Louise Fallon Interview:
This is file #40, cycle 2. This is Jean McMIllen. Today’s date is August 23, 2016. I am interviewing Louise Fallon. She is the Program Director of SOAR which is an enrichment program that is held at Salisbury Central School after School. First we we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
LF:My name is Louise Webber Fallon. I go by “Weezie” more often than not.
JM:What is your birthdate?
LF:August 19, 1964
LF:My mother was Jean Sturgis Webber; my father is Porter Clifton Webber Jr.
JM:Do you have siblings?
LF:I do. I have three. I have a sister Emily Webber Brown, Prescott Sturgis Webber, Lindsay Webber Scanlon.
JM:Education after high school:
LF:I graduated from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
JM:Briefly how did you come to this area?
LF:I was fortunate enough to attend Westover School in Middlebury, Ct. for my high school years. It is an all-girls boarding school and made very tight friendships with some of those wonderful women. One of whom lived in Sharon with her husband and family. 21 plus years ago she said,”Weezie, come from the north shore of Boston and move to Connecticut.” So I did.
JM: We are so glad that you did. How did you get involved with SOAR?
LF:I have two children 2 daughters who are at Salisbury Central; they enjoyed SOAR. I was approached by a member of the then developing board Janet Block to join and help grow a proper board for SOAR. I joined as the secretary initially on the board and served for 5 year before I took a lead in order to be the acting Program Director. Then I was hired formally about 18 months ago; I went in as acting director in the fall of 2015, hired for the January 2016 as Program Director and I am still here.
JM:For your sub-committee for programing, how many and what are the areas of expertise?
LF:The Program Committee: I have 5 who are parents, they are educators, stay at home moms, really lovely well rounded and happen to be all women. I have 1 member from the SOAR board as a liaison, I have 2 faculty members and I have the Principal with a total of 9.
JM:Well done, just to clarify there are no men on this committee?
LF:One faculty member is a man. We would like more. It is difficult because we meet in the afternoon, so it is a working day.
JM:Where do you get your ideas for the various workshops?
LF:A combination of things everything from looking at our history to see what has been offered before which helps me think of diversity to suggestions from parents, children. Sometimes I am out and about at a function or event and meet someone, I introduce myself and speak of SOAR and follow-up and ask if they would be interested in running a workshop.
JM:How do people know what is offered?
LF:I developed a catalogue which is released about one month before the workshops kick off. The current one will be released on the first of September. That will give up enough time to let families digest it and pick their favorites and get the paperwork back so I can create all the crazy spreadsheets and things that I need to tell who goes where. I do have help with that because there are a lot of details. It is hours and time management which I needed help with that which is terrific. I have as of today 13 workshops; I lost 2 workshops yesterday by chance which is a pretty full compliment.
JM:It is a good assortment too.
LF:I am restricted by days of the week; we have been asked to be at the school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. There are only a set number of spaces that we are privileged to use.
JM:What are those spaces? I know the computer room because I was there.
LF:The computer lab, there is a space called the Guidance suite which is more like a conference room. It is used for a variety of things at school. The art room, the music room for the elementary the really young kids is a very long space; they used the front half with piano and music stands, but the back of the room has the ability to have tables set up 2 or 3 6 foot long tables which makes a nice work space. We used the cafeteria, often we use the science room, we use outside as much as we can.
LF:No because if the weather isn’t clement then the sports teams use it. We do not use the gym. The other thing that will come brand new to the school this coming year is 2 maker spaces, one in each building. They are housed within the elementary library. They have moved the entire middle school library and consolidated it with the upper building library; they do so much on the computer that that
will become a maker’s space which is a whole new event. We will be granted the use of that space come the spring.
JM:A maker’s space as I understand it is an assortment of various items either in disrepair or needs repair or broken; the kids just work with that to see how things work.
LF:It can even be things like weaving; it can run the gambit of what activities are. A lot of it is technology driven that there are elements to it that are simpler than that. It can be free flowing for the kids or it can have a set agenda or they can work in teams. Some of the stuff they can come and go from. It is another whole arena for all of us to learn and help kids, particularly those kids that struggle in the classroom. Here is a place for them to really shine.
JM:It is a hand-on thing; a lot of kids like that particularly the ones that are intellectually challenged, or physically challenged.
LF:If they struggle in the classroom, they don’t learn similar to the general pool.
JM:Everybody is different. Who is eligible to take these workshops?
LF:Everybody from first grade through eighth grade. We have made a conscious decision to get into the kindergarten classrooms as opposed to having them come to the workshops, partly because going from a kindergartener to a third grade is a large discrepancy. The bigger issue is that by 3:00 that is an enormous day for a little kid. The woman who is the board liaison has taken it upon herself to work with the kindergarten team and develop a program. Last year was the first really coordinated effort to do this so every child can experience SOAR. Also through the assemblies or performances and presentations that come in…
JM:I will get to that but I want to stick with the workshops at this point. You said you had help with scheduling this year.
JM:How long do these workshops last?
LF:They will run from the week of Sept 26 and finish with the final play performance on Saturday November 19th. So it is about 6 or 7 weeks; we have to accommodate for early release days, workshops or Parent –Teacher conferences. Some workshops may have 5 Wednesdays which are available. Tuesday and Thursdays can have 6 or 7; it also depends on the instructor. They may only want to teach or have enough material to teach for 5 instead of a full gamut. 6 seem to be the average.
JM:Is there a fee for the workshops?
LF:There is a very nominal fee to help off-set my administrative work. I help Laurie with the spreadsheets, attendance sheets.
JM:When you say nominal?4.
LF:$15, sometimes it is $25. The play is $40 to do. If you try to enroll in Tri-Arts or even Falls Village, it is a lot more money.
JM:Are all of the workshops, or do you try to have all of the workshops At Salisbury Central?
JM:That is probably because of time and issues with transportation.
LF:It is and also it just seems simpler to have the kids stay at the school and stay in one place. That being said, last fall or the first spring of 2016 we offered fencing. Because we don’t have access to the gym, I approached Pastor Diane at the Congregational Church and put in an application to use the parish hall on Monday afternoons for 8 weeks of fencing workshops which so popular in its initial launch, that we had two back to back sessions. It continued. It is starting to fluctuate either fall or spring. That one is off campus; transportation comes down to families to either car pool or coordinate. It does give us another whole day.
JM:Do your sessions generally start at the same time, but end at different times?
LF:Yes that can fluctuate. The children come to me in the cafeteria; the instructors are there. We all triple check who is where, or find who has forgotten and gotten on the bus. We take attendance and then the busses go. The instructors are off to their spaces; they let the children have a snack and they get to work. Nothing generally ends before 4:30 because about 3:15 is the earliest start so it gives them about an hour. They can run to 5:30 with play practice. One hour and one half is about it.
JM:That is long enough. In order to teach a workshop, is there an application form?
LF:No a formal one, no it is more word of mouth. I do create what I inherited was a course agreement form which ends up listing the dates of the workshop we will need, the description of the workshop, the time of the workshop, all those details. Then both of us plan it and agree on it; it stipulates that they as instructors well be paid $25 per hour unless they would like to make a donation of their time. Most do elect to be paid this very tiny amount of money for their efforts. I do ask them to track their preparation time because if it a very involved workshop, then I feel strongly that they should be compensated for that.
JM:You said that this year you are offering13 workshops for the fall?
JM:Approximately and this fluctuates too how many students are enrolled per class?
LF:It can run from as few as 6 with a couple of complicated workshops where they have asked for 6 only but they might entertain 8 depending on how well the children shake out. The play will be our largest workshop this fall. Last year it was 50 children with 30 in the actual production; the other 20 kids
helped with the behind the scenes jobs. That was the first time we offered that. This fall we are going to shrink back some; 50 kids is a bit much. It was terrific but it was a lot of kids. I shall cap it about 2 dozen. That is what they have asked, but nothing is set in stone.
JM:Do the instructors tell you about how many children they want in their class?
LF:Yeah we do talk about it together.
JM:Where do you get your instructors from?
LF:They are really wonderful community members who have a passion and talent and a willingness to impart that to younger kids. Most are community members, some retired, some still active; their career allow them to have flexibility to come in on a Tuesday afternoon for 6 weeks.
JM:You are blessed as this is a marvelous community for a variety of skills and activities. I remember when I was teaching I used the community as much as possible.
LF:It is a huge resource. It is also nice to connect the generations.
JM:Besides workshops all school assemblies, this is something that you sponsor?
LF:It is something that has become something under the SOAR umbrella.
JM:It is no longer PTA?
LF:The PTO in my experience it has never been a PTO thing.
JM:I go back a long way. It used to be.
LF:Now not before 2007. We work with Lisa Carter; other ideas t may come up from the faculty. We try to find things that will cover a broad spectrum of interests. I am learning quickly that it is very difficult to find one thing that will fit all ages.
JM:Yeah you sometimes have to split it k-3, 4-6, 7 & 8.
LF:Some performances are tailored to the different ages; sometimes a certain part of the school body will see something and the rest will stay in their classrooms.
JM:You partner with several different organizations, could you name some of them?
LF:Hotchkiss School has been really wonderful to us for a number of years. We partner with the farming called “Food, Farming and Fun”. The Hotchkiss students are partnered with SCS students and they go out and learn about the eco system, the season and its changes by either planting or harvesting.
JM:The farm did not come into Hotchkiss purview until after Jeanne and Jack Blum sold it.
LF:Exactly so I am thinking it is only about 5 years old.6.
JM:That would be about right.
LF:It feels longer than that and it is enormously popular.
JM:It would be. Do you partner with…?
LF:The Wassaic Project which is another mostly art centered program is nonprofit. We are going into the third cycle of workshops with them. There are 3 education directors with them. I have been working with one specifically Tara Foley. They have an artist in residence program that they run. We partnered that to get those individuals out into the community. There are several schools. They come in and do workshops which is terrific.
JM:Congregational church is another partner? The Red Cross?
LF:The Red Cross I have done biannual workshops on Saturdays to certify children who would like to babysit.
JM:Oh that is the certified babysitting program which is very well received.
LF:It is very well received. Last spring we had another group of kids go through it.
LF:Noble, we have not done a huge partnership with them per se. They have been very gracious in allowing us to use the Community Room in March. I inherited what is called the SOAR Bowl which is a trivia night and had been established three times before I came in. A Trivia Night is a fun filled night which was designed to try to raise a bit of money. When I came in in November of 2015, nothing had been done, not a date, not a meeting, not a conversation. I grouped very quickly with the program committee and said, “If we are going to do this, we need to strip it back to its core. Instead we let it just be trivia night as it was; multigenerational and fun, rather than a fund raiser. It is free; we charge a little bit for some pizza. We have a bake sale. It is a good time in the long winter days.
JM:What is your total budget for the year?
LF:We tend to run just about $50,000 a year somewhere between $45,000 to $50,000 a year. We underwrite an awful lot children’s participating if requested. If families participate in EXTRAS and want to also be in Soar, we made a conscious decision to let any child who is enrolled in EXTRAS and wants to do a SOAR workshop on the same day, we let them participate for free. That was very nicely received. We are pleased to do it.
JM:How do you get your funding?
LF:We are like everybody else asking the public. We do two appeal letters a year. We don’t have a fund raiser per se, but we have done pretty well in the last year and one half partnering with some of the events that are going on in the community.
JM:Like Trade Secrets?7.
LF:Yes. Sotheby’s did an estate and auto tour event in October for the first time which was highly successful; we were there as hosts at the event. People learned about SOAR; we were partnered with Susan B. Anthony. We were given a lovely check for a portion of the proceeds. Fall Festival we have done two years of a pop-up craft tent on Saturday on the library lawn which is very good fun. We did for the first time last year the Chili Fest which was resurrected on the Sunday of the Fall Festival. Because of the Health Department and other codes and laws, it ended up being an enormous amount of work. We have taken a pass on that this year. It was just not worth the effort.
JM<:You don’t know until you try it.
LF:That is exactly right.
JM:I hear from Amy Clulow that you have something called a SOAR grant?
LF:We do have a SOAR grant program which is designed for the faculty of SCS and staff to apply for funding for a unique opportunity, special things that come up or for really special things. The budget is set as you know by February so planning for the year ahead gets to be a tricky thing. Sometimes we are a stepping stone for a pilot program for a teacher. Then they know whether it works or not and how well it was received. Then they also know to request it within the budget for the next year.
JM:Who can apply for this? By faculty, you mean the people who are teaching the workshops?
LF:Yes, not workshop instructors, but SCS faculty.
JM:What is the minimum and maximum of these grants?
LF:The elementary grades K -5 we award $300 per grade; 6-8 we have a budget of $150 per individual which they can combine. Then what we call the “Specialty” teachers: art, computer, library, music, and any of those sorts of thing, they also can apply for grant money of $150. Sometimes they collaborate to get the kids out to the city. We have to stay within our mission which is really enrichment. We don’t want to pay for a bus.
JM:Can you give me an example of someone who is applying for this grant and what it was sued for?
LF:We had a couple that happened last year. The kindergarten and 3rd grades teachers wanted to go to Great Mountain Forest. They have a buddy system which is an older mentor program where kindergarteners and third graders are partnered. They went and learned about leadership, and through doing various activities while they were there. We have helped offset the 5th grade annual trip to Boston, the Freedom Trail. They do the planetarium studies.
JM:When did that one come in?
LF:I don’t know. It is a nice trip. Last year for the first time spent the night at the museum. So it has become a little bit bigger.
JM:My word, maybe I had better apply to do 4th grade again. We used to do in 6th grade “Nature’s Classroom” which was a week.
LF:It is still standing.
JM:8th graders used to go to New York and then it became Washington, D. C.
LF:Gayle Christinat took her kids to three different museums: the Clark, last year it was the Met and one other which I can’t remember. It was a revolving program for three years. SSOAR helped offset that as well.
JM:What haven’t I asked you that I should?
LF:It is a remarkable program which has been well received. People in the community are slowly learning about us, more and more. We are working together.
JM:You have been going for 10 years?
LF:We have just finished our 15th year. It started in 2000. We keep Zenas’s desires and original thoughts and true mission very close at heart. We love that we are touching so many other kids and bringing them things that compliments or is brand new from what they are learning in the classroom.
JM:Thank you so much for your information.
LF:You are welcome.