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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
January 18, 2011

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

I would like to begin this evening with a Compass to 2015 strategic plan update, if you will.  As you are aware, Strategic Objective 3 of that plan states that each school will improve achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap for identified student groups, with particular focus on African-American males.  In Virginia Beach, the school division, its schools, and the community have a history of working together to positively impact this important group of students. For four years, we have hosted an African-American Male Summit designed to inspire, encourage and empower our young men of color. On Saturday, January 8, the summit was held at Renaissance Academy. Its theme was Making the Dream a Reality. The event was attended by almost 400 young men in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades as well as over 200 parents and community members.  

The keynote speaker was Dr. Billy K. Cannady, Jr. Dr. Cannady, the Dean of the School of Continuing Education at the University of Virginia and a former state superintendent, is a man who has walked in the shoes of our young African American male participants. As you can surmise, his wisdom resonated with them.  Breakout sessions were held on such topics as goal setting, how to succeed in high school, graduation credits, computer literacy, good mental health and other important issues.  This year’s summit also featured a separate program and round table discussions for parents and guardians to provide them tips on how to be effective advocates for their children. In fact, one parent session was a panel discussion led by current and former School Board members. Thank you, Dr. Davidson, for sharing the benefit of your experience and expertise. In fact, in this very public venue I would like to thank all of those involved with planning and organizing the summit. It is one visible and important strategy in our ongoing plan to help close the achievement gap. We are all gratified that there has been progress in that area over recent years and believe that it is largely attributable to the commitment of competent educators, a dedicated community, and our fine students.

Moving on to other exemplary efforts throughout the district, I am pleased to share that the Office of Facilities Planning and Construction and the firm of HBA Architecture & Interior Design were recipients of  the Honor Award for Outstanding Sustainable Development of Public Facilities for their collective work on Virginia Beach Middle School. This award, the highest honor presented by the Planning Commission, recognizes projects that are environmentally sound.  

Sixth-grade students participating in the MYP Program at Plaza Middle School have been learning about consumer math while studying the effects of homelessness on our community and the world. They first initiated some independent fund-raising endeavors and then with those funds in hand went on a shopping trip to Walmart. Using newly acquired consumer math skills, they determined the best prices for a variety of hygiene items; learned about the cost savings associated with bulk purchases; and the economic benefits that come with purchasing generics instead of name brands. Working collaboratively, they were able to donate 125 backpacks filled with hygiene items and contribute an additional $1,400 to the Victory Lighthouse Center on 18th Street, an area homeless shelter.

John B. Dey Elementary School recently received a $12,000 grant from the Amerigroup Foundation to supply 15 iPads to special education students requiring some very specialized services. For example, one application allows students to use their fingers to form letters of the alphabet on the iPad. Think about it. This takes what is a frustrating paper and pencil task for a child with autism and makes it so much more understandable and easier to do. As a result, such a student becomes more engaged and confident.  As John E. Little, chairman of the Amerigroup Foundation shared upon bestowing the grant, “It is amazing what a little innovation can do to help facilitate learning for children with disabilities.” 

Bayside Elementary School students recently participated in the Robotics Program as part of NASA Langley’s Day of Education outreach project.  The goal of the program is for students to see the value of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in their lives, to inspire them to approach their education with direction and passion, and to encourage career pursuits in the STEM fields. 

Schools throughout the division are kicking off January is Reading Month to promote literacy and a life-long love of reading.  A few of these initiatives included: 

  • A visit to Lynnhaven Elementary School by Delegates Sal Iaquinto and Ron Villanueva to speak to the students about the importance of reading in their lives. With the able assistance of The Cat in the Hat they also distributed books to every student in the school.
  • Bentley Boyd, author and illustrator of the Chester Comix series, made a visit to Alanton Elementary.  Boyd, who writes and illustrates his own work, discussed his passion for reading and the process involved with writing and illustrating comics, many of which draw heavily from the social studies content area.
  • Kim Norman, author of books Ted on the Sled and Crocodaddy to name a few, visited Rosemont Elementary students to share her writer’s “tool bag” as a way to encourage students to write.  Her important advice for becoming a great writer:  “Read!  Read!  Read everything!”  Norman said she wanted to make sure students understand that strong reading skills are the first step on the road to good writing.
  • Speaking of writing… Students in Mrs. Sims’s second-grade class at North Landing Elementary wrote friendship letters, designed as leaves, to children in Istanbul, Turkey. The students received a letter from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul thanking them for their letters and informing the class that their leaf messages were hung on a life-sized friendship tree at the U.S. Consulate during the Istanbul Book Fair. Mrs. Sims’s students also received response “leaf messages” and pictures from their Turkish friends.

January is also recognized as Anti-Bullying Month in Virginia Beach Schools where students are focused on treating each other respectfully. 

  • Students at Old Donation Center kicked off the month by watching the video “Bullies are a Pain in the Brain.”  ODC students are being encouraged to use their brains to handle negative comments as they are being fortified with the seven habits of highly effective people based on Stephen Covey’s book The Leader in Me.  Students are also reading Karen Gedig Burnett’s book Simon’s Hook which highlights five strategies that we can all use to not “bite” hooks which are teases or putdowns that may come our way. The month will conclude with a schoolwide assembly led by a fifth-grade class with a skit presentation on ways to handle teasing, putdowns, and cyber bullying.
  • As part of the Bullying Awareness and Prevention program at Bayside Middle School, each team of students received a poster of the school’s anti-bullying pact to review. Students talked about the difference between legitimate conflict and a bullying situation. They were reminded that bullying should be reported to their classroom teacher; that reaching out to other students to include them socially and academically is a kindness that will pay great dividends; and finally, that good old-fashioned mutual respect is an important first step for healthy relationships.  All students signed copies of the pact which are posted in the halls throughout the school.
  •  Landstown High School teacher, Jennifer Groves, and Matthew Tefft, Student Support Specialist, initiated the school’s Anti-Bullying Campaign in December by selecting 40 students with diverse social, economic, and academic backgrounds to create the Student-Teacher Anti-Bullying Coalition.  Students designed t-shirts that students and faculty wear on Wednesdays throughout January and February that read, “Bullying is below us, so get on our level.”  A “Take a Stand, Lend a Hand” Pledge is also being circulated to be signed by students, faculty, parents and community members to raise awareness of this serious issue facing many of today’s youth.  “Creating a positive, encouraging, and safe environment for our students makes for more productive, higher achieving students,” Ms. Groves contends.

The following congratulations are in order this evening…

Congratulations to Basil A., a senior at Frank W. Cox High School, for being named the Eastern Regional winner in Dominion Power’s annual writing contest about achievements of outstanding African-Americans.  Juniors and seniors from schools in Virginia, northeastern North Carolina, and Dominion’s East Ohio service areas were invited to submit essays. Basil’s paper entitled The Fiery Vanguard:  Malcolm X, discussed the influence this Civil Rights leader had in establishing solidarity and equality for all Americans.  Basil and Cox Principal Dr. Brian Matney will be honored at Dominion’s 21st Annual Strong Men and Women:  Excellence in Leadership celebration at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond on February 3.

Craig Borkman, a construction project manager in the Office of School Plant, has earned the new Educational Facilities Professional (EFP) credential from the Association of Leadership in Educational Facilities. The EFP is a certification that recognizes an individual as an accomplished professional in the educational facilities field who has the expertise to help ensure safe, functional, and inspiring learning environments. Well done, Mr. Borkman!

Congratulations also to Shannan Haas at Shelton Park Elementary for being selected as the first Partners in Education Coordinator of the Quarter.  This new award recognizes outstanding contributions to the Partners in Education Program. Since the beginning of the school year, Ms. Haas has developed eight new community partnerships for her school, helped to facilitate a Multi-Cultural Literacy and Math Night, and is devising an interactive Family Math Night with Chili’s restaurant. 

Mr. Chairman and members of the School Board, great efforts truly abound in this school division. And on that note, I conclude my remarks for this evening.

Last Modified on Friday, January 20, 2017