THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Community Honors Retiring Veteran Teacher Jenny Blackman

Mrs. Jennifer “Jenny” Blackman has taught Kindergarten at the Fletcher Elementary School for the past 13 years and is beloved by her students, their families, her colleagues and the community at large. She will retire from teaching in on Monday, with the tremendous respect of all who have had her as a teacher and those who have worked with her.

Jenny Blackman and Melissa Sargent-Minor

Jenny Blackman and Melissa Sargent-Minor

Present and former students, families, and colleagues honored Mrs. Blackman at a reception earlier this week, where the Fletcher School Board presented her with an apple tree, which she and her husband, Oliver, promptly planted near their pond at their Waterville home.

The Apple Tree

The Apple Tree

Mrs. Blackman has exemplified what it means to be a lifelong learner, graduating from Champlain College with her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education in the spring of 2016. She took great pride in sharing her extensive knowledge both with student teachers and with colleagues, including those at regional and national conferences such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She is a strong advocate for play as a learning tool and outdoor learning in the natural world. No matter who or what she is teaching, her strengths include honoring the natural curiosity of the student and balancing the academic and social curriculum.

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Mrs. Blackman served as the Co-Chair of the Lamoille North Standards Board, supporting the certification and relicensure of professional educators. She was a Lamoille North Literary Magazine judge, Upward Bound Instructor and Assistant Postmaster in Waterville. She has been a School Board Member, Lister, Welcome Baby Home Visitor for Waterville and Belvidere, Community Literacy Team Member, a member of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra, Johnson State College Concert Band and the Morrisville Military Band.

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Mrs. Blackman in her classroom with her students.

In 2004, her then Superintendent, Bob McNamara, wrote the following in his recommendation to the Fletcher School Board about Mrs. Blackman as she applied to join the F.E.S. staff.

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Mrs. Blackman with students on a field trip earlier this year.

“I find Jenny to be an active and engaging teacher. Her instructional goals are clear and her presentation is crisp and engaging. She holds the students’ attention and encourages them to actively engage in their learning.”

Students engage in many hands on learning activities in the classroom.

Students engage in many hands-on learning activities in the classroom.

Mrs. Blackman’s teaching has stood the test of time. As she says farewell to our school and teaching, her smile, humor, skill, and compassion become her legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of those she taught.

Mrs. Blackman's smile and humor will be missed!

Mrs. Blackman’s smile and humor will be missed!

Thank you, Mrs. Blackman. 

THE FWSU STORY: Researching & Developing A Solution For Plastic Waste at GEMS

Early this year, FWSU offered educators an opportunity to earn a FWSU micro-credential based upon the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Eric Hadd, an Educational Technology Specialist at GEMS, was one of the first to earn the micro-credential based on his work with his students. Throughout the year,  he continues to provide students with opportunities to develop solutions towards the goal of ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

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Throughout the year, as several students design projects using the 3D printer, the first prototypes created can often be unusable and therefore produce plastic waste. Two students enrolled in Mr. Eric Hadd’s choice class, Research and Development Lab, recently took on the challenge to find a way to reduce the PLA (Polylactic acid) plastic waste generated in the GEMS innovation lab. This work ties in with Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production which is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. One of the targets of Goal 12 includes using eco-friendly production methods and reducing the amount of waste.  

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Inspired by Precious Plastic’s challenge to start collaborating and boost plastic recycling,  Jason and Logan began work to modify and improve plastic smoothies, a method of turning 3D printer plastic into useable items. Precious Plastic is a global community of hundreds of people working towards a solution to plastic pollution.  This organization works to reduce plastic waste and create tools that make it easier to start recycling plastic.

During their choice class, the boys developed a practical, useable procedure to repurpose the PLA Plastic waste into a usable sheet of plastic. These sheets of plastic can then be used by other students to design with using the laser cutter. Students have already made jewelry items using the recycled plastic.

Documenting all of their trials, errors, and successes, in their research and development journal, the team is working to create a user-friendly procedure to be published on the Instructables website. Instructables is a website specializing in user-created and uploaded do-it-yourself projects, which other users can comment on and rate for quality.


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THE FWSU STORY: A Picture Is Worth Thousand Words: 2017-18 BFA Fairfax Sports Edition

As the 2017-18 school year comes to a close, and the cleats, balls, pinnies, skis, and batons are put to rest for another year, this is a great opportunity to reflect on all the athletic successes of this school year.  

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BFA Fairfax Lacrosse

BFA Fairfax Lacrosse

Soccer Practice!

Soccer Practice!

Student Athletes participated in a statewide Leadership Conference

Student-Athletes participated in a statewide Leadership Conference

BFA Fairfax’s athletic participation numbers are among the highest ever, and we are providing the broadest selection of opportunities in our school’s history.  

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BFA Bullets on the field!

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BFA Fairfax Bullets Football

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Soccer under the lights!

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2017-18 saw our first home night soccer games, multiple fundraisers for both local and global service causes, a new football cooperative team with Lamoille Union High School, tournament basketball at Barre Auditorium, the annual Fairfax Relays and Pink Game, record increases in participation numbers for track and field and club lacrosse, the approval of Ultimate Frisbee as a new Varsity sport, training trips to Quebec and Florida, multiple Mountain Division championships and track and field podium finishes, and as of today at 4:30, the Division 3 softball semifinals at Green Mountain Union High School.

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At BFA Fairfax, athletic participation is not only valued, it is viewed as a core component of the educational experience.  The participation numbers serve to validate the passion held by our students, our school, and our community year after year.  Congratulations on yet another successful year, Bullets! You have made us proud once again!

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Go Bullets!


Geri Witalec

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax. You follow her @GLWit

THE FWSU STORY: New Teachers Celebrate the Year and Reflect on Resilience

Each year during the month of May, FWSU takes the opportunity to celebrate the work and learning of our new teachers and their mentors.

New Teachers and their mentors reflect on the year.

New Teachers and their mentors reflect on the year.

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New Teachers discuss their experiences over the past year with their colleagues.

The year’s focus was on “Wellness Strategies to Promote Joy” in our classrooms and in the profession. In our last Professional Practice forum, new teachers worked on a personal legacy statement. During our final celebration, new educators shared those “legacies” with their mentors in a one-word summary.

In addition to delicious food, friendly conversation, and legacy sharing, we ended the year as we began in August, working with Dr. Joelle Van Lent, PsyD.

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This time, her message centered on maintaining compassion satisfaction as resilient teachers. She urged new teachers and mentors to be mindful of creating balance between satisfaction and fatigue to support a healthy professional quality of life. She provided participants with useful suggestions to support that balance.

This year’s cohort also received a copy of Self-Care for Teachers, a helpful resource to extend their learning.

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As the year winds to a close, we are grateful to our new Teachers and their mentors for their perseverance and commitment, and we thank them for their many positive contributions to our schools. We wish all of our educators a restful, rejuvenating, and JOYFUL summer break!


Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: The Life of a Principal’s Daughter

You’re sitting in your high school social studies class when one of your parents walks in. They start to talk with your friends about what they are doing in class and then they check in with your teacher. At this point, most people would wake up startled from a bad dream, but when you’re the high school principal’s daughter, it’s an everyday occurrence!

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Abi Tague talks about her interesting life as the Principal’s daughter.

When you’re the principal’s daughter, you leave your house for school before any of your friends are even awake because your dad has an early meeting. Actually you arrive at school before your friends are awake. Every day. You stay late because there are meetings in the afternoon and sometimes you stay even later because “something came up” after school that has to be dealt with before you can leave.

When you’re the principal’s daughter, you get used to seeing your dad in all of your classes. And in the hallways. And at lunch. Every day. It takes some time to figure out how to interact with each other during the school day, but you find a balance somewhere between ignoring and overwhelming each other.

When you’re the principal’s daughter, you spend a lot of time in the main office because you get to school early and leave late. You get to know the office staff and the other principals. This is a pretty good thing, because they’re all nice people, they understand your situation and they sometimes have snacks.

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Abi Tague waits in the main office with Accounting Clerk Sally Billado

When you’re the principal’s daughter, you hear all sorts of things about your dad from other students. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it true.

When you’re the principal’s daughter, your friends text you to “tell your dad to make tomorrow a snow day.” You know it’s not really up to him, but you tell him anyway. You’re one of the first to know when there is a snow day because you hear your dad talking to the superintendent and the other principals at five in the morning. And then, just when you start to fall back asleep, you get the robo-call from him anyway!

When you’re the principal’s daughter the days are long and it seems like high school might last forever. But before you know it, you’re ready to graduate and leave your dad to run the school on his own. It’s scary and exciting for both of you.

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Abi Tague at the NHS Induction Ceremony

Before I applied for the principal position at BFA Fairfax, we had a family discussion to talk about the potential impact of the job on the family. We knew that my daughter Abi would be most directly impacted as she would be a student at BFA if I got the position. We determined that we could make it work if I got the job.

The principalship was certainly a big change for both of us, but we have made the best of it. I appreciate that Abi was flexible and understanding throughout our time at BFA Fairfax. She kept me honest and provided some valuable feedback like “people are really confused about…” or “people are upset about…” and occasionally “people think _____ is a good idea”.

Truth be told, I spent as many nights waiting for her to finish play practice or basketball practice as she spent waiting for me to get out of a meeting. Our drives to school were pretty quiet in the morning, but we had great conversations on the way home. In one conversation, we agreed that I should write a blog about her near the end of her senior year. Thankfully for both of us (mostly her), she got her license in her junior year, so we were able to travel independently when it made sense.

Principal John Tague with his daughter Abi.

Principal John Tague with his daughter Abi.

Abi will be attending Endicott College in the fall to pursue a career in Nursing. She has worked diligently throughout her time at BFA Fairfax to prepare herself academically. Abi has also emerged as a leader in the National Honor Society and in Ultimate Frisbee. She is funny, kind and a little sassy (sometimes a lot sassy!). Abi will have no problem adjusting to college life. She probably won’t be upset that I don’t randomly show up in her labs, library, or dormitory next year!

To say that I will miss seeing her at BFA everyday is an understatement. However, I know she is ready to move forward. Which is, of course, my hope for all of the students at BFA Fairfax. Abi just happens to be the principal’s daughter. And when you’re the principal’s daughter, your dad gets to use the FWSU blog to say how proud he is of you.


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

THE FWSU STORY: School Board Chairs Learn Together

This week the three school board chairs of the schools that comprise FWSU spent the day together learning. The professional development opportunity was sponsored by the Vermont School Boards Association is a requirement of all school board chairs and superintendents in Vermont (16 VSA 561(b).

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Board Chairs in Franklin West Supervisory Union participated in VSBA training at Lake Morey (pictured left to right: Elaine Carpenter, Carl Laroe, Jr., Tara Sweet)

The daylong training explored topics such as educational leadership, school board roles and responsibilities, education funding, open meeting law, public records, and collective bargaining. A portion of the meeting was also devoted to the State’s study of special education completed by the District Management Group (DMG). The DMG worked with FWSU three years ago in a pilot study and later expanded its work with schools all over Vermont.

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VSBA Superintendent and Board Chair Training

The work of our school boards is essential to the success of our schools by providing student-focused oversight of education system. The boards of Fairfax, Fletcher, and Georgia are all committed to providing the best educational experiences for students. Each school board meets monthly and always invites the community to attend board meetings which are lawfully held in public. The Franklin West Supervisory Union Board meets five times per year and is comprised of three board members from Fletcher, Fairfax, and Georgia. FWSU Board meetings are also held in public and community members are encouraged to attend. Each year, the chair of the FWSU board rotates year to a different member district in our supervisory union. All of our school boards have also adopted a written Code of Ethics to hold their work to the highest ethical standards as they serve our schools and community.

Each of school board has its own webpage with current information:

 

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“Having the opportunity to meet with other school board chairs as well as superintendents is always informative and energizing. Not only were we updated on current challenges for funding Vermont’s education system, but we also spent time focusing on data-driven best practices for improving student outcomes. It is validating to know that other Vermont schools are facing the same challenges that we are in balancing the needs of our students with the economic reality of funding public education.”   – Elaine Carpenter, Chair Fairfax Board of School Directors.

THE FWSU STORY: Meet the New Business Manager

Earlier this month, FWSU welcomed new Business Manager, Randall Morton, to its leadership team.

Randall Morton is the new Business Manager at FWSU.

Randall Morton is the new Business Manager at FWSU.

Randy comes to us with lots of experience and a positive, team-oriented approach to his work. His leadership style is driven by forging relationships, finding strengths, modeling flexibility, and keeping a step ahead of whatever may be on the horizon.

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Randy has worked in the accounting field for over 20 years. He received his degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After working for a number of years in the private sector in Florida, Randy learned about the position of School Business Manager and set a goal to become one in northern Vermont.

In 2012, Randy was offered an accounting position at Windham Central Supervisory Union in Townshend, and in 2016 he became the Assistant Business Manager. In 2017, Randy took the helm as the Business Manager at Battenkill Valley Supervisory in the community of Arlington, Vermont. When he heard about the search for FWSU Business Manager, he started doing research and heard nothing but great things about our three communities, our schools, and the staff. Randy willingly shared, “I’m happy to say that all of these have proven to be true!”

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Randy describes this as a challenging time for school finance in Vermont. With statewide student enrollment numbers declining, tax rates increasing, funding formulas changing, potential mergers pending, and so many other variables up in the air at the moment, the need to be adaptive to change is incredibly important. Information that can significantly impact the day-to-day operations comes in constantly, so flexibility and keeping on top of the changes is absolutely vital. Randy is clearly ready for these challenges — his optimism and flexible approach are a real benefit for our supervisory union. And at the very least he says, “It keeps it interesting, for sure!”

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Randy Morton shares a financial update at a recent Fletcher School Board meeting.

Randy has already noted that FWSU has an innovative and forward-thinking approach to education and technology, which he finds very exciting. About how he feels working here, Randy said, “The staff here has a great reputation and have been absolutely amazing to work with. I’m very happy to be a part of the team!”

When Randy is not at work, he is most comfortable exploring the Vermont outdoors, especially his new Franklin County surroundings. Hiking, biking, kayaking, exploring new areas, and taking road trips are his leisure activities of choice. He also plays guitar and is also been learning to play the piano. Randy has a 7-year-old son, Alec. Whenever possible, they like to travel to his hometown in the Boston area to see family and spend time at the beach.


Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward