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Hello and Welcome to my Web Page!

On this site I have posted information that I believe you will find helpful as we move through the school year.  

I will try to update information regularly and I encourage you to contact me with any questions you may have.

Be sure to check out our school website at brhsms.trsu.org for current information, events, pictures and more!

Principal's Message


It is the mission of Black River High School and Middle School to create an environment where students and adults will collaborate, think critically, acquire and apply knowledge and creatively solve problems. To accomplish this we:

  • Provide meaningful feedback so all can achieve.

  • Nurture a learning environment that enhances cognitive engagement.

  • Commit to multiple pathways so that learning is personalized and relevant.

  • Collaborate to assess the impact of our practices and learning.

  • Aspire to be citizens of a diverse democracy and a changing world.

  • Honor all learning attempts as opportunities for academic and personal growth.

  • Value our history and our community.

  • Teacher and model empathy, compassion, responsibility and respect.

Black River High School and Middle School is proud of our ability to educate students as individuals. We are a vibrant learning community of 151 students in grades 7-12. Our size allows us the opportunity to truly implement Personalized Learning and address individual needs. Our coordinated team of staff members includes a teaching staff where 69% of our teachers have a Masters degree. We offer a Student Assistance Program, an Educational Support Team, and a Student Assistance Team to ensure the success of each of our students.  Our School to Work Program offers internships, job shadowing and community service opportunities throughout the region. In addition to traditional co-curricular offerings, our winter sports program offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

As we continue to build our Flexible Pathways (Act 77) we have made steady progress in transforming our education model to one that is proficiency based. Imagine a student taking a course to become a pilot; under a traditional learning model that student could fail the unit on landing the plane yet receive a high enough average in the course that they successfully pass. Proficiency based learning is different in that educators identify and communicate the most important parts of learning. Students must then demonstrate they are proficient in each of these areas before moving on.

In addition to courses listed in our Course Offerings Catalog, students at Black River take advantage of Dual Enrollment courses where they can earn college credits and take advantage of work-based or virtual learning for high school credit. Each student has the flexibility to tailor their high school experience according to how they learn best and their post graduate goals.

Community support for Black River High School and Middle School continues to be strong.  The dedicated parents of the Booster Club run food booths, coordinate with our sports banquets and contribute to apparel for our athletic teams. We are grateful to the Okemo Community Challenge program for supporting numerous grant projects over the years and expanding their support to include scholarships for our seniors. Ludlow Rotary Club continues to enrich our school by sponsoring foreign exchange students and offering scholarships. Okemo Mountain is a major sponsor of our Winter Sports program. We are grateful to our parents and community members who continue to support our school; thank you.

New to Black River High School and Middle School this year is:

Mathematics Teacher: Patricia Rafter

Special Education Teacher: Cindy Wubbenhorst

Physical Education Teacher: Victor Cucullo

Athletic Director: Victor Cucullo

Library Media Specialist: Erin McCall

Dean of Students: John Davis

The current Administrative Team consists of myself, John Davis Dean of Students and Sofia Bertocci Director of Counseling. The school Leadership Team consists of the Administration as well as Heather Miele Science Teacher, Colin McKaig English Teacher, Toby Milne Mathematics Teacher,  Suzette Cyr Social Studies Teacher, Maryann Gagner Special Education Teacher, and  Lisa Patch Educational Systems Technology Specialist. Together, we all strive to meet our school mission and ensure Black River is an environment capable of adapting to changing requirements of the world and our students.  

Our Building and Grounds Committee has worked hard to gain support for the renovation of Presidential Hall. Presidential Hall serves not only as gym space for athletics and classes, but as a space where the school and community can assemble. This year, Presidential Hall is being upgraded with new ADA compliant bleachers, new diving curtain, and a fresh coat of paint. Thank you for supporting these upgrades.

Budgets are one of the most difficult tasks schools face. Each year we are challenged with finding a balance between providing the programming needed to make our students competitive and offering a budget that voters feel they can support. Our Equalized spending per pupil is $17,386. In this budget, we have tried our best to meet the needs of our voters as well as our students; we sincerely appreciate your continued support.

Act 46 has proven to be the largest and most pressing challenge we face as a school and community. Act 46 relates to making amendments to education funding, education spending, and education governance. According to the General Assembly of the State of Vermont the Goals and Intent (VT LEG #309717 v.1) of this legislation are as follows:

(1) provide substantial equity in the quality and variety of

educational opportunities statewide; No. 46 Page 4 of

64 2015 VT LEG #309717 v.1

(2) lead students to achieve or exceed the State’s Education

Quality Standards, adopted as rules by the State Board of

Education at the direction of the General Assembly;

(3) maximize operational efficiencies through increased

flexibility to manage, share, and transfer resources, with

a goal of increasing the district-level ratio of students to

full-time equivalent staff;

(4) promote transparency and accountability; and

(5) are delivered at a cost that parents, voters, and

taxpayers value.


(a) School closure; intent. It is not the State’s intent to close

schools and nothing in this act shall be construed to require,

encourage, or contemplate the closure of schools in Vermont.

(b) Small schools; intent. As stated in subsection 1(i) of this act,

it is not the State’s intent to close its small schools, but rather

to ensure that those schools have the opportunity to enjoy

the expanded educational opportunities and economies of

scale that are available to schools within larger, more flexible

governance models.

The TRSU Act 46 Planning Committee is working to develop a proposal that will impact the future of our districts and our school. I encourage you to become involved in these actions and participate in future TRSU Act 46 Planning Committee meetings.

Thank you. Please contact me with your thoughts, questions and comments at 802-875-4721.

Respectfully submitted,

Shannon L. Martin

BRHSMS Principal


Black River is Transitioning to Proficiency-Based Education

What is a Proficiency-Based Curriculum?

Proficiency based education is based on broad, system-wide curriculum aligned with specific learning standards. The curriculum is created as a way to prescribe the specifics of what to teach at each grade level. The curriculum is aligned with learning standards that have been developed, or adopted by, the Vermont Agency of Education. Under a proficiency-based curriculum, these learning standards must be presented in a clear, prescribed sequence to our students.

What are the benefits of proficiency-based education?

Students report that they understand expectations more clearly and can identify their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to those expectations. Students are better able to connect what they are doing in a classroom activity or assignment to the acquisition of skills and knowledge. What educators are seeing is increased students engagement, increased personalization of instruction, and increased targeting of interventions to the specific needs of students. Educators also report that implementation of a proficiency-based system leads to greater collaboration within and across schools, more reflective practice, and a greater capacity to respond to the individual needs of students.

How will this impact learning in the classroom?

The teacher communicates essential questions and learning targets that relate to the standards in a transparent way so that student, teacher and parent can all be active participants in the learning process. The teacher relies heavily upon daily formative assessment techniques as a means of directing the course of instruction for the individual student and the class. The teacher uses formative and summative assessment methods to monitor student progress and  measure achievement of the learning standards. .