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)

Friday, November 2, 2018

From Artsville to the Hornet's Nest

Recently I took a little road trip and visited our schools on the southern end of the county.  I was so excited about what I saw that I knew I wanted to share it in my blog.

My first stop was Carrsville Elementary, at the southernmost part of our county, next to the city of Franklin. The school is reinventing itself as an integrated arts school, with programs similar to what you might find at a magnet school. They have given themselves the appropriate nickname of "Artsville."  Beginning in September 2018, Carrsville started a music program where every student participates in violin for 30 minutes every day. This is an amazing opportunity for our students to learn an instrument starting at a young age.  I will write more about the violin program in an upcoming blog.  In addition, Mr. Johnson, the PE teacher, has integrated Drums Alive into his classes. The program combines fitness, drumming, music, and educational concepts to build active movers and learners. I took a turn participating which you can see in the video below (and, Yes, it was as fun as it looks!).

My next stop was Windsor High, or The Castle, where I found an inflatable ball pit in the lobby.  The Yearbook class installed it as part of bullying prevention month.  Students were invited to sit and share with each other as a way to learn more about their difference and to ultimately break barriers. I also visited with building trades students who were working on projects in their new lab space.  Hands on masonry at school?  Now that's building skills for a solid future!

Next up was Georgie Tyler Middle School where "It Takes a Titan" rings true.  I saw amazing examples of curated student work from previous projects:  Digital Songwriting, The Tiny House, Pond Life, and more.  Curation is an important part of project based learning.  It highlights the learning process and showcases student work for a wider audience.  Students also learn to take pride in their work, seeing it on display everyday.

Finally, I wrapped up my journey with stop at Windsor Elementary School.  As I walked about the school, I saw students collaborating on activities in their classrooms and in spaces throughout the building.  I stopped by Mrs. Owens' music room where students were learning to play their new keyboards.  Just like Carrsville, this is an incredible opportunity for our students to learn an instrument while still in elementary school. 

It did take me a few hours to visit all four schools, but you can have the same experience (almost) in just 3 minutes!  Here's a compilation video from my visit to the southern end of the county. Enjoy!

From Artsville to the Hornet's Nest

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Education Foundation Puts the "Fun" in Fundraising

On Saturday, October 20, the Education Foundation for Isle of Wight Public Schools held their annual Fall Gala.  The event started in 2007, 3 years after the Foundation was chartered as a 501(c) (3) non-profit.  It was a way to raise money to fund grants for innovative teacher projects.  Silent and Live auction items, along with sponsorships, contributed to the profits generated from the Gala. Because of the hard work of the Foundation board members, the organization has been able to fund over $500,000 in classroom grants. 

This year the organization gave the Gala a makeover and it became School House Rocks, with an 80’s theme, complete with the always exciting cover band The Deloreans.  If you weren’t there, you really missed out.  You missed out on the fun.  You missed out on incredible food provided by Smithfield Station.  You missed out on seeing quite a few of our staff members in crazy 1980’s costumes.  You missed out on some impressive auction items (Beach Vacations, Dinners, Firehouse Birthday Parties).

But you really missed out on helping to fund a teacher’s project.  Each year, the Foundation receives a stack of grant applications from our teachers.  And each year the Foundation has to make the difficult decision on which ones to fund with the money they have raised.  There are always more requests than funding.  There is still a way to contribute to the Foundation.  Just click on the link below and donate on their website.  You can have a direct impact on our students through your generosity.  You can also see the list of grants that were funded last year and pictures of some of the grants in action:

As usual, the Foundation put on another exceptional event, with the goal of supporting and enhancing an exemplary educational experience for all students in Isle of Wight Public Schools. If you weren’t able to attend, I hope you will join us next year.  You will not be disappointed. 

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