About Franklin West SU

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

It’s Been A Banner Spring For BFA Fairfax Athletic Teams

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When the Vermont Principals Association made the final decision last April to cancel the 2020 spring athletic season due the global pandemic, it was a crushing blow to eager BFA Fairfax spring student-athletes.  Even with the year off, however, our spring athletic teams have had stellar seasons, and have proven that they were able to come back smarter, stronger, and ready for success.  

Middle School baseball, softball, and track and field showed great skill in their shortened season.  We look forward to them playing a full season next year! 

With an extremely young team, the High School Baseball program opted to play a full JV schedule.  This decision led to some of the most exciting games in recent years on our baseball field, and truly demonstrated that the future is very bright, and baseball is back alive in Fairfax!

Boys Ultimate had a season of remarkable growth and improvement, with undeniable team unity. The team put up a great fight, but bowed out of the tournament in the first round to CVU.

High School Track and Field had one of their best showings in recent years at the Division 3 State Track and Field championships. With 20 athletes qualifying in their respective events, multiple podium placements, and the girls team finishing in 6th overall place (their highest ever finish), they made the community and program extremely proud. 

The Girls Ultimate team was one of the top contenders all season, easily advancing to the state semifinals.  In what was arguably their best game of the season, they ultimately fell to a strong Burlington High School team. Their performance this year was representative of the new life of the Girls Ultimate program, and set the stage for future success.

In their inaugural season as a Varsity team, the Boys Lacrosse team brought tons of excitement to campus. Their buzzer-beating goal in the Division 3 quarterfinals was one of the highlights of the whole year in athletics!  Although they ultimately fell to Montpelier in the semifinals, they were honored with the Division 3 State Sportsmanship Award, which is one of the greater honors bestowed upon a school and program.  

Finally, the Varsity Softball team continued their stellar season by upsetting the top seeded, undefeated, White River Valley Wildcats in the Division 3 semifinals on Tuesday.  They will play in the State Championship game at Castleton University this weekend, and hope they will have a large contingent of fans making the trip south.  For those that cannot make the game, it will be live-streamed on the NFHS Network, so fans can cheer them on from home.  

Congratulations to all of our student-athletes on an amazing spring! You have been an inspiration to us all, and role models in resilience, perseverance, and overcoming adversity!  Go Fairfax!

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

Memorable Music!

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The Spanish 7/8  classes and band at GEMS collaborated to produce a cover of the Spanish pop song, “Loca” by Alvaro Soler. With the help of Chris Gribnau, the music teacher and Laura Mathieu, the Spanish teacher, students performed both the music and words to create a music video.  The process took weeks and involved a lot of hard work in transcribing music, practicing instruments independently, memorizing lyrics and recording separately until finally putting it all into a single music video. Students were surprised they were able to memorize words in a second language. 

As with many pandemic projects, we ventured into new territory, pushed our comfort zones and learned a lot.  Working on separate recordings presented the challenge of separate timing rather than emergent unison.  Work ethic, positivity and overcoming shyness and nerves were all valuable goals.  While not perfect, we see this project as a success and hopefully the beginning of future collaborative projects.

It is notable that some qualities of students in both Spanish and band include perseverance, open-mindedness, and resiliency.

7th Grade wisdom:

“I learned to speak more Spanish and some new words.” -Kaitlyn

“I learned that a lot of people were not comfortable singing but they still tried.” – River

“What I learned from working on Loca is that hard work can pay off and the end result can be better than you think.” – Alexis

“One thing I learned doing this project was working on my instrument again.  Having a song to play made me want to practice my instrument.” -Leah

“From working on this project, I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and work with others.  I didn’t feel confident in myself at first, but after practice, I was able to finish the project feeling more confident than at the beginning.” -Mattie

Some other words of wisdom from our 8th Graders:

“I learned to not be embarrassed, you just gotta go with the flow and not care what other people think. Practice lyrics and also just have a good time with it even though you may not want to because these are the times you will remember.”  -Briana

“While working on the “Loca” project, I learned that singing in a different language is hard.  Yes, we practiced and practiced but doing this was hard but so much fun.”  -Raegan

“I definitely learned how to work in unison with my peers and remembering lyrics.” -Megan

“Some advice I would give is to not be shy, be open and make the best of it.” -Kenna

“I learned that you can pronounce words differently to match a beat.”  – Cadien

Click here to watch the video!

This blog was written by:

Julie Conrad is currently Principal of Georgia Middle School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @JulieConradVT

CO-WRITTEN BY:
Chris Gribnau, GEMS Music Teacher & Laura Mathieu, GEMS Spanish Teacher

Moving Forward

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Resilience at GEMS

During my “Take 20” meeting with Kay Lee, 4th grade teacher at Georgia Elementary School, I learned that she is currently in her 48th year of teaching.  The resilience and optimism she radiates is something that will stay with me always.  Kay’s students over the years have readily participated in IVECA (Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities). Her students have consistently connected in a very meaningful way through technology with students from South Korea, Mexico, and a host of other countries. FWSU schools were the first in Vermont to work with this esteemed program deservedly recognized by the United Nations. 

Kay has post-pandemic travel plans to visit Maine, frequent shopping at one of her favorite stores, The Christmas Tree Shop and then on a broader scale, find her way to Indonesia in the near future.  When I spoke to Kay in April, I came away with a lasting impression framed by her love for her students and the privilege of seeing them five days a week. Her selfless career spanning five decades has always been about the young, impressionable students sitting in front of her, and I am awed and truly inspired by the energy Kay brings to the classroom each morning. Kay Lee is significant both in the classroom and in her community, and we are all better for it.

Finishing Strong at Fletcher

As conditions improve it is wonderful to see the resurgence of events that we all so desperately missed over the past 14 months. The 6th grade graduation/celebration at Fletcher Elementary is scheduled outdoors for June 10th. Principal Chris Dodge is working with singer/songwriter Chad Hollister to create a special song that will include positive attributes about each individual student. This outdoor event will provide an opportunity for fellowship in a socially distanced space under a tent that will bring a sense of closure, but more importantly, it will be a celebration layered by achievement and success for our scholars, parents, faculty , and staff. 

National Honor Society Induction at BFA Fairfax

Recently, an impressive group of students representing the Class of 2021, 2022,  and 2023 were inducted into the National Honor Society at the athletic field on a mid-May beautiful evening. Families brought lawn chairs to this uplifting event where we all relished the opportunity to gather collectively to support this highly regarded group of young leaders with such bright futures. Some key takeaways for me included the fact that students led the celebration; the extraordinary efforts behind community service projects that students completed amid a pandemic; but mostly, the communal drive to come together as one to share in the accomplishments of our young people.  

The overriding sense of pride, togetherness, and resilient spirit that shined through the eyes of the class of 2021 and their proud families and friends make me further realize just how important human interaction truly is.  A pastor told me only a few years ago to, “Take the time to look up.”  I have spent too much time looking into a 15″ screen these past 14 months.  I plan on heeding my own advice and that of the pastor and look up toward the mountains and the stars while imagining the limitless possibilities in front of us all.  But for now, please know how grateful I am for the present and all that each of you have contributed to our children so that their dreams and visions can become real.

Quotable Moving Forward

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.“Out there in the wild, on a long journey, you hike your own hike, blaze your own trail, and only you can find what you’re looking for.” 

— Scott Jurek 

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Scott Jurek is the author of “North,” the story of an intensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

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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

Gratitude

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Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is a word I use often when referring to my appreciation of the extraordinary efforts of all the staff that work at BFA Fairfax.  Since March of 2020, all employees have unconditionally given of themselves to navigate this once in a lifetime pandemic. Our staff has reimagined our educational systems from the way we provide food, how we transport students, and redesigned educational spaces to support safety. 

In addition to being resilient and flexible, our students have demonstrated an immense amount of academic, social and emotional growth this year. They have learned many lessons and skills throughout the pandemic that will serve them well as they encounter other unforeseen obstacles in life.  Our families have demonstrated incredible flexibility, provided ongoing support, and frequently shared their appreciation for our efforts. 

We are eternally grateful and would like to take this time to express our immense gratitude to everyone who has engaged with our learners over the course of the school year. Your interactions, albeit big or small, have had such a positive impact. It definitely takes a village! 

We wish you a relaxing and much deserved summer break. Be well.

Expressing Gratitude Slideshow — created by Rhonda Siemons 

Our slideshow is set to auto-play, however viewers may still need to tap/click on individual slides to transition or hear audio depending on the device or browser you are using.

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Thomas Walsh is currently the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

CO-WRITTEN BY:
Rhonda Siemons, BFA Technology Integrationist

Memorial Day

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Let Memorial Day be a day to count our blessings and remember those who serve to protect our country and our freedom. We are forever grateful for the ultimate sacrifice of those who have served for the United States of America. May their courage and dedication never be forgotten.

These videos were created by GEMS TV EXPRESS students. They include past assemblies honoring Memorial day as well as a current “Thank you Soldiers” tribute to families and those protecting us. Unfortunately, we could not gather in person this year to honor our soldiers, but know we are thinking of you and your families.


Thank You!

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.

Music Al Fresco!

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It was a long time coming, but last week, members of the BFA High School Concert Band came together for their first in-person rehearsal! 

After a year of Zoom sectionals, individual lessons in the room, and generally being apart from each other, everyone was extremely gratified to enjoy the beautiful day outside together to make music as a group for the first time in over a year.  This was as true for the teachers as it was for the students! 

There’s no replacement for live music, and everyone involved (including some elementary student audiences) rated the experience a true success. 

Here’s to more group music in the near future!

This blog was written by Glen Wallace, the Director of Bands at BFA Fairfax.

Fletcher Students Assist Threatened Lake Sturgeon

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Families and staff from Fletcher Elementary School partnered with the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain on May 11 to take on the role of environmental stewards in support of the threatened lake sturgeon. 

During a virtual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) evening event, participants from the school connected virtually with an environmental educator from ECHO to learn about the monstrous creatures of the deep and some unconventional efforts being used to protect and rehabilitate the species’s population. The evening’s event was coined, Fish Assist.

“The lake sturgeon is the coolest fish ever,” third grader William Nadeau said. “It can get really, really big and it looks just like a dinosaur. I was very disappointed to learn about how it is threatened and how people are doing things that could result in it not being around forever.”

Lake sturgeon are listed as threatened in 19 of the 20 states in which they live, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are freshwater fish living in North America from the Hudson Bay through the Mississippi River drainage. Lake sturgeon can live for up to 150 years and grow to be more than nine feet in length and weigh 300 pounds. Over-harvesting and a loss of habitat as a result of the creation of dams are the primary reasons for the species’ declining population. Like its prehistoric ancestors, the lake sturgeon’s rows of spiny armored plates called scutes resemble dinosaurs from long ago. The species lives in Vermont in Lake Champlain and several rivers including the Winooski, Missisquoi, Lamoille and Otter Creek.

“I think it’s really important to learn about the impact we have on the environment and the creatures that depend on it,” Nadeau said. “When we learn about how our actions affect animals we can do things to change the negative impact and protect and save them.”

Prior to the event, students learned about the lake sturgeon through readings and videos in their classrooms, including a virtual visit to the sturgeon tank at ECHO. They were sent home with an engineering activity kit that they used during the event.

“After we learned more about the lake sturgeon, we were challenged to use a variety of materials like a balloon and popsicle sticks to create a fish cannon that could help a lake sturgeon make its way over a dam and go upriver to spawn,” Nadeau said. “Dams made by humans sometimes prevent them from getting upstream and that is reducing their population.”

While the fish cannons created by students are not exactly like those used in real life, the concept is similar. Several supports, such as fish ladders – tiered layers of “stairs” that help sturgeon get over a dam – and small water-powered chutes, are all being used to ease the migration. Fletcher teachers facilitated virtual breakout sessions with students as they used their materials in a variety of ways to design and share their fish cannons.

Fletcher families have a very special connection to the lake sturgeon. When ECHO added lake sturgeon to their aquarium collection, they were transported across the country from the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute in Milwaukee to the ECHO Leahy Center by Fletcher resident Bob Lesnikoski.

“Events like this really empower our students to think responsibly about their own actions and how those behaviors impact the natural world,” second grade teacher Kathleen Pellegrino said. “For most of our students, this opportunity not only introduced a new and exciting animal to their learning, but it also offered an opportunity for students to be creative problem-solvers, to create solutions that might fail and then to improve upon those. That’s the beauty of the engineering design process.”

“It’s like that old saying, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” Nadeua said. “The engineering design process is a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. My fish cannon design didn’t work at first, but I improved it and then it was great.”

In addition to the engineering design kit students used to support sturgeon migration, students also received a butterfly migration kit to use following the event. The event and kits were funded in part by a grant from ECHO.

“One of the greatest privileges of teaching is to help students see and understand the world beyond the four walls of the classroom,” third grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “Particularly during the past year, we’ve learned to reimagine our use of technology in new and exciting ways, including events like this one, that become easily accessible to families right from their living rooms.”

“I learned so much from this experience, Nadeau said. “I learned that I can help these amazing creatures to survive and that you’re never too young to be an engineer who lends a hand.”

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.

Lift-Off!!

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As annual traditions go, 5th Grade STARBASE is a keeper. While last year disrupted many traditions, this Spring we were excited to bring this one back. For many years, the 5th grade has been involved in STARBASE

As things started to open up this spring, in partnership with the STARBASE staff, we worked to ensure that all necessary safety guidelines and protocols were in place and set up an adapted STARBASE experience this year. 

Each pod took turns travelling to STARBASE for two days of on-base activities ranging from classroom learning, projects, a turn on the flight simulator and tours of the facilities and equipment (including watching jets take off!). With a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), students had a myriad of opportunities to learn new things and apply their knowledge.  Students worked in collaborative groups working to solve complex problems and share their ideas and solutions with classmates. 

Throughout our time with STARBASE, our future rocketeers practiced each of their learner traits.  When students were asked to solve problems, they worked both individually and together demonstrating self-direction and used creative and practical problem solving to engage their own and group-mates’ informed and integrative thinking.  In small groups students shared their ideas and products with others using clear and effective communication. While working together during tours of the base and facilities, students continually demonstrated responsible and involved citizenship.

While still at STARBASE, students began working on their final projects. Then, after students returned, STARBASE staff Zoomed into classrooms to support students’ work toward their culminating project – The Rocket Launch.  In each pod, students worked with their instructors virtually, and together with table-mates to put the finishing touches on each of their rockets. 

While safety guidelines didn’t quite allow for the usual gathering of students and families for our annual rocket launch, the 5th grade still gathered together on a most spectacular Vermont spring day to send our rockets skyward.  When we got to the field, it was a little windy, but as the STARBASE staff set up the launch pads, the wind died and the clouds disappeared. Perfect launch conditions.  In each of their pods, they set up their own rocket, and worked to prepare for take-off.  Then, together as a 5th grade, students counted down and cheered together as each student took turns launching (and then chasing down and retrieving) their rockets.

Some rockets went on the first try. A few did not. But that was OK! With more creative and practical problem solving each rocket was sent skyward.  Students supported one another, the staff and our friends at STARBASE all worked to ensure that every student had a successful launch.

We learned a lot, grew our skills and had some fun. I think that we can all agree that STARBASE was a blast!

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 Music Students And Staff Demonstrate Continued Flexibility and Adaptability In Preparation For Upcoming Final Concert of the 20-21 School Year

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As we approach the end of this pandemic-altered school year, it is easy to reflect on the incredible flexibility and adaptability demonstrated by our students, staff, and programs.  The BFA Fairfax Music Department, under the leadership of Glen Wallace, Christy Maynard, Sarah Wolff, and Matt Davide, has been one such program that has created valuable learning opportunities with some of the most strict limitations throughout the school year.  Music students and staff have found immensely creative ways to share their craft with our school and community through virtual lessons and concerts, the use of bell covers for safety, and recently outdoor rehearsals.  We are pleased to share the following message from our music educators about their upcoming final concert of the year:

“The BFA Music Department is excited to invite one and all to this year’s Spring Concert, which we’re calling “A Night Among the Stars.”  Students have been hard at work mastering vocal and instrumental tunes, and we’re all eager to show off what we’ve accomplished during this hectic, bizarre, yet still musical year.  Be on the lookout for a link to a Zoom Webinar that will take place on Thursday, June 3rd, at 6:30 PM.  Hope to see you there!”

Best of luck to the students and staff in what is sure to be another stellar display of the incredible musical talents at BFA Fairfax! We hope to see you there!

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

Graduation Planning

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As we reflect back on the impact of the pandemic over the last 15 months, the area that jumps out as having been most impacted has been graduation (and all of the events leading up to it). At BFA, the high school graduation progression begins with our National Honor Society Induction ceremony in May followed shortly thereafter by the prom. The week leading up to graduation is filled with the class trip, graduation practices, Class Day, the Alumni Banquet, the actual Graduation Ceremony, and finally Project Graduation. 

For the Class of 2020, all of these events were held virtually or cancelled. Our Graduation ceremony was held in two parts: the ceremony with speeches and awards was held over zoom followed by the students coming to BFA with their families to walk across the stage to receive their diploma.  Pictures were taken and a gift bag was given by Project Graduation.  All told, the event lasted eight hours. There were some technical difficulties, but there were also many positive aspects and memorable moments that will last a lifetime.  The obvious downside was that the Class of 2020 was not able to be physically with each other for any part of the ceremony.

As we began planning for graduation for the Class of 2021, our number one priority was that the members of the class would be together at graduation.  Our vision early in the school year was the 80 graduates under the graduation tent all physically distant from each other with a live streamed ceremony for their families.  As the “spigot” opened up in Vermont, it became apparent that we could have two family members with each graduate and still remain within the guidelines as they were at that time.  When Governor Scott released the Vermont Forward Plan on April 8, we increased the number of guests for each graduate to four.  With about 80 graduates and four guests each, our crowd size would be around 400.  It’s less than we normally would have, but it’s certainly the largest group of people any of us have been with since early in 2020.

As we move toward graduation on June 12th, Vermont will be in Step 3 which will allow up to 900 unvaccinated attendees at an outdoor event.  This would allow us to increase our guests per graduate to 6 (our typical number), but if we have learned one thing during the pandemic, it’s that nothing truly goes according to plan.  We would much rather surprise families with additional seats as we get closer to graduation than have to take seats away due a sudden surge in the community. 

As for the other events that lead up to graduation, we are adjusting and adapting as we go. Class Day is typically an event for the entire high school. Parents are invited to attend as well. Since the event is typically held in our gym and visitors are not allowed in the building this year, we had to rethink the event. We will hold a Senior Award ceremony under the tent on the Friday afternoon before graduation. This will allow family members to see their students recognized for their achievements while maintaining health and safety guidelines. We will hold a virtual awards ceremony during the school day for students in grades 9 – 11.

Students have taken the lead in adapting other pre-graduation events. The junior class has organized “Prom in the Park” to be held under a tent on the town recreation field. The National Honor Society Induction will be held in the same place (sans tent). The senior class officers have organized a field day to take the place of the class trip. Their goal is to have a day together as a class that doesn’t require travel or great expense.

The Class of 2021 has endured great upheaval during the last 15 months. The health and safety guidelines continue to test our creativity as we try to finalize our plans. Our students have been resilient, cooperative and understanding through it all; our goal is to make the end of their high school years memorable and positive. They deserve nothing less.

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