Archives for December 2015

Vote for Alexis Nelson!

Alexis All RegionSophomore basketball player Alexis Nelson is on the ballot for The Courier-Journal’s student athlete of the week.
Vote here to help her win!

Parent Association

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

CLICK HERE TO DONATE via PayPal. 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 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!

Weekly Photo Gallery for Week of Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Open-Ended Toys Make Great Gifts for Little Ones

By Renee Hennessy, Director of PreschoolPreschoolFun_5

The holidays are here and I have received a few requests for ideas for toys and gifts for preschoolers.  In the Preschool, we are fond of toys that are open-ended and that have high play value and can be used for more than one purpose, wherever those imaginations may go.  Building blocks such as Magna-Tiles, play scarves and items that can be used for pretend play, like a doctor’s kit, for example, can be revisited time and time again.  Books and puppets are also great gift ideas for young children.  

Holly and I had a great time at the NAEYC conference in Orlando.  We attended informative sessions relating to language development of children from birth to eight years old, ideas for classroom environments, and how we can support PLAY in preschool and kindergarten.  Holly’s favorite session was with Rosemary Wells, author of the Max and Ruby books.  She was fascinated by Wells’ process of creating the artwork for her stories.  

We both enjoyed listening to Ruby Bridges, a brave student/activist who integrated the New Orleans School system in 1960, tell her story, particularly when she talked about the deep connection that she has with her former teacher Mrs. Henry, who is still alive today.  Her speech was very moving and inspiring; we felt fortunate to hear Ruby speak about her teacher and the power of the profession!  

Thank you, parents, for hearing our plea for coats and sending in gently used and a few new coats!  Our friends at Keystone Academy will be very appreciative of your generosity.  A special thank you to Caroline Boardman, Elizabeth’s mom, for organizing the drive.

Earlier this week, we hosted our Transition to Kindergarten coffee, which was a great success!  If you were unable to attend but have questions about junior kindergarten or kindergarten, please feel free to call me at 502-694-9369.  

The Birds, Peter Pan Jr., a “Movie Star,” and Irish Dancing – All at St.Francis!

By Reed Gabhart, Head of the Goshen Campus

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and memorable time with your families! Our Grandparents’ Day festivities and concert on the Goshen Campus were spectacular, and the musical theme of “1965” was a tremendous hit! (No pun intended.) Thanks to our wonderful music teachers Kim Aberle, Bob, Bertke and Faith Murphy for preparing our students so diligently and making it so fun!

As our thoughts turn to the upcoming Holiday Break (and sugarplums?), we have a couple of other new opportunities for students. December means it it is time for the SFS Drama Project’s spring play auditions! After the highbrow sophistication of The Importance of Being Earnest this fall, our spring production will decidedly be more slapstick and silly as we present one of  Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedies, The Birds. Lon Church will be directing this madcap comedy, with me in the sidecar along for the ride. Here is a project description of The Birds from Lon:

“Soon to swoop to the stage of St. Francis!

A raucous comedy by the famous Greek playwright Aristophanes (not to be confused with Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”) finds two Athenians climbing to the mountaintops above their corrupted civilization in order to seek advice from the birds on where they might begin anew.  With the help of Epops, the king of the birds; Procne, his wife; and a colorful chorus of other birds, the group hatches a plan to form “Cloud Cuckooland,” where they can control the air between men and the gods. Of course, not all goes smoothly:  they must build their city among clouds, rebuff the various ascending rascals of society, and appease the angry gods who don’t want to pay tariffs for their mischievous trips to earth.  The cast includes lawyers and agents, prophets and poets from below, and Iris, Prometheus, Hercules, Neptune and the Barbarian God from above.  Messengers fly in, heralds proclaim, even prompters claw for their moment in the sun.  Love blossoms and bird bargains are born.  Mr. Church directs this production, with Mr. Gabhart’s collaboration, of course, and together they promise great fun, soaring choreography, and a “deus ex machina” finale!”

Sounds “all Greek” to me! Auditions for The Birds are Wednesday, December 9th after school from 3:45 – 5:30 p.m. and open to students in grades 5th – 8th. All the information the students need will be handed out at school this week.

At the same time, our 4th and 5th graders are beginning their winter production of the delightful musical Peter Pan Jr! Led by our version of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Dobring and Aberle, this feel-good production is open to ALL students in these grades (without auditions) and begins this Friday during projects. You will note the set pieces already adorning our stage. Please mark your calendar for Peter Pan Jr. just prior to Winter Break!

I also wanted to give out a shout-out to a couple of our students. Eston McLeroy recently had the remarkable experience of acting in a feature-length motion picture! During Thanksgiving break, Eston went to Atlanta for a day’s worth of shooting for the upcoming movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. Based on a young adult book series by James Patterson, the movie is slated for release in October, and our very own Eston had a couple of lines, a stunt, and his own trailer and wardrobe! Eston said they shot for 10 hours and did his scene around 50 times! (That’s show biz!) Congratulations to Eston, our Hollywood star!

We also welcomed a new student to St. Francis this week, 7th grader Elijah Foye. And Elijah certainly has a unique distinction: He is a student of Irish Dance. Elijah recently participated in the Midwest Regionals for the discipline and qualified for the Dance Worlds in Glasgow, Scotland this March! Please welcome Elijah to St. Francis, and we hope to see him in this spring’s Student Council Middle School talent show!

21 Students Present at Kentucky Youth Assembly

By Suzanne Bizot Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Before Thanksgiving, our Kentucky Youth Assembly (KYA) contingent of 21 students and their faculty moderator Callie Gray spent two days presenting and debating the bills they authored and those of other students participating in KYA.  Our bills – “An Act to Require the Donation of Excess Food to Charities” and “An Act to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons” both received great praise and were debated on the major stage, although neither ultimately passed. The St. Francis Delegation was deemed a “Delegation of Excellence” due to their respectful demeanor and focus throughout the conference. SFS Y-Club President Charley Drew-Wolak, who served as Chief of Staff, was also named “Outstanding Delegate”. The SFS Y-Club left the conference exhausted but excited for the next mock government conference coming up in March – Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA), where they will represent the countries of Sudan and the Maldives.Showcase

Please come out to support our annual Showcase of Plays tonight or tomorrow!  The Showcase features short plays written by the students in our Playwriting elective (taught by Jane Jones of Actors Theatre); students also direct the plays.  Our Improv troupe will be making its 2015-16 debut, as well.  The curtain rises at 7:00 p.m. both nights.  

Of note this week, the faculty played the varsity Quick Recall team (who are undefeated in the league) and won handily.  It’s always good to know we’re still a step ahead of them!

School Notes for Week of Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

  • The Goshen After-School Choir and several band members will be taking a field trip to Oxmoor Lodge to perform for residents on Monday, December 7. Afterwards they will be visiting the High School.  
  • Jay Swan ’17 made the 5th District KMEA Honor Band and passed the first round of the KMEA All State Band JaySwanaudition.  This is an impressive feat!  Good luck in the next round, Jay! 
  • This year a small number of our Middle School students auditioned for the SDACDA Regional Honor Choir. This is a group made up of the highest-scoring auditions from 14 states. To be accepted into this group is a tremendous accomplishment, as it is one of the finest youth honor choirs in the entire country. Three of our Middle School students were accepted into this ensemble. Congratulations to Amelia Dimas, Eston McLeroy, and Jada Jackson on this impressive accomplishment!
  • Congratulations to the JV Governor’s Cup squad that competed before Thanksgiving in their annual event:
    • Social Studies: 4th place – Mike Snyder, 8th place – Clay Foye
    • Math:  8th place – Chandler Durbin , 9th place – Elizabeth Johnson
    • Science:  10th place – Patrick Spencer
    • Language Arts:  8th place – Clay Foye
    • Arts and Humanities:  7th place – Chandler Durbin
    • Quick Recall:  Tied for 5th place (Team members:  Clay Foye, Megan Read, Chandler Durbin, Elizabeth Johnson, Mike Snyder, Josh Arnett. Chris Hammond, Evvie Cooley, Patrick Spencer, Angus Middleton)

Congratulations to Jay Swan ’17 For Making 5th District KMEA Honor Band!

Jay Swan ’17 made the 5th District KMEA Honor Band and passed the first round of the KMEA All State Band audition.  This is an impressive feat!  Good luck in the next round, Jay!

The Dangers for Teens of Legalizing Marijuana/Medical Marijuana

By Alexandra Thurstone G’80, ’84, Head of School

If there is ever one of my newsletter articles that you read, I really hope it is this one.  This is an extremely important topic and I want our parents to have the same information that the school has.  

I don’t make a habit of preaching to the St. Francis community on politically sensitive topics.  However, this is one about which I feel so strongly that I am compelled to share my opinion and some facts with you.  There are various points of view on this issue – benefits to legalizing marijuana for medical use; our country spends too much time and money prosecuting and incarcerating people for crimes related to marijuana; marijuana just isn’t that bad for us; and so on.

However, as seen in Colorado, relaxing marijuana laws has had a devastating effect on teens, and this is my major concern.  

In March 2012, we brought my brother-in-law, Dr. Chris Thurstone, to the School to talk to parents and students, and this year in October 2015, he came back to talk to us again.  Chris is one of the leading national/international experts on why legalizing marijuana even for medical use is bad for teenagers.  Chris is an adolescent psychiatrist, addictionologist and the medical director of Colorado’s largest youth substance abuse clinic, as well as an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver.  He was trained at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and he also completed a five-year National Institutes of Health certificate in research methodology on teen substance abuse.  The clinic that Chris directs is in Denver, where marijuana is now legal and where there are actually more marijuana outlets than Starbucks outlets.  As the prevalence of medical marijuana (MMJ) grew in Denver, Chris started to see more patients in his adolescent substance abuse clinic, most of whom were there for marijuana addiction, which caused him to look into the correlation.  All of this information is thanks to his research on the subject.

A quick background on the history of legal marijuana in Colorado:  Marijuana was first legalized for medical use in Colorado by a state amendment in 2000, after six years of lobbying.  From 2000-08, there were 2,000 patients on the medical marijuana registry, meaning a doctor had recommended marijuana for them to treat an illness – it is indicated to relieve the symptoms of about eight very severe conditions.  In 2008 and 2009, a couple of things changed, including the fact that the federal government stated that it would not pursue individuals for prosecution in states with MMJ laws; this touched off an explosion in MMJ outlets, as well as the number of patients on the registry, which rose to 110,000 by September 2011.  Some other interesting facts about those on the registry as of 2012 were:

  • that they are 68% male
  • their average age is 41
  • 98% are taking marijuana for “severe pain,” the most loosely defined of the conditions for which MMJ is indicated.
  • 12 doctors in Colorado made 75% of the recommendations; five doctors made 50% of them; most of those doctors have restricted medical licenses

Concurrent with the explosion of MMJ outlets and patients on the marijuana registry, teen marijuana use also started to rise, as seen through some alarming statistics:

  • In 2008, there was a nine-year low of 3,700 drug-related disciplinary actions in public schools, but then in 2010-11, Colorado K-12 schools saw a 10-year high of 5,417 drug-related disciplinary actions, and this was not a blip, as the number was 5,249 in 2013-14.
  • In 2008-09, there were 534 expulsions from Colorado schools, followed by a 40% increase in 2009-10 to 753, which was sustained in 2010-11 at 767.
  • While “marijuana use in the past month” by 12- to 17-year-olds has held relatively steady nationwide from 2006 to 2014, rising to 7.1% from 6.7%, in Colorado it has risen to 11.2% from 7.6%.  Past-month marijuana use by 18- to 24-year-olds has had a similar trend: it rose to 19% from 16% nationwide, whereas it rose to 30% from 21%  in Colorado
  • Even more alarming is the fact that 49% of teens in a substance abuse program in Denver in 2012 reported receiving their marijuana from someone with an MMJ license and 79% reported using someone else’s MMJ
  • 67% of adolescent substance abuse hospital admissions nationally are for marijuana use; however, a whopping 95% of patients at Denver Health and Hospital Authority admitted for substance abuse are there for marijuana abuse

MarijuanaThoughts2015The other alarming factor in the legalization of marijuana in Colorado is the explosion of edibles and the clear evidence of who is being targeted with these products.  There are 827 retail stores, 1,145 marijuana cultivation facilities, and 261 edible producers in Denver – the opportunities to consume marijuana are prevalent, to say the least. Take a look at this article on the Partnership for Drug Free Kids website and at the picture below that shows just a few of the edible marijuana products being sold.  In addition to the fact that the packaging clearly targets a younger demographic, Chris told us that one of the biggest challenges with the edible products is dosing: for example, a serving may be half a gummy bear, but who eats half a gummy bear, and who is reading the package to determine what a serving is?  In addition, not surprisingly, there are many cases of children eating these products not knowing what they are consuming.   

All of this is alarming; however, the research Chris presented on why marijuana (MJ) in general is so harmful to teens today, and worse than it was back in OUR day, is even more alarming.  Many of you may have heard some of this information, but in case not, please take a look at what is now considered fact:

  • We probably all know that the brain is not fully developed in adolescence and therefore that it is more susceptible to the problems with drug use and addiction
  • Today’s MJ is more potent and more addictive than the MJ most adults experienced in their youth: for decades the THC content in MJ was about 2.3%; today it exceeds 8%, and often reaches 35% in Medical MJ
  • MJ is physically and psychologically addictive for adolescents – 17% of teens (one in six) who try MJ before the age of 18 develop abuse/dependency (vs. 9% for adults)
  • It is now proven that MJ use in adolescence primes the brain for other addictions – teen MJ users are two to three times more likely to use other illicit substances.  In other words, MJ is in fact a gateway drug.
  • MJ use also affects cognition: decreases verbal fluency, word recall, visual scanning ability, visual scanning reaction time, whole brain volume and overall percentage of cortical matter
  • MJ use predicts lower educational attainment: teens who use MJ are 3.6 times less likely to get a high school degree, 2.3 times less likely to enroll in college, and 3.7 times less likely to get a college degree
  • Most scary of all:  Heavy MJ exposure starting in adolescence predicts an eight-point drop in IQ from age 13 to 38 years

Chris also told us that there are three primary factors that affect teen marijuana use, all of which have been impacted by the rise of MMJ.

  • Availability:  in addition to the fact that there are more MMJ outlets than Starbucks stores in Denver, 56 are within 1,000 feet of a school; 370 of the 1,692 public schools are within a mile of an MMJ outlet (22%);
  • Perceived Harmfulness: students surveyed in 2010 reported that they believed occasional/regular marijuana use was less harmful than students in the same survey in 2009;
  • Social Norms: there has been a decrease in students who disapprove of peers’ marijuana use.

All of this presents a rather sobering picture for teens who use marijuana (excuse the pun!).  But what can we do about this? First of all, it’s important that we all have the facts, and that we can share and reinforce them with our children.  We need to be a part of ensuring that our children know that marijuana is indeed harmful to them and that it is most definitely not the norm to use it.  In addition, we can let our state representatives know that legalizing marijuana for medical use is bad for teenagers and a bad idea for Kentucky – such bills have been presented in the Kentucky legislature for several years now.  We must demand that the evidence from Colorado be thoroughly examined before we would consider taking such a step. You can learn more at , which is a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals and others committed to spreading the truth about marijuana and promoting the idea that there is a better solution between “incarceration and legalization”.

If you have any questions or would like to talk further about this information, please call me at 736-1016 or email me.  In addition, there are two websites that Chris referenced in his talks that you can go to for more information:  is the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, which has a teen and parent section.  And the most up-to-date info on marijuana was written by Chris and the Colorado Department of Education at; this includes an info sheet, a brochure, and slides to download.  For anyone concerned about your own children, Chris also recently published a book called Clearing the Haze: Helping Families Deal with Teen Addiction by Christian Thurstone and Christine Tatum (his wife, a journalist), which is available on Amazon at  Please also check out Chris’s website at