Friday, March 16, 2018

IWCS Culinary: Catering to Our Vision

What is Your Why?  At Isle of Wight County Schools, we know our Why, and it's to prepare our students to be college, career, and life ready. To do that, we have to provide them with opportunities to discover their unique gifts and talents. As they realize their gifts and talents, they will be able to determine the best pathway for their future. Career and Technical Education courses are key to providing students with those opportunities to discover and develop their talents as they prepare for life after high school.

Our Culinary Program is a shining example of this process.  Mr. Cousins, the culinary instructor, has done an amazing job providing our students with opportunities to cater a wide range of events.  The students have prepared and served lunches to the staff at Smithfield High, as well as for special guests from the community.  They recently assisted at Carrollton Elementary School with the "Empty Bowls, Full Hearts" event that raised money for Christian Outreach. What's more amazing is the program is accomplishing all of this while working out of a very small kitchen.  We are scheduled to open a brand new full service commercial kitchen, along with a restaurant, in September. I am proud of the growth of our culinary students and look forward to providing them with even more opportunities once the new space opens in the fall.
If you haven't experienced our culinary program first hand, you can get a glimpse of it from this short promotional video.  I have also included a few pictures from some of the events the students have catered.

Culinary students prepared and served food at Carrollton Elementary.

Teachers look forward to special lunches hosted by the culinary students.

Prep work is a key part of the culinary program.

Students learn the importance of food presentation.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

One District, One Book, Some Pig

 Image result for charlotte's web
This week our elementary and middle schools launched a special project, a district-wide book club called One District, One Book™. Every family received a copy of the same book- E. B. White's
Charlotte's Web - and will be reading it together at home over the next few weeks. Reading aloud at home is valuable because it better prepares children to be effective readers, and it is a fun, worthwhile family activity.
One of the most unique features of the program is that children of all grade levels will be listening to their parents read the same book. Not only does it expose our younger readers to a chapter book, but it is an opportunity for parents to read to their more advanced readers.  With the One District, One Book™ program, everyone - students, parents, teachers, and even administrators- will be reading along together.  

Students will be exploring the book in class through activities and discussion.  There are even daily trivia questions based on the story posted throughout the schools. On Monday, schools introduced their students to the book through special events, many involving characters from the book.  There was even a real pig at one of the schools! (See pictures below) Schools have numerous special activities planned around the book before the program comes to a close at the end of the month. 

The program creates an atmosphere that excites students about reading and involves families in the relevance of reading together. It is also a great opportunity for teachers to utilize the station time in the instructional framework to incorporate discussions about the characters, themes, plots, and literary components within this rich novel. 
And that, in Charlotte's own words, is "Terrific".

Carrollton Elementary School built their own barn.  Characters from the book will be showing up over the next few weeks. 

Georgie Tyler Middle students scan QR codes to answer trivia questions about Charlotte's Web.

Westside had a "slop" eating contest between a few brave teachers.

Windsor Elementary (above) and Hardy Elementary (bottom right) both presented character skits to their students.  And both schools had a pig! (Can you tell which one was real?)


Friday, March 2, 2018

Long Range Facility Planning for IWCS: Not a Band Aid Fix

The goal for our Long Range Planning Committee is to develop a future plan for growth in our county as well as setting the expectation for our facilities in Isle of Wight County Schools. We have had tremendous feedback from the community through our community meetings and survey. It is very clear that the community believes we should upgrade facilities that are old and outdated--eighty-four percent of those responding listed this as a priority. With that in mind, we will be developing a long range plan to address growth.  This will be a comprehensive plan to address all facility needs in our school division. We have to develop a plan that be more than a Band Aid solution for the problems we are facing. We understand this will have to take place over a number of years and funding will need to be looked at closely. While we research potential financial impacts of new construction and renovations, we will consider existing debt within the county budget and investigate when that debt is paid off to try to limit the impact of any tax increase. I believe that having a transparent process and involving all stakeholders will assist us in developing the best option for our students for years to come.
You can keep up with information on the process through our web page:  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's not about Winning, It's about having Fun

Earlier this month I had a chance to watch a Tri-Rivers basketball game hosted at Smithfield High School during their Packer Block.  What a great game!  The players were tenacious as they battled their opponent, playing tough on defense and taking advantage of shot opportunities on offense.  While the competition on the court was intense, the most important part of the game was not the score.  The game was a chance for students to demonstrate all the qualities of being a great citizen. Whether they were on the court in a uniform, or a fan in the bleachers, everyone at the game demonstrated respect and kindness, and the importance of lifting up each other.  This is not unique to SHS.  The same is true at Windsor High when they host a Tri-Rivers game.  When a player makes a basket, the gym erupts with cheers, regardless of which team the player is on.  It is incredible to watch.  I wanted you to experience that same joy, so I have a video from the game at Smithfield High and pictures below from a recent game at Windsor High (thanks to Mr. Jon Smith of WHS for the photos).  And as the student says at the beginning of the video, "It's not about winning, it's about having fun." 

Tri-Rivers Basketball Game (video)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Planning for the Future

Rezoning.  Trailers.  Long Bus Rides.

These topics generate a lot of discussion, and that's great, because we need to hear what you think. Isle of Wight County Schools is currently in the process of developing a long range facility plan.  As part of that process, we are gathering input from the community.  We held two meetings--February 5 at SHS and February 12 at WHS--to share things to consider are we start to put a plan together.  We asked people at the meeting several questions:
  • transportation--how long is too long to be on a bus?  
  • class size--what is the maximum class size for an elementary classroom?  for middle school?  for high school?    
  • trailers--how many trailers are OK to use for classrooms?
  • rezoning--should children attend school in their community?
We received great feedback from everyone who came out.  Their responses helped to develop an online survey that we are making available to parents, employees and community members.  We want to give everyone a chance to share their thoughts.  The input should help us develop a plan for our facilities that will be benefit our students and be supported by the community.

The survey can be found on our website--- is open through Tuesday, Feb. 20.  If you haven't already responded, I encourage you to do so. 

We will have additional community meetings on March 12 at Smithfield High and March 13 at Windsor, both starting at 6:00 pm.  Please use as many of these opportunities to share your opinion.  Attending meetings and completely a survey truly take very little time, but your participation can help us set our course for many years to come.

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