Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Future is Bright

Friday marked a milestone for Isle of Wight County Schools.  On Friday we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new Welding Lab at Smithfield High School.  The event was attended by officials from the School Board, the Board of Supervisors, and Smithfield Town Council.  We also had representatives from the county's Economic Development Department, Paul D. Camp Community College, the business community, along with school administrators, teachers and students.

The lab is the realization of a vision that started two years ago when we made a bold decision to bring many of our Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs back into our high schools and end our participation in a regional center.   Friday afternoon, we held a ceremony to officially open the welding lab.  This would not have been possible without the support and involvement of several important individuals and groups. 

The members of the Isle of Wight County School Board had the courage and foresight to see the need for redesigning our CTE program.  They took a risk and supported moving courses from the Pruden Center back into our schools.  The Board of Supervisors listened to our proposal and publicly supported our vision for our schools.  Members of my team worked diligently to move that vision into a plan and finally implementation. Liebherr became an integral partner in the welding lab project.  Cort Reiser, Executive Vice President with Liebherr, advised us on how to set up the lab to ensure our students were receiving a quality experience.  Liebherr donated ten two-station welding tables to the lab, along with seventeen welding machines.  They provided signs and posters for the classroom, banners for the lab and even donated the ribbon for the ceremony--but not just any ribbon.

When you open a welding lab, you can't cut a big red ribbon.  So we cut a big steel ribbon.  Actually Cort and his son Nick, who's in the program, did the honors.

Someone once said "I love it when a plan comes together."  That's exactly how I felt Friday as I watched the ceremony and walked through the facility.  Our students are excited for the program.  One of the student speakers shared that she knows this opportunity will give her the skills to be successful throughout the rest of her life.  That's what this is about.  That's our "Why?"  The opening of the welding lab is the first of many celebrations we will have as we continue our journey and commitment to preparing all of our students to be college, career and life ready.

I've added a video below from the ceremony.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Power of Meditation

On January 30, Mr. Ben Phelps invited me to his room to share his Government students' Meditation project.  The seniors are devoting ten minutes each day to Meditation.  They have researched the benefits of meditation and would like to see this become a school-wide program. As part of their project, they created a video where they explain their project and their goal for the program. Also in the video, several students share their personal stories on the positive impact meditation has had on their lives.  The messages are very powerful.
I applaud the students and Mr. Phelps for focusing their project on improving the health and well-being of all the students at Windsor High.  Their concern for others and the actions they are taking to create a positive environment exemplify GREAT citizenship.  I look forward to seeing how they are able to pilot their meditation project throughout the school.

Project Meditation (video)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Making History at Windsor High School

Welcome to my first video blog of the new year!  It was nice to have a week that wasn't interrupted by weather.

On Thursday, I witnessed history at Windsor High School. The Dukes started a wrestling team this year and this week they hosted their first ever home meet.  But the history didn't end there  They also had their first wins by any of the wrestlers and in both cases they pinned their opponents!!!  Congratulations to Steven Smith and Dominic Delahunt!
Students on the young team have demonstrated a tremendous amount of GRIT as they take the mat as rookie wrestlers and go one on one against students from established programs.  They are also demonstrating GRIT and courage as they lay the ground work for the future of wrestling at Windsor High.

From what I saw on Thursday, I think some of these students may have found their unique gift or talent through wrestling.

While I was at the game, I interviewed several people, including the wrestlers, to get their thoughts on the program.  And I captured history as Steven  Smith won the first wrestling match in Windsor High School history.  Congratulations once again to everyone involved in making the wrestling program a reality. 

VIDEO:  Making History at Windsor High School

Friday, January 19, 2018

Growing Our Leaders

I believe in the importance of communicating with members of our school community.  That's one reason I blog every week.  I want you to be informed on important issues facing the division and updated on what's happening in our schools. This year I started a weekly newsletter for school and division leaders.  In my Monday Memo, I cover topics related to our vision and mission, and challenge them to develop benefit all our students.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Monday Memo.  I hope sharing this will give you an idea of how we are continually focused on achieving our mission and vision.

Monday Memo:  Why Culture Change?
We have discussed our vision and the expectation for all of our students to discover, and then use, their unique gifts and talents to become college, career, and life ready. We have also discussed how difficult this change can be in an environment driven by SOL tests. It is difficult for people to understand why we would want to change when we have a fully accredited school division. But when we closely look at the data, are we really fulfilling our vision of preparing all students for college, career, and life?
Our data demonstrates that we have statistically insignificant gains or losses over the last three years. I think you will find similar data in other divisions that are considered “successful”. This occurs when you have a testing system as the end all goal. In this type of system, the same bottom 15 to 20 percent of students get left behind. We do not do this on purpose; it is just an unintended consequence of the expectations.
Our day to day expectations in our classrooms must match our vision. This is not easily accomplished when our students have varied gifts and needs. Differentiated instruction is not something new. It has been and should always be the expectation. Unfortunately drilling the masses for the test in a whole group setting became the norm for far too many years.
Our Growth Mindset & GRIT focus document lay the ground work for changing the culture. It emphasizes that everyone can learn and fulfill their full potential when emphasis is placed on the process of learning.

Friday, January 12, 2018

To Close or Not to Close, That is the Question

Welcome Back!  Seems we were just saying that as everyone returned from Winter Break.  Little did we know we would be having Winter Break Part 2 after only a few days.

The storm that hit, combined with the extremely cold temperatures, caused the schools to feel the impact for almost a week.  By Tuesday, we were hearing quite a buzz on social media, and getting emails and phone calls, from people wondering when we would re-open.  We did have a few parents who questioned our decision to stay closed on Wednesday, but I know it was the right decision.

Anytime we have severe weather that may cause hazardous driving conditions, we have multiple people who check out particular roads throughout the county.  There are areas that stay cold longer, have more standing water, or have other issues more than other places.  Before we put buses on the road, we need the roads to be clear of snow and ice.  The conditions on Tuesday were improving and in most cases cars were able to drive on the roads without a problem.   

But buses aren't cars.

And once you put your child on one of our buses, we are responsible for them and their safety.  With the road conditions on Tuesday, we knew they would not have improved enough to safely run our buses.

Isle of Wight is also a large county geographically--it covers over 300 square miles.  While your road or neighborhood may be clear, it isn't necessarily that way for the rest of the county, or even your own school zone.  For example, students at Smithfield High and Smithfield Middle may live anywhere from Carrollton to Rushmere.  I have added some pictures below taken Tuesday afternoon from several areas throughout the county so you can see why didn't want to run our buses Wednesday.

I understand closing school creates an inconvenience for many of our families who may have to arrange child care on those days.  We want your children in school, but only when we can safely transport them.

Closing school is not a decision I take lightly.  Neither is your child's safety and I will always err on the side of safety. 

In case you are wondering about make-up days, I am happy to report that we have enough built in time that we will not have to make up the days we just missed.

Cedar Grove

Gatling Point

Rattlesnake Road

Wellington Estates

Wellington Estates


Friday, December 15, 2017

Spreading Holiday Cheer Throughout IWCS

If you were in any of our schools today, you may have seen a very festive group of people walking through the buildings. That  would have been me and my Executive Team.  We started a tradition where we visit all the schools, and hand out candy canes to elementary students.  There are also toys, donated by Toys for Tots, distributed to Kindergarten through 2nd graders. The costumes are loud and bright, and you really need to see them for yourself.  Here's a short video of our visit to Windsor Elementary School.  Just look at their faces light up as the candy canes and toys are distributed.  And the students were excited too!

Central Office Elves at Windsor Elementary School  (video)

Keeping it Cool at SMS

Last week I wrote a blog about the Cell Expo in Mrs. Peterson's room at Smithfield Middle.  While I was there, I stopped by Mrs. Browder's science class, where they were building insulation cubes. The students were preparing to test their cubes to see what insulation materials worked the best.  During my visit, I talked to the students and the teacher about the projects and captured their comments in a video.  I hope you will watch the movie below and see the deeper learning taking place in Mrs. Browder's 8th grade science class.  This is definitely a "cool" project.

Mrs. Browder's Insulation Project  (Video)