THE #FWSU STORY: Building Positive School Culture, One Interaction at a Time

A very important part of school culture is starting each and every day off on a positive note. Taking the time to greet someone, making eye contact, and sharing a friendly comment can fuel their day and give them the boost they need to have a productive, successful, and meaningful experience at school.

Human interaction is a necessity and research indicates that individuals thrive when such personal contact exists. We know this is so true for our students in educational settings as well.

As we begin each school day, throughout around every corner of the building, we are building relationships and shaping positive school culture. As children exit buses, when they arrive at school early, or when getting dropped off from parents we have the opportunity for engaging interactions with each child. As you enter the building, you can see a variety of staff greeting children with smiles, showing their appreciation for their presence and what makes them unique. In fact, some teachers meet their students at the door and students choose how they want to be greeted. A “pat on the back” a “high five” a “bear hug” and the list goes on as the choices change daily. Children love the acknowledgment and flourish with a positive start to each day.

Throughout the day greetings continue as many staff are assigned one student that they need to acknowledge and recognize daily. The intent is to be intentional and acknowledge what they bring to our school as we inquire how they are doing and how their day is going, or through just saying hello.

Simple words build trust. These gestures create a sense of value and belonging across our school community, small efforts that have such a large impact!  

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

THE #FWSU STORY: Lifesaving Program Equips Fletcher Staff to Help Others

Emergency preparedness is a school-wide theme at Fletcher Elementary this year. As part of that effort, Thursday, Registered Nurse Pamela Scott, Chair of Emergency Preparedness for the Emergency Department at Northwestern Medical Center, trained Fletcher staff members on the lifesaving skill of bleeding control.

Northwestern Medical Center RN Pamela Scott present training to Fletcher staff.

Stop the Bleed is a nationwide awareness campaign and call-to-action that trains and empowers bystanders to address life-threatening bleeding as a result of trauma to an extremity. Scott, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Department and certified instructor in Tactical Combat Casualty and Bleeding Control for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, teaches participants to control bleeding through direct pressure and bandaging, assess the need for a tourniquet, and apply one if needed. 

Staff members practice lifesaving Stop the Bleed techniques.

In addition to the no-cost training, in early October, Northwestern Medical Center’s Auxiliary allocated $20,000 to support the placement of bleeding control kits in schools throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. The hospital’s website boasts that the donation is unique, as it is the first monetary support of equipment placed outside the Medical Center. The kit contains several individual sets of bleeding control materials including specially designed trauma scissors, gauze, and a tourniquet. Kits are typically located near a school’s publicly accessible defibrillator. 

For more information on saving lives with Stop the Bleed, go to

In 2013, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reported that as much as 90 percent of patients with bleeding injuries could survive when expedited bleeding control is applied, as opposed to a 10 percent survival rate without appropriate and immediate treatment.

“Our emergency preparedness work at Fletcher vastly focuses on the prevention of emergencies and injuries, but it is incredibly important for our staff to know these kinds of simple, yet highly effective, responses to physical trauma that can make the difference between life and death for someone who is injured.”

Denette Locke, Instructional Coach
These simple steps can save lives. Here’s how Fletcher staff members learned to Stop the Bleed.

“With Fletcher’s rural location, the adults at our school truly become the first responders in any emergency situation,” special educator and safety team member Sarah Tucker said. “This training is about gaining the specific skills to help with bleeding, but it’s also about changing to a mindset that we need to act and not wait for help to arrive. That we can make all the difference.”

Good Health and Well-Being

Chris and Jackson

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: BFA Fairfax Senior Shane Seals Recognized as Top 10 Vermont Student-Athlete Leader


On Monday, November 5 the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association in coordination with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association held their annual scholarship banquet at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington. This banquet serves as one of the highlight events of the annual Vermont Student Athletic Leadership Conference, to which BFA Fairfax sends eight of our top student-athlete leaders each year.


This year, BFA Fairfax was proud to have Shane Seals (‘19) selected as one of ten NIAAA Student-Athlete Scholarship winners in the State of Vermont.  In addition to an essay on how athletic participation has impacted his life, Shane was required to demonstrate his exceptional qualities in academic potential, athletic participation, and service to others.

At the awards banquet, Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa’s introduction of Shane stated “Whether on the cross country and Nordic trails, the ultimate frisbee pitch, serving on our School Board, or leading the construction of our phenomenal school farm, Shane guides others to success with humility and integrity.  Many BFA Fairfax programs have greatly succeeded with him, and our school is a much better place because of him.”


Shane’s acceptance speech included a powerful and motivating message to the younger student-athletes in attendance, sharing “Before I go, I have one thing to say: For every sports superstar there are hundreds of athletes working just as hard, day after day, to reach their goals; be that athlete, push yourself to the limit and keep pushing, because, at the end of the day, that’s what you’ll be proud of.”


We are extremely proud of Shane’s scholarship, as well as all of his accomplishments during his time at BFA Fairfax.  He has been a leader and role model for others, and will undoubtedly experience continued success next year at the University of Vermont as the Green and Gold Scholar.  Congratulations Shane!

Good Health and Well-Being

Geri Witalec


Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You follow her @GLWit  

Fletcher Elementary students explore a Fire Rescue Truck during Fire Safety Month

THE FWSU STORY: Fire Safety Day Sparks Life-Saving Learning in Fletcher

To celebrate Fire Safety Month in October, the Fletcher Elementary School welcomed a special visit from the Cambridge Fire Department.

Cambridge Firefighter Elizabeth Rowe high-fives Elementary Preschooler during fire safety exercise
Cambridge Fire Department firefighter Elizabeth Rowe gives a high-five to Fletcher Elementary School preschooler Malachi O’Reilly during a fire safety presentation earlier this month.

Three firefighters taught a series of 45-minute lessons on fire safety to each of Fletcher’s preschool through sixth-grade classes. The teaching included a review of the gear and equipment used by firefighters, strategies for staying safe in the event of a fire, and a tour of a real-life fire-rescue truck.

One of the department’s newest members, Rollie the robotic fire truck, was also a highlight. Rollie has the ability to move around, has flashing red lights, and can carry on a conversation with students via remote control. Behind the scenes, the voice of Rollie typically belongs to Firefighter Kristy Wyckoff, who answered students’ questions and posed thought-provoking scenarios that helped students plan for potential fire emergencies at home.

Fletcher Elementary students explore a Fire Rescue Truck during Fire Safety Month
Students from the Fletcher Elementary School explore a rescue truck from the Cambridge Fire Department during a lesson on Fire Safety on Oct. 5. This month is Fire Safety Month nationwide.

“I learned that firefighters use their air tanks to breath in clean air instead of smoke,” third-grader Stephen Duchaine said. “Their gear is used to protect themselves. It’s important that they come to school because they can teach us how to be safe.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 1,500 home fires in the US every day, causing 6,500 deaths and 280,000 injuries annually. During the lifetime of an average home, chances are two to one that there will be an accidental fire.

Wyckoff and her fellow firefighters, Dave Fay and Elizabeth Rowe, encouraged students to install and maintain smoke detectors and to have a reunification plan outside the home in the event of a fire. While donning her gear, Rowe and her colleagues also reassured students that firefighters are there to help, and not to be afraid of all of the equipment.

Students at Fletcher Elementary practice fire safety
Cambridge Fire Department firefighter Elizabeth Rowe teaches Fletcher Elementary School students how to stop, drop and roll during a lesson about fire safety.

“Our goal is to make learning about fire prevention fun and enjoyable for all involved. Safety is our number one priority, Wyckoff said.

“We had to practice our stop drop and roll,” first-grader Emily Savage said. “And we had to cover our faces to protect ourselves. You can crawl if there is a fire. You should stay low because the smoke rises up. You have to know what to do when you have a fire in your house.”

On average, eight out of ten fire-related deaths are the result of smoke inhalation, the NFPA report cites.

“I learned how firefighters put out fire, fourth-grader Cody Savage said. “Taking away the oxygen is one way and using water is another way. The equipment is super heavy. I learned to not hide anywhere and try to get out and not to be scared of the firefighters. There is a helping person under all of the equipment.”

According to a 2017 report authored by the Vermont State Fire Marshall, of the 40,000 emergencies to which firefighters responded that year, “residential properties account for the majority of structure fires and civilian fatalities.”  The report also states that Vermont has historically had a higher than average fire fatality rate per capita. Nationwide, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 25 percent of all structure fires are in residential construction and account for 83 percent of fire deaths and 77 percent of injuries.

“The more students practice safety routines, the more it will become second nature in the event of an actual emergency,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “We are fortunate that these volunteers give up their time every year to support the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

Good Health and Well-Being

Chris and Jackson

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: Fairfax-Lamoille Football Senior Night Pays It Forward for Make-A-Wish Vermont!

Fun, food, friends and football were the themes of the evening last Saturday as the entire Fairfax community came together to celebrate our graduating football seniors, as well as raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Vermont foundation.  

Fairfax Football raises funds for Make-A-Wish Vermont


Service is a regular component of our community-wide school events and is a priority to our student body and athletic department. Last Saturday’s Make-A-Wish fundraiser was the brainchild of BFA Fairfax Sophomores Natalie Bates and Kiana Labor, in coordination with Make-A-Wish participant, BFA first-grader Asher Lawrence.

Fairfax football players greet BFA Fairfax first grader Asher Lawrence

Through admission costs, a 50/50 raffle, and generous donations on behalf of Mt. Abraham Football and Boosters, the evening raised nearly $1400.00 for this important foundation!


Contributing to the excitement of the evening was the strength and skill demonstrated by our Fairfax/Lamoille Co-op football team in a 38-6 victory over Mt. Abraham.  

BFA Fairfax Cheer Team

The win earned the Bullets a #3 ranking in Division 3 and secured a home playoff game against Springfield High School on Saturday, October 27 at 1pm.

BFA Fairfax Football Team


We need to extend a huge thank you to Brock’s Heating, Air Conditioning, and Gas Services, who generously donated the lights to make football Senior Night that much more special, as well as all the fans, students, and community members who contributed to making our entire weekend of games under the lights a resounding success.  

Good Health and Well-Being


Geri Witalec

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You follow her @GLWit  


THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Elementary Named PBIS Exemplar School

The Fletcher Elementary School has earned Exemplar status as a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) School. The designation was awarded by the VT-PBIS Team of the Vermont Agency of Education and the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion Collaboration at the annual PBIS Leadership Forum in Killington on October 11. Representatives from the school’s PBIS team accepted the award.

Fletcher VTPBIS Leadership Team pose with Exemplar School ribbon

Exemplar designation represents the highest of three tiers of PBIS recognition and affirms the Fletcher School’s unwavering commitment to supporting a positive school climate and the social skills of students, which in turn bolster academic achievements and increase available time for academic learning.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is an approach to creating proactive, school-wide systems that support students’ behavioral and academic success. It begins with the teaching, modeling, and practicing of school-wide behavior expectations with all students and staff and a formal system of recognition and supports when students meet those expectations. The Fletcher School has created clear and concise behavior expectations for each physical area of the school, on the school buses and for field trips. The school emphasizes respectful, responsible, safe and caring behaviors. Fletcher School is in its fifth full year of implementing PBIS.

These expectations are modeled and taught to students throughout the year. Individual classroom and school-wide successes are recognized and celebrated regularly. The school’s PBIS Team uses data from classroom and office behavior referrals to identify students, location around the school, times of day and other demographics needing additional support. Behavior data is provided to families throughout the year as part of parent conferences. 

“We spend time learning what it looks like to be respectful, responsible, safe and caring,” sixth-grader Monica King said. “I like being recognized for my positive behavior. It makes me feel good and it lets me know that the adults care and are watching.”

Students are intermittently recognized when they meet school-wide expectations. The recognition comes in the form of small paper “falcon” tokens, representing the school mascot. The tokens are often customized to a particular theme, like fire safety month or to celebrate an upcoming event at the school. Tokens accumulated in classrooms and other locations around the school result in class and school-wide celebrations. 

“Our celebrations are things like hat day or an extra recess,” King said. “We’ve also done face painting and other things. They’re really fun and make us want to follow the expectations even more.”

Students discuss RESPECT - a key component of the VTPBIS system

“Our PBIS system is completely data-driven,” Fletcher’s Instructional Coach, Denette Locke, said. “We track and analyze behavior information such as location, time of day, academic subject, suspected motivation and more to plan the best ways to support our students. When you have specific information about behaviors, you can more successfully target the problem areas with supports that turn behaviors around.”

The school also involves families in the PBIS approach. At last week’s Open House, families were given buttons to wear with the school-wide expectations on them. The school also sends home tokens before school vacations and encourages families to award them at home, keeping up the momentum of positive behavior across settings and when students are away from school.

“Fletcher’s designation as a PBIS Exemplar School reflects a tremendous ongoing effort on the part of the adults and students to create a school community where everyone is valued and respected, and where a positive climate clears the way for academic achievement for all learners,” FWSU Superintendent Ned Kirsch said.

Fletcher students discuss what responsible behaviors look like

In 2014, the Fletcher School was designated a Vermont PBIS School of Recognition based on its strategic use of data to support student behavior, celebrating school-wide and individual successes and working to support behavioral challenges, as well as noted decrease in behavior issues overall. In the following three years, the school received the PBIS School of Merit designation based on a continuation of that work, as well as receiving exceptional scores on its state-conducted school-wide evaluation of its PBIS implementation. This year’s Exemplar designation recognizes both a continued decrease in rule-breaking behaviors and an increase in academic performance and comes following a rigorous selection process that included documenting both improved behaviors and increased academic achievement.

“Fletcher is a ‘go to’ school for model PBIS practices and implementation fidelity. They are truly an exemplar school, and they should be very proud of the recognition for the work they have done on behalf of their students to ensure safe and responsive learning environments,” FWSU Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said.

Students proudly display their VTPBIS Exemplar School ribbon

More than half of Vermont schools – 160 – implement PBIS. That represents 91 percent of supervisory unions around the state.

Good Health and Well-Being

Chris and Jackson


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