River Rock School Logo

@ The Center for Arts and Learning

46 Barre Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Phone: 802-223-4700

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River Rock Board and Advisors

River Rock is governed by an active group of volunteers serving as its Board. It includes parents, teachers, and friends of River Rock, many of whom also chair or serve on volunteer committees, and meets monthly throughout the school year, drawing on the guidance of River Rock's Advisory Board.

Board Member Bios

Les Birnbaum is married to River Rock teacher and co-director Allison Caldwell. Les and Allison are the parents of a founding student. Les has a number of interests. Chief among them--at the moment--is learning how to play the guitar. Les is also our chief falafel chef!

Allison Caldwell is a teacher and co-director at the River Rock School.

John Medose, Secretary, has a passion for wild and protected lands that has been demonstrated by his last 15 years of work, beginning with the Wisconsin and California Conservation Corps, then with the National Park Service, and now with the Vermont State Parks. He continues to work closely with young people in the Vermont Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps programs. He believes that getting children outdoors helps to develop their creativity, self-confidence, problem solving and leadership skills, while also relieving their stress and anxiety. He also believes that organized sports have very similar benefits. He shares these two passions with the River Rock Community as a member of the Board. John also serves on the Buildings and Grounds committee at River Rock.

Jen Pia-Needleman, Co-Chair, mother of two River Rock students, is a Goddard graduate whose training in and commitment to alternative education led her to RRS. She also has a daughter who graduated from River Rock School and attends Montpelier High School. Jen is currently studying homebirth midwifery and is an avid music fan.

Shawn Perry is a teacher and co-director at the River Rock School.

Gina Ritscher was educated as a teacher at The Prospect Center where she worked with Allison Caldwell. She taught in a number of public and private schools at the elementary and middle school level and did graduate work at Dartmouth and Harvard where she worked with both Patricia Carini and Eleanor Duckworth. After several years as a professor of education at Johnson State College, she is currently a small scale farmer and cheesemaker as well as teaching math to children at River Rock School.

Julie Robichaux is a writer with a focus on digital communication. She holds a B.A. in English from Miami University. Her older son is a student at River Rock.

Leslie Roth graduated with a BA in Anthropology from McGill University. She earned a graduate certificate in Conflict Studies from Woodbury College. She currently co-owns The Knitting Studio, though most of her prior work has been in the field of human services advocating for victims of violence, managing a stress line for parents, and directing a hospice that provided non-medical supportive services. In her 20's, she was a member of a site-based council for a publicly funded alternative high school. Her two sons are River Rock students.

Ruth Ann Sullivan, Treasurer, is the proud parent of two River Rock graduates. She is a Nichols College Cum Laude graduate with a BS in Business Administration and a 2010 class graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center for Government. Ruthann is employed by the Vermont Mutual Insurance Group as the Director of Information Technology Infrastructure in Montpelier, VT.

Polly Wheeler, mother of a River Rock student, graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati, and has worked at Black River Design Architects for the past 18 years. Much of this work has been with schools throughout Vermont. She has also been working with her family to design and build their own house for several years now. She has many hobbies and interests that she doesn't have enough time for, including gardening, cooking, kayaking, and travel.

Elly Wood, Co-Chair, mother of an enthusiastic River Rocker, is a graduate of Goddard College, where she was given the resources to explore her own philosophy of education, one in which humans are instinctively life-long learners who learn by necessity and driven by interest in themselves and the world around them. In addition to working full time at Hunger Mountain Coop (proudly, for 13 years) on the management team and living with her family of 3, she also enjoys nurturing friendships, having a positive outlook, and coloring.

Advisory Board Members

Katherine Fanelli, Montpelier, VT
Jeanne Haskell, Marshfield, VT.