Friday, October 12, 2018

It’s Always a Good Day to be a GREAT Citizen

You may have seen or heard the words GRIT and GREAT used by our schools to discuss characteristics we want our students to have.  GRIT, which stands for Gumption, Resiliency, Integrity and Tenacity, is about working hard towards challenges.  GREAT focuses on citizenship, and stands for Growth, Respect, Empathy, Accountability, and Trustworthiness.  Being a GREAT Citizen also means not being a bully, and standing up for others who are being bullied.  Our schools are emphasizing these characteristics throughout October in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month.  I wanted to highlight some of the activities taking place in our schools as they teach our students about being GREAT citizens.

  • Carrollton Elementary will be unveiling their Buddy Bench, where students can sit with someone and demonstrate kindness.  The bench was painted by members of the Carrollton CARE Club.
  •  Students at Carrsville Elementary are creating artwork that illustrates GREAT qualities and signing the Bulldogs Don’t Bully banner.
  •  Hardy Elementary students will hear the story of Spookley the Square Pumpkin who is often bullied for being different.  They will learn the importance of celebrating differences and that everyone can contribute to the greater good.
  • The Westside Eagles held a ceremony to bury bullying behaviors. Students wrote a bullying related behavior they want to bury on a slip of newspaper. Their slips were thrown into a pre-dug hole where a “Unity Tree,” will be planted, to help remind students of their commitment to a fresh start.
  • Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke spoke to students at Windsor Elementary School and shared with them actions they can take to stand up to bullying.
  •  Georgie Tyler will observe Mix it Up at Lunch Day, which encourages students to move out of their comfort zones and connect with someone new over lunch.  The national campaign was launched in 2002 and will take place on the last Tuesday in October.
  •  Eighth graders at Smithfield Middle School participated in a program called Love Over Hate.  The motivational speaker shared the powerful concept of self-love, along with self-realization and awareness using music, conversation and interactive activities that kept the students engaged throughout his message.
  •  The Positivity Club at Smithfield High is the driving force behind the school’s anti-bullying campaign #PackFightsBack.  The club set up “Boar Boxes” throughout the school where students can report any instances of bullying.  They have designated the last Friday of the month as Blue Out day, to bring awareness to being a buddy, not a bully. 
  • Similar to Mix it Up at Lunch Day, Windsor High will host a "Strangers in a Ball Pit" day.  Students will have the opportunity during lunch to sit in a ball pit and make new friends at WHS using conversation starters as encouragement to connect with others.  Providing students with occasions to interact with those who are different from them helps to change biases and misperceptions.
  • Several schools also held a Pinky Promise Day, where students pledged to take a stand against bullying and showed their commitment by having their pinky painted blue.
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to emphasize characteristics of a GREAT citizen.  The division’s Focus Document on GREAT Citizenship states our beliefs and our goals:  Isle of Wight County Schools strives to create a culture that focuses on individual growth in the area of citizenship for students, staff, parents and community members. We believe that citizenship is defined by the choices we make and actions we show each day. We recognize a significant connection between the behavior of our citizens and the success of our community. Our expectation is that our school community focuses on being GREAT every day!

I am proud of the efforts our students and staff are taking to bring awareness to bullying, but these efforts aren’t isolated to just October.  We teach, share, model, highlight and celebrate outstanding citizenship all year long.  It is our commitment to ensuring students have the skills to make them successful, not only while they are with us, but for the rest of their life.

Pictures from the Anti-Bullying Activities in Our Schools

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Building for the Future--New Facilities at SHS and WHS Prepare Students for Success

"Whatever good things we build end up building us."--Jim Rohn
I saw this quote and realized how appropriate it would be for my blog.  On October 4 we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new JROTC Fieldhouse at Smithfield High School.  The building will serve as the first dedicated facility specifically for the JROTC program.  The previous location for the program was cramped and supplies were stored in various areas throughout the school.  In addition, cadets were practicing formations and drills outside in a parking area, or in hallways during bad weather.  The battalion now has a beautiful facility with space for classrooms, storage and drill practice.  The new structure was made possible by the Smithfield Foods Legacy Project, a $3 million donation to Isle of Wight County Schools announced in 2017 to fund an innovative and multifaceted educational program.

In the spring of 2018, we opened a brand new facility at Windsor High School to house the Building Trades program.  The previous space did not have sufficient room to work on larger-scale projects.  The new space allows students to gain the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in careers related to building construction.

A few weeks ago, we opened a new athletic fieldhouse at Smithfield High School, near Packer Stadium.  The building is equipped with team locker rooms and a weight room.  It also has public restrooms for use during sporting events.  The facility is a welcome addition to the athletic program at SHS.

The journey to these finished projects wasn't without bumps along the way, which is not uncommon with new construction.  Delays due to weather, changes that arose during the project, and inconveniences faced by students, parents and staff have been the painful part of the process.  The end result represents a commitment to our students to provide them with opportunities, and spaces, to discover their unique gifts and talents--a dedicated space for the JROTC program, a fieldhouse for student athletes, and an up-to-date classroom for building trades.  It is exciting to see the progress we are making and to think about the benefit these facilities will have for our students.   There are still more to come with new spaces for Culinary Arts, Nursing and Manufacturing.  Stay tuned for highlights about those spaces in a future blog. Please scroll down to see pictures of the JROTC building, the Building Trades lab and the Athletic Fieldhouse.

JROTC Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Building Trades Lab

Athletic Fieldhouse