsure of who to contact, families are welcome to contact Cassie Santo at or 382-1600.  Families can also request a team meeting at any time.

How do we know what bus our student should ride after school?
All students will ride the same bus as they did in the morning, except for Shoreham and Cornwall students who will take a bus to MUHS where they will transfer onto their bus home.  All busses have a sign in the window to indicate which town they serve. At the start of the school year, an announcement will be made to notify Shoreham and Cornwall students to get onto one of the other buses in line to catch their regular bus at MUHS. (Shoreham students will ride the Weybridge bus to MUHS and Cornwall students will ride the Bridport bus to MUHS).  MUMS staff will be available to help students during dismissal.

How is students’ academic progress communicated to families?
In addition to progress reports and parent conferences, parents can learn about their students’ current units of inquiry and track academic progress using our Learning Management System, which is called ManageBac. Families will receive login information within the first week of school.   An information session for families will be offered in the fall.


Past MUMS transition communications can be found on our website at

User friendly url to the MUMS website: