Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon

PS Luncheon Main ImageBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Our annual Thanksgiving Luncheon is more than just a meal; it is a gathering of our children’s most treasured people: their families and their teachers; and all of us connected by a common thread, St. Francis Preschool. We came together as a small community representing many different cultures and countries. Families sat in small (and I mean tiny) chairs to share a meal and conversation all because of their children. As I walked around and visited each class, I was reminded of how special this day truly is, and that it is our hope that we can change the world through our children.  

On Tuesday, we hosted our Open House for prospective families. We had a wonderful turnout and I want to thank Deena Neimat for assisting us in giving parent tours. We understand how important this decision is to families choosing a program for their young children. When talking to families about our program, the first thing I mention is the relationships that we build with our children. Our teachers take the time to connect with and get to know “full well” each child in their group. Establishing this trusting relationship is at the heart of our program. Harvard’s Graduate School of Education recently released an article for parents, How to Pick a Preschool, written by Suzanne Bouffard, a writer and researcher on child development and education. The article discusses five evidence-backed signs of a successful program that parents can use as a guide. This informative article can serve as a reminder for current families and are points to share with your friends and neighbors about how to determine a quality program.

We are accepting gently used or new coats for our Coat Drive to benefit the children and adults Keystone Learning Academy. The Coat Drive will run through Friday, December 1st and donation boxes are in front of the doors in the Preschool area.

What I Find Myself Grateful for at SFS

Brent Fryrear_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Heading into Thanksgiving week, I find myself grateful for so many things related to St. Francis School.

I am grateful to have been at the ISACS Annual Conference last week (along with Alexandra and several Goshen Campus colleagues), attending sessions on implicit bias in the classroom, the science behind happiness, how to discern fact from fiction in the news, and more. I also visited the well-known progressive Francis Parker School (whose Head chaired our recent ISACS Visiting Team); seeing another like-minded school is always terrific professional development. (I am also grateful to be through our ISACS visit!)

I am grateful for a student population where advocacy is a way of life, and particularly this month for the Project Green Challenge, created and run entirely by students on our Climate Council. Each day for two weeks, the Climate Council leaders have given the students, faculty and staff a “challenge” to complete if they wish – from watching “An Inconvenient Truth” to calculating one’s water footprint to eating meatless for a day – and made all of us more aware of the resources we are using. 

I am grateful for all the students and families interested in the High School. At our Open House last week, we had over 60 prospective students, along with their parents – over 100 new visitors to the school. They enjoyed an Activities Fair covering our athletic, extracurricular, and other special activities, heard from a panel of students and parents, and then toured the school. As each group came downstairs after visiting the academic departments, parent after parent commented – as they always do – “I wish I could go back to high school and take these classes!”

I wish all of you a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!

A Time for “Thanks!”

You Can't Beat the House_Main Image_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As Grandparents’ Day preparations and rehearsals gear up for the “Big Day” next Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about many things at SFS for which I am thankful.

At press time, it’s closing night for our fall play, You Can’t Beat the House. This zany comedy has absolutely delighted our audiences who have rewarded us with three standing ovations and riotous laughter at every performance! I am thankful to work at a school that supports the arts in such an overwhelming way, and to have Middle School students willing to take on extra work in their already busy schedules. We become a little family during our time together, and it’s always sad when it ends. This family has truly warmed my heart.

I am thankful to work with a faculty and staff so committed to a school and its mission. I have been to many Open Houses over the years, but the one we held this Tuesday was the best I’ve ever experienced! Not only were the numbers outstanding, with 28 families in attendance representing 39 students, but we also had an Activities Fair prior to the Open House with everything from academics to the arts to athletics represented. After sifting through those attractive presentations, parents toured the school in five different groups and then were treated to an engaging panel discussion featuring SFS students, parents, and teachers. My favorite moment was when one prospective parent told Jackson Sleadd he was “adorable!” Kudos to Trisha Amirault and Kelli Carter for organizing and pulling off a fabulous Admissions event!

I’m also thankful for colleagues who are eager to better themselves professionally. Last week, Alexandra, Shelly Jones, Christine Brinkmann, Annette Rudd, and Lindsy Serrano, along with Head of Downtown Campus Suzanne Gorman, attended the ISACS conference in Chicago and came back energized and ready to share! They also visited the famed flagship of Progressive schools, the Francis Parker School, and were delighted to see how similar we were in approach to education and students. As Shelly said, “They are doing many of the same things with their kids that we are in advisory, and also experiencing the same types of challenges.” Sometimes you have to get away to gain perspective on your own day-to-day experience. Here is a comment from Lindsy Serrano on the conference:

“This year’s ISACS conference was filled with timely and interesting sessions that will enrich our classrooms for the coming year. There was a wide variety of topics covered, including incorporating MakerSpaces in the classroom, teaching students how to evaluate news and information that they come across, uncovering our own implicit biases and how that might affect our classrooms, and so much more! Professional development opportunities like this one are a great way to refresh and get new ideas and inspiration for the school year!”

And, of course, I am thankful for our music teachers who are currently hard at work getting the students ready for their Grandparents’ Day performances next week. They are always so entertaining and heartwarming and make for the perfect send-off to this most family-based of holidays. We hope you ALL have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week!

Mental Health is Health

Mental Health_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I am at the ISACS Annual Conference and look forward to sharing more with you about the conference next week. In the meantime, I want to share with you some communication from our school counselor Terri White, who has just completed education on depression and suicide prevention for each grade level.

From the Counselor…

One of my goals as Director of Counseling Services on the Downtown Campus is to educate and raise awareness about mental health. Mental health is health. This is the message I am trying to teach to our students. Too often, there is a stigma associated with mental health, and adults, as well as students, ignore, or aren’t fully aware of important signs that indicate there may be a problem. Beyond that, we all should be taking steps every day to manage our stress. In my 12 years at St. Francis, I have noticed an increase in the number of students who are experiencing anxiety and depression, which coincides with national mental health trends.

Below is an excerpt from an October 11th, 2017 New York Times article, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent. Those numbers — combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall — come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students.

Last year, I began implementing a depression and suicide awareness program, “The Lighthouse Curriculum: Depression and Suicide Awareness for High School Students.” The program was developed by Erika’s Lighthouse: A Beacon of Hope for Adolescent Depression, which is a mental health education and advocacy organization. The program goals include raising awareness of depression and its symptoms, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and encouraging the utilization of support services if necessary. I recently finished teaching the curriculum to all students in grades 9-12. The student were taught the risk factors and warning signs of depression and suicide, how to help a friend, how to access resources, and daily considerations and actions to address their own mental health, including sleep, nutrition, exercise, and other coping skills. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can help support good mental health by modeling healthy behavior; talking with your adolescent about his/her sleep, exercise and eating habits; and encouraging students to ask for help when they need it. If you ever have a concern about your student and you think I could be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you are interested in more information on depression, suicide and other mental health issues, below are a few helpful websites:

Erika’s Lighthouse

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Continuing the conversation, Wednesday, November 15th at 8:30 a.m. on the Downtown Campus. Dr. Kevin Chapman will be leading a parent discussion, presenting on stress and anxiety in adolescence. Dr. Chapman will be providing the latest information on this topic, as well as identifying emotion regulation strategies that can be helpful in managing daily stress and anxiety. Goshen and Downtown families are invited. Please contact Terri White, Director of Counseling Services, Downtown Campus, if you would like to attend. Coffee and breakfast food will be provided.

Encouraging Positive Behavior

Encouraging Positive Behavior_Main Image_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Recently, in our Fours classes, we introduced the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness For Kids by Carol McCloud. The story encourages positive behaviors and gives children a visual representation of what it looks like to fill someone’s bucket with acts of kindness, appreciation, and love. While “bucket dipping” occurs at times, the story doesn’t focus on the negative behaviors but on ways we can help each other. The Fours have a class bucket that they are working on filling, and each day will have its fair share of ups and downs as days typically do. The work of filling another’s bucket is rewarding (and hard at times) and we’re here to support them as they practice these important skills.

Did you know?
We are always working on developing fine motor skills when using art materials: gluing with glue sticks, peeling stickers, picking up small materials, pinching, and sprinkling. Developing these skills is necessary for children to grasp a pencil correctly and to develop pre-writing skills. We are also working on following simple one- or two-step directions, beginning and completing a task, and developing attention span. Our art projects also contain color/letter/shape recognition exercises.   

Mark Your Calendars

Tuesday, November 14th at 9:00 a.m. is our Open House! The Open House is for anyone considering our School as an option for their child. Please invite your friends and neighbors who may have preschoolers. Our parents are our best ambassadors!

Friday, November 17th from 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. is our annual Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon. Please join your child’s class for a family-style potluck luncheon. The PA will be sending out more information about this event soon.    

Best of Luck, Mr. Walter!

Mr. Walter_Main Image_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This Tuesday at an all-school assembly, Alexandra and I had to announce that Walter Denham was spending his last week with us! Students greeted this sad news with groans and even a few tears.

“Mr. Walter” is in his seventh year with us and has made a name for himself in many areas! He has been a bus driver extraordinaire, maintenance man marvel, “ManVenture” favorite in our Uniquely St. Francis auction items (with compatriot Bob Bertke), and drama set engineer and troubleshooter. In addition, his influence on the growth of our Derby Camp experience has been legendary! This annual trip now sells out and brings in around 50 kids for a weekend of food, frivolity, and adventure. This is mostly Walter’s doing, as he has worked so hard to make sure our students have fun. And if you need someone to play the “fool” in an assembly, Walter Denham is your man. He has been a 70s disco dancer, Kenny G-playing flutist, member of Devo, and the list goes on and on.

To put it simply, Walter has immersed and invested himself in the St. Francis experience and the students can see and feel that palpably. They know he cares about them and St. Francis, and he has made a large impact on our school culture. Walter has a wonderful job opportunity, but leaves us reluctantly. The impact of Walter Denham will remain on our campus for years to come.

All-State Choir_2MPAlso this week, we honored 15 Middle School students who attended and performed at the KYACDA All-State Choir gathering in Lexington last weekend. Students have to audition into this choir and we have a proud history of getting many of our students in over the past five-plus years. That is in large part to the dedication and talents of music teachers Bob Bertke and Kim Rash, who also attended with the kids. From Bob:

“We’re immensely proud of these students who joined 600 other students from across the state in an intense weekend of music-making that ended with a fantastic concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts on the University of Kentucky campus. These students represented our school community exceptionally well!”

Here is the list of our All-State Choir members:

  • Harrison Aberle
  • Catherine Dewberry
  • Lucy Frederick
  • Molly Hales
  • Kameron Julian
  • Sophie Kirby
  • Caroline Koloff
  • Julia Koloff
  • Ayda Marshall
  • Caroline McCurry
  • Jane McLeroy
  • Zoe Petiprin
  • Jude Sleadd
  • Mya Stevenson
  • Molly Waggener

And some quotes from a few of the kids:

“It was interesting getting to meet new kids, plus I got to sing, so it was fun!” – Jude Sleadd

“This was my third year auditioning into KYACDA All-State Choir. I learned so much from our conductor, Dr. Lesley Mann. The weekend was very fun, but it was also a great learning experience that taught me so much as a singer and a person.” – Jane McLeroy

“It was really nice because you get to sing all day. There was a pool, and I got to bond with my friends.” – Zoe Petiprin

How can you go wrong with a pool? Congratulations again to these students and our fabulous music department!

Halloween Creativity Does Not Disappoint!

HS Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Students and faculty enjoyed the annual Halloween Costume Contest on Monday, with a terrific range of individual and group costumes (see the weekly Photo Gallery!). Halloween is one of Alexandra’s favorite holidays and the costume contest is definitely one of her favorite annual school events, so the prizes are really worth winning, and student creativity does not disappoint! 

Student voice is important in progressive schools, and certainly at St. Francis, so I always particularly enjoy presentations when they are led by students rather than teachers. We had two this week, in Morning Meeting. The first, on Halloween, was about cultural appropriation and costumes and the second, on Wednesday, explained Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), connecting the sorrow of missing a loved one to the joy of that celebration. We also had students this week announcing signups for the upcoming Project Warm Blitz community service opportunity and promoting next week’s Project Green Challenge (which also apparently has some spectacular prizes!).  

Please check out the Athletics and Kudos sections of this newsletter for some great Wyvern accolades and accomplishments!

College Corner November 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your November college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.


  • Focus on your academics
  • Begin reviewing your personal preferences, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Talk to your “older” friends about their applications and college visits
  • All sophomores will be sitting for the Pre-ACT in the spring (more details to come)   


  • Work on a resume and keep it updated throughout the year
  • Chat with college representatives who visit our school
  • Begin searching possible colleges
  • Use weekends for short exploratory trips to nearby colleges/universities
  • Focus on your academics and extracurricular involvement


  • Finish taking your SAT, SAT subject tests, and ACT
  • Kit Llewellyn will send your teacher recommendations, High School reports, transcripts, and school profiles electronically via Naviance
  • Students will send (paper or electronically) applications, fees, essays, supplements, resumes, and any other additional portfolios, writing samples or video/tapes
  • Students are responsible for sending their official test scores directly to colleges by contacting ACT and/or SAT and/or TOEFL
  • Most applications and school submissions will be sent by December 1st
  • Send in rolling admissions and state school apps (the sooner the better)
  • Keep working on January and February deadline applications
  • Research scholarships offered by companies, parents’ employers, civic and church groups
  • Polish your essays with Brett Paice, Michelle Salerno, and Juan Ramirez
  • Focus on your academics
  • Plan to schedule interviews with local alum or by Skype if visiting the campus is not possible (arrange by calling the admissions office)
  • If you have any questions at all, communicate with the Admissions Offices so that they know that your interest is genuine and deliberate
  • Then…submit FAFSA and CSS Profile (if required!) financial aid forms beginning October 1st. Money for financial aid has a tendency to run out quickly. Please adhere to these deadlines.

Halloween is a Real Treat!

PS Halloween Parade_Main ImageBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Thank you to everyone who came to the Parent-Teacher Conferences last week. It is always a rewarding experience to take a moment and talk about your child with you.

Through a child’s eyes, I can’t imagine a better way to start the week than with a Halloween parade full of excited preschoolers. All of our classes had a great time parading outside for families and our 4th and 5th grade friends. Thank you to all the parents who brought in food and special treats for our parties.

Mark Your Calendars

Tuesday, November 14th at 9:00 a.m. is our Open House! The Open House is for anyone considering our School as an option for their child. Please invite your friends and neighbors who may have preschoolers. Our parents are our best ambassadors!

Friday, November 17th from 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. is our annual Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon. Please join your child’s class for a family-style potluck luncheon. The PA will be sending out more information about this event soon.    

“Which Wolf Will You Feed?”: Reflections on Big South Fork

Big South Fork_Main Image_4x6By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Two weeks ago we had another uplifting backpacking trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area with our 8th graders. While I went for only half a week, joining one of the watch groups on Wednesday at lunchtime, the trip was the fulfilling experience it always turns out to be. One of the “stars” of the experience this year was simply the weather: daily highs were around 70 degrees with bright blue skies, nighttime lows were around 40 – nice and brisk when we emerged from our tents each morning – and NO RAIN!

In addition to the miles of backpacking, cooking, and purifying water, another special aspect of the BSF trip is the conversations we share as groups around the campfires each night. We ask the kids many questions and everyone gets a chance to speak (s/he who holds the flashlight is the only one speaking). One of the things we discuss is why we take this trip. Why do we put a halt on academics to take our 8th grade backpacking? After a few days in the woods, they know the answers – and there are many. We’ll leave those reasons around the fire where they belong.

We also can get pretty “deep” philosophically around the fire. I thought I”d let you in on one of my favorite parables I share with the kids at BSF (and credit goes to trip originator, Mike Black, for sharing this with me many moons ago). It’s a Cherokee Indian parable that goes like this:

A Cherokee grandfather was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside of me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about what his grandfather had said and then asked, “Which one will win, Grandfather?”

The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one you feed.”

IMG_1691We never explain this parable, but rather let it percolate among the kids and take root (and I hope our 7th graders don’t read this!). I was so pleased when I returned to school and found this written on the blackboard in the 8th grade locker area: “Which Wolf Will You Feed?” It seems we’d made an impression. And the piece of artwork to the right turned up in several areas in the school too. 

I found out Katy Roemer was responsible for the artwork and was gratified she felt so touched by this story. There are many moments like this at BSF, just as there are many reasons why we take this special trip. Congratulations and BIG THANKS to Patrick Donovan, our Outdoor Education Coordinator, Mike Black, Angela Ponzio, Tina Brown, Salema Jenkins, and High School Science teacher David Word for being fellow watch group leaders at BSF this year!

Here are a few reflections from the kids on the week:

The time I spent at Big South Fork was amazing! I never thought that hiking with a 20-pound backpack on your back could be so much fun! I will admit that going into it I was not excited about a week-long backpacking trip into a place where black bears live. If someone told me that I would have loads of fun at Big South Fork a week before the trip, I would have laughed at them. While on the trip I realized that it is not about if the trip is hard or easy – it is about the people who you are experiencing it with. My group was amazing! We laughed, cried, even fell on the trail together. The teachers leading us were great, too! I remember on the first day of Big South Fork, Ms. Ponzio said a quote that I will remember forever, “If you only do the easy things, life will be hard. If you do the hard things, life will be easy.” I kept that quote with me whenever I thought something was too hard. Mr. Word taught me and my group things about the park and about nature that my group and I never knew. Mr. Gabhart (aka “Gabo”) kept conversations going on the trail so nobody was bored just walking, and he brought s’mores! I came into the trip thinking that I could not accomplish the task, but I came out thinking I could do anything. I will forever remember my time at Big South Fork. I will remember learning new things about my classmates. I will remember falling down on a trail. I will remember hiking 10 miles a day. I will remember a lot of things about this trip and I will never forget the great experience I had with my grade at the one and only Big South Fork! – Riley Elliott

I think Big South Fork was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the people in my watch group. The first two days of the trip my leaders were Mrs. Ponzio and Mr. Word, a High School teacher. On Wednesday, Mr. Word left and Mr. Gabhart came. On Monday we hiked across a beautiful bridge and then to our camp site for the night, which was an awesome cave. On Wednesday we climbed up a mountain and camped on the top and it was really pretty. On Wednesday night we all sat around the campfire and Mr. Gabhart told us a story about two wolves. When we finally got to the group campsite on Thursday we were happy to see all our friends again and drop our packs. I was really nervous to go on this trip, but now I can say I’ve been backpacking for a week. Going to BSF was definitely worth it. We saw so many good views and got to know everyone in my group so much better than I already did. My favorite part of the trip was when we got to drop our packs. All in all, I am super glad I went on the trip even though I may not have liked it so much while I was there. –  Katy Roemer