Welcome Back Teachers and Staff!

We are really getting close to the Best Day of the Year: The First Day of School. However, before that happens we first must welcome back all of the faculty and staff of FWSU.

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This year the first day of faculty inservice was a bit different from the past. Thanks to the generous underwriting of the Bay and Paul Foundation, our faculty watched the critically-acclaimed film Most Likely to Succeed at the Essex Cinema.

After the film, teachers returned to BFA Fairfax for our traditional convocation and debrief of the film to begin a process that will lead to innovation across our schools. The process is named Launch FWSU. It was introduced by Superintendent Ned Kirsch and again generously underwritten by the Bay and Paul Foundation. We hope the ideas that will be generated will lead to amazing opportunities for our students

Days 2 and 3 of inservice were devoted to specific building meetings and planning, and reconnecting with colleagues of course.

Next Tuesday, we begin again and we can hardly wait! Our halls are lonely for the sounds of students grappling with authentic, personalized learning!IMG_7430.

Welcome New Educators!

Before you know it, the 2016/17 school year will be here! The first sign of our new school year is the arrival of our new teachers. This week 17 educators joined our ranks and spent two days learning about our schools, our action plan, our philosophy, and meeting their mentors for the school year.

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Day one of our work focused on the overarching goals of FWSU which are spelled out in our action plan. Superintendent Ned Kirsch led the new teachers through a welcome presentation highlighting the targets of the action plan:

New Action Plan Targets

The FWSU vision of the future of education is based on A Belief in What is Possible. 

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Director of Curriculum and Instruction Linda Keating, and Director of Support Services Rachel McIntyre, introduced how FWSU supports ALL learners through our Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Our goal of MTSS is to provide an environment in our schools where every child can thrive. The afternoon of the first day was devoted to working with Dr. Joelle Van Lent exploring how to create and support Trauma Informed Classrooms, an issue that is important to all of our learners.

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The second day of new teacher inservice linked new teachers with their mentors and the FWSU Mentoring Program. Our program is designed to support our new teachers and to help them succeed in their first year. Thanks to our Mentor Coordinators Amy Rider, Lindy Carpenter, and Emily DiGiulio for ensuring that mentoring program continues to be an innovative one that accomplishes our goals.

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The remainder of the orientation featured FWSU Digital Learning Specialist Angelique Fairbrother and Superintendent Ned Kirsch exploring ways technology integration can fuel and enhance the learning for our students. Teachers were exposed to the systems in our schools that facilitate communication like Schoology, the Computational Thinking mindset, and the SAMR philosophy of technology integration.

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It was a fantastic two days made especially great by the fresh energy and enthusiasm of our new teachers. Welcome to FWSU!

Rachel McIntyre Named New Director of Support Services at FWSU

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Rachel McIntyre

Franklin West Supervisory Union is pleased to announce that Rachel McIntyre has accepted a position as the Director of Support Services for Franklin West Supervisory Union effective July 2016. The decision made by the Franklin West SU Board of Directors follows an aggressive search process which began mid-April 2016. The search committee, comprised of SU and school leaders, teachers, a board member, and FWSU staff, identified two finalists. The FWSU Board unanimously approved a contract for Rachel McIntyre at its meeting on June 8, 2016 based on the recommendation by Superintendent Ned Kirsch.

Rachel McIntyre is currently the Special Education Coordinator at Missisquoi Valley Union Middle & High School where she has served for the past 2 years. Prior to that, Rachel was a Special Educator at BFA Fairfax for 14 years. She received her M.S. in Special Education from University of Vermont. Rachel lives in Fairfax with her husband and their two daughters.

“I’m really excited that Rachel is joining our team at FWSU”, said Superintendent Ned Kirsch. “Her experience as a Director of Special Education in a Grade 7-12 school, coupled with her previous experiences as Special Educator at BFA Fairfax, will be a benefit for all FWSU students and families. She already knows our system and our region, which should allow Rachel to hit the ground running.”

Welcome Rachel!

BFA Fairfax 6th Graders Collaborate and Play at Lotus Lake

IMG_1679On Thursday and Friday, May 27-27, the sixth grade from BFA went on their annual overnight trip to Lotus Lake in Williamstown, VT.  Students learned to collaborate, work, and play together more effectively through Team Challenge activities, building shelters in the woods, building rafts from a limited amount of available materials, and through challenge course stations.

The weather was beautiful! The students were also able to partake in a night hike, learning to investigate and appreciate their natural surroundings at dusk and after dark.

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For both, students and as educators, Lotus Lake is always a favorite memory of the year.  It’s a chance for students to not only get to know each other better, but is also a chance for them to get to know their teachers better and for teachers to roll up their sleeves a little and get to play soccer, volleyball, and other fun activities with the students, making connections that aren’t always sparked within the classroom context.

BFA Fairfax Girls Run with Heart & Sole

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Saturday, June 4, 2016, 40 girls in grades 3-8 at BFA Elementary/Middle School participated in the Girls on the Run/Heart & Sole 5K event at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex.  This celebratory, non-competitive event is the culminating experience of a 10 week program.  Completing the 5k gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.

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These girls met two days a week for 90 minutes each day from March to June.  The girls not only developed their skills as runners, they participated in activities designed to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, and physical development.  Participants explored and discussed their own beliefs around experiences and challenges that girls face.  They also developed important strategies and skills to help them navigate life experiences.

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The program began with helping the girls develop a better understanding of who they are and what is important to them.  Then, they looked at the importance of teamwork and healthy relationships.  Finally, the girls explored how they can positively connect with and shape the world.  Physical activity is woven into the program to inspire an appreciation of fitness and to build habits that lead to a lifetime of health.

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Freshman Core Team Transforms Learning for BFA Fairfax Class of 2020

When the Class of 2020 joins the high school at BFA next fall, they will be on the leading edge of a transformation. They will be the first class to graduate based on Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements which require high schools to change the way they instruct and assess students.

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To begin this shift, all ninth grade students will take part in the Freshman Core, an interdisciplinary team taught proficiency-based experience. Core team teachers Will Brooks, Gabe Grant, Danielle Kicsak, Mark Ladue, Jensen Welch and Sara Villeneuve have been working all spring (and will continue through the summer) to develop expectations and plan curriculum that is inquiry based, student centered and rigorous.

Students will spend the first two blocks of the day working on Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. This will provide all incoming freshman with a common experience and allow the teacher team to monitor student progress and provide additional support. The teachers plan to group students flexibly throughout the year based on the students’ needs and interests.

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“We will use interdisciplinary approaches that  strive to help students to develop knowledge, insights, problem solving skills, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and a passion for learning” – Language Arts Teacher Sara Villeneuve

The team has been working with the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences to create projects that will introduce students to the design process and help to develop their computational thinking. Students will have access to our new Maker Space as they solve relevant problems and work in conjunction with UVM students and professors.

“Through a combination of direct instruction, inquiry, and project-based work, the students will be working on rigorous targets to demonstrate proficiency in the basics of science, social studies, language arts and math.” – Math Teacher Jensen Welch

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The students will also use LiFT to track their progress toward proficiency. LiFT is a Vermont developed software program that helps students to personalize their education and provide evidence of their learning. The team has been working with the creators of LiFT to learn about its capabilities so they can introduce it to their students in September.

The students will spend the last two blocks each day in elective courses in art, world language, health, physical education and other electives with students in grades 10-12.

The team is very excited to welcome the Class of 2020 to BFA and provide them with new opportunities to demonstrate their learning. The entire high school faculty is ready to embrace the changes brought about by the shift to Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements that will start with the Freshman Core.

Culture Fair Celebrates Family and Global History in Fletcher

When Lewis and Clark led their historic expedition through the uncharted American interior to the Pacific Northwest beginning in 1804, there wasn’t much chance they’d bump into their adventure-seeking French counterpart, Jacques Cartier. Even though Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River and gave Canada it’s name more than 350 years earlier, the three history-makers stood side by side in spirit at yesterday’s fifth and sixth grade Culture Fair at the Fletcher School.

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Nathan Gillilan displays an old-fashioned toaster oven.

Fifth graders focused on learning about early explorers, answering three main questions: What were the results of their explorations? How did they change the world? and What positive and negative impact did the explorer have on native cultures? Sixth graders explored their own ancestry, asking what their relatives had endured in the past that empowers them today, how their family history contributed to the community and how different cultures make a community better.

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Each Culture Fair project consisted of four main components including a research display board, bibliography of resources, digital presentation and a culminating presentation for families, the community and other classes during the Culture Fair itself. While many students included props from home, each display board also included the flag of origin, an essay, maps, pictures, diagrams and other supporting evidence of either the student’s explorer or their own ancestry.

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Fifth graders worked with partners to learn about their chosen explorer, and were asked to provide each other feedback on the teaming experience. A rubric allowed students to assess their partner’s ability to work cooperatively, their helpfulness and attitude.

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Fifth grader Kaila Sheltra studied Juan Ponce de Leon, who discovered Florida. According to Sheltra, learning about early explorers and cultures is important because, “we need to know what made this world what it is.”

Communication as a transferrable skill was a theme that ran through this project.

The Fletcher School has focused on communication proficiencies for all students this year and the fifth and sixth graders focused, in part, on explaining and informing their audience by researching and examining their topic and conveying ideas and information clearly. They received feedback on the organization, relevance, use of evidence, use of quotations and new vocabulary used in their writing. Students were also given feedback on their oral presentations and reflected on how compelling their found the assignment.

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“The Culture Fair is important because other people might not know about these people and it is important to know about the people who impacted the world,” fifth grader Zachary Bushey said. For the Culture Fair, Bushey dressed as one of the Hawaiian natives who killed James Cook, an explorer who discovered many of the Pacific Islands. “He did not find the Northwest Passage, though. The Hawaiians killed him first.”

Sixth grader Sirena Sawyer appreciated the addition of personal ancestry to the Fair this year. “It was much more interesting because we were learning about our personal ancestry as opposed to just reading an article about someone else.” Sawyer interviewed her Grandmother, a native of Greece, to help understand her history.

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Many presentations included a culturally relevant dish, as was the case with fifth graders Melissa Hall and Matthew Spiller’s apple crisp and early American cornbread, representing Lewis and Clark.

“It is important for the fourth graders to see what they will be doing next year,” fifth grader Jasmine Duncan said of the Culture Fair. “We also need to know who we came from and where we came from. It’s out history. It’s part of us.”

“The Culture Fair connects students with the past. Understanding how we got to where we are and to understand where you personally came from can help you go forward,” fifth grade teacher Tracey Godin said.

Target 2. Leadership: FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities.

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 plans together. (3) Students explore a greater understanding of community, social issues, and the self in community.

Action Steps: (1) Design multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate and serve within the school community. (2) Shift teacher roles from direct of teaching to facilitator of learning. (3) Demonstrate learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.