September 19, 2023
Lynn Cota, Superintendent
Dear Members of our FNESU School Community,
As we embark on this new school year, we are excited to introduce the first edition of our monthly community newsletter. In each edition, we will highlight the achievements of our schools and our students, make connections to our mission, vision, and goals, and share resources families can use to support their children's educational success.
In FNESU, we are committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and innovators. We are working to embrace a more student-centered approach that acknowledges every child’s unique talents, passions, and dreams. Our mission is to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment that allows each student to flourish. We are working hard to tailor our teaching methods to meet the diverse needs of our learners, while fostering their curiosity and encouraging them to take a more active role in their education.
The world our students will inherit is vastly different from the world we all grew up in. To prepare our students for their future success, we are focused on our FNESU Portrait of a Learner (POL). The goal of the FNESU board related to the POL is to ensure all students who graduate from our FNESU schools will be proficient with the skills, mindsets, and competencies they will need to thrive in an ever-evolving global society.
Thank you for being an essential part of our school community. Together, we can work to best support our students and empower them to dream big and shape their future.
VPA Sportsmanship Video
As we begin our athletic seasons, let's remember the importance of encouraging our athletes and welcoming our guests in each of our communities. This VPA video reinforces the importance of both modeling and teaching good sportsmanship. Let's continue to cheer for our athletes and not against other athletes.
Meet Our Central Office Staff
I am excited to bring my experience and expertise to serve as Co-Director of Instruction and Learning alongside Gabrielle. Our combination of skills will allow us to maintain and improve the 21st century learning happening in FNESU. My goal is to bring my leadership skills and special education expertise to improve the universal design of instruction, enhance diagnostic tools to intervene with greater efficiency and fidelity, and support teachers and staff to grow professionally. I believe firmly that all students can learn and look forward to demonstrating my values and skills in the years ahead.
I too, am excited to continue the innovative work of our district as Co-Director of Instruction and learning with Leah. I look forward to continuing the work of the Board goals in this new role. My work with Flexible Pathways aligns well with the work that lies ahead in meeting the board goals. Much of this work will be a seamless transition from the work I have been doing to connect the district goals, priority standards, and move toward a student-led system where learners are motivated, self-directed, and actively making decisions about their learning.
Curriculum, Instruction & Learning
Leah Belitsos/Gabrielle Lumbra, Interim Co-Directors of Instruction & Learning
Portrait of a Learner - Our framework representing the skills and characteristics learners will develop over their K-12 education at FNESU.
Trustworthy means having the ability to earn the confidence of others. You can support your student to develop these skills to start off the school year by helping them learn to manage their responsibilities, behaving responsibly and demonstrating compassion towards others.
Consider ways to help your student build confidence and trustworthy skills:
Create schedules and routines
Use “to-do” lists
Encourage your student to ask for help
When you believe in your ability to improve, you are in fact, more likely to improve.
LEAPS Afterschool and Summer Program Spotlight: Richford Elementary
Heather Moore, Director
RES LEAPS Site Coordinator Mrs. Ross is looking forward to reconnecting with youth and staff this fall after a wonderful summer camp! The RES LEAPS summer camp provided programming for approximately 40 youth over five weeks. During the summer, campers went bowling, read to dogs, made art, did science experiments, engineered, and so much more! This fall, youth will get to do art, explore nature, build with Legos, and sing - karaoke style! RES serves approximately 40 youth daily and over 130 youth annually.
Food Service Spotlight: Montgomery Elementary
Dawn Reed, Director
Our Montgomery food service staff worked with the LEAPS summer camp program to provide breakfast and lunch at the Montgomery Recreation Center from July 5 - August 4. We served 400 breakfasts and 631 lunches in Montgomery during the summer. In FNESU, over the summer we served 6644 breakfasts and 9584 lunches to the children in our communities. We are now focusing our time on serving our students at breakfast and lunch while at school. FNESU values the role healthy food plays on healthy minds and we will continue to focus on serving nutritious meals in our schools.
Early Education Spotlight: Berkshire Elementary
Melissa Wood, Director
Karen Carpenter has been at the helm of the Berkshire early education classroom for the past 10 years, the most recent of her 26 years with Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union. Currently, Karen has 14 children in her 3 yr old class and 11 children in her 4 yr old class. With a new classroom set up, those who were with her last year are likely to notice some differences. Karen is most excited about her science center. With a plan to get outside and explore a lot this year, the science center will allow children to continue their inquiry within the classroom. Children are naturally curious, and nature provides an abundance of opportunity for observation and exploration.
The safety of our students and staff is our priority. All of our buildings are required to keep doors locked throughout the day and use a visitor management system to buzz visitors into the building. Schools will be asking all visitors to sign in, sign out, and wear a visitor badge at school. In terms of preparing for threats within or outside of the building, we use the ALICE options-based response system. This visual represents the principles of ALICE. We use developmentally appropriate lessons to teach these strategies to our students. One of the most important things parents can do to help us keep our schools safe is to encourage children to tell a trusted adult if they hear or see something that could be a threat to the school or an individual.
Family Engagement: Why is School Attendance Important?
Michelle Irish, Director for the Advancement of Educational Equity
Students who attend school regularly have been shown to achieve at higher levels than students who do not have regular attendance. This relationship between attendance and achievement may appear early in a child's school career. A recent study looking at young children found that absenteeism in kindergarten was associated with negative first grade outcomes such as greater absenteeism in subsequent years and lower achievement in reading, math, and general knowledge. (Read more of the research here)
Chronic absence is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason—excused, unexcused absences and suspensions. This can translate into students having difficulty learning to read by the third-grade, achieving in middle school, and graduating from high school.
Watch this 2 minute video to learn more.
ALL Means ALL, Through the Equity Lens
Michelle Irish, Director for the Advancement of Educational Equity
When the FNESU board wrote these goals in 2022, they were very deliberate in their decision to include “all students” in the measurement of the goals. As they wrestled with the right language, they asked themselves, “if we chose a benchmark of 80 or 85%, or looked at an incremental percentage of students who would achieve the standard over time, who would we be willing to leave behind? Which one of our kids would we be willing to say would not be held to these accountability standards?” They realized they were unwilling to excuse, ignore or leave out any of our students from achieving at high levels. The students of FNESU are ALL of our kids. They all deserve the opportunity and support required to help them achieve at high levels.
The FNESU board is deeply committed to ensuring educational equity in FNESU. Our equity work is built on the framework of Belonging, Dignity and Justice. Every member of our learning community deserves to feel a sense of feeling welcomed, valued, validated and safe. We all deserve to be treated with equal human value and worth; and when harm is caused, we will make every effort to repair the harm and make the situation right and whole.
(Framework developed by Aida Marian Davis. 2021)
Michelle Theberge, Director
Over the past two (2) years, the Vermont Special Education rules have been shifting due to the Act 173 law change. This has led to a change in how Vermont school districts will be determining specific learning disabilities when we are evaluating for special education eligibility.
In the old rules, a specific learning disability was a statistical comparison between an IQ and
achievement test score. There needed to be a certain point difference between these scores to qualify. However, in the new rules the special education evaluation team will use a variety of tools and multiple data sources to determine if there is a meaningful pattern of strengths and weaknesses for the student. In some cases, there might not be any specific testing required.
There might be cases in which a student formerly qualified for a specific learning disability (SLD) due to the discrepancy scores approach, but would not qualify with this new process under the new law. When a student does not qualify for special education services, alternative learning plans can be considered such as EST (educational support team) and 504 plans, both supported by an
established process at the child’s school.
We remain committed to supporting your child’s learning.
Social Emotional Learning
FNESU Students over age 13, as well as all employees and their dependents, over age 13, have the ability to receive 12 months of online messaging and live video mental health support at no cost by registering at talkspace.com/fnesu. Employees and dependents 18+ also have the ability to participate in virtual psychiatry services. Talkspace communication is confidential and secure. FNESU will never know who uses the service or for what purpose.