The FWSU Story: FES and BFA Teachers Learn Together

When the BFA and FES staff returned on January 2nd 2019 from winter break, they arrived to the BFA Richard A. Brown Memorial Gym to screen the documentary film The Kids We Lose.

(Images from the documentary, The Kids We Lose)

The Kids We Lose is a documentary film produced by the non-profit Lives in the Balance. “The goal of the film is to expose the counterproductive ways, often inhumane ways in which kids with social, emotional and behavioral challenges are still treated in many places, and the desperation and frustration of their parents, teachers and other caregivers,” (Ross W. Greene, Developer and Executive Producer of The Kids We Lose).

(Books written by Dr. Ross Greene)

The film can be difficult to watch as it depicts real life, challenging situations that adults and children face. As we looked around the gym during the film, it was evident that the audience’s attention was rapt. After the film, staff met with the facilitators from BFA’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions team to discuss how the film made them feel, to share what we are doing well to support challenging kids at FWSU, and to discuss the issues depicted in the film. The staff’s reflections from these experience were powerful.

(A selection of responses from the teacher breakout sessions)

The BFA Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) team meets once a month to learn more about what we can do to further support students who exhibit lagging skills. After the film, the team has invited other staff members to join so that together we can create an implementation approach to support all learners. The team’s goal is to bring this approach to BFA within a three year learning and implementation period.

Using Dr. Greene’s work, the CPS team understands the following principles:

  • Kids do well if they can.
  • Behind every challenging behavior is an unsolved problem or lagging skills (or both).
  • By solving problems collaboratively and proactively, we can simultaneously teach skills.

We invite you to learn more about Dr. Greene’s approach by visiting his website at

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Salutes Our Bus Drivers!

We know the start of the educational day is important, but getting students to school safely is a priority, first and foremost.  As though it was a classroom of over 70 students and of different age levels, the bus drivers responsibility is to  manage the road, sustain positive choices and behaviors of students, and look out for the well being of all riders.  

Serving over 400 families in our town we have a committed staff of bus drivers who transport our children daily. On cold mornings drivers arrive early to be certain buses are up and running and ready to leave on time for the pick up of each and every student, 667 of them!  

As children board/exit the bus you can often hear a friendly “Good Morning” or “Have a good night” as relationships are developed throughout the school year.

We are fortunate to have such dedicated and committed drivers working with our school.  Their communication and care of our students does not go unnoticed.

THE FWSU Story: New Teachers at BFA High School

Every year, for a variety of reasons, BFA requires long term substitute teachers. This year has been no exception. Today, we will introduce you to two teachers who are working in the high school this winter. We asked them a few questions to help get to know them.

Keith McKenna is our long term substitute in English Language Arts. Keith has been with us since mid December and will be at BFA until our February break.

Where is your hometown?

I’m originally from a small farm town in New Jersey called Long Valley.

Where did you go to college?

I attended Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont!

What were you doing before coming to BFA?

I worked at Underhill Central School as an Academic Interventionist as well as the After School Program Director.

What is your favorite school subject?

My favorite subject in school was definitely English! I always loved the analysis and multiple perspectives that literature allows.

What is your favorite food?

A quality Reuben Sandwich!

Any interesting facts about you that you’d like to share?

I spent over six months in Argentina and Peru studying Spanish and South American cultural movements.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I spend a lot of my time reading and hiking with my dog!

What are your first impressions of BFA?

I really enjoy the relationships between teachers and students! I feel very comfortable in the classroom and around the halls. I think that these relationships provide the perfect environment for learning and exploring new ideas together.

Geoff Glaspie is working in the math department at BFA. Geoff started just before the holiday break and will be teaching until February break.

Where is your hometown?

Today, Essex Junction. I grew up in Lake Orion, Michigan, though.

Where did you go to college?

The University of Michigan.

What were you doing before coming to BFA?

Working for Husky for the last 20 years; last 4 months I have been in the Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TAP), with the goal of obtaining a VT Educators license and teaching HS (or MS) math.

What is your favorite school subject?

Math – Calculus specifically.

What is your favorite food?

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Any interesting facts about you that you’d like to share?

That teaching is a career change for me – I left to follow my passion for teaching and math.

There is no food I will not eat….and likely enjoy as well.

What do you like to do outside of school?

I like to read, run, travel, ski.

What are your first impressions of BFA?

That the students are friendly, helpful, and care about each other. It feels like a collaboration, not a competition, which is very healthy in a community of people.

The staff is very helpful and supportive; those in my department and outside my department.

It has been a very welcoming environment and experience.

Please join us in welcoming these educators to BFA. In the near future, we will share the profiles of two long term subs from the middle school.

John Tague is the Middle / High School Principal at BFA Fairfax. You can follow him @jtague252 

The FWSU STORY: Self-Care: A New Twist on Fletcher’s “Be Caring” Expectation

Fletcher Elementary has four school-wide behavior expectations: be respectful, be responsible, be safe and be caring. The expectations are taught, modeled, practiced and reviewed throughout the year, both in classrooms and school-wide. Recently, as part of a whole-school gathering, students and staff approached being caring from a new angle, self-care.

“We have spent a lot of time thinking about how to be caring towards others and how we respond when someone is hurt or sad or needing support in another way,” Denette Locke, instructional coach and school leadership team member, said. “Historically, we have spent less time talking about self-care, but we’re changing that. We want our students to understand that taking care of themselves is as important as helping others.”

The gathering was one in a four-part series of school-wide assemblies focused on a single behavior expectation. Planned and facilitated by the school’s leadership team, each gathering included hands-on learning in multi-age groups. While learning about self-care, students focused on four main themes including emotional self care, learning self-care, physical self-care and social self-care.

“Emotional self-care is all about having a growth mindset,” leadership team member and special educator Sarah Tucker said. “ It’s about how you keep yourself feeling positive and believing that, through hard work, you will be successful, learn new things and develop new ideas and skills.”

Fletcher’s four school-wide expectations are are the cornerstone of an approach called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. Students are individually recognized when they demonstrate behaviors consistent with the school rules. They also earn classroom and school-wide celebrations.

“Self-care has a lot to do with stress management,” school leadership team member and school counselor Lisa Coale said. “When we are stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted, we aren’t accessing the thinking part of our brain – the prefrontal cortex – and instead we give control over to the feeling part of the brain – the amygdala. The feeling part of the brain is focused on survival. It controls our breathing, stays alert to our environments and responds impulsively with emotions like fear, excitement, or anger.”

According to Coale, these automatic and impulsive reactions impede students’ abilities to access those executive functioning skills like paying attention and communicating effectively. That’s where self-care comes in. When we use self-care strategies like breathing, movement and relaxation we can better manage our stress in order to help the thinking part of our brain regain control.

“I’m into sports so I think physical self-care is really important,” sixth grader Anna Villeneuve said. “It’s good to be active and if you’re just sitting on the couch all day that’s not good for your body. The more active you are the less tired you are.”

“Emotional self care is really important, too,” sixth grader Bryant Matton added. “When you have a growth mindset you believe in yourself and you believe that with practice and confidence you can get the job done.. You have to stay positive with yourself and just keep trying.”

Students also focused on self-care related to learning, namely how to best prepare for their studies. They brainstormed twenty-two strategies for learning that included being persistent, being prepared and listening to directions.

“I think we often think of self-care in the consumer sense, like eating chocolate, getting a message or drinking tea,” Coale said. “But, it’s a lot more than that. Those things are great, but self care also has a lot to do with learning, developing skills and making choices that will impact your long term wellness.”

For students, Coale says, that might mean learning how to self regulate, self-sooth, think about and plan for their future, set goals, and regularly check in with those goals. It also means learning how to be flexible and adaptable.

“These skills will benefit their long term wellness and can be translated across environments so that self-care for our students is not about escaping or masking discomfort when life gets hectic, but planning and strategizing so they can meet their own needs and aren’t dependent on an external source for self-care,” Coale said.

“Our hope is that when students see each other practicing self-care, it will become contagious,” Locke said. “And the same is true for the adults at school. We all need to take care of each other and being well for others begins with good self-care.”

“It’s like that saying on airplanes, ‘Put your oxygen mask on before helping others,’” Coale said. “You have to take care of yourself in order to have the resources and the energy to care for others. If we are constantly running on empty because we neglect self-care, we won’t be able to offer any of ourselves to support the people around us.”

Read the full list of strategies Fletcher students created for all four self-care categories here.

The FWSU Story: A Principal Reflects on Shared Values and Traditions at BFA

A blog by BFA Elementary Principal Tom Walsh that looks back at the holiday season and BFA values and traditions.

The time between the Thanksgiving Break and the Holiday Recess is packed with a range of events.  There are plays, concerts, games, field trips, and class celebrations to name a few. Many of the events are related to holidays and each provides an opportunity to learn about the shared values of different cultures and to celebrate different traditions.  

As a learning community, we believe in six core values:  Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Life-Long Learning, Compassion, and Cooperation.  These values are an important component of the culture of our school and community. We are confident that our students will be successful in all phases of their lives if they consistently learn, practice, and demonstrate these qualities.

I remain so impressed with all of the examples of our students demonstrating these values this past month.  I have witnessed our students collaborating to play music and sing at concerts. I have encountered our students engaged in food and clothing drives to support those that are not as fortunate during this time of year, and I have observed numerous learning experiences where our students are spending time together making positive memories.  

This final week before vacation I have engaged in a tradition I began many years ago.  I read  How the The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss to every class.  I appreciate the opportunity to connect with students and to see them smile as I change my voice to sound like Cindy-Lou Who.  

We are lucky to work in education and to have the opportunity to support students as they grow and learn.  I am a proud Principal because I know that our students understand the importance of kindness, giving, community, and laughter.


As we enter 2019, BFA Fairfax Elementary students are being treated to an exciting new learning opportunity.  Through the collaborative work of Elementary Physical Education teacher Heather Weeks and Elementary Music teacher Sarah Wolff, BFA Fairfax students are literally marching to their own beat through the “Drums Alive” program.  

Drums Alive combines aerobic movements with the beat and rhythms of drums.  However, rather than beating an actual drum, students use drumsticks to beat an exercise ball placed on top of a bucket.  This new activity which is gaining popularity not only in schools, but fitness gyms around the country, combines musical skills with kinesthetic awareness, neuromuscular skills, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, strength, and most importantly FUN!

Our students are in day 2 of the two-week program, and the excitement is palpable and contagious.  Students can be seen moving throughout the gym, playing their drums to music, laughing, smiling, and eagerly awaiting the next cue.  Teachers and students alike are thrilled to take part in this fun and exciting new offering. Thank you Ms. Weeks and Ms. Wolff for introducing this new and beneficial cross-curricular activity to our school!

THE FWSU STORY: Budget Season Underway in FWSU

The holidays are upon us and students, school staff, and families are all busy enjoying the season. Simultaneously, another kind of season has also begun — one very different from the holidays. That is budget season: the time of year when school boards begin the process of building budgets that will be voted on at Town Meeting Day in March. 

This year each school district within FWSU will be holding a special work session meeting in January devoted solely to the FY2020 budget. The meetings are open to the public and community members are encouraged to attend. The special work sessions for each board are:

Fletcher School Board: Special Meeting on Thursday, January 3rd at 6:00pm

Georgia School Board: Special Meeting on Wednesday, January 16th at 5:00pm

Fairfax School Board:  Special Meeting on Wednesday, January 9th at 6:30pm

In addition to the special meetings, each school board will also hold a regular meeting in January where budget development will also be on the agenda. These meetings will be held as follows:

Fletcher School Board: Regular Meeting on Tuesday, January 15th at 6:00pm

Georgia School Board: Regular Meeting on Tuesday, January 8th at 6:00pm

Fairfax School Board: Regular Meeting on Monday, January 14th at 6:30pm

Board budget development will be complete by January 18th. At that time our budget website will be updated and information regarding the budgets will be available for you to see on the FWSU budget webpage.  If you can’t make it the meetings, you can always reach out to board members via email, which can be found here.

Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.