POWNAL -- The Pownal School Board was introduced to new staff members and saw a presentation on the Pownal Bookmobile at its meeting Wednesday.
"I wanted to introduce the new staff, so I invited them out this evening," said Pownal Elementary School Principal Todd Phillips. Among the new staff members in attendance, some of whom were still in the nomination phase and have not yet officially been hired by the board, according to Phillips, were new maintenance manager Kevin Davis, art teacher Ben Ferguson, kindergarten para-educator Jen Morgan, special education teacher Nancy Luke, and fourth-grade teacher Caitlin Hunt.
Phillips said they were a great group of people, and offered special praise to the enthusiasm of Ferguson saying, "When you call someone and offer them a position, I have never had someone so excited as Ben Ferguson. It was one of the best phone calls that we had together. I want to welcome all of you, but, that was an exciting piece, just knowing that you were so excited to come here to Pownal."
Ferguson, who described Pownal as his hometown, said to the board, "I was just in the classroom, shaping it up, and I'm really excited because it's all coming to life now that I'm actually here." He also gave a shoutout to a former Pownal Elementary student, Jason Campbell, assistant manager at WCW Carpet Warehouse in Bennington. "I told him I'm a new teacher," said Ferguson, "and I wanted a carpet for the younger students to be able to come and sit on, so we could have more of an intimate conversation, and he was like, ‘Well, if it's Pownal, it's on me, here you go, this is my way of giving back.
"He's a good guy," said board chairwoman Cynthia Brownell, about Campbell.
Phillips noted that Morgan had been "stolen from the special education crew" but was excited to work in the kindergarten classroom.
Luke, who transferred to Pownal from another school, said that, "I really look forward to the year, and getting to know our staff here. I subbed here once last year, and it had such a nice feel, I look forward to it."
The board also heard a presentation from Kaitlyn Hunt and Pamela Cuccuini, who for more than 10 years have operated the Pownal Bookmobile out of the back of Hunt's pickup truck, driving around town once a week lending books to children. "We service all the kids in Pownal," said Cuccuini, "and we go from house to house, we have tubs of books that we put in the back of Mrs. Hunt's truck."
She said the children check out a book or two, and the next week they come back and do it all over again.
"It's so, so awesome to see them pick out a book that they want to read," she said. Hunt said that they would sometimes lend books to parents as well, and Cuccuini noted that, "It's always good for kids to see their parents reading."
The two also shared letters written by families who participated in the program to the school board. "Dear members of the Pownal School Board," one, written by Clara Labatt, who has three children in the school system, read, "my family has truly appreciated the Bookmobile project over the past years. As I parent I am always trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to get my children to pick up and read books over the summer. The Pownal Bookmobile has encouraged my children to read a book every week. They always have an interesting book for each of my children, coupled with a small reward. This program makes my summer easier and my children smarter, two things I love. Thank you for your support of the Bookmobile."
"I'd like to thank both of you as well," said Phillips, "I know you're both dedicated to the program, and the school board certainly supports this during the budget session every year, wanted to make sure the Bookmobile continues."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB