Around Amherst: AEF Excellence Grants to benefit schools

Staff Writer
Thursday, June 07, 2018

AMHERST — Nearly $30,000 in Excellence Grants from the Amherst Education Foundation will support four programs at Amherst Regional High School, Amherst Regional Middle School and Amherst’s three elementary schools.

“From engineering to gardening, AEF’s grants are bringing new ways of thinking and learning to our students,” AEF Co-President Becky Michaels said in a statement.

At the elementary schools, science and garden coordinator Jennifer Reese is receiving $5,000. The money will assist garden educator Leila Tunnell to lead all second graders in garden-based learning through the year, including creating universally accessible raised beds at each school, and field trips to Brookfield Farm.

Norm Price, a middle school science teacher, is getting $8,000 to have every eighth grader get better computer science skills by completing a coding course and applying these new skills using educational robots.

At the high school, $10,000 is going to D.W. McCraven, student support and intervention specialist, to implement a Restorative Justice program, which is seen as an important aspect of confronting institutionalized racism.

Finally, John Bechtold, chairman of the Department of Performing Arts, will use $6,695 to purchase a new light board for the high school auditorium. Designed to be more universally accessible, the light board will be used by all students and for more than 30 productions each school year.

Town Hall retirement

Debra Puppel, who has served as the assistant the town manager since 2011, retires this week.

“I love working with townspeople on bringing their vision to life, so to speak, for what they want their town to be,” Puppel said.

Puppel, of Orange, came to Amherst after serving as town administrator in Hubbardston, and previously was an administrative assistant in Gill and administrative coordinator in Erving.

Puppel’s work has included doing significant preparation for sessions of Town Meeting, handling all permitting, overseeing special projects, keeping the Town Manager Paul Bockelman’s schedule and corresponding with residents.

Her greatest accomplishment during her tenure, she said, came after Town Manager John P. Musante died unexpectedly in September 2015, ushering in a period where she, staff and elected officials had to cope with the loss of the town leader.

“I believe I provided a constant amidst the transition between interim and temporary town managers until Mr. Bockelman was brought on board,” Puppel said.

Puppel said she will miss her colleagues and will continue to have admiration for the high level of participation residents have in their government.

“Amherst is the best example of democracy I’ve seen,” Puppel said.

FBLA donation

The Future Business Leaders of America at the high school recently donated $5,000 to the Cooley Dickinson Cancer Care Fund.

Rafael De Pillis, FBLA’s co-president, said in an email that the money, from the annual Canes for the Cure, was raised from the sale of student-designed T-shirts.

Local businesses sponsored the event, providing the needed funds to print the T-shirts and make money from their sale, De Pillis said.

Reader to Reader books

Reader to Reader, a global literacy organization based in Amherst, recently gave thousands of new children’s books to schools and outreach programs in the Springfield area.

The Spring Book Extravaganza, in its eighth year, donated 22,000 books valued at over $300,000, according to Reader to Reader founder David Mazor.

The books were stored at the maintenance department at the Chicopee Public Schools before teachers from schools in Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee and West Springfield picked them out for their students.

Film and discussion to confront racism

“The Canary Effect,” a documentary that examines how U.S. policies have affected indigenous peoples, will be shown at the Woodbury Room at the Jones Library June 14 at 6:30 p.m. as part of a film and discussion series aimed at inspiring action to dismantle racism.

The free event, which will include a brief discussion after the film, is co-sponsored by the library and the Coming Together initiative and open to the public.

For more information, contact Janet Ryan, head of programming and outreach at 259-3223.


MONDAY: Gardens Advisory Committee, 12:30 p.m., Goodwin Room, Jones Library; Local Historic District Commission, 4:30 p.m., Conservation and Development Library, Town Hall; Select Board, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Public Shade Tree Committee, 5:30 p.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall; Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, 6:30 p.m., high school library.

THURSDAY: Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.