Friday, October 25, 2019

Celebrating Academic Excellence

During the months of October and November,  students throughout the division will be honored for academic excellence.  Students who finished the 2018-2019 school year with All As for their final grades will be recognized with an academic medal during special evening ceremonies.  Over 700 4th through 12th graders will receive 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, or someone special, who actually get to place the jacket on the student.  This is usually followed by several hugs and lots of pictures.

This was the fifth 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 150 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.  
We have posted pictures from the ceremonies at Windsor High and Smithfield High on our Facebook page.  We still have medal ceremonies coming up for our Hardy Elementary, Westside Elementary, and Smithfield Middle students.  It is a special moment for the students and their families and one that is well deserved.  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Learning More about eSports and the New Team at SHS

The Virginia High School League (VHSL), the group that oversees public school sports, approved a one-year pilot program for esports at its May 2019 meeting.  Esports competitions have grown in recent years and many high school students are engaging in cooperative, collaborative, and competitive activities on their own.

Smithfield High School (SHS) is piloting an eSports team and the program has already generated a lot of interest from students.  Last week, the coach for the SHS team, Chris Borum, was invited on to the WTKR News Channel 3 Coast Live show, along with a VHSL representative, and talked to host Cheryl Nelson about the new program.

As you hear Mr. Borum talk about eSports, you will realize that it isn't about students sitting around playing video games.  The division's mission is to help all students discover their unique gifts and talents.   With more colleges organizing eSports teams, and offering scholarships to students to come play for them, it is another opportunity I'm glad we can provide our students.

Watch the segment below to learn more about eSports from the SHS coach, Chris Borum, and Darrell Wilson from the VHSL.

Bringing Varsity eSports to Virginia High Schools (link to video)

Friday, October 11, 2019

Two Degrees are better than One

At Thursday night’s School Board meeting, Susan Goetz, Director for Leadership, shared information with the board on expanding dual enrollment (DE) opportunities for our students.  The goal is to add enough courses that students could earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school.  DE allows students to receive both high school and college credit for the same course (hence, dual enrollment). 
IWCS already partners with Paul D. Camp Community College to provide several dual credit classes at Windsor and Smithfield.  The classes are popular with students but we are limited to the number of courses we can offer. The main reason we don’t offer more DE classes has to do with the credentials needed to teach these classes.  Community college instructors need 18 hours of graduate coursework in their content area.  Usually, teachers will take graduate courses in the field of administration, not their content area. 
We are looking at a possible plan that would increase the number of teachers qualified to teach DE courses.  Our recommendation is to pay for teachers to take classes to become DE credentialed.  They would need 18 credit hours, or 6 courses.  Tuition would be about $1,068 per class (using ODU tuition as an example) or $6,408 per teacher.  We will look at partnering with a university to offer classes or provide tuition reimbursement.  In addition, we would limit the number of teachers per subject area that IWCS will pay for courses.  To ensure teachers don’t get their degree and immediately leave, we would require them to remain in IWCS for 3-5 years after completing courses paid for by the division.
The good news is that we have several teachers that are very close to meeting the 18 credits required to teach DE, meaning we would not be starting from scratch to develop the faculty needed to make this happen.
There are still many unanswered questions:  Will there be any cost to take the DE classes?  Could students still get the degree if they didn't start the program until they were a sophomore?  We will be working VERY closely with Paul D. Camp as we continue to develop our plan.  Keep in mind that this is a long-range plan because it may take two years for a teacher to complete the 18 credits to qualify as a DE instructor.  That’s just the reality of the situation.  Because of this, I believe we can’t wait any longer to put something in place.  Our students should have the ability to graduate from high school with their school diploma and an Associate’s Degree from PDCCC.  And that should happen as quickly as possible.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Hobbs' House: How Repairing a Citizen's Home Became More than Nails and Paint

In March, I wrote a blog called Building Relationships in the Community through Building Trades which highlighted the work of our students who were helping to rehabilitate a senior citizens home.  The journey that began in early 2019 came to a close over the summer.  The students completed work on Mrs. Hobbs' house, leaving her with a much nicer and safer structure for her to continue living in.
As much as this project was about providing our students with authentic experiences, it was about learning the importance of giving back to our community.  However, I was overwhelmed at the bond that formed between the students and Mrs. Hobbs.  They became her boys and she was like an adopted grandmother to them.

We have created a beautiful documentary that captures the story of the "Hobbs House", as we affectionately call it.  But this became more than a story about a house.  It's a story of building relationships and showing kindness to one another.  I am very proud of the students who worked on Mrs. Hobbs' house and hope you enjoy watching their journey.