Friday, February 15, 2019

What is your Return on Investment from IWCS?

Return on Investment, or ROI, is defined as the benefit of the investment versus the cost of the investment.  Each year, the citizens of Isle of Wight County make a significant investment in Isle of Wight County Schools.  How is that money being used?  What have benefits have been realized from taxpayer funding?  The following video answers to those questions and shows you the results of your investment in Isle of Wight County Schools.  We appreciate your support of IWCS  and promise to continue delivering a high return on investment to the residents of of Isle of Wight County.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

February is School Board Appreciation Month

February 2019 has been designated as School Board Appreciation Month in Virginia. The theme — Leading for Success — reflects the top priority of local school board members as they advocate for public education with local, state, and federal leaders on behalf of all students.

As citizen leaders, school board members face complex and demanding challenges. Yet few people fully understand the scope and far reaching implications of board members’ responsibilities. Virginians should recognize the vital contributions of these men and women and focus attention on the crucial role these elected public officials play in the education of our children. Their job is to establish a vision for the education program, design a structure to achieve that vision, ensure schools are accountable to the community and strongly advocate continuous improvement in student learning.

That job entails an endless string of meetings and school functions to attend; reams of reports, agendas, proposals and other information to read and study; and a host of difficult decisions to make. Although they wear many hats in the workday world, school board members put on a collective hat when they get down to the business of leading their school divisions. Board members must pull together as a team toward a common goal of helping all students achieve. Though individual school board members may sometimes disagree on issues, their role as a member of the school board is to consistently strive toward the goal of high academic achievement. Working together, school board members speak out for public schools and the students they serve.

Board members contribute hundreds and hundreds of hours each year leading their divisions. Whether it is crafting policies, hiring top-notch administrators, listening to staff and student concerns or recognizing outstanding programs, board members always keep their eyes on the goal of student achievement.

The time spent in board meetings represents just a small fraction of the hours school board members spend leading in their divisions. They also work hard at seminars and training sessions to keep abreast of the latest trends in educational leadership, are deeply involved in community activities and spend many hours in the schools and at extracurricular events. Their love for learning, and concern and caring for students, staff and community, drives board members’ desire to lead so students can achieve.

In recognition of the dedicated service of school board members throughout Virginia, February has been designated as School Board Appreciation Month. This is the time to show our recognition and to increase our understanding of how local board members work together to provide a better future for our children. Please join me in saluting our board members who provide grassroots governance of public schools. I encourage each of you to make a special effort to tell each school board member that their hard work has been noticed and is truly appreciated.

Vicky Hulick, Chairman, Newport District        
Jackie Carr, Vice-Chairman, Carrsville District 
Kirstin Cook, Smithfield District        
Julia Perkins, Windsor District      
Alvin Wilson, Hardy District

Friday, January 25, 2019

Inspiring a Love for Musical Instruments in Elementary School

Our vision in Isle of Wight County Schools is to create a learning environment that will enable every child to discover his or her unique gifts and talents.  This year, three of our elementary schools are introducing students to instruments through their music classes.  Carrsville Elementary is redefining itself as an integrated arts school and, in September, they launched a unique music program.  All students, beginning with kindergarten, spend 30 minutes every day learning to play the violin.  Holding the violin and the bow properly, reading music, and playing the notes are just some of what the students are mastering. I am extremely impressed with the progress the students are making in such a short time.  Windsor Elementary expanded their music program this year with the addition of keyboards during their music resource time.  The students are enthusiastic and excited to not just sing music, but to play selections on the keyboard, including some created by the students themselves.   Carrollton Elementary recently added guitars to their music program, thanks to a Donors Choose grant.  Smithfield High student Lily Eng works with the Carrollton music classes on Friday and came up with the idea for a grant for guitars. Now students are learning to play an instrument as part of their music class.

While teaching students to play a musical instrument is the primary goal of both programs, there are many additional benefits for our young learners. Studies show that learning a musical instrument reduces feelings of anxiety, builds greater control of emotions and improves focus. It also builds grit and determination. Even if students don't continue studying an instrument when they leave elementary school, the skills they acquire will assist them for years to come.

I encourage you to watch the video below and hear from the students and teachers on the positive impact these programs are having. "Bravo" to these students for their enthusiasm and tenacity as they expand their musical horizons.

Violins! Pianos! Guitars! OH MY! (video)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Delivering Effective Instruction using the Instructional Framework

Isle of Wight County Schools developed the Instructional Framework as a way to ensure effective instruction throughout the division.  It is the teacher's responsibility to frame the lesson, allow students to practice targeted skills, integrate projects, pursue their interests, and connect their curriculum to the world beyond school.  Based on best practices, the Instructional Framework follows the gradual release of student learning which moves classroom instruction from teacher-centered, whole group delivery, to student-centered collaboration and independent practice.  The gradual release model incorporates "I do, we do, you do together, you do independently."

Daily lessons include time for identifying the Learning Outcomes or Essential Question, which drive students to discuss, inquire and investigate the topic.  Direct Instruction is the "I Do" part of the lesson, where the teacher is working with the whole class, introducing a concept or activity, or even modeling procedures for the students.  The Student Work Period is the "We Do, You Do Together, You Do Independently" part of the lesson.  This may include stations rotations, collaborative activities, partner or small group work, and field experiences.  The final component of the Instructional Framework is the Debrief, where students and teachers reflect on learning and use that feedback to drive instruction.

The largest chunk of time is devoted to the Student Work Period--65%--with Direct Instruction around 20% and the Debrief at 10%.  Even though Debrief is a small portion of the lesson, it is a valuable component that provided insight into student progress and helps teachers know how to move forward with their instruction.

Recently we spoke to teachers at Carrollton Elementary to find out why the Instructional Framework is beneficial and how their lessons look when they are using the Instructional Framework.  In the video below, the teachers explain how they are using the Instructional Framework in their classroom, while footage from their classes shows the framework in action. I would like to thank the Carrollton teachers for helping us share with the community how classrooms across IWCS are ensuring effective instruction through the use of the Instructional Framework.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Celebrating the Grand Opening of the Barn and Classroom Building at the Land Lab

December 5 was a memorable day. Not just because of the snow we saw in Isle of Wight County, but because we hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new barn and classroom building at the Land Lab.  I was unfortunately under the weather and on doctor's orders for bed rest.  It was incredibly difficult to not be there, but I'm extremely proud of everyone involved for putting together an outstanding event.
The ceremony took place inside of the barn, complete with stalls of goats and piglets, and even some boxes of rabbits.  The event included remarks from our School Board Chairman, Vicky Hulick, and the Vice-Chairman for the Board of Supervisors, William McCarty.  Gracie Owney, a senior from Smithfield High and a student in the Agriculture program, also spoke to the guests about what the program means to her. Mike Lombardo, our Assistant Superintendent, shared the following on my behalf:
Three years ago the division embarked on an ambitious journey to redesign the CTE program to better meet the needs of our students.  The Agriculture program has been a part of the IWCS curriculum for decades, but we knew it needed to be updated.  In the 2016-2018 school year, we established a working farm (Land Lab) to expand the existing agricultural program. The land lab was constructed on existing division property behind Windsor Elementary School.   We hired a full-time farm manager for the Land Lab.  The farm manager and agriculture teacher collaborate to provide authentic real-world learning in the areas of agricultural business management and mechanization, along with plant, animal, and soil science.  Since opening in September of 2017, the students have transformed the Land Lab from six acres of uncut grass, to four fenced pastures, a vegetable garden, and housing for chickens, rabbits, goats, and, as of yesterday, pigs. Students receive real world experiences through the Land Lab, such as participation in “farm to table” marketing from the sale of farm products to the public and to the division’s culinary arts program.  The lab has welcomed groups of elementary students as teachers introduce science standards in their classes.  The working farm has made agriculture come to life for students throughout the division.  And now we have these two beautiful buildings to further enhance learning opportunities for our students.

The strides we have made with this program, many of our CTE programs, would not have been possible without the support and involvement of several key people and groups. The Isle of Wight County School Board had the courage and foresight to see the need for a redesign our CTE program. The Board of Supervisors listened to our proposal and publicly supported our vision for our schools with 7.9 million dollar investment.  Our Farm Manager, Daniel Judkins, and Agriculture teacher, Jason Brittle, and the leadership at our two high schools, Principal Laura Sullivan from Windsor High and Zachary Haney from Smithfield High.  We emphasize the importance of collaboration with our students.  The success of our new CTE model would not have been possible without this collaboration and I wanted to acknowledge their contributions this morning.

All of the speakers, along with Jason Brittle, Daniel Judkins, Zachary Haney and Laura Sullivan, joined together to cut the blue ribbon, officially opening the barn and classroom building for use.  As guests toured the facilities, they were able to enjoy refreshments provided by the IWCS Culinary Arts students and instructor Kyle Cousins.

This was really a milestone for our CTE program.  We are redesigning our courses to provide students with authentic learning experiences.  In order to meet that goal, we have to include facilities that realistically simulate those work environments.  These new buildings at the Land Lab do just that and continue to support our vision of ensuring students are college, career and life ready.

I encourage you to click on the link below to watch a video of pictures from the event.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Celebrating Academic Excellence

During the months of October and November,  students throughout the division were honored for academic excellence.  Students who finished the 2017-2018 school year with All As for their final grades were recognized with an academic medal during special evening ceremonies.  Over 500 4th through 12th graders earned a medal for their exceptional achievement.  In addition, seniors who maintained a 3.75 Grade Point Average though their Junior year received an Academic Jacket.  The personalized Varsity Letterman jacket is presented to the student by their parents, who actually get to place the jacket on their child.  This is usually followed by several hugs and lots of pictures.

This was the fourth year of the medal and jacket ceremonies for Isle of Wight County Schools.  It was a tradition I started in my previous divisions and I wanted to make sure the students in Isle of Wight County had this same opportunity.  With the assistance of a great sponsor, SSC, I am pleased that IWCS was able to present an academic jacket to over 120 extraordinary seniors. 

The history of wearing a varsity jacket originated over 100 years ago. This time honored tradition is an outward symbol of hard work, determination and perseverance. Often the letter, pins and stars recognize athleticism and great accomplishments in a sport. The Superintendent’s Academic Jacket honors our students who have demonstrated great achievement in the classroom.

Honoring accomplishments in academics lets students know that we appreciate the many hours of studying, note taking, reading, writing papers, listening to lectures, working in groups, and staying up after everyone is asleep to finish a project. The jacket not only honors the students, but also their parents and loved ones, as well as the educators, that have supported them throughout their academic journey.  
Here is a video of the jacket ceremonies from Windsor High and Smithfield High.  It is a special moment for the students and their families and one that is well deserved.   

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Honoring our Veterans

Our schools and offices are closed Monday in honor of Veterans Day.  On Thursday, there were activities and ceremonies throughout the division to celebrate Veterans for their service.   The programs are distinguished events that include numerous student performances.  From songs by the school band and chorus, to student speakers, the schools celebrate the brave members of the Armed Forces and their family members who support them.  I have never seen a school division and community celebrate Veterans Day quite like Isle of Wight County!

Below is a video that highlights moments from our Veterans Day programs.  If you know someone who served in the military, or someone who is currently a member of the military, please share the video with them.  I realize many of them may not be able to attend ceremonies taking place in their honor and I hope this video can convey our appreciation.  We owe so much to the men and women of our military for the sacrifices they have made to ensure our freedom. 

Honoring our Veterans (video)