Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Report
October 16, 2007

Mr. Chairman, before I start the visual part of the Superintendent's Report I would like to begin on a reflective note. As you know, our core business is teaching and learning. As a superintendent, I literally rejoice when I meet great teachers, because they are the wheels that drive this school division's progress. In September, I had the honor of participating in a citywide Teacher Forum Leadership meeting. For those in the viewing audience, Teacher Forum is an organization of our citywide teachers of the year.

The event started on a high note as Pat McGloine, chairman of the Teacher Forum Leadership Council, shared with those attending what teachers at an earlier event had identified as the best thing about working for the Virginia Beach School System, She noted that the most frequent response to this open-ended question was that they felt like they worked for a school system that really cared about helping its students. Other frequent responses were our leaders are well-educated; our employees, well informed; we have adequate resources and training to get the job done; the district has a wonderful reputation and high standards; and the list could go on. It was apparent to me that the teaching staff in this school district is largely very proud to work here and is committed to making a difference in children's lives.

Of course, teachers are by nature an evaluative group, always intent on continuous improvement. So they also shared with us what they felt were areas of improvement. The top two issues they cited were class size and inclusion. As we move into the development of the next fiscal year's budget, the input of our teachers will most certainly resonate with us. The School Board has already identified improvement of special education as one of its six goals in its Program of Work for 2007-08. I contend that in many areas, school system leadership, our teaching force and our community are of one accord. Unfortunately, often it is only our differences that get trumpeted. I take pleasure in singing off a different sheet of music tonight.

In keeping with our musical theme, I would also like to sing the praises of a program - new to our division - which is designed to help identify and "grow," if you will, our next generation of great teachers. Virginia Teach for Tomorrow guides students who may be interested in pursuing a career as a teacher through the history of education and the functions of schools and school divisions. The program is just beginning its inaugural year at First Colonial, Kellam, Ocean Lakes, and Tallwood high schools. Participants recently visited our Human Resources department to pick up their photo ID badges. Over the course of the school year, students will serve as interns in classrooms working in tandem with experienced teachers and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. We plan to expand the Virginia Teach for Tomorrow program to additional high schools during the 2008-2009 school year.

Our next item of note – is a crowning achievement for two students at Kempsville High School, Lindsey R. and Brandon J. Last Friday they were named homecoming king and queen. You may ask what makes this noteworthy. Well how about this? Just hours after receiving their crowns, both Brandon and Lindsey were wearing football helmets. That's right, football helmets! Lindsey is the place kicker for the Chiefs football team and Brandon is a running back. Unfortunately, the players weren't treated like royalty during the game. The Chiefs lost to Green Run.

Score one for Office Max! Representatives of the office supply retailer paid surprise visits to four of our elementary schools on October 2nd as part of the company's "A Day Made Better" campaign. Office Max employees simultaneously visited 1,000 teachers at schools across the country to donate school supplies valued at more than $1 million.

Here in Virginia Beach the following teachers were tapped by Office Max:

The "Day Made Better" is just one component of Office Max's on-going Adopt-a-Classroom program. It was created to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses incurred by teachers. Each school received approximately $1200 in basic school supplies.

You can't put a price on physical fitness! Students across the school district started the day "on the right foot" last week by participating in National Walk to School Day on October third. This picture comes to us from Three Oaks Elementary. Communities are encouraged to participate in National Walk to School Day activities to promote physical activity and pedestrian safety. As a point of interest, October is International Walk to School Month, so it's not too late to late to get involved.

And speaking of involvement – parents, volunteers, and community partners rolled up their sleeves to help out at Birdneck Elementary's Math Carnival Night on October 4th. More than 1,300 people participated in activities at 33 math stations throughout the school. Participants earned tickets which could be used for carnival activities such as face-painting and the ever-popular staff dunk tank. The event was organized by the Title I coaches at Birdneck, but would not have been possible without the help of the school's math committee, staff, and military partners who volunteered that night.

Recently, 32 art teachers participated in Brush Up: Processes of Artmaking 2007 Teacher Institute. This event, held at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, was a collaborative effort sponsored by Virginia Beach Schools, the Contemporary Art Center (of Virginia), and Virginia Commonwealth University. Teachers worked with contemporary artist Judith Eisler and a host of internationally recognized art faculty to study contemporary art and artists, art making through painting, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics. Teachers reported that the institute was not only an exciting but also an engaging learning experience.

The "Teach at the Beach" Student Teacher Meeting and Networking Session was held recently at the ODU/NSU Higher Education Center. This program reflects recruiting at its best. Student teachers were invited to hear presentations by Department of Human Resource specialists on the school division as a whole as well as on topics of interest to prospective VBCPS teachers. For example, student teacher attendees received information on the application process, programs for new teachers, salaries, benefits, and substitute opportunities. Tallwood High School principal Jobynia Caldwell spoke to the student teachers about the division's high performance expectations for its personnel. An opportunity was also provided for student teachers to speak one-on-one with Human Resources Specialists in a networking session.

Speaking of networking, as you are aware, last school year the School Board tasked administration with developing a plan to remove barriers to parent involvement with an eye toward increasing the home to school connection. I am pleased to report that we have made great strides in executing the plan at the district level and that our schools have taken up the cause with great enthusiasm as well. For example, Seatack Elementary on Thursday, October 25, will host a "Tea with the Principal and Faculty and Staff." Now, you may wonder why I chose to highlight this particular event. After all, many of our schools go to great lengths to reach out to parents and communities. What is unique with this event is that principal Larry Ames and his staff are going to the community rather than asking the community to come to them. The event will be held in the Atlantis Apartments Community Center. What a great way to foster relationships with parents – getting to know them in their neighborhood.

Of course, there are many ways to connect with parents, not the least of which is electronic. As you may recall, the research we executed for the parent involvement plan revealed that parents find e-mail communication effective and desirable. Last school year only 47 of our 87 schools were using the MySchool Mail e-mail subscription service. This school year I asked that all schools employ the strategy. As a result, 12,000 new subscribers have signed on to learn more about their schools.

We've also worked hard to initiate training that will reinforce those connections, too. The Office of Community Relations recently sponsored a Volunteer Certification Training course, which was held from 5:30 till 7:30 p.m. the last two Wednesdays in September and the first Wednesday in October. School volunteer coordinators along with fellow PTA members typically choose to attend the training in order to learn best practices in managing volunteer programs. Topics included volunteer management, volunteer motivation, tips for identifying potential volunteers, and understanding school volunteer guidelines. Attendees who were present at each session earned standing as official "VBCPS Volunteer Coordinators." Their participation in this training course brings the total number of Certified Volunteer Coordinators throughout the division to more than100.

As you are aware, normally this report is reserved for "after the fact" reporting of significant accomplishments and events. Tonight though I would like to depart a little from that standard operating procedure to talk about an event that will be of great interest to our public. On three separate evenings – November 5, 12, OR 19 – VBCPS will host a Grand Opening Preview Reception at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts for parents, students, and community members. Each reception will showcase elementary and secondary school students' performance ensembles. In addition, a display of student artwork will be featured. At each reception, ensembles will offer continuous performances staged in three different venues of the Sandler Center. Self-guided tours and light refreshments will also be available. The events all begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. This is a wonderful opportunity not only to see this beautiful performing arts center but also to sample the talents of hundreds of our students.

Several congratulations are in order this evening:

Congratulations to several of our School Board members on earning awards from the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) for attending the VSBA Academy to improve boardsmanship skills. Tonight, Certificates of Recognition from VSBA have been placed at the seats of Dan Lowe and Carolyn Weems. Also, an Award of Achievement and a bronze pin have been given to Patricia Edmonson and Michael Stewart. School Board members, through their participation in professional development activities of conference attendance or VSBA governance service, earn credits during the course of the year (July 1 through June 30) for VSBA Academy awards. Certificates are indicative of 15 credits that have been earned, while an award of achievement and bronze pin are 24 credits. An outstanding effort on the part of these Board members in earning these awards!

Paul B., a senior in the Legal Studies Academy at First Colonial High School, has gained a unique perspective on the nation's politics which he can now share with his classmates. Paul was one of only two young men selected to represent Virginia at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., this summer. As you might imagine, the purpose of the week-long Boys Nation experience is to provide insight into the workings of the federal government. Students serve as "senators" and organize a party convention, introduce and debate bills and resolutions, and elect a Senate President Pro Tempore and Secretary as well as a Boys Nation President and Vice President. Paul met with many elected officials, including President George W. Bush. Boys Nation is an expansion of the Boys State program which was instituted by the American Legion in 1935 to instill patriotism and knowledge of government institutions. As an alumnus of Boys Nation, Paul joins an elite group of individuals who were former Boys State and Nation attendees which includes President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

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

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