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: BFA Fairfax High School Expanding Opportunities for Student Voice & Choice

The YATST team is working hard this year to strengthen student voice and agency and to expand communication, understanding, and collaboration between our faculty and student body regarding Proficiency-Based Learning.

YATST, which is part of Vermont’s Up for Learning, stands for Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together. The BFA Team includes 4 sophomores, 5 freshmen, and 5 adult advisors: Mahlia Parsons, Natalie Bates, Kiana Labor, Theresa Trenholm, Abby Sweet, Jarrett Sweet, Samantha (Sammy) Bidwell, Samantha (Sam) Langlois, Delaney Sweet-Werneke, Danielle Kicsak, Harold Vance, Dave Buckingham, Mark Ladue, and Linda Keating.

The BFA High School YATST Team has been especially busy over the past several months working to understand the impact of previous student engagement in Proficiency-based Learning, gather information and ideas from stakeholders, and to fine-tune their knowledge and skills in developing a greater sense of agency for high school students.

Analyzing the Data

The Team met in September to analyze data from previous years. The data included a survey done by Communicating High School Redesign in 2015/16, Mindset, Motivation, and Metacognition (M3) in 2016/17, and All-School Dialogue Day in June 2107. The analysis was used to both identify the need for a Freshman Dialogue Day and spearhead the planning.

Freshman Dialogue Day

During Freshman Dialogue Day, the Team led their peers in making some agreements about how the morning would proceed. First, they assessed a current level of understanding of Proficiency-based Learning, followed by a dialogue protocol called Wagon Wheels that guided students’ response to an article on rigor, relevance, relationship, and responsibilities (the Four Rs). Finally, the Team asked the Freshmen class 5 questions as part of a Chalk Talk, which is a protocol for students to silently get their responses out on large paper. The questions were:







Design Day at Lamoille Union High School

Design Day allowed the team to think more deeply about the data collected from the Freshmen and get support from another high school YATST team, our hosts at Lamoille. The Teams used modified Consultancy Protocols to explore several dilemmas, ideas, and questions.



YATST Facilitator Training

Most recently the Team attended a facilitation training at Randolph High School facilitated by Marissa Barbieri from the Bay and Paul Foundation. Students were able to practice several new protocols developed by the National School Reform Faculty. The Team chose the Affinity Protocol to work with, which actually helped refine our goals and determine viable action steps for the next phase of the student leadership work.

LKDEC010 (1)

LKDEC011 (1)


Linda Keating


Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrations Mark Success for Fletcher Students

Who doesn’t love a great celebration? The observance of a graduation, first job, wedding anniversary or college acceptance, celebrations are a festive and fun way to memorialize the major accomplishments in our lives. They become the “pat on the back” that keeps us motivated to keep up our good work. (After all, isn’t that what we all appreciate about our paychecks?)


Students in Fletcher celebrated meeting school-wide behavior expectations last spring with a kite-flying party on the playground.



The kites were imprinted with the school’s expectations.


Celebrations also play an important role in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to student behavior. PBIS utilizes a recognition system based on schools’ school-wide expectations. In Fletcher, those expectations include being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. Throughout the year, teachers and student leaders teach, model and practice what it looks like to follow the expectations across a variety of settings including in the classroom, halls, library and on the busses and field trips, just to name a few.



Two students greet each other at a whole-school celebration in Fletcher. The celebrations typically follow the format of a Morning Meeting and include a greeting, sharing, activity and announcements.


When students follow the expectations, they are often recognized for their efforts with a token, often just a small piece of paper with the school mascot or other catchy design, as well as the expectations. These tokens become the accounting – like tally marks – for their class. In Fletcher, teachers use various wall posters to accumulate the tokens. When the class reaches a set number of tokens, they celebrate.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

Even more important than the token, however, is the teacher language that accompanies the recognition. Since we want students to be clear about – and repeat – the positive behavior, it is essential that the adult handing out the token name both the expectation the child met as well as the accompanying behavior.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

The adults at school – both teachers and support staff – also hold themselves accountable for behavior using the same school-wide expectations. Norms for staff have been created that align with the school-wide expectations and the adults assess both themselves and the group again the norms periodically after staff meetings. The results of the self and group assessments are shared with all staff for reflection.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Classroom celebrations need not be lengthy, expensive or disruptive. In fact, celebrations like 10 minutes of special math games or reading a silly story might already be a planned part of the curriculum and don’t require teachers to change their routine or give a tangible reward.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school's trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school’s trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Typically, when classes meet their set goal for earning tokens, they contribute to a larger, school-wide tally that eventually results in a school-wide celebration.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

The PBIS recognition system values all three of these types of celebrations: the individual recognition when a student meets the expectations, reaching the classroom goal and achieving school-wide success. At each level, students are aware of the expectations and understand exactly what they have done and should continue to do.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

Celebrations are are an essential component of PBIS. Within a larger framework of teaching, modeling and practicing accepted behavior, celebrations reinforce students for their hard work and ensure continued behavioral success.

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Experience World Cultures at the International Festival

On December 1st, students in BFA World Language classes attended the International Festival in Essex.


The International Festival is held in Essex each year.

The students were working to meet the Culture Proficiency in the World Language Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements. The International Festival is sponsored by the Vermont Performing Arts League as “annual celebration of cultures from around the world, bring their crafts, food, music, and dance to our doorstep.” The field trip was organized by BFA World Language teachers Kerri Brien and Alana Torraca.

“It was a great experience at the Vermont International Festival to see the other cultures around world and experience what they experience.” -Student

Students learned more about world cultures through this experience.

Students learned more about world cultures at the International Festival.

The students’ goal was to answer the question: “What is culture?” and help to create a diversity statement for BFA.  When they arrived, the students entered an exhibition hall filled with crafters from over 40 countries. They interacted with the crafters and were able to purchase items for themselves and others.


Items from around the world were available for purchase and were on display.

“It was exciting to move in sync toward a cultural competency goal with our growing World Languages program!  I witnessed BFA Fairfax students at the Vermont International Festival tasting international foods they’ve never seen before and bringing home the unique crafts from a variety of countries.” -Kerri Brien, Spanish teacher


Musicians provided students with an intercultural learning experience during the trip.

Within the main hall, there were two performance spaces featuring a variety of musicians from different cultures. Several students took advantage of the opportunity to dance along with other students in attendance.


The international food was an incredible experience for our students!

Near one of the performances spaces, the Festival had a food court where students were able to purchase ethnic food from countries including Ethiopia, Austria, Africa, Turkey, Tibet and the Philippines.

Students presented their learning to the rest of the school.

Cultural Ambassadors presented their learning to the rest of the school.

“Because Fairfax is such a small school the International Festival was a great way to view all the cultures we don’t usually see.” -Student

After a morning spent exploring culture, the students returned to BFA to begin the work of making meaning out of their experience-which is where learning happens. They created visual representations of culture. They surveyed other students and staff about diversity. The students displayed their cultural ideas at a cultural fair in the high school main lobby. They displayed artifacts (many from the collections of their teachers), videos and their definitions of culture. Students from the elementary, middle and high schools stopped to speak with and learn from our cultural ambassadors.

“As we continued to explore culture and diversity after the festival, students looked at diversity statements from other schools and discussed the need for a diversity statement at BFA.” -Alana Torraca, French teacher

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

“It’s important to show that diversity is not what you look like or what you wear; it’s about what you believe and value”- Weston, student

THE FWSU STORY: Georgia Elementary Invited to Join National Networked Improvement Community

Recently, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) invited Vermont to participate in a Networked Improvement Community for improving early learning in Literacy and Mathematics. Georgia Elementary was invited to participate, along with three other supervisory unions, and has started the collaborative project in which participants have the opportunity to work on common problems of practice and build knowledge with colleagues from other states (Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland) researchers, educational experts, and other partners.

School leaders convene at the VT Agency of Education.

School leaders convene at the VT Agency of Education.

In collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education and three other SU’s the Georgia Elementary and team will identify common problems of practice (POP) and initiate interventions for improvement while collecting evidence-based data for review.

States have implemented many policies, practices, and programs to increase the ability of educators to provide high-quality instruction, but very little research and movement have been done in the early grades. To increase the effectiveness of instruction and student achievement in the early grades, states need to test the impact of innovative strategies to increase teacher knowledge and capacity to deliver evidenced backed instructional practices in math, literacy, and other content areas in prekindergarten through third-grade classrooms.


Leaders from around the country collaborate with Networked Improvement Communities.

Georgia Elementary is excited to participate and learn from other educational colleagues within our state and country from the current research and data that is collected.

THE FWSU STORY: The Power of Wonder and Choosing Kind


Every now and then a book comes along that transcends age and gender through a compelling story and uplifting message. The best-selling book and new major motion picture Wonder has had that impact on our learning community. Over the past few months through class assignments and discussions, students throughout BFA Fairfax Elementary/Middle School have made connections with the important themes of kindness, bullying, responsibility, overcoming challenges, and friendship.


As educators, we constantly teach and practice with our students the importance of treating all members of our learning community with respect. However, the level of student engagement through Wonder has generated additional and authentic conversations and connections.

For example, each of our first graders identified a way in which they could practice kindness towards others. Additionally, this past Friday, our fourth-grade students led our monthly All School Morning Meeting, during which they shared a slideshow of our students practicing acts of kindness throughout the school. Finally, the entire Middle School will be attending a viewing of Wonder this Friday as a school-wide outing.

Wonder: Choose KindI hope that all schools take the time to read and use Wonder as a vehicle to generate important conversations. I have had the opportunity to witness the positive impact of this story on students and the motivational message for all of us to choose kindness.

Principal Tom Walsh

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount


THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Welcomes New Winter Coaches

BFA Bullets“A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime” – Billy Graham

There are a number of new faces visible in the BFA Fairfax athletic facilities this winter season.  With athletic activities experiencing some of the highest participation rates in school history, it takes a special group of people to take on the very important role of coaching our various athletic teams.  When we hire coaches, we are not only looking for people that know the game.  More importantly, we are looking for people who we believe will allow the fields of play to be an extension of the classroom; one in which students not only learn and improve their specific sports skills but also acquire valuable life skills THROUGH their sports participation.  Please join us in welcoming our newest members of the BFA Fairfax Athletics family!

Kevin Duquette – JV Boys Basketball

Kevin Duquette

After coaching for 6-7 years at the rec level, I was presented with a unique opportunity to fulfill a dream and coach some of the most talented group of young men I have ever met. As well as joining the beginning of what is and will be an incredible program. Thank you for the opportunity, Fairfax! GO BULLETS!!”

Mike Bruso – JV Boys Basketball

Mike Bruso

“I have a huge amount of time invested with this junior varsity group. I have been coaching this group since there were in first grade and wanted to continue to help them develop to varsity players.”

Jacob Kent – JV Girls Basketball

Jacob Kent

“I look forward to coaching at BFA because it’s a great way to be more invested in our community. While high-school sports are a lot of fun, they are also a great opportunity to develop positive skills and attributes in our youth at a vital age. I’m excited for a great season!”

Chris Benjamin – 7th Girls Basketball

Chris Benjamin

“I’ve been coaching for over a decade with the last six years focused on the Fairfax/Fletcher community through both the Fairfax Fletcher Youth Basketball Program as well as the Fairfax Fletcher Westford Little League.  I sit on the board of directors for the youth basketball program and enjoy watching the development of skills, maturity and especially team chemistry as players progress through the years.  I’m thrilled to continue to work as a BFA Coach with this special group of young women, including my daughter Faith, who I’ve seen develop and grow since beginning in first grade.  Go Bullets!!!”

Ben Albee – 8th Girls Basketball

Ben Albee

“I have a lifelong interest in and passion for sports. This, coupled with the real joy I find working with kids makes coaching the perfect balance. Through coaching, I hope to instill a love of physical activity, competition, and teamwork that will far outlast the athletes’ playing days at BFA.”

Danielle Rothy – Middle School Cheerleading

Danielle Rothy

“Having participated in athletics at BFA in middle and high school, I am thrilled to be back as a coach. I hope to be able to provide an amazing experience and give opportunities to the same program that gave so much to me.”

Patrick Sheehan – 8th Boys Basketball

Patrick Sheehan

“I have been a resident of Fairfax since 2006. I have coached youth Basketball, Football, and Baseball. I have always been impressed with the way Fairfax shows up to support its teams even for road games. I am excited to be a part of such an energetic and caring community!

I love the way that the Patriots Youth Football program works alongside the school teams so that the players are given a consistent message during their development. I would love to be a part of building something similar to that in Basketball, a sport that I have loved for as long as I can remember!”

On behalf of the entire BFA Fairfax Athletic Department, we look forward to seeing all students, fans, and families at our various games, races, and other events. Your support for all coaches and student-athletes is greatly appreciated and is a large part of what makes our athletic community so great.  

Go Bullets!

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrating Computer Science Week – Every Week

This week is national Computer Science Education Week. This large-scale effort is a call to action for schools across America about the need to incorporate computer science education in all grade levels. Along with promoting computer science, the initiative also calls for students to participate in an hour of code. Computer science and coding are key components in all of our schools at FWSU. The understanding and thinking skills captured by learning about code may become invaluable.

More importantly, the ideas of computational thinking and problem solving have been incorporated into classrooms throughout our districts for several years (check out these posts).  We know that our students are going to need the strategies learned to be successful when they graduate.They are also going to need the confidence and ability to walk into these complicated unstructured and undefined problems.

Two years ago we launched Innovation Labs in all of our schools to allow students the opportunities to explore, create, make, think and build ideas. We also started STEM programs in our schools to enhance the concepts of computer science, problem-solving and computational thinking. There is a lot going on – and great learning occurring.

So this week FWSU schools are coding and thinking computationally to celebrate National Computer Science Education Week. But we also have been doing this every week and will continue to do so. It is what we do.

On a final note, I ran across a fun activity in a research blog recently that you can try in your classroom, at work or even at home. It is a brainteaser and reinforces the idea that good thinkers and puzzle solvers make good coders. This activity was created by David Malan from Harvard – the instructions and thinking are below. 

Put these instructions up on the board:

  1. Stand up and assign yourself the number 1.
  2. Pair off with another person, add your two numbers together, and adopt the sum as your new number.
  3. One of you should sit down.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until one person is left standing.

Even in a room with hundreds of people, the last person should end up with the total count of everyone in the room. Because the adding in pairs takes place simultaneously, even if the number of people doubles in size, it only requires one more comparison. This is an example of logarithmic efficiency.  

Have fun and enjoy National Computer Science Week!

Ned Kirsch Superintendent


Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at FWSU. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.