Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Message
January 23, 2007

Mr. Chairman, with tonight's Superintendent's Report, I'd like to introduce a slightly different format for the future. Generally, my report covers "good news" from around the school system, and it will continue to serve that purpose. However, from now on I would like to begin my monthly reports with a new approach. I believe that the community and the staff will support public education most effectively if they understand the belief system that drives our planning. So I would like to reserve the right to share our rationale behind the delivery of services to children as well as news that will affect them in meaningful ways. I promise to be as succinct and pointed as possible.

I think most of you would agree with me that public education is under tremendous scrutiny nowadays. The profession endures criticism regularly, much of it built on the contention that school systems are bureaucratic monoliths incapable of responding effectively to the very individual, pressing needs that children bring to the schoolhouse. As you are aware, this has fueled a nationwide movement for school reform, even choice.

As the relatively new superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, I have learned quickly that this is a school district that defies bureaucracy and instead fosters an atmosphere of choice, challenge and commitment. Part of our success lies in our expectations: how we expect teachers to teach and students to learn. Teaching strategies must be differentiated to address children's needs. One classroom can have it all –children in a deficit position, children at a steady midpoint and children working at advanced levels. We fully expect teachers to deliver education services in a manner that meets each child where he or she stands on that continuum of learning. It is the job of school system leadership to provide teachers the resources to accomplish that all-important mission and students, the environment they need to achieve.

I am pleased to say, however, that the teaching profession by nature is intuitive and self-starting. For example, the Elementary/Middle School Teacher Forum Leadership Council is conducting book talks throughout the 06-07 school year. These talks are designed to familiarize teachers with Carol Ann Tomlinson's book, Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom. This book provides the framework on which the VBCPS model of differentiation is based. The meetings will provide participants time for reflection, insight into the concept of differentiation, and classroom strategies for implementation. Although we recognize that there is no simple strategy to make all students succeed, differentiation is a model that brings student need and teacher response together, creating an education setting for maximum learning to occur.

Education programs are another way in which Virginia Beach City Public Schools delivers choice to its student customers. In recent years there has been much dialogue on the efficacy of academy programs. The School Board, as a policymaking body, has grappled with cost-benefit analysis with the goal of striking the balance between fiscal responsibility and moral imperative to engage our students in their own education. Across this city, school communities and individual parents are eager to understand the leadership philosophy on specialty programs and what the future holds for academies. In coming months the School Board will begin as series of dialogues. To prepare for this eventuality, I tasked an Academy Task Force to bring to the table an administrative statement of belief, a summary of lessons that have been learned along the way and resulting recommendations. We believe that this input from school administration will serve as a valuable starting point for School Board conversation on this important program. Ultimately, VBCPS administration and the School Board must delineate the vision and philosophy for the academy programs. Our customers want to know where we are going with this important initiative.

And now part two of the superintendent's report -- good news from our individual schools and departments.


Superintendent's Report
January 23, 2007

January is always a busy month, marking as it does the end of the holiday season, the transition to the New Year (and New Year's resolutions), the end of the professional football season (although it heralds the Super Bowl). In Virginia Beach schools, our students and staff are also extremely busy. We are approaching the end of first semester, with exams and semester grades and all that entails. At the same time, however, we are preparing for second semester!

In addition, as you may know, January has been designated a special month on several counts. The first is that January has been designated Reading Month in the state of Virginia. As a result, Virginia Beach schools across the city celebrate reading in a variety of creative ways. Many of our administrative staff, our School Board members, and community leaders participate by going to schools and reading to the children. Personally speaking (and as a former English teacher), this is one of my favorite events. It's always a great pleasure to interact with students and encourage them to enjoy reading and good literature.

The second is that January is also National Mentoring Month, and I am pleased to report that mentorship programs are thriving in Virginia Beach. For example, Green Run High School students work with White Oaks Elementary students on a regular basis. Thalia Elementary sponsors the Dynamic Duo program, a "staff to student" mentorship that pairs staff members –teachers, teacher assistants, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers – with students. Planned activities include student/mentor lunches, academic assistance, and even birthday acknowledgements. Windsor Oaks Elementary's military partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center is also extremely successful. We know how powerful these one-on-one relationships can be and the tremendous impact they can have on young lives. We salute all our mentors and thank them for their service!

I am also proud to tell you that there are a number of items tonight that reflect our schools' commitment to helping others and reaching out to the community. At Malibu Elementary, second grade students wrote letters to sailors stationed in Iraq. The students even sent Christmas tree ornaments, collected treats, and sent care packages to our servicemen and women overseas.

Cooke Elementary SCA students demonstrated their concern for needy community members through collecting canned food as part of the 2006 Food for the Needy Campaign. These students were awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Union Mission Ministry for their efforts. Brandon Middle School also participated in this outreach, collecting over 1,250 canned food items and receiving a Campaign Award from the Union Mission Ministry.

At Point O'View Elementary School, students participated in the Scholastic Book Clubs CLASSROOMCARES program, a literacy outreach that promotes both reading and giving back to the community. Students in Mrs. McDonald's second grade class have read 100 books since the beginning of the year, and, in return, Scholastic will donate 100 books to disadvantaged students nationwide.

Another impressive story of students making a difference comes from Thalia Elementary. Damarius R., a fifth grader at Thalia, decided that she wanted to help others after she read a book about a girl who helped the homeless. She asked her fellow students to contribute books, gloves, and hats for project R.E.A.C.H. (which stands for Reading Enriches All Children). R.E.A.C.H. promotes literacy among homeless and at-risk children through encouraging the practice of reading aloud, by promoting crafting, and through giving away books. With the help of her classmates, Damarius collected 523 books and 63 pairs of gloves for the organization.

On another positive note, four of our elementary schools were featured in the December 2006 issue of "Foodservice Director" magazine. Birdneck, Luxford, Shelton Park, and Bettie F. Williams elementary schools were recognized for their highly successful "breakfast in the classroom" programs. Fifty-five schools currently offer breakfast, most serving the meal in the cafeteria; this pilot program is designed to maximize instructional time by cutting back on the time required to serve and eat breakfast. Since the inception of this initiative earlier this year, participation in the breakfast program at these schools has tripled and now stands at around 50 percent.

Several congratulations are in order for this evening:

Congratulations to the Luxford Elementary School PTA for receiving a Family Fitness Grant from the Virginia PTA Health and Safety Committee. This $300 grant will be used to support Luxford Elementary's planned family fitness programs.

I am most pleased to report that one of our 2006 Model Partnerships, the Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union, received a National Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award from the National Association of Credit Unions. The award was given in recognition of the Credit Union's outstanding collaboration with schools, where they implement programs that promote youth financial education through financial literacy programs. Congratulations!

In closing, I would like to recognize the members of our School Board in acknowledgement of the National School Boards Association naming January National School Board Recognition Month. As a point of information, Virginia designates next month, February, as School Board Appreciation Month in the Commonwealth. The theme of this year's recognition is "Rising to Meet the Challenge." The Virginia School Boards Association established this observance in 1989 to encourage public recognition of the roles and responsibilities of school board members and to highlight the importance of public education throughout the Commonwealth. More than 850 board members in Virginia are entrusted with establishing goals and policies for 134 local school divisions. From setting educational policy to disbursing school funds, school board members are responsible for serving as advocates for children in our public schools. Tonight, Certificates of Appreciation have been placed at the seats of each of our Board members. We appreciate your service to the community and most particularly to the children of Virginia Beach. Thank you for all that you do!

Mr. Chairman, this concludes the Superintendent's Report for the evening.

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