FWSU Welcomes Jessica Castine as New School Psychologist

FWSU is pleased to announce that Jessica Castine has joined our district as our new School Psychologist.

fwsu psychologist

Jessica Castine is a licensed School Psychologist that has worked in a variety of settings including public schools, post-secondary education, mental health agencies, and clinical facilities. She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh. She earned a Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Studies in School Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh.

Jessica has a strong knowledge and extensive experience working with childhood/adolescent disabilities, as well as counseling, psychological assessments, and behavioral programming. She has worked with a variety of individuals with disabilities/disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, etc. Jessica’s professional experiences include working at Chittenden East Supervisory Union, Howard Center, and the Neuropsychology Clinic at Plattsburgh State University. She will use her extensive knowledge to help students succeed.

Jessica will coordinate and utilize resources to expand the continuum of specialized instruction and intervention and increase the capacity to meet the needs of all students while reducing contracted evaluation services. She will conduct evaluations for special education purposes along with proactively focusing on behavioral needs across the district. She will provide Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) training to support the creation and implementation of behavior plans. She will also collect data on the use of 1:1 supports to ensure that students are receiving the most effective services possible.

We are excited to have Jessica join the FWSU team! Her expertise will enhance our capacity to support the needs of all learners.

BFA Fairfax 6th Grade Goes To Lotus Lake

Last week, BFA Fairfax sixth-grade students and staff attended the Lotus Lake Discovery Center for an overnight, nature-based learning experience in Williamstown, Vermont.

This is the tenth year that our students have engaged in this unique and highly engaging learning opportunity.


While at Lotus Lake, students and staff participated in a range of nature-based learning and team-building activities.  The mission of the camp is to:

  • Learn about the natural environment through outdoor experiences.
  • Grow in social relationships by broadening friendships and participating in group activities.

Students also had the opportunity to enjoy hiking, swimming, shelter and raft building, wire walking, fishing, fire building, cooking, making smores, and playing flashlight tag on this beautiful piece of property in central Vermont.

As students collaborated with one another to solve a variety of challenges, I was able to observe evidence of each and every one of the transferable skills that guide our middle school learning environment.

Students took on leadership roles, were self-directed in pursuit of specific goals, and took turns effectively communicating with their classmates to solve complex problems.  This trip was proof positive that authentic learning can occur inside and outside the classroom.

One task students were faced with was to build a raft that could hold an entire team of students using only the materials provided (rope, wood, and barrels). Not every team succeeded, but the learning that took place was invaluable. Take a look at this tweet from sixth-grade teacher Lindy Carpenter, and watch a team of learners exploring and learning from their mistakes.

The joy in this video is palpable!

Thank you to the sixth-grade teaching team for offering this unique experience each year to our students. Many positive memories were made and this experience will continue to foster our students’ love of Vermont and the outdoors.

This post was co-authored by Principal Tom Walsh and Principal Intern Chris Palmer.


FES Family Engagement Builds STEAM

Recently, Fletcher Elementary School celebrated another successful annual STEAM Night. STEAM Night is a culmination of extended student-driven inquiry.


There are questioning prompts scattered among the exhibits in every classroom, students are not daunted by the impromptu questions that come from the many visitors. Questions that might elicit very short and uninspired answers on a traditional quiz provoke thoughtful, engaged, and informed responses when asked in the context of these exhibitions. Authentic exhibitions of learning are critical to building student ownership of essential academic concepts and skills in all content areas, but particularly when integrated into engaging STEM inquiries.


Inquiry celebrates the natural, inherent curiosity of children. Fletcher’s STEAM Night exhibition model is framed to engage parents in the inquiry process. Parents can support inquiry-based thinking at home by asking open-ended questions — these kinds of questions are powerful tools to promote problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking.


Fletcher Elementary School uses some Federal funding to support the engagement of families in their children’s learning. The use of these funds for STEAM Night enable Fletcher Elementary School to expand the experience beyond just an event for kids and families at school. The school purchased two STEAM books for families to take home so that they could continue to work on all of the proficiencies and skills that had been highlighted at STEAM Night through engaging activities for parents and children at home. Principal Chris Dodge noted that this investment in parents as partners in their children’s learning “helped to form a strong connection between school content and further educating both parents and students.”


When students see the relevance of content across settings, including their own homes, they more easily and comprehensively make meaning of their learning and how it is applied to their own lives.


Exhibitions of learning can take the form of final products, presentations, or performances. They can be used to authentically assess student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement. Exhibitions of learning allow students to present and defend evidence of academic learning and reflect on growth in proficiency in transferable skills.  Student growth and progress can be observed in “real time” when parents and community members are asking questions about the students’ inquiry projects. These “transferable skills” cut across all content areas and are truly portable tools for achievement success.


Authentic exhibitions have a far-reaching impact on a student’s capacity to deepen their skills in communication, self-direction, problem-solving, and critical and creative thinking.

BFA Fairfax Farm to School Welcomes Spring

Spring has finally arrived and BFA’s Farm to School Program is in full bloom. The FTS program has two components: a club and a class. Students in both areas have been working to meet the goals of their three-year plan. BFA was recently visited by Erica Campbell from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders who gave the students positive feedback about their progress.


Shannon, a student at BFA Fairfax, gave Campbell a tour of our Farm to School Farm and reviewed the current plan. “She was able to see the potential for our project through our three-year plan. She thinks that our program will become the ‘face of Farm to School in Vermont'” Shannon said. The visit was “absolutely brilliant. Ms. Campbell offered to provide us with connections and resources and hopes to bring Senator Sanders back to BFA Fairfax for our Harvest Dinner.”

Club students have been busy through the long winter getting ready to plant. In early “spring” a greenhouse was built and ready to start seedlings for transplant when the time was right. The next projects for the students are to build a shed and a bridge to provide storage and access to the gardens. This work has been made possible through the assistance of community partners and parent volunteers.

“Our club has lots of traction as we finish the first year of the plan. Everything we promised has been delivered. We have overcome obstacles for the progress of the program” – Shannon, FTS President


Students in the Farm to School class have been working on composting. They have built a worm composting bin and hope to obtain the cafeteria food scraps to keep the worms fed and creating more rich compost for the gardens. “The students are working on a local community meal and learning about food ethics when they are not busy planting and tending the garden,” said Farm to School teacher Marjorie Hollocher. Hollocher and Fred Griffin will be joining forces to team teach the Farm to School course next year.

“It’s a powerful vision,” said Griffin,  “It draws people in.  We are building a diverse outdoor classroom that works in partnership with our school cafeteria, our townspeople, and our students.  This is exciting stuff!”

Students will be tending the garden throughout the summer awaiting the fall harvest. All that is left to do now is to hope for the right weather to foster growth in the garden that matches the growth in enthusiasm for BFA’s Farm to School initiative.


Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, aka PBIS, was adopted and implemented at the Georgia Elementary Middle School this school year. PBIS is designed to help school teams form a proactive, school-wide systems approach to improving social and academic competence for all students.


Goals of PBIS at GEMS are to:

  • Improve student engagement
  • Increase instruction time
  • Create a positive school environment

With consistent specific expected behaviors being taught in all school settings, students are expected to:

Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe


One component of PBIS is encouraging and recognizing students for following expectations. Paper gems are given to students for following the expectations. When a student receives a GEM he or she places it in their classroom or grade level container. Classrooms or grade levels have celebrations when they have filled their containers. Classroom or grade level celebrations might look like different, but they do celebrate success.


We had two school-wide celebrations this school year. The first one was a Beach Party on December 21st. Lunch that day was a barbecue, and we ended our day with all students and staff participating in a beach ball relay.



Our end of the year celebration was June 1st in both gyms where students and staff were on the playing field or as a spectator watching games of Human Foosball. The major goal was to promote community and cooperation among older and younger students. Everyone playing and watching had a great time!


Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments ​FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Indicator of Success – Flexible learning environments are the context for collaboration and extend beyond the classroom.

Action Step – Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferable skills in authentic settings

FWSU Early Educators Share Knowledge, Expertise & Beliefs

Providing high quality pre-school education in all of our communities is a constant focus at FWSU. Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically, that experts agree, will help children in elementary school. The mission of FWSU’s Early Education program is to nurture young children’s sense of wonder while laying a solid foundation for lifelong learning through a play based, inclusive environment. fweet5We are fortunate to have an outstanding early education team at FWSU. Working together this year, the Franklin West Early Education Teachers (FWEET) and FWSU Act 166 Coordinator Diana Langston, have been sharing their knowledge and expertise with each other.   Discussions on pedagogy and curriculum have enabled the team to define the mission statement, philosophy and program goals of FWSU’s Early Education program. In addition, the team also developed an Early Education Handbook for the 2017-2018 school year. The handbook will be a guide for parents wanting to understand more about our programs.

The following is an overview of our program’s philosophy.

Our early education programs are based on the belief that young children learn best through active involvement in their environment and develop their skills and knowledge through these experiences. This involvement promotes the growth and development of the whole child; physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.

We believe that children learn best in a hands-on environment that is nurturing, inviting, and supportive to experiment and take risks.  Ultimately, children are encouraged to embrace their own specific learning style.  Our classroom learning environments are designed to make children feel safe physically, psychologically, socially and intellectually. This environment allows children to explore and interact with adults, other children and to self select a variety of materials. With compassion and insight, we implement best practices in our work with young children across all developmental domains.

Our teachers focus on developing relationships, taking time to get to know all children, their families and background, their interests and passions, their learning styles and the way they think.  Teachers act as facilitators:  asking questions, presenting challenges, and supporting the children’s efforts to make meaning.  Sometimes teachers take a more active role by introducing new content, ideas and materials.  Teachers create a community within the classroom where all children feel encouraged to share ideas and opinions.  They observe, document, cheer and reflect in order to nurture children’s self esteem and skill development.  The children learn as much from each other as they do from adults in their learning community.

Teachers include families in the learning community. Each child’s family and cultural identity is respected as partnerships are formed between home and school. Ongoing communication is vital so that teachers and families work together to support the uniqueness of each child’s learning and development. Teachers are architects of a community of learners, wherein all children have a sense of belonging. Working together, teachers and families can fortify this sensibility outside of home and school, constructing a caring community into which every child can step with confidence.  

“Childhood, we believe, is of itself, important and to be cherished.” – Franklin West Early Education Teachers.


Target 2 – Leadership FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Action Step -Design multiple avenues for staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community

Indicator of Success – Staff leaders innovate and take risks when faced with new challenges


Post-Season Has Arrived at BFA Fairfax


Every year the arrival of the first week of June brings with it the smell of fresh mulch, flowers blooming, post-high school decisions and graduation practice. However, one of the most exciting things at this time of year is the imminent “post-season” for our co-curricular activities at BFA Fairfax.   Our student activities have been, and will continue to be, taking part in multiple tournament and showcase opportunities.


On May 26th, our grades 6-12 band and chorus members took part in the Trills and Thrills Music Festival held at the Great Escape. According to the Trills and Thrills website, “Trills & Thrills Music Festivals are non-competitive, motivational, one-day music festivals for students. Perfect for Elementary, Middle, Junior High and High School Bands, Orchestras & Choirs.” Our band and chorus ensembles performed in front of a judging panel in the morning, followed by a day of fun celebrating their hard work and preparation in the park. We are proud to report that both groups received the highest possible rating of “Superior” which is an unprecedented and incredible accomplishment, and a fantastic way to end their performance season.


Our Track and Field team will be competing in the Division 3 State Championships at Green Mountain Union High School on Saturday, June 3. It has been an incredible year of growth for both our Middle School and High School Track and Field programs. Our 15-member MS/HS team from last year grew into 38 strong this year, and has 16 athletes who have qualified and will be representing BFA Fairfax at the state championships.


Our Ultimate Frisbee teams have also had successful seasons and will be competing in their State Championship preliminary rounds at Milton High School on Saturday June 3, followed by Championship Night in Montpelier on Wednesday, June 7th.


BFA Fairfax Baseball secured the #2 seed in the Division 2 state tournament. Ranking this high was an incredible accomplishment, and will allow them to play home games straight through to the state championship game if they are so fortunate to make it that far. The team begins tournament play on Tuesday, May 30 at home vs. #15 Springfield High School at 4pm.


Finally, BFA Fairfax Softball earned the #5 seed in the Division 2 state tournament, and will host #12 Lamoille Union High School in a first-round playoff game at 4:30pm.


Co-curriculars are one of the best aspects of being part of the BFA Fairfax community. The post-season is an exciting time where our teams and groups have the opportunity to demonstrate and highlight the incredible talent possessed by all. Please come out and support our students toward victory and success! We look forward to seeing you there!


Target 2 – Leadership FWSU students and staff lead innovative, personalized learning opportunities, both locally and globally.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff lead as engaged and responsible citizens.