Archives for February 2016

Grammy Winners Pay Visit to St. Francis

By Bob Bertke, Middle School and High School MusicFullSizeRender (2)

On Monday afternoon, St. Francis music students were treated to an amazing experience! Three-time Grammy winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin, from The Dave Matthews Band, and five-time Grammy winning percussionist Roy “FutureMan” Wooten, from Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, performed and taught a class on improvisation to the High School music students and Middle School Jazz Band. They started off with an improvised piece that was jaw-droppingly amazing, and then went into the hows and whys of what they did. Their class centered on Jeff’s “Big Five” fundamentals:

  • Listening
  • Tone and Dynamics
  • Rhythm and Time
  • Articulation
  • Harmony

Coffin and FutureMan went into detailed explanations for each of these, which included examples from a variety of topics such as Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, Socrates, and even Dr. Seuss. The two legendary artists displayed not only incredible playing but true mastery of education. Coffin and FutureMan provided an experience that our students will never forget.

“Going to see a Grammy Award-winning drummer like FutureMan has always been a dream of mine as a young drummer. I learned so much about feeling the music and how I need to ‘think not do.’ Overall, it was amazing.”
Parker Smith, 7th grade

Check out The Courier-Journal coverage of this event here.

Senior Projects a Rite of Passage

By Suzanne Bizot Gorman, Head of the Downtown Campus

Senior Projects are a seminal event in the life of every SFS student, and as we are in the thick of them right now, I want to share with you what it’s all about and why we do it.

Senior Projects date back over two decades and were developed as a way to synthesize all the skills a St. Francis graduate had acquired in four years of high school – research, critical thinking, writing, presentation. The Projects are a graduation requirement and the process begins in the spring of 11th grade when students choose topics and submit proposals.  Proposals are tweaked and approved, and each student is given an advisor (a faculty or staff member).  The summer provides time for research, with an annotated bibliography due upon return to school in August and a subsequent meeting with the Senior Project Committee, headed by coordinator (and Chemistry teacher) Luke Johnson.  That fall and winter, students continue to work on their Projects and consult with their advisors, culminating with papers turned in and presentations made throughout February and March.  Each student presents in front of a three-person grading committee of faculty and staff (as well as an audience of other community members); the grading rubric includes points for process, research, writing, and presentation.  Students can earn a Pass, High Pass, or Honors grade.  In May, when all students are finished with their Senior Projects, we hold the Senior Project Showcase (in conjunction with the Student Art Show) so that they have the opportunity to share their work with the larger SFS community.

We encourage students to choose topics that are interesting to them, to take this opportunity to explore something new and exciting.  Senior Projects this year run the gamut from art curation and jazz transcription to academic looks at the media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict and dismantling hierarchies to projects that focus on horses, film, music, coral reefs, food deserts, and myriad other topics.  We are about a third of the way through presentations, with new ones occurring daily up until Spring Break.

Switching gears quickly:  KUDOS to our Governor’s Cup team on their performance at Regionals over Winter Break!  Our Quick Recall team and five students (taking a total of nine tests) will move on to the State competition in March – a huge achievement.  Check out the article on the Governor’s Cup in the newsletter for details on the team!

Wyverns Stay Busy During Winter Break

By Reed Gabhart, Head of the Goshen CampusMathCounts_2

As we returned from Winter Break this week, our students were fired up to share their vacation tales! It was an action-packed morning meeting on Monday, with lots to recap and new beginnings afoot. Even over the break there was still plenty of activity rolling on! First, we were the host school for the Governor’s Cup Regional Competition on Saturday, February 13th, and 18 schools descended upon the Goshen Campus! This might be a recipe for disaster in lesser hands, but under the skillful guidance of Debbie Adkins and Lindsy Serrano (along with a host of faculty volunteers and help!) the day ran like a well-oiled machine! And a special “WOO-HOO” to 8th grader Lorenzo Mahoney for qualifying in math to move on to the State competition!

The next Saturday, it was our MathCounts team’s turn to compete at the University of Louisville.  Thanks to the keen coaching of Erin Staley, our “mathletes” had their best finish in many years, placing 7th out of 21 teams (and many of these teams mean business, practicing nearly year-round!). This is a wonderful experience for our talented math students, and we are so appreciative our teachers are willing to spend a Saturday during their vacation championing the Wyvern cause! Look for Erin’s article in the newsletter with more details.

We also received the astounding news that, due to our participation in the Jazz Educators’ Network Conference earlier this year, two Grammy-winning musicians wanted to visit St Francis (Downtown) to put on a workshop for our young musicians Monday! This wouldn’t be possible without the diligence (and networking!) of Bob Bertke, and from the Courier-Journal clips of the session, it looks like our kids were in awe! What a memorable treat for our musicians on both campuses!

Finally, Coach Shavar Cowherd was all smiles on Monday as day one post-Winter Break only means one thing to him – the start of track practice! So as we put basketball and Peter Pan to bed, we fire up track, lacrosse (and baseball soon!), and The Birds will be flying into a nest, or theater, before you know it! Evidently, there’s no rest for the Wyverns!

See the World Through a Preschooler’s Eyes

By Renee Hennessy, Director of PreschoolPSPlay

While walking a child in from carpool on Wednesday, I was reminded to slow down AND look down by my Preschool friend!  We were oh-so-close to stepping on a worm. From my vantage point, it looked like a small twig, but fortunately my little friend stopped to point out his discovery to me. We took a picture of the worm and moved it over to the grassy area.  I encourage you to stop and take a moment to look at the world through your little one’s eyes, I’m certain you will be happy you did.  

This week we held a tornado drill for the entire Goshen Campus, so if you have heard about a loud noise at school from your child, this is the reason. We took shelter in record time and are prepped and ready for spring weather.

We had our community Big Sing with Ms. Faith today. The Big Sing is such a great way to start your day. The last Big Sings of the year will be on Tuesday, March 29th; Tuesday, April 26th; and (our final Big Sing of the school year) Wednesday, May 25th.  

Parent/Teacher conferences are coming up on Friday, March 11th. (And please remember that school will be closed that day.)  These conferences provide a valuable opportunity to strengthen communication between home and school.  You and your child’s teachers can share important information and brainstorm together for any areas of concern.  You can sign up for Preschool conferences here. 

School Notes for Week of February 22-26

  • Art in Italy! St. Francis Middle School art teacher Alex Taylor will be spending a week in Tuscany for the second summer in a row co-conducting a one-week drawing and plein air landscape painting workshop! This class will run from June 27th through July 1st and is open to six adult participants. If you would like to join Alex for this incredible opportunity, you can get more information at or email him directly. Deposits for this workshop are due by the first week of March.
  • Registration is open again for after-school activities on the Goshen Campus. For more information, please click here or contact Erika Schneider.
  • Does your High School student typically perform at his/her potential on standardized tests? Does s/he have a learning difference and potentially need special accommodations on these tests?  The SAT and ACT are the two most common high-stakes tests that can present challenges for some students. If you think your child might qualify for test accommodations, or if s/he has already qualified and you have questions about the accommodations process, click here for more information.

Photo Gallery for Week of February 22-26

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

High School to Present Avenue Q!

pigtailsThe High School presents the musical Avenue Q: School Edition on March 4th and 5th at 7:00 p.m. on the Downtown Campus.  This puppet-filled comedy follows a group of 20-somethings seeking their purpose in big-city life. Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q :School Edition is part flesh, part felt, and packed with heart. Please make plans to join us!

Grammy Winners Wow at St. Francis

Our High School and Middle School Jazz Bands were in for a real treat Monday!FullSizeRender (2)

Grammy-winning artists Roy “Future Man” Wooten, who plays drums with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, and saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who plays with The Dave Matthews Band, provided performances and instruction for our student musicians.

The Courier-Journal even wrote an article and took some video!



Photo Gallery for Week of February 8-12

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trained Dog Can Help, Comfort Students

By Julie Marks, Director of Counseling Services – Goshen Campus Devan

It is well known, and has been extensively researched, that interaction with a gentle, friendly pet provides great benefits. Studies show that dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, provide comfort, and lessen depressed feelings in both children and adults. In a school setting, a trained dog can also help teach social/emotional skills such as empathy, acceptance, and nurturing. Our own Walter Denham has worked with local service dog organization Paws for Purpose for the past four years. His black lab, Devan, has undergone intensive training and is ready to come out to St. Francis to assist in the Counseling Office. In order to minimize contact with children who are afraid of dogs or are allergic, Devan will primarily stay in the Counseling Office. It is my hope that Devan will begin coming out to school one day a week beginning after Winter Break and will increase her time at school as she gains comfort in our setting. Devan will be a great asset to the students at St. Francis, and I am excited for the students to meet her. If you have any questions or concerns, please email me or call me at 795-3476.