Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Updates

Please monitor information on Coronavirus through the division's website:

We will also be sharing information on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

I will not be posting information to my blog during school closures, but I urge you to keep you with the most recent information from IWCS by using the sites listed above.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Stay safe everyone.

Monday, March 2, 2020

The "House" System Comes to IWCS

The house system is a culture-building program our teachers and administrators witnessed on their visit to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.  If you're a Harry Potter fan, it's similar to the system used at Hogwarts where students are sorted into houses such as Gryffindor and Slytherin.  Four of our schools launched a house system this year with some of their grade levels--Hardy, Westside, Smithfield Middle, and Georgie Tyler Middle.  Each school held a House Selection event where students found out their house name.  At SMS, students spun a big wheel, almost like a carnival game, to determine their house. Georgie Tyler students received balloons, held them over their head, and popped the balloon to reveal confetti, the same color as their new house.
There are certain characteristics to each house--they have a unique name and motto, along with a distinct color.  The houses compete for points through weekly and monthly challenges and winning houses receive different rewards--extra time at recess for elementary, or school "bucks" that they can redeem for spirit wear or accessories.  The houses create a group where every student belongs and is part of something.
The best way to understand the benefit of the house system is to hear from the students and staff who are participating in the program.  Check out this high energy video that perfectly captures the excitement generated as part of the house process.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Our School Board Members ROCK!

February 2020 has been designated as School Board Appreciation Month in Virginia. The theme — Excellence through Equity— 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, our school board members put on a collective hat when they get down to the business of leading their school divisions. They must pull together as a team toward a common goal of helping all students to be successful. 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, our 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 IWCS. 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 our 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 the elected officials of the Isle of Wight County School Board who provide grassroots governance of public schools. I encourage you to make a special effort to tell each school board member that their hard work has been noticed and is truly appreciated.

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

Here is a special video we created to let our board members know how much we appreciate everything they do for Isle of Wight County Schools. They truly ROCK!

Our School Board Members Rock! (video)

Friday, January 31, 2020

Did you See the 2018-2019 IWCS Annual Report?

Before winter break, the 2018-2019 IWCS Annual Report was handed out to all students to take home to their parents. The purpose of this publication is to communicate the significant events and accomplishments of the past school year and to celebrate the students, staff, and community members who contributed to our success.  The report also highlights examples of deeper learning opportunities taking place in our schools.  At Georgie D. Tyler Middle, students launched a project to curb the use of plastic straws. Their commitment to this goal resulted in the division switching to paper straws and only providing straws to students upon request. Windsor High students created a Kindness Wall in their school as a place to share positive messages of love and support. They realized the importance of word choice in promoting practical change among their peers. Carrollton Elementary students partnered with the local animal shelter to raise awareness of unwanted and abandoned animals. These are a very small sample of the incredible work our students are accomplishing at all division schools and in all grade levels.

Also featured in the report are the new spaces and facilities that opened last school year which further our vision of creating learning environments that will allow every child to discover his or her unique gifts and talents. A beautiful barn and classroom building were added to the Land Lab. We opened a dedicated building for the JROTC program, funded by a generous three million dollar donation from Smithfield Foods. We also completely renovated a facility at Smithfield High to create a new Career Building, which houses nursing, welding, manufacturing, a MakerSpace lab, engineering, a mechatronics lab, and culinary arts. The spaces are outfitted with industry-standard equipment to provide students with authentic work experience opportunities.  All of these are featured in the report.

Everyday we have students and staff members demonstrating GREAT citizenship (growth, respect, empathy, accountability, trustworthiness) and GRIT (gumption, resiliency, integrity, tenacity). Throughout the document, you will see many examples of GREAT and GRIT from
last school year. I am proud of the dedication and commitment from our schools to develop
meaningful learning experiences to ensure our students are college, career, and life-ready.
I hope you enjoy the report and perhaps learn a little more about Isle of Wight County

If you didn't get a copy of the report, please contact your child's school.  Until then, you can enjoy the digital version by clicking on the link below.

2018-2019 IWCS Annual Report (link)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thank You to our School Principals!

This week is Principal Appreciation Week, one of the many Appreciation weeks where we celebrate a group of individuals for their work in education. Let me be the first to say that I am a big fan of our school administrators.  Their days are filled from beginning to end...and usually it's difficult to know when they end.

They serve as the Instructional Leader in their building, which means they are responsible for how content is shared with every child in every classroom.  They supervise a school full of employees, from teachers, to nurses, to instructional assistants.  They ensure students and staff have a safe and secure environment in which to work and to learn.  They support student growth and success in academics and in life skills.  Principals and Assistant Principals realize their plan for the day can quickly change based on the type of day one of their students is having.  They stay late to address the emails, phone calls, and paperwork they were unable to get to during the day.  They go home exhausted, many times without even eating lunch, and often take with them more unfinished work they hope to tackle.

So why do they do it?  For the same reason as teachers and others in education--they love their students.  All of their students.  And they appreciate their employees.  They know that they are the main champion for every child in their building, and for every one of their staff members.  They accept that responsibility and are rewarded with hugs, smiling faces, thank yous, and other little gifts.  Usually these expressions of gratitude come at just the right time and make a difficult day not so difficult.

We wanted to give our principals a big Thank You and let them know that we appreciate them every week, not just this one.  But it is a good time to publicly acknowledge all that they do and to tell them how glad we are that they chose to work in Isle of Wight County.

We created a special video for our principals so they could hear from their staff, students, and parents who share how much their principal means to them.  I encourage you to share your own message of appreciation with your child's principal and assistant principals during this week, and any time throughout the school year.  As Mother Teresa noted, Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  

We Appreciate Our Principals! (Video)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Celebrating our 2019-2020 Teachers of the Year

Congratulations to all the teachers who were recently announced by their schools as Teacher of the Year.  Over the next few months the finalists will complete a portfolio that will be reviewed by the division's Teacher of the Year Committee.  The committee, composed of former honorees, will review the portfolios and select one teacher from each level as the Elementary, Middle, and High School Teacher of the Year.  Those three finalists will be further evaluated and the committee will select the overall Teacher of the Year for IWCS.  
The nine teachers announced as this year's honorees are excellent representatives of the quality educators in all of our schools.  To learn more about these outstanding individuals, you can scroll down to see a brief bio for each of them.  

Isle of Wight County Schools
2019-2020 Teachers of the Year

Christine Rosenberry is a preschool teacher at Carrollton Elementary School.  She has taught preschool for 21 years.  Prior to teaching at CAES she taught one year in Portsmouth Public Schools and just completed her 20th year at Carrollton Elementary.  She is originally from Chesapeake and attended Chesapeake Public Schools.  She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s degree is in Early Childhood Psychology.  Mrs. Rosenberry has been part of the school leadership team at CAES, as well as a mentor to aspiring teachers from the Teachers for Tomorrow program at Smithfield High School.  She provides classroom experiences that help build a solid learning foundation for some of Carrollton’s youngest learners.  Her goal is to create a classroom where children feel accepted and loved.  She feels that once that goal is achieved, learning will take place.  Mrs. Rosenberry lives in Isle of Wight County with her husband and two sons.

Karen Reeder is a reading specialist at Carrsville Elementary School.   This is her fourth year at Carrsville Elementary, previously serving as a reading specialist at Windsor Elementary for thirteen years.  Prior to teaching in Isle of Wight, she taught for three years in the Shenandoah Valley.  Originally from Sandston, Virginia, she attended Bridgewater College and earned her undergraduate degree with an elementary education certification.  She later earned her master’s degree in reading education from James Madison University.  Mrs. Reeder constantly looks for opportunities to serve others in her school community.  She is an administrative aide who actively works with parents and teachers to provide academic resources for students in the building.  She loves watching her students become confident readers.  Mrs. Reeder and her husband reside in Suffolk. 

Mallory Bradley is a coding teacher at Hardy Elementary School and is currently in her thirteenth year of teaching in Isle of Wight County Schools. Prior to teaching coding, Mrs. Bradley taught second grade for ten years at Hardy Elementary School. Originally from Mansfield, Ohio, Mrs. Bradley received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. She will complete her master’s degree in Educational Leadership in the spring of 2020 from Regent University. Mrs. Bradley currently serves as an administrative aide, resource department chair, new teacher mentor, yearbook committee chair, and a Great Computer Challenge coach. She provides creative, authentic, and interactive instruction that challenges students to dig deep, think critically, and take chances. Mrs. Bradley values the relationships she creates with her students and their families. She currently resides in Smithfield with her husband, who also works for the school district, and their two children, one of whom is a student at Hardy Elementary School.

Rachel Batts is a fourth grade Special Education teacher at Westside Elementary School. This is her eighth year at Westside Elementary School and her fifteenth year as a special education teacher, having taught students from Kindergarten to sixth grade.  Mrs. Batts grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia and attended Old Dominion University, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Therapeutic Recreation and a Master’s of Education in Special Education. She is a certified trainer in the Handle with Care program, where she is currently partnering to train all Westside staff. She has been an active participant in the Westside Relay for Life team, as well as a leader for the Community Service Kids club.  She is an active collaborator with special education and general education teachers and served as a professional mentor to both groups.  She believes that all students have the ability and the drive to learn, and will 
grow when provided the right instruction in a compassionate environment.  Mrs. Batts lives in Suffolk with her husband, daughter and son.

Christine Byrum is a first grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School.  She is in her twenty-fifth year of teaching, having spent all of those years proudly at Windsor Elementary School.  Mrs. Byrum is a product of Isle of Wight County Schools and earned her teaching certificate and undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Psychology from Christopher Newport University. Mrs. Byrum has served as her grade-level chairperson, a steering committee member for Response to Intervention in Isle of Wight County Schools, and her building’s representative for the county’s Teacher Advisory Committee.  Her classroom encourages open communication and collaboration where students are empowered to be risk-takers and critical thinkers.  She loves the opportunity she has as an elementary school teacher in building the foundation for her students’ life-long love of learning.  Mrs. Byrum lives in Suffolk with her husband and three children. 

Jeff Hampton is a Health and Physical Education teacher at Georgie Tyler Middle School.  He is originally from Ocala, Florida and graduated from Liberty University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education with a minor in Health. Mr. Hampton is in his 18th year of teaching, all at Georgie Tyler and the former Windsor Middle School, where he has served as the School Leadership Team chairperson for four years along with mentoring first year teachers at GTMS.  He has been leading a basketball club for the past 15 years, and also sponsors a handball club at the school.  He previously served as sponsor of the Spikeball and Handball clubs, taught beginner’s Tennis, and coached basketball at Windsor High School for six years.  His passion for education is simple…he loves kids, staying active, and playing sports, in that order.  He currently lives in Suffolk, Virginia and is married with 2 sons. 

Ericka Jurist is in her second year as a School Counselor at Smithfield Middle School. She attended George Mason University and earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2014, and a Master of Education in School Counseling degree from Old Dominion University in 2018. Her transition from social work to middle school counseling was fueled by her love of working with youth during her experience assisting at a teen crisis shelter. She currently serves as a member of the School Leadership Team, 504 case manager, Response to Intervention facilitator, School Testing Coordinator and Drama Club sponsor. She is passionate about creating safe spaces for students to learn how to manage the ups and downs of life, as well as helping students prepare for their future. She was born and raised in Newport News, and now calls Yorktown home with her husband and beloved dog. 

Jason Henderson is math teacher at Smithfield High School, where he has spent his entire thirteen year teaching career.  He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, where in eleventh grade he realized he wanted to be a math teacher, and is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.  Mr. Henderson is committed to student success inside the classroom and works to prepare students for life.  He strives to make connections with students with the hope that they will find their passion for learning.  In addition to teaching, he is the varsity boys’ soccer coach, co-sponsor of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and volunteers with the high school’s athletic program.  Mr. Henderson lives in Smithfield with his wife, son, and furry friends.

Jessica Brannan is currently in her 6th year of teaching and second year with Isle of Wight County Public Schools. She teaches Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Windsor High School. In addition to teaching, Jessica is the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach and the Student Government sponsor.  Before joining the Windsor family, Jessica taught Spanish and ESL at Franklin City Public schools for four years. She grew up in Rochester, New York where she received her undergraduate degree in Spanish and Education from the College at Brockport. She completed her master's degree in English as a Second Language with a bilingual extension from Canisius College. She values the power of positive student-teacher relationships and strives to develop long lasting connections with each of her students. Jessica fills her instruction with hands-on activities and cultural experiences that make learning enjoyable and meaningful. Jessica lives in Suffolk with her husband and two dogs.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Time to be Thankful

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on everything we have to be thankful for. 

In addition to my family and my health, many of my thoughts are about all of the great things happening throughout our division.  As I’ve visited schools, I’ve seen caring, dedicated people whose actions, both big and small, are making a significant impact on the lives of our students.  I have met parents who entrust us to educate their children and prepare them to be successful citizens once they leave our doors.  I have listened to members of the community who know the importance of high-performing schools to the health of our county. I have interacted with students and heard about their hopes and dreams, and the high expectations they have for themselves and want us to have for them. For Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for supportive staff, students, parents and citizens and their vision for Isle of Wight County Schools.  With these pieces in place, we are in a position to do incredible things to help every child discover their unique gifts and talents.

Over the break, I hope you will take time to think about everything you have to be thankful for and remember those who are less fortunate.  Finally, I wish you a wonderful holiday as you spend time with family and friends.