Happy Holidays to All!

Happy Holidays Pic_Main Image 4x6_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Well, time flies, as the adage goes, but it seems to me that time has hit warp speed (then again, that might just be a function of my age!). It seems like just a few weeks ago we were talking about the start of a new school year, and here we are barrelling into Holiday Break. So while we recharge and get to spend memorable time with our family and friends, we’ll miss your wonderful children. And, if I might suggest, take some time to ask your children about the first half of their school year. Ask the little ones to read aloud to you to see their improvement in action. Ask the Lower School students what they thought of Coco, and the Middle School students the same about Wonder. Ask them about themes and lessons learned. Ask the 8th graders about prejudice reduction (and maybe about how it feels to only have half a year left on the Goshen Campus!). Ask them if their school days are fun as well as educational. Ask them about lessons learned on the fields and courts and stages as well as in the classroom. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize that in addition to all the gifts they receive this special time of year, you are giving them the most special gift all year round – a St. Francis education.

Happy holidays, and we’ll see you very soon (warp speed time) in January!

6th Grade Trip to Pine Mountain Settlement School

Pine Mountain_Main ImageWhat do folk dancing to live bluegrass, tall tales, crawdads, cave exploration, and coal have in common? All were a part of the 6th graders’ Outdoor Education experience last week at the Pine Mountain Settlement School nestled deep in the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky. Students made the five-hour journey via coach bus with instructors Brandon Doble, Anne Holmes, Lindsy Serrano, Alex Taylor, and Shelly Jones. The students spent the week in small groups studying the past and present inhabitants of the region, flora, and fauna. Courses included Native Americans, Early Settlers, Stream Ecology, Forest Ecology, a Night Hike, the Summit Hike to the top of Pine Mountain, Orienteering, Storytelling, Folk Dancing, Appalachian Toys, and Geosphere. Students enjoyed their homemade meals in Laurel House, many of the ingredients for which had been grown in the organic gardens at the Settlement School.

On this particular trip to Pine Mountain, the 6th graders became the first group from St. Francis to have a live bluegrass ensemble for the Thursday night folk dance. Dr. Sky H. Marietta, Ed.D, the Curriculum and Instruction Specialist at Pine Mountain, said “KET ought to be here tonight filming this!” Some of the region’s finest bluegrass musicians – banjoist John Haywood, fiddle player Brett Ratliff, and guitarist Sean Stamper – played traditional folk tunes for the dance, performed a few “extra” tunes for the students’ enjoyment, and explained the history of their instruments within the historical context of the region.

These up close and personal experiences with nature, place-based education, and first-hand experiences with artists and activists working in Appalachia today are among the many reasons we greatly value the St. Francis Outdoor Education Program that includes the trip to the Pine Mountain Settlement School. On the Goshen Campus, we often speak about the importance of “Leave No Trace,” but when students see on a large scale what happens when humans leave quite a large trace, such as the evidence of mountaintop removal coal mining when they hike to the overlook, the phrase takes on new meaning.

Should you or your family be interested in visiting Pine Mountain Settlement School on your own, the Settlement School provides ongoing weekend and summer programs for individuals, groups, and families. For more information, visit the website. Just be sure to tell them that the St. Francis 6th graders sent you!

Encouragement Club Inspires

Encouragement Club_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

This fall, under the guidance of sophomore Adelaide Lenihan and with the help of other SFS students, the Encouragement Club has come into existence. The Encouragement Club endeavors to spread kindness and brighten the day of the student body, through individual reach-outs or larger-scale efforts. The above photo shows a recent effort from the Club to demonstrate care and concern for their fellow students. As we transition from the gratitude of Thanksgiving into the celebration of December holidays and the New Year, their example is truly inspiring.

Kudos to all those who wrote, directed, or acted in the Showcase of Plays last weekend – it was an alternately hilarious, dramatic, and poignant performance. Mark your calendars now for March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, when the musical Little Shop of Horrors will take to the stage!

We have three regular school days next week (Monday – Wednesday) and then exams begin on Thursday. Please see the exam schedule in School Notes. As usual, we will have “brain food” (muffins, granola bars, fruit, etc.) available for the students to ensure everyone’s eaten before going into an exam. The school will be open normal hours and students are welcome to be here during those hours outside of their exam times.

Trailblazers Spend Time in the Woodshop

Preschool Bird Houses_2_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

On Monday, as I was walking up to the school, I noticed one of the Trailblazers’ birdhouses hanging from the big tree by the playground. It was lovingly created by their class last week in anticipation of wintry weather. They were constructed of wood and drilled together with the help of their teachers. The woodworking skills of the Trailblazers has increased since the beginning of the school year, with Paul Harshaw and Kelly Pfeiffer ensuring that each child is comfortable using small tools. Young children love using tools that they see the adults in their lives use (vacuums, brooms, rakes). Using real tools, not just pretend versions, helps build confidence and self-regulation in children. We look forward to observing the birdhouses throughout the winter and providing food for our friends in nature.

The Adventurers have been busy creating a wintery scene (although winter is playing hide-and-seek) on their wall with white lights and shimmery trees. The Pandas are busy exploring sensory bins filled with potato flakes and rice, painting with blue and green, and using glue (their current favorite).

Our Holiday Big Sing is coming up on Wednesday, December 20th at 9:10 a.m. This is always a festive morning for everyone.

6th Grade Quick Recall Team Soars and Scores!

6th Grade Quick Recall_1_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

At Middle School Morning Meeting on Monday we applauded our 6th grade Quick Recall team for their stellar showing at the 6th Grade Showcase last Saturday! While our team was the smallest there in terms of numbers, they made up for it in knowledge, skill, and heart! Team members included Micah Ghiassi, Zack Mushkin, Allie Rahman, AJ Stevenson, and Mya Stevenson. Here is a summary of their success from coaches Anne Holmes and Debbie Adkins:

Overall Finish: 3rd Place
Quick Recall Finish: 2nd Place (Lost in the final in overtime!)
Science & Social Studies: AJ Stevenson, 1st Place
Arts & Humanities: Allie Rahman, 1st Place
Math: Zack Mushkin, 6th Place

And a comment from Anne on this scrappy team:

“There is only one word to describe the performance of this team in Saturday’s competition: Wow! These five scholars had just returned from a week away at Pine Mountain and were awesome academic competitors. The Showcase competition is made up of three parts: written composition, written assessment, and quick recall. Our team was unable to compete in composition due to the trip to Pine Mountain, so the fact that we placed third overall is truly outstanding.”

I couldn’t agree more! We love to give our talented students academic competition opportunities and this team is a great example why. And a BIG thanks to Anne Holmes, Debbie Adkins, Lindsy Serrano, and Misty Chanda for spending a Saturday with these go-getters and coaching them so well!  

A Busy Week Back from Break!

9th & 12th Pizza Lunch_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

After Thanksgiving break, we all returned to school life with a bang! The Showcase of Plays premieres Friday night, with a repeat on Saturday night – come out to see our talented playwrights, actors, directors, and improv troupe, at 7:00 p.m. both nights. Our basketball teams kicked off their seasons at Brown, with a resounding win for the boys and a hard-fought (came back from a double-digit deficit) two-point loss for the girls. The 9th and 12th graders shared a pizza lunch on Thursday, along with the chance to get to know one another better and for the seniors to give the freshmen some advice on exams and school life. And on Friday, we welcomed Representative Attica Scott (D-41), whose district in the Kentucky House includes the Downtown Campus. Rep. Scott reached out to us through the America’s Legislators Back to School Program, a nationwide event sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), with the goal of helping students understand the value of democracy.  

Exams are coming up in just a week and a half; the schedule is listed under School Notes and each student should also know his/her schedule. The school will be open normal 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. hours during exams. Students only need to be here for their specific exams, but they are welcome to be at school anytime during those usual hours.

Our Director of Admissions/Diversity Kisha Watts and School Counselor Terri White (along with Goshen Campus Spanish teacher Salema Jenkins) are attending the NAIS People of Color Conference this week; I look forward to hearing what they learn and seeing how we can use it to the benefit of student culture and school environment.

Our Preschoolers “Try On” Kindergarten

K-Try-On Day_1_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Starting kindergarten is an important life event for a child (and for parents), and to facilitate a smooth transition, we wanted to give our preschoolers an opportunity to visit kindergarten with their current preschool teachers. Our Trailblazers class of four- and five-year-olds spent the morning “trying on” kindergarten while parents attended an informational coffee with Head of School Alexandra Thurstone and Lower School Director Jennifer Griffith. The children had the opportunity to visit several specialty classes like PE, art, music, and Spanish, as well as spending time with the JK/K teachers in their classrooms. The morning was complete with a tour of the cafeteria and each child receiving a snack through the lunch line. Learning more about kindergarten will help set our preschoolers up for success as they make the transition to Lower School. A few comments from the children following their “try on” included “I want to stay in kindergarten forever” and “That was fun, I liked art.” Each child was energized by the change in routine and is looking forward to what the future holds.

We Thank You
Our Coat Drive ended today and Elyse Folley said that she may need to borrow a bigger car to deliver our donation. This is exciting news! Thank you to those who took the time to dig through those closets and contribute coats to this cause. We also want to thank Highland Cleaners for donating their services. Deena Neimat and Elyse Folley, Coat Drive Co-Chairs, were instrumental in making our Coat Drive 2017 a success!

Thank you to all of the families who donated books to the Preschool through the Scholastic Book Fair.

Did You Know?
You can find the medicine permission form in the Parent Portal. Save time at drop-off by completing it at home.

Reducing Prejudice

8th Grade Prejudice Workshop_1_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

While our 6th grade class was off enjoying the unseasonably warm weather during their outdoor education trip to Pine Mountain Settlement School this week, our 8th grade class was immersed in a day and a half-long workshop focused on prejudice reduction. In order to fully engage them without interruption, we held this workshop off-campus at Gingerwoods Reception Hall, thanks to Hope and Morton Boyd G’82. The workshop was led by two facilitators from the Peace Education Program. Their program is part of an award-winning, international training process designed by the National Coalition Building Institute (ncbi.org). It is designed to build on what people have in common while also honoring their positive cultural differences. I let the other kids know at Morning Meeting on Monday what the 8th graders were doing, pointing out the fact that at St. Francis, we don’t just talk about the value of diversity, but actually bring programs to the students that help them to really understand the values and principles therein. School Counselor Julie Marks arranged and attended the workshop along with other 8th grade teachers and had this to say about it:

I had the privilege of witnessing the 8th graders expand their understanding and appreciation of the diversity within their class. The first part of their workshop was spent playing cooperative games and discovering the similarities between the students in order to create a safe environment conducive to sharing. As the day progressed, the students identified the groups in which they belong, the stereotypes of each group, and what members of each group wished others knew about them. I could tell by the looks on their faces and the comments expressed that everyone gained a great deal of insight and understanding. The second day was very emotional as many students shared deeply personal stories of times they felt teased, harassed, and/or discriminated against. The class then had the opportunity to affirm one another and pledged to stand up against these types of prejudice in the future. Overall, the workshop was a very powerful experience for all present. Below are some quotes from 8th graders about the workshop.

“This was a great chance to learn more about my classmates for me and a way to grow closer to them. As I only came to this school last year, I haven’t learned much about my classmates that I am not around all the time. The teachers taught the class really well and I learned about how to use I-statements and how to de-escalate a situation. I also was taught about how to talk to others I disagree with. It was overall a great opportunity and I’m glad I had it.”

“This workshop was very helpful because we all were able to know more about how to deal with conflict and we learned more about our classmates. We were all given the chance to share stories if we chose to. I enjoyed getting closer to my classmates and hearing about difficult times in their lives and I learned some things I never knew about them and I felt that everyone got just a little closer.”

“The workshop we went to was interesting, I thought it was extremely intriguing to hear the stories from my fellow classmates. I was able to learn so much about the people around me and find a new appreciation for them.”

Again, thanks to Julie for arranging such a positive, pro-social workshop and to the Boyd family for their generosity in hosting us!

College Corner December 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

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


  • Talk to your senior friends about their applications/visits to campus/interview experiences
  • Be sure to keep up background reading (newspaper, novels, magazines, sci-fi) to maximize your performance on the SAT next year
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • When your PSAT test scores arrive in early December, study the results to discover where you need more focus or assistance. You will be sitting for a practice ACT test in the winter (Sunday, February 25th from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.) for experience.
  • Mark your calendars to attend the Introduction to the College Admissions Process program on Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:00 p.m. with Kit Llewellyn and Annie Murphy, Associate Director of Admissions at Centre College.   


  • When you receive your PSAT test results in early December, make sure to discuss your scores with Kit Llewellyn
  • Using your PSAT scores as a preliminary indicator, begin narrowing the range of colleges you are researching
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • Register for the SAT and the ACT on one of the spring test dates (observe that some of the test dates fall during Winter Break, Spring Break, Derby, et al) so plan ahead
  • If you are interested in SAT/ACT prep courses or tutorials, Kit Llewellyn is a good source of information, especially since the SAT and ACT now have a writing component
  • Keep your academic focus during exams and this next semester
  • Check into some summer programs that you might coordinate with the proposal of your Senior Project


  • All of your evaluation forms and teacher recommendations have been submitted via Naviance to your colleges
  • You should complete SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests (if required) testing this month. Walk-in registration is possible, if you did not register on time. Remember that it is your responsibility to send your official scores from ACT and College Board to the universities.
  • If you are accepted early decision, withdraw applications to all other colleges by writing a note
  • If you are deferred early decision, write to the college stating that it is still your first choice and you will attend, if accepted in the spring
  • Parents, finish filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS profile (if applicable) for January mailing. The earlier the better!
  • Deadlines for scholarships, whether college-related or outside sources, are NOW! Please do your research and keep an excel sheet of your priorities and deadline requirements.
  • Everyone will enjoy the holidays more if all of your paperwork is completed by exam week.
  • Realizing how the juggling of your daily work, sports, drama, jobs, friends, and family can be overwhelming, try to stay organized and manage your time wisely.
  • If a college requires an interview and you cannot make it to campus, it is your responsibility to call the admissions office and set up an alum interview locally.
  • As always if you need clarification or are confused about any piece of this process, do not hesitate calling or emailing Kit Llewellyn at 502.736.1012
  • Make sure to get all information regarding the financial aid process at EACH college/university; their requirements and deadlines vary

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.