About Franklin West SU

School District in Fairfax, Fletcher, Georgia, VT. Apple Distinguished Program. League of Innovative Schools. "A belief in what is possible."

Grade 3/4 Hunger Walk


Just prior to the Holiday Break our BFA Fairfax 3rd and 4th grade students participated in a Hunger Walk where classes (in pods) walked from the school to our local food shelf to deliver food donations. Prior to their walk, students spent time in their STEM classes with Mrs. Reynolds and Mrs. Myers learning about food insecurity, and those who may experience it in our country, state and community (United Nations Sustainable Goal #2 Zero Hunger). Our students were so moved by what they were learning that they pledged to make a difference. 

Students identified food shortage as a real need in our community and their hope was for all 3rd and 4th graders to be part of the solution. With a great deal of collaboration and creativity, they developed and implemented a plan to address food insecurity through the creation of our BFA Hunger Walk. The goal was to reduce hunger by bringing food items to school that could then be carried and donated to our local food shelf – in unity and in support of Zero Hunger. Participating in this authentic, meaningful learning opportunity not only raised awareness, but also fostered the development of student voice by empowering them to make a difference in their community.

The impact of this event extended far beyond the classroom. Students were so passionate about Zero Hunger that many advocated and created plans with their own families; donating money raised through the sale of toys over the summer, reaching out to neighbors and neighborhood associations raising awareness and collecting additional food items, creating banners, posters, signs, and more. Our students stepped up in ways that were unimaginable and we could not be more proud of how they embraced the opportunity to make a difference. 

Some of the more memorable student quotes that were shared while planning and walking include:

“We support zero hunger!”

“We are making a difference.”

“My muscles are sore but my heart is full.”

Our teachers are helping us change the world”.

A special thank you to Pastor Liz Griffin who helped educate our students about our local food shelf by creating a video tour (displayed below). No doubt, this authentic, inclusive, powerful learning opportunity will have a lasting impact on all who were involved.  

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School Culture and a Sense of Belonging


Having a sense of belonging and feeling welcome within your school is the foundation for developing a positive school culture. 

Taking the time to greet one another, making eye contact, and sharing a friendly comment to someone can be just what it takes to build a culture where everyone feels present. It is the power of words and human connection that can fuel a positive school culture.  

Human interaction is a necessity and research indicates that individuals thrive when such personal contacts exist. That is why it is important to plan meaningful opportunities throughout each day for students and staff to communicate and collaborate together.  It just might be the boost they need to establish a successful school day that is filled with productive, meaningful, and memorable learning opportunities.   

Our school’s Culture Committee plans opportunities for our Elementary School classrooms every month.  Although it has been different this year, as we cannot gather as an entire student body, we have been creative while planning; we have provided opportunities for pods where they can participate and share photos back and forth for their peers to see.  

This week’s opportunity was a Scavenger Hunt where clues provided allowed classroom students and teachers to work together to solve each clue and find the outside location.  Students collaborated, problem solved and then actively went to each location to be certain they had solved the clue correctly. 

It has been a great week for outside learning opportunities!

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @Emery_Gems.

Keeping us Whole


Ensuring all students receive as much in-person instruction as possible while maintaining health and safety in our schools has been a shared goal across all FWSU schools since we began our planning for this uniquely challenging school year.

Throughout these unprecedented times, FWSU administrators and teachers have continued to prioritize the comprehensive well-being of students and staff. We continue to internalize the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community (WSCC) Framework as a north star for our attention to critical areas of health and wellness.

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model

The overarching purpose of the WSCC Framework is to establish greater alignment, integration, and collaboration between health and education across all school settings to improve each child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.  

FWSU schools’ initiatives for maintaining safe and healthy schools and the well-being of students and staff have reflected seven key components of the model.

Here are just a few of the alignment highlights:

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: FWSU schools have worked diligently to move as much learning outdoors as possible. Outdoor learning activities and outdoor classroom spaces have been created at each school. In addition to outdoor physical education, our students are outside, safely learning in a variety of subjects with hands-on approaches designed by their teachers. 

NUTRITION SERVICES: Since the initial closure of schools in March 2020, FWSU administrators have worked hand-in-hand with our food service providers, transportation, and families to ensure continuous access to breakfast and lunch. 

HEALTH SERVICES: Our school nurses have played both a critical and integral role in ensuring our schools could open safely in September and remain open. We are so grateful for their guidance, professionalism, expertise, and leadership. 

SOCIAL EMOTIONAL CLIMATE:  All of our schools have strengthened their approaches to social-emotional learning. Classrooms prioritize these approaches to ensure a climate that engages all learners and is responsive to students’ varying needs.

SAFE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: Administrators meet weekly together and and with school-based team members, which represent many staff and roles. These team members, including our custodial staff, engage throughout the week to monitor safety. Our schools use all data and guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education to make timely, informed decisions about school safety during the pandemic.

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT: Engaging families in their children’s learning must always be a priority, but in our current learning contexts, it is an absolute necessity. Because some learning remains remote on certain days for all learners, K-12, schools have worked to increase and improve their communication with families, who are working so hard to coach and support many aspects of home-learning.

EMPLOYEE WELLNESS: Staffs are stretched and stressed. FWSU administrators and Leadership Teams pay particular attention to capacity issues and ensure that self-care is prioritized to the greatest extent possible. Our schools create space and time to be alert, proactive, and responsive to employee wellness concerns and needs. 

If there is anything that has been seriously challenged this year in our work with WSCC, it is our community partnerships. Although our commitment to these partnerships remains strong, many of our partners have been stretched very thin and some have experienced impacts in their capacity to partner. Due to health and safety meeting guidelines, meeting other than virtually is not possible. One of our partners, RiseVT, has continued to maintain their focus on our school and classroom partnerships through their programming and recognition.

FWSU is grateful for the continued support from RiseVT — they are making it work!

Click the photo below for a list of recognitions for our teachers and schools as they continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to the health and well-being of their staffs and their students.

RiseVT is in the process of working with Northwest Access Television to find a fun way to celebrate our teachers and schools virtually.

Stay tuned!

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum,
Instruction and Assessment at Franklin West
Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Fletcher Students Complete Community Service to Support Children and Families


To ring in the new year, Fletcher Elementary students have finished one significant community service project and are beginning another. 
In December, students from Fletcher Elementary School collected 331 non-perishable food items as part of a school-wide food drive. Classes teamed up with the school’s parent group, Friends of Fletcher Elementary, to organize the effort that challenged students to see if they could collectively assemble 200 food items between all of the classes. 

“The food drive is really good because it helps people stay healthy and makes sure they have enough to eat,” student Lorelei Sloan said.

“You don’t always think about it but some people might not have enough food for their family and we need to help them.”

This is the first year that the school and parent group have organized the drive together with the goal of creating and distributing meal boxes to needy families within the town of Fletcher. Students discussed community service, and incorporated math skills into the drive by counting and sorting food items and graphing the totals each class contributed on a whole-school graph. The effort culminated in a virtual school-wide meeting during which students gathered the food for delivery. 

And, while the food drive has ended, the community service has not.

A group of students at Fletcher Elementary School are collecting the unmarked front covers of holiday cards in an effort to save lives. The cards will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital where they will be recycled into new cards and sold to benefit children’s care at the hospital. The Fletcher students have dubbed the project, Cards for Kids.

At St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food. Innovations in treatment for childhood cancer pioneered at St. Jude’s have helped push the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent. Profits from these upcycled cards will support continued cost-free care and cancer research.

Cards donated to the school need not be separated or prepared in any way. Students will remove the unmarked covers and discard any portions with writing. They will also use the cards as part of math and writing lessons as they prepare them for shipment. Or, donors may remove the covers themselves, if they prefer.

Cards may be dropped off at the school (there is a collection box in the entryway) or mailed to: Chris Dodge, Principal, Fletcher Elementary School, 340 School Road, Cambridge, VT 05444. The deadline to submit cards is Friday, February 5, 2021.

Students are working to collect 6,000 cards, topping last year’s total by 500.

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

New Year, New Opportunities


Moving Forward

We tentatively plan to return fifth and sixth grade students for four days of in-person instruction at BFA Fairfax and Georgia Middle School on January 11th, 2021.  Principal Justin Brown and Principal Julie Conrad’s faculty and staff have been preparing for quite a while for the return of fifth and sixth graders while focusing on maintaining the health and safety guidelines.  We will continue to follow guidance from the Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health in finalizing this decision.

Bright Spots

Congratulations to Principal John Tague and his team from BFA Fairfax who earned a College Success Award in 2020 based on their success in preparing students for college and ultimately career.  The College Success awards recognize public high schools that stand out in getting students enrolled in and staying with college.  BFA was one of ten public high schools in Vermont to win this prestigious honor.  GreatSchools.org cited BFA Fairfax with having 73% of its graduates enroll in an institution of higher education within sixteen months of graduation.  The organization also says that 83% of those students completed their first year of college and returned for a second year. 

Congratulations to Principal Chris Dodge and the Fletcher Elementary faculty and staff for being named a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Exemplar School for the State of Vermont.  This designation was awarded by the state level VTPBIS Team of the Vermont Agency of Education and the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion Collaboration at the annual PBIS Forum in Killington.  Fletcher’s PBIS Coordinator and School Counselor, Lisa Coale, accepted the award on behalf of the school.

Congratulations to Dorsey Hogg from Georgia Elementary and Middle School for being recognized as the Vermont Art Teacher of the Year.  Dorsey, who shines her light on many with a perpetual smile was presented with this honor by the Vermont Art Educators Association (VAEA).  Dorsey is a sculptor who transforms old books, and sometimes magazines into sculptures.

Happy Holiday Season

I continue to be impressed by the resilience that is aptly demonstrated daily by students, parents, faculty, and staff as we relentlessly navigate this historical pandemic for a period that has currently encompassed ten months.  Each individual student possesses a unique talent or gift which continues to provide a sense of joy that radiates like sunshine bringing positivity to us all.  I hope you all had a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year filled with a sense of hope for better days to come.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”   

Charles Dickens

Enthusiastically Yours,

James Tager is the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jrtager

Electric Bus Update


In the spirit of looking forward to a new year, one of the things that we at BFA Fairfax are looking forward to is the delivery of our new electric buses. While we were working through the tribulations of 2020, one of the projects we were working on in the background was the acquisition of new electric buses for BFA Fairfax.

Early in the 2019-2020 school year, BFA Fairfax won a competitive grant process that allowed us to replace two of our current buses with more efficient electric buses.  The real advantage of this award is that we would get two $350,000 buses, along with funding to support all of the related infrastructure including charging stations, training for drivers and related personnel for the cost of two comparable diesel buses. And we were due to replace two of our aging buses anyway.

Example Electric Bus: You can tell that it’s electric due to the distinctive blue wheels and bumper.

Over the past year, our partners in the grant process at the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and Green Mountain Power have been immensely helpful. We have been meeting virtually each week throughout the past 12 months to arrange RFPs, review and approve bids, and plan for the smooth delivery of our buses and installation of necessary infrastructure. 

In August, with the approval of the board, we ordered our two buses. They are currently in production and we expect to have them delivered by the end of the school year.  I am also excited to share that, just before the holidays, the installation process for our charging stations has begun so that we can be ready for the arrival of our new busses this Spring.

Newly installed lighting and charging station bases (at no cost to BFA Fairfax!)

In the spirit of thanks after the holidays, I would like to thank Patsy Parker, BFA Fairfax Transportation Coordinator; Kate Cahalane at VEIC; and Randy Morton, FWSU Business Manager for their tireless attention to detail, flexibility and follow-through that has made this incredible opportunity possible and for bringing it to fruition.

Randy Morton, FWSU Business Manager
Patsy Parker, BFA Fairfax Transportation Coordinator

We can also not thank our drivers enough for their work to safely drive our students (regardless of vehicle type) to and from school every day!

Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator.

BFA Fairfax High School Racial Justice Alliance


BFA administrators and staff have been engaged in learning and conversations about equity for several years. Last spring, while we were on dismissal, racial justice came to the forefront of our students’ worlds, but we were not in a position to have daily conversations with them to help them make sense of it all. School had ended for the summer, but we knew we couldn’t wait for the fall to connect with our students about this important issue.

A group of teachers decided to put out an open invitation to have a discussion about what was going on in the world and how we could move forward together. 

“I am committed to making our school and community a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

Christy M, teacher

Around a dozen students joined the first zoom session. They asked questions about the return to school and other topics before the conversation shifted to equity and racial justice in our school. 

“I felt it was my responsibility as person to try to better the community for the people of color in our school and community” -Jarrett, Grade 12

The students had a lot of questions and concerns. The students agreed that we should continue these conversations throughout the summer and that they would reach out to their peers to expand the group. 

“ In light of protests across the world, being a part of the Fairfax Racial Justice alliance is a way that I can help to make a difference even if that is just in the small-scale community of Fairfax. Small changes have big impacts.” -Emmaleigh, Grade 11

At first, the teachers facilitated the conversation, but somewhere in the middle of the summer, the students took over the agenda and the conversation. 

“Being a part of the Fairfax Racial Justice Alliance Group is important to me because I believe it is important to advocate for equality. I believe that now more than ever, we need to confront the racism in our country and communities and work towards a future of racial justice and equality.”

Charlotte, Grade 11

Their goal was to provide opportunities for the student body to join the discussion about racial justice in our school and in the world and ultimately improve the culture of BFA. Thus, the BFA Fairfax Racial Justice Alliance (FRJA) began.

“I feel that more needs to be done in our school and in extension our community to combat and prevent the normalized racism that is overlooked and ignored.“ -Melissa, Grade 10

Over the summer, the students continued to meet to make plans for their work and set goals. They met with consultant Rebecca Haslem to create the following mission:

 “Fairfax’s student-led initiative to address racial inequity within our community. By creating a safe space to hold conversations and educate both students and faculty, together we will form the skills to create a healthy and diverse school climate.” 

The group of students and teachers meets weekly during the remote Wednesday to continue their work and conversations. Franklin West Superintendent, Jim Tager and Director of Curriculum, Linda Keating have attended several of the meetings to offer support and resources for the student initiative.

“I joined this group because this is important to me. I believe that no one should ever be treated differently because of their race and I want to help make a difference in our school and our community” -Alaina, Grade 9

The students created and distributed a survey to the student body last week. After the holiday break, they will use their meeting time to analyze the data to help them make informed decisions about their next steps to have conversations and educate students in order to improve the school culture.

“It’s important to work in your small communities to be able to create important change, and starting at school I think is really important”.

Laurel, Grade 10

The student’s commitment to this important work is essential for all of the students of BFA now and in their future. 

“As a language teacher, my goal is to broaden and deepen students’ perspectives of other cultures and promote empathy with and understanding of other people. I am excited to see a student-led movement in our school that recognizes the importance of examining racial justice in our community, and I want to support their efforts to expand our understanding of diversity, inclusion, equity, privilege, and bias.” -Alana T., teacher

John Tague is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jtague252

BFA Fairfax Music Students and Staff ROCK the 2020 Winter Concert


As we approach the start of the new year, many would label 2020 as the “Year of Covid-19.” In our schools, however, 2020 should be labeled as the  “Year of Creativity.”  That creativity was on full display the night of Wednesday, December 16, when our Middle and High School music department put on their annual winter concert.  This year’s concert was both unique and inspirational, as it was the first-ever held in a virtual format. 

Through the tech savvy work of BFA Fairfax music educators Glen Wallace, Matt Davide, Christina Maynard, and Sarah Wolff, band and choral students have been accessing their lessons and curriculum in a virtual format this school year.  These educators’ pervasive “think outside the box” mentality has allowed for multiple student opportunities outdoors when the weather permits, or taking virtual lessons in the safety and comfort of their own homes.  

On the night of the winter concert, nearly 250 homes accessed the webinar platform, and with multiple people watching in each home, this could possibly have been the most highly attended concert ever.  Viewers were treated to a selection of songs by our Middle and High School Band and Chorus, as well as our Jazz Band.  Keeping with a student-centered approach, all selections were introduced by current music students, and families had the opportunity to write words of encouragement in between numbers.  

BFA Fairfax music students and staff have already begun to work on their next performance, a themed (TBD) concert slated for late winter/early spring of 2021.  Once a date and theme are finalized, we will share that with the community.  If the 2020 winter concert was any indication, this next concert will be an experience you don’t want to miss! 

Congratulations to our music students and staff, as well as the numerous parent and community supporters. We are so incredibly proud, and thankful for you all.

Happy Holidays!

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

Elevating Our Middle School Writers


Georgia Middle School’s goal this year is for 100% of our students to develop and extend beyond proficiency as writers. We have begun this year with two main sub-goals in this process: have students writing regularly in every class and to instruct and support the ‘steal and slide’ strategy to all students.

As James Clear states in his book, Atomic Habits, “Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” In order to create a culture where we all recognize ourselves as writers, we have committed to regular writing opportunities and experiences throughout our day. Students have been writing in all of their classes and learning strategies on how to make claims, support them with evidence and insight, and writing strong conclusions. Some of the great ways our student writers have engaged in sharing their learning through writing include: 

  • comparisons between a short story and a video adaptation,
  • state reports identifying key aspects of their geography and economy and comparing it to Vermont, 
  • arguments for or against “sameness” as they have read The Giver together,
  • problem solving explanations of their mathematical solution,
  • personal reflections in art class, 
  • letters to the principal about the benefits of recess in health class, and
  • daily reflections on the day’s lesson in Spanish

The investment we have made in building the regular habits with clear expectations around writing have begun to show great growth in our budding writers. Each week, teachers gather in teams to look at student work and discuss where our students are growing as writers and what areas they need to continue to develop. Discussions about how to provide specific and targeted feedback to students to support their ability to clearly communicate their thinking through the written word. 

“I think I have grown as a writer this year. This is because I have been writing more than I used to. I also learned more techniques to use in my writing. ” 

Exciting evidence of our amazing writers has come from our 5th and 6th graders. In a class-wide study of the novel, Deep Water, students have been learning about and engrossing themselves in understanding strong narrative writing. Lessons have emphasized the importance and implementation of figurative language and how strong word choice enriches your writing to help create strong imagery for the reader. Students have learned how these writing tools, along with dialogue, help to make the reader feel like they are in the story.

“I have grown as a writer by learning how to use other words for basic adjectives and verbs. For example, instead of saying said I could say replied, shouted, stated, etc. depending on the situation in writing. I hope to learn more about how to use similes and metaphors in my writing. I know what they mean but I would like to learn how to use them in all my writing/stories.”  

Recently students created their own ending to the novel. The examples of student work shows just how well our students have taken their new learning and have adapted to create their own strong voice in developing their own creative ending.

Here is a wonderful Deep Water ending from one of our 5th grade students:

We are excited to see our students blossom into writers and build pride in their written works. As we continue to pursue our goal of ALL students to develop and extend beyond proficiency as writers, we hope to inspire the next generation of storytellers as well. And if our student’s responses for what they want to learn next is any indication, we can anticipate some wonderful things from these budding writers. 

“I’ve definitely improved as a writer this year and I’m making a story about 4 kids who get trapped in a war in a different dimension and the only way out is if they win the war. The 4 kids names are Tommy, Sophie, William and Jacob and they live in an orphanage.”

“Something I hope to learn is how to write an amazing cliffhanger and a piece with impeccable detail.”

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Celebrating Excellence in Education


University of Vermont’s 2020 Outstanding Teacher 

Every year, the College of Education and Social Services (CESS) at the University of Vermont, together with Vermont supervisory unions and school districts, the Vermont Agency of Education, and the Vermont NEA, all join to honor the accomplishments of our state’s outstanding educators. 

This year’s University of Vermont Teacher of the Year consistently exemplifies all of the qualities synonymous with excellence. Kendra Myers, a Grade 4 STEM teacher, is a remarkable educator that possesses the ability to inspire through making meaningful, authentic connections with every student. She instills and models a love of learning, curiosity, and resilience through her ability to engage all students. 

Kendra routinely and tirelessly adjusts curricula to ensure that students are accessing the most relevant, meaningful content.  As someone who may appear modest or humble, she has embraced numerous new endeavors over the years with great success; having an enormous impact on how students view learning. Those who have collaborated with Kendra would use words such as student-centered, kind, compassionate, selfless and professional on all levels and in all aspects of education. 

Kendra Myers fosters the joy of discovery while modeling the utmost respect and genuine belief in all students. For Kendra, these characteristics, passions and values are evident in the classroom where you are apt to witness students highly engaged in hands-on projects, independently exploring new innovation or creatively reflecting on their work as part of the design cycle; often times simultaneously and seamlessly with little or no disruption.

The enthusiasm Kendra shares with students around learning content and new resources excites and inspires students to want more. To quote one of her students regarding their upcoming Hunger Walk,  “Mrs. Myers is helping us change the world!”

Kendra demonstrates that she is an amazing educator to the core and we are so fortunate to have this person as a member of our school and community. Congratulations on this much deserved recognition!  

BFA Fairfax’s Paraeducator of the Year

This year’s BFA Fairfax Paraeducator of the Year embodies the patience, skills and abilities that allow ALL students to learn and thrive.  JoJo Lynch continually and without hesitation will do whatever it takes to engage, advocate for, and connect with students in order to ensure their sense of belonging and success.  

JoJo will accept whatever task, challenge, or responsibility that is asked of her, and with a relentless level of determination will give everything she has to see it through to completion. JoJo is the first to offer assistance, support, and encouragement to students and colleagues alike, there is not a room that does not light up when she enters, and there is not a face without a smile whenever she shares her quick wit and humorous perspective in even the most difficult of situations. 

JoJo’s impact is not only felt at the elementary level, but rather over our entire Pre-K to 12 community.  We have not only been able to benefit from her skills as a paraeducator, but also as one of our school community’s biggest cheerleaders and fans who is willing to do pretty much anything to elevate school spirit, prompt a smile and laugh, and share that enthusiasm with others. 

JoJo is an extremely loyal colleague and friend, and an adored and highly respected coach who embraces and personifies the greater purpose of athletics in the lives of students. 

We are truly fortunate to have JoJo Lynch, this year’s Paraeducator of the Year, as a member of our BFA Fairfax family. 

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