Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Report
March 18, 2008

Chairman Edwards, Vice Chairman Bellitto, and members of the Board, my report this evening features some recent school division events as well as some noteworthy accomplishments of students and staff.

I'd like to begin with some annual celebrations and educational events.

You may recall that each year in March, the school division celebrates Youth Art Month. This year, our elementary and middle school students are once again exhibiting their work at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia. The Elementary Art Exhibit began February 28 and ended March 16, while the Middle School Exhibit begins tomorrow and runs through the 30. High School student artists will have their opportunity for an exhibition and reception in May. The exhibit opens on May 13 and runs through May 29. The public is invited to see these exhibits that showcase many of our very talented students and serve to bring great honor to the division.

Another annual event is the Career Connection: Transition to the Future designed to assist middle and high school students with their career plans and decisions. The event was held on March 6 at the Advanced Technology Center and sponsored by the office of technical and career education and the program for exceptional children. Approximately 100 career and community agency spokespersons set up booths and displays representative of their careers. Among the various career strands represented were business and marketing; fine arts; health and human services; and engineering and technology. Additional career professionals in attendance included those from tourism and hospitality, the marine industry, landscape services, and financial services. Students and their parents had the opportunity to speak with and ask questions of the representatives about the many career options available to them as they make their own postgraduate plans.

Elementary students across the division recently celebrated a noteworthy event which has also become an annual tradition, the occasion of Dr. Seuss's birthday. The March 2 event coincides with the National Education Association's Read Across America celebration to encourage reading. For example, Alanton kindergarten teacher Pam Zettervall became Thing 1 and served her students green eggs and ham in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. At John B. Dey Elementary, the Cat in the Hat, A.K.A. first-grade teacher Mandy Yates, welcomed fifth grader Kyra S. to the school's Read Across America celebration in honor of the contributions by Dr. Seuss to children's literature. Students and staff at White Oaks were seeing double on Dr. Seuss's birthday. To show their spirit, kindergarten assistant, Jennifer Waters, and fifth grader, Hannah B., dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

Speaking of spirited folks, student athletes from Kellam High School visited Three Oaks Elementary to help celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The Kellam students participated in physical education classes throughout the day, helping the Three Oaks students with their sports skills and discussing the role of women in sports.
With the advent of daylight savings time, many of us are looking for the arrival of Spring and a lush green landscape. As you know, thinking and acting green has become synonymous with efforts to protect our environment. At King's Grant Elementary, for example, fourth- and fifth-grade students in the "River Rulers" Club are working to educate their classmates on how they can promote a "greener" Lynnhaven River. An offshoot of the Lynnhaven River Keepers program, the River Rulers Club also promotes interactive educational activities such as studying oysters, squid, and crabs; constructing a rain garden on the school grounds; and cleaning the water's edge in neighborhoods surrounding the school.

The importance of reaching out to your neighbor is a lesson that Tallwood High School students have taken to heart. In fact, one student has new transportation thanks to the teamwork of the new student group, the Noble Teens and the community's philanthropic organization the Noblemen. A handicapped-accessible van was donated to the group to benefit Leland P., a special needs student in Bob Anderson's class. The van was donated by Lynda Nebrich, in memory of her son Allen. The Noblemen arranged for repair work and the NobleTeens cleaned the van prior to the presentation made at Tallwood on February 19.

We are truly fortunate that we have staff, students and parents who go the extra mile to support the work that is done in Virginia Beach City Public Schools. Speaking of the extra mile, I am pleased to share that our Education Foundation kicked off its "Go Beyond" Capital Campaign with a celebration at the Town Center's Westin hotel on February 28. Several Building Futures Grants recipients were present to discuss how their grant projects served students. Foundation president Tom Wilson asked attendees to "go beyond" with their financial pledges as the Foundation aims to raise $600,000 by June 2009. As awarded Foundation grants show annually, many teachers are going above and beyond with their efforts to increase student achievement. In return, the Foundation would like supporters to go beyond with their contributions so that students and staff may continue to reach beyond with innovative projects. In addition to donations, the community may also support the Education Foundation by purchasing commemorative prints online and participating in the June golf tournament.

Several congratulations are in order for this evening:

Please join me in saluting Evan D., a student in the Legal Studies Academy at First Colonial, who has been awarded the Harry F. Byrd Leadership Scholarship for the 2nd Congressional District. The Byrd Scholarship, a $10,000 award, is given to one senior for each of Virginia's Congressional Districts. Evan has volunteered many hours with the Virginia Beach Police Department over the past three and a half years, and intends to pursue a career as a police officer after his college graduation. Congratulations, Evan.

The Cisco Network Academy at the Advanced Technology Center celebrated 10 years of partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia with an event at the Patrick Henry government building in Richmond. The event featured Governor Tim Kaine, Secretary of Education Dr. Thomas Morris, numerous legislators and Cisco executives and Networking Academy graduates, students and faculty. Cisco invited several graduates to be part of the event, to meet the Governor and to speak briefly about the impact the program had on their future careers and studies. Carroll McGillin, National Initiatives Manager for the Cisco Networking Academy Program, invited Cory Gray, a graduate of the Advanced Technology Center's Cisco Academy, to participate in the formal presentation with the Governor.

Congratulations to five middle and high school teachers who were recently recognized by Virginia Beach's four chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The educators, who were honored for their expertise as exemplary teachers of history, include: Diana Watson, Princess Anne High School; Jayme Ruth Gruden, Landstown Middle School; David Bisset, Tallwood High School; Howard Baumgardner, Brandon Middle School; and Matthew Brinton, Kempsville High School. In addition, 11 high school students were honored for their scholarship, and four fourth graders were judged the best in writing an essay about "What the Flag of the United States of America Means to Me." This year marks the 31st year that the Daughters of the American Revolution has held this annual award ceremony to recognize teachers and students for their knowledge and excellence in teaching.

Twenty-eight students from First Colonial's Legal Studies Academy recently competed in Old Dominion University's 33rd annual Model United Nations Conference. The students debated current world issues while representing various countries of the world. First Colonial represented Cuba, Panama, and Angola. The Conference was held at the Waterside Sheraton and was attended by over 30 schools and 1,500 students from around the country. In addition to 12 individual awards, the team was awarded the prestigious Jean-Bernard Gazarian award for "Best Diplomacy". Faculty sponsors are Larry Spruill, Ryan Schubart, and Steve Butler.

Students at Parkway Elementary School were winners in Scholastic Books' "Whoopi! We're Reading! Sweepstakes" and were recognized on the Whoopi Goldberg radio program. Reading Recovery Teacher Heidi Magyar entered the contest after her students read 100 books. Out of over 17,000 classrooms nationwide, Parkway Elementary was one of 100 schools to receive 1,000 brand new books from Scholastic. Heidi and her students have also donated some of the books to various tutoring groups and homeless shelters in the Hampton Roads area.

The first recipients of the new Superintendent's Spotlight Award were recognized in February. Individuals were nominated by their peers to be honored for their exemplary contributions to VBCPS and for going above and beyond in all aspects of their job duties. Please join me in congratulating the following ten recipients:

Nominations for the second semester are being accepted through April 30.

Kingston fifth grader, Jordan W., was a grand prize winner in the Harris Burdick Story Writing Contest sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company. Jordan's story was about a magic schooner and lantern as depicted in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. The story was judged on creativity, story elements, grammar, and spelling. As a grand prize winner, Jordan was awarded a complete library of Chris Van Allsburg's books.

Congratulations to gifted resource teachers Cathy Peterson and Marie Culver, who have both been named Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted for Virginia Beach. Gifted resource teachers, gifted cluster teachers, and teachers at Old Donation Center and Kemps Landing Magnet may be nominated for the award, and each year two recipients are selected by a committee of former recipients and staff members from the Office of Gifted Education. Cathy Peterson is the GRT at Princess Anne Middle School and has worked in gifted education for the past two years. Marie Culver has served the past three and a half years as the gifted resource teacher at Holland Elementary and is a
20-year VBCPS veteran educator. These two teachers will compete for the Virginia Association of the Gifted's Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted award for Region 2 this spring. We wish them luck at they represent VBCPS at this state-level competition.

Windsor Oaks Elementary School received a $2,000 Teach Award from Best Buy for incorporating interactive technology into its curriculum. Computer resource specialist Katie Knapp submitted a writing project titled Publish It! in which fifth grade students publish a book of original writing samples composed throughout the school year. The $2,000 award will be used to enhance the project by adding student-created digital photography to the book.

This next item I am going to share falls in the category of happy surprises. Librarians at First Colonial High School recently received a book that was due over forty years ago, on July 5, 1967. The book, Robert Louis Stevenson-His Life, was returned February 26, 2008. The librarians waived the forty-year late fee and were happy to add the book back to their school collection.

Brandon Middle School Club "Chargers for Change" is proud to announce that it raised over $1,000 to support the education of children in Uganda through a recent basketball game held at the school. With the support of teachers, parents and the Brandon community, 8th graders experienced first-hand how they can make a difference by becoming better world citizens. Student Activities Coordinator, Patrick Mackey and teachers Joyce McCracken, DeTonyah Parham, and Heather Bender helped coordinate the game. Gifted education resource teacher Carolyn Stamm is the sponsor of Chargers for Change club.

Congratulations to Ocean Lakes High School senior Kathryn W. for her recent Grand Prize award in the 57th Annual Tidewater Regional Science Fair. The award qualifies Kathryn for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair being held in Atlanta in May. She is the first student from Virginia Beach ever to be sent to the Intel event, which is the premiere science competition in the world for students in grades 9-12. More than 1,500 high school students from over 40 countries will showcase their independent research and compete for scholarships and other prizes. Kathryn will attend the fair with her research advisor and Ocean Lakes Chemistry teacher Mark Clemente. We wish her the best of luck.

Lastly this evening, I would like to highlight two important communication items of interest.

The school division's AlertNow rapid communication service continues to be reviewed in our ten pilot schools. In February, staff at the ten schools received training related to this new parent notification system and test messages are currently being conducted in the pilot schools. The Department of Media and Communications is receiving feedback on the system and will conduct additional tests in order to prepare for summer training and district-wide implementation of AlertNow in the fall.

The AlertNow system will allow the school district to send important information quickly via phone and/or e-mail account, to both parents and staff, about emergency situations such as school delays or cancellations due to inclement weather. Schools may also use the system to contact parents about important school information and events, testing schedules, report card distribution, open houses, delayed buses, field trips, and more. Answers to frequently asked questions about the AlertNow system may be found on the division website,

Additionally, I would like to encourage all Virginia Beach residents to respond to the 2008 Virginia School Census they should be receiving in the mail this week. Virginia Beach City Public Schools joins school divisions across the state in conducting a school census to count the number of school-aged children in our city and state. The census count in Virginia Beach began in March and will conclude on July 15, 2008.

An accurate census count is important because the number of children counted will determine the amount of state sales tax that the school division receives for education. Approximately $76.4 million was received in fiscal year
2007-2008. An accurate census benefits all children in our community, and the form takes just a few minutes to complete via the internet or U.S. mail. Parents are strongly urged to respond as soon as they receive the yellow census form at their homes.

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

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