Recognizing Best Practices – Model Partnerships
Beginning in 2000-2001, the VBCPS Partnership Advisory Link (PAL), an advisory body made up of school and community representatives, began annually recognizing Model Partnerships. Through a nomination and panel review process, each school year's Model Partnerships are selected as examples of best practices of meaningful community involvement in our school district.
Model partnerships are selected based on the following criteria. The partnership:
- Had a clearly stated purpose
- Enabled students to be engaged in innovative educational activities
- Had a positive impact on student learning and achievement
- Was mutually beneficial to both organizations
- Added value to the educational initiatives in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools and to the community organization
- Learn how to establish a partnership with Virginia Beach City Public Schools
2015 Model Partnerships
Pungo Strawberry Festival Board & Advanced Technology Center
Since 1994, VBCPS students have designed the Pungo Strawberry Festival poster displayed throughout the city to celebrate the annual Virginia Beach event. Initiated by a high school teacher who also served on the Festival’s board, the design challenge continues today for high school seniors in the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Digital Design class. The mutually-beneficial partnership allows ATC students to develop and sharpen their technical skills using various design software programs and their “client” receives a beautifully-designed festival poster at no cost.
To celebrate the partnership each year, the Strawberry Festival board sponsors a student field trip to the printing facility to see the production of the final poster, provides a class party to recognize the winner and arranges for student attendance at a press conference about the festival. The winning student designer receives a $500 scholarship and is recognized in the festival’s parade.
“This two-decade partnership has proven invaluable to the professional development of hundreds of young designers, while at the same time allowed them to be of service to their community,” said ATC Director Michael Taylor. “It has surpassed our expectations in assisting us in meeting the ATC’s central mission – to develop imaginative, innovative and creative lifelong learners who are and will be so important to our nation’s future.”
11th Transportation Battalion, 119th ITC Company (ICTC) & Alanton Elementary School
Dedicating nearly 1,900 service hours during the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year, the soldiers of Fort Story 11th Transportation Battalion, 119th Transportation Company (ICTC) are making a difference at Alanton Elementary School. From assisting with the opening week of school to manning field day stations at the end of the year, soldiers are present at the school every week. They work directly with students as mentors, reading buddies, lunch buddies and partners in learning. Alanton students and families also see soldiers assisting with school events such as the One-Mile Fun Run, Halloween Monster Mash, Santa’s Workshop and Breakfast, Family Dinner Night and Book Fair and more. The battalion even planned a first-grade field trip to Fort Story aligned with curriculum standards that involved 169 students, parent chaperones and nearly 70 soldiers. When news spread in February that the soldiers would be involved in daily training and preparation for an impending deployment to the Far East, the school made plans to support their partners in education with letters and care packages during deployment.
“Our soldiers are committed to the partnership and truly care about all of our students,” said Alanton Principal Sean Walker. “They are not only given release time from work to interact with students and staff in a variety of ways, but they come on weekends and evening to meet with families and share in the festivities. Without this volunteer base, we would be hard pressed to be able to offer some of the many family-engagement programs we sponsor throughout the year.”
Simon Family Jewish Community Center & Bayside Tri-Campus
The importance of students reading on grade level by the end of third grade is critical to students’ future academic success. For seven years, volunteers from the Simon Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) have supported Newtown Elementary School’s Be a Reader (BEAR) Program, working with second graders twice a week to enhance their reading skills and serve as mentors for the young learners. The one-on-one assistance not only provides valuable extra reading practice and aids the development of fluency and comprehension skills, but staff report seeing an increase in students’ self-esteem and desire to read. The BEAR readers love books! In addition to what students read in print, JCC volunteers all of whom are retired seniors, are able to share lessons learned from their lifelong experiences.
“The partnership is mutually beneficial,” explains JCC volunteer Celia Friedman. “It is very rewarding. We do this out of love for kids. When you leave, you leave with a satisfaction about what you did for that child that day. A lot of our own children are grown, so this gives us the opportunity to be with kids again.”
Beach Church & Cooke Elementary School
Beach Church had a desire to “be a blessing to the community” and contacted Cooke Elementary School to ask how it could help the school meet its goals. The successful partnership that blossomed out of that inquiry supports both students and parents. Church members serve as volunteers to support a variety of school activities, including the school’s English as a Second Language (ESL) class. They also help prepare and serve dinners each week for 35-40 at-risk students involved in the school’s afterschool programs as well as spend time talking with students over dinner. When the school has a student in need of clothing, shoes, supplies or food, the church never hesitates to answer the call.
A new addition to the partnership is the church’s assistance with child care during the school’s evening English tutoring sessions for their Spanish-speaking parents. While church volunteers supervise the children, parents work to improve their language skills so they can better assist their children with school work.
“The families of our students benefit from the support and love the church shows for them,” said Cooke first-grade teacher Laura Beth Lawver. “We, as teachers, are also benefiting. Our students come to school with a little more confidence because maybe they have a new shirt on or they had a great dinner that was provided to them from Beach Church. They hold their heads up high since they have their homework completed because mom and dad can now help them. This partnership allows our students to come in and focus on their school work and the lessons being taught.”
VBCPS Office of Facilities Planning and Construction & Kemps Landing/Old Donation School
The partnership between Kemps Landing/Old Donation School (KLODS) and the division’s Office of Facilities, Planning and Construction will leave you feeling green – but not with envy! Sustainability and efforts to “go green” are at the heart of this meaningful partnership. Students and teachers at KLODS teamed up with school division planners to use the construction of the new gifted school being built as a teaching opportunity. Chief Sustainability Officer Tim Cole collaborated with students to investigate how sustainability was built into the construction project, resulting in energy efficiency features that also minimize the ecological impact of the school’s footprint on the community.
Through this partnership, students engage in authentic, real-world learning experiences that include critical thinking and questioning, innovation, research, problem-solving and service learning. They use technology to SKYPE with experts to learn about geo-thermal wells being used at the school site and tour existing VBCPS buildings to see how sustainable measures are being integrated at other locations.
“Helping students explore the connections between the ‘built’ environment and social, economic and environmental systems increases everyone’s understanding of these complex relationships,” said Cole. “We hope this endeavor enriches students’ lives. However, I know that it enriches all of us that are experiencing this outside of the classroom. Simply stated, this is a great example of a symbiotic relationship.”
In addition, students established and participated in eco clubs, oyster restoration projects and sustainable efforts such as creating rain barrels and organic gardens. The students and teachers are passionate about his growing partnership that provides endless opportunities in the area of sustainability while using the planning and constructions of their new building as a teaching tool.
Keystone Education Services & Landstown High School
Although only 18 months old, the partnership between Landstown High School and Keystone Education Services is thriving. Thanks to the staff at this locally-owned business, students are benefiting from academic supports such as tutoring and SAT prep and are being also being exposed to unique job shadowing and service learning opportunities. For example, students enrolled in the Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow (VTfT) program are getting hands-on experience by volunteering with Keystone’s summer camp activities for younger children. Keystone staff also serve as guest speakers for VTfT classes and work with students on resume writing, interviewing skills and professionalism in the field of education.
“The students enjoyed having director Allison Christine in class and especially appreciated the very practical and real-world insight she provided for them,” said Landstown teacher Krissy Sanderlin.
Keystone staff also collaborated with the students in the school’s DECA and marketing programs for two community service projects – the annual DECA fashion show and the Landstown High School charity powder puff game. In both instances, students had to develop event and marketing campaigns along with a service component to raise awareness about and benefit the local non-profit organization Kids First. This work underscored the importance of social responsibility among students and inspired many to continue to “pay it forward.”
As a result of the partnership between Keystone Education Services and Landstown High School, students have access to additional academic resources, are learning to collaborate with professionals in the community, are using critical thinking and problem-solving skills and are becoming more socially responsible. Certainly they are charting a course for future success.
Landstown Middle School PTSA & Landstown Middle School
Virginia Beach City Public Schools is fortunate to have the support of very active PTA/PTSA units across the school division. A sterling example of these collaborations is the partnership between Landstown Middle School and the Landstown Middle Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). This partnership not only promotes meaningful family participation to support student learning, it nurtures positive relationships between and among parents, staff and students. From college nights and character development programs to teacher appreciation events, student recognition activities and festivals, the PTSA is constantly busy.
Among the hallmark events supported and co-funded by this PTSA is the annual Lancer Launch – a transition program designed to help rising sixth graders make the move to middle school. During the daylong program led by upper classmen, each sixth-grader connects with a mentor who will work with them all school year. In addition, the youngest Lancers learn study skills and take part in team building exercises and activities to become familiar with the building. “The program also allows current middle school students to build leadership skills and assists in easing anxiety of rising sixth-grade students and parents. It has made a huge difference in building a positive school culture,” said Assistant Principal Paige Scherr.
Thanks to funding from the PTSA, Landstown Middle School also began a Rachel’s Challenge program. Inspired by the writings of Rachel Scott, who lost her life in the Columbine tragedy, students started a Friends of Rachel Club to promote acts of kindness and compassion in their classrooms.
It is that same spirit of kindness, relationship-building and a culture where everyone is included and respected are at the heart of this very successful school-PTSA partnership.
Virginia Beach SPCA & Providence Elementary School
You might say that Providence Elementary School has one “doggone great” partner, or you may call it the “cat’s meow.” Either way, you would be right! The school has teamed up with the Virginia Beach SPCA to use animals and animal-themes to teach responsibility, respect and even reading.
Providence Elementary welcomes SPCA volunteers and their furry friends into classrooms where reluctant readers can practice their literacy skills while reading to a pet. There is always plenty of excitement as students share a book or their own writings, all the while becoming more confident and fluent readers. But this partnership goes far beyond the Listening Ears program. SPCA volunteers visit the classrooms for monthly animal-themed lessons designed to develop positive character traits such as compassion, kindness and responsibility. The goal is to help students develop socially and emotionally as well as academically.
“Studies have shown there is a correlation between reluctant readers and incidence of bullying or being bullied. By helping children become more fluent readers, we can only boost self-esteem and hopefully, glean kinder human beings,” said Virginia Beach SCPA education director Kathy Shambo.
That spirt of kindness is already alive and well among the Providence school community. Students and teachers alike have held supply drives throughout the year to benefit the SPCA. It is their way of giving back to an organization (and animals) that give so much to the school!
New Jerusalem Ministries & Rosemont Elementary School
New Jerusalem Ministries has been a very active part of the Rosemont Elementary School family for the past three years. The pastor and volunteers attend concerts, come to PTA and school events and support teachers and all staff each week. They are also an integral part of the school’s Summer Jam, a grant program designed to prevent students from “summer slide” or losing ground academically during the summer months when they are not reading or engaged in educational activities. More than 20 volunteers attend training sessions in June and serve as buddy readers for students. Not only are they listening to students read, but they are asking higher level questions before, during and after reading, to assist them with comprehension.
Thanks to generous donations by church members, students who might not have enough to eat over weekends and school breaks are receiving much needed Beach Bags filled with nutritious shelf-stable meals and snacks. The church also helps provide snacks for tutoring and afterschool homework clubs and contributes to student recognition efforts by supplying small incentives for academic and personal achievement.
“We have many students who come from single parent homes. Parents are working as hard as they can to provide for their families, but they may not always be able to provide the needed school supplies and the additional academic support students need to be successful in class. Our New Jerusalem Ministries partners have stepped up to work alongside students to reinforce skills and encourage students who need a pat on the back. They genuinely work to help our students love school and want to be here,” said Assistant Principal Linda Morrissey.
Virginia Wesleyan College (VWC) Marlins Read & Shelton Park Elementary School
A small finger traces the words on the page as a first-grader and Marlins Read mentor huddles closely during lunch. They read, exchange a look of anticipation and talk about what they think will happen next in the story. There is excitement, trust and a budding love of reading.
The partnership between Shelton Park Elementary School (SPES) and Virginia Wesleyan College offers one-to-one and small group mentorships for some of the school’s most struggling readers. Through partner reading and conversations about books, the first graders are improving their literacy skills. But, they are also learning about positive relationships, communication and responsibility. The Marlins Read mentors are role-models who, for nine Tuesdays each semester, are confidants and caring adults helping the elementary school students develop socially and emotionally as well as academically.
“By pairing students with a mentor, they are provided individualized attention that increases their reading engagement,” said SPES Reading Specialist Monica Bennett. “Having a familiar face visit weekly also provides them with a sense of comfort and security.”
VWC launched the Marlins Read program in 2008 and expanded to include Shelton Park Elementary School in 2012. It offers college mentors real-world experience in the field of public education. Many of the VWC students are studying to be teachers or guidance counselors one day. This partnership, provides an enhanced curriculum for all participants - big and small - who read together while writing the next chapter of their own stories.
Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater & Tallwood High School
It is a small world after all! Just ask students at Tallwood High School who, thanks to their partnership with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater (UJFT), are tackling global issues and learning about world politics from international relations experts. With the support of the UJFT, students have hosted culture cafes with and heard presentations by the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., a former Foreign Policy Advisor to Israeli President Simone Peres, and countless experts on Israeli relations.
Partners also support Tallwood’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy as mentors, senior project judges and resource advisors. But the partnership goes much deeper. Academy students volunteer as interns at the UJFT and the Jewish Community Center (JCC), they make presentations at UJFT events about student exchange trips and topics they are studying in class. And, most importantly, they use their experiences to speak to members of the larger Virginia Beach community about the importance of Israel on the world stage.
“This partnership has motivated the Tidewater Jewish community members to learn more about and advocate for Israel alongside of our young friends. When the Tallwood students come to events on our campus, it makes a statement – if these young, non-Jewish students care so much about Israel and are willing to show up and speak up, what more should we, the Jewish community be doing?” asked Robin Mancoll, UJFT Community Relations Director.
What began as a request for a guest speak in 2012 has become a meaningful, eye-opening partnership as students and UJFT partners actively work together to raise awareness about world issues, to shine a light on the U.S. role in world politics and to promote tolerance and cultural awareness.
Virginia Beach Fire Department, Station 5 & Technical and Career Education Center
For 12 years, the Technical and Career Education Center (TCE) has partnered with the Virginia Beach Fire Department (VBFD) to support TCE’s public safety program. As experts in the field, fire department members have been an integral support in the planning of learning and experiential activities for students interested in the field of firefighting. In addition to classroom lessons, students get real-world experience in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), correct methods of rolling fire hoses and how to extricate a person trapped in a car crash. The firefighters often serve as a classroom resource and even help students prepare for Skills USA firefighting competitions.
New this year, students have access to a 1985 fire truck donated by the Knotts Island Fire Department. VBFD staff visited the school to train teachers on how the truck could be used as a teaching tool.
“The generosity of the firefighters who volunteer their time to help students learn about and become proficient in the field of firefighting has truly prepared many of our students to become future firefighters and EMTs,” said Technical and Career Education Center Director David Swanger.
Each senior in the public safety program takes part in a job shadowing, unpaid internship with the fire department, working several hours a day for four weeks at fire stations throughout the city. That hands-on training, along with classroom lessons, are helping to create a pool of qualified applicants for paid positions within the Virginia Beach Fire Department. In fact, a former student at the Tech Center is now a firefighter stationed at VBFD, Company 5. That is a testament to how this partnership is inspiring and preparing the next generation of Virginia Beach firefighters!
Virginia Air and Space Center & Woodstock Elementary School
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the educational value of this partnership between the Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) and Woodstock Elementary School. Through monthly collaborations with VASC, the school is able to expand student learning beyond the traditional classroom setting to inspire students as lifelong learners of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Center staff visit the school each month to engage 120 fifth graders in rigorous and meaningful hands-on projects that not only enhance classroom curriculum being taught, but also highlight actual STEM-related career opportunities. For example, following a study of weather, the partners worked together to connect with an expert scientist through SKYPE. Later, a student and her teacher were invited to join meteorologist Ginger Zee as guest meteorologists on Good Morning America in New York City. Talk about sparking the interest of young scientists!
Following a force, motion and energy unit, students were able to design and test roller coasters. And what kid wouldn’t love to work with electricity when you can watch your principal’s hair stand on end across the room? How about an opportunity to design and actually make a new musical instrument and then write a tune to play in front of the class as part of the sound unit? These are all engaging learning opportunities that are the result of the school’s partnership with VASC.
Research conducted nationwide indicates that students, especially girls, begin to “turn off” and become uninterested in science as early as the fourth grade. “Because of this dynamic outreach program, the Woodstock Woodchucks think science is exciting and it’s their favorite subject,” said teacher Stephanie Wyman. “My students have gained a newfound love for science through our partnership and we just want to keep that interest growing.”