Last week Principal Frank Calano (GEMS) and Superintendent Ned Kirsch traveled to Washington D.C. to attend an award celebration where FWSU was named Vermont’s first P21 Exemplar Program.

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The mission of Partnership for 21st Century Learning is to serve as a catalyst by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community, and government leaders so that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops. The Exemplar Program identifies, documents, celebrates examples of 21st-century learning initiatives that successfully prepare students for college, career, and life.



The Exemplar Program Award Ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of 18 learning initiatives from across the country held at the National Press Club. FWSU was the only PreK-12 school system to be honored. Other honorees included early learning centers, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, charter schools, after-school programs, and summer camps. 

“The innovative work we do at FWSU in relationship to our 4 FWSU Vision Targets is fully aligned with the P21 Pillars of Transformation, which is both a confirmation and affirmation of the importance of our work. I feel so honored to be part of a system that has achieved this recognition.” – Linda Keating, Director of Instruction and Curriculum

The process of becoming an Exemplar Program began last year when FWSU was asked to submit an application to P21. After submitting the application, FWSU was notified that we had qualified for a site visit. The site visit team was comprised of the P21 executive director and a member of the P21 board of directors. They visited FWSU last spring and toured all of our schools during their day-long site visit. Along with visiting schools, the team time also met with students, teachers, parents, board members, and school administrators.  FWSU was recognized based on the following criteria:

  1. Evidence of commitment to college, career, and life readiness
  2. Educational support systems and sustainable design
  3. Engaged learning approaches
  4. Equitable student access to 21st-century learning
  5. Evidence of student acquisition of 21st-century knowledge and skills
  6. Partnerships for sustainable success

After the ceremony at the National Press Club, the day’s events moved to Capitol Hill where Principal Calano and Superintendent Kirsch met with senior staff members from the offices of Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Representative Welch. There were great discussions on topics ranging from the process of becoming an Exemplar Program to current education legislation under debate in Washington.


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