THE FWSU Story: BFA Students Address Parking Situation, with Creative Results

At the end of the last school year, high school students participated in mini-mester courses. The courses were designed to give students the opportunity to explore an area of interest as the year ended. Courses explored areas including hiking, biking, swimming, sports, Chinese, dance, and how to “adult”.

Students who were enrolled in “Think Tank” spent the class trying to solve problems to make BFA a better place. One of the main areas of concern was the parking lot. Students expressed frustration with the number of spaces available, people parking in their reserved spots (students pay for a designated space in the main parking lot), and the loss of parking spaces in the winter due to the snowbanks. 

Several students in the class decided to try to fix the parking situation and worked with Amy Plog in the main office. They developed new guidelines for parking and determined that some spaces would be open on a first come first served basis. The students also proposed the idea of allowing members of the senior class to personalize their parking space. 

One student, Natalie B. took the mantle to make this idea a reality. She found other schools that have tried this and researched their policies and procedures. Through the summer, Natalie worked with administrators to create an information packet to send to seniors with the guidelines and expectations for personalizing their space. 

On a Thursday night two weeks before school started, the seniors (and their families) gathered in the parking lot to begin the process of transforming their spaces. They brought paint, rollers, tape and an approved design with them. They quickly learned that they needed more paint than they were told by the hardware store as they started their designs. A quart of paint doesn’t go very far on asphalt!

Students worked through the weekend, when their schedule and the weather allowed, and created impressive final products. It is clear that the students took great pride in their work.

This project was a great example of student voice and initiative coming together to solve a problem and allowed students to express their creativity and artistic abilities. Yes, we still have some parking problems, but thanks to our students, our seniors’ parking spaces are clearly reserved (and fun to look at!).

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: Kids Are Back!

Yesterday was the first day for students across the FWSU schools (BFA – Fairfax, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, and Fletcher Elementary School) and it was an exciting day! Having the hallways full of happy students looking toward their next adventures has always been a special time of the school year. Thank you to all the families for sending us your children, to the educators for working so tirelessly for all kids, and to the students for sharing your enthusiasm and aspirations with us. It’s going to be an awesome year!

I joined the FWSU community in July as Interim Superintendent, and from the first day I could recognize the specialness of organization. FWSU’s Action Plan highlights the commitment of “High Performance and Equity in a Digital Learning Culture” and having conversations with many educators over the summer reinforce the commitment to this work. I saw the welcoming of new educators through a commitment on understanding the impact of trauma on our children and families, the opening of in-service focused on understanding the impacts of equity, and, while visiting schools on the first day, seeing in action the welcoming and caring educators working with children.

There really is A belief in what is possible.

The images above really stuck out in my travels around the FWSU community. The messages were written on the sidewalk of the GEMS entrance and really hit home the purpose of our work – to support students in developing compassion and knowledge as citizens. As parents of three children (two in elementary school and one in college) my wife and I are proud to be Vermont educators, and I am looking forward to being part of the FWSU!

BFA HS students and teachers hit the gym as well.

Dr. Suess once stated, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” As the children and staff return to the schools remember to take time to celebrate all the successes – big or small. Enjoy the school year!

Donald Van Nostrand is the Interim Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @dsvannostrand.

Be sure to follow #FWSUTwitterChallenge for the FWSU 20-Day Twitter Challenge and #FWSU all year to see more exciting things happening in our schools!

The FWSU Story: School’s Out in FWSU

Memories made at GEMS Thursday…

Lots of laughter along the way….

Goodbye to Mr. Calano, still lookin’ cool…

And another Sixth Grade Lock-in at Fletcher Elementary School…

The famous Senior Walk, a BFA goodbye…

Plus a Class Day celebration led by this guy…

And we’ll say another goodbye to our leader,

Who always kicked the last school day into high gear…



Linda Keating

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

The FWSU Story: Welcome, Donald Van Nostrand!

On July 1, 2019 Donald Van Nostrand joins the Franklin West Supervisory Union (FWSU) as our Interim Superintendent of Schools for the 2019-2020 school year. Mr. Van Nostrand currently serves as Interim Principal at JJ Flynn Elementary School in the Burlington School District. Prior to his current position he served as Interim Superintendent for the Grand Isle Supervisory Union.

The decision comes after the Franklin West Supervisory Union Board of Directors interviewed two finalists on June 3, 2019. The Board voted unanimously to offer Donald Van Nostrand a one-year contract from July 1 2019 to June 30, 2020. During the 2019-2020 school year a full search for a permanent Superintendent will take place.

Mr. Van Nostrand has an extensive background in education and served as Superintendent of Orleans Central Supervisory Union prior to his position as Interim Superintendent of Grand Isle SU. Franklin West is confident that Mr. Van Nostrand’s vast administrative experience will provide continuity and stability for the Supervisory Union over the next year.

FWSU Board Chair, Tara Sweet said, “The FWSU Board is pleased to welcome Don to our supervisory union. His deep expertise and leadership skills make him a great fit to help FWSU through this unexpected transition and to lead us in continuing to provide the best possible education for all students within FWSU.”

FWSU looks forward to expanding our vision for continuous improvement by growing our “belief in what is possible” and moving forward together.

FWSU Builds New Garden Beds In Honor of Ned Kirsch

FWSU was blessed to have a visionary Superintendent who understood and appreciated the benefits of a wellness program.

In July 2014, Superintendent Ned Kirsch was excited with the addition of FWSU’s employee garden beds — he was ready to grow!

Each year, the SU’s office staff planted gardens and enjoyed the benefits they provided. You would often find Ned tending to his plot in the district’s garden, using it as a lab to see which kinds of vegetables might grow Artichokes? Yes, he tried them.

With the recent loss of Ned, the FWSU staff all agreed that they wanted to rebuild new garden beds and dedicate them in his honor.

In his memory, through a Central Office team collaboration that Ned would have loved, the staff have created an area where they can enjoy the gardens, keeping close to their hearts, a belief in what is possible

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist
Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

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: Fletcher Students Rise to the Top with Healthy Lifestyles

Students in two classrooms at Fletcher Elementary School have achieved gold status with the wellness group, RiseVT. Cathy O’Brien’s kindergarten class and Kathleen Pellegrino’s first and second graders embarked on a year-long collaboration with the statewide organization to encourage small changes in students’ lives that will have a big impact on their health for years to come.

“We have lots of academic standards and resources,” Pellegrino said. “But there is less in place for teaching about wellness. Our partnership with RiseVT is one way we are bridging that gap in a way that is engaging and meaningful to students.”

RiseVT offers classrooms recognition at the bronze, silver and gold levels, progressively. Bronze status requires six of fifteen wellness activities, silver requires nine and gold level classrooms complete twelve of fifteen items on the RiseVT menu. The wellness activities range from adopting classroom wellness policies, participating in mindfulness activities, and incorporating movement and nutrition education into classroom routines, to taking a tobacco free pledge and ensuring that the teachers model healthy habits. Classrooms may choose from a list provided by RiseVT, but teacher-designed activities, such as Fletcher’s five week Winter Wellness Program, also count.

Founded in 2015, RiseVT works with individuals, employers, schools, childcare providers and municipalities to teach and promote healthy choices in children and adults. The group began in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and is expanding statewide.

To achieve gold, classrooms must also engage families by adopting and sending home a copy of the classroom wellness policy. The policy suggests healthy options for classroom celebrations, snacks and physical activity. The RiseVT Pledge is also required, and ensures students’ commitment to learning about simple lifestyle changes that will benefit their health and wellbeing.

“Teaching students about being healthy is important to me,” O’Brien said. “ We know how things like exercise and eating well improve our quality of life. I want that for my students and they were really interested in learning these skills.”

Students received certificates at all three levels, along with a classroom kickball for achieving bronze. At the silver and gold levels, teachers also received Amazon gift cards to purchase a wellness item for the classroom and students received swag such as t-shirts. A RiseVT Wellness Specialist visited the school throughout the year to celebrate the milestones and complete a wellness activity with the classes.

“When my students pull out their snacks now, they identify foods that they should be eating regularly and those that should be the occasional treat,” Pellegrino said. “The learning really has carried over into their lives.”

“These are lifelong skills,” O’Brien said. “My students know that movement and eating well help them get focused and settle into their work. This is knowledge that they can carry into their adult lives to make them more successful.”

“We played a food game and we learned what is healthy for you to have all the time and what should be a treat,” kindergartner Mia Riggs said. “My favorite all-the-time food is carrots and cucumbers.”

“I learned that you should exercise,” first grader Fiona Gillilan said. “I like to be outside and there are lots of exercises you can do outside. Exercise helps you stay healthy.”

“We learned how important it is to drink water,” first grader Hale Marcotte said. “We learned that water should be our first choice to drink.”

“All of us at RiseVT want to congratulate the two classrooms at Fletcher Elementary School that achieved gold status on the RiseVT scorecard,” RiseVT Executive Director Marissa Parisi said. “To live a long, healthy life it is important to develop habits early on that will stick with you for the long term. Committing to a healthy classroom helps students and teachers feel we’re all in this together to embrace healthy lifestyles. We’re excited to continue our work with Fletcher Elementary next year to support them reaching the bold goal of having all their classrooms achieve RiseVT gold status.”

“RiseVT is a strong collaborator with all of our FWSU schools,” Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said. “As a partner with our Whole-School, Whole-Community, Whole-Child Steering Committee, RiseVT helps engage all learners within FWSU in active, healthy lifestyles that promote lifelong wellness.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: GEMS Fourth Grade students team with Innovation Lab to spread the word about Recycling and Composting

Schools have been recycling and composting for years, but two GEMS fourth graders firmly believe more needs to be done. Callie and Ella started by writing a letter to Principal Emery asking for an opportunity to spread the message about how students could increase recycling and cut waste to make a positive impact on the environment. After presenting to their peers in a full cafeteria, they were looking for another way to get their point across. Knowing the GEMS Innovation Lab has helped produce a number of student videos including a weekly news feature called GEMS TV Express, Mr. Emery shared the idea of creating a public service announcement with Mr. Hadd.  

Ella and Callie began visiting the innovation lab weekly and working with Mr. Hadd. The production involved planning, scripting, interviewing, media creation, and editing. What emerged at the end was a short documentary. Interviews of school staff members, images, and other video clips support the main theme that everyone can make better choices and take action to improve the environment. The video has already been shown in classrooms and now we are sharing it with a wider audience.

Video is a powerful platform for student voice. How can you make a change? How can you take action?

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