THE FWSU STORY: Meet the New Business Manager

Earlier this month, FWSU welcomed new Business Manager, Randall Morton, to its leadership team.

Randall Morton is the new Business Manager at FWSU.

Randall Morton is the new Business Manager at FWSU.

Randy comes to us with lots of experience and a positive, team-oriented approach to his work. His leadership style is driven by forging relationships, finding strengths, modeling flexibility, and keeping a step ahead of whatever may be on the horizon.

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Randy has worked in the accounting field for over 20 years. He received his degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After working for a number of years in the private sector in Florida, Randy learned about the position of School Business Manager and set a goal to become one in northern Vermont.

 

In 2012, Randy was offered an accounting position at Windham Central Supervisory Union in Townshend, and in 2016 he became the Assistant Business Manager. In 2017, Randy took the helm as the Business Manager at Battenkill Valley Supervisory in the community of Arlington, Vermont. When he heard about the search for FWSU Business Manager, he started doing research and heard nothing but great things about our three communities, our schools, and the staff. Randy willingly shared, “I’m happy to say that all of these have proven to be true!”

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Randy describes this as a challenging time for school finance in Vermont. With statewide student enrollment numbers declining, tax rates increasing, funding formulas changing, potential mergers pending, and so many other variables up in the air at the moment, the need to be adaptive to change is incredibly important. Information that can significantly impact the day-to-day operations comes in constantly, so flexibility and keeping on top of the changes is absolutely vital. Randy is clearly ready for these challenges — his optimism and flexible approach are a real benefit for our supervisory union. And at the very least he says, “It keeps it interesting, for sure!”

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Randy Morton shares a financial update at a recent Fletcher School Board meeting.

Randy has already noted that FWSU has an innovative and forward-thinking approach to education and technology, which he finds very exciting. About how he feels working here, Randy said, “The staff here has a great reputation and have been absolutely amazing to work with. I’m very happy to be a part of the team!”

When Randy is not at work, he is most comfortable exploring the Vermont outdoors, especially his new Franklin County surroundings. Hiking, biking, kayaking, exploring new areas, and taking road trips are his leisure activities of choice. He also plays guitar and is also been learning to play the piano. Randy has a 7-year-old son, Alec. Whenever possible, they like to travel to his hometown in the Boston area to see family and spend time at the beach.


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: Fletcher Elementary Produces Award-Winning Technology Video

MC Baker, Art Educator at the Fletcher Elementary School, has worked with students to produce an award-winning video featuring the technology tool, OSMO, and to showcase students’ use of the cutting-edge computer accessory with students.

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OSMO works with students’ iPads and utilizes a small reflector that covers the device’s camera to allow the iPad to recognize moveable objects in front of it. Students can use the technology to learn everything from drawing and music to coding and core academics like math and reading, through hands-on games and activities. OSMO creators call the technology, “tangible learning.”

“Having our video selected as the winner by OSMO really validates how we have incorporated OSMO into our students’ learning,” Baker said. “It recognizes that technology tools are not separate and apart from academic content. Rather, they go hand in hand to support and enhance each other and offer engaging learning opportunities that would not otherwise exist. We are redefining the way students learn, and they love it.”

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According to Baker, the making of the video provided students with a new and different way to showcase their work and demonstrate proficiency with academic skills.

“It was important to me to create the video with my students, not for my students,” Baker said. “It gave them an opportunity to use another art form – video – to tell the story of their academic learning to the world. That’s real integration. Each layer of the project was one more teaching and learning opportunity and allowed students to think creatively about how they show their skills.”

Fletcher students in grades three through six are currently part of the school’s “one to one” iPad program, ensuring that students have immediate access to a device when learning calls. Younger students share moveable iPad carts that may be brought into the classroom or used in the library.

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Baker is one of a handful of teachers across the United States, known as OSMO Ambassadors, who participate in monthly challenges posed by the makers of OSMO. The video creation is the result of one such challenge. She frequently corresponds with the company to give feedback on the product, as well as to share and receive new ideas for its use in the classroom. Last year, Baker accompanied several students to Dynamic Landscapes, a technology conference at Champlain College, where they demonstrated OSMO and mentored fellow students and adults in its use.

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“MC’s work as an OSMO Ambassador is important because there are many, many classrooms and schools that are resistant to trying new things, particularly when the new things involve expensive, fragile equipment like an iPad,” said Kira Westbrook, spokesperson for OSMO. “With the help of educators like MC, we can show other educators that not only is trying new things okay, but it’s necessary. MC does a fantastic job of that.”

“There are many different ways to learn and just as many ways to prove what you have done,” fifth-grader Lily Sweet, who helped create the video, said. Sweet and Baker collaborated to plan the major themes of the slightly more than two-minute documentary before Sweet took over videotaping and interviewing her peers and taking pictures of them using OSMO in the classroom.

The Fletcher video was selected from entries submitted to OSMO from across the country. According to Westbrook, “promoting and supporting educators, like MC, who have open minds and an eagerness for the future of education, will make a huge difference in the lives of students and teachers alike.”

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As recognition for the award-winning video, Baker will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) Conference in Chicago in June, where she will showcase her use of OSMO with students

“This is a great opportunity to be proud of one way that Fletcher is integrating technology into its classrooms in a meaningful way,” Superintendent Ned Kirsch said. “It’s a bonus that they have received this recognition about technology, using technology to showcase their efforts.”

In January 2017, the Fletcher School began showcasing its work with OSMO through the FWSU Blog, Fletcher Students Explore Tangible Learning with OSMO.

THE FWSU STORY: Spring Arrives at BFA Fairfax School Farm

The weather has finally turned the corner in northern Vermont and signs of spring are everywhere. At BFA, the grounds are finally dry enough for the Farm to School class to get the School Farm ready for planting.

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The Farm to School garden at BFA Fairfax

The students planted seeds months ago in the greenhouse and are getting ready to transplant them into the garden. Before they can do that, they need to uncover the beds and get them tilled.

Today, the students were working under the supervision of teachers Sarah Coon, Fred Griffin and Alan Morse. They were engaged in shoveling, raking, planting, rototilling over the expansive School farm.

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Students care for plants in the greenhouse

“It’s quiet for awhile and then everything happens at once” -Sarah Coon, teacher

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A student works to prepare soil for planting.

One group was preparing the asparagus bed. “We’ll have enough asparagus to feed the whole town,” said student Devon B.

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A student works in the garden.

The class is also working on a chicken coop and a pollinator garden for the bees they will be adding later this year. They have already planted berry bushes and continue to plant apple trees for their orchard.  The food that grows from this garden will be used in the cafeteria in the fall and at the annual harvest dinner for the community.

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Farm to School gardens at BFA Fairfax

However, between planting and harvesting, there is a lot of work to be done. Teacher Fred Griffin will work with students through the summer to keep up the garden. He is looking for students to help for 2-3 hours per day a couple days of the week through the summer. If you know of a student that might be interested please contact Mr. Griffin.

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Rototilling the rows for planting.

Through the Farm to School class, students are learning about the planning and labor associated with gardening. In the fall, they will harvest the reward of their work. It is a hands-on experience that provides students with knowledge and skills and on this daytime outside on a beautiful day.

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Students to Create Projects in New Outdoor Woodworking Center

With generous funding from the Georgia Elementary Middle School PTCO, the first-grade team was able to purchase tools and other supplies to create a woodworking center. Our center is now complete with safety glasses, aprons, gloves, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, a saw and miter box, levels, measuring tapes, and speed squares.

Supplies available in the woodworking center at GEMS.

Supplies available in the woodworking center at GEMS.

Eighth-grade teacher Brad King and students from the middle school built a movable table that will support flexible learning opportunities to work outside in the fresh air and sunshine – and to let our creativity run wild!

A table built by middle students at GEMS

A table built by middle students at GEMS

After a few safety lessons, small groups of first graders will be able to head outdoors to the woodworking center. With adult supervision,  the students will be able to use hammers, drills, screws, and measurement tools to cut and create anything they can imagine!

Students at GEMS will uplevel their skills using various tools and be able to apply some of the math we have learned this year in the context of their woodworking projects.  Finished pieces can also be painted and decorated, integrating opportunities for artistic expression as well.

This new center will provide every first-grader a real opportunity for connected hands-on learning and success. Students kids are very excited to get outside to make something with their hands and try out all the new tools.

Thanks to the GEMS PTCO for their generous support!

THE FWSU STORY: Appreciating Our Teachers

During the week of May 7-11, we are celebrating the incredible work that our teachers do each and every day. We are truly fortunate in FWSU to have so many talented and dedicated educators who are committed to helping students thrive.

Thank you Teachers

Teachers have the profound task of preparing the next generation for a future that we can only imagine. The impact of these caring adults cannot be underestimated. Teachers make a difference!

So during National Teacher Appreciation Week, thank a teacher and share a memory of your favorite teacher in the comments.

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax’s Sandy Brown Honored as a Statewide Leader in STEM Education

This week, across the nation, schools and communities are celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week. At BFA Fairfax, we are also celebrating and today we want to honor our very own Sandy Brown. For those of you who know Sandy, you know how much she loves teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Recently, her love and commitment to teaching were recognized both locally and nationally. She received two honors for her implementation of STEM work in her fifth-grade classroom at BFA.   Sandy was recognized at the STEM Challenge Initiative (SCI) Third Annual STEM Recognition Night in St. Albans.

In addition, she was also featured in a recently published book, Engineering in Elementary STEM Education. The book features teachers from New England and builds on the work of the Boston Museum of Science team that has spent 15 years developing elementary engineering curricula.  Sandy’s work is part of a comprehensive introduction for elementary educators on how to integrate engineering into their classroom, school, or district in age-appropriate, inclusive, and engaging way.

 

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Sandy Brown, STEM Educator

 

Sandy’s work also continues to evolve. Earlier this year, Sandy applied for and received a STEM Challenge Initiative (SCI) grant to purchase Mindstorm EV3 Robot kits for her classroom. The kits allowed her to facilitate the development of computational thinking skills with her students.  Through a series of challenges, students applied their newly acquired skills for to learn how to program.  Here is a link to a previous blog post, THE FWSU STORY: Innovation with Lego Mindstorm EV3’s featuring her work with her students.

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Sandy and her students presented the class’s accomplishments, including a demonstration of their programming skills, at the SCI award ceremony mentioned above. You can read more about the presentation in an article featured in the Saint Albans Messenger: Budding Scientists, Teachers Recognized.

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Congratulations, Sandy Brown!!!!

THE FWSU STORY: Moving Innovation Forward

Get better every day.

Sounds simple and it is something FWSU strives to do. So how do we do it? There are many ways that we try to improve our system overall to make it more responsive to family and students. And also to make our schools as innovative as possible. One of biggest drivers of our school improvement efforts over the last several years is our membership in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.

FWSU is one of 93 members in the League and one of two member districts in New England. League members are selected through a peer-reviewed application process. The League is an organization that brings together the most innovative schools in the nation to working together, to learn together on shared priorities, and to find solutions to make our schools better. League schools also partner with leading entrepreneurs, researchers, and educational leaders to pioneer innovative learning and leadership practices. These practices lead to improved outcomes for students that help prepare them for lifelong learning.

Since becoming part of the League, FWSU has continued to design, champion, and scale effective, innovative learning opportunities to advance equity and excellence for every student. The League has opened opportunities for our students, that would not have ordinarily been available to small rural districts. Here are a few examples:

  • BFA Fairfax Middle School participated in a unique research opportunity sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The NSF is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. The project, Playing with Data, is a three-year research and development study to investigate how to support middle school science teachers in using data from students’ digital gameplay for formative assessment and differentiated instruction.
  • Students in Fletcher worked with Digital Promise Global on an initiative that supports innovation, by providing students worldwide with cutting edge technology to solve real-world problems.  The project was part of the Hewlett-Packard-Microsoft’s Reinvent the classroom initiative, which aims to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.
  • FWSU has been named one of nine schools in the country to participate in a NSF Challenge Collaborative to help develop K-12 Computational Thinking Pathways. Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer can effectively carry out (i.e. – coding). Our system will share its knowledge, best practices, learnings, and frameworks around computational thinking with Digital Promise and other participating districts over the course of three years. What we learning and frameworks we establish will be published as part of a public-facing toolkit
  • FWSU was one of the League schools featured in published “playbook” that was shared with schools all over the country on implementing proficiency-based education.

Partnering with entrepreneurs, researchers, and leading education thinkers and serving as a test-bed for new approaches to teaching and learning has benefited our schools. Learning from the above experiences, as well as other League schools, has led to many innovative changes in all of our schools. Since joining the League each of our schools has established Innovation Labs, expanded computer science education, expanded our global education work and put a focus on improving outcomes for our students with the smart use of learning technologies.

Stay tuned for what is next for FWSU!

http://digitalpromise.org/initiative/league-of-innovative-schools/