Friday, September 15, 2017

Modeling “GREAT” Citizenship for our Students

One of the 5 Cs that often gets overlooked in today’s schools is citizenship. I strongly believe that citizenship is an important part of the educational experience. IWCS developed a Focus Document (included below) which outlines our beliefs and expectations for students, faculty, and staff. One of the beliefs is treating all individuals with dignity and respect. 

We often have to make decisions that will affect our student’s education.  An example is the current review of our exam policy. We need to decide whether exams are an integral part of the educational experience that will prepare our students for college, career, and life and, if so, how much they should count in the overall class grade.

This decision, and all similar decisions, needs to be made with stakeholder input. When involving all stakeholders, we need to understand the importance of respecting people’s individual opinions. In modeling positive relationships and citizenship, we must demonstrate mutual respect and confidence that all stakeholders have the best interest of our children in mind when making a suggestion. If we have that common understanding, then we should have the confidence to know that whatever we choose to proceed with will be what’s best for our students and yield the desired result.

I have that level of confidence in our teachers, staff, and parents. If we all demonstrate this type of respect and understanding to our students, not only will we make sound decisions for them, we will help to create  great citizens for our community, our country, and, in fact, the entire world.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Welcome to a New School Year!

I had an amazing first day of school.  After all these years, I still get excited for the start of a new school year.  Even though my children have been out of the house for three years, my wife still had to take a First Day of School photo—of me.   Those First Day photos were definitely much better when my children were in them!  I was also busy taking photos as I visited schools throughout the division today.  I shared many of the pictures on Twitter and highlighted the great start we had in each of our buildings. 

Windsor High School was particularly creative with the “Unfirst Day of School.” Students were greeted by teachers lining the front walkway, and students entered the school through a beautiful archway of blue and gold balloons.   


The unique experience didn’t end there.   A traditional first day back for a high school students would include going to each class, getting a course syllabus, going over routines and procedures.  But the “Unfirst Day” was different.  Students were able to meet all their teachers for both first and second semester.  Time was set-aside for introductions between teachers and students, and relationship building sessions for the class. During the Academic Enrichment Period, students unpacked the new Isle of Wight County Schools’ GRIT focus document. GRIT stands for Gumption, Resilience, Integrity, Tenacity, all characteristics we want our students to possess.  Sharing the qualities of GRIT with students today emphasized the importance we are placing on helping them to develop a growth mindset.

Next, all students went through a rotation which included lunch, expectations for the year, a meeting with the new WHS Principal and Assistant Principal, and an information meeting with Guidance. Then the “Unfirst Day of School” ended with an Academic Pep Rally, honoring students with all A’s, perfect attendance, and seniors who will be receiving an Academic Jacket later this month.
Far from a traditional first day of school, students understood by the end of the day that relationships are important and that they have some very special people at Windsor High School that are advocates for their success. Hats off to new administrators Mrs. Laura Sullivan (Principal), Mr. Zach Haney (Assistant Principal), and all the educators and staff that make Windsor High School so unique!!!

 I hope the first day went well for you and your family.  My next blog will highlight the excitement of the first week in all of our schools, so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Being Brave, Taking Risks and Following the Yellow Brick Road

As we reach the end of a very busy summer, I wanted to share my comments from our division-wide Convocation with you.   When you play the video, do not adjust your screen.  The person on stage in a tie-dye shirt, orange shorts and rainbow socks is actually me, the Superintendent for Isle of Wight County Schools.  It’s OK.  No need to worry.   The entire Central Office staff and I presented a new production of the Wizard of Oz.  Yours truly played a colorful Munchkin, which I hope explains what I’m wearing.  It was really my costume.  

 The skit focused on the importance of deeper learning and the 5 C: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and citizenship.  I’m so proud of my staff for stepping out of their comfort zone and modeling what we expect all staff to do as we slowly move forward with our deeper learning initiative. We want our teachers to feel comfortable to taking risks, being courageous, and being brave as they work with our children.  We all need to serve as models for our children, not only on using the 5 Cs, but on the importance of trying something new, and understanding that it’s OK to fail sometimes.  That’s just part of the learning process.

Our teachers and entire staff have committed their time and effort over the last two years to learn and grow as we all continue to improve the educational experience for our children. Enjoy the video and be on the look-out as we will be posting our version of the Wizard of Oz soon. I look forward to another GREAT year in Isle of Wight County Schools.

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday!

Convocation Remarks  (video)