About Franklin West SU

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

THE FWSU STORY: School Board Chairs Learn Together

This week the three school board chairs of the schools that comprise FWSU spent the day together learning. The professional development opportunity was sponsored by the Vermont School Boards Association is a requirement of all school board chairs and superintendents in Vermont (16 VSA 561(b).

Board Chairs in FWSU

Board Chairs in Franklin West Supervisory Union participated in VSBA training at Lake Morey (pictured left to right: Elaine Carpenter, Carl Laroe, Jr., Tara Sweet)

The daylong training explored topics such as educational leadership, school board roles and responsibilities, education funding, open meeting law, public records, and collective bargaining. A portion of the meeting was also devoted to the State’s study of special education completed by the District Management Group (DMG). The DMG worked with FWSU three years ago in a pilot study and later expanded its work with schools all over Vermont.

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VSBA Superintendent and Board Chair Training

The work of our school boards is essential to the success of our schools by providing student-focused oversight of education system. The boards of Fairfax, Fletcher, and Georgia are all committed to providing the best educational experiences for students. Each school board meets monthly and always invites the community to attend board meetings which are lawfully held in public. The Franklin West Supervisory Union Board meets five times per year and is comprised of three board members from Fletcher, Fairfax, and Georgia. FWSU Board meetings are also held in public and community members are encouraged to attend. Each year, the chair of the FWSU board rotates year to a different member district in our supervisory union. All of our school boards have also adopted a written Code of Ethics to hold their work to the highest ethical standards as they serve our schools and community.

Each of school board has its own webpage with current information:



“Having the opportunity to meet with other school board chairs as well as superintendents is always informative and energizing. Not only were we updated on current challenges for funding Vermont’s education system, but we also spent time focusing on data-driven best practices for improving student outcomes. It is validating to know that other Vermont schools are facing the same challenges that we are in balancing the needs of our students with the economic reality of funding public education.”   – Elaine Carpenter, Chair Fairfax Board of School Directors.

THE FWSU STORY: Promoting School Inclusion Through Unified Sports

This spring BFA Fairfax started a Unified Sports Bocce team. The team is practicing and learning the fundamentals and strategies of the sport.


The Unified Bocce Team at BFA Fairfax

The team will participate in the spring Unified Champion Schools Bocce Tournament in June.  They will compete against many other community Special Olympics Unified Sports Bocce Teams.


In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability which makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting.


Unified Sports builds friendships, promotes social inclusion, and empowers individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.


BFA Fairfax has partnered with the Special Olympics to provide this opportunity for students in grades 4 through 6. Unified Sports has positive impacts throughout the school. This allows for meaningful participation opportunities for students and increases social inclusion.


Thank you to the coaches, Cindy Anderson and Paula Thompson. Their effort and dedication to supporting all student-athletes have made this program possible.

Bocce Coaches Paula Thompson and Cindy Anderson

Bocce Coaches Paula Thompson and Cindy Anderson

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Spanish Class Explores Artistic Expression at Dartmouth College

The students in the Advanced Spanish class at Georgia Elementary Middle School recently took a field trip to Dartmouth College. The students toured the basement of the Baker-Berry Library where a famous mural is tucked away.

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GEMS Advanced Spanish Class

This 24-panel mural is a “fresco” style piece of art entitled The Epic of American Civilization. It covers 3,200 feet and explores the history of the Americas through the lens of artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

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An Orozco mural displayed at Dartmouth

Students participated in a workshop which involved careful observation, interpretation, drawing and presenting their ideas about the different pieces of the mural. Orozco took two years to paint this mural, and the students decoded most of it in two hours – no easy challenge! This opportunity was rare and students were able to use their knowledge of culture, history, art, religion and Spanish to aid in interpreting the murals.

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Students explored artistic expression and interpretation.

“I enjoyed seeing the murals. They are unique.”  – Tanisha G

“I was challenged by trying to understand what the art meant.” –  Jacob H 

“I enjoyed the bus ride and the facts behind each art piece.  I learned more about the past from them.”  – Taylor R

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Another large fresco mural featured in the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth

“I learned more about the type of painting he used (fresco).” – Sydney L

“I enjoyed eating lunch in the middle of the college.”  – Tallon S

“I learned that Orozco cared about the future.”  – Andrew Y

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Shine in 2018 Shape-Vermont Fitness Competition

On Thursday, May 3rd, BFA Fairfax Middle and Elementary School PE teachers Dylan Callan and Heather Weeks took a team of grades 5-8 students to compete in the Shape-Vermont 2018 State Fitness Competition held at Norwich University.  Although this event is held annually, it was BFA Fairfax’s inaugural time attending the competition.



Any interested 5th-8th grader was invited to participate in our school-based competition, with the top scorers receiving a spot to attend the state competition involving teams from over forty Vermont middle schools. Competitors worked to achieve their personal best in push-ups, curl-ups, sit and reach, and the mile run.  



It was a fantastic experience for our BFA Fairfax participants.  Although the competition was the highlight, the day also provided the opportunity for our students to experience one of Vermont’s beautiful college campuses and all that the Norwich facilities and staff had to offer.  We were also pleased to be able to share the day with a team competing from Georgia Elementary Middle School.



With all the positive feedback, we are already looking forward to sending a BFA Fairfax team again next year!  Thank you to Mr. Callan and Ms. Weeks for bringing this exciting and beneficial opportunity to our students and school.  


Geri Witalec

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax. You follow her @GLWit

THE FWSU STORY: Middle School Students Learn at Champlain College

Middle school students from BFA and GEMS joined other Vermont students at Champlain College to participate in the sixth annual Reaching Out On Technology & Science (ROOTS). 

The ROOTS program is sponsored by the Champlain College Division of Information Technology and Science. The focus of the event is to expose middle students to fields in Science & Technology and to encourage their curiosity and imagination.

ROOTS is an all-day immersive event where students can select and participated in a series of three workshops taught by faculty from Champlain College’s Divisions of Information Technology & Sciences (ITS) and Communication and Creative Media (CCM).  Some of the choices included the following: Art with Code, Binary Challenge, Building Your First Website, Forensic Science, Game Design, Game Show Mathematics, Learning with Lightbot, Mobile Forensics, Programming with Scratch, and Tools for Digital Privacy.

This is the third year that FWSU middle school students have joined students from ten other middle schools in the Champlain Valley. STEM partnerships with Champlain College and University of Vermont have made our school programs stronger, as we continually try to inspire our students to envision themselves attending college, or exploring a career, in a STEM related field.

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee Reconvenes

This past November, the Fairfax community voted with a resounding defeat of the proposed bond totaling $15,998,458 to update the middle and high school wings of the school building.

BFA Fairfax Logo

After taking time to reflect, reassess, and regroup, a new Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFPC) consisting of community members, school board representatives, administrators, staff members, and parents have begun the process of developing recommendations to address our future needs.

The original Bellows Free Academy structure

The original Bellows Free Academy structure in Fairfax, VT

As with the previous LRFPC, the charge from the School Board remains the same.  We have been asked to consider the needs of our school building and determine the most cost-effective solutions for meeting our goal of a facility that is prepared to serve our students and community for the next several decades.


BFA Fairfax

The current LRFPC has begun a comprehensive process of evaluating our space needs, reviewing to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, revisiting the previous assessments of the building’s mechanical, electrical, architectural, and code and compliance/life safety needs.  In addition, we have reviewed the previous recommendations for the building and are currently identifying and classifying building needs and recommendation into four categories (safety, accessibility, opportunities, and efficiencies).  We are in the process of determining our project priorities that will create the biggest impact on our facility.

BFA Fairfax High School

BFA Fairfax High School

As the Long Range Facilities Committee continues our work we will continue sharing our proposals, solicit community input, and communicate our next steps to achieve our goals for the building.  We are determined to provide a transparent process that will ultimately yield in the successful passage of a bond that is fiscally responsible and has the support of our community.  We are open to your feedback and suggestions.

BFA Fairfax Middle School

BFA Fairfax Middle School

Please feel free to contact me or John Tague if you have any questions or concerns at twalsh@fwsu.org and/or jtague@fwsu.org.  We look forward to engaging our community in a process that serves our students for the next several decades.

THE FWSU STORY: New Assessment Measures Physical Fitness at GEMS

The Vermont Agency of Education has made some changes in the state assessment system this year in accordance with the Federal “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA). One such change is the implementation of Physical Education assessments in targeted elementary, middle, and high school grades.


Students at GEMS practice physical fitness in PE class.

The Vermont Agency of Education has selected FitnessGram to serve as its statewide physical education assessment for both state and federal accountability purposes. FitnessGram is a non-competitive fitness assessment developed in 1982 by The Cooper Institute and is currently the most widely used fitness assessment tool nationally. Our state views this assessment as an important measure of good health as opposed to athletic ability.

This year, in May, each student in grades four and seven will be assessed in four areas: aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. Body composition will not be measured or reported. Because this is the initial year of the testing, parents will not be receiving individual student results.


Students assess their physical fitness with FitnessGram

FitnessGram Assessment includes:

Curl-Ups: The curl-up test measures abdominal strength and endurance, which is important in back support and core stability.

Push Ups: The push-up test measures muscular endurance of the upper body.

PACER Test: The PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) is the default aerobic capacity test in FITNESSGRAM. Aerobic capacity is perhaps the most important component of any fitness program. Research indicates that acceptable levels of aerobic capacity are associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and other health problems in adults.

Sit and Reach: The sit and reach test is a common measure of flexibility, and specifically measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstring muscles.

If you are interested in learning more about the assessment and the standards it is designed to measure, please visit: