A Week to “Eclipse” Expectations!

Eclipse Images_1By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

It’s not often that a total solar eclipse (well, 96%, but we’re not quibbling over that!) rolls around and even less often that it occurs on the fourth day of school! But the stars aligned (ahem) for us this year, and we found ourselves in such a cool position. And it was a really special event on the Goshen Campus, as the whole school dropped what we were doing to put on our solar glasses (courtesy of the Confucius Institute at WKU) and head outside to watch the climactic moments of this celestial show. And while some students may have expected “more,” the  majority appreciated the uniqueness and the circumstances that had to come together to make this rare event happen. We heard crickets chirping as the lights dimmed, our farm animals became quiet, and the temperature noticeably cooled as the sun seemingly disappeared behind the moon.

What I loved most about the event was the whole school experiencing it together, and the trust we imbued in our students to handle the safety precautions necessary to take part in a solar eclipse. They obviously took our precautions to heart, and it went off without a hitch. Special thanks to Brian Kirby and Jason Chlopek for leading the “science charge” with telescopes outside and educational presentations for the students to prep them for the “spectacle.” Brian traveled to Hopkinsville and brought back a “totality” video to share with our kids at our Welcome Back Assembly on Tuesday, too. His excitement while filming was one of the best parts! All I can say is, bring on the next one – 2024!

On a hiring note, Celeste Fuquay, who has headed up our Lower School Enrichment program in remarkable fashion the last two years, couldn’t return this year due to her graduate school schedule. We are sad to see Celeste leave and very appreciative for the job she has done with our kids. However, we are pleased to announce we found the perfect person for the position right here on campus! Parent Keyonda Turner (Kymani is in 4th grade and Keagan is in the Preschool 4s) has accepted the position and already started. Keyonda is a true supporter of St. Francis School and has a passion for working with young children. She is currently finishing up a degree in Early Childhood Education in the spring of 2018 and is happy to get a “headstart” on her future vocation with our Lower School students each day. Welcome, Keyonda!

A Welcome Back that “Eclipses” Most!

Solar Eclipse PracticeBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

The first few days of a new school year are always special, and this week has been no exception! The abundance of pent-up energy, joy at reconnecting with classmates, moving on to new classrooms and teachers, and yes, just a dash of angst for good measure all mix together to create a synergistic recipe that is tantalizingly delicious no matter how long you’ve been in a school setting (not to mention some of these kids have grown like weeds!). We are thrilled to welcome the students back and ready for a fantastic 2017-18 school year!

And, of course, one thing very special about the start of this year is the fact that a full solar eclipse is happening on the fourth day of school, and we are almost in the bullseye of its path! As we’ve already communicated, we will all be going outside to see the climactic moments of this rare event on Monday, but also taking strong safety precautions to ensure the kids’ well being. However, if any parents are uncomfortable with the situation, you may pick your child up early at 2:00 p.m. that day. We will have many teachers with each grade level to make sure the kids use their approved solar glasses at all times while outside. It should be a memorable experience for the whole school, and we are counting down the days until this momentous event.

One other special moment I’d like to share from the start of this year is from our first Middle School Morning Meeting. Before introducing the new teachers to the kids, I asked everyone to join me in welcoming back science teacher Jason Chlopek. The applause grew and soon turned into a crescendo and standing ovation that was goosebump-inducing. Jason came down front and spoke from the heart about his gratitude to the SFS community, and it was just such a heartwarming way to start our year. I think it was an omen of what is to come, and we are all excited for the promise that lies ahead!

Settling in Nicely!

Trailblazers Walking Down the HallBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

The children are settling into their classroom routines and are enjoying some of the amenities our campus has to offer. They have already visited the chicken coop and rabbit areas, taken nature walks around the School, participated in music class with Faith Murphy, and met librarian Lindsy Serrano. Each day presents a field trip opportunity on this campus, as there is always something to see and explore!

Children need time to feel comfortable in new situations. Fortunately, our Preschool faculty are quite adept at helping children transition into the classroom. Sometimes, though, we do see a few tears. This is normal and it often takes children several weeks to fully adjust to a new routine and often the second week is the hardest. Parents can help ease the transition by establishing a morning routine that is relaxed and unhurried. Allow enough time to arrive before 9:00 a.m., and if at all possible use our carpool drop-off system. For most of our families, we have found that the carpool routine makes for the smoothest goodbyes. Before separating, calmly remind your child that you will be back (after lunch, after rest time, etc.). Before too long, the transition from home to school and back again will become natural, and your child will have learned that greetings and goodbyes are a predictable part of their daily routine.

Chef Matt Thomas and his wonderful team from Sage Dining Services provide our preschoolers with two snacks and a nutritious hot lunch each day. Parents can find the snack and lunch menus on our School’s website and we also post a hard copy of the menus each month next to the sign-in table.

We want to thank Jacquelyn Stack and Renee Reithel, our wonderful Preschool PA reps, for providing refreshments, bubbles, and Wyvern tattoos at the Back-to-School Picnic on Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

12th Annual National Youth Arts Awards

NYA LogoThe results of the 12th Annual National Youth Arts Awards for the 2016-2017 season have been announced and we are proud to say that St. Francis School earned 9 awards and 17 nominations!


Lead Actor in a Play: Thomas Simpson as Winston in 1984
Lead Actress (Junior Division): Teagan Morrison as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes
Lead Actress (Junior Division): Teagan Morrison as Nicole Burns/Nicole Bernhardt in Anne Frank & Me
Supporting Actress in a Play: Zoe Koss as Claire in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actress in a Play: Hannah Jones as Claire in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Amelia Dimas as Allison in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Audrey McClain as Renee Bernhardt in Anne Frank & Me
Supporting Actor (College Division): Gray Thurstone as Bender in The Breakfast Club
Ensemble: The Breakfast Club


Lead Actor (Junior Division): Jimmy Lancaster as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes
Lead Actress (Junior Division): Sophie Johnson as Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes
Lead Actress (Junior Division): Natalie Koch as Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes
Supporting Actor in a Play: Aaron Lattis as Andrew in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actor in a Play: Clay Smedley as Brian in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actress in a Play: Paige Didier as Allison in The Breakfast Club
Supporting Actress in a Play: Jillian Morrison as Party Member (Julia) in 1984
Supporting Actor (Junior Division): Theron Varda as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes
Supporting Actor (Junior Division): Jackson Sleadd as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Lily Gilbert as Little-Bit/Liz-Bette Bernhardt in Anne Frank & Me
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Sophia Kirby as Little-Bit/Liz-Bette Bernhardt in Anne Frank & Me
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Bentlea Schwartz as Erma in Anything Goes
Supporting Actress (Junior Division): Mellie Simpson as Erma in Anything Goes
Ensemble: 1984
Ensemble (Junior Division): Anne Frank & Me
Ensemble (Junior Division): Anything Goes
Direction: Reed Gabhart for The Breakfast Club

To see the full list of winners for this ceremony, visit the National Youth Arts website.

Special Events on the Goshen Campus

By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus8th Grade Class Day_1

With less than one week to go we are in “battle stations” as we just finished our 8th Grade Class Day and are getting ready for 8th Grade Graduation, Blue/Red Field Day, the Final Assembly, and a myriad of other special events on the Goshen Campus! The beginning and end of the year are both especially hectic times, but I have a hunch I know which one the kids like more! (In all honesty, I bet you’d be surprised!).  

In just the past week, we’ve had several fun-filled and memorable events occur. Our 7th and 8th graders had a ball at their Formal Dance (the “Luau Dance”) at Gingerwoods last Friday night  (and a BIG shout out to Hope and Morton Boyd for graciously hosting us yet again). Our limbo contest winners were Nicolette Bert, JT Montgomery, Katie Mushkin, and Pepper Hilton, and our Prince and Princess were Ayda Marshall and Robert Boyd. The Queen and King of the swank affair were Teagan Morrison and Caleb Hennessy. Big thanks to all the parents who helped with decorations, and especially Denise and Rick Waggener, Liz Foye, Amy Richards, Kim Schwartz, Renee Hennessy, Robin Hilton, Tammy Nofsinger, Denise Ragland, Kim Diamond, and Michele Koch. And our 7th grade students and parents did a marvelous job cleaning up. That was followed by the 8th grade lock-in back on campus, which went off without a hitch. Thanks to brave souls Michael Mahoney, Julie and Jeff Mushkin, and Kelli Carter for taking that one on for us!

We also had a very successful Picnic + Playtime event on our Preschool playground Monday! It was a gorgeous day and we had a larger than expected turnout. While the parents mingled, the kids ran and explored our natural playground while also munching on apples and cheese sticks. We’re always trying to get more families on campus to see all we have to offer, so kudos to our Admissions team and Renee Hennessy for hosting such a wonderful (and fun!) event.

Tuesday brought us a Service Dinner hosted by the Class of 2017 to raise funds to help a little girl in Nicaragua attend a private school. Many of our 8th graders met her on their Hand in Hand Ministry trip over winter break and wanted to continue to help in even greater ways. They organized this dinner with their 8th grade advisors, and special thanks to parent Dawn Bastian for cooking such a delectable meal for everyone! That was followed by the always-entertaining Middle School Talent Show! It was another tour de force, highlighted by Elijah Foye’s Irish dancing skills, which are simply jaw-dropping, and then the mysterious magic act of Jamie the Great and sidekick Hayden Jones! They blew the crowd away, and more importantly, the 8th grade raised over $500 for their Class Gift, which will be announced soon!

With less than week to go, we have many more events to go, and I’m sure all will be special. I can’t believe another year has gone by so quickly. The cycle seems to get quicker every year (maybe that’s just my age!), but it has been a fantastic year in so many ways on the Goshen Campus. And we will start working on next year as soon as this year ends! Thanks for all your support, your belief in our Mission, and for entrusting us with your children. Tell your friends and acquaintances about us, and have the best of summers! We’ll see you before you know it!

Picnic + Playtime Brings New Friends

Picnic + Playtime_1NEWBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

We started the week off with fabulous weather and a wonderful Picnic + Playtime event! Thank you to all of our volunteers who made this event successful: Caroline Boardman, Chris Brabandt, Alissa Shoemaker, Jessica Washer, and Emily Yao. We welcomed many of our new families for the fall. We also had a few families stop by to tour the Preschool, Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten classrooms.

It’s hard to believe that the school year is over! We had a great year of learning and exploring with our Preschool students. It seems like just yesterday we were walking around the gym parking lot looking at all of the cars and trucks on Transportation Day. Time seems to go by quickly when watching young children grow. This year, the children have painted, glued, counted, colored, rested, asked questions, cried, laughed, made new friends, read stories, and pretended. The joy of childhood was celebrated each day! We want to thank each and every one of you for sharing your children with our program. The hard work and dedication of the Parent Association is deeply appreciated by us all. I want to give a special thank-you to Jessica Washer for her planning, coordination, and support of all things Preschool for the last two years. She will be turning the Preschool PA over to the very capable hands of Renee Reithel (Malakai’s mom) and Jacquelyn Stack (Wyatt’s mom).

As this year comes to a close and I reflect on the events and day-to-day comings and goings that made memorable moments, I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank our wonderful Preschool teachers for their hard work and dedication.

It has been another great year at St. Francis Preschool. I hope everyone has a relaxing summer. If you find that you are not ready for the long days of summer and your child needs an activity, we have a few spots available in our camps for the month of June.

Upcoming Dates

May 24th Last day of school! We will hold our last Big Sing in the Main Amp with a slide show starting a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. Dismissal will begin at 11:45 a.m. for Preschool, with the entire school dismissing at noon. We will have Preschool teachers in the main carpool line; please pull through as usual. We will not have lunch or extended day on the last day.    

June 5th – First day of Summer Camp! Our Get Outside and Grow session begins!  

A Delightful Derby Celebration

By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Preschool Derby_Main ImageWPThe preschoolers had a wonderful time celebrating Derby last week. The classroom parade floats were delightful, the races were exciting, and the classroom parties were the best! We would like to thank the many grandparents, parents, and special visitors who joined us and made our Derby event a huge success. We are grateful to the parent volunteers who coordinated the refreshments. A big thank you to Ilana Stewart for assisting with the setup of the event.

Thank you, Moms! Thank you to all our moms who came to Muffins for Moms! We so appreciate all that you do for us! We hope you have a relaxing Mother’s Day weekend.

This summer promises to be fun-tastic at “Camp Curious”! Your child will have a summer full of outdoor activity, imaginative learning, and creative fun during our preschool half-day camps. We offer four one-week sessions through the month of June. You can find specific information about the sessions by clicking here. Spaces are limited and some sessions are full.

Upcoming Dates

  • Monday, May 15th – We are hosting Picnic + Playtime for new students and anyone interested in learning more about our Preschool, Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten. Join us from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. for a playdate!
  • Wednesday, May 24th – Big Sing in the Main Amp with David Beard’s awesome slide show starting at 9:00 a.m. Dismissal for the last day of Preschool is 11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. for everyone. We will not have extended day on the last day.      

8th Graders Rock their Capstone Projects!

By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Katie Mushkin Capstone_1As we wind down the final weeks of school, LOTS of exciting events keep us on our toes! One annual milestone is the 8th grade Capstone Projects Showcase, at which the Class of 2017 presents the projects they have put so much time and effort into over the winter months. As always, we are all so impressed with their topics, their knowledge acquisition, and the poise they demonstrate in speaking publicly to people of all ages about their work. Many parents commented to me just how “St. Francis” the Capstone Showcase is; students choosing their own topic and delving into something so personal in many cases. My only regret is that I can’t spend enough time with each presenter in two hours! As I walked around the room I heard or saw presentations on: “Why do People Lie?,” “How the Music Recording Business has Evolved,” “What is My Adoption Story?,” “What Impact Does Autism have on a Family?,” “What is the Creative Process of an Animator?,” and finally one on a disease I knew next to nothing about: POTS (or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Katie Mushkin chose this topic as her mom has this fairly rare condition, and it helped her to better understand what her mom goes through. And as an example of just how impressive our projects can be, Katie wrote a thank-you to Vanderbilt Hospital Autonomic Clinic for allowing her to come for two days and research the condition while her mom participated in a clinical trial. Vanderbilt was so impressed with the project they shared her work with Lauren Stiles, President and Co-Founder of Dysautonomia International (POTS) who wrote back to congratulate her AND asked Katie if she wanted to be an official advocate for the disease in Kentucky and also offered to do a blog post on how to work POTS into school projects using Katie’s as an example! Pretty heady stuff for an 8th grader, and kudos to Katie for putting so much heart and soul into her project!

Congratulations are also in order to Patrick Donovan and Michael Mahoney for so skillfully shepherding our kids through this laborious process. I’m sure our 7th graders were paying close attention as it will be their turn to take on these projects next year!

LS Talent Show WaltzIn the last week we’ve also had the pageantry and charm of the Kindergarten Derby (and it did NOT rain on our parade!) and the always wildly entertaining Lower School Talent Show which played to a packed house! The finale was especially touching as 2nd graders Maya Wright and Nolan Reif danced the waltz to Beauty and the Beast and earned a well-deserved standing ovation! We had our final home track meet of the year Wednesday night, and Tuesday we held our annual Sports Banquet. I love listening to the coaches (teachers and parents alike) speak about “their” kids and seeing the students receive their awards. What is most affirming is just how much the kids pull for each other and revel in the camaraderie that team sports can create. I mentioned that at Morning Meeting the next day and advised the students to try and keep that spirit alive in all their endeavors, whether it’s team, grade level, or even just in the classroom – we’re in this together.

Natural Playground Provides Ever-changing Experiences

Natural Playground_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Our natural playground is always changing as we continuously work on ways to improve the outdoor experience for our youngest students. Each day our teachers prepare the playground with manipulatives and other interesting materials to enhance the play experience while enjoying the outdoors. Activities include preparing the sinks in our mud kitchen with water, setting up dinosaur digs in our sand pit, painting, drawing with chalk, and constructing a bridge with logs and blocks. Oh, and let’s not forget observing the plants in our garden and the insects we encounter all around us! The playground is an extension of our classrooms, a place for imaginative play, and a place to connect with nature.

This week we planted sunflowers and a few vegetables in our garden box. Most of the children eagerly helped to prepare the ground for our seeds. Children are very interested in using tools and doing work they see adults do, and they are very capable of helping. Some of the children recall planting last year and the beautiful sunflowers that greeted them in August. I overheard several children say that they have never planted a seed before. I hope this is an experience they will always remember. Thank you to 8th graders Owen Carey and Luis Reyes for helping us prep the ground. Also, a BIG thank you to Alex Taylor’s 6th graders for helping!  They were very enthusiastic volunteers and many of them “remember” being in preschool. We recommend the children’s book If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson to read to your preschooler. The delightful illustrations and storyline that embeds generosity and compassion into a garden tells an important story about kindness.

Preschool Idlewild Butterfly Farm visit_1This morning we had a visit from Idlewild Butterfly Farm and the preschoolers loved getting to see the different kinds of insects. Visit the photo gallery for more pictures from this fun-filled experience!

Don’t let the rainy forecast keep you away from one of Louisville’s Kentucky Derby traditions this weekend: the Cherokee Triangle Art Fair. Our Preschool’s very talented Paul Harshaw will have his own booth displaying his wonderful paintings that are perfect for a child’s room or playroom.  I’m sure your child would love to see him in his other element – the art world!

If you are considering going to the Pegasus Parade, the best spot on the route, in my opinion,  is our Downtown Campus. I have taken my son to view the parade there several times when he was younger and it offered easy access to parking (right next to the school), restrooms (no long lines), food, and being with other St. Francis School families, which made it a great experience for us. And if it wasn’t already great enough, now there are bouncy houses! You can register for tickets here.

Mark your calendars for our Grandparents’ Day Tea and Preschool Derby Races next Wednesday, May 3rd. A parade of class floats will begin promptly at 11:00 a.m. Afterwards we will “Run for the Roses” by class, beginning with the Twos, and then join our special guests in our classrooms for refreshments.

Special Moments from the Week

ERB TestingBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This has been a week contrasted by the seriousness of ERB standardized testing for our 5th – 7th grade students versus the frivolity of many other things I witnessed on the Goshen Campus as we continue to wind down another great year. On the one hand, the Middle School wing has been very quiet as our students gripped their No. 2 pencils with earnest and took on the ERBs for the first two periods of the day. Not exactly their favorite St. Francis activity, but I think they do understand that these tests are a fact of life, and one they will face many times in their academic and professional careers. What I hope they also appreciate is the fact that we don’t dwell on or obsess about these tests and create undue pressure for them. We complete them, do our best, learn from them, and move on. As it should be.

Brownie Troop_4x6Conversely, while navigating around the campus this week, I’ve seen or taken part in the following fun moments:

  • Watching our 3rd grade Brownie Troop 1729 present 20 brand new books about accomplished women in history to our Library, and to Lower School art and science classrooms at Lower School Morning Meeting on Tuesday. They raised money as a troop fundraiser, and this is what they decided to do with their funds. The pride on their faces was very evident, and I thought Judy Riendeau was going to cry on the spot! Thanks to parent Gerri Willis and 3rd grader Bren Willis for Poster_4x6leading the presentation!
  • At the same Morning Meeting, Faith Murphy and I read aloud cards that the elderly residents of the Beehive Home down the road on Highway 42 wrote to us recently, thanking us for singing to them last winter. They all signed the cards and made note of the time our kids put into this, and commented on how “nice it is when the generations can interact.” They included many photos from that day, and Faith mounted them on a posterboard which is outside of her classroom. We hope to renew that relationship next year!
  • I also got to take part in the very exciting “Trivia Lunch” hosted by Lindsy Serrano and Anne Holmes on Wednesday in the Main Amp! Students and teams from 6th and 7th grade challenged each other and several pumped up faculty teams in “Millennial Trivial Pursuit” over their lunch and recess. What struck me most about this was how much fun kids and adults were choosing to have with each other, gladly giving up their recess on a beautiful day! This speaks to the relationships cultivated between teachers and students here (and my team winning helped!).

But to buttress this article with another serious event, Wednesday after school, our faculty stayed for a professional development presentation on dyslexia from Stephen McCrocklin, parent, alumnus, and founder of The Langsford Center. The 90-minute talk with slides and video clips was profound and a stark reminder of the difficulties these kids face in schools every single day simply trying to learn to read with obstacles most of us can’t imagine. Hearing that nearly one child in five is somewhere on the dyslexia scale also brings this into a much clearer perspective. It was encouraging realizing as a Progressive school, we naturally make accommodations for these students, which isn’t usually the case in many schools or for kids undiagnosed. One of the quotes that struck me was from a grown man with dyslexia who said, “Dyslexia forces you to think, and in the real world thinking is more prized than learning.” Again, our focus is also on learning how to learn, rather than simply regurgitation in a timed situation. It was a fascinating presentation, and important that our faculty engage in refresher presentations like these every year.

Finally, as the year continues to spiral toward all the end of the year events, I wanted to invite you to the 8th grade Capstone Presentations next Wednesday, May 3rd from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room. It is always a fascinating event, both seeing what topics our 8th graders chose to research, and to hear them talk about what they’ve learned and the arduous process they went through to complete it. I leave invigorated by it every year, and it’s also fun to see their huge sense of relief both at their accomplishments – and the fact THAT IT’S OVER! One step closer to their Goshen Graduation! (and they get to enjoy the Kindergarten Derby later that day as well!).