Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Latest Group of College, Career and Life Ready Students--the Class of 2019

Last week we celebrated members of the Class of 2019, as students from Windsor High and Smithfield High walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.  As I shook their hands, I felt confident that we had fulfilled our promise to them, by preparing them to be college ready, career ready, and life ready. Many of the graduates will be continuing their education through a two-year or four-year college.  Others are heading to the military, while a significant number of them will immediately enter the workforce.  We have developed programs in welding, culinary arts, cosmetology, building trades, agriculture, and nursing that equip our students with the skills and certifications to be sought after by area businesses and industry.  In last week's blog I highlighted the recent Career Signing Ceremony we had for students going straight to employment from high school.  All of our students have benefited from opportunities to develop the 5Cs--creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship--in each of their classes.  Through deeper learning experiences offered by every teacher, and a focus on Profile of a Graduate, our students are leaving high school with skills to benefit them regardless of whether they are continuing their education or immediately entering the workforce.

So, on that note, congratulations to the newest SHS and WHS alumni.  Go out and do great things in this world!

Pictures from graduation will be shared on Facebook or can be accessed through the link below:

Graduation 2019

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Celebrating Students as they Embark on Careers after High School

On Thursday, May 30, Isle of Wight County Schools did something we had never done before--we hosted a Career Signing Ceremony.  The event was similar to the signing days you see with high school athletes when they commit to a college to play a sport.

But the students this day were not athletes signing with a college.  Instead, they were students who had completed coursework and certifications in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and they were signing with a business where they would use their skills in their chosen career pathway.

The ceremony recognized thirteen students in the programs of Agriculture, Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, and Welding.  Businesses ranged from local salons and restaurants, to national companies, and employers associated with the shipbuilding industry.  At the ceremony, the student sat down with a representative from the business, they both signed a ceremonial agreement, and pictures were taken of the student wearing "swag" from their employer.  Families attended, as did members from the School Board, Board of Supervisors, and Economic Development.

We talk about providing students with opportunities to develop their unique gifts and talents, and preparing students to be college, career and life ready.  We made a commitment to our students by offering programs that will prepare them for high skill, high wage, high demand jobs.  I am excited that these students have made decisions in high school that have put them on the pathway to success.

Below are the names of the students who were recognized during the career signing and the businesses who have invited them to join their family.  Scroll down further to see pictures from the ceremony.

Student                                Program                              Business
Adkins, Logan                      Building Trades                   Lowe’s
Baggett III, Webster             Welding                                Suffolk Iron Works
Beasley, Robert                    Welding                                Newport News Shipbuilding
Charles, Joshua                    Culinary Arts                        US Navy—Culinary Specialist
Crocker, Nelson                   Agriculture                            Smithfield Foods
Cross, Tobias                        Culinary Arts                        Vintage Tavern
Dalton, Tyler                        Culinary Arts                        Smithfield Station
Daughtry, Logan                  Cosmetology                         Reflections Salon
Davis, Noah                         Welding                                 Allfirst LLC
Mason, Donnell                   Building Trades                     Lowe’s
Smith, Jada                          Cosmetology                         Nails Studio LLC
Throckmorton, Davis          Welding                                 Allfirst LLC
Yost, Patrick                        Welding                                 Newport News Shipbuilding

Friday, May 31, 2019

Honoring our Retirees and Teachers of the Year

On Wednesday night, Isle of Wight County Schools held the 2019 Celebration of Education.  We recognized our Teachers of the Year and our retirees from across the division. 
We kicked off the night with a song from three of our students--Emily, Goldey, and Brooke, otherwise known as The Dempsey Sisters.  Their stirring rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was a beautiful tribute to our guests of honor.  Bill and Tricia Dempsey (Mom and Dad) shared the video below they took of the girls' performance.  

The event, held at the Smithfield Center, was catered by our Culinary Arts students, under the direction of Chef Kyle Cousins.  Their crab dip and shrimp fettuccine, along with pork tenderloin sliders, and homemade desserts, were in high demand as evidenced by the lines at those tables.  

We honored our nine teachers of the year with a beautiful jade trophy which included an inscription, along with their name, their school, and the school year.  The three grade-level Teachers of the Year received a classic silver signet ring courtesy of our partners at Jostens.  Our overall Teacher of the Year, Julie Eng, received a $50 Visa gift card, in addition to the trophy and ring.

The IWCS Teachers of the Year for 2018--2019 are
  • Morgan Chappell (Carrollton Elementary)
  • Debbie Story (Carrsville Elementary)
  • Ceceli Lleva (Westside Elementary)
  • Pamela Hall (Windsor Elementary)
  • Elizabeth Tisdel (Smithfield Middle)  
  • Deborah Simmons (Windsor High)  
  • Lee Ann Hawley (Hardy Elementary) **Elementary School Teacher of the Year**
  • Ashleigh Hazel (Georgie Tyler Middle) **Middle School Teacher of the Year**
  • Julie Eng (Smithfield High) **High School Teacher of the Year**   **Isle of Wight County Schools Teacher of the Year**
David Elliott, our Communications Coordinator, created a video that highlights all of the Teachers of the Year. 

The 2018--2019 retirees were also recognized during the evening.  There are fifteen retirees with over 360 combined years of service.  Many of the retirees have been with IWCS for their entire career.  We hate to lose their talent and expertise, but the next phase of their life is well deserved and well earned.  Each retiree receives a beautiful wooden rocking chair.  Thanks to True Value for their assistance with the special gift for our retirees.  

David Elliott put together a fabulous tribute video for our retirees, which you can watch by clicking the following link:  Retirement Video

The 2018--2019 Retirees for IWCS are:

Minette Brooks

Virginia Kimpel
Cindy Calhoon

Gwendolyn Knight
Alison Chapman

David Price
Tammi Croshaw

Pamela Riddleberger
Felix Darden

Linda Trier
Roland Downing

Victoria Ward
Karen Duerig

Brenda Williams
Dorcas Hinton

To both groups, I extend a heartfelt Thank You.  Your dedication and commitment to the children of Isle of Wight County is beyond reproach.  You created a legacy with each and every child who sat in your classroom.  They will carry the life lessons you taught them for countless years to come.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Seniors Thank an Educator 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, you can find a short video of the powerpoint that ran during the event.  It lists all of our sponsors, seniors and the educators they were honoring.  We also have a video below that highlights the students' speeches from the ceremony.  I hope you will watch it and hear the heartfelt messages the students had for the educators they were honoring.

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 22,2019, 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.  This year, those partners include:  Ameresco, Barton Ford, Blue Bird Bus Sales of Virginia, Chartwells, Comfort Systems of Virginia, DeltaGraphic, Education Foundation for Isle of Wight Public Schools, ESS/Source4Teachers, Haney Phinyowattanachip PLLC, Honeywell Building Solutions, HRSD, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc., RRMM Architects. 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.

Congratulations 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.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sharing our Programs with the Community.

Recently, we held two Community Open House events to give people a chance to view our new and renovated facilities for Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs.  At the Land Lab, which is the working farm used as part of the agricultural program, guests saw students doing what they love.  Two students were in the garden, running the tiller, and making sure the rows of lettuce, kale, blueberries and strawberries were weed free.  Another student was on the tractor, mowing the grass in the pastures.  Several more students were stationed throughout the farm with different animals--rabbits, chickens, cows, goats, and Hee Haw Henry the donkey.

A week later we opened our doors to the Career Building and JROTC Fieldhouse at Smithfield High School.  Welding students demonstrated different types of welding and displayed their creations throughout the welding lab.  Guests visited the nursing lab which simulates a actual medical facility with beds and instruments used in the care of patients.  JROTC showed off their new fieldhouse, funded by a donation from Smithfield Foods.  Engineering students demonstrated their wind turbine project which won the regional KidWind competition and is heading to nationals in Houston on Monday.  Manufacturing students walked visitors through the Makerspace and highlighted the various machines in the lab, such as 3D printers and laser cutters.  They also explained the process they were using to create beautiful cheese boards for Culinary Arts.  Speaking of Culinary Arts, our guests were treated to delicious refreshments prepared by the Culinary Arts students in Turner and 10, the on-site, student-run restaurant that is a working lab for the program.

At both events, we heard the same comments:  This is amazing!  I didn't know this even existed.  These are wonderful programs.  I'm so glad the students have an opportunity to take these classes. Welders make good money.  The food is incredible.  My child wants to be in this program when he gets to high school.  What a great use of taxpayer's dollars.  I am so impressed!

Thank you to those who came out to one of our open houses.  We are hoping to make this an annual event as a way to let the community to see our facilities and the work of our students.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Any Time is the Right Time to Tell a Teacher You Appreciate Them

Today wraps up Teacher Appreciation Week and our schools have gone to great lengths to make this week about the teachers.   We've had schools provide on site spa services (thanks to our Cosmetology students), a break room makeover, and lots of food.  There were ice cream trucks, pancake breakfasts, snack carts, cookies, lunches, and a big sheet cake from Central Office.

All of these gestures don't begin to match the level of appreciation we have for our teachers, because they are so much more than teachers.  When we think back to our time in school and the teachers who made an impact on our lives, we usually aren't thinking about what they taught.  We remember how they treated us and how they made us feel.  The teachers we recall as our favorites were the ones that took time to build  relationships with us.

When I was in high school, I had a computer science teacher named Mr. Whalley.  He also lived on a farm and hired a small group of students to work on the farm during the summer.  I was part of that group one year. It was hard work, but we had the best time and became like a family.  We even had an end of summer celebration before heading back to school. Mr. Whalley talked to all of us about our future.  I didn't really have plans for the future; I just wanted to get through high school.  But Mr. Whalley recognized that I was skilled in math and he encouraged me to go to college and study math.  This was the first time anyone truly believed I had the ability to go to college and be successful. I appreciated the fact that he had confidence in me and saw a brighter future for me than I saw for myself.

James Comer says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.  Mr. Whalley took time to get to know me and develop that positive relationship.  He encouraged me.  He respected me.  He guided me.  I think this is what we remember when we think back on the teachers who made a difference in our lives.  And I believe the greatest show of appreciation we can give to them is to say "Thank you", and to say it often.  I'm not sure if I ever said it to Mr. Whalley, even though I'm sure he knew how much I appreciated him.

To all of the teachers in IWCS, please accept my sincerest "Thank You" for all you do for our students, families, and community.  I encourage everyone to take a minute to publicly thank a teacher, either a teacher who taught your child, or one of your former teachers.  Let them know what they mean to you and tell them Thank You for being such a special person.  Remember:  you don't need to only do this during Teacher Appreciation Week.  Anytime is the right time to tell a teacher how much they impacted your, or your child's, life.

Friday, May 3, 2019

You Are Cordially Invited....

This has been an incredible year for Isle of Wight County Schools.  That's probably an understatement.  It's been amazing, accomplished, exciting, awesome, and ground-breaking (literally).  Several construction projects were completed this year as part of our commitment to redesigning our Career and Technology Education programs.  In October, we officially opened the new JROTC Fieldhouse at Smithfield High School.  This is the first space that was specifically designed to provide the award winning Packer Battalion with the room they need to conduct drill practice and other activities inside.  In December, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new classroom building and barn at the Land Lab.  Students in the agriculture program now have the facilities to better care for animals, and to continue their learning about plant and animal management regardless of weather. In March, we formally opened the Career Building at Smithfield High School.  This heavily renovated space is now home to Nursing, Welding, Engineering and a Mechatronics Lab, Manufacturing and the MakerSpace, and Culinary Arts, which includes the student-run, on-site restaurant Turner and 10.

Now, we are extending an invitation to the community to see the facilities and hear about the different programs from the students.  We are holding two Community Open House events--one is May 8 at the Agricultural Land Lab, and the other is May 15 at the Career Building and JROTC Fieldhouse at Smithfield High.  Both are from 5:00--6:30.  We encourage you to stop by and check out the work of our students and see how they are gaining the skills and knowledge in demand by business and industry.

The teachers and students are looking forward to showing you their new spaces and sharing with you the amazing work they are able to accomplish.  I hope you will be able to join us at the Open House events on May 8 and May 15.  You will leave with an entirely different opinion of what school can be.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Announcing the IWCS Teacher of the Year

Friday was one of those days I really enjoy as Superintendent.  Friday was the day I surprised our 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year for the entire division.  The honoree was Mrs. Julie Eng, a teacher at Smithfield High School.  Julie teaches English, Creative Writing, and Teachers for Tomorrow at SHS.  She is a very humble person and prefers to let her students have the spotlight.  After presenting her with flowers, and taking several pictures, she was ready to resume the normalcy of her classroom.  It's evident her students respect her, appreciate her, and love having her as a teacher. Although being selected Teacher of the Year is an incredible honor, it can't top having the approval of the students you teach. She has made a lasting impression on hundreds of lives and that, by far, is the greater legacy.

Congratulations to all of our Teachers of the Year for 2018-2019.  You are all excellent representatives of the outstanding educators we have throughout IWCS.  For a full list of Teachers of the Year, scroll down below the pictures.

IWCS 2018-2019 Teachers of the Year

Carrollton Elementary:  Morgan Chappell
Carrsville Elementary:  Debbie Story 
Hardy Elementary:  Lee Ann Hawley (Elementary Teacher of the Year)
Westside Elementary:  Ceceli Lleva 
Windsor Elementary:  Pamela Hall
Georgie D. Tyler Middle:  Ashleigh Hazel (Middle School Teacher of the Year)
Smithfield Middle:  Elizabeth Tisdel 
Smithfield High:  Julie Eng (High School Teacher of the Year; Division Teacher of the Year)
Windsor High:  Deborah Simmons

Saturday, April 13, 2019

B is for Budget

In March 2019, the Isle of Wight County School Board approved the proposed budget for 2019-2020.  The budget requested an additional $1,981,047 in local funding when compared to the current year.     

The division has identified required expenditures that will have to be covered as part of the 2019-2020 budget.  Those required expenditures will cost $2,178,901.  They include:
  • Teacher raises -$640,923 
  • 3 Guidance Counselors -$190,788  
    • Shared positions:  Carrollton and Hardy; Smithfield and Windsor High; Windsor Elementary and Georgie Tyler Middle
  • Special Education positions (15) -$410,874 
  • SSC/Service Solutions (custodial) contract -$116,599 
  • Debt service -$15,829
  • Gifted tuition (Governor’s Schools) -$13,635 
  • PowerSchool (Student Information System)-$16,317 
  • Maintenance purchased services -$220,000  
  • Emergency Communication System -$58,412
  • Technology purchased services -$40,750 
  • Electricity -$167,567
  • Health insurance -$287,207
IWCS is projected to receive an increase in state funding of $1,510,525. 

The Isle of Wight County Administrator has proposed funding IWCS $948,106.  When combined with the state funding, the total would cover: 
  • All Required Expenditures listed above $2,178,901 
  • Supplemental pay increases (coaches, sponsors, extra duties) $192,230 
  • Support Staff Raises $87,500

 Some of the items not included in proposed funding:
  • High School Finance Teacher (provides additional face to face sections of Economics and Personal Finance
  • Carrollton Elementary School STEM Teacher (reduces high resource class size)
  • Hardy Elementary School STEM Teacher (provides equity with other schools)
  • Westside Elementary School STEM Teacher (reduces high resource class size)
  • Windsor Elementary Environmental Science Teacher (provides a specialized focus for students)
  • Georgie Tyler/Windsor High ISS Teacher  (makes the shared position a whole position for both schools, which will provide a more timely response to discipline matters)
  • High School CTE Teacher (the location has not yet been designated; addresses increasing class sizes)
  • WHS Math Teacher (reduces class size)
  • GTMS 8th Grade Teacher (reduces class size)
  • High School--½ Global Logistics Teacher (to begin offering the Global Logistics program/warehousing as part of the Career and Tech Ed redesign in IWCS)
  • 2 Technicians for Technology (the number of devices throughout IWCS has increased annually, but the staff to manage those devices has not)
  • WHS Instructional Materials $10,200 (funding for Drama, MakerSpace, and Robotics)
  • WHS/SHS funding for all sophomores to take the PSAT
  • Additional Maintenance Supplies $60,000
  • Transportation $245,965 (to reduce “doubled up” runs when drivers are out, and to help with transporting small student teams/groups to events without encumbering a full size bus)
    • 5 vans -$150,000
    • 2 Part Time bus drivers -$21,160
    • Full Time bus driver floater -$20,475
    • Cost to move bus driver substitute to $13.50 -$15,380
    • Purchased services -$10,000
    • Materials and supplies -$28,950

Additional information can be found on the IWCS Budget Page at

Making Your Voice Heard

The Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on the amount of funding appropriated for the school division.  They don’t “fund” a specific project or position, but they provide the overall funding for IWCS, and the division then decides how to use the funding to support those needs.  They have not eliminated the STEM teachers, for example, but supporting the County Administrator’s proposal would mean IWCS would not receive the funding it needs to add those positions. It will be helpful to keep that in mind when speaking to the BOS about additional funding.  

There are two opportunities to speak on the proposed IWCS budget:
  • April 18, 5:00 pm, at the Windsor Town Center, 23361 Courthouse Highway, Windsor, VA 23487 
    • This is a regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors with a public comment period around 6:00 pm
  • April 25, 6:00 pm, at the Board of Supervisors Meeting Room, Courthouse Complex
    • This is a Public Hearing on the county administrator’s proposed budget and the Capital Improvement Plan. 
    • This will be the last time to provide comments on the budget before it is voted on at the May 9 BOS meeting.
The IWCS Capital Improvement Plan approved by the School Board includes funding for renovating and expanding Hardy Elementary, replacing the Bus Garage, building a new elementary school in the northern end of the county  (when triggered by enrollment increases), and an renovating Westside Elementary.  Information on the IWCS Capital Improvement Plan can be found on the IWCS website at

We hope to see, and hear from you, at these upcoming meetings.  You need to make your voice heard about the budget.  If you can't be there in person, have someone who will be there deliver a letter from you directly to all the supervisors.  They need to fully understand the number of parents, community members, and employees who support the division's budget as presented.  You need to let them know if there are things that should be funded that were not included in the county administrator's budget.  Your voice does matter.  

Thank you for your support of Isle of Wight County Schools

Friday, April 5, 2019

Say Y-E-S to H-E-S

Tuesday evening I spoke to members of the Hardy PTA and other citizens who came out to Hardy for a special meeting on the future of the school.  I shared with them our plan for Hardy, which includes a significant renovation and addition to the aging facility.  I showed them examples of recent renovations throughout IWCS so they could see that our proposal is not just putting "lipstick on a pig". 

Many of the parents, grandparents, and citizens who spoke Tuesday night shared their love for Hardy and their appreciation for the incredible staff who teach and care for their children daily.  They agreed that the children in the Hardy district deserve similar spaces and programs offered at other elementary schools.  We showed a video that highlights the incredible differences between Hardy Elementary and a newer elementary school less than 15 miles away--Carrollton. Whether you have ever set foot in Hardy or Carrollton, you must watch this video to see for yourself the side by side comparison of these 2 schools.  You will immediately recognize the issues at Hardy and understand why we need to implement the proposed plan as soon as possible. 

There were some questions from parents about how this project would impact taxpayers.  If you are a homeowner, then the renovation, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, will probably result in a tax increase.  Our calculations are that it may be around 2.3 cents per $100, but the rate would be determined by the Supervisors.

I want to thank everyone who came out to the meeting on Tuesday, including Mr. Rudolph Jefferson, Board of Supervisors, Hardy District, and School Board Members Vicky Hulick (Chair, Newport District), Jackie Carr (Vice-Chair, Carrsville District), and Kirstin Cook (Smithfield District).  I appreciate Mrs. Denson's assistance with getting the word our to her parents about the meeting.  Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who attended the meeting and those who candidly shared their feelings about Hardy. 

The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a Public Hearing on the Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Plan budget for April 25, at 6:00 pm, at the IOW Courthouse Complex.  We need our parents to share their support for the Hardy project with the Supervisors.  If you can't attend, consider writing a letter that someone who is speaking can deliver to the Supervisors that evening.  Let's make sure the students and staff at Hardy have a facility that matches their same level of greatness.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Spread the Word about CTE

I have highlighted our CTE (Career and Technical Education) program in several of my recent blogs—ribbon cuttings for the Land Lab and Career Building, and Building Trades renovating a home for a senior citizens.  Agriculture and Building Trades, along with Nursing, Culinary Arts, Welding and Cosmetology are our double-blocked CTE classes and are open to students from both high schools.  In addition to the blogs, we have tried to share information about the programs with the community through special events at Windsor and Smithfield high schools.  There are two new events that have just been added to the schedule—a Community Open House on May 8 at the Land Lab and May 15 at the Career Building. Both will be from 5:00—6:30pm.  Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information.

I still wanted a way to share information on these CTE programs that would reach even more students, parents, and the community.  I am excited, and proud, to reveal our CTE Profiles, a series of 1 minute videos that highlight each of these programs.  David Elliott, our Coordinator of Educational Technologies and Communications, has done incredible work on these videos.  These are not boring infomercials.  They are high energy and are guaranteed to keep your attention.  The links to the videos are below.  Just watch one and you will be hooked.  All of them are posted on the IWCS YouTube channel.  Please watch, like, and share them to help spread the word about these amazing opportunities we are providing our students.