Friday, October 30, 2015

The Purpose of Education

Tony Wagner, in his book, Most Likely to Succeed, asks the question; “What is the purpose of education?” In reviewing mission statements much like our own, he observed the answer centers around these key priorities:
  •         teach students cognitive and social skills;
  •          prepare students to be responsible, contributing citizens;
  •          build character;
  •          help students in process of self-discovery;
  •          inspire students through the study of humanity’s great works;
  •          prepare students for productive careers.
Most educators like myself consider all of these goals to be important. In Wagner’s research, he has found few schools are operationally clear on their priorities. There has always been more emphasis on cognitive skills which means less on others. High stakes state testing and an over emphasis on accountability has swung the pendulum even further from goals such as building character and self-discovery.  One such example cited by Wagner is a kindergarten that canceled its school play to devote more time to preparing its six-year-old students for college and the workplace.  I have witnessed similar situations in which educators make statements that we cannot go on field trips or provide project based learning experiences until after the SOL tests.

Most school divisions have instructional initiatives similar to ours: extend the rigor of daily classroom instruction and assessments to ensure the incorporation of critical thinking and problem-solving skills and encourage creativity.  When you ask, “how are you accomplishing that and how do you know you are making progress?” Most schools struggle with an answer.  Since many school leaders and educators believe it is impossible to accomplish these other goals and teach the state tested curriculum, our students often do not get the opportunities for self-discovery, problem solving by collaborating with peers, and displaying their creativity within a project or authentic learning experience. 

We need to ask the question, “do we continue to teach to a test or do we teach students how to become life-long learners and teach them skills needed for career and global citizenship?”  As we continue to discuss what we value for our children, I believe this will be an easy answer.  The more difficult discussion will in how to effectively incorporate these skills into the curriculum. I look forward to working with you to provide a quality education for our children that includes all we value.


Thursday, October 22, 2015


What do you value about your child’s education? I believe today’s experience has conditioned us over the last 15 years to value a single test score for our children. The push to ensure all children are succeeding by measuring their success on an SOL test has led to some unintended outcomes. Narrowing the curriculum and teaching to a test are two consequences that have negatively affected our teachers but, more importantly, our children.  Unfortunately, the methods engaged to teach to a test have crushed the creativity and innovation that young people need to thrive in our new global economy.

I, like most parents, want my child to have a high GPA, pursue the most advanced courses, and score well on the standards-based tests. But while many of our children graduate with these accomplishments, they often lack the skills needed to be employed in a rapidly changing job market.  Skills such as effective communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are at the very heart of what students will need to learn to be prepared for success in today’s world.
I have had the opportunity to research, travel and see first-hand courageous innovators in education that understand there is more to a child’s education then an SOL test. As the instructional leader of our school division, I will share my thoughts and experiences with you.  I will share from the most recent book that I read, Most Likely to Succeed, Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, which offers parents and educators a guide to getting the best for their children.

I have visited many classrooms in my short time here and have witnessed many wonderful activities. I have also seen the unintended consequences of a test-driven curriculum and systems still in place that were designed over a century ago to produce a workforce that no longer exists. Collectively, we can decide what we value for our children’s education. My vision and hope for our teachers is that they will have the confidence and courage in us as a community to support them as they teach the whole child and incorporate skills we value and know our children need to succeed in their world.

Friday, October 16, 2015

People are Our Strength!

Many thanks to Lynn Briggs for setting up my Blog for me.  I am not sure where to start.  I have seen and met so many wonderful individuals throughout my travels in the schools since September.  I was fortunate to witness the incredible spirit presented by our staff at Convocation.  I can say that I have never experienced such enthusiasm and school spirit by school staff in my career. I have been to a football scrimmage and a volleyball game in Windsor, a football game and field hockey game in Smithfield, and the county fair to hear the band and chorus from both WHS and SHS. I have eaten school lunches in several of our cafeterias. I have visited all nine schools and have started my rounds to visit all classrooms in Isle of Wight County.
I was recently asked what separates Isle of Wight County Schools from other school divisions and why are they so successful? Even though I have only been here a short time, I believe I can answer that question.  The people that I have encountered inside and outside the school division have been so welcoming. The teaching staff is very experienced.  They are dedicated to the children of Isle of Wight and the consistency that they provide is the backbone of the school division.  People are the strength of any great organization and Isle of Wight County Schools is no different.

My main goal instructionally will be to encourage and inspire teachers to facilitate authentic learning experiences for students that will bring communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity to the forefront of our children’s education. I look forward to highlighting teachers that are providing great opportunities for our children and discussing issues in education that may affect us as a division in upcoming blogs. I’ve attached some pictures of where I’ve been.  Enjoy!



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Welcome Message to IWCS

Dear Isle of Wight County Schools Teachers, Staff, and Families,

I am excited to join a school division that has already successfully demonstrated progression in public education. As superintendent, I look forward to reaching new levels of academic achievement by building on excellence, for every child, every day. To reach new heights, I recognize that innovation and creativity must be the hallmarks of our school division. I envision a future where Isle of Wight County Schools will be revered as the PREMIER school division in Virginia and beyond.

As we continue working to achieve educational success for all of our students, I want to expand upon the existing culture of excellence to cultivate the mindset that we are all part of one team that holds the best interest of our children as the number one priority. We are rounding out our division leadership team with individuals who are committed to providing a 21st century education centered on rigor and transformative learning. IWCS is also fortunate to have talented, dedicated teachers and staff across our school division that embody the spirit of this mission.

The success of our school division is not only dependent upon our employees, but is also greatly impacted by active involvement from parents and support from the community. Over the next several months, I will be getting to know each of you while identifying areas of opportunity for advancement. My goal is to engage all of our stakeholders in a meaningful way to ensure consistency and efficiency in how we support the instructional needs of our students.  Our partnership with each one of you is critical to the future of this school division. If our students thrive, the community will flourish and together we can make that happen.

I will be visible and accessible through out the school division, so please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, comments or concerns. If there’s something on your mind…Let’sTalk!  It is my honor to serve as superintendent and I look forward to the new school year ahead!