THE FWSU STORY: Preserving an Enduring Tradition at BFA Fairfax

Tomorrow, October 10, the voters of the Town of Fairfax will head to the polls to cast their vote on a $16M renovation project at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, VT.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

It’s been 20 years since there have been any renovations to the BFA Fairfax facility, and over 30 years since the middle and high school buildings have been updated. At this time, our aging campus is in need of revitalization to address the needs of our students and for the facility to remain viable for the future. The proposed bond will also address the need for better community spaces in which to gather for events and activities.

For over 3 years, a committee of the Fairfax School Board has studied the needs of our community and our school.

They created a plan that addresses our current needs while looking toward the future. This project reflects the unique heritage of our facilities and our community values: BFA Fairfax is the heart of our town. With voter approval of this comprehensive renovation of BFA Fairfax, it will be at least 25 years before any building upgrades to the middle/high school are needed in the future. 

The Heart of Fairfax

Hiram Bellows

BFA Fairfax Benefactor, Hiram Bellows

Ultimately, the bond is intended to continue the vision of BFA’s generous benefactor Hiram Bellows’ who sought to “further the education of children and young people so as to fit them for usefulness.” Mr. Bellows was acutely aware of the profound effects of technology and scientific advancement on the parameters of education, decreeing that the Academy should equip the students with “means and facilities for education as the times demand.” Hiram Bellows envisioned a modern academy of learning and the BFA Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (comprised of members of the school board and community) believe that a significant investment to upgrade our school is necessary to preserve the rich heritage of BFA Fairfax for future generations. BFA Fairfax is the heart of our community.

About the Project

This proposal will renovate and expand the high school as well as older sections of the middle school. Some key features of this project include, relocating the main entrance of the high school to the original main entrance with enhanced security at entry, ADA compliance, fire and safety upgrades, a new full size middle school gymnasium, a new 400-seat auditorium, upgrades to the library, a redesigned multi-purpose room for community and school events, centralized administration and guidance offices, and health offices, and much more.

To learn more, visit You can also read a recent article in the Saint Albans Messenger on this important project.

An artist rendering of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium -- an important element of learning that was part of the original BFA,

An artist’s conception of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium — restoring this important element of the original BFA.

There will be an important COMMUNITY INFORMATIONAL MEETING tonight (October 9) beginning at 6pm in the BFA Fairfax Multi-Purpose Room.

And don’t forget to VOTE! Polls will be open at BFA Fairfax from 7am-7pm in the Middle School Gym on October 10, 2017.

Let’s move to the future, mindful of the past.

Come Home To BFA Fairfax October 7-14

Changing leaves, crisp fall air, cider donuts and apple picking can only mean one thing: homecoming is here!


The 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming will take place the week of October 7-14.  A variety of events showcasing our 7-12 athletic teams, school spirit, and service initiatives will highlight the fun and festivities for all students, staff, alumni, and the greater community.  


For the Varsity football and soccer teams, the games will be even more special, as they will serve as the senior games recognizing graduating players’ four years of commitment to their teams and school.  

BFA Fairfax will also make history in hosting our first-ever night soccer games. Local business Pigeon Brothers Excavating offered to donate lights for the Friday and Saturday night soccer games in order to enhance the excitement and maximize community attendance.  


As with every Homecoming Week, BFA Fairfax student-athletes will be taking part in a service initiative as well.  During this year’s Homecoming events there will be donation buckets to raise money toward hurricane relief.  We are extremely fortunate to live in our community of Fairfax, and year after year our service-minded students find new ways to “pay it forward.”

Whether it’s the crazy costumes of the widely popular Fairfax Relays, the blazing maroon and blue of our new Lamoille/Fairfax co-op football team, or nighttime soccer games that bring you to campus, we look forward to seeing you at 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming!  Thank you to all our students, parents, and community volunteers who make this a spectacular annual event.



Saturday 10/7

  • Football SENIOR GAME vs. Windsor 2:30pm
  • Homecoming Semi-formal Dance (Grades 9-12) 7-10pm

Monday 10/9: Black Out Day

  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Richford (Melanoma Awareness Game) 4pm
  • 7th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. St. Albans City 4pm/5pm

Tuesday 10/10: Tropical Tuesday


Wednesday 10/11: U.S.A. Day

  • JV/V Girls Soccer vs. Enosburg 4pm

Thursday 10/12: Throwback Thursday

Friday 10/13: Maroon & White Day

  • High School Pep Rally 2pm
  • JV Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 4pm
  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

Saturday 10/14:

  • 8th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. Georgia 11am/12pm
  • Varsity Girls Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

THE FWSU STORY: In Honor of Benefactor Hiram Bellows, BFA Gives Back

Hiram Bellows was a humanitarian who wanted all students to have the opportunity for a high-quality education. His contributions to the St. Albans and Fairfax communities have had immeasurable impacts.

In recognition of his gifts to our towns, students chose to give back in a variety of ways. Ninth-grade BFA Fairfax students were engaged in a variety of community partnerships including planting a tree at the new town recreation center, volunteering at the senior living community, cleaning up the town recreation path and fields, preparing the school’s skiing and running trails for races, etc.

BFA Fairfax freshman Abby Sweet who worked with the school’s transportation department commented, “By spending time today cleaning our school’s buses inside and out I helped the driver be more available for other projects to prepare buses for the road.”

“We got to help the community during our school day and now our school looks even better,” said student Caleb Vanslette after he finished mulching flowerbeds around the school.


Teacher Jensen Welch commented, “It was a great way to get to know our students better and help out with our community.”


As part of the FWSU Action Plan, there is a focus on teaching leadership skills and providing students with the opportunity to be role models as a cornerstone of successful citizenship. Our students are delighted to continue Hiram Bellows’ legacy of service and community.

THE FWSU STORY: Teacher Evaluation Committee Moves Forward

This year a team of teachers and administrators have started work to re-vamp the FWSU Evaluation System for teachers. The committee kicked off this week with our first meeting.  This is the fifth year of the committee and includes representation from all three of the schools in our district.  We have a variety of people that includes administration and teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school level.

The Appreciate Inquiry model.

The Appreciate Inquiry model.

The current system, developed five years ago, has served our system well. When we first introduced our current system we added features that changed the nature of how we approached evaluation and supervision. One of the features introduced was what we called the mini-observation.  Mini-observations have allowed our building principals to be in classrooms often and has also allowed them to give teachers lots of formative feedback too. Another important feature added was the idea of stakeholder feedback. Last year every student and parent had the opportunity to give feedback on their classes and school.


New teachers learning about the FWSU Teacher Evaluation model.

Although our current system works well and has allowed for innovation, it is time to move our system forward. Last year the Evaluation Committee put forward the idea of making our evaluation system mirror our schools work on proficiency for students. A system based on evidence and not mired in paperwork.evaluationWe began by using the appreciative inquiry protocol to guide our meeting and help set the agenda for our work this year.

We all had opportunities to share what we appreciate about our evaluation process, what could be, what should be, and what will be.  Key components of our discussion came back to meaningful work that encourages growth and is responsive to individual teachers.  Specifically:

  • “What Will Be:
    • Will value our teaching and encourage growth
    • Will recognize strengths and resources in our system and share those in new and innovative ways
    • Will clearly and obviously improve both academic instruction and the social/emotional learning environment
    • Will provide multiple sources of feedback (stakeholders: peer, too)
    • Will have a system or an approach for peer feedback
    • Will be part of a coherent system, integrated with other FWSU processes
    • Will be a safe process focused on improving instruction
    • Will be flexible and responsive to individual teachers
    • Will be clear, accessible, consistent, and easy to understand


While we have many steps on our path this year, we have our direction in sight and we look forward to sharing new ideas with you all!

h sikorsky


Heather Sikorsky is a third-grade classroom teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School. She serves on the FWSU Evaluation Committee.


Ned Kirsch Superintendent


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

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Preschoolers Engage in STEM

Every day in preschool we work to integrate academic content and skills into our classroom. We believe that every interaction with our students is an opportunity for learning. Students are constantly learning through guided play, group activities, and one-to-one interactions with staff members. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities are particularly engaging to our young learners. Recently, our class participated in a STEM lesson. The task was for students to identify, count, draw, and build a home so that all of their family could fit inside.

Recently, our class participated in a STEM lesson. The task was for students to identify, count, draw, and build a home so that all of their family could fit inside.

The activity prompted the children to think about their family individually and identify similarities/differences among their peers as we begin to build our classroom community. Guided conversations gave students time to share, reflect, and organize their ideas. We used Popsicle sticks to represent individual family members and help children work on counting skills.

Many of the children initially built long rows of blocks or tall tower. The people could fit beside or on top but not inside. The children were prompted again to build a home that could fit all of their family. Some children knew right away and set to work on building a structure that was tall and had an open center, while others tried multiple times or even make the decision to come back or revisit it later. Problem-solving, knowledge of spatial relationships, and the ability to attend and persist all played a role in the support each student required. Working in small groups created opportunities for flexible learning pathways and allowed students time to conceptualize at their own pace.

The Vermont Early Learning standards guide curriculum decisions. Data is collected to meet assessment objectives from Teaching Strategies Gold, an observation based assessment, are used to provide students with a rigorous curriculum that is both engaging and challenging. A play-based embedded learning approach gives students multiple opportunities to work towards meeting objective at a developmentally appropriate and individual pace. This multi-step activity presented many opportunities to observe and document student work. The project-based activity overlapped in eight developmental and academic domains and set the stage for future individual learning opportunities.

Kristie French

Kristie French is an Early Childhood Educator at BFA Fairfax

THE FWSU STORY: Students Celebrate “The Best Part of Me”

Elementary teachers across the United States have been engaged in writing projects using photographer Wendy Ewald’s 2003 book, The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About their Bodies in Pictures and Words. The book highlights and celebrates various aspects of body differences. The writing project can build community and self-esteem by encouraging the kind of reflection that comes with the integration of visual images, the writing process, and the written word. The following guest blog post by GEMS Third Grade Teacher, Stacey Sullivan, explains how her class engaged in the project.

We began our year with a writing project that was inspired by Wendy Ewald’s book:  The Best Part of Me, in which students write about the best part of their bodies and help to compose a photograph that highlights their best parts.

a student's mouth

A student shares how their mouth is the best part.

Every year I like to begin with a focus on our strengths, passions, and the things we like best about ourselves.  I want to get to know my students through their eyes, I want to see them the way they see themselves.  This was a great project for doing that.  It was also a good way to ease us into the writing process.


“The Best Part of Me” by Wendy Ewald.

Together we took this piece through the brainstorming, writing, editing, revising, and publishing steps. Students found this piece easy because they were able to write on a topic that they know a lot about… themselves!  The poem format also gave students the freedom to express themselves without worrying too much about structure.  There will be plenty of time to worry about run-ons, fragments, grammar, and syntax.  In poetry, it’s all allowed — we just chalk it up to stylistic choice!

Sullivan's Scholars!

Sullivan’s Scholars share their superpowers!

Students were in charge of the composition of their portraits.  They had imagined exactly how they wanted their body part captured and had the final say in which shot was used. The results are truly magical.

A student captures how their hands are the "best part."

A student captures how their hands are the “best part.”

Next, we are focusing on writing personal narratives.  Students have already begun the brainstorming process by listing people and places in their lives that are important to them and thinking of small moments they have shared together.  We will try to zoom in and make the story come alive for the reader by describing what happened.  We will focus on showing instead of telling.  We do this by using figurative language, dialogue, and focusing on our senses: what we heard, saw, tasted, felt, and smelled.

Teacher Stacey Sullivan

Stacey Sullivan teaches third grade at Georgia Elementary Middle School. She blogs at and is active on Twitter @sullyteaches.

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS 7/8 Grade Students Build Community, Spread Kindness

What’s happening with GEMS seventh and eighth graders?


Students practice kindness and team-building!

This year on Fridays, students have time in their schedules for students to further develop their Personalized Learning Plans by learning and experiencing community service and team building cohesion.  Each team has also taken the opportunity to build a greater sense of community within the grades.  The eighth graders have planned and executed team-building activities to enhance this year’s theme:  One Goal, One Team, and No Limits.


Students unleash “kindness bugs.”

The seventh graders have pursued a different path of team building structures that are focused on kindness… Kindness Always Returns… Let’s Start a Kindness Boomerang! As part of their yearlong team building activities, each seventh-grade class will be focusing on KINDNESS, something we all feel the world could use a bit more of these days.

Purposeful kindness.

Purposeful kindness.

They are doing their best to take RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS to a whole new level by instituting PLANNED ACTS OF KINDNESS.  Classes who receive a special envelope means they were chosen as a recipient of one such act: animal/character shaped corner bookmarks, which they hope will add to and nurture students’ love for reading.

The many colors of kindness.

The many colors of kindness.

The seventh-grade students are not looking for public recognition for these gifts, but have asked teachers to take a few pictures of the students enjoying the gifts so the photos can be put on our new television displays.  They also asked the receiving classrooms to try to think of a planned act of kindness they could perform for another grade and help make kindness contagious.

Students create personalized kindness bugs.

Students create personalized kindness bugs.

Even if just one group finds the time to conduct a planned act of kindness, the 7th graders will happily accept that as a teaspoon of change moving this social experiment in the right direction.  If every grade level is the recipient of a kind act on the behalf of another group, then the path of the boomerang will be complete, and hopefully, we’ll all be better for it!


This is kindness in action!