The Twelve Days of Fairfax

On the eve of holiday recess, BFA Fairfax gave to me…….

TWELVE lunchers lunching,

ELEVEN seniors smiling (behind their masks of course),

TEN first graders coloring,

NINE P.E.  players,

EIGHT ballers balling,

SEVEN sledders sledding,

SIX graham cracker crafters,

FIVE Administrative stars,

FOUR brass musicians,

Three IPad workers,

Two rock star nurses,

And the BEST PK-12 community!

On behalf of the Administration, faculty, staff, and students at BFA Fairfax, we hope you have a restful break filled with family, friends, laughter, and joy!! See you in 2022!

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

Tis The Season of Giving and Celebration:

Amidst the continuing Pandemic we are often reminded that there are both needs, but also so many generous individuals and families in our community. Each Holiday season, some of our regular traditions at BFA Fairfax are to support area families in need with their own celebrations.

With the holiday season in full swing, one thing that never ceases to amaze is the generosity of this community in support of its families who need extra care during this time of year. Each year, the BFA Fairfax Mental Health team organizes a Mitten Tree to help support those families that are part of our learning community that need extra support for the holiday season. In addition to the Mitten Tree, the National Honor Society, in partnership with United Way and Operation Happiness, has been holding a Holiday Food Drive. This food drive will support families from across our region with the food they need to have a holiday meal. Students have set up boxes in classrooms with flyers indicating current need and our community has been hard at work to ensure that no family goes without this season. On Wednesday, NHS students will work with United Way to sort toys for Operation Happiness that will go on to support 36 local families. This effort has truly been a demonstration of BFA’s mission at work. Ensuring that students leave here with an understanding of what it means to be community members who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. 

For the last two years the BFA Fairfax Mitten Tree has taken on a virtual format amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Community members access a Google form to select their Mittens rather than selecting them off the tree as in years past. While this new format was a break from tradition it has allowed the BFA Miten Tree to be shared near and far and is now accessed by a wider portion of our own and surrounding communities. This year the need in our community generated nearly 250 virtual mittens and as of 8am Monday, December 13th all of them had been selected by community members, teachers, local businesses, and those outside of the Fairfax community who wanted to ensure all families had a wonderful holiday season. This outpouring of compassion and support at a time when so many are in need is one of the many things that makes this community so special. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to all of those who participated for their generosity and for modeling for our students what it truly means to be a responsible and engaged community member at a time when community is what we need now more than ever. 

And it wouldn’t be a holiday season without our students performing in our annual Band and Choral Ensemble Holiday Performances. It was such a joy to enjoy two nights of full attendance for both our Middle Grades and High School performers opening the season.  Sitting in the High School Gymnasium with so many families and community members to share the holiday cheer as our ensembles and featured performers sang, played and spoke to a packed house on each night truly made the week both for those in attendance and for those watching via Facebook live. 

Also in the Holiday Spirit, on December 10th, the BFA Chamber Singers participated in the annual Madrigal Festival sponsored by ACDA.  While it looked a little different this year because of Covid-19 precautions, the singers had an amazing time and put on a spectacular performance.  The Chamber Singers were professionally recorded at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington where they received some advice from the wonderful retired music educator, Carl Reccia.  Students were then able to catch the opening matinee of Steven Spielberg’s adaption of the classic movie/musical, “West Side Story”, shop, and have dinner before meeting approximately 200 students from schools around Vermont to perform “Carol of the Bells” and “Deck the Halls”.  The singers were introduced by Burlington’s Mayor, Miro Weinberger and performed in front of the huge lighted tree on Church Street.  Each school then moved to their own “station” on Church Street to perform on their own.  Many community members and parents came to see the performances and it was a festive and fun experience.


Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator

Student Leaders: Climate Action Club

Charlotte Wood, founder of BFA’s Climate Action Club, leading the YCLA retreat at Goddard College on November 17, 2021. 
BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club members gathered together at the beginning of the YCLA retreat.
BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club members gathered together at the beginning of the YCLA retreat.

YCLA stands for Youth Climate Leaders Academy and is a program created by Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP). The YCLA program is designed to support high school students across the state in planning and implementing projects that mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. During the YCLA kick-off retreat sessions, students committed to pursuing action against climate change are given opportunities to collaborate and connect with other students and a variety of experts on various sectors of climate change action, become more inspired, and have fun. The YCLA retreat includes time for school teams to plan their projects, receive professional project consultations, and participate in various project skill-related workshops. This year’s retreat was led by BFA’s own Charlotte Wood!

The BFA Climate Action Club was thrilled to participate in YCLA for the fourth time in a row. Students a part of the club were eager to dedicate time to climate change project planning, collaborate with other students in similar boats, connect with and receive guidance from professionals, and attend workshops beneficial to both themselves, as individual activists, and to the development and execution of their projects. 

Beatrice Angelino, Charlotte Wood, Adeline Wood, Magda Eckstein, and Csenge Hutkai, members of the energy subgroup, creating a systems map in relation to their project.

Currently, the BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club is actively working on two main projects, which fall under the umbrella of their ambitious long-term goal of one day reaching net zero as a school. First, the energy subgroup of the Climate Action Club is currently working on obtaining solar to charge the school’s electric buses, which are presently being charged through our school’s electric system, which majorly relies on fossil fuels. Second, the waste subgroup of the Climate Action Club has been creating a survey to understand better what areas of waste management/disposal BFA students need to be educated further on. The waste subgroup has also connected with the school’s food group to develop and identify efficient ways to reduce waste at BFA Fairfax. 

Laura Heil, the club’s advisor, Gracie Clark, Makayla Shanahan, Csenge Hutkai, Charlotte Wood, Beatrice Angelino, Magda Eckstein, and Adeline Wood at the end of the YCLA retreat.

During the YCLA retreat, BFA students were able to make meaningful connections with other students from across the state trying to implement actions against climate change, devote time to project planning and development, receive support from experts, and attend workshops valuable to the creation and execution of projects. Additionally, members of the club who attended were able to spend quality time with one another, creating deeper connections and relationships within the club. 

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

A Fall to Remember AT BFA Fairfax

Today marks the first day of the High School winter sports and activities season at BFA Fairfax. Students, staff, coaches, and families alike have been eagerly anticipating practices, games, and events in their favorite winter co-curricular activities.  As we prepare for those to begin, it is also a perfect time to reflect on our recent Fall season, and the numerous successes experienced by our school community. 

Cheer!

In late October, the middle and high school band, chorus, chamber choir, and jazz band performed their first live concert in nearly two years.  In a gym full of smiles and pride, attendees were treated to the spectacular talents of our student musicians.  This was the first event since the start of the pandemic that has allowed an indoor audience at BFA Fairfax, and we remain thankful for the understanding and cooperation of all attendees in wearing masks, and contributing to the ongoing safety and success of future events.

We are extremely proud of all our middle and high school athletic teams in the completion of a safe and exciting fall season!  The Varsity Girls Soccer team won the Mountain Division, and made an exciting run through the Division 3 tournament, ultimately falling in the state semifinals. 

Varsity Girls Soccer Team

Numerous players made the All-Mountain Team, two players were named to the Division 3 All-State Team, Kali Wooster was named the Mountain Division Player of the Year, and Coach Jojo Lynch was named the Mountain Division Coach of the Year.

BFA Football Team

The BFA/Lamoille Football team advanced to the Division 3 State Championship game, falling to a tough and talented Windsor team. Five players were named to the North/South Football All-Star team led by our own Head Coach, Craig Sleeman.  Coach Sleeman will also be leading the Vermont team in next summer’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. We are most proud that the team was also named the recipients of the Stan Amidon Sportsmanship Trophy for the second time in three years!

The High School Girls and Boys Cross Country team held the famous Fairfax Relays costume race after it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The annual event highlighting the pride and spirit of cross country running was a welcome return to some normalcy. Additionally, the Girls and Boys teams placed 6th and 4th respectively at the Division 3 State Championship Meet, and qualified for the “Meet of Champions” for the first time.

Cross Country
Varsity Boys Soccer Team

The Varsity Boys Soccer team completed a successful season, advancing to the state quarterfinals against perennial powerhouse Winooski.  Although they lost the game, they received many public accolades for their class and sportsmanship over the course of three games this season against Winooski. Multiple team members were named to the All-Mountain Team, and three players were named to the Division 3 All-State team.

BFA Fairfax also hosted our first-ever Homecoming Fall Festival! The event was a huge success with its wide array of activities for high school students including food, yard games, pumpkin carving, dancing, photo booths, and an opportunity to celebrate Homecoming Week. 

Harvest Celebration

Six BFA Fairfax student-athletes attended the annual Athletic Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont Principals Association and the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association.  This event provided valuable leadership training by nationally renowned speakers and coaches to students from around Vermont. Students were able to fine tune their leadership skills and bring them back to their respective teams at our school. We look forward to seeing their new skills in action over future seasons.

Six BFA Fairfax student-athletes attended the annual Athletic Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont Principals Association and the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association. 
BFA Fairfax performance of hit musical Mamma Mia

Finally, the BFA Fairfax performance of hit musical Mamma Mia proved to be one of the biggest highlights of the fall, and was a welcome return to live theater in our community! Attendees sang, danced, clapped and cheered their way through the show-stopping numbers by our incredibly talented performing arts students! 

This truly was a Fall to remember in our school and community.  An enormous thank you needs to be extended to our students, staff, coaches, advisors, families, and fans who contributed to the success, and more importantly the safety, of the season! We look forward to more highlights now that the winter season is upon us! Congratulations to all, and good luck!

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

The Importance of being thankful and kind…

There is nothing easy about the ongoing circumstances that have impacted us all since March of 2020. The ramifications of the COVID-19 global pandemic are profound, wide ranging, and leave us frequently with a feeling that it will never end. This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on all the things in my life that I am grateful for, and the kindness I experience both personally and professionally. 

Research has found that people who regularly express gratitude are healthier and happier. Gratitude requires an appreciation of the positive people and experiences in our lives. It is easy to focus on the challenges and the unfairness that we all have encountered throughout the pandemic. However, taking a moment daily to identify one thing that you are thankful for will result in feeling better. 

I am thankful for so many people and experiences, both positive and challenging, in my life. This was a challenging weekend for my family. My dog of thirteen years peacefully passed away on Saturday and we were all filled with sadness, laughter about funny memories, and a sense of gratitude for the unconditional love Buddy provided us. It was a powerful reminder that we are going through something that others may not be aware of, and the burdens we carry.

After twenty-five years working in public education, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to work with amazing educators, students, and families. This has never been more true than over the past two years. I am grateful for all the dedicated staff members at BFA Fairfax who continuously and selflessly meet the needs of all of our students. One of the best parts of being a Principal is the opportunity to engage with students. BFA Fairfax has amazing students who remind me daily about their positivity, resilience, and ability to demonstrate kindness. Finally, I value and respect all of our families for their patience, as well as their gestures of appreciation and support.  

I understand that there is so much that potentially divides us, and we are reminded about this every day in the media. However, I remain convinced that we have more in common than our differences. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives, sharing my successes and challenges, and remaining mindful of the importance of being thankful. I hope you all have the opportunity to spend some quality time with the people you love, eat a good meal, laugh, and get some rest over the coming week. I appreciate the ongoing support of this amazing community. Be safe, be kind, and be well!


Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Remember to look for the Puff Ball

In August, when I first had the opportunity to meet everyone in FWSU, I shared a quick story about a photographer named Dewitt Jones who, at the time, worked for National Geographic. He shares this story about wanting to capture this majestic image of a field of golden dandelions against the brilliant snow covered mountain in the backdrop of the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia. Day after day we went to this site and each time something was wrong. The light wasn’t right. Too many clouds. Not enough of this or too much of that! One day he showed up and all of the dandelions were gone. Nothing but puffballs left. Disappointed and frustrated, he eventually got to the point where he asked himself what’s right with this. What deserved to be celebrated? After walking around the field and looking at every possible angle he came across a beautiful image. Not the original image he wanted but a new one of equal value. 

Just as a side note… if you want to see the whole story you can find it here

This year has been anything but predictable. Covid-19 infection rates have been increasing at an alarming rate. Hospitals are starting to evaluate capacity as these rates continue to surge. The Vermont Department of Health dashboard website is unfortunately my top bookmark. This is stressful. Stressful for families, stressful for teachers, and stressful for students. It’s important to acknowledge it is hard, scary, and a little bit overwhelming.  And there are plenty of bright spots and moments that bring a smile to your face that are worth celebrating!

So here are two of my bright spots….

MAMMA MIA! If you were anywhere near BFA the past few weeks you’d see students rehearsing their lines, singing and dancing, and making sets and costumes. Having missed out on opportunities to put on a presentation in the recent past this was a celebration. A celebration of perseverance, passion, and quite honestly tallent. I was impressed. It was also an opportunity for our community to come together and be as one. Not quite the return to normal we all hope for but a step in the right direction. 

Test to Stay! I remember sitting with our nurses in October listening to Governor Scott, scratching my head, wondering how this new program would work. Short staffed on a good day, would we have enough people to have this be successful. Fast forward to November and this program is allowing more of our students to be in school. I’ve had the pleasure of greeting families and am absolutely blown away with their support. We all wish this wasn’t a thing! But here we are and the hope is this program reduces the stress for families and students. Plus more of our students are back in school versus being at home. 

So with a small break just around the corner, I just wanted to share my thanks to the FWSU community. I appreciate every opportunity to connect, listen, and support. I want to acknowledge the difficult aspects of our lives as well as look for the puff balls that are here too. 

Best,

Scott

 Scott Thompson is the Director of Curriculum of Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @Stboatervt

Hiram Bellows Day

BFA high school students participated in our annual Hiram Bellows Day of Service on October 13th.  This day of service honors the legacy of the school’s founder and reminds us of the vital role everyone plays in building a strong, safe, and beautiful community. Service activities included working with Fairfax Fire and Rescue, Fairfax Recreation Department, Fairfax Historical Department, and Fletcher Town. 

Students worked hard to beautify the exterior campus, including cleaning busses, painting a sunflower mural, repainting safety lines and benches. They also worked on clearing trails in the woods and recreation paths, gleaning crops from the school farm to donate to the local food shelf, and planting flowers in Ada’s garden. 

Inside the building, students cooked meals for the Spectrum Youth Drop-in Center, organized the drama closet, and participated in the A Million Thanks program. This is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation to our U.S. military men and women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, etc.

In the community, students washed and cleaned the fire trucks, organized summer camp supplies, worked in the ambulance bays, packed rummage sale items for donation, and worked on various projects with the Historical Society.

I am proud of the giving spirit of the students and their dedication to our community. I wish to extend a special thank you to the high school teaching team that organized this event: Alana Torraca, Becky Harrocks, Chris Cowey, Jenn Hart, and Sara Villeneuve.

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Wednesday Exploratory Experiences 

In the midst of the ongoing challenges presented by Covid-19 in our schools, BFA Fairfax Elementary continues to look for ways to provide our students unique learning experiences that require problem solving, creative thinking, and collaboration. This year we are using our Early Release Wednesdays to pilot a different format to engage students in inquiry activities. We remain aware that we are preparing our students to be citizens in a rapidly changing world, to work in jobs that will require an ever changing set of thinking skills, and for occupations that do not currently exist.  

Coincidently, I recently attended my daughter Gracie’s Family Day at her college. Gracie is a freshman at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout the day, I observed many examples of amazing student work and encountered a consistent theme of supporting students in understanding themselves, learning to advocate, and developing employable skills. The focus on students learning from their mistakes, giving and receiving critical feedback, and having space to be creative resonated with me. 

This visit provided many valuable connections to our student learning opportunities, and the skills and dispositions we want them to demonstrate. In Vermont, we refer to employable skills as transferable skills. The Vermont Transferable skills are:

  • Clear and Effective Communication
  • Creative and Practical Problem-Solving
  • Informed and Integrative Thinking
  • Responsible and Involved Citizenship
  • Self-Direction 

As a PreK-12 school we continue to prepare our students to learn and demonstrate proficiency in the Vermont Transferable skills. We constantly are looking for ways to embed learning experiences that foster these necessary and important skills. 

On our Early Release Wednesdays we are piloting a different format and schedule that allows for exercise, inquiry, collaboration, creativity, and fun. On Early Release Wednesday, our students participate in a range of learning experiences that provide opportunities to develop these skills and dispositions in flexible learning environments. Here are some examples of activities in which our students have participated:

  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Google Drawing
  • Insect Investigations
  • Making Applesauce & Apple Cider
  • Kinesthetic Movement To Support A Healthy Lifestyle
  • Ocean Animal Investigations  
  • Building Structures In The Woods
  • Cardboard Creations
  • Coding
  • Autumn Art Projects

This is not a new focus, but rather a different structure that we believe will allow for more student voice and choice, community engagement, and collaboration with community partners. We believe that our students are never too young to drive their learning in ways that foster the development of 21 Century Skills. Our mission at BFA Fairfax remains to ensure all students become informed, literate, critical thinkers who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. Thank you to our staff and community for their ongoing efforts to support our students as we prepare them for a rapidly changing world. 

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Proud Principal Awards

Each month the Georgia Elementary School celebrates the excellent efforts students make each and every day.  The “respectful” interactions they are having with their peers and adults, the “responsible” choices they are making throughout the day, and the “safe” decisions they are implementing through playful interactions and other daily experiences.

During lunch, recognitions are shared and I feel honored to read aloud the great characteristics teachers are seeing in their students. Among their peers, recipients hear their accomplishments and receive a Proud Principal Certificate and pencil.  Friends cheer, adults applaud, and smiles can be seen through different facial expressions.

The best part of a Principal’s day is interacting with students. It brings delight and meaning to our work and makes for a great day.

Here are quotes from Proud Principal Awards:

“You have been a kind and caring friend in the classroom and you are a great role model for your peers.  Thank you for being respectful, responsible, and safe”

“You have a kind heart towards your peers and teachers and you are a great leader for students to follow”

“You are always coming to school smiling and eager to learn.  I love how much you love school.”

“Our classroom community is lucky to have such a great classroom peer”

“You are a respectful listener and active participant in class discussions.  We can count on you to make our class a caring, safe place to be.”

| Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @Emery_Gems.

We appreciate our school nurses every day

National School Nurse Appreciation Day happens every May. While we fully intend to recognize our nurses for their work eight months from now, today we want to take some time to show our appreciation for our school nurses for their invaluable contributions to our school, particularly as we have returned to school 18 months into a pandemic.

School nurses work with our students every day to meet their health and safety needs, but over the last year and a half, they have taken on a multitude of additional tasks to keep our school and community safe and informed. 

When a school is notified of a positive COVID case in our school, the nurses jump into action and begin contact tracing. They work with the administrators and classroom teachers to determine possible close contacts who might be subject to quarantine. The nurses connect with the Department of Health to review the information and make the final determination regarding who will need to quarantine. Once that list has been established, the nurses work with the administrators to phone every family who will be impacted to explain the situation and answer any questions. This information doesn’t always come to us during the regular school day. Our nurses have been involved with contact tracing on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons, and Sunday mornings. They have established an organized system to make sure that everyone who needs information gets it in a timely manner, no matter when we learn it. The process is stressful for all, but our nurses model calmness and attention to detail throughout.

In order to monitor COVID in schools, the Agency of Education and the Department of Health have made Surveillance Testing available for schools. We did it last year for staff, but this year students are also eligible for testing. To get people ready for the nasal swab, our nurses have to provide information about sign up (for the first round this year, we are only testing adults), organize the test kits, and facilitate the testing on the actual day. The testing happens during the day, so our nurses will be working with students as usual and taking on the testing protocol. Once again, all done without missing a beat!

Finally, our nurses are collecting vaccination attestation information from our students in grades 7-12. This information will help to streamline the contact tracing process and will eventually be used to determine our masking criteria as the year progresses. It’s another task that our upper school nurses have taken on with a smile.

As we start the year, it is important to take a minute to thank our FWSU nurses-Courtney at Fletcher, Amy and Michelle at BFA, and Terry and Melissa at GEMS- for the vital work they do every day. This year, their work has taken on new dimensions that require our acknowledgement and appreciation every day from now until their official day in May!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

John Tague is currently the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jtague252