Thursday, June 14, 2018

Honoring Seniors and the Teachers Who Made a Difference in Their Life

Each year  we host a Senior of the Month Banquet and this blog focuses on that event.  I decided to republish the thoughts I shared last year on the banquet.  I hope you will enjoy it.  In addition, the link below will take you to a video of the ceremony.  I hope you will watch it and here the heartfelt messages the students had for the teachers they were honoring.

Senior of the Month Banquet (video)

How good is your memory?  Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there?  Or you are unable to find that important item that you put somewhere special for “safekeeping” that is really safe because you can’t remember where it is?  Even though we’ve all been there, it’s still frustrating.

But I bet I know something you remember without hesitation.  Can you recall a teacher who made a tremendous impact on your life?  I’m sure one teacher, or even more,  you had in school just came to mind and many memories about why they were special to you came flooding back.  Here’s the more challenging question:  Did you ever tell them how much they meant to you?  Probably not.
I realize students don’t often share with a teacher just how much they have influenced the student’s life.  Even when they do, it is typically not shared publicly.  On May 30, 2018, several of our seniors had a chance to do just that.  They honored a teacher who had made a significant impact on their life at our Senior of the Month Banquet.

Each month, Windsor and Smithfield high schools nominate a Senior of the Month.  The students are recognized at a school board meeting and also receive a $500 college scholarship generously provided by our business and community partners.  The Senior of the Month Banquet provides an opportunity for each of these 16 students to publicly thank a teacher who has made a difference in their life.  The students courageously stand before an audience of family members, scholarship sponsors and school officials and share why they are honoring their chosen educator.  They recall personal stories filled with poignancy, gratitude, and admiration.  Their heartfelt remarks bring about laughter, a few tears, and a tremendous amount of appreciation for both the teacher and the student.  The teacher receives a plaque to commemorate the occasion, but the remarks from their student are the real gift.  It is truly an incredibly special evening for all the guests.

Thank you to the teachers who were honored by the Seniors of the Month.  I know all of our teachers have had, or will have, a significant impact on many children throughout their teaching career.  Whether the praise is public, private, or even unspoken, there is an incredible satisfaction and validation when a teacher knows they have made a difference in a child’s life. Thank you to all IWCS teachers for making a difference in some child’s life each and every day.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: Westside=Best Side

Back in March, I began highlighting our schools in my Friday blog.  I started at Carrsville and moved up Route 258 to Windsor, then along Route 10 to Smithfield, Hardy and Carrollton.  This blog wraps up the series with a stop at Westside Elementary School. Westside has a rich history in its sixty year lifetime.The school served African American children in the county as Isle of Wight Training School/Institute, then as Westside High School until desegregation in the 1960s.  The school became Smithfield Elementary then Smithfield Middle until the early 2000s.  With the construction of a new middle school, the community recommended the building be renamed Westside Elementary to commemorate it's historical significance to education in Isle of Wight County.
There has always been tremendous pride associated with Westside.  You can see and hear it in the alumni who talk about the important role the school and staff played in their lives.  The students at Westside now share that same sense of pride.  The teachers use the saying "Westside Bestside" when they share information about the successes of their students on social media.  It's a mantra that reflects how they feel about their school, their classes and their work.
The video below highlights some of that Westside Pride.  Hear from students and staff as they explain what makes Westside the Best Side.



 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Working Together for a Better Community


The vision for Isle of Wight County Schools is to create a learning environment that enables every child to discover his or her unique gifts and talents. The mission is to enhance and expand on each child’s unique gifts and talents to ensure every child is college, career, and life ready. For this vision and mission to come alive in Isle of Wight County, it requires commitment from the School Board, school leaders, and all school staff. Another important group that may not always be acknowledged is the community.    The community of stakeholders is made up of taxpayers both parents and citizens without children, business partners, and the Board of Supervisors.  The old adage of “It takes a village” has never been more important in these very divisive times. We are fortunate to have two boards that have come together to look out for the interest of Isle of Wight County, first and foremost.  
 
Our future is based on strong economic growth, which is not possible without a strong, viable workforce. The Board of Supervisors (BOS) understands this more than any governing body that I have worked with before. For the budget proposed during my first year, we focused on the condition of our facilities and added line items to ensure infrastructure upgrades and schedules for furniture, playground and bus replacement, as well as cycles for painting and paving at all schools. The BOS funded an increase of $736,000 to meet these very important needs that had been neglected for too long. In year two, our school board and I agreed that we should try to meet the school needs while trying to be fiscally responsible and only ask when funds were needed.  We were able to improve our teachers scale without asking the county for any increase in local dollars. The BOS did fund an additional 2.7 million dollars in the Capital Improvement Budget to replace roofs at Carrsville, Carrollton, and Windsor Elementary school. In addition they agreed to take on the debt service for our new Career and Technical Education project that includes programs such as welding, agricultural sciences on the land lab, building trades, mechatronics, nursing, culinary arts, cosmetology, and global logistics.

This year, with increased enrollment, we met challenges in class size at the high school level that were not expected. Once again the BOS worked cooperatively with our Board to fund additional positions at SHS. The proposed budget for 2018-2019 had requests from several schools that would reduce class size and continue the quality education everyone has come accustomed to.  The request was large--$1,094,000. School Board members met and publicly shared the reasons behind the requests. The number of community members who came out to provide public input was more than I had ever seen.  The speakers were polite and stated their reasons for supporting the budget in a thoughtful and respectful manner.  It was encouraging to see.    The Supervisors came through once again by fully funding the schools operating request.  They also fully funded the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) requests to replace the HVAC at SHS (at a cost of $1.97 million over two years).

In my three years with IWCS, the Board of Supervisors have shown a willingness to work with the School Board to continue, and to even expand, the services provided to our students.  They understand that their investment in the youngest citizens of Isle of Wight County will pay dividends for all stakeholders in the long run.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: Student Voice and Choice at Smithfield Middle School

Since March, I've been highlighting a different school each week in my blog, and this week's school is Smithfield Middle.  I had a chance to visit SMS before their big spring expo and heard from the students about what makes SMS so special.  One recurring theme was student voice and choice.  The students appreciated the freedom to make decisions about their learning. It was really special to hear the passion they had for their school, their teachers, and their education. See for yourself in the video below. 

Smithfield Middle School:  Student Voice and Choice (video)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: Packer Pride on Display at Smithfield High

A few weeks ago I started a series of blogs where I highlight one of our schools each week.  So far, I've featured Carrsville Elementary, Georgie Tyler Middle, Windsor Elementary, Windsor High, Carrollton Elementary and Hardy Elementary.  This week the focus is on Smithfield High School. When I visited SHS recently, I asked students and staff to explain what makes Smithfield High a great place to be.  I heard many different answers, but all of them help to form the culture at SHS of Packer Pride.  There are many amazing things taking place at Smithfield High.  Watch the video below to see and hear for yourself. 



Smithfield High School (video)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: Caring for Others at Carrollton Elementary

Carrollton Elementary is a happening place.  The day I visited CAES was the morning after one of their expos.  Students and teachers have done an outstanding job showcasing their learning process.  They have also focused on Empathy this year and discovered the importance of caring about others. Students even raised money during the expos and donated the funds to several local charities.  I hope you enjoy the video below as you hear from the principal, Mr. Brennan, teachers and students on why Carrollton Elementary is such a special place.


A Look at Carrollton Elementary School (video)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: The Windsor Way at Windsor High

I've been highlighting a school each week in my blog, and this week it is Windsor High's turn.  On my recent visit to WHS, I spoke to teachers, students and administrators and heard about the Windsor Way. What is the Windsor Way?  See for yourself by watching the video below.  Go Dukes!



The Windsor Way  (video)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: GREAT Students and GREAT Staff at Hardy Elementary

A few weeks ago I started a series of blogs where I highlight one of our schools each week.  So far, I've featured Carrsville Elementary, Georgie Tyler Middle and Windsor Elementary.  This week is Hardy's turn.  I recently visited Hardy Elementary and got to speak to the students and teachers, and even a retired teacher who comes back to volunteer.  There is so much positive energy everywhere you turn.  It is contagious! I have a video of my visit and I challenge you to watch it and not smile.  (I don't think you can do it.)    So see for yourself why it's always a GREAT day at Hardy.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: A Family Atmosphere at Windsor Elementary School

For this week's blog, I visited Windsor Elementary School, home of the Hornets.  I had an awesome time talking to the students and teachers and hearing from them what makes Windsor Elementary such a great school.

I also got to witness an amazing event.  Students from Georgie Tyler Middle School built a Reading Cottage for WES.  They held a special ceremony where they unveiled their final project.  The elementary students were excited to see their incredible new reading place and eager to start using it. Just see for yourself in the video and hear the reaction from the students.

A Family Atmosphere at Windsor Elementary School (Video)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Showcasing Our Schools: A Visit to our Newest School--Georgie D. Tyler Middle School

Last week I visited Georgie D. Tyler Middle School.  Opening in 2014, GTMS is our newest school, and it is a beautiful building with spacious hallways and lots of natural light. But a school is only as good as its students and staff, which is why Georgie Tyler is GREAT!  As I visited classrooms,  I could see teachers using the instructional framework in their lessons, and I saw engaged students who understood the what and why of their learning.  I had a wonderful time at GTMS.  I've put together a brief video of my trip to the school so you can see for yourself what makes Georgie Tyler so special.

Georgie D. Tyler Middle School (video)

Friday, March 23, 2018

Showcasing our Schools: Getting Creative at Carrsville Elementary School

This blog is the first in a series that will feature a visit to all nine of our schools. I will be talking with our amazing students, teachers, staff, and administrators as I travel through the buildings.  The first school I am highlighting is Carrsville Elementary School.  This is our smallest school--under 300 students from PreK-5th grade--and one of our oldest, originating in the 1940s. It is also the most southern of our schools, close to the city of Franklin.  There is a lot of creativity in Carrsville;  watch the video and see for yourself.

I hope that you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed my visit to Carrsville Elementary School. 

Carrsville Elementary (video)

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---https://www.iwcs.k12.va.us/apps/pages/planning--and 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.