Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Report
February 19, 2008

Mr. Chairman, members of the Board, and citizens of our community, my report this evening features some recent school division events as well as some noteworthy accomplishments of students and staff.

Many of our schools have been participating in activities to celebrate Black History Month. From celebrating African American culture and heritage to learning about notable black Americans, students and staff have been and will continue to be engaged in literature, music, and art activities throughout the month of February.

Many other schools commemorated Black History Month as well. For example,

You may also be aware that February 7th marked the 100th day of school for students who follow a traditional school calendar. Students at several schools celebrated the event with activities involving the number "100."

Virginia Beach Middle School staff, students, and community may not have had a parade, but they did have a festive celebration on February 7 to mark the groundbreaking for their new building. The school originally opened its doors to students in 1951 as Virginia Beach High. The new 190,000 square foot facility is being constructed adjacent to the current school and is expected to be completed during the winter months of the 2009-2010 school year. The $52 million school is designed to maintain the unique, pedestrian oriented, seaside community that reflects the historical cottage style and charm of the original Virginia Beach – a family-oriented beach resort community. The new design and improvements will incorporate features that clearly address quality, safety, and drainage, all to complement the surrounding neighborhood. Quality architectural features and detailing will be incorporated in the design, allowing the school to blend with the surrounding homes.

The division also recently celebrated another event, Custodial Appreciation Day. Designed to honor the more than 700 custodians who work so diligently in our schools and offices, this annual event was held this year at Salem High School. The highlight of the celebration was the announcement of the 20 custodial teams that received awards for the overall cleanliness of their buildings, their attitude, and efficiency. Winning custodial teams at these schools were selected by a committee of their peers and recognized for their exemplary practices. Our congratulations to these teams and a thank you to all our custodians for the impact they have on the education and development of our students.

Another celebration of note was held at New Castle Elementary. The school hosted more than 350 proud grandparents who attended a special Grandparents' Day, held in their honor. Students were proud to have them in attendance and drew pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Dozens of Latin students from Kempsville, Princess Anne, Cox, Kellam, Bayside, Landstown, and Tallwood high schools recently took part in Latin Day, held at Christopher Newport University. They participated in a variety of activities including a costume contest in which students dressed as mythological characters, academic competitions, and seminars. Congratulations to the eight Cox High School students who garnered 25 awards!

Several congratulations are in order for this evening:

Plaza Elementary students and staff realized that they had a hero among their staff this past week when Mrs. Traci Woolston, the cafeteria monitor, saved a student from choking. Seberina P. was eating a hamburger at lunch and began to choke; Mrs. Woolston immediately saw that she was in distress and successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on Seberina. Thank you, Mrs. Woolston, for your quick action in a life and death situation.

Another heroic act that was a life and death matter involved Emily N., an eighth-grader at Independence Middle School. When Emily's bus driver became incapacitated during her run as a result of an allergic reaction, Emily came to her assistance. Calming the other students on the bus, Emily called the transportation dispatcher to report the medical emergency. Help arrived shortly thereafter and the bus driver received the help she needed to make a full recovery. Our congratulations to Emily N. for her quick thinking in what was a very serious situation.

Now, let me turn to another sort of heroic effort, one successfully undertaken by six of our schools, Red Mill, John B. Dey, Kingston, Strawbridge, Old Donation Center, and Kemps Landing Magnet. These schools recently received special acknowledgment from the Commonwealth of Virginia for their academic excellence. The Virginia Department of Education recently recognized these six schools for their exemplary performance on the SOLs. In addition to being fully accredited for the past two consecutive years, each school scored a passing rate of 95 percent or above in all four core academic areas. Based on this outstanding record of achievement, these six schools will receive a waiver from the state and automatically earn full SOL accreditation through 2009-2010. Congratulations to the hard-working students and staff at each of these schools!

Our congratulations also to the Office of Transportation Services and some very caring bus drivers and assistants. Several weeks ago, the dispatch office received a call from the police asking for help in locating a missing elderly woman who had Alzheimer's. Dispatch put out an "all call" to our Virginia Beach schools bus drivers and assistants asking them to report any sightings of the missing woman and soon, dozens were on the lookout. Within only a few minutes, Bus 397 – Ingrid Holmes – reported she had seen the woman earlier. Then, bus 286 – driven by Barbara Leary – reported she had also seen the woman. Finally, bus 533 – Debbie Grevey and her assistant Carol Alspaugh – reported they found the missing woman. Police were called and dispatched to her location and the woman was soon back safely with her family. Thank you to the dozens of drivers who responded to the call that morning. VBCPS is extremely fortunate in having such a cadre of professional and caring drivers and assistants who work so hard to transport thousands of students every day to and from school safely.

Thank you also to students and teachers at the Technical and Career Education Center who recently participated in the dedication of the garage they built for Hope Haven, a residential shelter/home for children and the elderly who are without families or who may be separated from their families. The project was the result of the Tech Center's receiving a $10,000 SkillsUSA/Lowe's grant. Students built the structure from the ground up at the Tech Center and then transported it to Hope Haven in sections where they put it together. Congratulations to all involved in this outstanding service project! Students not only sharpened their skills, but they also had the opportunity to contribute to the community.

You may notice that a bit of school history has been added to the School Board Room. On the wall behind me are two new additions: a comprehensive list of School Board chairmen and superintendents dating from 1870. For the past year, staff researched these names, rooting through old School Board minutes and archived records to compile these lists. Stephen Mansfield, academic vice president emeritus and college archivist at Virginia Wesleyan College, who has written about Virginia Beach history, and Edna Hawkins-Hendrix, a Virginia Beach resident and author of Black History, Our Heritage, Princess Anne County, Virginia Beach, Virginia, were consulted for historical accuracy. I am proud to say, based on our research, that Virginia Beach has provided public education to our youth for 138 years.

I would like to recognize now the members of our School Board in acknowledgement of February being designated by Governor Kaine as School Board Appreciation Month in the Commonwealth. This year's theme is Turning Vision into Results" and it articulates well the contributions of school board members across the state, and certainly, in Virginia Beach. 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. We appreciate your service to the community and most particularly to the children of Virginia Beach. Thank you for all that you do!

And now, I would like to close this evening's report with a reminder that the Virginia School Boards Association has also designated the third week in February as "VSBA School Board Clerk Appreciation Week." As you may know, board clerks play a crucial role in assisting School Board members, superintendents, and the school system as a whole. Dianne Alexander, our School Board clerk, consistently does an excellent job. It is my pleasure to thank her, in this very public venue, for all that she does to support us and to ensure that School Board meetings are productive and well-recorded for posterity's sake.

And now, a few words from Mrs. Bellitto…

"Diane, I would like to add my thanks to those of Dr. Merrill. Your assistance is invaluable and I know we would not be able to accomplish all that we do without you. I would now like to read this Proclamation. (Reads proclamation)

Please step forward (Dianne) and accept from Mrs. (Carolyn) Weems this small token of appreciation from a grateful School Board and administration. (Mrs. Weems steps down from the dais to make the presentation while Dr. Merrill and Mrs. Bellitto lead applause)."

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

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