FNESU Community News
October 25, 2023
Lynn Cota, Superintendent
Principal Appreciation Month
October is National Principal Appreciation Month. School leaders play an integral role in shaping the education system and the positive school culture in each of our schools. Here in FNESU, we are blessed to have exceptional school principals and assistant principals serving our students and staff. We would like to take a moment to honor these remarkable leaders who go above and beyond each and every day. These leaders are courageous, innovative, resourceful, and incredibly dedicated. Our school leaders focus on leading with an equity mindset and navigate challenges in order to ensure the well-being and success of every learner. These leaders are curious, creative, highly collaborative ~ working together so that our public education system can thrive.
School principals and assistant principals deserve recognition for their unwavering commitment to the betterment of our schools and the future of our students.
Central Office Open House
Please join us for our Central Office Open House in our new location, 366 Main Street, Enosburg! Come anytime between 3:30pm and 6:00pm.
Total Solar Eclipse - April 8, 2024
On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will pass over parts of Mexico, the United States and Canada.
We are in a unique position in our little corner of Vermont. We are on the path of totality for this once in a lifetime event. The path of totality passes directly over the top of Sheldon Elementary school.
The eclipse will begin at around 2:15, totality will begin around 3:26 and end at around 3:29 and the partial eclipse will end at around 4:37. (This is based upon data for Burlington, VT so it will be slightly different in our communities.)
Influx of Solar Eclipse Gazers
Since late last spring we have been hearing about the magnitude of people this eclipse will bring to our area. Hotels have been sold out for several months across the Champlain Valley area. There are concerns that travel will be impacted on April 8, 2024 and that the timing of the eclipse will impact our ability to safely transport students home.
Given the concerns about roadways and travel, all schools in the Champlain Valley including Franklin, Grand Isle, Chittenden, and some of Addison County will have a half- day on Monday, April 8. We will run a regular Tuesday schedule with an one-hour early dismissal. Staff will be allowed to leave after buses and will be asked to take part in the eclipse so that it can be used as a learning opportunity for students.
Solar Eclipse Glasses
Watching the eclipse without proper eye protection is not safe. We have ordered enough eclipse glasses for all our students and our staff members. Solar eclipse glasses are expected to sell out, if you would like to order glasses for your family, we encourage you to do so soon. We have been told that some local libraries have ordered glasses to give away at no cost. Please reach out to your town libraries to inquire if they can provide you with glasses.
For more information about the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, visit the NASA website.
Meet Our Central Office Staff
Michelle Theberge - Director of Student Services
We are thrilled to highlight Michelle Theberge, our dedicated and accomplished Director of Special Programs in FNESU. Michelle brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her role, making a significant impact on our students and staff.
Michelle's educational journey began at Trinity College of Vermont, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary & Special Education and Psychology. She continued her studies at Southern New Hampshire University, obtaining a Master's degree in Education, and later pursued a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies at St. Michael's College in Administration & Leadership.
Michelle began her career in the Missisquoi Valley School District as a special educator and later became a classroom teacher. She joined our team in FNESU as a middle school special educator in 2009. She later assumed the role of FNESU District Evaluator. Since 2019, Michelle has served as our Director of Special Programs.
In Vermont, we are experiencing a significant shortage of mental health services and therapeutic alternative school settings for students who have complex needs that require something more than what can be provided in the general education setting. One of Michelle's most notable accomplishments is the creation of several special programs within our supervisory union aimed at meeting the needs of our students. She has developed three alternative programs: STEPS, RISE, and TAPS (described below). These programs are filling the gap in alternative programs and therapeutic services in Vermont for our FNESU students. Her innovative approach and determination have provided our students with the support they need to build the skills they need to either transition back to the general education setting, or support them to build the life skills they will need in the future.
Michelle is a fierce advocate for students, particularly those with disabilities. She is driven to ensure that students who require more than what can be offered in the general education classroom receive the specialized instruction and support they deserve. Her goal is to strengthen our systems to better support struggling learners in all our schools, with a focus on targeted intervention and specialized instruction.
We are incredibly fortunate to have Michelle Theberge as part of our team. Her dedication, advocacy, and commitment to supporting students with diverse needs are truly inspiring. Thank you, Michelle, for your unwavering passion and drive to make a difference in the lives of our students.
School Spotlight - FNESU Alternative Programs
STEPS - Student Therapeutic Educational Placement
In the state of Vermont, there are a very limited number of alternative schooling options for students who struggle within the public school setting. In FNESU, we have built our own alternative programs in order to provide students with options within our community. Our STEPS program serves students from Kindergarten to High School. The mission of the FNESU Alternative Behavior Program called STEPS is to provide a smaller more therapeutic, trauma-informed, classroom environment that is built on safety, connection and trust. The flexible, yet structured STEPS Program, is intentionally designed to create myriad personal academic and social-emotional learning opportunities that support every student achieving their highest potential and foster life-long learning. The goal of STEPS is to help students acquire the skills they will need in order to successfully transition back to our public school settings.
TAPS- Transition into Adult Programs and Services
TAPS curriculum is targeted towards students in grades six (6) through 12 and promotes independence with appropriate levels of support in order to meet students' individual strengths, needs, and goals. Children with moderate to severe disabilities will be educated for the life they will lead as adults. Students will learn to:
• Count money and tell time
• Take measurements
• Read recipes
• Do simple kitchen math
• Learn how to budget and shop
• Read signs in the community
• Read directions, ads, store flyers and menus and will experience many community outings.
TAPS students and staff made cookies and surprised the FNESU Leadership Team with their homemade goodies at one of the Leadership Team's recent meetings.
RISE - Reaching Independence Through Structured Environments
What is RISE? The RISE program enrolls students from Kindergarten to Grade Five (5) and uses a variety of resources and methods to support students with skill acquisition at their level. Students will then use the skills they learn and practice through the RISE program to experience more success in the traditional classroom setting. It is access to sensory materials with less stimulation than a traditional classroom. It is access to materials better aimed at the student's individual learning level with more 1:1 attention. There is direct instruction from a special educator or skilled behavior technician and specialized instruction to meet IEP goals. The direct Instruction uses Natural Environment Teaching (NET) and Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT). This approach is structured, sequenced, and led by teachers and/or trained behavior technicians overseen by the special educator and behavior analyst.
Curriculum, Instruction & Learning
Leah Belitsos/Gabrielle Lumbra, Interim Co-Directors of Instruction & Learning
One of the characteristics within the FNESU Portrait of a Learner is Information Savvy. Information Savvy means being able to seek, evaluate, create and use information effectively. You can support your children in becoming Information Savvy by encouraging them to think critically about information they encounter in their everyday activities.
Consider ways to help your student build confidence and become information savvy:
Encourage kids to explore their questions
Do and discuss art
Be physically active together
Do science experiments at home
Educational Resource - Sensical Select
Sensical Select is a web resource that "provides age-appropriate vetted videos that spark curiosity and inspire learning and fun". (Sensical Select)
Whether your child is exploring a new topic or deep-diving further into a tried-and-true interest, these picks are Sensical's cream of the crop. Click on the picture above to learn more.
Literacy From Pre-K - High School:
Listening Comprehension is the ability to understand information that is spoken by a person or by read-aloud tools. Listening Comprehension involves language and attention skills. Trouble with listening comprehension can make it hard to follow directions at school, home, and work. You can support your student at home by “checking for understanding” - Can they recall the information or directions in their own words? Helping students to monitor their understanding is an important strategy for lifelong learning!
Facilities Spotlight: Sheldon Elementary
Vernon Boomhover, Facilities Director
It was a busy summer at Sheldon Elementary. We were able to replace all old lighting with much more efficient LED lights. The school is much brighter with a cleaner light. Efficiency VT was able to help us out with $10,000 in rebate money.
Our custodial crew (Tim Bushey, Luke Werner, and Mary Cross) did an incredible job stripping many layers of wax and making the floors look incredible. Lisa Clark and Micaela Perry stepped up and did a great job getting many of the classrooms painted and looking great for the return of staff and students. The planning room was also remodeled to be a much more functional space.
Another large project at Sheldon this summer was the addition of a 3000 sq ft Modular Building. With the growing number of students, Sheldon was in need of more space. With the addition of this structure, we were able to add four (4) more classrooms. There was a final inspection on October 13th, and we are happy to report that students and staff are now in their classrooms in this new space and everyone is happy.
Food Service Spotlight: Richford Jr-Sr High
Dawn Reed, Food Services Director
In the first 24 days of school we have served an average of 77 breakfasts per day and 142 lunches. Our meal counts are continuing to rise daily. Often the breakfast counts will rise once the colder weather sets in and students would rather visit inside our buildings instead of outside.
Richford Jr-Sr High School has two (2) kitchen employees who are very dedicated to providing the school with healthy reimbursable meals daily. Donna Thompson has worked in the RJSHS kitchen for over 15 years. When Donna is not working, she can often be found out touring around in her jeep with her husband Bernie.
Shawna McAllister is a very familiar face in the Richford community as well. She has been a Richord resident for many years. In her spare time, she loves to golf and participate in local karaoke events around surrounding areas. Shawna has been a school employee for many years starting out as a paraeducator at Richford Elementary to now serving meals to many of the students she worked with in the elementary school. Both Donna and Shawna take great pride in making sure to connect with every student when they go through the breakfast and lunch lines.
Early Education Spotlight: Enosburg Elementary
Melissa Wood, Early Education Director
Enosburg’s early education program is home to both Leslie Thompson and Amie Choiniere, along with their many three (3) and four (4) year olds. At the start of the year, there are a lot of changes for our youngest learners as they settle into their new routines. This is very similar to butterflies, which is part of this month’s learning experiences. Each class received seven (7) Painted Lady Caterpillars that have changed into chrysalis and then into butterflies. Children were able to observe the metamorphosis process. Additionally, children engaged with books and pictures of different types of butterflies and collected observations in a butterfly journal.
Children read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to complete this unit of learning. After reading the book, they worked on graphing activities while making connections to their own caterpillars including how they were filling up their tummies before they formed their chrysalis.
LEAPS Spotlight: Enosburg Middle/High School
Heather Moore, LEAPS Afterschool and Summer Programs Director
The EFMHS LEAPS is overseen by Karen Powers. The program serves youth in grades 5-12. During the summer, the program runs as a combined site for over 100 middle and high school students from Bakersfield Elementary and Middle School, EFMHS, and Sheldon Elementary School. Karen and her awesome staff work closely with all of her students to personalize their LEAPS experience with programs such as fishing, physical fitness, at-home cooking, and gaming club. Students who are interested in leadership opportunities are able to join our work-study program with training in partnership with Cold Hollow Career Center’s Emily Kimball and paid placement at LEAPS sites throughout FNESU. This year, the EFMHS LEAPS program received a $10,000 grant to increase high school offerings, one of which is the renewal of the annual school play. Be on the lookout for tickets to the “Addams Family” this February.
Dominic DeRosia, Technology Director
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a month to focus on helping everyone stay safe and protected when using technology whenever and however you connect. Here are some good resources from the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help in that regard.
While there are lots of ways to stay safe and secure online, CISA suggests that just practicing the four (4) cybersecurity basics below can make a huge difference.
Here’s a quick video with an overview of their Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2023 Message.
1. Use Strong Passwords
Longer passwords are more difficult to hack
Passwords should include all four character types (uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols)
Passwords should be unique; don’t use the same password for all of your accounts
Consider using a password manager so you can use more complex passwords without having to remember them
2. Turn on MFA
Enabling Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) makes you significantly less likely to be hacked
This is especially important for sensitive accounts like email, social media and financial accounts
3. Recognize and Report Phishing
Be cautious of unsolicited messages asking for personal information
Avoid sharing sensitive information with unknown sources
Report phishing attempts and delete the message
4. Update Software
Vendors regularly push out security patches and updates to help keep devices more secure
Regardless of device type, it’s important to keep it up to date
Consider turning on automatic updates or checking for updates regularly
Michelle Irish, Director for the Advancement of Educational Equity
“Bringing Attendance Home” - A video for parents from Attendance Works
Ask parents about the importance of school attendance in the early grades, and they can tell you why showing up every day matters. They can also share their very real challenges in getting children to school. Bringing Attendance Home, a video from Attendance Works, features parents talking to other parents about reducing absenteeism. Filmed in schools across the country, the video offers tips for parents and schools to improve student attendance. (Aquí tenéis una versión doblada al español.)
In FNESU we are working to update and improve our attendance policy to focus more on the interventions and supports needed to improve student attendance and engagement. Stay tuned for next month’s issue for more information on our Tiers of Support to improve chronic absenteeism.
Inclusive Holidays, Traditions & Celebrations
Michelle Irish, Director for the Advancement of Educational Equity
Our school district is part of a diverse global community with families from many different backgrounds. We want to teach students about holidays and cultural traditions in a way that is inclusive of all students and their families. We want to help students learn about different cultures and traditions, and to appreciate the diversity of our global community. We also want to make sure that all students feel comfortable and safe in school, even if they do not celebrate the same holidays or traditions as their classmates.
Specific holiday celebrations are not the best way to be culturally responsive, trauma-informed, or economically equitable.
Regular classroom routines and consistency help most students. Celebrations and holiday activities can be stressful and can cause excitement, anxiety, grief, or isolation.
Celebrating what most students celebrate can be isolating for those who do not.
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.