Everybody Dance!

The sound of rock music and engaged children laughing and dancing can be heard coming from the BFA Fairfax Elementary Cafeteria every Friday. The school lunchroom is a busy and energetic place. Lunch is also a really important time of day for students. In twenty-five short minutes, students must navigate the lunch lines, find their table, eat their lunch, and socialize in respectful and responsible manner.


Last year in an effort to improve the eating environment, our lunchroom monitors began playing music on Fridays while our grades three, four, and five students have lunch. In addition, we allowed students the option to dance when they were finished with their lunches. To our surprise our students immediately responded to this opportunity in a positive way!


We quickly noticed that lunchroom behaviors improved and students and staff were eager to dance week in and week out.


Now on any given Friday you you can witness students, staff, and the Abbey Group staff dancing to Journey or the Chicken Dance as we continue to work to enhance our school climate and provide a student centered learning environment.


February Focus

On February 3, 2016 students at BFA Elementary celebrated 100 days of school, for this school year. Student’s engaged in critical thinking and used manipulatives to demonstrate 100 Days of School.


Students and community members were also provided with an event at the Fairfax Community Library, as the 100 day celebration continued.


A special visitor entered the library to engage in a literacy event. Notice how this big comfy chair is empty?


That is because four furry paws were capturing the attention of the children

Adison , 6, is practicing reading aloud. “This is good, thought Sam, I need food,” said Adison. Rather than read to a teacher or her peers, Adison is reading to someone who can’t talk back. “I like pie. Mackenzie would like that too,” said Adison.


Mackenzie is a 6-year-old Newfoundland, a big, furry dog whose job is to listen to Adison read.  Mackenzie here is a trained good listener. That’s because she’s a Reading Education Assistance Dog. That’s just one of her many titles. “She’s also a pet partner’s therapy dog,” said Nancy McKee, dog handler. McKee is a retired reading teacher. She now travels around with Mackenzie to meet with students.

“There’s no one else around. We have a nice little quiet area here. And we can just sit down and hang out and read with a dog,” said McKee.

This opportunity provides children to practice their fluency and their reading skills with an audience who is not going to judge them.

The Read with a Dog program is catered for students ages 5 to 10. The Fairfax Community Library (which is also the BFA School Library) hosted the program for four years.

The signup sheet fills up for the dog’s visits every other week.  While the students are reading, they keep their hands on MacKenzie while McKee holds the book. McKee says that helps the reader get comfortable reading to the big animal. MacKenzie doesn’t seem to mind.  If people want to read with Mackenzie, they can call the Fairfax Community Library to sign up for time with the big dog.


Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Winter Carnival Returns to BFA Fairfax!

Many years ago, Winter Carnival was an annual event that brought the school together for fun and competition to break up the winter doldrums. With new advisors Fred Griffin and Katherine McElroy, BFA’s Student Council has focused on student leadership and service to the school community.

bullets1One of the early ideas that students proposed was to bring back the Winter Carnival. Students began planning the Winter Carnival and presented their initial plans to the principal in October.


With the concept approved, the student leaders, Julia, Klaire, Lilian, and Eli, began to plan in earnest. They checked in regularly with their advisors, the principal, and their fellow students. Teachers were recruited to supervise different activities, schedules were created and signups and rules were posted.


Today, after all of the planning, is the start of Winter Carnival! Class schedules were adjusted to allow for a block of time at the end of each day for activities. Every day, the students will have the opportunity to participate in an indoor activity, an outdoor activity or a craft activity. Monday’s options were Dodge Ball, a sled race (in spite of the lack of snow!), and snowflake making.


Activities will continue throughout the week and culminate with a three point shootout and the tug of war on Friday. The Student Council is also sponsoring the Winter Ball on Saturday to wrap up the week in style.

bullets2“It’s been lots of fun to work with our enthusiastic student leaders to revive this tradition. I look forward to connecting with and having fun with students and faculty this week.” ~ Student Council Advisor Katherine McElroy


“I’m hoping that Winter Carnival helps students to realize that the Student Council wants to organize fun activities for them. I hope it’s successful. It’s a new experience for all of us!” ~ Julia, Winter Carnival Organizer

A Cappella Music Comes to GEMS

On the last Friday of January, students at GEMS were regaled with the sound of A Cappella music. Traveling from southern Vermont and New Hampshire, the Honeymooners led three performances for fifth, sixth and seventh grade students. The group, composed of two married couples, entertained as well as educated students in the nuances of unaccompanied harmony singing. They performed music ranging from barbershop to rock and roll. Students asked great questions about performance technique and vocal production.


In addition to the performances, the group also led a workshop for seventh and eighth grade students in chorus which included an introduction to barbershop harmony singing and harmonizing by ear.

It was a great day for music at GEMS as students were given the opportunity to hear and interact with a musical style that they may have only ever heard on recordings or watched on television.

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BFA Fairfax Students Focus on Respect, Gratitude, and Making a Difference with Speaker Ed Gerety

On Thursday, February 4th, BFA Fairfax Middle and High School Students hosted nationally-renowned speaker and author, Ed Gerety


Ed Gerety is one of the top professional youth speakers and leadership trainers in the United States, and is an annual keynote speaker at the Vermont Student Athletic Leadership Conference held each November. 


Through his personal experiences, inspirational stories, and powerful lessons, Ed teaches the life skills that are essential for youth to develop as leaders in school and in life, including respect, character, gratitude, leadership, attitude, and making a difference.


Through interactive middle and high school presentations, BFA students were challenged to “own their greatness” while demonstrating respect, kindness, and appreciation for those around them.  


Many students took part in presentation activities that ranged from placing a call to say “I love you” to an important person in their life, to larger group challenges that tested and brought students and staff beyond perceived limitations.  


At the completion of his day at BFA, Ed spent time hearing personal stories from students, sharing words of wisdom and encouragement, and handing out copies of his book “Combinations: Opening the Door to Student Leadership“.


Students and staff alike were inspired and motivated by Ed’s message, with many students already asking if and when we could have him return as a speaker in the future. BFA Fairfax is extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity, and we look forward to the ripple effect of our entire middle and high school student body demonstrating their new-found “greatness.”

Computational Thinking at FWSU

Recently, in the 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced a new computer science initiative, Computer Science For All, that would give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science (CS) in school. He was quoted as saying, ”In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill — it’s a basic skill, right along with the three ‘Rs,”

There are 3 main components in the Computer Science for All Initiative:

  • Inclusion in the White House’s forthcoming 2017 budget of $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts to increase access to K-12 CS. Those funds will be used to cover teacher training, “high-quality” instructional materials and the building of “effective regional partnerships.” Specifically, Obama wants to see “hands-on” CS courses in every public high school and more learning opportunities in the subject in elementary and middle schools.
  • Obama is also asking the NSF and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to invest “more than $135 million” in training CS teachers. The White House stated that the agencies will make those investments over the next five years using existing funds.
  • Finally, the President is calling on state and local governments, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists and others to get involved.


As a digital leader, FWSU has already been developing and implementing computer science into the curriculum and multiple school activities. For the past few years, all three schools have participated in an hour of code to introduce computer science to multiple grade levels. At GEMS, students have the opportunity to take choice classes that teach coding, including intro to game maker, advanced game maker and Minecraftedu. At BFA, the school recently started a new after school coding club. Fletcher has also provided several coding opportunities for students.


Looking forward, FWSU is continually looking for additional way to integrate computational thinking into classrooms. Some of these activities including coding competitions in it’s annual Engineer Day, coding during Summer Learning Days and participating in Girls Who Code this summer. Finally, this spring, FWSU will be offering a graduate level course for teacher to learn how to use computational learning to personalize learning for students.


Target 1 – Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning. FWSU students and staff design and engage in proficiency-based personalized learning that integrates collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creativity.

Indicator of Success. Teachers provide learners with multiple pathways for meeting standards so that students achieve proficiency in essential areas of learning.

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Angelique Fairbrother is a Digital Learning Specialist at FWSU. Follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech .


FWSU Act 46 School Unification Study Committee Commences

Last Thursday the FWSU Act 46 Study Committee held its inaugural meeting at Georgia Elementary Middle School. Act 46, a landmark piece of legislation passed during the last years legislative session, has finally arrived at FWSU. Act 46 is a new law that seeks to address large issues currently facing the Vermont education system. The primary stated objective of the law is to stabilize rising property taxes, address declining student enrollment, and high per-pupil spending.

Act 46 will require the state’s 277 school districts to begin the process of redesigning the current governance structures in order to achieve what the state defines as “preferred governance.” A preferred governance structure is a new school district with at least 900 students, which will be called Supervisory Districts (SD). Essentially the Supervisory Union structure, established in 1912, will be replaced. The new SD’s will operate in the same manner as a single stand alone district (i.e. Burlington, Montpelier, Milton, Colchester), yet will comprise more than one town. The new law asks us to redefine how we view our school community and take a more comprehensive view that all students in our region are our students.


Prior to any district even considering consolidation they must undertake a comprehensive study. This fall FWSU school boards voted to begin an Act 46 school consolidation study. The boards then sought community volunteers to join board members to form the FWSU Study Committee. That committee, comprised of community members and board members, will study our system, study Act 46, engage the community and make a recommendation as to how our schools will be governed in the future. It is completely unclear what that recommendation of the committee will be at this time.

act46cmteThe members of the committee are:

Teresa Bedell – Fairfax
Karen Hebert – Farifax
Rachelle LeVau – Fairfax
Scott Mitchell – Fairfax
*Todd Baumeister – Fletcher
Diane Dayvie – Fletcher
Carl Laroe, Jr. – Georgia
Ben Chiappinelli – Georgia
Michael Wasco – Georgia
Deb Woodward – Georgia

*elected chair

As a community member in FWSU, your voice and involvement in the process matters! The committee will be meeting every two weeks on a rotating basis in Georgia, Fletcher and Fairfax. The next meeting of the committee will take place on February 11 at BFA Fairfax in the multi-purpose room starting at 5:30pm. If you cannot make the meeting, you can watch a live stream of the meeting. The live stream address will be posted in Schoology and on the FWSU webpage the day of the meeting. In addition, all future meeting dates and minutes will be posted after each meeting. Information about Act 46 can be found on both Schoology and the FWSU website. If you would like to contact the committee, please email act46study@fwsu.org.

The next few months should be very interesting. It is essential to know that any consolidation of school districts in FWSU would require a town-wide vote by each town. This is not a decision that a school board or committee can make independently. The committee will only recommend what the towns ultimately vote on, if they decide to vote at all. Districts that do not merge by 2018 run the risk of being assigned to a new district by the State Board of Education and will receive no tax incentive. Schools that do not operate high schools like Georgia and Fletcher cannot be made to lose choice by the State Board, that can only be accomplished by a vote of the town electorate. However, that school could be reassigned to merger with schools with similar configurations.



If you have questions you contact Superintendent Ned Kirsch at nkirsch@fwsu.org or by phone at (802) 370-3113. You can also contact the committee via email at act46study@fwsu.org.