We Interrupt this School Day To Bring You A Special Announcement: Student-Produced Commercials Teach School-Wide Expectations In Fletcher

Commercials are often an annoyance, especially when they interrupt our favorite television show or movie to peddle the latest and greatest must-haves. Fifth and sixth graders at the Fletcher Elementary School took the creation of commercials into their own hands during their first week back in the classroom in an attempt to teach their fellow students the right way to behave at school.

“We live in a digital age,” sixth-grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “Our students are inundated with advertisements and commercials everywhere they look. They are learning from those things, whether we like it or not. It’s time to use that technology and concept to our advantage as a teaching and learning strategy.”

The Fletcher School uses an approach called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. One of the cornerstones of PBIS is establishing and teaching school-wide expectations for behavior. And, that is exactly what the students did, with an innovative twist.


“My group was responsible for teaching the expectations for the hallways,” sixth grader Elise Towle said. “Our theme was superheroes. We made a video that showed kids not following the rules in the hallway. The superheroes jumped in and taught them the expectations. It was supposed to be really funny. We thought the younger kids would learn better that way.”

Fletcher’s fifth and sixth graders created commercials to teach younger children about six areas of the school building and beyond, including the hallway, cafeteria, restrooms, playground, office, and bus. They used a variety of technology resources including iPads, iMove, animation, slow-motion and other techniques. When they were finished, the commercials were aired in each classroom, and the producers of each facilitated a conversation with their younger counterparts to ensure that they understood the messages being presented.


“Our students have amazing potential to be leaders in the classroom, the school, and the world,” fifth-grade teacher Cassie Underwood said. “Starting the school year by supporting them through this great responsibility really set the tone for our belief in them as responsible citizens and their belief in themselves as role models.”

“We made it fun instead of boring,” Towle said. “This is not how we usually learn about the expectations. We took charge and kids listened more.”

“There are new kids in our school every year and they probably do not know what the rules are,” sixth-grader Julie Slingerland said. “It’s cool to have the older students demonstrate it for them. In the future, I think the sixth graders should continue to do this because it was fun. We got to show the kids what it looks like to follow the expectations. Nobody had to just sit there and listen to an adult talk about them.”


The Fletcher School has been recognized for its achievements with the PBIS approach, first as a PBIS School of Merit in 2015 and again as a PBIS School of Distinction in 2016. In addition to having clear expectations for physical spaces in the school and on the bus, the school focuses on the four overarching expectations that members of the school community will be respectful, responsible, safe and caring.

“PBIS has brought really clear and consistent expectations throughout our entire school and with our entire staff,” Fletcher’s School Counselor and PBIS Coordinator, Sandi Simmons, said.

“PBIS focuses on the positive,” Tremblay said. “We teach the rules frequently before there is an issue, or as in this case, the students teach each other, which is even more powerful.”

The project served as a review of expectations for the older students, too.


“Even when we were making the video we were talking between ourselves about the expectations and what they meant to us,” sixth grader Shaun McGillis said. “I know that we were doing this for the younger kids, but we learned from it, too.”

The opportunity to explore technology was not lost on students, either.

“We did a lot of reshoots,’ sixth grader Mercedes King said. “We wanted to get it just right, just like the director of a movie. It was more fun to do this project with the iPads. After all, most of the commercials we see are digital.”


“We actually filmed on the bus,” sixth-grader Zachary Bushey said. “We presented the bus rules in a video through the characters of Minecraft. Everybody loves Minecraft. We brought the characters to life to teach about how to keep the bus safe and enjoyable. I think this is better than just listening to teachers talk. A lot of people like electronics. It’s the grip of the age.”

“People just remember things better this way,” fifth grader Jack Tinker said. “It took a lot of teamwork. We have more experience with the rules as older kids. The younger kids listened well and we got to share our stories with them. They are going to be more responsible, respectful, safe and caring now because of us.”

View the fifth and sixth graders’ commercials for school-wide expectations!

Target 2 – Leadership: FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Indicators of Success: (1) Students and staff act as coaches, facilitators, collaborators and co-learners in a personalized learning environment. (2) Students and staff design and implement projects together. (3) Students and staff lead as engaged and responsible citizens. (4) Students explore a greater understanding of community, social issues and self in the community. (5) Student voice has the power to impact the perceptions of others.

Action Steps: (1)Design multiple avenues for students to lead, advocate and serve within the school and community. (2) Ensure students take a leadership role in their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify and diverse resources to formulate solutions. (3) Shift teacher roles from director of teaching to facilitator of learning. (4) Demonstrate learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

Georgia’s Annual Fall Fest 2016 a Success!

It was another successful year for the Georgia Fall Fest! The weather held off and our community/school had a wonderful day with a variety of activities for all ages.


Kids love the bouncy castle and slide.

The event is held annually and planned by members of the school and community. Many individuals meet throughout the year to discuss and plan for the venue, but hats off to Gail Wolff for heading the committee and looking over every detail to be sure the day was safe, successful and most importantly – FUN!


Wagon rides provide a soothing trip along the lake.


Outdoor fun for the kids!


Catching up with community friends.


Enjoy time together.


Field games for all ages.


Crafts and face painting are so much fun!


Great food cooked on the grill.


GFD on site!

Adults socialized and mingled while children of all ages participated in the many activities occurring at the Georgia Beach.


Local musicians get everyone dancing and "movin"

Local musicians get everyone dancing and “movin”


The event lasts the entire afternoon with a spectacular fireworks show following, made possible by the donations from local businesses:


  • BRYCE Reality
  • PERRIGO Company Corp.
  • PREMIER Paving
  • HARRISON Concrete
  • RL VALLEE Maplefields
  • B&A AUTO
  • Joseph Nasca, MD
  • K&A Hair Design

FWSU Welcomes Erika Merrell, ELL Instructor   

erika-merrellFWSU is pleased to welcome Erika Merrell to the district! Erika will work with teachers to ensure English Language Learners are able to meaningfully access instruction. She will assist the district in providing support and instruction to students and their families. She will work alongside teachers to create engaging lessons for English Language Learners and provide various types of language support. The goal of ELL services is to increase students’ ability to access academic content while simultaneously providing instruction to develop their language skills.

Ms. Merrell’s educational background includes coursework in Bilingualism and Multicultural Education and she will actively collaborate with teachers and staff to promote the advantages of bilingualism. She will use her knowledge of language acquisition, methods for teaching and assessment, to integrate skills into instruction for ELL students. She will also incorporate WIDA assessments and standards into lessons. WIDA standards framework reflects evolving theoretical insights and offer a principled approach to language teaching and learning.

A Graphical Representation of the WIDA Standards Framework

The figure below is a visual representation of the WIDA standards framework.


Erika has an extensive background in providing ELL services in both traditional and nontraditional educational settings for over a decade. She has worked with ELL students in Burlington and Winooski. Last summer she was a teacher at the New Arrivals summer school program in Burlington. She has also taught English to adults at the Fletcher Free Library at the Burlington School District’s Parent University.

Outside the regular classroom, Erika works with students in outdoor education programs. She collaborates with Outward Bound where she leads youth and adults on sailing expeditions along the coast of Maine. In the past, she run the sailing programs at the Lake Champlain Yacht Club and at Camp Eagle Island.

We are very excited to have Erika join the FWSU team!  

BFA Fairfax Proposes New Playground


Every day children from Fairfax access our playground! It is an important community resource that is used year round. Last fall a group of parents, teachers, and the elementary principal came together to assess the status of our playground and make recommendations about the future needs of this space. Our analysis indicated that the seventeen-year-old playground lacked appropriate accessibility for students and staff with physical disabilities, was showing significant signs of deterioration, and a lack of compliance with the Early Education requirements for playgrounds.


Proposed new playground

Out of this process came a recommendation to ask the residents of Fairfax to consider a ballot measure of $165,000 dollars to fund the purchase of new playground structures and fencing at the November 8th election.  This cost does not include installation, as we plan to have a community work party in June 2017 to construct the playground if the community supports this request.


We are extremely excited about these new structures and the opportunities for our children.  The proposed playground as pictured above includes two spaces, one for Pre-Kindergarten and another for Kindergarten through Grade 5.  In addition, this playground is designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale which is a component  for licensing and accreditation for our PreK program.


We are pleased to partner with the Fairfax PTSA to communicate about this important investment in our community. Please feel free to contact me at twalsh@fwsu.org if you have any questions.  Thank you in advance for your support.

FWSU Welcomes Bonnie Poe, Kicks Off “Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community” Model of Prevention and Wellness

FWSU recognizes the important role of health and well-being in student learning. We want to ensure that our schools can maximize their resources to ensure sustainable opportunities and services that promote health-enhancing behaviors and address risk factors. FWSU knows that our engaged community partnership are vital to the provision of a holistic approach to the health of our students and the communities of Fletcher, Fairfax, and Georgia.

Toward this end, FWSU is using the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model. This model has been developed through research and agency collaboration between the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to determine the best approaches we can use to create and support healthy learners. Both the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and Agency of Education (AOE) are committed to promoting the use of WSCC model by their schools and community partners to improve population health and academic achievement outcomes. FWSU is confident the model will be fully integrated into the multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) for our learners.


This year, FWSU is pleased to welcome consultant Bonnie Poe to help us move this model forward in our schools and the community. As the Prevention and Wellness Coordinator, a contracted position funded by EPSDT, Bonnie will use the WSCC to develop, plan, and implement Prevention and Wellness activities at our schools and within the community. She will be collaborating with principals and school staffs, including classroom teachers, PE instructors, School Lunch Program Leaders, guidance, and nurses to implement initiatives and activities in the 10 areas of the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community model. She will be working closely with the FWSU Substance Abuse Prevention (SAP) Counselor. She will also support the formation of school-based WSCC teams who will send representatives to the FWSU WSCC Team three times a year, which she will facilitate. She will be engaging key community members and parents to join that team, too!


Bonnie Poe. FWSU Prevention & Wellness Coordinator

Bonnie brings a wealth of expertise to this position. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees are in special education from Georgia State University. She has 40 plus years of experience in public education, including 18 years as a school principal and 7 years as a director of student support services. More recently, Bonnie has worked as a SWIFT (School-Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation) Facilitator has received additional training in mentoring, instructional coaching, and the 4 stages of the change process. In addition, she is an Implementation Coach and Trainer for Vermont PBIS. Her consultancy here in FWSU allows her to give back to the educational community by being a positive collaborator, building trusting relationships with all members the school community, and being a resource for creating sustainable effective systems.

You can follow the progress of our schools in using the WSCC model through posts shared by Bonnie with the FWSU community throughout the year.

Target 4. Engaged Community Partners: FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Farm to School Club Seeds Learning at BFA Fairfax

Last spring, the Farm to School garden was tilled and planted. While this activity required literal seeds, it also sparked figurative seeds, as students began to imagine how a farm at school might impact their education. A Farm to School (FTS) club was created and 30 students attended the initial meeting.


The students, under the guidance of teacher Fred Griffin and led by 11th grade BFA student Shannon Mahoney, developed a vision for the garden that included not only a vegetable garden to supply fresh produce to the cafeteria, but also a sugarhouse, an orchard, an aviary, a pond, and solar and wind power. The student leaders presented their vision to the school board and the rest of the student body.

Excitement for the concept grew as students considered the educational possibilities that might result. In addition to meeting science proficiencies (soil pH, germination) students might demonstrate proficiency in math (what is the yield per square foot of garden), history (what is a heritage garden and is it effective today), marketing (how can we increase vegetable consumption in our school), communication, problem solving, and self-direction through their research and labor.

At the same time, Mr. Griffin made a connection with Jane Sorenson from the University of Vermont’s College of Agriculture. They discussed the possibility of working together with students to determine the feasibility of the student vision. Their conversations led to the creation of a high school course focused on Farm to School.

“It’s exciting, it’s very interesting. We can take it as far as students and the townspeople want it to.”-Teacher Fred Griffin

The class meets every day to help to develop the “Farm to School Farm” which includes the current garden and as many of the items from the original student vision as are feasible. The class started by researching and creating heritage and sustainability in Vermont farming. The next project was to create and distribute a survey to gather information from students, teachers and community members about their hopes, interests, support and concerns about a Farm to School Farm at BFA. The class will use the data from the survey as they continue to develop their plan.

Last weekend, the FTS club harvested the crops they had planted in the spring. They gathered 205 squash and over 100 onions. The vegetables will be used in the cafeteria for soups and other meals which will help to meet part of Farm to School’s mission to serve the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community

“Students were very excited when they saw the squash harvest” – Shannon Mahoney Farm to School Club president

fts2The next steps are to plant garlic for a summer harvest and build a greenhouse to get ready for spring planting. The FTS club has a goal to transform the space into the Farm to School Farm within the next two years. Community support and questions are welcome at any time as we work to enhance educational opportunities for BFA students.
fts3Shannon Mahoney, Farm to School Club president, stands in what will be the Farm to School Farm Production Garden in 2017. Garlic, onions, squash, potatoes, and salad “fixin’s” will be on their way to our school cafeteria!

Target 2. Leadership – FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Indicators of Success for this Target: Students and staff act as coaches, facilitators, collaborators, and co-learners in a personalized learning environment; Students and staff design and implement plans together; Students and staff monitor their initiatives and reflect together; Students and staff lead as engaged and responsible citizens; Students explore greater understanding of community, social issues, and the self in community; Student voice has the power to impact the perceptions of others.

Action Steps:  Ensure students take a leadership role in their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources to formulate solutions; Shift teacher roles from director of teaching to facilitator of learning.

FWSU School Boards Pilot Bi-Annual Joint Carousel Meetings

In October, School Boards in FWSU will debut a new format called a “carousel” meeting. This collaborative meeting model is used throughout Supervisory Unions in Vermont to bring local school boards together. In FWSU, local boards will hold carousel meetings twice per year in October and April to jointly discuss matters pertaining to all our students. The location of the Carousel meetings will rotate by school starting with BFA Fairfax.


The first hour of the initial meeting will focus on the work of our schools to develop Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGR’s). PBGR’s are the locally delineated set of content knowledge and skills connected to state Common Core State Standards. Our Vermont Education Quality Standards (EQS) require that schools’ graduation requirements be rooted in the demonstration of student proficiency as opposed to time spent in classrooms. Teachers and administrators have been working to adopt this change for over a year. Director of Curriculum Linda Keating will update all of our boards and communities, in a common time and place, to show how we are meeting this state requirement.


After the main presentation, school boards will break-out into their groups for the second half of the meeting to conduct regular board business. Having all boards in a single location will allow administrators to rotate among the three boards and efficiently engage in important dialogue on important issues such as the upcoming school budget season and more.

Meetings will be widely publicized in all towns to support community engagement. As always, Carousel meetings must comply with State law which requires board business to be conducted in accordance with Vermont Open Meeting Law and Robert’s Rules of Order for Small Boards.

4The first Carousel School Board Meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 4 from 6-8pm at BFA Fairfax (in the HS Multipurpose Room). Both Georgia and Fairfax sessions will be taped and televised by LCATV for broadcast into our communities as usual. We encourage the public to join us for this important community discussion! A second Carousel Board meeting is slated for April 4, 2017 in Georgia.