THE FWSU STORY: Thanking our Administrative Professionals at BFA Fairfax

BFA Fairfax students will be on vacation next week, but that doesn’t mean that the building will be empty. When students are out of the building, even for the summer, our office staff is working to get ready for the return of students. Sally, Val, Amy, and Rhonda perform many of the behind the scenes tasks that keep our school running smoothly.

Sally Billado is the Accounting Clerk at BFA Fairfax.

Sally Billado is the Accounting Clerk at BFA Fairfax.

Sally Billado is officially our Accounting Clerk. She pays our bills, orders supplies, and organizes the substitute teachers. Unofficially, Sally is an event planner, photocopier repair person, problem solver, and willing listener. If there is something that needs to get done, Sally will take care of it. Sally did much of the behind-the-scenes work to get the 8th grade trip to Boston to happen. A member of a visiting team once commented that Sally could “run a small country!” Through the chaos of the day, she remains calm and takes care of business.

Val French is the Assistant to the Elementary Principal at BFA Fairfax

Val French is the Administrative Assistant for BFA Fairfax Elementary School

Val French is the Administrative Assistant for the elementary school. She is the first person students and parents meet when they enter the elementary school. Val makes sure students get on the right bus, are ready for early dismissals, answers the phone, and checks visitors into the school. It’s a special treat to get to eat your lunch with Mrs. French. Val knows every student by name and helps to keep Mr. Walsh organized.


Amy Plog is the Administrative Assistant for BFA Fairfax Middle and High School

Amy Plog is the administrative assistant for the middle school and high school. Amy keeps track of student attendance and calls home to check on students. She collects items that students forget at home from parents and grandparents. Amy checks in the students who arrive late to school and reminds those that need to leave early. Amy also serves a vital role in athletic and community activity scheduling of our school facilities.  Every student, parent, and phone caller receives Amy’s bright and sunny greeting.


Rhonda Masse is the School Registrar and Guidance Administrative Assistant

Rhonda Masse is our School Registrar and Administrative Assistant for the guidance office. Rhonda prints report cards and transcripts, organizes guidance events, registers new students and shares student information with colleges during the application process. Rhonda plays a major role in back to school night at the beginning of the year and graduation planning at the end. In between, she keeps track of enrollment and completes reports for the state and the federal government.

Although these four ladies have separate jobs and responsibilities, they work together when big projects arise. It might be a big mailing like the summer packets or an urgent mailing in response to a situation or upcoming event at school.

The bottom line is that BFA Fairfax would not function without them. Although we will be on school vacation next week, we would not want to miss out on sharing our appreciation for the hard work our administrative support staff. We appreciate them every day but want to be sure they are recognized on Administrative Professionals Day (April 25th).

Thank you, Sally, Val, Amy, and Rhonda for all you do for BFA Fairfax!

THE FWSU STORY: Paraprofessional Evaluation Committee Develops New Model

As part of the process of consolidation of special education costs in FY19, all special education paraprofessionals will become supervisory union employees. This mandate provides an opportunity to review and update the current evaluation model for all paraprofessional staff. A committee comprised of paraprofessionals, special educators, and administrators from each of our schools reviewed the current evaluation process and documents for each of the schools. The committee is now in the final stages of developing a standard evaluation protocol for use throughout the district.


The intent of the evaluation process is to provide paraprofessionals with meaningful feedback delivered in a consistent model across the district. The committee structured the evaluation tool on professional domains of knowledge, responsibilities, learning environment, instructional support, and strategies.


The evaluation model includes essential elements like learning, sharing, reflection, implementation, and feedback.

The FWSU Special Education Department reviewed the draft document at the last special education district meeting and provided valuable feedback. The evaluation committee plans to share the form with all staff to gather additional input before finalizing the document. The revised paraprofessional evaluation tool will be ready for the start of next school year. The coordination of paraprofessionals at the supervisory union will allow for resources to be more efficiently utilized to support student learning.

Valuable feedback was gathered at the last FWSU Special Education Department meeting.

Valuable feedback was gathered at the last FWSU Special Education Department meeting.

THE FWSU STORY: Representatives Bring Student Voice and Leadership to Fairfax School Board

The long-standing tradition at BFA Fairfax of having two student representatives serve on our school board continues. Providing students with opportunities to lead is one of the central emphases of the FWSU Action Plan. The two student representatives, a junior and a senior, are selected through a comprehensive process facilitated by the BFA Fairfax Student Council. The Fairfax School Board has benefited from the perspective of some exceptional student members over the years and this year’s term is no exception. BFA Fairfax senior Bailey Halliday and junior Shane Seals have served with distinction.

Bailey Halliday and Shane Seals are student representatives serving on the Fairfax School Board.

Bailey Halliday and Shane Seals are student representatives serving on the Fairfax School Board.

Each month Bailey and Shane keep the rest of the board apprised of all the happenings at BFA Fairfax and most importantly, help shape the understanding of the issues at our school and our community from a student perspective. Their voice in the operations of BFA Fairfax is invaluable and we are proud of their contributions.

Today, our student representatives offer their thoughts on what it means to serve on the Fairfax School Board:


Can you tell us why you were interested in serving on the Fairfax School Board? 

I wanted to be more involved in my community.  I like being involved in as many activities as possible. I wasn’t sure what exactly a student representative did on a school board but I was excited to learn more about it. I enjoy understanding how decisions are made and who the people are that are making them.

What have you learned? 

I have learned so much in the last 2 years. This role has taught me everything from how a school board runs, to how best to get my point across to a group of people.  It has allowed me to practice my public speaking skills and become confident in my speaking abilities. I have also learned how much the school board members care about the students.  They truly value our opinions and want to know what is going on in our school.

What advice would you give to other students who may want to serve?

I would tell students to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.  This is a unique opportunity that does not come around often. It is a lot of work so students should be prepared, however, it is definitely worth it in the end!

What excites you most about education at BFA Fairfax?

The world of education is changing and it is starting at BFA.  One of my favorite parts of being a student rep. On the school board is listening to other students and teachers talk about what is going on in the classrooms.  The teachers are all so dedicated and want students to get the most that they can out of their education. There are always new ways to get involved in your own learning.

What do your friends think of your service?

My friends were definitely skeptical at first of me taking on this role but I think that they like it now.  I try to get all of the students involved in my reports so I will often ask multiple students about what is going on for them in school.  I believe that my friends like the opportunity to tell the school board all of the amazing things going on in this school.


Can you tell us why you were interested in serving on the Fairfax School Board?

I hadn’t heard much about it prior to my application, but once I learned about being able to join I was interested. I hadn’t had a chance to participate in any student government or committees behind school changes and decision-making, so I decided it would be a good chance to earn some experience and insight into the school.

What have you learned?

I’ve learned how administrative committees function and the mindset behind the decisions they make. Beyond that, I’ve learned how to summarize reports of what’s going on in the school and how that connects to school trends and changes that need to be made.

What advice would you give to other students who may want to serve?

I would advise joining student council or becoming involved with some form of student
leadership because it will provide valuable experience and insight into how different committees function and will help you follow along and create your own student reports for each meeting.

What excites you most about education at BFA Fairfax? 

The range of different teaching styles and the access to technical programs and other post-high school programs is exciting. It’s really important to have plenty of opportunities in Vermont so kids have the chance to branch out after high school.

What do your friends think of your service?

I don’t think my friends think much about me being on the school board because of the meetings are so spaced out and they don’t hear about them often.

BFA Board 2018

Fairfax Board of School Directors

“Bailey and Shane serve a very important role on our school board as they bring the ‘student voice’ to the table.  They are great advocates for our students and remind us of the many successes and challenges students face in school.  We depend on them to help us make the best decisions to sustain and improve educational opportunities at BFA Fairfax.” — Elaine Carpenter,  Chair of Fairfax Board of School Directors

THE FWSU STORY: Fairfax 8th Grader Earns Second Place in National Geographic Vermont State Bee

On April 6, eighth-grader Wyeth Haddock represented BFA-Fairfax in the National Geographic Vermont State Geography Bee at Castleton State University.  Wyeth earned his spot at the State Bee by winning the school championship in February, then taking a qualifying test.

Wyeth at the State Geography Bee

Wyeth at the State Geography Bee

At the State Bee, Wyeth competed against 73 other middle schoolers from across the state.  Wyeth advanced to the final round after finishing among the top 10 overall scorers in the preliminary rounds.  In the final round, the competitors faced a variety of geographic challenges and questions. These challenges included selecting a city for solar and wind project based on their knowledge of population and climate and identifying a world city using only precipitation and average temperature data.


Wyeth and coach Jennifer Skerrett

The field was narrowed from 10 students to 6, then to 4, until the final 2: Wyeth and Mary Fowler, who represented Eastern Vermont Homeschoolers. Wyeth came in second place overall, just missing out on the chance to represent Vermont at the National Championship in Washington, DC.

Wyeth takes second place in the Vermont state national geography bee

Wyeth takes second place in the Vermont State Geography Bee

Congratulations to Wyeth for an outstanding performance!

Jennifer Skerrett is a 7/8 Social Studies Teacher and Geo-Bee Coach at BFA Fairfax. You can follow her @jskerrett

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Students Learn Transferrable Skills with Team U-Topia

Vermont has set a very high bar for student achievement with Transferable Skills.  Every student must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas.


Team U-Topia

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

One way GEMS is helping students learn transferable skills is through Team U-Topia. Every Monday and Friday morning a team of over 60 students and 3 core teachers plus countless other staff members meets to provide students with a greater voice in their learning. GEMS tackled three transferable skills in Core classes.


GEMS U-Topia

Self-Direction:  Teachers encourage students to take ownership of their learning by setting goals and taking proper action to achieve they desire to accomplish.

Clear and Effective Communication: Students are asked to participate in large and small group discussions.  Some presented to the entire grade during our weekly Team U-Topia meetings. They were asked to explain their thinking in writing. Every piece had to be organized with a clear purpose (claim). Our purpose had to be supported by facts, numbers, quotes, and logic.

Responsible and Involved Citizenship: Our students had a voice and were engaged in building stronger teams.

Beautiful Work: Students display their best and most “beautiful” work on the GEMS Tribute Wall. Meeting the qualifications for the Tribute Wall involves critique, revision, rehearsal, and aesthetics.

THE FWSU STORY: Global Education in FWSU, Part 2

GOAL 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.In early March, we posted a story on Schools that Make a Difference. Stacey Sullivan, a third-grade teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School, is one of the participants in this global learning exchange offered though CVEDC. This post is the second in a series of three blogs that we are republishing with Stacey’s permission (read part 1). These stories highlight United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for viewing education through a global lens. Goal 4 states: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  

Finland has emerged as a leader in education.

Finland has emerged as a leader in education.

It seems everywhere I turn lately there is a plethora of information about Finnish education. Below is a sampling of online resources if you are curious about how this small nation has grown to be a leader in education.

Curious about what sets Finnish education apart? Here is a collection of resources.

  • Unicef: Finland is world’s second fairest country for children – A brief explanation about how Finland fared when looking at childhood well-being inequalities.  It seems Scandinavia as a whole is an equitable place to live.  Finland scored third lowest in terms of the number of 15-year-old students falling behind at school.
  • Happy Teaching, Happy Learning: 13 Secrets to Finland’s Success – This article highlights many of the qualities of Finnish education that set them apart.  I had many of the exact same observations during my own school visits in Finland.
  • 3 reasons why Finland is first for education – A culture of deep respect for education, a commitment to meeting every child’s needs, and a rigorous teacher preparation program which produces high-quality educators, these are the qualities highlighted in this article which outlines why this nation is a leader in education.
  • How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system – This article outlines the many differences in Finnish education including an emphasis on play-based learning, languages and the arts, minimal homework, and recess.
  • Finnish education in a nutshell – This article is published by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish National Board of Education.  In it, you will read about Finland’s commitment to equity in education, the trust and autonomy that their educational system allows, and the emphasis placed on early childhood education.  In addition, it outlines the various pathways for students in upper secondary and higher education and the rigors of teacher training in Finland.
  • How Finnish schools shine – This particular article examines how less is more in Finnish education, pointing out that students are not subjected to mandatory exams until high-school and that teacher based assessments are not graded but are instead used to monitor progress and provide feedback for student learning. It is also typical for teachers in Finland to stay with one class for many years.  Then, of course, there is the trust.  Trust in communities and teachers to do what is right for children.
  • “The Finnish Way” to Optimize Student Learning – This website recounts the journey of a high school science and broadcast journalism teacher in southern California as she ventures to Finland to study Finnish education for 6 months.  She documents her journey using short stories, teacher interviews, and photographs which allow the reader a unique glimpse of Finnish teaching and learning.
  • What is going on in Finland? – Curriculum Reform 2016 – This article describes the process Finland has been involved in for the last two years as they work to revise the national curriculum.  The new curriculum, which teachers will begin using this fall, includes 7 universal competences which are to be combined with subject-based teaching and learning.  In this reform, there is also an emphasis on collaborative classroom practices giving students more of a say in the planning and execution of their learning experiences.  Third, there is an emphasis on formative assessment which aims to teach students how to analyze their learning process and ultimately take more responsibility for their own learning.

Teacher Stacey Sullivan

Stacey Sullivan teaches third grade at Georgia Elementary Middle School. She blogs at and you can follow her @sullyteaches.

BFA Fairfax Celebrates Music In Our Schools Month

 IMG_3612As winter turns to spring, the BFA Fairfax community looks forward melting snow, spring sports, and maple sugaring.  However, another popular event also marks this important time period during the school year. Every March, schools across the country celebrate Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM).  MIOSM is an annual celebration during the month of March that engages music educators, students, and communities from around the United States in promoting the benefits of high quality music education programs in our schools.  BFA Fairfax has taken part in a multitude of activities during the past two weeks to show off the talents of our music department students and faculty, as well bring the community together to celebrate the benefits of music education.

On Saturday, March 24th, 2018, fifty middle school chorus students from BFA Fairfax participated in an event hosted by United States Senator Bernie Sanders.  Senator Sanders organized what he called a “Town Hall Meeting on Arts and Education” in order to bring awareness to the importance of arts education in our school and the important skills and values that it teaches our students.  


Seven choruses from around the state performed, including high school groups from area schools such as Essex and South Burlington High School.  In the words of BFA choral director Christina Maynard, “BFA students were engaged audience members for the rehearsals and were in awe of the performances by the high school groups.  They expressed their excitement to me and were wide-eyed as I reminded them that in a few years, they will be performing that caliber of music.”

Before the concert, Senator Bernie Sanders met with the over 200 students that attended (elementary to college students) in the Band room at CVU.  He spent about 45 minutes fielding questions from the students ranging from, “Did you ever sing in chorus?” and ‘What is your favorite band?”, to very serious questions about gun control and health care.  BFA Fairfax students asked thoughtful questions that truly reflected the high quality education that they receive. Many students were eager to talk to Mr. Sanders personally and were able to get autographs and photographs with him.  IMG_1152

BFA Fairfax received many compliments on their singing as well as their outstanding behavior during the very long day.  It was a fantastic learning experience for our students and teachers and we are hoping that Senator Sanders will host the event again next year!  Thank you to our wonderful chaperones and the overwhelming community support for our music programs.

On Tuesday, March 27, the elementary school came together for the afternoon to celebrate music in our schools month. Students & staff were able to take part by listening to a variety of musical performances from teachers and classmates. The elementary school was treated to multiple musical acts including singing, ukulele, guitar, drum circle, saxophone duet, and even a guest appearance from the BFA Fairfax middle school chorus and high school band. It was wonderful to be able to come together for an afternoon to appreciate the talent, support, and pride that our school community has for the arts.IMG_1151

Lastly, on Wednesday, March 28, the Fairfax community was treated to the annual pops concert, with performances by the combined Fletcher and BFA Fairfax Elementary bands, as well as the BFA Fairfax middle school band and chorus, and high school band and chorus.  In front of a standing room only crowd in the Richard A. Brown Gymnasium, student musicians kept attendees swaying, clapping and tapping their feet to the sounds of pieces from Queen, the Who, the Beatles, and many other well-known groups.IMG_1150

If the events of the past two weeks are any indication, music is alive and well at BFA Fairfax.  We need to extend our heartfelt thanks to our music educators Christina Maynard, Ian Flint, and Sarah Wolff, our supportive community members, and most importantly our talented student musicians.  We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming music events:

Grades 3-5 Concert, May 16

Grades K-2 Concert, May 21

MS/HS Concert, May 23