The FWSU Story: BFA HS Students Visit VT Supreme Court and Hold Online Q&A with Sen. Leahy

Students in BFA’s AP US Government and Politics class recently interacted with powerful figures in government on the state and national level.  It is easy to be cynical about politics today with decisions being made by people far away and with little connection to the people. However, a pair of experiences for students in AP Government and Politics made students realize the difficulty and personal nature of decision making in politics.

On February 19, students traveled with peers from Milton High School to Montpelier to listen to Oral Arguments in the Vermont Supreme Court.  Arguments included cases concerning police treatment of witnesses, the power of Vermont’s Open Meeting Laws, and whether convicted felons can receive parole and rehabilitation treatment in Vermont.  Students were surprised at how interactive the justices were the lawyers. There were times when the justices would rapidly ask questions of the lawyers in order to get to the constitutional issues at hand.  After hearing the arguments, all five Vermont Supreme Court Justices came out of their chambers and answered questions from students. Questions ranged from their career path to the Supreme Court, why they asked certain questions during arguments, the importance of being above political parties and ideology and interpreting law, and understanding the judicial process of the lower courts.  The clear takeaways from the day with the justices was the deep respect for law the justices had, how their decision-making process will effect Vermonters for years to come, and according to one student, how very hard they work for the betterment of the state.

Three weeks later, on March 13, students were able to talk to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in an online chat.  In the 45 minute Q and A with Vermont’s longest serving Senator, Leahy answered a variety of student questions ranging from his time as a district attorney in Chittenden County, his first Senate Campaign, how to make college more affordable, his views on digital privacy, and his appearance in multiple Batman films.  An important moment for many students was Leahy’s discussion of passage of the 1992 Leahy Landmine Elimination Act.  Leahy discussed his visit to Vietnam to talk to war veterans and civilians affected by landmines. He recalled how he assisted a legless Vietnamese man into a wheelchair that was purchased with funds that came from his legislation.  It was clear, even 27 years after his trip, that he was still deeply impacted from his experience and passage of his legislation.

At the end of the discussion, students noted how personable Senator Leahy was.  He thoughtfully and articulately answered all the students questions; it was not just a stump speech or a prepared list of talking points.  “It made me proud to have him represent us in DC,” said one student. “Conversations like this make me want to be involved in the political process,” said another.

Joe Emery is a Social Studies Teacher at BFA Fairfax High School.

The FWSU Story: BFA Students Make Global Connections

Students in grade six are engaged in a unique learning opportunity that connects them with students in Vilnius, Lithuania.  The objectives of this learning experience are to provide students with the opportunity to learn about the ways of life of other countries and increase their cultural competence. Students are learning  to appreciate similarities and differences by interacting with students their own age and developing academic and social relationships. Additionally students are strengthening their transferable skills and realizing the importance and varied components of a Quality Education (Sustainable Development Goal #4).

The project started with a connection between Kim Brown and Melinda Carpenter, both of Fairfax. The Brown Family is in their second year of living and working in the capital city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Kim is currently teaching 6th grade math at Vilnius International School (VIS) and formerly taught middle school math in Bakersfield, VT.

As an introduction, and to investigate engagement in communicating with a school in another country, all students completed an initial interest survey and the results came back a resounding, “Yes, please!” Students in both schools were very excited about the opportunity, and with some help from Rhonda Siemons, Technology Integrationist at BFA, they began posting introductory videos on their 1:1 devices. Using an app called Seesaw, BFA students introduced themselves, described something they thought was interesting about Lithuania (based on their limited knowledge) and then Lithuanian students reciprocated and began asking questions. The project started to get intriguing when we noticed that BFA students had to check some of the preconceived notions they formed with regard to the culture of northern Europe. For example, BFA students were surprised at how well our new friends could speak English (as well as many other languages), and the variety of their extracurricular activities. We also learned that we shouldn’t make assumptions about the types of food that eleven and twelve year-old Lithuanians eat, i.e., they do NOT put sour cream on all of their food! We noticed that they were curious about whether we knew anyone famous, who is our favorite football team, and our thoughts on our president.

Some of the similarities that we have found are that many of the students enjoy P.E. classes, like to to swim, play video games and board games, watch YouTube videos, play basketball, dress in a similar way and enjoy hanging out with their friends. Some differences are that many VIS students have lived in other countries, speak several languages and that they live in an urban environment and walk most places.

After all students had posted videos, BFA 6th graders shared some of their current academic work, using the 5 Themes of Geography to explain more about Fairfax, Vermont. Students created digital presentations about location, place, human environment interaction, movement and region to help our Lithuanian friends understand our geography and its impact on our culture.  Having an authentic global audience for our work has required us to look at it more carefully and consider it through the eyes of our new international friends. Working with Kim has also been a tremendous pleasure, and we feel so fortunate to have made this valuable connection with such a knowledgeable, versatile and dedicated educator.

We are looking forward to continuing our communication with the Lithuanian students and to exchange more information about our country, school, and day-to-day life. We plan to work more with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and identify common concerns and solutions for local and global issues. At the same time, it has really enjoyable and meaningful to let the students guide this communication and be flexible with topics. We also excited to explore the idea that we share many of the same hopes for the future while learning how to respectfully pose questions and negotiate differences.

 

Melinda Carpenter- BFA Grade 6 Science/Social Studies Teacher. UVM Outstanding Teacher 2013

THE FWSU STORY: New Entrance Coming to BFA Fairfax

When you enter BFA Fairfax after the New Year, the lobby will look a bit different. Our school office renovation to enhance safety is nearly complete. Finishing touches will be completed over the holiday break. Upon entering the school, you will notice four new windows.

One of these windows will provide access to the main office and our receptionist Amy Plog. Parents and visitors will beable to drop off items or hand in paperwork through the window. If visitors need to enter the school for a meeting or conference, we will be able to activate the doors and let them in from this office.

From the student side of the lobby, students will be able to check in with Mrs. Plog for tardy slips, bus notes, and early release permission. They will also be able to pick up those forgotten items that parents drop off!

The new area will house an office for the principal that is centrally located near the Student Support Center and School Resource Officer (SRO). Students, teachers, and parents will also have easy access to Principal Tague as they enter the building or pass through the lobby between classes.

The renovations were funded in part by a $25,000 Safety Grant from the State of Vermont. Control of the entrance to schools has been a top safety priority for the school and was one of the approved uses of the available grants. We are excited to move into our new space and provide increased safety for BFA Fairfax.


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John Tague is the High School Principal at BFA Fairfax. You can follow him @jtague252 

THE #FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Partners with United Way to Host Foster Grandparent

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome Beth Blanton (Miss Beth) to BFA Fairfax Elementary School. Miss Beth has joined us through our new partnership with the United Way of Northwest Vermont and their Foster Grandparent program. We feel so fortunate to have her working with our students and staff in Mrs. Penny Aceto’s classroom.  

Beth Blanton ("Miss Beth") is a Foster Grandparent.
Beth Blanton (“Miss Beth”) is a Foster Grandparent.

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself at just the right moment.  When I was contacted by Mary Pelkey from the United Way in October, we were confronting some difficult news about Mrs. Aceto’s health. Mary Pelkey shared that the Foster Grandparent program provides a caring adult that can support students in a classroom, fifteen to thirty hours a week with a focus on instructional and social/emotional support and mentoring.  After hearing her presentation, I was confident that this opportunity was what we needed.

Miss Beth started working this week and she has made an immediate and positive impact.  Our students have welcomed her into the classroom and are teaching her our routines and expectations.  She, in turn, has provided our students with another caring and trusted adult that they can interact with on a daily basis.  Miss Beth brings a lifetime of experiences and a kind and caring heart. She has also experienced some medical issues and brings a perspective and understanding of what Mrs. Aceto is dealing with.  

We feel so fortunate to have Miss Beth at our school.  I am excited to see how this new partnership evolves over the coming months.  We know we are in for some challenging times but are grateful to have her insight, the extra support, and her time. I hope she benefits as much from interacting with our students, as we will benefit from having her in our school. Please consider contacting your local United Way and learning about this unique program.


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

THE FWSU STORY: A Thanksgiving Celebration of Community at BFA Fairfax

Last Thursday, our students, families, and staff members came together to enjoy a wonderful meal and celebrate our community.

Thanksgiving lunch is one of my favorite events at our school. It reminds me how fortunate we are to have an engaged and supportive community in Fairfax.  

Thank you to The Abbey Group and our student volunteers for providing all of us a delicious meal. I hope everyone has a safe, relaxing day and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this community.

Be well!


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Thomas Walsh is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @ecucatamount

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Senior Shane Seals Recognized as Top 10 Vermont Student-Athlete Leader

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On Monday, November 5 the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association in coordination with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association held their annual scholarship banquet at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington. This banquet serves as one of the highlight events of the annual Vermont Student Athletic Leadership Conference, to which BFA Fairfax sends eight of our top student-athlete leaders each year.

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This year, BFA Fairfax was proud to have Shane Seals (‘19) selected as one of ten NIAAA Student-Athlete Scholarship winners in the State of Vermont.  In addition to an essay on how athletic participation has impacted his life, Shane was required to demonstrate his exceptional qualities in academic potential, athletic participation, and service to others.

At the awards banquet, Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa’s introduction of Shane stated “Whether on the cross country and Nordic trails, the ultimate frisbee pitch, serving on our School Board, or leading the construction of our phenomenal school farm, Shane guides others to success with humility and integrity.  Many BFA Fairfax programs have greatly succeeded with him, and our school is a much better place because of him.”

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Shane’s acceptance speech included a powerful and motivating message to the younger student-athletes in attendance, sharing “Before I go, I have one thing to say: For every sports superstar there are hundreds of athletes working just as hard, day after day, to reach their goals; be that athlete, push yourself to the limit and keep pushing, because, at the end of the day, that’s what you’ll be proud of.”

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We are extremely proud of Shane’s scholarship, as well as all of his accomplishments during his time at BFA Fairfax.  He has been a leader and role model for others, and will undoubtedly experience continued success next year at the University of Vermont as the Green and Gold Scholar.  Congratulations Shane!

Good Health and Well-Being


Geri Witalec

 

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You follow her @GLWit  

THE FWSU STORY: The Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is Looking For Your Feedback

The Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFPC) consisting of community members, school board representatives, administrators, staff members, and parents continue the process of developing recommendations to address the future needs of our school building.

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The charge of this committee is to determine the facility requirements that will support current and future educational, safety and physical needs of our students, staff, and community for the next twenty-five years.

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At the same time, remaining aware of the fiscal constraints of our budget and community.

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The committee developed a list of improvement projects that have been identified through input from our community, school personnel, and building assessments.

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We are asking for community members to rate each project in terms of how important that item is for you in an overall building plan. The projects have been separated into four different categories: (1) Safety, (2) Efficiencies, (3) Accessibility and (4) Opportunity.

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Please complete this Building Improvement Questionnaire for the BFA Fairfax School to provide input to the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee by clicking on this link below:

bit.ly/BFAQuestionnaire

Or you can access the survey using this QR Code:

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There will also be paper copies of the questionnaire and drop boxes located at the Fairfax Green Senior Housing, the BFA Fairfax Library, the Post Office, and the Fairfax Town Office.


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