The FWSU Story: BFA Fairfax Community, Annual Musical and Giving this Season

Leapin’ Lizzards!

2019 Marked the 10 year anniversary of the BFA Fairfax fall musical under the production of Mr. Jerry Bailey. Upon my arrival this summer, I quickly began to notice the dedication, passion and hard work throughout the many, many students, adults and community members involved in this year’s production of Annie. With over 31 Middle School students, 38 High School students; 2 student musicians; along with 14 community members involved in bringing Annie to our stage, the final performances this past weekend were heart-felt, full of a sense of community and a perfect example of the power of community theater.  

Each year’s production is announced in the year prior. Auditions are held each spring and are attended by a spectacular variety of performers. Somehow, each year the production team seems to fit the skills of the performers with roles that are a just-right fit for the growth of their talents.  

Immediately upon my arrival at BFA during the summer of 2019, I was astounded by the array of work and responsibilities taken on by cast and crew. This year’s production involved student led choreography, direction and behind-the scenes set development. From Choreography camps, vocal workshops, rehearsals and even dog-training (for our guest star Fozzie!) all ages and abilities came together to coach, rehearse, practice and refine the smallest to the biggest parts of the musical for months on end.

Even in the weeks prior to the final performances, students were leading the charge and helping one another to refine choreography, cues, set pieces and lines to make the performance the best it could be. Having had the opportunity to enjoy all 4 performances, it was amazing to see our student performers refine and relax into their roles, while backstage seemed to be operating seamlessly.  

While the performances were each a highlight in their own right, listening to the students’ post-performance appreciations for one another, their mentors, their families and communities was a true joy.  

Some may discount the arts or theater as frivolous, however, I know I am not alone in my observations that throughout the development, rehearsal, performance and beyond it is clear that through these experiences we are developing aware, involved, articulate, thoughtful and committed community members. Through their involvement in this year’s, and future productions, our students are practicing the transferable skills which we hold in such high esteem across all of our work at BFA Fairfax: Clear and Effective Communication; Self-Direction; Creative and Practical Problem Solving; Responsible and Involved Citizenship; and Informed and Integrative Thinking.

Each student should be proud of their role, whether it be on the stage or back stage (or in the pit, as the case may be). To share in the joy of the audience across all of the performances was a privilege. We hope that in the future you will continue to support our theater program either through attending the shows, donating concessions, or helping with costumes. It takes a community to put on a show this large, and we appreciate everyone who has assisted us over the years. See you next year! Looking forward to next year’s performance already!

This Season of Giving:

One of my favorite parts of living in Vermont, and Fairfax in particular, is the sense of community and willingness to help our neighbors. Each year, BFA Fairfax students across our schools work together to support area families in need. Prior to the Thanksgiving Break, students in grades 5-8 come together to create Thanksgiving Baskets and Break-Boxes for area families who are food insecure. Student leaders step forward to assist with shopping for ingredients, the assembly of meal kits and preparations for delivery/pickup. Our goal is to ensure that every family in the Fairfax community can celebrate the upcoming holidays in warmth and comfort.

Beginning in December, BFA Fairfax is host to a variety of opportunities to support area families in need. We hope you will join us in the spirit of generosity this season. Winter Gift Giving Mitten Trees will be on display in both the Elementary & Middle/High School Lobbies from December 2-12. Middle and High School classrooms will be conducting our annual December Happiness Food Collection & Coin Drop in classrooms. Grades 5-8 are taking part in a “coin war” fundraiser and High School Classrooms will be accepting Food Donations. Finally, we are also hosting a Winter Sock Drive from December 2-20 in both the Elementary and the Middle/High School Lobbies.

Wishing you a warm and hearty Holiday Season!

Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

The FWSU Story: For Fairfax/Lamoille Football, the Journey is the Ultimate Victory

On Saturday, November 9, in front of a packed stadium at Rutland High School, our BFA Fairfax/Lamoille Union cooperative football team faced Poultney High School in a gritty, exciting, and hard-fought Vermont Division 3 state championship game. It was the ultimate in title games: two extremely talented and well-coached teams, with identical records, and similar styles of play facing off for the thrill and honor of bringing a state championship home to their communities. In these situations, it is unfortunate that there has to be a winner and a loser, and on this day, it was Poultney who took home the title with a 17-8 win. Although their disappointment was visible, our Bullet players demonstrated admirable class and poise as they accepted their runner-up trophy and medals, and congratulated the Poultney team.  

Some would gauge victory and success on the number of titles won, a win-loss record, or postseason accolades. For Fairfax/Lamoille football, however, the cooperative team journey has proven to be the ultimate victory. This team of 35 players and managers, representing two counties, four different schools, and multiple communities has become a shining example of the power of athletic participation. Fairfax, Lamoille, Stowe, and Peoples Academy are rivals in most sports, but when it comes to football, these four communities have bonded together and become one team and a shining example of pride and sportsmanship.  

US Women’s Soccer team member and Olympic champion Alex Morgan once said, “Winning and losing isn’t everything; sometimes, the journey is just as important as the outcome.” For Fairfax/Lamoille football, the cooperative team experience has been the ultimate victory, and will continue to be the standard of success. When the sadness of Saturday’s loss is a distant memory, what will remain is the impact of four communities whose pride, passion and support have helped build a truly positive education-based athletics program and culture. 

Congratulations on an amazing season, Bullets! You made ALL your communities proud!

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

FWSU Seeks Superintendent of Schools

The Franklin West Supervisory Union (FWSU) Board seeks a full-time Superintendent to begin July 1, 2020. The previous Franklin West Superintendent approached this position with an ambition and vision that has made FWSU an active part of the global community. Within our three schools, this leadership created a culture of education that focuses on giving our students the tools they will need to create solutions for the problems of tomorrow by engaging in authentic learning today. The FWSU community is seeking a candidate that can continue to lead Franklin West with the same amount of energy, creativity, and vision, focusing on a “belief in what is possible.”

Located in beautiful Franklin County, Vermont, FWSU is pleased to serve the thriving communities of Fairfax, Fletcher, and Georgia by providing innovative, personalized public education for over 1,700 students. Franklin West Supervisory Union is comprised of three member school districts and serves Bellows Free Academy Fairfax (PreK-12), Georgia Elementary & Middle School (PreK-8), and Fletcher Elementary School (PreK-6). A leader in #VTED, FWSU is proud to be an Apple Distinguished Program, be recognized as a P21 21st Century Learning Exemplar District and an IVECA Distinguished Global School District, and an inductee into the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.

Georgia Elementary & Middle School 4th Graders Work Through Design Process

SUPERINTENDENT LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT NEEDS

  • Bring to the FWSU a vision that will continue to foster the progressive goals of the SU and its individual districts.
  • Oversee the management and supervision of the Supervisory Union Central Office and its wide variety of financial, operational, and educational functions.
  • Provide supervision to and support of the leadership team (which represent the elementary, middle, and high schools in the supervisory union) so that the administration and staff of each school are inspired to maintain their focus and commitment to supervisory union and building-based goals for continuous improvement; special emphasis includes orientation, support and development of two principals who will be completing their first year in the SU.
  • Instill and maintain a positive, supportive working relationship with school boards based on shared values of transparency, effective communication, and collaborative problem solving.
  • Lead negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.
  • Create, modify, and oversee significant technology initiatives.
  • Conduct ambassadorial work on community-school relations.
  • Offer fresh eyes and insights on the SU for administrative and/or board consideration.
  • Demonstrate currency and experience in the areas of Vermont policy, law, union relations, and AoE interfaces.
  • Have specific knowledge, understanding and insight into state-wide AoE priorities.
BFA Fairfax Gr 6-7 Band and Chorus Celebrate “Superior” Ratings at Trills and Thrills

PERFORMANCE RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Carry out the policies adopted by the school board relating to the educational or business affairs of the school district.
  • Identify the educational goals and objectives of the school district and prepare plans to achieve those goals and objectives for adoption by the school board.
  • Recommend that the school board employ or dismiss persons as necessary to carry out the work of the school district.
  • Furnish the Secretary of Education data and information required by the Agency of Education.
  • Provide for the general supervision of the public schools in the supervisory union.
  • Act as link of communication among Board, schools within district (including staff, parents and students), and community members/groups. Maintains relationships with Agency of Education.
  • Organize, prepare for, and attend Board meetings as needed. Submit recommendations along with essential documentation that will assist the Board in making decisions. Alerts Board on all matters that require approval (policy changes, master agreements, etc) to ensure legal compliance. Develop and recommend long-range plans and vision for the school district which are consistent with Board objectives. See to the execution of all decisions of the Board.
  • Hire, supervise, and evaluate FWSU and school administrators. Conduct meetings supporting and directing Administrators as needed.
  • Oversee educational program with Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment on short and long term curriculum goals.
  • Assures school districts follow necessary state guidelines regarding Education Quality Standards and the Vermont Comprehensive Assessment Program.
  • In support of the Director of Support Services, assure appropriate programs are in place for students with disabilities and directs Administrator when needed.
  • Assure adequate records for the schools, including a system of financial accounts, business and property records, personnel records, school population and scholastic records. Act as custodian of such records and all contracts, securities, documents, title papers, books of records, and other papers belonging to the Board.
  • Be directly responsible for news releases and/or other items of public interest emanating from all District employees that pertain to education matters, policies, procedures, school related incidents or events. Approve media interviews of this nature with District employees. Acts as spokesperson as necessary.
  • Oversees Business Manager in areas of budget operations and annual/quarterly reporting. Confirms annual proposed budget and submits it to the Board. Assures all funds, physical assets, and other property of the District are appropriately safeguarded and administered by the Business Manager.
  • Assure effective relations with employees/organizations; assume ultimate responsibility for collective negotiations with employees of the District. Conducts negotiations with union(s) regarding contracts, disciplinary issues, master agreements, etc.
  • Assures proper licensure for all districts, including accurate contract offerings.
  • Ensure a safe and educational environment for all learners.
BFA Fairfax 8th Graders at Boston Science Museum

REPORTS TO Franklin West Supervisory Union Board of Directors

EVALUATION Performance in this position will be supervised and evaluated by the FWSU Board of Directors.

SUPERVISES/EVALUATES Supervises all school and district administrators and staff; evaluates all FWSU Administrators, School Principals, Executive Assistant.

Job Requirements

  • The successful candidate will possess:
    • A proven record of accomplishment as an educational leader
    • A solid vision for creating 21st Century learning environments in our schools
    • Comprehensive understanding of best practices in curriculum/instruction
    • Knowledge of Vermont education law
    • Exceptional communication and human relation skills
    • Innovative problem-solving and effective decision-making abilities
    • Superior planning/organization/time-management skills
    • Demonstrated capital and fiscal management experience
    • Healthy sense of humor
  • Evidence of Vermont licensure as superintendent of schools or being appropriately licensed on or before the first day of employment.
  • Salary will depend on experience.
The famous BFA Fairfax Senior Walk through the halls of the Elementary School

Franklin West is a strong and functional supervisory union known for its progressive and forward-thinking approach to learning. The SU’s vision and direction is well established, and the result of this is a highly student-centric organization that has earned the respect and support of its communities, as well as national and international recognition. Teachers work collaboratively, staff is committed to student learning, and the administrative team consists of both relatively new and veteran members. Individual boards thoughtfully govern their respective districts, which then work together to create equity across the SU. This is an exciting opportunity to lead a high-quality district committed to partnering with its schools and communities, to influence education for its students and staff in a positive way.

Fletcher Elementary STEAM Night Focuses on Sustainable Development

For More Information and to Apply, click here to view the listing on SchoolSpring.

Partnership for 21st Century Learning logo

The FWSU Story: Introducing BFA Fairfax’s New Sensory Path

BFA Fairfax is excited to share the news of our new sensory path in the Elementary School. This resource was the brainchild of our Guidance Counselor, Saybra Varisano, who advocated for a sensory path and the benefits it would provide for all students. Our new sensory path has been in place for the past two weeks and our students are frequently engaging with the various activities during “Brain Breaks”.  

A sensory path is a fun series of activities that require students to use both gross and fine motor skills. The sensory path has activities that require students to hop, step, and jump. Students complete wall push-ups, jumping jacks, practice balance and coordination, and trace labyrinths with their fingers.  

Our students arrive each day with a range of social-emotional needs and experiences. We are purposeful in our daily schedule to incorporate mindfulness practices and to embed social cognition curriculum throughout the school day. Through the use of the Zones of Regulation language, Yoga 4 Classroom resources, Go Noodle movement breaks, and Calming Corners we strive to provide research-based strategies to increase access to learning, develop self-regulation skills, and support healthy student growth. 

We know from research that movement and sensory regulation opportunities are necessary for increasing engagement, focus, learning, self-awareness and positive behavior outcomes. We are excited to see how this resource provides additional opportunities for our students to grow and thrive.

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: BFA 7th Graders Design Their Own AR Experiences

Mr. Psaros’ class has been learning how to design augmented reality experiences with the new Macbooks along with their assigned iPads in the Augmented Reality Platform, Metaverse Studios.

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience in an environment where the objects in the real world are augmented by digitally generated items. Using computational skills, the students challenged themselves to design digital items to enhance their real world classrooms.

This activity was an exploration into how might BFA could embrace creative and innovative uses of technology by our students in designing projects and opportunities that leverage Macbooks, iPads, and the augmented reality platform, Metaverse.

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Coach at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech

The FWSU Story: Hiram Bellows Community Service Day

On October 17th, BFA high school students engaged in a day of community service to honor our benefactor, Hiram Bellows. BFA has been participating in Hiram Bellows Community Service Day for the past two years with our 9th grade students, but this year the entire high school was involved in service projects. Since the 17th was an “early release day” for students, the high school faculty decided to make the day a special event rather than just having a condensed version of a regular school day.

The day began with a brief lesson about Mr. Bellow’s gift to the Town of Fairfax to build a “fine school” for the students of Fairfax. The students enjoyed donuts and apples which were funded by the BFA Trustees as they heard about Mr. Bellows donation of railroad stocks to fund and build a school with the “means and facilities as the times demand”. 

Students then broke into their selected groups to begin work. Some students boarded buses to perform service at Georgia Elementary and Middle School, Fletcher Elementary School and the 100 Acre Woods in North Fairfax. Others worked outside cleaning up trash and debris from the roads surrounding the school. A group worked to clear the courtyard outside the cafeteria as part of a student generated plan to make the space usable. 

“They did amazing things @gemsvt today! Thank you @BFAFairfaxHS students for service to our school and community. Making @FWSU proud”

– Julie Conrad Georgia Middle School Principal (via Twitter)

Students cleaned the Multi Purpose Room,organized trophy cases and read to BFA Elementary students. A small group created some artwork for a stairwell and another documented the work for a presentation. 

Outside of the FWSU school system, students worked with Fairfax Recreation Director to provide input into the uses for a community center, worked with Fire and Rescue personnel, and prepared baked goods for nearby seniors.

“What an amazing conversation and overall exercise I just had with the students at the Community Center!  It is so valuable to have their input and to be able to hear the youth perspective on some of the bigger issues that we all deal with. I would absolutely want to do this again and look forward to another opportunity to work with the BFA community.” 

– Brad Docheff, Fairfax Town Manager

At 11:30 students returned to school energized and excited by the work done and connections made. They grabbed a quick lunch before heading off to their buses (which some of our students spent the morning cleaning!) with the pride of having given back to their community in the spirit of Hiram Bellows.

This day would not have been possible without the organizational efforts of Jensen Welch, Katherine McElroy, and Lisa Koval, the flexibility of our teachers and paraprofessionals (who worked alongside the students), and the financial support of the BFA Trustees. Special thanks to Fairfax Town Manager Brad Docheff, Recreation Director Brian LaClair, Principals Chris Dodge of Fletcher, Julie Conrad and Steve Emery of GEMS, and Tom Walsh of BFA Elementary for working with our students.

We know that this day will be an annual event and are planning similar activities for our remaining release days in January and March. Students and staff were excited to perform service that, in the words of Mr Bellows, “may be a lasting benefit to rising generations”.

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

The FWSU Story: Do you Mindstorm? We do!

In fifth grade at BFA Fairfax, every student completes a 6-7 week Lego Mindstorms robots unit. This opportunity grew from the makerspace that was created by Rhonda Siemons, Kendra Myers, Victoria Reynolds and Sandy Brown in 2016 with the encouragement and support from then FWSU Superintendent, Ned Kirsch and current elementary principal, Tom Walsh. The makerspace was designed to meet the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) standards for all students in grades 3-5. One of the resources used to help students learn were Lego Mindstorms EV3’s. We are fortunate to have enough kits available so that students can work in pairs with one kit. The kits were obtained through grants, one of them being the STEM Challenge Initiative, Inc. abbreviated as SCI. The goal of the SCI board is to provide affordable and meaningful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educational opportunities for the communities in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. It is a great resource for educators.

By working with the robots, from building to programming them, the students learn to investigate problems and find possible solutions. In addition to content specific skills, essential transferable skills such as collaborating and communicating are learned and practiced. From the first lesson on through to the end, students have to understand and interpret two-dimensional learning to create three-dimensional robots. Troubleshooting and perseverance is the name of the game. Mathematical concepts such as estimating and measuring distance, time, and speed are practiced. Fifth grade students will also be programming using Mindstorm EV3’s as part of their Starbase program in the Spring.

Each trimester, one class works with the Mindstorms for an hour a week for 6-7 weeks. Lessons are co-taught by both Sandy Brown and Rhonda Siemons. Students are excited for the “Mindstorm Day” to come. They assemble the robot together and by the end of the unit are programming it to do their bidding (within reason). The hour goes by quickly because students are engaged and challenged. 

In the new configuration of grades 5-8, we are grateful to Sandy Brown for growing this wonderful opportunity and expanding it into BFA Fairfax Middle School. When I asked Ms. Brown to to share a little about herself, she offered the following (next time you see her, please thank Sandy for all that she does-and has done for students over the years): 

“Over a 24 year time span, I have taught in grades 3-8, with 5th grade being the one I have taught the longest. I have a  master’s degree in science education. I lived in Fairfax with my husband and two daughters for 30 years, both daughters graduated from BFA. Our family has grown to include 2 son-in-laws and 2 grandchildren with one on the way. My husband and I now live in Winooski. I am so glad I can still be in Fairfax five days a week. Teaching has provided me with the special opportunity to be with children and work in science and social studies, two subjects that I absolutely love.”

Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.