Ahead of the Curve
Superintendent's Monthly Report to the School Board
December 20, 2005

Mr. Chairman, members of the Board, citizens of our community, I’m pleased to share information in my report this evening that provides just a brief sampling of recent school system events and some of the many accomplishments of our talented students and staff.

Our students and staff have been very busy this month and have even been working to integrate learning activities that capture the holiday spirit! In addition to numerous community service projects like coat drives and food donations, our students are also busy “growing” signs of the season. For example, at the Technical and Career Education Center, the annual poinsettia sale is in full bloom. Students are preparing 500 poinsettias as part of their “landscaping and design” studies. On behalf of all of us in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools, we wish each of these students a very happy and safe holiday season.

Our school system has recently held events designed to recognize the dedicated service provided by our employees who have served the division for 25 and 30 plus years. Collectively, 274 school employees who have rendered 7,691 years of service to Virginia Beach City Public Schools were recognized for their contributions at two separate events held in the past few weeks. The division’s Department of Human Resources coordinated the events to say “thank you” to these long time employees. Each of our 25-year employees received a plaque and a certificate of appreciation for their service to the school division; thirty-year employees received a clock. As a division we greatly appreciate the contributions of these valued employees!

I’m pleased to inform you that Hermitage Elementary School has the distinction of becoming the first certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) elementary school in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This environmental certification, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, was announced during Hermitage’s dedication ceremony. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Hermitage Elementary, designed by Moseley Architects and built by Oyster Point Construction, earned its Green Building Certification due to the many environmental amenities incorporated into the building and site design, to include: special filters installed in the heating and cooling system; building materials that contain a percentage of recyclable elements; and sinks and toilets with low-water usage. Students and staff at Hermitage are enjoying their new “green” facility!

On November 17 th the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation awarded more than $100,000 in Building Futures and School Wide grants to VBCPS educators. The grants were awarded at the Education Foundation’s annual event entitled Teacher Grants Improve Futures (TGIF) which was held at the Advanced Technology Center. The evening began with a reception and a“Taste of Art” silent auction, followed by the grant awards presentation. This year, a record 240 Building Futures Grant applications were submitted by our teachers-- who designed projects to enrich their students’ learning experiences in areas of science, technology, math, reading, writing, art, theater, history and music. Ninety-one applications were selected by 12 grant reviewers to receive funding. Of the 33 School-Wide Grant applications submitted, five projects will receive funding from the Education Foundation this year. In addition, at the event attendees had the opportunity to cast their vote for the 2006 Education Foundation Commemorative Print. The work selected was created by Holland Elementary Kindergarten teacher, Kathy Baise. Congratulations! TGIF was sponsored by Electronic Systems, Incorporated, and event contributors such as First Colony Coffee and Tea Company; Kevin Elliott Photography; Petals & Stems; Teagle & Little; The Whitlock Group; and the school division’s Technical & Career Education Center’s Culinary Arts class and instructors!

Students at Bayside High School’s Health Sciences Academy were featured in an article in USA Today on December 7 th! The article highlighted Bayside academy students as first responders in the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Program. This experience is part of a training session held for academy students at Tidewater Community College. The course enables students to earn basic EMT certification as well as college credit.

The shopping may be real, but the goods and services and even the money to buy them won’t be. Several of our schools will enter a world of virtual reality this week when our high schools showcase their virtual businesses during open houses at their schools. It’s all part of the curriculum for the new Virtual Enterprise course initiated this school year in all high schools. Students enrolled in the course gain an “understanding of the characteristics, the organization, and the operations of business through a highly interactive approach to learning.” For example, students develop the concept, create a business plan, and then follow through with setting up the business. Their ultimate goal is to become a profitable venture. Our students garnered six of the ten awards presented at the Business Plan Defense held at Thomas Nelson Community College. Teams from Cox, Kempsville, and First Colonial High Schools were recognized for their presentation, delivery, and written executive summaries in Business Plan categories. Well done!

In November, 100 of our guidance counselors attended the Virginia Counselors Association Annual Conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth. Dr. Alveta Sutton, Coordinator of Guidance Services, received special recognition at the conference’s opening session for promoting the professional development of school counselors. Counselors had an opportunity to participate in professional development activities by choosing from more than workshops on a variety of counseling topics. Several of our counselors were also conference presenters. Julie Ulmer, a counselor at Frank W. Cox High School, presented a workshop entitled, “How to Get More Out of Your Students”, which provided strategies for creating, planning, and implementing positive behavior programs in the school setting. First Colonial High School’s Guidance department under the leadership of Mary Craig presented a workshop entitled, “Counselors Chat and Chow”. Counselors, Judy Mayes, Tamesha Miller, Andrew Miller, Talesha Wagner, and Jeanita Lawrence, presented guidance workshops that used a topical approach for working with high school students in small and large group settings.

Our school system formalized its relationship with NASA Langley Research Center on Thursday, December 15 th when we “launched” the partnership with a ceremony at First Colonial High School. The partnership ceremony kicked off a day-long Space Law Seminar for students enrolled in First Colonial’s Legal Studies Academy. During the seminar, one hundred and twenty students and researchers from NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center planned a lunar colony and developed “Astro Law” treaties that will govern the interactions between “space colonists”. In addition, students participated in discussions on space law with NASA scientists, and determined how people will live peacefully in future space colonies on the Moon. The Space Law seminar provided students with the unique opportunity to work with experts in fields of space law and astronomy. Keynote speakers Chris Giersch, communications and education lead, NASA Langley’s Exploration and Flight Projects Dictorate, and J. Henry Glazer, an attorney in San Francisco and former chief counsel at NASA Ames Research Center, introduced students to NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration and various international treaties that currently govern space exploration. Following the keynote addresses, students divided into smaller groups to meet with NASA experts to discuss astrolaw and how it will be needed to maintain peace and personal rights in a moon colony in the future. The knowledge that the students gained from the sessions with the NASA representatives will be incorporated into their projects, reflecting the application of space law in lunar base habitats. NASA joins the more than 2,000 organizations that partner with our schools.

In addition, eleven seniors at the Legal Studies Academy were invited to the old Virginia Beach courthouse this fall --where the students served as a jury for our city attorney’s office. During a mock trial, attorneys presented a case and the students helped to determine just how a jury may view the information presented.

Carol Sykes , Operations Supervisor in our Office of Food Services, recently served as a School Nutrition Delegate to China through the People to People Ambassadors program. Ms. Sykes visited Beijing, Guilin, and Shanghai where she was able to engage in professional exchanges and participate in school visits. Ms. Sykes also observed a cafeteria employee stoking a wood fired wok and learned about the Chinese Food Pagoda during this Global Nutrition Forum. She even consumed a few new food items, including fried scorpions and jelly fish with spicy sauce. . . items she says are not likely to be seen on VBCPS school menus in the near future!

More than 1,400 third graders in seventeen elementary schools received dictionaries last month from The Robin Hoods, a volunteer philanthropic organization in our community. This donation, which has taken place for the past three years, has been made possible through a partnership between the Robin Hoods and Scholastic Books. The third-graders not only become “owners” of new dictionaries, but are also asked to pass them along to another child when they’ve outgrown using it. A group of the Robin Hoods visited each of the seventeen schools who received donations, talking to the children about the importance of reading and of doing good deeds for others. In total, nearly 5,000 Virginia Beach students have received donations through this generous outreach program. Thank you Robin Hoods!

Tallwood High School’s Global Studies Academy hosted their first German partial immersion café in November. The experience brought six community participants who were all from Germany into the school to share information with the 25 participating students. The presenters talked about their experiences and what it is like to work for German-based companies. Participants conversed in German while enjoying German pastries after the panel discussion.

Several congratulations are in order. . .

Six of our high school’s publications have garnered recognition from the Virginia High School League.

Ocean Lakes High received second place for their newsmagazine, The Current. . . English/Journalism Teacher Fara Wiles is the advisor. Ebb Tide, Ocean Lakes High’s Magazine also was awarded first place. . . Teacher Katie Inge is the advisor.

Cox High’s Falcon Press earned “trophy class” for newspapers. . .Teacher Mary Buchanan is the newspaper’s advisor.

The Page , the newspaper at Princess Anne High, also earned “trophy class” from VHSL—Teacher Blair Thurman serves as the paper’s advisor.

Landstown High’s Landstown Times garnered a second place in the newspaper division. Teacher Kristin Sanderlin is the advisor. In addition, Landstown’s Inklings took first place for their school magazine, which is supported by Teacher Frances Fok.

First Colonial High’sImpressions also garnered a first place in the magazine category –The advisor for this publication is Teacher Adam Roth.

And, The Scepter, Tallwood High’s school magazine also earned first place from VHSL. Teacher Deb Plummer serves as the advisor for The Scepter.

Congratulations!!

Kudos to the Thunderbolts Team from Indian Lakes Elementary who placed 3 rd in the Regional Lego League Competition held in Norfolk recently.  The 5-student team then qualified to compete in the state competition held in Blacksburg this month.  The team designed a Lego robot to perform tasks for this year’s theme, Ocean Odyssey, and were judged on robot design, robot performance, teamwork, and project presentation.  Indian Lakes Elementary’s Judy Nutt was the team’s sponsor. 

Hats off to five students in our school system for being recognized by the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Great Neck Middle School students Rachel S. and Corrie S., Tallwood High School’s Sabrina M., Landstown High School student Lindsay C., and Kellam High’s John S. were all recently selected as finalists for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame’s Student Achievement Award.  They were honored at an awards recognition dinner at the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame last month. John S., Kellam High, was selected as the 2005 Athlete of the Year in his age group and received recognition from Eddie Webb, Executive Director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and LaTasha Colander, an Olympic Gold Medalist. Well done!

Kudos to Deena Smith, teacher at Princess Anne High School, for being named the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution’s 2006 Teacher of the Year for the Tidewater area. Ms. Smith will be publicly recognized at the organization’s annual meeting in January.

Congratulations to the Landstown Eagles football team for advancing to the state championship for the third year in a row. The state championship game was televised as a special edition of the Locker Room show on WTKR, channel 3 and VBTV, channel 47. Salem football Coach Robert Jackson and Green Run Coach Ray Gatlin served as analysts for the game which was seen on television by thousands of viewers. . . in fact the broadcast was the most watched program in its time slot!

Kudos to Seatack Elementary Principal Katharine Everett who was named 2005 Humanitarian of the Year by the Norfolk-Virginia Beach Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc..

Congratulations to Alexia R., a fifth grader at King’s Grant Elementary, for receiving an award from the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission for her artwork, which was selected as a Diversity Art Contest winner.

Hats off to Desirea C., a student at Ocean Lakes High School, who has been accepted into the 2005-06 Reischauer Scholars Program at Stanford University. She received one of only 20 nationwide spots into this virtual classroom experience which will take place from February to June 2006.

Finally, I’d like to conclude my report this evening by sharing a few of the recent accolades our bus drivers have received from Virginia Beach citizens. While the everyday kindnesses and great service our bus drivers provide aren’t likely to garner media attention, they are most certainly the hallmark of our dedicated professionals. So tonight –when the camera is on and citizens are watching -- I would like to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at the behind-the-wheel professionals who do such much for children each day of the school year.

The following are excerpts taken from letters to David Pace, our director of transportation--

“Dear Mr. Pace,

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to witness the most wonderful and caring bus driver. About 10 minutes before I was to pick up my granddaughter, I received a call from her bus driver explaining that she could not leave her at her day care, as no one was there (the day care center had an electrical emergency and had to close early).  The bus driver assured me that her little passenger was just fine and that she would take good care of her until I got there. Her next stop was Lynnhaven Middle School, so she asked me to meet her there.  Upon my arrival, the bus driver stepped off the bus with my granddaughter, not leaving her for a minute. Ms. Johnson, bus #270, is an angel!  She told me she loved all her “kids” and that she would never let anything happen to any of them.  I could tell that the minute I saw her. Please recognize her for the wonderful person she is!”

And in another letter. . .

“Dear Mr. Pace,

I am writing to tell you about a fabulous Virginia Beach City School bus driver. Mrs. Jeanette Milling has several routes, one of which is transporting preschool children to Trantwood Elementary School for speech. I was a little nervous about sending my young son on the bus, however, we immediately received a call from Mrs. Milling who wanted to introduce herself and tell us about the safety features on her bus. We had a very informative discussion and I asked Mrs. Milling if there was opportunity to meet her before my son started riding the bus. Since I work full-time I would not see my son get on and off the bus and I was anxious about his safety. Mrs. Milling very graciously invited us to her home where she parks the bus on the weekend. When we met her on a Sunday, she gave us a tour of the bus and also invited us into her home. After meeting Mrs. Milling I knew my son would be in capable and caring hands. The highlight of my son’s week has been riding the bus on Monday and Thursday with “Miss Nettie”. Last week Mrs. Milling did something else incredible which is why I am finally writing this letter. Last week, there was an accident directly across from my son’s preschool and the road was closed to traffic so that Mrs. Milling was unable to drive her bus down that road. She did not want my son to miss his speech class so she parked her bus a block from the school and with a fireman’s assistance; walked down the street to get him. Mrs. Milling also called the preschool to tell them that he would be the last child dropped off that day, rather than the first, so that she could get him safely back to school. This bus driver, Mrs. Jeanette Milling, is a genuine asset to Virginia Beach City Public Schools, its parents, teachers and children. I thank you for giving her the preschool route and I thank her for keeping our children safe.”

These letters represent just two short examples of the “above and beyond” service our bus drivers provide daily. It is unfortunate that a few very high profile bus accidents, the majority of which were not the fault of our drivers, have overshadowed the quiet daily diligence that is the trademark of the majority of our school bus drivers. It is interesting to note that our six hundred and one bus drivers transport 66,000 students across 55,000 miles daily. They collectively travel 10 million miles each year. I call your attention to this data as I believe it helps to illustrate the enormity of our district’s transportation responsibility. For the most part, our drivers perform a very challenging task admirably well and we thank them for it. . . this district could not serve our students and their families without them!

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my report for this evening.

Last Modified on March 30, 2006
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