LUDLOW, Vt. – Kendra Rickerby, the new Black River Independent School’s Head of School, is off to an excellent start after the first week of school. “The first week has truly been inspiring and heartwarming,” she said.
Sixteen students, ranging from grade 7 through 12, are participating in the BRIS pilot program, offering in-person instruction five days a week on the second floor of the former Black River High School building. According to Rickerby, the learning spans from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. but parents can drop their children off as early as 7:30 a.m. and students may stay until 4 p.m. in an effort to accommodate parents’ working schedules.
The school curriculum is unique with students’ input helping to craft their education while encompassing the school’s pillars: global perspective, environmental stewardship, outdoor adventure, community engagement, personal action, and democratic participation and justice.
Rickerby holds a certificate of Education Finance from McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Lesley University. She is also a volunteer literacy coach for a teacher-training program in Nigeria.
Ludlow is also a draw for Rickerby since she is an avid skier and also volunteers with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports.
Rickerby says the school’s mission and vision is what attracted her to the BRIS. “It’s an opportunity to create a culture of flexible learning grounded in interrelated curriculum,” she said. In particular, she is drawn to a curriculum that invites outdoor adventure saying, “that’s when I really see kids shine.” Rickerby cites her own experience hiking in Nepal during her junior year in college as pivotal to who she would be as a learner and a professional educator. “I saw the invaluable need to get kids out of the four walls,” she said.
Timing has also played a key factor in her decision to join the school. With a global pandemic reshaping and redefining how schools are accomplishing student education, “There is no better time to do school differently,” she said.
The school has one year to finalize state approval from the Vermont Agency of Education to qualify for state tax dollars for students attending. This first year all student tuition comes from the philanthropy and generosity of donors. Fundraising will continue to be a focus of the school as it moves forward, adding more students toward an initial goal of 75 learners.
Rickerby has high praise for the Black River Independent School Committee and is impressed with how they have turned their vision into reality.
“I feel very fortunate to have landed here, and I believe Black River Independent School has established an approach that will bring about meaningful change in both the lives of students, their families, and the community,” she said.