The FWSU Story: Early Release Days – What do the staff do on those afternoons?

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This school year, as a supervisory Union, FWSU’s calendar includes three Early Release Days.  One in October, this past Monday – January 20, and a third on March 25. Each of these days allow professional staff time to work together throughout the district  in order to build capacity and opportunities for student learning and growth.

This past Monday, Principal Conrad and I had the pleasure of working with both the GEMS and the BFA Fairfax grades 5-8 staff.  We had the pleasure of facilitating discussions with staff to further refine our teaching and assessment practice with Transferable Skills. Transferable Skills identify the crosscutting targets for skills that FWSU believes are important to be successful in and beyond school.

As a district, FWSU has agreed upon the following transferable skills across all subjects:

As Our Transferable Skills are woven throughout all of our teaching and learning, it is our purpose to ensure that all students become informed, literate, critical thinkers who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors in school and beyond.

Our work is to continually define, refine and differentiate what each of these skills looks like across grade levels; how students demonstrate or struggle with them; as well as how to we can more consistently teach and assess them across grades 5-8. This requires sustained time and effort. These early release times provide essential, deep work time for educators to engage in rigorous and thoughtful conversations in service of greater clarity, coherence, and focus for our work with students.

I can confidently speak for the participants in our session and each of the sessions taking place in Fletcher, Georgia, and Fairfax that this time is productive, essential, and absolutely helps us each to better meet the needs of all learners throughout FWSU.  And for that we thank you, our community, for supporting us in continuing to grow opportunities to support our “belief in what is possible.

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

The FWSU Story: The Pulsera Project at GEMS and BFA

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“By sharing art, knowledge and ideas across cultural lines, we can create a more ethical and colorful world.”  – Pulsera Project

BFA Fairfax High School Spanish students selling items in the school lobby

As part of The Pulsera Project, BFA Fairfax High School and GEMS 7/8 Spanish classes participated in sales of fair-trade goods in November and December, 2019. Through The Pulsera Project (non-profit organization in the U.S.), Spanish teachers Kerri Brien and Laura Mathieu ordered original, hand-woven bracelets and bags made by artists in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The classes sold their merchandise at school for two weeks and all the money raised went directly back to the artists. 

Prior to the sale, Spanish students learned about poverty issues and conflict in Nicaragua as well as learning about individual artists (using videos and other materials by Pulsera Project). They also learned about the hardships faced in these countries and helped raise money to support community programs and fair trade employment.  The whole school increased their awareness and global citizenship. 

GEMS students shopping for free-trade items and reading about Pulsera Project

The positive impact by the GEMS school community was over $2,400, the equivalent to 1.2 houses or 8.6 months of fair-trade employment, or 40 months of educational scholarship.

Students inspect the hand-made items from Pulsera Project

At BFA, the students sold 139 bracelets and bags and raised $756 for Latin American artists.

Here’s what some of the students thought about the experience:

  • I felt like a good person for selling the bracelets. I felt like I was supporting the artists as a good cause.
  • It was for a good cause, all money goes back to artists. We’re not taking any of the profit.
  • Cool that unsold art goes from school to school.
  • When you learn how hard they worked to make it, you appreciate it more.
  • I liked it because was for a good cause. We learned about it beforehand, which was good.
  • Good idea to open up sale to whole school because it was for a good cause.

For further information, please visit http://www.pulseraproject.org. Congratulations to all who helped make this project a success!  

Students selling Pulsera Project items at GEMS

Today’s blog comes from Kerry Brien, BFA HS Spanish Teacher, and Laura Mathieu, GEMS 7/8 Spanish Teacher. Be sure to follow #FWSU on Twitter!

The FWSU Story: Building Responsible and Involved Citizenship through Restorative Practices

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As GEMS works on clearly articulating our Transferable Skill Proficiencies this year, an area of focus has been on the Transferable Skill: Responsible and Involved Citizenship, particularly through the indicator of “students take responsibility for personal decisions and actions”.

This is a hefty skill that many young adolescents need support, feedback, and structures to know how to handle tricky situations.  Middle Schoolers often are working hard both inside and outside of the school in learning how to create strong relationships with others and with those relationships sometimes conflicts occur.  So how do we as a school help students with learning how to manage those conflicts…with peers, friends, teachers, and sometimes even parents. 

As a school, we are often asking ourselves:

  • How do we teach students to handle and resolve conflicts? This includes helping students learn how their actions or words impact others. 
  • How can we proactively work to reduce conflict? 

At GEMS, we have started a deep dive this year into better understanding more about Restorative Practices and how this way of thinking can move us from managing student behavior towards a more constructive approach of helping students learn about the impacts of their behavior. This emphasizes the focus on the harm done to a person or community and creates a problem-solving approach that helps students learn from their mistakes and take an active part in restoring their relationship with those who were harmed.

What are Restorative Practices? 

“Restorative practices are a positive, disruptive force to realizing greater equity in education and stronger relationships. They provide greater balance and strength to the youth-adult partnerships in learning, greater opportunity for building empathy, bridging differences, and strengthening more just, joyful, and sustainable communities.” (UP for Learning website). 

How is Georgia working to build our capacity in this work? 

Georgia Middle School continues its learning towards understanding a Restorative approach to relationship building during this year both with our students and our staff.

One way we have embarked on this work is through UP for Learning’s Restorative Practice Youth-Adult Partnership program. We have five students that are leading the charge at Georgia Middle School in learning more about Restorative Practices and creating an action plan to help engage our faculty and students in building strong classroom communities. These five students along with Melissa Fisher have attended Circle Keeper Training and our last training was held at Fairfield Central School on January 8th where students were asked to create and implement an action plan around Restorative practices.  Students are excited to plan more together in the upcoming weeks to share their learning with our faculty and begin to put their plan into action. 

In addition, there have been several opportunities for faculty and staff to participate and better understand restorative approaches during our in-service days. Most recently, during our November Learning Institutes, middle school teachers and paraprofessionals from GEMS joined teachers from BFA-Fairfax to better understand the tiers of Restorative Practices including how to build a community where everyone has a voice and belonging. We also began to look at ways in which we create routines to support students re-entering the classroom when they have been absent for any reason. Everyone left hopeful for continued work and collaboration in hopes our implementation process will continue to move forward.

The emphasis on further strengthening our learning communities by focusing on relationships is a critical role for ensuring all of our students feel that they are valued, safe and able to learn in a supportive classroom and school. Establishing a culture where we circle up and communicate as a community and share our human experiences create benefits well beyond just creating a strong learning environment. It creates a system and routine that enable students to work on conflict resolution when harm has been done. It provides the foundation for us to use those mistakes or incidents as a moment of learning for those impacted to have space to identify how the action or inaction of another person affected them and collaboratively for students to create a plan to move forward in a positive way. 

Julie Conrad is the Middle School Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her at @JulieConradVT

The FWSU Story: “Paging Doctor Teacher; Paging Doctor Teacher” FWSU Teachers Pursue Doctorates in Education

Last year, four FWSU teachers made a decision that would change their educational lives. Amy Gray and Karen Lehning from GEMS, Jensen Welch from BFA, and Denette Locke from Fletcher Elementary decided to move their learning to new heights; they applied and were accepted into the Southern New Hampshire Doctoral Program in Education. FWSU could not be prouder! 

The University describes the program like this: “The Southern New Hampshire University Doctorate of Education degree is designed to develop Scholar-Practitioners by advancing participants’ knowledge of leadership theory and practice, their understanding of approaches to organizational development, and their ability to effectively implement research methodologies and disseminate associated findings. SNHU’s Ed.D. program is offered as a regional cohort model, with hybrid courses occurring in a condensed weekend format during the Spring and Fall academic terms and a week-long residency each summer.” Those courses began last spring for our 4 teachers, and their journey is well underway.

As outlined in the program description, the program helps prepare “a new generation of transformational leaders to engage and lead positive change in education organizations and education systems.” As with their Master’s Program, SNHU program uses a cohort model for the Doctoral program, which helps to guide the development of the participants as “scholar-practitioners” in three areas: leadership theory and practice, organizational development, and research methodologies.

Our teachers really value the cohort model. The four of them can support each other here in FWSU, along with the other cohort members who meet regionally in Essex. Our teachers are able to apply their learning to their current work. All of them serve in some leadership capacity in their teams, schools, and across FWSU. The program is truly innovative, which makes it particularly attractive and a good fit for FWSU educators. And as anyone in a cohort model will tell you, the bonding with your colleagues unleashes support, creativity, and well, even some fun!

I asked each of the teachers what attracted them to this program at this time in their teaching career, since typically it’s administrators who pursue doctorates. Here is what they had to say:

Amy Gray, Grade 8 Math Teacher at GEMS: “I get asked frequently why I decided to do this. Most people are wondering what I’m going to do with that degree. And, I do have goals, but that’s not what it’s really about. For me, education is all about personal transformation.  Learning is a journey, a journey I love and have always wanted to travel. In fact, that’s why I teach. What other job asks you to be a lifelong learner? As far as the EdD program, I wanted to do something that would push my learning to the next level and really challenge me. And, it certainly is!”

Karen Lehning, Math Content Leader and Interventionist at GEMS: “I chose to pursue a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership through Southern New Hampshire University because I was looking for an opportunity to grow professionally in a challenging and supportive environment. Pursuing this degree has allowed me to think critically about complex educational issues that will impact both current and future students. My hope is that this program will transform my practice as an educator and provide me with new ideas, resources, and perspectives to support the efforts of educators and students in this district.”

Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher and Proficiency-Based Learning Support: “I’m pursuing a doctorate in education because I was looking for an opportunity to pursue ‘something next’ and the SNHU Doctorate Cohort was being formed, so I jumped at the chance. When friends and family ask me how I am able to do all of the work and be away from family for most of a weekend a month, I explain that the topics and theories we are studying are so fascinating and interesting and engaging, that the extra effort and time are worth it.”   

Denette Locke, Fletcher Elementary Instructional Coach: “Originally I was not sure that the timing of the doctoral journey was right for me because of my crazy, wonderfully busy personal life, caring for a parent, and my own professional responsibilities. Those reasons also sparked why I should be starting the journey, too, kind of weird really! When Jensen and Karen both reached out to me after the Profile Weekend and said ‘you would be perfect for this,’ knowing the value of a cohort model and having colleagues reach out to me sparked me in moving forward. The cohort, the model of the Ed Leadership program, and the fact that I am a ‘scholarly practitioner’ in this journey makes it make sense to me. I love learning…I love the opportunity to make connections to both my professional and personal lives and I love growing, challenging myself and using my brain muscle!”

These four outstanding educators, who also just happen to all be skilled math leaders, have captured the most essential reasons why teachers pursue doctorates, reasons that we need to pay attention to in designing professional learning for all educators: personal and professional transformation of practice, challenging and supportive environments, complex and engaging issues to address, the motivation and inspiration of a cohort model, and valuing teachers as “scholarly practitioners” and researchers. Dr. Wendy Baker, SNHU Executive Director of Advanced Studies and one of their doctoral professors, summed it up this way, “FWSU doctoral students are deepening their work as educators by designing original research into an area they’re passionate about within their school setting. Their tireless pursuit of the scholar-practitioner lens has already changed their outlook on their work with classrooms and colleagues. We can’t wait to see where their studies take them next!”

I couldn’t agree more — these teachers are truly challenging themselves to actualize “a belief in what is possible.”

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: GEMS Teacher of the Year – Lauralee Wilson

“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” – Helen Caldicott, author and peace activist

The 39th Annual Vermont Outstanding Teachers Recognition Day is being held on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center at the University of Vermont.  This ceremony is held to thank outstanding teachers and publicly honor them for educating the next generation – each day helping them to be smarter, more creative, and more humane. To recognize the long hours, the patience, the perseverance, and passion defining their important work, and to honor them for their commitment, their successes as well as their trials, and the powerful impact they have on the children of Vermont and our future.

Honored at this ceremony will be our GEMS Teacher of the Year. Math Specialist, Lauralee Wilson.  A leader among her colleagues, Lauralee has taught at the Georgia Elementary School for the past 17 years engaging students to become mathematicians, problem solvers, and respectful members of every learning community.  As a true advocate for children, Lauralee’s approach takes into consideration the whole child; socially, emotionally, and academically. Lauralee is a valued educator within our community across all facets of her work and she is a proven GEM!

Lauralee’s colleagues had the following things to say about her:

“She demonstrates the qualities that our school promotes.  Lauralee is very respectful to adults and students, she is very responsible about her lesson planning, and she works well as a team member.  She is also very positive, calm and flexible.”

“Lauralee is amazing to collaborate with.  She truly knows the meaning of what it means to be a team player.”

“Her passion for teaching is contagious.  Every time Lauralee enters the classroom students are immediately interested and engaged in her math instruction.  Every day, she is able to set each child up for success and helps all students feel valued, regardless of their math ability.  Lauralee is a constant source of inspiration to be the best educator one can be. She is not only a superb math instructor and teacher, but also has a genuine love for the children, enthusiasm for teaching and a bright disposition toward all things.” 

“She is positive , calm, and flexible”

“”Students always come first”

“She has a wonderful sense of humor”

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

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: GEMS Students Use STEM Problem Solving Methods

STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach that keeps students engaged and learning through a “plan, design, and improve” method of solving a problem. Throughout this flow students apply their current knowledge, build and test their thinking, and then make improvements from information they’ve attained. 

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The incorporation of these content areas along with “problem-solving” questions provides a great learning opportunity for students that becomes engaging, collaborative, and thought-provoking.

In Georgia, teachers work exclusively with their STEM coach to plan and collaborate on the implementation and cross cutting approach to embedding all disciplines. 

Here, 4th graders work to answer the question, “How to create an earthquake resistant building incurring the least amount of damage.”

To test their thoughts…..Their structures will undergo this earthquake test:

Many modifications to existing structures occurred as students discussed why structures failed and how they could make improvements. 

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.