Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board

Superintendent's Report
January 22, 2009

Chairman Edwards, Vice Chairman Bellitto, and members of the Board –

School divisions across the Commonwealth celebrated "Virginia Principals Appreciation Week" last week.  We know that Virginia Beach is home to the finest educational leaders in the state, and we value their service in helping students and teachers excel.  Thank you to our principals for the outstanding work they do every day to ensure the success of our schools.

January is also National Mentoring Month.  Many of our students benefit from the guidance, support and expertise of mentors in the community, and we thank those individuals for volunteering their time to make a positive impact on young lives.

After its first meeting in October, our "Teacher Assembly" advisory group met again this month to continue its discussion of how to best incorporate rigor, relevance and relationships into daily instruction.  In small groups, teachers reviewed the article entitled "The Thought-Filled Curriculum" to help define critical thinking skills and draw parallels to the role of rigorous curriculum.

On January 5 and 7, approximately 200 attendees participated in roundtable discussions related to Daniel Pink's presentation at the first Teacher Forum Leadership Council's National Speaker Series event.  Attendees discussed Pink's concepts and collaborated on the best methods to develop 21st century skills across grade levels and disciplines.

Eleven Virginia Beach middle and high schools participated in the second annual Realizing the Dream summit held at Tallwood High School on January 17. The event was designed to help equip and inspire African American male students with the tools and determination necessary to succeed in school. The summit also featured a workshop for parents, which included information about the school division's academic programs and services.

Our schools are currently celebrating Reading Month with a variety of activities:

Last month, Holland Elementary's kindergarten classes kicked off their reading program, "Step Into Reading," with a parent involvement activity.  Teachers invited parents to school to decorate shoe boxes with their sons and daughters. The shoe boxes will be used to store their at-home reading books.

Students in Tammy Smith's Studio Theatre class at Kellam High School recently visited eight elementary schools to perform the play Thumbelina.  Students selected, directed and acted in the play featuring a 17-member cast.

Former Virginia Beach high school soccer players played in the ninth annual Charity Bowl, which is coordinated by Kempsville High School teacher Kevin Denson.  The soccer alumni raised $5000 to benefit CHKD, the Joy Fund and the Hampton Roads Soccer Complex.   

With donations from several school partners, the Cooke Elementary "Pizza Patrol" made surprise visits to seven students who had perfect attendance for the month of December.  Each month winners are selected across grade levels and surprised at home by school staff with a banner, balloons, pizza, soda and dessert.  Cooke's Pizza Patrol has been on the road since October 2007 as a way to thank families for getting their children to school every day.

Last week students at Three Oaks Elementary began training for the Operation Smile Final Mile being held in March in conjunction with the Shamrock Marathon.  For the next nine weeks, over 150 students will train after school on Monday and Wednesday with the goal of logging 25.2 miles prior to the Final Mile event on March 21. 

Our gifted, academy and advanced academic programs have been hosting information nights to help answer parents' and students' questions prior to the February 2 application deadline.  The one exception is Old Donation Center's March 2 deadline for students currently in first grade.  More information about all of the programs and deadlines may be found on vbschools.com.

On Saturday, February 7, the school division is sponsoring a Parent Connection workshop from 8:00 a.m. to noon at Landstown High School.  Dr. Gerald Newmark, author of How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children, will offer the keynote address, and the first 300 attendees receive a copy of his book.  Participants will also have the opportunity to attend a variety of breakout sessions focusing on topics such as financial management, special education, college planning, Internet safety, coping with family stress and child nutrition. The event is open to all parents, families and school division staff.

Congratulations to First Colonial High School's Virtual Enterprise team, The Doodler's Inc., which won first place in the State Business Plan competition. The team advances to the national competition sponsored by Merrill Lynch in New York City for a chance to win $25,000.

Kemps Landing Magnet Science teacher Jennifer Krzewinski recently received a $15,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund.  The grant will allow students, parents and teachers to spend three days and two nights learning about the culture, history and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.  Jennifer received a $10,000 grant last year to fund a similar trip she took with students in October. 

Congratulations to Ocean Lakes High School for being identified as a "Parent's Choice Public School" by the nonprofit organization GreatSchools and BusinessWeek magazine.  Five top-performing high schools – one in each of five categories – were identified in each state, and BusinessWeek published the results in its January 15 issue and on its website.

The school division and sixty-three of its testing schools have earned awards of excellence from Governor Timothy Kaine and the Virginia Board of Education.   Congratulations to the following eight schools for receiving the prestigious Governor's Award for Educational ExcellenceCreeds Elementary, Green Run Elementary, John B. Dey Elementary, Kemps Landing Magnet School, Kingston Elementary, Old Donation Center, Strawbridge Elementary, and Trantwood Elementary. This is the highest honor under an incentive program to advance the Governor's "Competence to Excellence" agenda. In order to qualify for the award schools must meet or exceed all state and federal performance benchmarks for at least two consecutive years. Additionally they must meet the Governor's goals for achievement in elementary reading, Algebra I enrollment by grade 8, enrollment in college-level courses, and attainment of advanced diplomas and career and industry certifications. A complete list of schools earning Board of Education awards may be found on the Virginia Department of Education website.

I'd like to close with communication of our decision for make up of this past Tuesday's "virtual" snow day. We will use our next single holiday, Monday, February 16 which is President's Day, for that make up.  A few items went into the decision; I'll share just a little of that with you briefly.  That's the next single, full holiday that could be applied for all employees in the division.  That day also works for traditional and year round calendars. The potential for inclement weather still exists, so we wouldn't want to delay until later in the year and find that we passed up an opportunity to have used it.  January is almost over, and there are number of complications with trying to get that scheduled before this month was over. Additionally, an instructional make-up day in February allows for a little more time and gives some extra time with students as they ramp up toward end of year testing.  Also, we try to stay away from Spring Break and those days would be considered as a last resort.  Communication to employees and the community will be handled by the Department of Media and Communications through Alert Now, an all-employee email, posting on the school division's website and other means as appropriate.  For all high schools operating on a block schedule, the make-up day will be an A day.

Mr. Chairman and members of the School Board, this concludes my report for the evening.


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