Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Report
August 21, 2007

Mr. Chairman,

I begin my report this evening with some positive news regarding student achievement. Based on the preliminary analysis of data, the Department of Accountability projects that 100 percent of our testing schools will earn full SOL accreditation. Staff is still in the process of drilling down into scores for individual schools and subject areas, but we believe all necessary benchmarks have been met. That being said, I must emphasize that these are our projections only; the official results will not be released by the state until the fall. And while we have a great measure of confidence in our projections, middle school math scores although improving, remain a challenge. Candidly, in some instances it was a little closer than we would have liked.

With that said, here are just some of the highlights of the preliminary SOL analysis:

Since Standards of Learning testing began, this Board has recognized the need to identify and improve content areas where there is an opportunity to increase student learning. These preliminary SOL results show that we are on the right path.

And we could not stay on that path without dedicated and very talented teachers. Next Monday our teachers will be back on the job and indeed they will bring new energy and ideas to the table for school year 2007-08, I am sure. We’ve all heard gloom and doom reports about teacher shortages and about how low pay and high stress are driving teachers from the field. As a superintendent, I have most certainly had to pay attention to trends in the field, but I have never felt that the profession was in crisis. I have always believed that there are people who are born to teach and who will pursue this dream despite the nay-sayers. A new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) seems to bear my feelings out. Titled "To Teach or Not to Teach?," it profiles 1992-93 bachelor's degree recipients' preparation for and experience with teaching in the subsequent decade.  Nearly all graduates (93%) who were teaching in 2003 expressed satisfaction with their job.  Indeed, 90% reported that they would choose teaching again, and two-thirds said they would remain a teacher for the remainder of their working life.  The report also found just 18% of graduates had changed jobs within the first four years, a lower attrition rate than other occupations among 1992-93 graduates.  Of course, the news was not all encouraging.  While 67% of all teachers said they planned to keep teaching, only 37% of African-American teachers concurred.  In addition, math, science, and engineering graduates were the most likely to leave teaching to work outside of education. Why do I share this information? Because clearly teaching is a noble profession and those of us in school system leadership must be mindful of what we can do to support their all-important work, but, as we stand on the brink of a new school year, I want us to take heart. Teaching is indeed a noble profession and the individuals who have chosen the classroom as their profession know this intrinsically. Here’s to a great year for our teachers.

I’m happy to report that some of our employees will be starting the school year in brand new facilities! The new School Plant and Supply Services Buildings opened their doors the first week in June, and will be dedicated in OctoberThese state of the art facilities, which are located in between Corporate Landing Elementary and Corporate Landing Middle Schools, encompasses approximately 135,000 square feet and is home to School Plant, Supply, Custodial Services, and Security/Safe Schools/Risk Management. These new facilities were designed and planned with the input from the employees from all four offices based on their specific needs.  

Moving to some great news about our students, I would like to share that Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2007 Summer Leadership Workshops were recently held at Virginia Wesleyan College for student leaders from each of our middle and high schools. This year’s theme “Yours to Build” brought 120 middle school students and 126 high school students to the workshop, each for a week-long session.  In addition to the Summer Leadership Workshops, summer conferences were held focusing on the topics of debate, forensics, and diversity, along with advisors’ and coaches’ education workshops.  The Office of Student Activities coordinates these workshops and conferences which are planned and implemented by 26 staff members, all graduates of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, who are currently attending college or teaching in our system. 

Indeed summer doesn’t mean important work stops. On June 19, 20, and 21, the Department of Curriculum and Instruction held its annual Professional Development Summer Conference: Summer Days of Learning. This year was significant in terms of participation with 4,548 seats filled in 195 courses. Presenters included nationally known authors, college professors, and school division coordinators and teachers. Courses addressed regular, alternative, and special education subjects with topics ranging from subject content/textbook training, classroom strategies, and best practices to understanding specific disabilities. With a new format, coupled with a greater variety of course offerings, the event was well received by our teachers as evidenced in the evaluations and unsolicited comments. Many participants were able to fulfill their “off-site” PDP requirements over the three day event.

The school system is also busy preparing for the many customers who will walk through our doors on September 4. The Office of Community Relations recently held First Impression Training, designed to help ensure that schools are welcoming places for parents, families and the community. Two sessions have been conducted with several more dates scheduled in August and September. To date, more than 250 school and central office staff members have registered for this training opportunity. Topics include; phone and email etiquette, tips on dealing with difficult customers, and strategies for providing outstanding customer service. This training is part of the VBCPS parent/family involvement initiative and is also in response to the School Board Program of Work goal of identifying and eliminating barriers to engaging parents.

Speaking of training, I had the pleasure of attending the VBCPS Administrators’ Leaders Developing Leaders training last week held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. This year the conference focused on instructional leadership. Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) provided intensive professional development aimed at raising student achievement through implementing a balanced leadership approach.  Over 300 principals, assistant principals, and central office administrators attended two-days of training focused on six major research findings from the McREL meta- and factor-analyses on principal leadership.  Follow-up training sessions will be provided during the school year to all principals and selected central office administrators focusing on developing a purposeful community, managing change, and choosing the right focus.  The event, which was orchestrated by the Office of Organizational Development, provided an excellent opportunity for administrators to network, share ideas, and learn ways to be more effective leaders for students and staff ... keeping Virginia Beach City Public Schools ahead of the curve!

Of course, let’s not forget that some of our schools are now in session! Corporate Landing Elementary, one of the school division’s four year-round schools, welcomed students back to class on July 30 with a nice surprise. Each student was issued a Corporate Landing Elementary School year-round school T-shirt and sunglasses. The school’s theme for this year is “our futures are so bright we have to wear shades”. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper was invited to the event and published a feature story on their first day of school. What a great way to make the first day very special and fun for the students!

Several congratulations are in order this evening:

Recently, school bus driver Tyler Reynolds competed in the International School Bus Road-eo.  The event was held in Boston, Massachusetts on July 15 with 52 contestants from across the globe competing in this contest of driving skills and knowledge.  Mr. Reynolds is to be commended for his performance as he placed third in the event driving a transit style school bus.  Congratulations Tyler Reynolds!

For the year 2007, six of our schools earned the distinguished title of Pearl Schools. The Pearl School Program, sponsored by the Lynnhaven River Project, is designed to recognize the great things being done by schools and teachers to make students aware of, and involved in, this community-based, grassroots effort to clean up local rivers.  Through the Pearl Program, schools will be able to earn points for conducting or participating in educational activities, lessons, and programs related to watersheds and water-related environmental issues.  The schools who participated, and are now recognized as Pearl Schools, are King’s Grant Elementary, New Castle Elementary, Ocean Lakes Elementary, Thoroughgood Elementary, Lynnhaven Middle School, and Plaza Middle School.  Congratulations students, teachers and schools!

Princess Anne High School student Victoria H. has been elected to the International Board of Directors for the Junior Organization of the Optimist International. Her one year of service begins in October. Victoria competed against candidates from across the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean to become one of only four International Directors. Victoria was coached by Sarah Blanchard, a Virginia Beach Optimist and faculty advisor to the Princess Anne High School Optimist Club.

Frances Shaneyfelt, a Physics teacher from Brandon Middle School, has been accepted to the Northrup Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery Program.  Frances was chosen for one of the 480 openings for this program available to practicing classroom middle school teachers and future middle school teachers.  Through this program, teachers have the opportunity to participate in hands-on science workshops. These workshops include performing and experimenting in a “zero gravity” aircraft flight that creates temporary weightlessness comparable to what humans would experience during space travel.  Northrup Grumman, in conjunction with the Zero Gravity Foundation, designed this program to inspire students to pursue science and technical careers by inspiring their teachers.  Congratulations Frances Shaneyfelt and have fun!

Mr. Chairman as you can tell from the news we have shared tonight this is a school system that does reach for the stars. This concludes the Superintendent’s Report for the evening.

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