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2512 George Mason Drive • P.O. Box 6038 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456-0038   757.263.1000 • 757.263.1240 TDD

Superintendent's Report to the School Board
March 16, 2010

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

I would like to begin this evening with a quote from educational authors Killion and Roy, “Cultural patterns are powerful.  They shape and mold the way people think, act, feel, and more importantly, they affect individuals’ performances.”   I share this with you because as I address our progress on our Compass to 2015 Strategic Plan for Student Success, I feel the need to acknowledge how profoundly the culture of public education affects our potential for success. 

Few would argue that public education can be an isolating profession. When the classroom teachers close their doors to begin instruction, they are, for the most part, flying solo as they attempt to impart knowledge to their students. Over recent decades, collaboration among teaching colleagues and school administration has become much more prevalent. High stakes testing is in part responsible for this paradigm shift. The need to build in supports for teachers, to help them capitalize on each other’s compelling strategies has become all-important. But still we can’t change the fact that there is a singular element about teaching. What we can do though is to systemically cultivate a culture that fosters collaboration and builds on its successes.

You have heard me speak of the power of Professional Learning Communities. As a reminder, a Professional Learning Community or PLC is a small group of educators who commit to long-term collaboration to improve student achievement. A PLC, in essence, is an antidote to the isolation part of teaching as a profession. What we would ultimately like to do in Virginia Beach is to ensure that all of our schools are intelligently employing PLCs. As you recall the action team for Strategic Objective 5 has been charged with developing the system-wide approach to fostering a collaborative culture around student learning in Virginia Beach.

Recently, I asked some members of that action team to attend a PLC Work Summit, which was funded through federal dollars. Organized by national authorities in this field, the Summit focused on the use of strong teams to build, implement and maintain initiatives focused on all students learning.  Among the members of this team attending was Dominic Melito, president of the Virginia Beach Education Association. I make a particular point in saying this because I think it speaks volumes. Teachers will be crucial in the development of our ultimate approach to PLCs in Virginia Beach – an approach I will readily admit that has some inherent challenges. The size of this district alone makes the task enormous and the support of organizations such as the VBEA will be invaluable. In the coming weeks and months we will be working with school administrators and teachers to more fully implement the concept of Professional Learning Communities in our schools. In our next version of our electronic employee newsletter, Kaleidoscope, I will be addressing questions sent to me by staff about PLCs. Stay tuned because I will be reporting more on this subject along the way.

Speaking of collaboration, I am pleased to share that we recently held our third annual Superintendent’s Open Space event for all novice elementary school teachers.  You know, you can learn a lot from new teachers and they bring a lot. They offer a fresh set of eyes and a new voice to the mix.  To capitalize on that insight and enthusiasm, we asked the teachers to build their own agenda for the meeting.  As a result, 20 novice teachers participated in small group discussions around topics of their choice, including division initiatives, curriculum, collaboration, and technology.  Novice teachers were asked to generate “brags and drags” about each topic and then provide suggestions.  Those suggestions are being compiled by the Department of Organizational Leadership and will be brought to the Cabinet for review. In the past we have implemented operational changes based on the input of our novice teachers, such as initiating changes to the induction and mentoring process for new teachers.

Finally, I have one more story related to a culture being shaped to facilitate high levels of performance.  Last week Princess Anne Middle School 7th grade students showcased their Service Learning Projects.  Students were tasked to research local social issues across multiple settings as applied to the real world around them. Students studied and collected data, documented the problem, and presented recommendations to address the issues. These service learning projects concentrated on many important social issues, a few being child abuse, animal cruelty and breast cancer awareness.  With the guidance of their teachers, students were motivated to take their learning to higher levels and to relentlessly stay attentive to solve the problem.   

And now on to some other good news. Hundreds of teachers, administrators, and students attended the Teacher Forum Leadership Council’s National Speaker Series last week. Cognitive scientist and author Dr. Daniel Willingham related several Compass to 2015 objectives to studies on how the brain works and what it means for both students and teachers.  He discussed how both knowledge gaps and self-concept gaps contribute to achievement gaps, and he offered his thoughts on how school staff and parents may create cognitive conditions that lead to more positive experiences for students with school and learning.  

The Department of Human Resources hosted its annual Employee Service Recognition Program at the Virginia Beach Convention Center on January 14. The event recognized 324 employees who were celebrating 25 to 40 years of service with the division. Among them, the honorees shared 9,230 years of service.  Nine employees received special recognition for 40 years of service, including: principals Drummond Ball and Mary Daniels, bus drivers Wesley Bernard and Jean Edwards, teachers Judy Darden and Susan Moreau, custodian Frank Owens, testing assessment specialist Linda Hall, and network technician Robert Ellis.

The Office of Gifted Education sponsored a parent workshop on perfectionism on February 24 that was attended by nearly 70 parents and their children.  School psychology residents talked to parents about how they can help their perfectionist children become more successful and comfortable with making mistakes, while students participated in various activities related to coping with perfectionism. 

The VBEA joined many of our schools in recognizing Read Across America, the annual reading awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2nd, the birthday of children's author Dr. Seuss. Barnes and Noble at Town Center donated a percentage of its sales to the VBEA which gave the proceeds to the Virginia Beach Education Foundation to help fund teacher grants that support reading programs and activities.  

Students at six elementary schools recently participated in the King Arthur Flour Life Skills Bread Baking program.  In assemblies at the individual schools, a Life Skills instructor incorporated math and science lessons as she showed students how to make bread, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, and bread sticks from scratch. Students then used their newfound skills – along with ingredients donated by King Arthur Flour – to bake several loaves of bread with their families. The students kept one homemade loaf for their families and brought the second loaf back to school for donation to a community organization of the school’s choice.

In February, our elementary school students celebrated two annual milestones on the calendar – the 100th and 101st days of school. In addition to various counting activities, some teachers asked students to come to school dressed as they think they will look when they are 100 years old. And on the 101st day of school, student dalmatians could be found in schools across the city. It’s probably safe to assume that students (and staff) are now counting the days until summer. 

Congratulations to the 107 students who were recognized by the Virginia Beach Council of PTAs during its annual Reflections awards program last month. Students submitted work in categories such as photography, dance, and literature that were related to this year’s theme “Beauty is…”. Twelve submissions from Virginia Beach placed at the state level, and work by Tess T. from Ocean Lakes High School and Sarah M. from Cox High School are being reviewed at the national level.

Fairfield Elementary School third-grader Darwin L. won a national award in his age group for the poster he submitted to GEICO's "Safety Belt Poster & Video Contest."  In recognition of his honor, GEICO presented Darwin with a $650 check and Fairfield’s Art Department with $500.

Students in Princess Anne Middle School's National Junior Honor Society recently received a People Taking Action award from WTKR-TV.  They were recognized for their service as mentors to students at Princess Anne Elementary School, which is right across the street. Two mornings each week, the eighth graders visit the elementary school to work with students on various academic and social topics. 

The four local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution recently recognized students and teachers for their excellence in teaching and learning. Ten high school students were honored for their scholarship, and four fourth graders were judged best in writing about “What the Flag of the United States of America Means to Me.” Six secondary teachers received “Excellence in History Awards” for their exemplary work in the classroom.

Congratulations to Jennifer Weigl, English teacher at Lynnhaven Middle School. The Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission will recognize Jennifer as one of six recipients of its Human Rights Award at an awards program being held on Thursday.

Two of the division’s Curriculum and Instruction directors have been selected to serve in leadership capacities at the state level.

  • Dr. Kelly Hedrick will serve on the Statewide Advisory Council for the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. The purpose of the Council is to provide input on how the Center can best serve the needs of gifted children and those who work with gifted children throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  • And Dr. Alveta Mitchell was recently elected as the Virginia representative for the Southern Regional Council for College Board, an association that serves students and parents through programs in college readiness, guidance, assessment, and financial aid.  She will represent all Virginia K-12 school divisions, private schools, and colleges and universities that are members of College Board.

Congratulations to instructional specialist Tracy Jackson.  She was selected as one six delegates to represent the state at the American School Counselor Association’s conference in Boston this June.

Lastly this evening, the Superintendent’s Spotlight Awards were recently presented to 13 recipients during surprise visits to their worksites.  Individuals were nominated by their peers for their exemplary contributions to the division and for going above and beyond in all aspects of their job duties.  Please join me in congratulating the following 13 recipients:

  • Diane D. Anderson, Coordinator in the Office of Student Leadership
  • Michael Camenisch, Drama Teacher at Tallwood High School
  • Janice Deur, speech pathologist at Kempsville Meadows Elementary School
  • Sally Frohlich, cafeteria manager at Kempsville Meadows Elementary School
  • Laura Howell, computer resource specialist at Kellam High School
  • Gary Lennon, computer resource specialist at Fairfield Elementary School
  • Marica Mills, special education teacher assistant at Parkway Elementary School
  • David Orr, Security Assistant at Kellam High School
  • Andrea Payne, reading specialist at Salem Elementary School
  • Barbara Sessoms, principal at Cooke Elementary School
  • Bridgett Seute, Data Support Specialist at Thalia Elementary
  • Richard Taylor, Security Assistant at Brandon Middle School
  • Laura Willey, AVID Coordinator at Kempsville Middle School

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

Last Modified on Friday, January 20, 2017