Archives for November 2015

School Notes for Week of November 16-20

  • Parents’ Night Out for Lower School!  For the third year, the We Act group is sponsoring this popular event for JK – 4th grade.  On Friday, December 11th from after school until 8:00 p.m., the High School and Middle School We Act groups, along with Suzanne Gorman and Shelly Jones, will entertain Lower School students with games, crafts, dinner and more!  Funds raised support the We Act groups’ goal of building a school in Haiti.  Please click HERE for more information and to register!
  • We are excited to announce a service-learning trip to Peru for SFS students during Spring Break. This trip is open to grades 8-12 (7th graders are also welcome with a parent). Adventure awaits! Students will fly to Cusco and to Lima, then on to Machu Picchu. Please email Danielle Tracey or Callie Gray with any questions. An informational meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 30th at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Campus.
  • Host Families Sought for Visiting Chinese High School Students. St. Francis School will again welcome 10 Chinese high school students for a week, from January 23rd – 31st. The Sino-American Youth Ambassador Program, sponsored by the Ameson Foundation of Washington, D.C., promotes educational and cultural exchange between the United States and China. Students will stay with host families for the week, attending classes at the High School campus and giving cultural presentations to the school. One of the criteria for students’ selection is their superior English skills.  St. Francis needs only to offer host families that can provide room and board, a separate bedroom, daily lunches, internet access and transportation to and from the High School.
    Despite some adverse weather conditions, last year’s visit was very successful. If you are interested in hosting a student, please contact Chinese language teacher Bob Jones.

I Am So Grateful for Our Students

By Suzanne Bizot Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Thanks so much to all the parents who came to the Taste of St. Francis (it was tasty, indeed) and supported the seniors as they raised money for their class gift and the all-school prom!

As I look to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, I want to share with you myHSReadingroom_2 feelings of gratitude.  I am so grateful for these students, your children – they are bright and funny and endlessly interesting, every single one of them, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to spend each day with them.  I am grateful for my colleagues, the faculty and staff who love teenagers and bring amazing knowledge and insight to their work day after day.  I am grateful that a school like St. Francis exists, so that we can have this community that, while admittedly imperfect, is the best place I can imagine to spark intellectual thought and help teenagers discover their passions, while shepherding them through this complicated, messy thing called adolescence.  

I am also filled with gratitude for the way St. Francis students care about the larger community and take action.  We learned in Morning Meeting this week that several of our students, part of the SFS Student Activist Club, participated in Louisville Showing Up For Racial Justice last weekend, knocking on doors and talking to people about racism and police violence against communities of color.  Then on Wednesday evening, I shared an eye-opening experience with eight students in my We Act group. We had collected pet supplies to donate to My Dog Eats First, a nonprofit group devoted to helping homeless/low-income people care for their animals, and we were attending the weekly “Waggle Wednesday” event to help distribute these supplies.  What we found upon arrival was not just the face-to-face service opportunity we were hoping for, but something even larger.  Other organizations – and individuals – also come to this parking lot near the river every Wednesday night with food, clothes, blankets, etc.  People in need can visit any of the various tents/tables/open car trunks to acquire items.  In our small way, we were able to provide real help, and it was impactful for all of us.  

As we take a few days off next week to be grateful and to rest before the final push of the semester, I will be thinking of the St. Francis community with a full heart.  Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Caring Schools Initiative Survey Results are Worth Giving “Thanks!”

By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus8thGradeBuddies

As we enjoy the musical rehearsals leading up to Grandparents’ Day performances next week (and who doesn’t enjoy the great songs of 50 years ago to celebrate our Golden Anniversary!), I thought I’d share some information with you about a survey our Middle School students in Grades 6 – 8 recently took.  

For the second year in a row, we have decided to take part in a national survey administered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and known as the Caring Schools Initiative. We are one of just 200 schools worldwide included in this survey, and it provides us with important data on how our Middle School kids view their school in terms of safety, behavior, bullying and other important issues. The faculty take a similar survey so we can have their perspective as well. Here is some more information from a letter we received from the Harvard Graduate School:

Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is delighted to invite middle and high schools across the country to join our 2015-16 Caring Schools Initiative (CSI). Schools in the CSI use survey data and research-based strategies to promote safety, caring, and respect, and to develop responses to reduce bullying and students’ behavior-related troubles. This initiative is built on the prior success of MCC’s work with 94 schools & more than 30,000 students.

Our surveys will help you better understand how students and staff experience the school community—whether they feel safe and respected, are connected to other adults and students, and how they experience and respond to bullying and related behaviors. The data collected using these surveys may also be used by MCC for educational or research purposes. The data will be aggregated and schools will not be identified.  Students will not identify themselves on the anonymous survey.

The Making Caring Common Project seeks to place moral and social development at the center of conversations about raising and educating children, and seeks to strengthen the ability of schools, parents, and communities to support the development of children’s ethical and social capacities, including the ability to take responsibility for others, to think clearly about and pursue justice, and to treat people well day to day.  For more information, visit:

Some of our students who have already taken the survey have remarked how it “doesn’t really apply to us” in terms of the degree of bullying or disrespect that takes place in our school. That is refreshing to hear, although no school is perfect in that regard! And on that note, I thought I’d share with you some highlights from the student survey results from last year:

  • 66% of our students are aware that we have core values (not something Middle School kids probably focus on a great deal!). When asked to name some, the most common answers were: Compassion, Cooperation, Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Individuality and Joy.
  • When asked what the adults at St. Francis School value, the #1 answer choice was, “Students who care about each other” ( as opposed to academic achievement, for instance).
  • When asked if they feel safe in varying campus locations (classrooms, hallways, lunchroom, bus, recess outdoors), students reported feeling “mostly or very safe” over 95% of the time in all these locations (including 100% of the time in classrooms!).
  • When asked how safe they feel from teasing and harassment in the same locations, students reported feeling “mostly or very safe” at an 88% rate or higher everywhere (interestingly, the lowest positive rate, at 80% occurred on social media away from school).
  • When asked if they had been “bullied” in the past two months (basically since the start of the year), over 90% said it had occurred zero times (and most of the rest of the 9-10% said 1-2 times, although I think we need continual student and community education as to what really constitutes “bullying.”).
  • And if they needed help from students harassing or bullying them, over 80% of our students said they would feel comfortable going to an adult in the building.

These results are very affirming and how we’d hope our students would feel. But it’s a wonderful feeling to see it come to life in a nationally-normed, anonymous survey. We hope to learn from this experience and are committed to participating in this important nationwide educational survey now and in the future. I hope it makes you feel “safe” too!

And on that note, I hope everyone has a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday with their families! See you in two weeks!

Parent Association News

Staff/Faculty Holiday Wish Fund: Starting Today!!!

CLICK HERE TO DONATE via PayPal. Please look in your child’s Friday Folder, binder or backpack for a flyer on the Holiday Wish Fund. This is a wonderful way to thank all the staff and faculty that help your child on a daily basis!

The Holiday Wish Fund was started many years ago by the Parent Association as a way to make the holidays a bit easier on the parents, while ensuring the teachers and staff get the recognition they deserve. St. Francis School is unique in that each child, even the youngest preschooler, has multiple teachers every day. When you add in the administration, kitchen staff and maintenance crew, your child’s school day is made special by dozens of people. The PA’s aim is to simplify your life and make sure all our teachers and staff members are thanked for their hard work. Here’s how it works: if you choose, you may donate any amount of money you’d like. We collect everyone’s donations, then divide the money amongst the employees based on part-time or full-time status. Each employee is asked to specify a gift card they would like to receive. We then purchase the gift cards and distribute them along with a nice note thanking them for all they do. And that’s it! You can relax and know that each person who brightens your child’s day will be thanked for the difference they make.

Holiday shopping with Amazon?

If you and your friends/family will be shopping with Amazon this holiday season, please use Amazon Smile and support the SFS PA! Thank you!

SFS PA is on Facebook!

Don’t forget to “Like Us” on Facebook. Also, to make sure you are seeing all our posts, be sure to “follow” us as well. Thanks!

Goshen Families: Book Fair Help Needed

If you can help out, please click here.

Mark your calendars

Monday 11/23 and Tuesday 11/24  Scholastic Book Fair (PS & G)

Monday 11/23 Parent Preview Day @ 9:00 a.m. (G)

Tuesday 11/24 Grandparents’ Day @ 12:45 p.m. (G)

Photo Gallery for Week of November 16-20

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Big South Fork a BIG Success!

Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen CampusBSF_7

I returned last Friday from another week in the woods and on the trails of Big South Fork National Park and Recreation Area in Tennessee, backpacking with our 8th graders. I have taken this trip enough times that I have lost count (14? 15?), but it never fails to energize and educate all of us!

As always, one of the things I like to do with my “watchgroup” (dubbed the “Gabzios” by my trip partner Angela Ponzio), is ask them why St Francis School thinks it is important to take this trip? Why would we “give up” a week of sacred instructional time to backpack in the woods? And instead of providing them with the answers, we let them tell us around the campfire on Wednesday night (and the campfire sessions are one of the most valuable and enlightening things we do at BSF). The students never fail to seize upon the many reasons and articulate them well: to foster independence and a sense of self-achievement; to help them to realize how fortunate they are in this world and in their home lives; to learn how to function effectively in a group setting and help others who are struggling; to bond as a class; to learn to deal better with adversity when it arises and adapt and overcome; to appreciate the natural world in which we live; and to succeed in this 8th grade rite of passage. Some of the reasons are more obvious, but some require a little unearthing out on the trail (and this year we didn’t have too much adversity in the way of weather, but the bugs helped to take up the slack!). Add in the joy they experience from the views they reach, the stories they share, and the hikes and physical challenges they conquer, and you have one very special and memorable trip.

We also found out during our last whole group campfire on Thursday BSFBlue_GroupShotnight that trip founder Mike Black is hanging up his hiking boots. Mike started the St. Francis Outdoor Program in the late 1980s and lovingly shaped it into the program of which we are so proud. He is our spiritual leader out there, and a true St. Francis legend. But Mike’s lessons, wisdom and stories will live on. We all share them around the fires now, and I hope for generations to come kids will still marvel at Zorba the Greek, Cherokee parables and the legend of Sam Gam Gee. I know I will.

But we are in good hands with Mike’s successor, Patrick Donovan, our Outdoor Education Program Coordinator. Patrick did another outstanding job this year organizing this incredibly complex trip and helping to make sure our kids experienced success out in the “wilds”. The rest of the article belongs to this “grizzled” (literally) veteran trip leader to whom we are all eternally indebted!

By Patrick Donovan,  G ’79, ’83
8th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies


The success of trips like BSF ride in large part on the backs of the teachers who lead our Watch Groups. They take on a monumental responsibility in safely shepherding groups of 13- and 14-year-olds over the hills and through the woods of Tennessee. In fact, our outdoor trips cannot happen without the eager willingness of our teachers. St. Francis is lucky to have teachers like Angela Ponzio, Madelyn Blue, Tina Brown, Mike Black and Reed Gabhart  – they are true leaders and their efforts make this trip a memorable one for our students. Thank you!

As for my own thoughts on the trip, I am drawn to what Wendell Berry writes in The One Inch Journey, “Always in the big woods when you leave the familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness; for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.”  Berry’s words always strike a chord with me because he nails the essence of our shared BSF experience.

On the one hand, it is scary for everyone, both the adults and students, to head out into the Cumberland Plateau backcountry for a week. We all know the physical comforts of our daily lives will be absent for the week. In the simplest terms, the things we often take for granted – food, water and shelter – will become chores that our daily schedule revolves around. In the starkest of terms, we all wonder (sometimes aloud): Can I do this? Can I hike all day long with a large pack and take care of myself?

Magic occurs when we finally hit the trail. The anticipation of the BSF_1challenge disappears into taking that first step, which is quickly followed by the next. And, soon enough, we all find that the challenges pent up in our mind about the unknowable quickly dissolve into the doing of it. We learn that the water we filter is cool and clean and quenches our thirst in a way that turning the handle of a faucet cannot. We learn that the food we prepare and cook is delicious and filling sustenance. We learn we can sleep outdoors under bright stars while also staying warm and comfortable. In short order, we are experiencing the world in a way that is simply not possible during our typical day in school.

Finally, when we all come together on Thursday night for our campfire-lit celebration of the week, everyone is able to revel in the shared pains and joys that defined the week. As Berry notes, the “common ground” we hiked becomes a “common bond” that we equally share.

Dads Share Their Talents with our Preschoolers

Renee Hennessy, Director of Preschool

FullSizeRender (3)This week we had a few Wyvern dads share their talents and interests with the preschoolers.  Neurosurgeon Dr. Yao, Cara’s dad, paid a visit to the Adventurers and JK classrooms. Cara explained that, “He would be teaching everyone about surgery and how to find problems under their skin.”  Dr. Yao talked briefly about the brain and showed the children X-rays and a model of a skull. The highlight of his presentation was a Jell-O mold of the brain for a hands-on activity. Thank you, Dr. Yao, for inspiring budding scientists in our classrooms.

PreschoolFlyoverRandall Hood, Makenley’s dad, asked us to be on the playground at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday for a surprise. We had just gathered everyone on the berm when we heard and discovered that a military plane was flying overhead! The children were thrilled and VERY surprised to see an Air Force plane “buzz” over their playground. Makenley was very proud, as we all are, of her dad and his service for our country!  A sincere thank you to Randall Hood and all of our parents and grandparents who are veterans!


And thank you to our very own Mr. David for serving in the U.S. Coast Guard for 22 years!  

What’s cooking in the classroom?
Ms. Christine visited from the garden with her portable kitchen and a few yummy vegetables.  With the assistance of many helping hands, she made radish sandwiches with cooked fennel and chard.  I am happy to report that everyone loved them and most asked for seconds!

Looking ahead to next week…
Next week is a busy one for us, as we will will host our annual admissions
Open House on Tuesday, November 17th from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.  
Please invite your friends and neighbors who may have preschoolers to our Open House. You are our best ambassadors!  

I am sure you have heard from your room reps by now about the Thanksgiving Luncheon scheduled for Friday, November 20th at 11:00 a.m.  This is a St. Francis Preschool tradition that dates back more than 20 years. Chef Matt will provide the turkey and his delicious gravy.

We encourage each family to have at least one parent, grandparent, or special friend attend for your child.   

Holly and I will be in Orlando from Tuesday through Friday attending the NAEYC conference.  NAEYC is a professional organization that promotes and supports excellence in early childhood education.  So we will be, as I like to say, “with our people” and attending workshops that are specifically designed for early childhood teachers and leaders.  We are both looking forward to gathering new ideas to use in our classrooms, sharing our experiences with others, and hopefully, just maybe, finding some free time to see the Mouse.

Open House Saw an Incredible Turnout

By Suzanne Bizot Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Another busy week!  Thanks so much to all the parents and students OpenHouse_1who helped out with our Open House on Wednesday night.  I love Open House for the chance it gives us to show off our amazing school to all kinds of new people.  The support we get from our existing parent and student body is the biggest vote of confidence I can imagine – so thank you!  It was an incredible turnout with 50 students and their families in attendance.

On Thursday, students got to hear from former English teacher Dean Robertson, who visited to tell tales of life at St. Francis in the 1980s and talk about her new book Looking for Lydia, Looking for God.  When she showed the students a blooper video of her attempts to make a YouTube promotion for the book, it brought down the house.  

The keynote addresses from our ISACS conference were both fascinating.  Thursday’s talk featured Michael Fosberg, author of the memoir Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery (a copy of which I bought and brought back to school in case any faculty or students would like to read it).  He grew up a white middle-class man and discovered in his 30s that he has an African-American father.  The book chronicles his journey and the intersection of identity, race and heritage.  Friday’s keynote showcased Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Quiet has garnered a lot of press in the three years since its publication; in it, Cain lauds the traits inherent to introverts in a world that tends to push extroversion. Interesting fact:  the vast majority of the High School faculty are introverts!  (I give the 9th graders the Myers-Briggs test every year to help them understand their learning and communication styles, and as part of that, I give them their teachers’ Myers-Briggs types.)

Tonight is our annual Taste of St. Francis event – I am looking forward to seeing many of you there and bidding on the seniors’ always-exciting silent auction items!

7/8 Grade Boys’ Team Takes on Sayers

Tony Butler, Athletic Director



The Varsity boys’ and girls’ teams will have their first live action of the season in the annual Wyvern Shootout on Saturday at St. Stephen Family Life Center, 1508 W. Kentucky Street.  This annual event will feature boys’ and girls’ teams from Walden, Fort Knox, Brown and Eminence.  The schedule for the day follows.

Boys’ Schedule

11:00 a.m. vs. Fort Knox

1:00 p.m. vs. Walden

Girls’ Schedule

11:00 a.m vs. Fort Knox

12:00 p.m. vs. Brown

1:00 p.m. vs. Eminence

7th/8th Grade

The St. Francis boys’ MS A team was back in action Tuesday night. The78Boys_1 8th graders on the team were out last week for their annual class trip to Big South Fork.  The Wyverns traveled to Sayers Classical Academy for their first regular season game since bringing home the title in the West End Tournament.  The rust definitely showed in the contest as the Wyverns had several first half miscues and turnovers.  St. Francis would regroup at intermission, scoring 29 second-half points to cruise to a 43-30 victory and improve to 3-0 on the season. Kyle McLaughlin led the Wyvern attack with 14 points and Will Cole chipped in 10 points.

The girls’ team and boys’ A and B teams played their home openers on 78Girls_1Thursday night and walked away with three commanding wins – the girls over AIE, the boys’ A team against Waldorf and the boys’ B team over AIE.

The Wyverns have two nights of triple-headers on the schedule for next week.  On Tuesday night they will travel to dePaul, with the girls’ team at 5:00 p.m. the boys’ B at 6:00 p.m. and the boys’ A at 7:00 p.m.  On Thursday, they play host to Highlands Latin, with the same format.

6th Grade

After more than a week off, the boys’ 6th grade team was back in action Saturday at Goshen.  The Wyverns played host to Collegiate and struggled early on.  After not scoring in the first quarter, St. Francis used a 30-3 run over the middle two quarters to get past the Titans, going on to win 37-11.  Robert Boyd and Stevaun Butler led the offensive attack with nine and six points, respectively.  Up next for the Wyverns is a matchup with CAI on Saturday at 10:05 a.m. at Goshen, followed by games Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at MidAmerica and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Family Life Center.

After suffering a tough 24-6 loss to the hands of CAL a season ago, the 6th grade girls played host to the Centurions on Saturday in Goshen.  Stellar games from Reese Ragland with 13 points and Ayda Marshall with nine points propelled the Wyverns to a 26-20 victory and pushed their overall record to 3-0.  At the midway point of the season, the team finds itself in a three-way tie for first place in their division. They will be back in action against KCD on Saturday at 11:10 a.m. at Goshen.

5th Grade

The 5th grade boys’ team was able to get their first win of the season 5BoysBB_1against Walden on Saturday afternoon in Goshen.  After an 0-3 start, the Wyverns finally got one in the win column as they defeated the Wolverines 27-19.  Tyler King led the team with 13 points and St. Francis held off Walden for the win.  The team plays Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at Goshen, Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at MidAmerica, and Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Family Life Center.

5GirlsBB_3The 5th grade girls played Whitefield Academy at home Saturday and kept their winning streak alive, posting an 18-6 win and moving their record to an impressive 3-0.  Elizabeth Boyd and Carly Schramko led the team on both ends of the floor.  They play Highlands Latin at Collegiate at 11:10 on Saturday.  



3rd/4th Grade

The 3/4 boys’ team continued their winning ways this weekend by 34BB_1dispatching the Portland Christian Eagles 31-8.  The win moves the Wyverns’ overall record to 3-0 on the season and keeps them firmly in first place in their league division. Quentin Johnson led all scorers with 10 points and Carroll Mackin chipped in eight.   They play Saturday at 1:20 against Collegiate in Goshen.


The boys’ and girls’ bowling teams took on Brown on Thursday night, as the kickoff to their season.  After weeks of practice, the teams were itching for some competition and they didn’t disappoint in their season opener.

The boys’ team fought valiantly behind great games from juniors Nizar Kamar and Ryan Petiprin.  Nizar bowled a career-best 183 and Ryan a 147 to pace the Wyverns in the first game, though it wasn’t enough to win.  The boys will travel to Male on Monday and to Eastern on Thursday next week for their matches.  

The girls’ team came out strong, posting a victory over the Bears, led by senior Aliya March, whose 169/171 individual game scores paced the Wyverns.  Sophomore Dakota O’Bannon had the high game for the girls, posting a 176 in her first game.   The girls will host Christian Academy on Tuesday and travel to Male on Thursday next week.  Both matches will begin at 4:15 p.m.

School Notes for Week of November 9-13

  • Congratulations to the SFS High School “mathletes” on their performance in the first Math League competition of the season!  Despite being the smallest school to compete, our team finished 5th of 21 teams, placing us in the top district (of four).  Individual finishes in this top district included:
    • 9th grade:  Angus Middleton (9th), Elizabeth Johnson (11th), Chandler Durbin (14th)
    • 10th grade:  Will Yelton (8th), Chris Jayes (15th), Thomas Simpson (16th)
    • 11th:  Brownie Southworth (13th, Jay Swan (15th), Jillian Morrison (17th)
    • 12th:  Lucy Lv (7th), Sam Borden (8th), Zoe Koss (11th)
  • The High School We Act group is collecting pet food and supplies!  We are supporting My Dog Eats First (, a local nonprofit that collects dog and cat food and supplies to distribute to homeless people.  We are distributing these supplies next week and would truly appreciate any donations!  High School and Goshen parents, please send items in to the front offices on either campus.  Thank you so much!
  • Many thanks to The River Farm (The Paradis Family) and our hosts, Goshen parents Tammy and Pat Carey, for allowing the Kindergarten to visit last week. The annual visit by the Kindergarten coincides with their study of trees, and the Paradis Farm has more than 50,000 trees!
  • The Wyvern Ski and Snowboard Club is gearing up for its third year! The Goshen Ski Club is open to students in 6th-8th grades and the High School Ski Club is open to students in 9th-12 grades. Parents in those grades have received information via email. If you have any questions, please contact parent coordinators Suzanne Gorman for the Goshen Ski Club and Stephen McCrocklin for the High School Ski Club. Monday, November 23rd is the deadline to sign up!
  • Visit Blaze Pizza in Middletown Commons on Wednesday, November 18th and Blaze will donate 20% of your Blazebill to St. Francis! All you need to do is show up, present this flyer or an email and you’re done! Come out to help support the school and enjoy a delicious, fast dinner.
  • BIG thanks to Goshen parents Michele Koch and Raleigh Swift for chaperoning our students at the LISC dance at KCD last Friday night!!