School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week Coming Soon…

School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week is May 6-10, 2013.  Please join us in recognizing the important contributions that school nutrition employees provide to the success of Virginia’s students.  Celebrate the professional commitments made every school day by school nutrition employees across the Commonwealth.  The importance and nutritional value of school meals are well documented.  For many children, school lunch is the most important and nutrient-rich meal of their day.

Between preparing healthy meals for Virginia’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are integral to the success of our students.  To kick off School Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week, Friday, May 3 is designated as School Lunch Superhero Day. The day aims to highlight the ways in which school nutrition professionals make a difference for every child who comes through the cafeteria.  School nutrition employees must balance many roles and follow numerous federal, state, and local regulations to ensure safe and healthy meals are available in schools.  They provide nutrition education to students and use their creativity to make the cafeteria a fun and welcoming place. The new federal nutrition standards for school meals went into effect this school year.  These new standards are intended to ensure that every school lunch provides students a well-balanced meal offering low-fat or fat-free milk, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.  School meals also meet limits on calories, sodium and unhealthy fats.  The professionals in school nutrition have embraced these changes with enthusiasm.

School Nutrition Employee Week is designated to remind the school community that school nutrition employees are critical staff that deserve recognition.  It is the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in school cafeterias.  Let these professionals know you appreciate their work.

Robotics, snakes, football, musicals – what’s with this place?

To say the least, it’s been an eventful week in the life of our schools. On the forefront of our minds and hearts has been the healing and recovery of our friend and colleague who suffered inexplicable violence earlier this week. Even amid the dark moments, there were extremely bright messages that emerged to remind us of the hope and spirit alive in our great community – beautifully expressed here by our superintendent, Dr. Lane.

We celebrate yet another tremendous recognition of our own John Hendron, recently presented with the “Making IT Happen” Award. Click here to read more and see a picture of John’s award. I’m told there’s an entertaining video of the award presentation at ISTE’s annual conference in VA Beach, just a few strategic searches & clicks away – but I’ll leave it to you to navigate that.

CLICK HERE to view the winter edition of GCPS’ outstanding instructional newsletter, Explorations in Learning!

We celebrate the continued success of two brilliantly shining Goochland teams! Our varsity football team faces Essex County this afternoon in the Group A, Division 2 VA State Final Championship. The game happens at 4:30 PM in the Salem City Stadium.

In addition, nine Byrd Elementary School champion First LEGO robotics team competitors, “The Granny Helpers,” are spending today & tomorrow in Harrisonburg, VA for the State Championship Competition!

The team participated in and won  the “Championship Award” at the Lloyd C. Bird Regional competition on November 3rd. They participate this weekend at the State Tournament at James Madison University.  The theme this year was “Senior Solutions.” The team created MASH – a Multi-purpose Modular Automaton Senior Helper – this is an accessible device to  aid seniors with blood sugar control, poor eyesight, muscle weakness and memory loss –  as their research project. This will be shared with the judges today.  Sunday will be devoted to the robot and the mission challenges on the mission board.

Both teams carry our congratulations and our very best wishes for successful competition and continued leadership. Thank you for representing our community so proudly!

As long as we’re on the subject of BES, CLICK HERE to see a parent, community volunteer & YMCA Board leader teach students about animal behavior and the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. And yes, that’s principal James Hopkins petting a snake.

BES Students perform on December 5 in “A Perfect Winter Day” in the Goochland High School Auditorium.

Byrd and Goochland Elementary students performed a show-stopping holiday play, A Perfect Winter Day, in the Goochland High School auditorium this week. Heart-warming and hilarious, the play features several of humorous parts – but the biggest joke involves a re-gifted fruitcake that eventually lands in the hands of the principals (a real crowd pleaser!).

GES student performers entertain the crowd in “A Perfect Winter Day”.

CLICK HERE to see some exciting pictures of Ms. Gooding’s GES second grade students’ Native American Project!

Children’s Engineering is Mrs. DeLong’s classroom – CLICK HERE!

Engineering and design across several grade levels at BES – CLICK HERE!

The Assistant Superintendent of Instruction visits Randolph Elementary School – and gets put to work!

Students at GES are working hard to earn their AR STAR Reader Cap and Stars! Students in each grade level, K-5, works toward a grade level goal for earning Accelerated Reader points. They read books of their choice and take a quiz using Renaissance Place’s Accelerated Reader program. For each quiz they take, they earn points. The number of points a quiz is, is determined by book length and difficulty. As students earn points, they are recognized by earning their caps and then stars for their caps. They hear their names on the morning announcements each Friday and look for their STAR on the AR Bulletin board. Students are allowed to wear their caps each Friday during the school day. Without a doubt,  a love of reading and literature is taking place at GES!!

A Goochland Elementary School STAR Reader!

Our leadership gathered this week to debrief our division’s response to the recent crisis incident Wednesday morning and to generally clarify our emergency procedures and revisit roles & responsibilities. It provided a wonderful opportunity for us to continue to gel as a team, especially under the leadership of our new superintendent. Invariably, we found our values inextricably linked to our decisions about the operational aspects of our work.

“Values provide perspective in the best of times, and the worst.”

Charles Garfield


Student Engagement & the Battle for Each Other

Randolph Elementary students recently took what they learned at Jamestown (Read Mrs. Gordon’s account here) and brought it to a full-on STEM activity. Using engineering, research, cooperative problem-solving and a project-based approach, RES teachers Rowan and Ferguson took engaged learning to a new level. We had the pleasure of witnessing some of the magic Friday morning, as you’ll see in the video below.


Mike Newman, GHS principal, recently attended the University of Richmond’s annual  Diversity Dialogue Day with nine of his students. Dr. Geyer, who also attended the event, said,

“I am proud the nine student-leaders who participated.  The Diversity Dialogue event at U of R was yet another exemplar of the impressive way our students represent our schools and our community.” (read Dr. Geyer’s account)


Click the video below to see how Mr. Newman and GHS students are taking what they learned at the event and putting it into action to make GHS an even better place!


Tom DeWeerd, Director of Secondary & Technology, explores a middle school teacher’s perception of student engagement here.

We appreciate so much Dr. Lane and the GCPS School Board carefully considering several possibilities for the bonus compensation distribution to employees. We also express sincere thanks to the Board of Supervisors for providing the one-time allocation of funds that made the bonus possible. Ultimately, the Board fostered a great discussion and made a decision that gives all employees a financial boost.  Read more here and take a look at a video in which Dr. Lane explains the Board’s recent bonus decisions.


Dr. Lane, Dr. Geyer & I enjoyed an inspiring discussion of values based leadership with Mark Fernandes at the University of Richmond this week. We took advantage of being in the neighborhood and dropped by the Luck Leadership Center at St. Christopher’s School and explored creative ways to teach students innovation, empathy and connected learning through project-based, collaborative instructional models.

Dr. Lane & Dr. Geyer discuss teaching creativity & project-based learning with St. Christopher’s Headmaster, Charles Stillwell, at the Luck Leadership Center.

Among other topics, we delved deeply into how to operationalize the high-level, visionary aspects of values based leadership. VBL will not erase poor judgement; we need to know our craft and approach education with a degree of acumen. What it will do, however, is provide a framework in which we can demonstrate each day that the path to doing well is found by doing good.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn that lesson again this week. When we apply the VBL approach to our every day, mundane interactions, we can’t help but screen our behavior through the filter of the things we’ve said we believe.

Our leadership team has been clear that one of the things we want to be involved in every day is positively impacting other people’s lives. If that’s the vision I pursue and that’s what I’ve written on the whiteboard, then my interactions can’t first be about being right, or even being strategic.

They have to first be about having a positive impact on you.

To do that I’ve got the invest the time to know you. And when we conflict, I’ve got to first seek to know where you are – and more importantly how you are – before I start trying to bring you to my side of the argument.

Are we just trying to win battles all day? Or trying to win each other?

The first comes pretty naturally. It’s the second one that takes a lifetime of effort – and brings about unimaginable reward.

Speaking of winning, don’t forget to cheer on the Bulldogs tomorrow, whether you’re on the sidelines or back home routing from a distance. Let’s give all of our support to our scholar athletes as they represent our great community in the VA semi-finals tomorrow. Details are here.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend.



“They Notice Me”

Beginning with the moving Veterans Day events held at GMS and GHS Monday morning, our scholar performers really took center stage this week in Goochland. It was a fitting time to experience Scot Mitchell’s induction into the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Representatives from the Army honored Scot during a ceremony at Goochland High School this week.

“I challenge you to find out what you stand for.” (Jesse Grapes, to GCPS students & community members on November 12th)


Scot, a senior at GHS, was one of two Virginia students to be selected to receive this honor and participate in this distinguished and historical band. Thousands of talented and accomplished students sought this opportunity and very few were chosen. How proud we are to have one of them right here in Goochland.

Scot Mitchell and his fellow band members at the Veterans Day ceremony. Scot was just inducted into the US ARmy All American Marching Band.

Our School Board will further recognize Scot during its regularly scheduled meeting December 11th. Watch Scot and the All-American Band perform live during the Army All-American Bowl in Texas on January 5th at 1:00PM, NBC.

Our five School Board members and new superintendent, Dr. Lane, attended the VA School Board Association’s Annual Convention in Williamsburg this week. The convention was focused on providing attendees with the insight, tools and knowledge needed to maintain exemplary programs and pursue a common vision, despite ongoing reductions in funding imposed by the state.

There is still time to give the Board your perspective on budget priorities for next year’s school budget. This survey will be accepting feedback from our community through November 27th.

Dr. Geyer continues to lead the division’s instructional leaders through the Instructional Rounds initiative. Click here to read about just how successful this progressive approach has been in Goochland. On a personal note, it is inspiring to be in leadership team meetings and to hear our division leaders reference teachers and students by name, having experienced classrooms through frequent personal observation. That familiarity and connection is transforming our central office administration and building a powerful relationship between the division and school based staff.

Read about one district leader’s visit to Goochland High School where three teachers collaborated to pursue a unique G21 Project. Goochlanders were invited to participate in a project where oral history, intergenerational learning and iPads come together to create an engaging, project-based experience for students. The project is an example of John Hendron’s 21st Century Classroom model, replacing traditional desks and chalkboards with tables, interactive white boards, iPads and Macbooks and a total emphasis on student-centered instruction. You’ll learn more about this model in the Winter ’12 Instructional Newsletter, due to be released next week.

The Oral Histories Project at GHS.

  • STEM education continues to come to life in Goochland. Read about it here in Tom DeWeerd’s blog.
  • Grandparents’ events a huge success! Take a look at the Randolph Rodeo here on Mrs. Crowder’s blog!
  • After school enrichment at GES here on Mrs. McCay’s blog!
  • Remember the BES Eagles will compete at the state level in early December, here on Mr. Hopins’ blog!
  • Mrs. Wilcox and Mrs. Donovan invite us to chunk a pumpkin!
  • Art and language come together in Mrs. Abbott’s class!

Marching Toward the Vision

This week the leadership team finished its first pass through a series of discussions focused on identifying the measurable indicators of student engagement. Our discussions centered on four areas of thought:

  1. Elements of the classroom environment that support engaged learning
  2. Planning that has taken place to support student engagement
  3. Student behaviors that evidence engaged learning
  4. Teacher behaviors that lead to student engagement

As you might expect, there was a cross-polonation of ideas that could easily flourish in more than one area. Also as expected, very clear patterns emerged:

  • The environment: there is a culture of safety and comfort, not apathy or complacency, where students are challenged and given opportunities to take risks and ask questions.
  • Planning: Students know the routines and don’t wait around to be told what to do next. They aren’t idle and they understand expectations and objectives for what they are learning. Lesson plans reflect opportunities for hands-on and differentiated learning.
  • Evidence of engagement: Students are involved in “serious fun” and their activities and listening is purposeful. They are focused, asking relevant questions, connected to their teacher and what they’re learning.
  • Teacher behaviors: Good relationship, marked by a positive demeanor and tone, is evident. Students are asked clarifying, “why?” questions and they are called upon and recognized. The teacher is sensitive to opportunities to “get out of the way” and facilitate. Teaching and reteaching, with multiple and varied assessments is integral.

When a group of students were recently asked to define what it is that good teachers do (that’s the teenager’s version of our questions above), it’s no surprise that one of the resounding answers was, “they notice me.”

What does it mean to notice a student? Or anyone else for that matter? The question brings me back to a quote we’ve mentioned before:

“If we’re willing to step outside of our surprisingly deep behaviorist rut, the answer is clear. Children don’t need prizes or praise, but engagement and relationship – with other people and with the work they are doing. If you love a child, you probably know this on a gut level. But the research confirms it.” (Maja Wilson)


Students feel noticed when they are known, when we’ve taken the sometimes uncomfortable steps to enter into a relationship with them. They feel noticed when we celebrate their victories and encourage them when they take risks and fall. Maybe most importantly, they feel noticed when we call them out of their comfort zones, confront their short-sightedness and challenge their perspectives.

It isn’t rocket science. People feel noticed when they actually are noticed.

Interactive questioning, an environment in which kids take risks knowing their failures will be encouraged into later victories, reteaching to mastery, a variety of approaches that appeal to the differences among the learners – these are the fruit of relationships. Those kinds of revolutionary practices don’t get implemented in a vacuum and they cannot blossom outside of the soil of a healthy relationship where students and teacher have established mutual trust and expectation.

Perhaps the most profound moment of the leadership team meeting for me came when our finance director, Debbie White, keenly observed that everything we had brainstormed about the classroom environment – the feeling of safety, encouragement to take risks in an attempt to do something great, the leader facilitating student’s work rather than directing it – should also be true of our central office.

And it should be true of each of the departments and schools within our division.

So here’s to a beautiful November weekend, an invigorating Bulldog victory tonight (home game vs Buckingham at 7 PM), and a school community where no one goes unnoticed.


 ”Don’t take the easy way out.” (Dr. Matt Covington)



“If you’re expecting people to be vulnerable, go first.” (Liane Davey)

Veterans Day: Let’s All Lead Sacrificially

Please see these two important posts from our new superintendent, Dr. James Lane, and make a habit of reviewing his blog often throughout the week:

I would like to offer a special thank you to Demetra Harris for her superb coordination of this year’s Benefits Fair. Diane Bennett also worked tirelessly to help this event to be put together so well. We thank the vendors and benefit providers for generously offering their time to serve our employees.

We are extremely proud of John Hendron, who was named one of the  50 most innovative educators in the nation by The Center for Digital Education and Converge Publications. We knew that already, but it’s energizing to see the global community recognize it as well. John brings his expertise to bear in a unique way in Goochland, always resulting in better, more innovative instruction for our students. Click here to see just one of the many innovations John has pioneered in our division.

I had the wonderful opportunity to experience two inspiring activities this week. Students were treated to enrichment in a variety of avenues. I visited a room where students engineered houses (3 little pigs) in teams such that a strong wind could not blow them down. Take a look here:

Third graders from BES visited Shalom Farms where Steve Miles facilitated students harvesting 65 pounds of pepper pants to be donated to the Goochland Food Bank, thanks to a generous donation from the Goochland Rotary Club. Unusable peppers were used for composting and students learned about the make-up of soil nutrients and the agricultural process. Live update below:

Other news from the blogs…

  • Mrs. Harper encourages you to read to your child here, what great advice from this expert!
  • STEM Superstars at RES!
  • Veterans’ Day Assembly at RES a huge success!
  • Fun stuff at GES, take a look!
  • Mrs. Burdette shares the news that our very own Amy Spoonhower led a session at the VSUP conference!
  • We join Dr. Geyer in offering our congratulations to First Lego Robotics! Wonderful accomplishments and a regional win from BES! The Byrd students and sponsors travel to James madison University to compete in the State Competition!
  • Middle School robotics article here.
  • Resources for parents of students receiving special services from Debbie Beasley, Director of Student Services & Special Education.

BES First Lego Robotics Division 1 Champions!

Congratulations to the Volleyball Team for their amazing success this season. Having swept the district in an undefeated season, they faced Stuarts Draft yesterday. While they didn’t take the regional title, they represented Goochland with honor and expertise. We are extremely proud of these players and their coach, Jennifer Erixon.

Further congratulations to the GHS Bulldog Football Team for an amazing win over Windsor High School Friday night. Continuing their championship march through the Regional competition, the Bulldogs face Buckingham this coming Friday in what is sure to be a challenging and exciting game. Let’s continue to cheer on these scholar athletes!

Veterans’ Day

Today we honor our selfless and inspirational veterans. Programs in our schools began this week and continue into next week. What an incredible springboard for us to pause and reflect deeply on our journey towards a renewed, unified and clear mission and vision.

My late father helped to command a submarine in WWII. His was the clearest and most tangible picture of inspirational leadership in my life. Among the many things I learned by watching him, perhaps most profound for me was reaffirmed through the words of an aged sailor who attended his funeral, having served under his leadership during the War.

“No matter what was going on, no matter how long we had been under or how terrified we all were, he always put the men first,” he shared with quivering lips. “We always came first with your dad.”

Leadership never serves the leader. It seeks to serve someone else. Leadership is putting yourself in a position to positively influence the life of another.

If every change in curriculum, every schedule, every disciplinary procedure, athletic program, committee meeting, policy decision and phone call – doesn’t reflect a desire to positively influence the lives of others, then we aren’t leading well.

There’s no better way for me to honor my father and every other veteran who selflessly thought well enough of other people’s best interest to risk personal wellbeing and comfort to serve a greater cause – than to exemplify those values that our heroes lived so well in my own life.

More than the appropriate ceremonies and grand celebration, we honor those who displayed selfless sacrifice most in how we handle the small, insignificant interactions – conversations with colleagues or parents on our way out of the parking lot, brief responses we offer students in the hall on their way to the water fountain, the facial expression we give to those who challenge us in sometimes irritating ways.

In every case, what we do in those quiet, uncelebrated moments should leave others in a better place than they were before.

My father did that as a leader of men on a tiny vessel on the Pacific in the 40′s. And he did it decades later as a retiree bagging groceries at the Safeway in Richmond.

That’s my example. You have yours and I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.

Let’s encourage one another – and hold each other accountable – to grab those opportunities to lead others and to always seek to leave them in a better place.

Happy Veterans Day. And thanks again, pop.

“Inspiring leaders are always the first to sacrifice, inviting others to follow their example and join worthwhile causes.” John Maxwell


Black Collar Workers, Ben Franklin & the Art of Forgiveness

Visionary Leadership & Engaging Instruction

What a great, great week in our schools.

Just this morning I was privileged to hear Bruce Watson, our Director of CTE, address the Goochland Rotary Club regarding how Career & Technical Skill preparation is finding its way into our classrooms and future plans. Among the topics were STEM, children’s engineering, the GHS IT Academy, and opportunities for business support and partnerships. Quoting Ben Franklin and touting the necessity of hands-on learning, Bruce reminded, “Involve me and I learn.”

Bruce Watson addresses Goochland Rotarians, the Ben Franklin quote in the background is the heart of CTE.

During Bruce’s talk I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to the recent Yong Zhao message at U of R. Today’s employers are desperate for creative, independent, skilled people who can “think through situations” (to quote a Rotarian). Zhao referenced the rise of what’s referred to today as the “creative class“ of “black collar workers” (named for Steve Jobs’ influential entrepreneurship & black turtle neck). People who are innovative and take initiative, can think creatively and not only foster a unique skill – but use it in connection with a larger idea and in collaboration with a team. Thanks to Bruce for leading the charge toward that greater mission of building innovation and entrepreneurial creativity into our classrooms.

We need children to master the bigger, more in-demand skills that those hands-on, engaging, project-based CTE programs teach: entrepreneurship, innovation, ingenuity, creativity and collaboration. That’s what employers need right now – and that’s what the jobs that don’t yet exist will demand of today’s students once they get there.


I’m thrilled to announce the School Board’s recent approval of three additional slots now available to rising GCPS ninth graders who aspire to attend the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. By resolution, the Board formally expressed the intention to increase total enrollment of GCPS students in the MLWGS program from 16 (currently) to 28 over the next four years. This is a big commitment on both the Board’s and the school’s part – and represents the importance the Board places on expanding our ability to maximize all students’ potential.

Please don’t miss these two very important posts:

  1. Click here to make sure you understand the admissions process for MLWGS
  2. Click here to get an even better handle on why we require our volunteers to be fingerprinted

I enjoyed being a part of the GHS Academic Awards Assemblies this morning. Students were honored for academic excellence during the most recent semester (last spring) as well as some current year honors. The stage was set for a year of stellar accomplishment and bright futures.

We have begun the process of developing the 2013-14 school budget. This process, and the final product, will be reflective of the values held close by our school community, represented through our continued vision and mission development, feedback collected from staff and community, recommendations of advisory committees, the Capital Improvement Planning process, and budget priorities that will be established by the School Board. Take a look at this new site where you’ll soon find relevant updates, documents and references helpful to making this important process accessible to all stakeholders.

Speaking of the budget, our new Director of Finance, Debbie White has been working daily this past week to load budget and actual information for the current and past three years into “BudGen,” the new budget software program. By the end of the week, we were able to send FY14 Budget Request worksheets to each cost center manager that showed three years of actual costs per account with the current year approved budget and input areas for additional comments and justifications. Furthermore, salary information input into BudGen is now being reviewed by staff so that, following training in a week, we should be able to run salary-related scenarios effortlessly and accurately. Isn’t that everything we ever wanted from a budget planning tool? Effortless and accurate. Debbie is working diligently to make the finance department more accessible to us all. We are delighted to welcome her to our leadership team!

Community Involvement

Please don’t miss JSRCC’s Goochland Campus Community Night on Tuesday, October 30, 5:30 PM. Among the exciting offerings that night, Dr. Eric Barna, Director of the Center for Teacher Education (and former co-principal in Orange County!) will lead a session about the Center and future programming of special interest to our teachers. Take a look at this flyer and make plans to be a part of this tremendous event!

If you’ve been to school or are currently in school, you undoubtedly have some examples of things that inspired you – activities, lessons, events or people that were especially meaningful in your educational experience. Please click here to tell our instructional leadership about them. We need your involvement in building a lighthouse program.

I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the Goochland Women’s Club Monday night. What a committed group of community volunteers with such a passion for investing into the life of the county. I was especially proud to hear from one member of the audience, who mentioned her involvement in our partnership with the Food Pantry. She had picked up over 80 pounds of food from the schools last week and delivered it to the Pantry for distribution among the community.

Can I please just give you an iPad?? We announce the beginning of our United Way Campaign to help support the vital programs and services in the Goochland Community & Greater Richmond Area. The Goochland Ed Foundation has generously donated an iPad2 to be raffled among any GCPS staff who commit a donation of at least $5 per paycheck ($60 total) to the service of their choosing. More details to come!

From the Administration & Teachers

  • Mike Newman has much to say about the behavior of our seniors here.
  • Sandra Crowder tells us about the landscaping you see in front of RES here.
  • Is that guy actually on top of a table?!? Dianna Gordon writes about it here.
  • Tina McCay & the GES PTA need your help (and your loose change!). Click here.
  • Dr. Matt Covington describes a useful tool to motivate younger learners here.
  • How do you actually create within yourself (or someone else) the desire to learn? John Hendron explores that & much more here.
  • Engagement in Mr. Jarvis’ class here.
  • National math competition & Saturday Enrichment, here from Mrs. Hawk
  • I love the layout & the message of Mr. Tomlin’s page, “better than decaf…
  • Mrs. Wilcox describes Pet Day 2012 at BES here.
  • Salad and Fireworks from Mrs. Cantor and Mrs. Rohrer here.

District Volleyball Tournament is coming next week! Come out and support the Lady Bulldogs on October 30!

It’s All About Forgiveness

Last week my family had what may be a familiar experience to some of you – especially those with young children. We had the minivan packed, it had been a long, fun morning. Nap time for our three was definitely upon us (and maybe for the parent as well). We were tired, hungry, and we were still in Richmond with the short trip home to Goochland still ahead.

Rather than wrangle our squad into a restaurant, we chose to “grab & go” at a familiar & popular establishment off of Broad Street. After several minutes in line, we placed our order. Then it happened. No wallet, no cash. We were stuck in a long procession of cars, no escape, with no way to purchase all of the food we ordered.

After what felt like a year we arrived at the window and apologized for the mistake and the inconvenience we had caused, but explained we’d have to move on without. You can imagine the impact it had when she cheerfully and quickly responded, “No problem. This one’s on us,” and handed our order through the window, smiling and asking us to enjoy our day.

That we did.

And while they lost about 20 bucks with that stunt, they also secured the Gretz family’s business for a lifetime. Pretty smart, actually.

It made me think about how we invest into the relationships that define our school community. Sometimes our best move, not only for our “business” but more importantly for the purpose of improving the life of another, involves compromise. In fact, sometimes we have to compromise our position in a given situation in order to NOT compromise our values.

And as I thought about this unexpected blessing that made our lives so much easier that day traveling back to Goochland, it hit me that the real issue here is forgiveness. Forgiveness of a debt, or a slander, or maybe just forgiving someone for being plain wrong. We clearly didn’t deserve a break, but got one anyway.

Forgiveness is not about looking back  and realizing we were wrong to feel hurt, or angry, or betrayed by an event or person. On the contrary, it’s being absolutely justified in feeling that way but choosing not to.

We’ve talked about the importance of humility in leadership. And our vision for the impact we hope to have as a division continues to revolve around improving other people’s lives.

Let’s look for opportunities this week to invest in other people – and give someone a break, even when they don’t deserve it. Just because it’s the right thing to do.

We’ll find that the right thing is also the smart thing – and though we may give up a few inches of ground today, we’ll gain a whole world of ground tomorrow.



Because of Them, A Better World


As mentioned last week, several of us recently enjoyed an engaging presentation at the University of Richmond with Yong Zhao. Read Director of Secondary Instruction, Tom DeWeerd’s account here of Yong’s message and learn how he’s keeping kids out of his basement.

Grace Creasey’s mock election is in full swing. Students are meeting daily during their FOCUS block to explore the election process, exercise their creativity and participate in democracy in action.

Read Bea Cantor’s perspective on the GMS Anti-Bullting Campaign here an learn about how this school is trying to put and end to bullying and improve the lives of middle school students.

Please join Dr. Geyer in congratulating Mr. Joe Fowler here.

Jillian Weyant is taking wellness and nutrition education to a new level. Hands-on, engaging education right here.

Elementary teachers continue to develop their ability to integrate engineering into their lessons, thanks to Bruce Watson, Director of Career & Technical Education.

Teacher-engineers at work.


Don’t miss the GCPS Employee Benefits Fair. November 8th, 3:30-6:00 at GHS, come meet vendors and benefit providers who offer special discounts and services to you, simply because you are a GCPS employee. A one-of-a-kind presentation about changes in VRS that will impact you will be happening in the library every 30 minutes.


“Yes, let’s make sure that all the creative arts are taught in school, but let’s also make sure school teaches that there is an art to every discipline.” - Rick Ackerly

I love that line. It reminds me that there’s often something even more urgent beneath the things we feel are so important. It’s not simply a matter of putting in fine arts classes that will develop our children’s artistic selves. There’s more – always is.

It’s election season. We’re hearing talk about the importance of education. But again, there’s more. It’s not education that will impact us, but a certain kind of education. Not classical vs. progressive vs. Common Core vs. Montessori. Those have more to do with methodology – and that’s important. I’m speaking to the foundational purpose that shape the type of education we provide, regardless of the methods and strategies we employ in doing so.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and former Auschwitz prisoner, author of the famous work, Night. Wiesel, in addressing a global audience in Moscow more than a decade ago, asserted that the designers and perpetrators of the Holocaust were the heirs of Kant and Goethe (whom I’ve quoted in this blog in recent weeks). He noted that that society was perhaps the best educated on Earth, and yet their education did not provide a barrier to barbarity because:

“It emphasized theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience.”


It is not mere education that is of critical importance, but a certain kind of education. In Goochland we are currently wrestling with what kind of education we want for our community and why we want it. This is exactly what we’re considering as we forge a vision and mission, craft value and belief statements that describe our non-negotiable truths and “moral compass” of behavior.

Why do we want to press beyond SOL achievement and Core curriculum? Why do we want our children to be engaged and motivated?

What’s the big deal about inspiring other people?

We want to push our students and each other to maximize potential, to inspire and motivate other people so that we can improve other people’s lives – and improve the world.

Think about it. Why do I want my child to be engaged, successful, prepared? Why? Just so he/she will be? Certainly I want something more for my children than to simply be able to say they are successful, or educated, or whatever. Don’t I also want them to live in a certain type of world? Don’t I want them surrounded by others who were similarly successful, motivated, engaged in school and are also working to improve other people’s lives?

I don’t want my educated and engaged child placed upon a distant mountain over top of a world of others impoverished of spirit and character. What world is that for my children to inhabit? I want the same things for your children, and all others. I want them all to maximize their potentials, thereby creating a much, much better place for us all to call home.

At the risk of oversimplifying, I believe what we’re really after is leadership. Putting one’s self in the position to positively impact the lives of others. We don’t just want excellence for our children. We want them to also be compelled to have that excellence drive them to help others find excellence. Right?

That’s why we care so much not only about what we are teaching, but how we are teaching it. Not only how our students do on a single measurement in time, but how they are growing and progressing.

David Orr, speaking to higher education institutions more than 20 years ago, said,

“What is desperately needed are faculty and administrators who provide role models of integrity, care, thoughtfulness, and institutions that are capable of embodying ideals wholly and completely in all of their operations”


Those ideals – the values that shape who we are as people, as a school division, as a community – should find their way into everything we do. Our budget, which we are about to build together, our disciplinary procedures, our instructional strategies, athletic programs – even the isolated conversations we have in the parking lot. They should all reflect those values that define our mission and purpose.

So it’s not an education we’re after.

It’s a Goochland education, specifically. And it should be so distinct, so well-defined and integrated with our non-negotiable values and beliefs – that it’s instantly recognizable.

And that’s what will propel our young people to lead their generation into a better world.

Here’s to the best to come. Not just for our children.

But because of them.



Is Your Main Thing the Main Thing?

Wonderful week in the life of our schools. Monday brought a variety of opportunities for professional development and collaboration. Several of our teachers enjoyed another outstanding session with Chuck at the Science Museum – we continue to be thrilled with that partnership.

Several of us enjoyed an outstanding session with Yong Zhao at the University of Richmond Thursday night. Using the backdrop of the current economic climate and historical perspectives concern education around the world, Yong challenged us to stop preparing students to become employees – and start preparing them for what global citizenship and success in today’s landscape really calls for: entrepreneurship and creativity.

Matt Covington, Erin Yearout-Patton, Sarah Rowan, Beth Ferguson, Bea Cantor, Peter Martin, Dianna Gordon and Board member, JD Wright, experience internationally recognized author & speaker, Yong Zhao at University of Richmond.

Dianna Gordon, Director of Elementary Instruction, offered an inspirational view of the Elementary Enrichment Day. Click here to learn about this exciting event and see a picture of Terry Hazelton, White Hawk Cafe, performing for your children!

As mentioned last week, Dr. Geyer delivered a fascinating look at GCPS numeracy & literacy achievement data in comparison to our regional neighbors, divisions in VA who spend the most per student delivering education, and those who spend the same as Gooochland does. We remain in the top two or three in every comparison. In addition, Goochland was one of 34 divisions out of the 132 in the state that met the new AMO’s (Annual Measurable Objectives).

From the BLOGS:

Last week I shared that Lisa Landrum, Supervisor of School Nutrition, had collaborated with the principals to develop a partnership with the Food Pantry. A student-led project at all five schools began this week in which students are able to share certain unused food items with the community. Mike Newman, GHS Principal, explains more below:

Don’t miss The Goochland Players’ production of Dracula, coming November 2-4 at Goochland High School. Liz Khuns, Director, and Neil Burch, Producer, invite you to experience this unique production. Find more information on Neil’s blog here – and make plans NOW to attend.

November 2-4, Dracula at Goochland High School!

I noticed yesterday ASCD is soliciting anecdotal essays about best practices for student engagement.  Click here for the details.

We’ve talked a lot about engagement here in Goochland. In fact, it’s becoming our first priority in so much as it is fostered in an environment of sound, challenging instruction and pedagogy. We aren’t the only ones having that conversation. Educators around the globe are gradually making the shift from emphasizing achievement scores to pushing (and measuring) engagement and intrinsic motivation.

We’re all beginning to see that setting up a bar on a given morning, then spending the next year celebrating the success with which we got kids over that bar – and designing complex intervention on behalf of those that missed it – is not the grand vision we signed up for.

When I asked our Leadership Team what impact they wanted to have, not one of them mentioned test scores. They certainly want them to be good. But that’s not the purpose to which we want to devote such a big chunk of ourselves. We want more. So do parents. And kids.

Engagement requires a relentless appeal to students’ interests and passions. Their individual strengths have to be important to us, which means we need to have relationships that have ensured that we know our students. In that context – only – we can begin to cultivate the propensity each student has to realize the unimaginable and to do truly great things.

Sir Ken Robinson has made the assertion that most of us have no idea what we’re really capable of doing – not just students, children, but adults. Too many children enter school creative and come out disconnected from their own creativity. How does that happen?

One way is to de-prioritize our children’s creative genius and make isolated literacy & numeracy skills our end game. The world for which we are preparing our students cares little about their ability to excel in those academic building blocks if they cannot apply them in complex situations that demand problem solving, innovation, and internal drive. In other words – creativity.

We have to stay more enamored with the big picture than with where kids – and teachers –  have colored outside the lines. Goethe said, “The things that matter most must never be subject to the things that matter the least.” That’s not always the case in public education – anywhere – unless the leadership is intentional about causing that to be the case.

Are children the only ones who get alienated from their creativity over the course of “doing school?” What about the rest of us, the adults? Do our innovative spirits stay in tact as we push through our various roles?

Again, how much more important are the important things than the unimportant ones? What does the division value?

Let me ask it differently. Do our mission and vision statements unite us to seek a common purpose that not only taps our creativity but encourages - even develops - it? Is your innovation central to our ability to move forward, or is it in the way?

Our behaviors reveal the true answers to those questions.

Accountability measures don’t crush creativity in children. Regulations and bureaucracy don’t rob adults of their entrepreneurial innovation. We aren’t automatically disengaged by things that don’t appeal to our creative genius. We disengage when the things that require the least from us are more valuable to the organization than the things that require our best. It’s the importance we place on those rudiments that can eclipse what’s meaningful, what’s really at stake.

We disengage when the things that require the least from us are more valuable to the organization than the things that require our best.


And therein lies one of the fine arts of leading others. Identifying what’s really important and ensuring it stays at the top of the priority list – when you’re building a budget & cutting checks, in the hiring process and evaluation meetings, during Board room discussions, and most especially in classrooms.

Define your Core, decide what you believe, know who you are – and live & lead accordingly.

As we press ahead towards the goal of defining our mission, who we are & what we believe – let’s keep the main thing the main thing.


Thinking of Ourselves Less

Please join me in congratulating our Lady Bulldog Volleyball players and their coach, Jennifer Erixon. Both the Varsity and JV teams are undefeated, 13-0! Both are currently ranked number 1 in our district as well. The next home games are October 15 & 17 – please consider coming out to support these stellar student athletes!

Lisa Brown met with parents and community members last night to discuss the GES STEAM Farm initiative. What is a STEAM Farm, you ask? It’s science, technology, engineering, art and math (that’s the STEAM) – and fish, animals, resources and mentors (FARM). They are creating outdoor learning spaces that will incorporate the aspects of STEAM FARM, agriculture, and encourage collaboration with community mentors. Interested? Want to get involved? If you can operate a shovel, have a knack for grant writing (in which case we also need you on our Grant Writing Committee), or just have a general desire to shepherd kids through a fun, educational activity – there’s a place for you in this effort. Contact Mrs. Brown today!

Kim Bachman received kudos on her blog from an educator from Minnesota. A tenth grade teacher she’d never met sent her the following kind note – and affirmation that our blogging initiative is benefitting the larger education community:

“I just wanted to send you a quick thank you note on behalf of my 10th graders. I’ve been using some resources from your “Bachmann Computer Art” blog quite a bit lately, as a study aid for my Computer Skills class, and wanted to let you know it’s been super helpful to my students.”

The BES community will be treated to a special evening on October 30. the “Read for a Treat” night is BES’ Family Reading Event, involving a performance by Betsy Q, costumes, treats from classroom-to-classroom, and a whole lot of reading. Wonderful! 

The leadership team meet this week to revisit our discussion of values and further refine our belief statements. Drawing from this brief, poignant article, we discussed humility as a leadership trait – specifically how it impacts the relationships we see as central to our mission.

The author offers the following hallmarks of humble leadership:

  1. Humility learns; arrogance knows.
  2. Humble leaders submit to noble values; they won’t bend. Arrogant leaders bend rules to their advantage.
  3. Humility listens; arrogance talks.
  4. Humble leaders serve others; arrogant leaders serve themselves.
  5. Humble leaders are free to build up others. Arrogant leaders build up themselves.
  6. Humility opens hearts; arrogance builds walls.
  7. Humility joins; arrogance stands aloof.
  8. Humble leaders connect; arrogant leaders disconnect.

We found number 5 especially insightful. There’s a security at work in humble leaders who don’t feel the need to boost themselves, but are able to boost others.

CS Lewis said it well,

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself – less.”

Here’s to a week of humble leadership to the people we all live and work with, thinking of ourselves less, building one another up and making lasting connections.



Becoming Who We Are…

Riders perform a live demonstration for GCPS students.

What an amazing week in the life of our school division. Yesterday’s demonstration of the Civil War Cavalry riders of the Dahlgren Raid was explosive. All fourth & fifth graders were treated to a live display of horseback military tactical maneuvers and personal interactions with the soldiers. Take a look here and here. If you were in Goochland yesterday – anywhere – you probably heard the cannon.

Cavalry Rider interacts with students after the demonstration.

We are especially grateful to Dr. Bruce Venter and his wife, Lynne Venter, who traveled last week to each elementary school to give students the details of the raid prior to their experiencing the demonstration. Bruce did an amazing job captivating students and teaching them some astonishing aspects of this historic event. Fourth and fifth graders sat and listened, engaged and attentive, for over an hour then asked questions.

Dr. Bruce Venter teaches students at RES about the Dahlgren Raid.

The entire affair was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students.

This year over 200 elementary students were Blue Ribbon winners in the Read to Win Program celebrated at Field Days of the Past last weekend. Special thanks to Glenda Hawk for organizing this great event and working with us to inspire student readers throughout our division.

Read to Win Blue Ribbon Winners!

Did you hear our 3rd graders at GES are learning to play the Ukelele?  If you attend the Winter Program this December, you’ll be treated to the fruit of all of that labor. Read more here!

Don’t forget to visit the new Eagle’s Peak student-run bookstore, part of the work of the hands-on, CTE course “Make It Your Business” at Goochland Middle School.

On the afternoon of November 8th, we will host another Employee Benefits Fair. As in past years, it’ll be held in the high school cafeteria and will include as many vendors as we can find who have a special benefit, service or discount to offer GCPS employees. More information is coming your way in the coming weeks. Mark your calendars. You won’t want to miss it.

Dr. Geyer has prepared a wonderful, fresh look into our most recent round of SOL achievement data, to be shared during the next School Board meeting. Using information from the VEA survey reports, we compared Goochland’s performance with that of our neighbors, like-funded divisions, and divisions who spend the same amount per pupil as we do.

In every instance, Goochland students are among the top performers, even measured against those who spend almost twice what we do per student in providing a public education. Stay tuned for the details, and in the meantime be encouraged that GCPS is offering such exemplary instruction at a great value.

We celebrate the hard work and persistence that our great staff and students have poured into achieving those stellar scores. More importantly, we look forward to success along the path to our true goal of engaging and motivating students to greatness. That foundational layer of support that comes from mastery of the SOL’s is critical to our advancement toward building transformational relationships and tapping into the intrinsic motivation that will carry them to lasting success in their future endeavors.

The leadership team tapped into another stirring conversation about our values and beliefs this week. This one was a little more focused on the work of the team, itself, and less about the overall direction of the division. If you buy into the principles set forth in the somewhat famous “Five Dysfunctions Book” (and we do), you understand that in order to achieve lasting commitment the organization has to be centered on common goals. In fact that book asserts that in order for a team to operate according to true commitment, at any given moment every member of the team should be able to articulate the most important goal that is the target of the group’s primary focus and effort. One, most important goal.

That doesn’t mean we ignore the other goals, it simply means that the team members agree and work together understanding that one goal is the first and foremost goal for whatever season the team has set aside for pursuit of that goal.

Ours is to know exactly who we are, what we value, and what we believe – as leaders and as a leadership team – and to be able to clearly express it in a month.

As individual leaders, our job is to know the values and beliefs that define us, that govern our attitudes and behavior, and live in alignment with those principles. As a leadership team, our job is not to uncover those values and beliefs that will drive our team – but rather to create and develop them. That’s what makes a team dynamic – it will assume the colors the members assign to it through their leadership.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” – C. Jung

Enjoy this wonderful weekend!

Victory Through Teamwork

If ever there was an inspirational display of teamwork it was during last night’s County vs. Schools softball game, part of the Employee Appreciation Picnic hosted by the Board of Supervisors and School Board at Hidden Rock Park. You’ve probably heard, the School Board’s team barely pulled it off, but not without a great degree of cooperation. That cooperation on the field, for both teams, was a mere echo of the daily cooperation that currently exists between the two Boards and the staff members who support them in the effort to bring the very best to bear on behalf of the citizens of this great county.

It was tremendous fun and we only sustained one significant injury. Don’t worry, there’s an attorney on our team. You’ll be hearing from him.

GHS Principal, Mike Newman, prepares to knock one out of the park.

That growing partnership is impacting classroom instruction. Next week, Mrs. Yearout-Patton will take her goverment students to the Goochland County Registrar’s Office. Students will have the opportunity to register to vote and sign up to work the polls this November. They will hear from the Registrar about election and voting laws. Some County Supervisors have also agreed to be there to facilitate discussions with the students about federalism and the Constitution. What a wonderful chance for our students to interact with their local government in an open, authentic venue!

I’m excited to announce that two of the School Board’s recently established advisory committees will begin their work. Both the Minority Advisory and Energy Conservation committees will be assembled in the coming week or so to begin work towards a common goal. The Minority Advisory Committee will seek to improve achievement for minority students and address disproportionate representation of minority students in discipline, Special Eduction, and Gifted Education. The Energy Conservation Committee will seek creative solutions to cost savings through energy efficiency. Look for a preliminary report from this group in October at the School Board workshop.

Last week I told you about mentoring opportunities at the elementary schools. There are also wonderful opportunities to mentor middle school students. The middle school period in a student’s life is perhaps the most fragile. Students are experiencing rapid and confusing changes in their lives, learning hard lessons about how to relate to one another and handle the challenges of cooperation in a complex world. Stable, consistent exposure to positive role models has been shown to have a lasting impact. Lisa Melton coordinates mentorship opportunities at GMS. Principal Johnette Burdette offers a brief overview below:


Lisa Landrum, our Supervisor of School Nutrition, has been cultivating a partnership with the Goochland Food Pantry that will result in an important outreach to the community and outstanding service learning experience for our students. We have School Board member, JD Wright, to credit with flagging a recent change in state law that will now allow the school division to donate unused food items. Mr. Wright also facilitated the introductions that are blossoming into this exciting partnership. A new regulation mandates that students be given a fruit and a vegetable with each school-provided meal. We will continue to educate our students and encourage them to eat those healthy items. Still, there are often unopened bags containing food items that end up being thrown away during lunch. The details are still being worked out, but essentially we will work with the student government at GHS to create opportunities for students to lead an effort to collect unused items and donate them to the Food Pantry. Stay tuned on this.

I’ve recently offered some clarifying information regarding our Volunteer Application Program and the associated fees. Mrs. Harris, program coordinator, will be providing the necessary clearance checks at no cost and has scheduled both an early morning and evening opportunity for working parents whose schedules won’t allow them to complete the process during the day. We are so thankful to have such a generous and invested community and we look forward to the results of our continued work together.

Perhaps the biggest news in our division this week was the announcement of our new superintendent’s appointment. I am honored to enthusiastically welcome Dr. James Lane to Goochland, officially beginning this December. I have known Dr. Lane as a professional colleague over the past couple of years, and my very brief interactions with him this week have confirmed what I have known to be true. He is a gifted leader and an energetic, passionate innovator and I know we will do inspiring things under his leadership and direction.

As much as I cannot wait for us to begin our work with him, I’m equally excited for Dr. Lane and his family to experience the rich reward of living and working in this great community.

On behalf of the entire school community, welcome Dr. Lane and family!


Double Down on Relationships

Things have continued to run smoothly as we’ve rounded week three. Dr. Geyer led the instructional leadership team in the first series of instructional rounds through the schools this week. I wish you could have been with us in Wednesday’s Leadership Team meeting to hear folks talk about their experience having spent hours in classrooms the day before. Engagement is in the air and it’s evident that our discussions throughout the summer have expanded through the principals to teachers and students.

These “rounds” are modeled after those used by medical professionals in training future doctors and are based on the principles contained in this outstanding book we are reading together.

“If the adults who work in schools and in complex school systems are actively learning about the relationship between their work and the work between teachers and students in the presence of content, then support for improved instructional practice will increase and become more effective and the work of teachers and students will become more effective.”


District leaders are scheduled periodically to make these rounds together, with specific strategic principles in mind as they spend time in teachers’ rooms, then they meet with Dr. Geyer to debrief. These aren’t tied to evaluations. These are opportunities for the professionals who are charged with envisioning and creating an exemplary instructional program – teachers, students, principals, and district administrators – to spend time together and dive deeply into the work we do. What bubbles up will be powerful.

We’ve talked quite a bit about relationships and the integral role they play in engaging students in instruction. We aren’t alone – researchers are building a tidal wave of support for the centrality of relationships to student success. I found these comments from the author of Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment, especially profound:

“If we’re willing to step outside of our surprisingly deep behaviorist rut, the answer is clear. Children don’t need prizes or praise, but engagement and relationship – with other people and with the work they are doing. If you love a child, you probably know this on a gut level. But the research confirms it.”


How about it, Goochland. Are we willing to step out of that rut and emphasize the importance of those relationships?

One powerful way to do that is through the mentoring opportunities in our schools. You may have heard of the “Man-to-Man” program that began a couple of years ago at Randolph Elementary, where community volunteers would be paired with students in a mentorship breakfast. These “Man-to-Man Mondays” sparked so much interest and success, the Rotary Club got behind them with both monetary support and volunteer mentors. The program moved to Goochland Elementary last year, and has expanded to Byrd Elementary. This year GES and BES will add “Woman-to-Woman Wednesdays”, which will feature a similar structure – a breakfast to foster mentorship relationships, specifically for female students.

I had the opportunity recently to mentor a 4th grader. What a powerful experience for me. It’s been my goal ever since to encourage every central office administrator to find a student in a school and begin such a relationship. We all have gifts, specialties, talents that can be brought to bear. Maybe it’s breakfast or lunch, maybe playing cards – for me it was teaching a child to play the guitar. The activity isn’t the substance – it’s the time that allows the adult and child to get to know each other and the powerful lessons learned along the way.

I hope you’ll consider being a mentor in one of these vital programs. If you’re even mildly interested, please give me a call so I can put you in touch with a principal. You won’t regret it – and the investment you make will pay dividends and resonate deep into the future.

Are mentorship opportunities only available at the elementary level? Not at all. Next week I’ll explain what’s happening in the middle and high schools. But if you have an interest in investing in students this way, don’t wait for the blog post – call one of our two secondary principals and ask about mentorships TODAY: Mike Newman, GHS, and Johnette Burdette, GMS.

The first edition of the GCPS instructional newsletter, Fall Explorations, has hit the streets this weekend. You’ll find these colorful booklets in various hotspots throughout the community, or you can access a PDF version here. Great work from Dr. Geyer, John Hendron and the instructional leaders of the division. Take a look and learn about the wonderful instructional innovations at work in GCPS classrooms.

The popular K-12 Instructional Literacy Academy returns to Goochland this September and October. This four-day Academy, offered in partnership with University of Virginia, is designed for teachers of all grade levels whose instruction is impacted by students’ literacy development. Held on site at Goochland High School, this unique learning event will expose teachers to an overview of literacy development, characteristics of each developmental stage, assessment that guides instruction, phonemic awareness and phonics, word study instruction, vocabulary and comprehension strategies, and connecting writing to the literacy curriculum. This academy is part of a multi-year emphasis on literacy instruction in GCPS that began last year.

A GHS alum came to visit first graders at BES. Take a look at this exciting activity from Sandy Wilcox’s classroom that integrated comprehension, writing and publishing.

Speaking of BES, I enjoyed learning about Fairness BLVD, highlighted during the instructional rounds when Director of Secondary Instruction and Technology, Tom DeWeerd, spent some time in classrooms at BES. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and stroll through Tom’s blog – let me highlight specifically this new program, initially brought to our attention by Board member, Kevin Hazzard, to promote safety among teenage drivers. Also don’t miss the ever-popular GHS Spirit Week Chili Cook-off, coming September 25 to GHS at 6:00. Be sure to enter and dazzle us with your chili recipe – or simply attend and be dazzled…

And on the elementary side of instructional leadership, Dianna Gordon, Director of Elementary Instruction, had an explosive experience at RES. Read about on her blog, here, where there’s also a link to a video – and see more pictures here.

Elementary Instruction Director, Dianna Gordon, experiences explosive learning at RES!

“Danger, Will Robinson. Robots are everywhere!” Bruce Watson, Director of CTE, doesn’t seem worried. In fact, he and the robotics coaches had it all under control as the First Robotics teams were organized last week in Studio B of GMS. Read more here about this wonderful program that combines “serious fun”, experiential learning and STEM instruction. And while you’re in Bruce’s blog, make sure you get familiar with this student-operated bookstore.

We are just a few days away from the County & Schools Employee Appreciation Picnic. This coming Thursday evening at 5:00, employees and their families will gather at Hidden Rock Park to enjoy food, games and fellowship with one another. Moreover, we will celebrate the inspirational partnership between the two governing Boards and the employees who work to help them realize their vision. And, yes – you’ve heard the rumors and they’re absolutely true. The County & School Division softball teams will play each other at 6:30. We practiced yesterday. I won’t divulge much, in case our county colleagues are reading. But suffice it to say that Mr. Hazzard-at-bat kept me running after repeated line-drives to midfield. The competition should be wary.

New GHS teacher, Kellen Jones, fields a ball during practice in preparation for the big game this Thursday.

As we head into week four, and complete our first month of this journey into unprecedented excellence, I’ll leave you with these words from Seymour Papert:

“…because if you are going to be confined to what you can get to be accepted everywhere equally, you’re not going to make very much progress. You’re going to make incremental steps.  That’s the task of putting forward something really different, you can’t expect that it will be accepted by everybody.”


Let’s continue to uncover that vision we have for education in Goochland, and strive to engage and inspire our students to grab hold of it.

Here’s to another unforgettable week of something absolutely amazing.



Measuring What’s Important

Please take a look at the brand new elementary curriculum site, available now to all stakeholders. Dr. Geyer has led a team of exemplary educators through the development of this outstanding resource. Here you will find curricular documents, grade level parent resource cards, links to important VA Department of Education materials, and much more. The work is never finished so check back often to see the adjustments we are making to your child’s curriculum in real-time. Development of a secondary curriculum site is underway and forthcoming this year.

The Leadership Team met this week to discuss student engagement. Over the summer we generated descriptors for what it looked like in classrooms when students were engaged. So if we know what it looks like, how do we assess it?  We took that next step this week and entered that tough discussion. Engagement is an extremely difficult thing to assess quantitatively. That’s exactly why we rarely see it as a top goal in education. We see achievement, which is the byproduct of engagement, because it’s easy to measure.

I’m not suggesting achievement isn’t important or that we shouldn’t measure it. I’m just convinced it is the result of something infinitely more important.

Many of us heard Dan Pink, an internationally known economist and author, talk to a group of educational leaders at University of Richmond last year about motivation and what drives people to achieve – and what doesn’t. In his book, Drive, he tells us that the “carrot and stick” approach  promotes bad behavior, addiction, and encourages short-term thinking, but does absolutely nothing to create intrinsic motivation toward lasting success.

Ours is a system driven by state standards and accountability (carrots and sticks). Those standards are minimum competencies meant to give us a common floor of performance on which to build whatever it is we want for our students. David Weinberger, a business writer, has referred to the “recent irrational exuberance” for testing those standards that has literally consumed our children. I’ve heard many of you echo that same perception.

Is something wrong with the standards? Or with measuring them? No, it’s the importance we place on those things that causes our target to shift. If our French philosopher friend, Voltaire, was correct when he said “the best is the enemy of the good,” it would seem that making the “good” goal of measuring state standards our top priority would then wage war against the “best” goal of measuring our kids’ engagement in school.

So let’s get back to our Leadership Team and our thoughts on engaging your children. I want accountability and excellence – for myself, my colleagues, and our students. And I recognize excellence is not always evidenced through performance on a short-form bubble test of quick measurables. I also believe if we are to encourage and tap into intrinsic motivation in adults and students, we cannot rely on carrots and sticks. People simply have demonstrated again and again that they respond to something more meaningful than that.

So how do we assess – measure – and hold ourselves accountable for getting kids engaged? We certainly aren’t going to tell taxpayers and loving parents to “just trust us, it’s happening”, with no demonstrable evidence or measurement of our success and failure.

But rather than fall to the default of well-worn carrot and stick motivators and potentially meaningless comparisons of averages, the GCPS leadership is committed to rolling up our sleeves, devouring available research and pounding out the hard questions that have often terrified administrators and policy makers:

How can we tell if students see the work they’re doing as meaningful?

Are our students’ interest levels so high that they are willing to persist in the face of difficulty?

Is there a number or percentage we can point to that tells us how curious we’ve caused our students to be?

How can we measure the degree to which our students are having what Seymour Papert has called, “Serious Fun?”

What if we could tell you, along with how your child did on the Math SOL test, how curious and persistent he had been, and how important the math classes felt to your child over the past few weeks? Better yet, what if we could show you the direct relationship between your child’s interest and curiosity and her score on the Math test?

That’ll be hard. So do we throw up our hands, write that off as too lofty and look to SOL scores to tell us how well we’re preparing our students for an enriching, productive life in a global society?

I’m the father of three future Bulldogs and I say that’s not good enough. It isn’t working and our society is quickly losing confidence in that. We have to find ways to measure our success in achieving what’s important, not just what’s readily measurable.

Typically as the school year fires up, educators across the nation draw a line in the sand. Students comply, they retreat, or they rebel. Rarely do they engage.

Our line will look different this year.

And we will find a way to measure what is important and difficult along with what’s mandated and easy.

I love these words from Phil Schlecty, taken from a wonderful article that appeared in Ed Leadership about a year ago (thanks to John Hendron for introducing me to this guy’s work):

“We need schools that are vital learning organizations embedded in strong, vibrant communities. We can create these schools only when local communities once again assert their right to run their schools.”


Let’s do it together, Goochland.






PS – Last week I told you to expect some information about our Man-to-Man and Woman-to-Woman programs. We’re excited about these opportunities and I can’t wait to share our plans with you. Please look for that in next week’s post.

First Week a Huge Success!

What an incredible opening of school! Engaged, smiling, interested students and adults everywhere operating as though we had been doing this all summer. I was thrilled to walk around our schools and see inspired work already underway. Of course, some routines take a few days to gel. I appreciate so much your patience as we ironed out the kinks in the bus routes and schedules. Those gears will all function effortlessly in a matter of days and we’ll be able to focus entirely on the business of engaging our students in learning and leadership.

Speaking of leadership, are you aware of what’s happening at GES? I could explain it, but I’d rather have Mrs. McCay tell you, herself. Click the video below to hear about how students and adults are discovering the “leader in me.” If you want to learn more, ask any GES teacher – or better yet, ask a student!

You may remember some communication regarding the new math standards and accompanying SOL test results. As we expected, scores on the new math tests were lower across the state. Also as expected, Goochland students scored considerably higher than the state average. While the differences in the actual test structure could account for some of the decrease, our concern is that we reflect clearly the curricular changes in our classroom instruction and pacing. Dr. Geyer includes more information here.

Dr. Geyer talks with art students at BES on day 2.

I’m excited about the Student Council Association at GHS. SCA sponsors,  Mrs. Prichard, Biology teacher and Mrs. Dewey, Social Studies teacher, are seeking student leaders to serve their school community in this vital role and for the first time are electing officers. Please click either teacher’s name to get more information about how you can serve the Student Council at GHS!

GHS principal, Mr. Newman, has partnered with the American Legion to offer a Service Award to a deserving student leader at the end of the school year. This award is part of a greater movement within the school to foster a common understanding of and commitment to service and leadership among the student body (a common theme in our schools).

Goochland County’s newsletter, The County Observer, was released to the public this week. Residents should receive a copy through the mail this weekend, but take a look here for a preview. There’s a wonderful section devoted to our schools.

Don’t forget about the Employee Appreciation Picnic on Thursday, September 13 at Hidden Rock Park. Food and fun for all employees and their families – and a Board vs. Board softball game at 6:00!

Our School Board members have been actively engaged at the State level this week. Kevin Hazzard, John Lumpkins, and Mike Payne participated in the Governor’s Education Reform Summit last week in Richmond. Mr. Lumpkins, in fact, was asked to sit on the panel that fielded discussion on Thursday evening, and also met with the Virtual Learning Task Force last week. John Wright has been selected as a representative to the VA School Board Association’s Legislative Positions Committee.

The Goochland Rotary Club donated about 80 dictionaries to 4th graders at RES this past week. This donation is part of a larger initiative to help build the GCPS literacy program – and simply one of many ways the Rotary Club invests in our schools. Rotarians also sponsor and volunteer in the Man-to-Man and Woman-to-Woman programs at GES and BES. Next week I’ll tell you about our plans to expand those wonderful programs.

Goochland Rotarians donated dictionaries to RES 4th graders.

Now that the school year has ramped up, you will find frequently updated information on our division and school calendars. While I intend to highlight key events for you here, I can’t possibly mention them all and I don’t want you to miss anything. Please be sure to visit the calendar site, where you can select individual school calendars on the right-hand side of the page. Also, check out the athletic schedules here and don’t miss exciting opportunities to support your Bulldogs.

Now Let’s Find the Dance Floor

Our Opening Convocation, the Invitation to Inspiration, took place Thursday afternoon. We all came away inspired, ready to reach for unimaginable things, and to invite students to do the same. But I’m supposed to say that. If you didn’t experience it yourself, you can watch the entire event here. Or you can take a look at one individual’s personal reflection here. Better yet, find a GCPS employee and ask them about it.

Invariably you’ll find we’re engaged, ready, invigorated – we’re inspired.

GCPS Teacher of the Year, Zoe Parrish, urges us to see the potential in every student.

Our School Board members’ presence and Chairperson Hardy’s words of support spoke volumes, as did the attendance of Board of Supervisors members, Mr. Alvarez and Mr. Peterson. Zoe Parrish, Teacher of the Year, did a phenomenal job of lighting a fire of enthusiasm for a new year, and the Band topped it all with a masterful performance of the Olympic Theme.

The Goochland Education Foundation provided a reception with wonderful hor d’oeuvres and live music by the Trongone Brothers. Local favorite, Devil Monkey Ice Cream passed out scoop after scoop of indescribably good ice cream and employees got a chance to celebrate the start of a new year.

Our speaker, Mark Fernandes, did a characteristically tremendous job of reminding us that leadership is a choice, and it isn’t necessarily related to a position. Opportunities for leadership can find any of us at any time. And when the chance presents itself to step up and lead, we’re best able to do that when we have taken the time to define what we value and believe and we’re living and working in alignment with those beliefs.

School Board members, Board of Supervisor members and staff watch G21 winners describe their projects.

A teacher’s leadership in the classroom isn’t about the teacher. It’s about the influence that teacher’s leadership will have on a child long after the teacher and classroom are no longer a part of that child’s life.

Mark Fernandes, Chief Leadership Officer of Luck Companies, challenges attendees to take a hard look at how their behavior aligns with their beliefs

Ironically though, our impact as leaders is directly related to our ability to be self-reflective and to “begin with me.” As I look out at the dozen or so challenges around me that could obstruct my pursuit of what I’m after, I’m useless to lead unless I can somehow resolve that in every one of those “problems” I am the biggest challenge to overcome. I have to address my own behavior, perspective, and attitude before I can approach a given situation with any degree of impact.

Every one of us will have the responsibility to lead someone or something for some amount of time.

As challenges arise, I need to look first to my own attitude to be sure I’m aligned with what I believe.

And then I need to remember that it’s not about me.

It’s about something much bigger.

Let’s help every child find the perfect dance floor this year. Let’s do the same for each other. And let’s choreograph something more amazing than we knew was possible.

Here’s to an extraordinary school year.






What’s Exciting About Goochland?

What an incredible week we had with our new teachers! This is an extraordinary group of educators that have joined our team. Read more about their time and check out some great pictures here and here.

The highlight of New Teacher Academy for me was the principal panel. After hearing a few people, including Dr. Geyer and Board Chair, Beth Hardy, talk about what an exciting time it was to be in Goochland right now, one of our new folks posed the wonderful question: “What’s happening in Goochland that’s so exciting?”

It was so great to hear how our principals answered that question. They talked about being inspired and participating in the creation of a real vision. Our new teachers picked up on it too. One said this,

“Hearing the principals say they feel valued and ‘heard’ is something that I could never imagine taking place in the county I came from. I am not finding the right words to say how great it was to watch, listen and be a part of today… I truly appreciate everything you are working towards and was truly inspired today.”


Click here to see new teachers talk about their first days in Goochland!

Bruce Watson, Director of Career & Technical Education, has obtained a spot for our division at the Virginia Military Institute’s 2012 STEM Education Conference this coming October. Our participants will learn more about how mathematics instruction can provide the gateway for STEM education. I’m especially thankful to Bruce for grabbing this opportunity for our staff. There are hundreds on the waiting list to participate – thanks to Bruce, we will be there.

While we’re talking about STEM, please join me in celebrating the announcement that a Children’s Engineering Class will happen this fall in GCPS! The class will be held every Monday at GES and will provide our participating teachers with invaluable training on how to integrate engineering instruction into classroom activities.

And before we leave Bruce alone (this guy didn’t waste any time forging opportunities for our teachers & students), I’m also thrilled to report that GHS has been approved and officially registered as a Microsoft IT Academy as part of the Governor’s IT initiative. Bruce, Mr. DeWeerd, Mr. Newman, and the business department at GHS will work collaboratively to take advantage of over 200 multimedia courses, lesson pans, student projects and test bank items that will promote students’ understanding of the exciting and rapidly growing field of Internet Technology.

I would say the sky is the limit, but I think we may reach even higher this year.

Director of Secondary Instruction & Technology, Tom DeWeerd, has been hard at work implementing two new systems for GCPS. Schoolnet offers a suite of data-driven software products and will be the program we use to monitor achievement trends and administer benchmark assessments. Aesop is an automated substitute placement management system that will further streamline our administrative functions and free key staff to engage in meaningful activities. Tom has organized extensive training during the past week for a variety of staff populations and we’re thankful for the leadership he has provided with these two initiatives.

Next week, we welcome all of our staff back with an invigorating week of preparation and planning. Our convocation happens Thursday afternoon and will be our springboard into the start of something amazing. We’re calling it an Invitation to Inspiration. We’ll recognize those who have hit milestones of dedicated service to our schools, experience the Band, hear inspiring words from Mark Fernandes, honor our exemplary G21 Project award winners, and be treated to a wonderful reception afterwards courtesy of the Goochland Education Foundation.

I ‘m looking forward to seeing everyone next week – exciting things are on the way.



To Learn & Lead in Goochland…

The countdown goes on and our excitement about opening school continues to build.

We’re thrilled to welcome our new teachers to the GCPS family next week. Through a wonderful program developed by Dr. Geyer and some key leaders, our new folks will be treated to a thorough integration into what it is to learn and lead in Goochland County. They’ll be greeted by School Board members, Beth Hardy and Kevin Hazzard, and division leaders, hear about our work towards a shared vision and driving set of values, get their hands on the technology, and hear from expert veteran teachers on a variety of vital topics. Wednesday they travel to the Science Museum in Richmond where they’ll spend the day with lead teachers, department heads and their mentor teachers. I’m especially looking forward to the Principal Panel, where the new teachers will have the opportunity to put our extraordinary principals on the spot with a Q&A session. Please join us in welcoming these fine educators to our organization.

What an honor to recognize two exceptional GHS students who have just attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. Brooke Jones and Jake King rose to the top of a competitive selection process and accepted this prestigious invitation to attend the event. The Forum on Medicine partners with George Mason University to feature a remarkable, interactive curriculum, which provides students with a true-to-life medical experience and gives them a competitive edge in the pursuit of a career in medicine.

Jake King & Brooke Jones got authentic medical experience and college credits at the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine.

They not only had a wonderful time, but learned volumes about the field of medicine and picked up two college credits. We’re proud of you both!

Have a strong desire to be involved in your child’s education in a new and exciting way? Please consider serving on one of the advisory committees newly established by our School Board to further integrate the school and community and uncover the most creative and best solutions to our challenges. No matter what your interest or specialty, I’m confident we have an opportunity that will be a good fit. Click here to take a look. Send me a note if you have any questions.

The Bright Beginnings Program through the YMCA took off this week and continues through next week. I’ve been so encouraged to learn of the many GCPS staff members who have stepped up to donate their time and resources to make this program such a success for our children. This is preliminary, “unofficial” information I’ve gotten through casual conversation with my colleagues at the Y, but I understand that a record 180 children sought service this year. And all 180 will be served, thanks to the generosity of the YMCA administration & Board, and the wonderful community volunteers who have made this happen. There are still shopping days left and funds to be raised, if you feel led to participate. Give us a call.

What an uplifting experience it was to receive a call this week from Goochland Education Foundation President, Elizabeth Nelson-Lyda, letting me know she had secured $750 worth of school clothing for our students and families. She will be working with the YMCA staff to order & distribute the clothes. Children who otherwise may not have enjoyed having anything to new to wear on August 20th will be treated to something special and essential – just for them. Please join me in thanking Elizabeth, Jan Kenney and all the folks who make the GEF and Goochland YMCA such an amazing success.

We are fortunate to enjoy several thriving partnerships in the Goochland Community. One we especially cherish is with the Goochland Parks & Rec Department. The Fall Program Guide is available now. Please check it out and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities for all ages. We will distribute hard copies of the Guide through students during the second week of school.

Dr. Geyer and I had the pleasure of greeting our excellent fleet of bus drivers on Wednesday. I was reminded of how important those first moments are, when our drivers greet our students each morning and transport them safely to school. My children are not yet in school, but when they are (it’s coming soon!) I want them to thrive. Like all parents, I want them to be engaged and to experience success in and out of the classroom. But also like all parents, when I take that leap and entrust them into the hands of the educators with whom they’ll spend such a large part of their lives – above all else, I want them to be loved. Our drivers are the first ones to have that wonderful responsibility. That interaction as they board those buses in the fog of the early morning hours can set the tone that will carry them throughout an entire school day. As we pursue new, higher standards for teaching our students to excel in a global society, let’s never forget that the prerequisite to it all is a secure, safe environment – and for many, that begins on the school bus.

Quick plug for the Virginia sales tax holiday this weekend. Friday through Sunday, you’ll pay no sales tax on school supplies. For shopping ideas, see our school supply lists.

I enjoy so much gathering pieces of the wonderful things happening in our schools and sharing them with you here. But my posts barely scratch the surface. There is a wealth of inspiration out there that you might miss. Please visit the new contacts page, and find fresh words from all 5 principals, bio sketches of division leadership and support staff, and more.

I hope you’ll take some time to take a look at the many wonderful blogs that our folks maintain, even during the summer. I’ll highlight a few recent posts:

  • Mike Newman talks about getting to know GHS
  • Jennifer Gates updated information about the RES courtyard project
  • Kim Berry discusses the ways she intends to engage students with her blog this year
  • Matt Covington considers the olympics, anatomy, and the science museum
  • Bea Cantor learns in Ireland
  • Caroline Long encourages us to follow a colleague’s international journey while on sabbatical (take a look – yes, that’s your art teacher! Traveling the world and learning…)

The leadership team met this week to build on our discussions of character and relationships. We revisited the topic of “engagement,” specifically, “What does it look like when students are engaged the way we want them to be?” Our shared values are surfacing and I’m excited for you to be a part of this great process. We’re getting closer, and it’s already making a world of difference.

Last week I encouraged us all to come support the Bulldog Football players and Band at their first home game against Fluvana, Friday, August 31 at 7:00. But you don’t need to wait that long to help cheer our 2012 Bulldogs into victory. The Volleyball team hosts their first home game on Thursday, August 23 at 6:00 when they take on the Louisa Lions. They scrimmage Patrick Henry on Tuesday, August 14th at 5:00. Let’s show our strong support for our fine student athletes!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Hope to see you soon.


The Countdown to Excellence

It’s getting closer, ladies & gentlemen. Our countdown to the first day of school has begun. We’ve been hard at work this summer making sure our schools are prepared. Every student is counting on us to get it right on August 20th – the transportation, facilities, lesson-planning, and schedules all need to reflect that we’re all on the same page, that we know who we are as a division, and that we know exactly where we’re going. It’s an exciting time, for sure.

Summer school wrapped up this week. Summer school principals did an amazing job of providing a meaningful experience for kids that would translate success into the next year. Dianna Gordon, GCPS’ Director of Elementary Instruction and new Director of Testing, managed the summer testing administration beautifully. Look for a detailed report, including numbers of students served, financial impact, and academic achievement in a future Board meeting.

Unbelievable things have been happening in literacy instruction at BES. The reading specialists and Mr. Hopkins are providing families with individualized, school-based tutorial services. Students are loving it – and they’re boosting their reading skills. You can get the full story from Dr. Geyer here.

It isn’t unusual for the school division to partner with the YMCA – we are blessed to have frequent opportunities to work together to support our students, staff and community. One specific opportunity I want to highlight is the Bright Beginnings Program. Beginning August 1, the YMCA Board of Managers and GCPS Transportation Department team up to provide school supplies for children who otherwise may go without. Our goal is 175 sets of school supplies. We will provide the transportation as volunteers shop in Richmond and help spread the word regarding this important need. If you might serve as a shopper, or a donor, or just an ambassador for this great work – I invite you to contact me to learn about how you can participate. Belinda Bowles, YMCA Board Member, is spearheading the effort and welcomes your support – and we appreciate so much the YMCA caring for our students!

Not long ago, I mentioned a grant-funded opportunity a couple of our teachers at GMS had grabbed. GMS assistant principal, Mrs. East, gives the story full attention here. I’ll leave it at that and leave you with this picture of four not-so-mad scientists that will take our students to new heights of scientific inquiry this year:

Most of us know Sean Campbell as the guy who can fix anything with an apple on it. Mobile device, laptop, promethean board – if they light up when you turn them on, he fixes them when they break and makes them do things the instructions don’t tell you they’re capable of. You may not be aware, though, that Sean is an expert in assistive technology and a vibrant state advocate for people with disabilities.  The VA Board for People with Disabilities recently tapped Sean for leadership on the 2012-13 Partners in Policymaking Program, a task force funded by the General Assembly and associated with helping Virginia citizens become better advocates and community leaders. Not only will Sean continue to work miracles on machines, he will use his skills to do the same in the lives of countless others, all the while serving as the link between GCPS and several important agencies. Next time he works on your laptop, ask him about this part of his life. You’ll appreciate what you learn.

We have several student athletes who will represent Goochland in the World Series on August 4th in Florida. These 11 & 12 year old Bulldogs who comprise the Goochland Majors All-Star Baseball Team won the state tournament this week! Look for them tomorrow (Saturday) at the Goochland Food Lion & Taylor’s Exxon. They’ll be hoping to meet the community, tell you all about their success and garner any support you’re willing to offer. You can recapture the excitement of the July 24th championship win against Dinwiddie in the archives here.

Our work toward a finely tuned set of shared values continues. Having peeled apart the topic of ethics and character last week, the leadership team met to talk about relationships. We’ve been reminded that relationships, for us, are connections marked by humility and authenticity. They involve mutual respect and patience and sufficient time spent getting to know one another. We aren’t finished, by any means, but I invite you to hold us accountable to this during the school year. We are committed to giving first, acknowledging the other person’s right to an opinion, and doing our best to ensure people leave their interactions with us with a “glass half full.”

I encourage you to consider the impact of relationships during the coming week. We are finding that most of our challenges, no matter what the immediate issue or department affected, ultimately come down to relationships.

You can find important dates regarding the opening of school on our website. Specifically mark your calendars for August 31st at 7:00, when the Bulldog Football team plays Fluvanna at home. They’ll scrimmage Trinity at 6:30 on August 17th. Let’s all come out and show our support for the players, the Band, and for a new year of hope and unimaginable success.

Hope to see you then – and sooner.




The Gold Standard

We’ve had an exciting week! Students and staff have been moving fast, reaching for more learning opportunities.

This week’s S.T.E.M. Camp was a tremendous success. Right off the bat, Monday morning every student was engaged – kids and adults having a blast and learning volumes. Designing advanced pulley systems and testing homemade magnets – it was clear this was not the summer classroom I grew up with. There were no rows of seats and kids weren’t sitting anyway. No one was. Everyone was busy interacting with the materials, communicating with each other and learning together.

“This is the way all students should have the opportunity to learn!” – Glenda Hawk


Homemade Battery Magnet at work!

It culminated Thursday morning with a trip for all to Strikers Fields at Westcreek (thanks to Scott Turner & Adeeb Hamzey for making the location possible), where students launched 34 rockets they had built.

Watch the Rockets Launching HERE!

After the rockets hit the clouds, students finished the day at the Science Museum of VA. What an amazing day! This is the Gold Standard, folks. Everyone engaged, hands on materials, learning, having fun, energized.

This is what we’re going for every class period of every day. Not a rocket launch, of course – but all students interacting with the lesson at hand, pursuing the next nugget of knowledge through their own passion & skill with energetic facilitation from adults who are as engaged as the students.

Adeeb Hamzey, Lisa Brown & Steve Geyer interact with young engineers during STEM Camp.

2012 STEM Camp Rocket Launch

Find more information and many, many more pictures on Glenda Hawk’s blog.

Mr. Odor offered a wonderful piece on our very own Bruce Watson, Director of CTE, in this week’s Gazette. I’m pleased to say that the national newsletter of the Association of Career & Technical Education featured Mr. Watson and his plans for Goochland CTE as the lead story Thursday morning!

Now shifting from rockets in the clouds to canoes on the water… GHS teacher Nancy Lewis took rising sophomores from GHS on a Middle James River Expedition last week. The Bulldogs, along with peers from Albemarle & Varina high schools, applied for the expedition by way of an essay and selection process by the James River Association. The result was an unforgettable week long trip exploring the history, ecology, science and environment of the James River from Lynchburg to Cartersville. Look for more information in a forthcoming Gazette article and on Mrs. Lewis’ blog.

Calling on community volunteers! The School Board is looking for people to engage in advisory committee opportunities. Please click here to learn more.

Each year, the VA Association of Pupil Transportation sponsors a poster contest to promote school bus safety. This year’s theme, Stand Back from the Yellow & Black, was portrayed in the top three posters, each submitted by GCPS students!

  • Adam Quick, first place
  • Hannah Carter, second place
  • Timothy McLaughlin, third place

Adam’s poster will be featured in the 2012-12 VAPT calendar. Congratulations to the students, art teachers, and Betty Thurston!

All CGPS employees, pay attention! You’ve been invited by the School Board & Board of Supervisors to a family picnic on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at Hidden Rock Park. beginning at 5:00 PM, County & School Division staff and their families will enjoy horseshoes, volleyball, music and more – all culminating with the two Boards facing each other on the softball field. More information is on the way, but mark your calendars now. You won’t want to miss this!

It was recently announced that rising 9th grader, Brandon Myrick, is the State Merit Winner of the Young Scientist Challenge. The 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge asked students to create a 1-2 minute video describing a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to the way we move, keep ourselves healthy or make a difference.

Could it be that our students, as well as our leaders, want to impact the world positively by inspiring others?

Wonderful work, Brandon – and the entire science department of GCPS. Read more about the challenge here.

Next week I’ll tell you about two Bulldogs, Jake King & Brooke Jones, and their experience at the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. But before I close, let me share that our leadership team has continued to dream big and work hard on identifying the Core Values that will drive our alignment to a shared vision. This week we dove into the concept of Ethics, which seems to be rising up as a shared value.

Woven into our discussion of ethical behavior was the recurring idea of the importance of relationships, which we’ll tackle next week. I remain invigorated by our progression toward a well-defined set of values and a shared vision for our work in the community. I’m excited to partner with my colleagues and the Board to build something extraordinary – a school division that is driven by its values rather than the winds of the day.

That’s the kind of organization I hope to lead, the kind of leadership I want to serve, and the kind of schools I want my children to attend.

How about you. What do you want?


We Want to Inspire People. But Why?

Why would we want to inspire people? Seems like a silly question. We’ll come back to it.

Twenty-two K-3 students attended the first week of Title I Summer Reading Camp at BES.  This camp was designed to help students maintain their reading skills over the summer and will continue for three more weeks.  All activities are literacy related and include read-alouds, silent and guided reading, phonics and word study, writing, and reader’s theater.  Students are also using  iPads and checking out books from the school library.   Snacks are  provided.  Teachers and students are all having a great time!

District 3 Board member, John Lumpkins, has been invited to attend Governor McDonell’s K-12 Educational Reform Summit. The Summit, Investing in Students Today, Creating the Workforce of Tomorrow, will feature state and national experts in K-12 education and provide opportunities for Virginia legislators, education stakeholders, and policymakers to share best practices and opportunities for collaboration.

We have entered into an agreement with Minor & Associates, a financial consulting firm, to secure an interim solution for direction of our finance department. Renee Hoover and Deborah White, both veteran Finance Directors with extensive experience in both school and county financial administration, will serve in the interim and work with me to ensure sound leadership of the schools’ financial affairs. I am thrilled with the service we are receiving and look forward to the continued interim partnership.

So let’s get back to the title of this post. Why would we want to inspire people? Our leadership and administrative staff gathered this week for an annual retreat, held this year at JSRCC (thanks again to Dr. Swaim for his generous hospitality). Our singular focus this year was to reflect deeply on what we believe and why, and how that should be evidenced in both our published mission and vision and our daily operations and decisions. We considered four questions:

  1. What impact do we want to have?
  2. What are the things we do every day that ensure the success of that desired impact?
  3. What’s our moral compass that tells us what’s “right & wrong” as we pursue those things?
  4. What are the non-negotiable truths we believe and that undergird the above three areas?

The discussion was inspiring. After breaking into small groups to consider issues more specifically, it seemed that we reached similar conclusions even in relative isolation of each other.

Wednesday afternoon we were treated to a session with Mark Fernandes, Chief Leadership Officer of Luck Companies. Mark challenged us to think about how we were aligned and what behaviors might manifest that alignment. Board Chairperson, Beth Hardy, and District 2 Board member, Kevin Hazzard, also attended. One participant made these remarks following Mark’s time with us:

The session today with Mark Fernandes was just excellent… The alignment concept really hit home, I think. Core values driving actions toward goals. It seems so simple but it’s one of the hardest things to do corporately. Most people do the core values to actions thing well, of course. But it’s typically individual beliefs driving the actions, not shared values. And if there’s no shared goal, the individuality of one’s actions will be even more pronounced.


We need to sharpen our ideas, but it is clear that we all want more than stellar SOL scores. In fact, we want more than stellar test scores of any kind. Those are important, but we want every child engaged. We want every adult engaged. We want to believe in each other and press forward to greatness. We want people – students, staff and community – to be inspired.

But why?

Among the tremendous questions we struggled to answer:

  • Do we want students to have as many options as possible at their fingertips when they leave us? or do we want them to choose the options that make them happy? or successful? or fulfilled? and why is that important?
  • Are we committed to giving all students an equal share of the pie? or do we want them to have equal opportunity to get what they need from the pie?
  • Should we develop & celebrate kids’ strengths, or their passions? What if those are not the same…

Our work here as an organization continues. Board & staff alike, we will wrestle further with ourselves answering those foundational questions and asking each other “why?” until we reach the end of our thinking and land on the destination that is our absolute vision for GCPS.

It’s not business as usual in Goochland.

STEM Explodes in Goochland

If you didn’t catch this excellent piece in this week’s Gazette regarding the STEM Camp, you might not be aware that our students will have this amazing opportunity. Adeeb Hamzey and the STEM Advisory Committee have worked enthusiastically to put this exemplary program together – and it’s just the beginning.

“Our goal is for the students to leave excited about what they have learned and with an enthusiasm for the sciences.” – Adeeb Hamzey


Speaking of STEM, two of our excellent teachers, Rhonda Kass & Beth McKenzie-Moore, attended a STEM Institute at VCU this week, a month long experience provided by the VA Initiative for Science Teaching & Achievement (VISTA). They will continue to participate in the sessions through July 26, learning specific strategies for teaching science through project-based activities, inquiry instruction, and the Nature of Science. In addition to planning activities around the theme of astronomy for this coming school year, this team is also designing a summer camp to take place on the VCU campus for rising 4-7 grade students.

“I am continuing to learn how to use these teaching processes to build long-lasting memories and meaningful instruction for students… I can hardly wait to share my new ideas and experiences with my fellow teachers at GMS” – Rhonda Kass, GMS Teacher


Rhonda also participated in ”NASA & You” at the Science Museum of Va this past June and  plans to attend a fellows class at JMU this August at the The Math & Science Innovation Center for Nanoscience & Nanotechnology. Great example of two of our fine educators working hard throughout the summer to ensure astonishing progams for our students!

We are currently reviewing materials for an upcoming adoption of a new elementary math textbook. Between July 9 & 26, any member of the community or staff is encouraged to come to the Central Office and take a look at what we’re considering. The materials are set up in display on the ground floor, just to the right as you enter the administration building. Dr. Geyer is leading the effort & welcomes each of us to lend our perspective to this important process.

Last week I mentioned the ISTE Conference and offered a link to the wonderful keynote. Please see a more detailed, first-hand report here from Bea Cantor, one of the attendees.

You might recall that District 3 Board member, John Lumpkins, had been nominated to serve on the Presidential Task Force on Virtual Learning. I’m thrilled to announce that he has been selected & officially appointed to this vital effort. GCPS continues to lead the Commonwealth in the progressive and innovative integration of instructional technology. We need to be at the table when virtual learning opportunities and how they will be developed throughout the state are discussed. Thanks to Mr. Lumpkins, we will be.

I’m excited about our Administrative Retreat next week, to be held at JSRCC Goochland Campus (special thanks to CTE Advisory Member, Chuck Swaim). This retreat marks a critical opportunity for our administrative team to look holistically at what we value and how that is reflected in our every day support of education in Goochland. We will begin work with an amazing new partner, Mark Fernandes, to examine just what it is to work and lead in an organization that operates in alignment with a defined set of values & non-negotiables.

As division leaders & support staff, we all work together in this organization towards a common goal. If we worked for Ford or Toyota, our common goal would be to make cars. I might specifically be the one who assembles, or purchases, or paints the doors – but that would be part of a bigger picture. Not just a door, but a door that fits on a car that my whole organization would be involved in making.

We each may have a different reason for coming to work for GCPS. And now that we’re here, we have a unique role to fulfill. But regardless of why we came or what we specifically do every day, we ultimately are all working toward a final goal.

What is it?

That’s the question we’ll tackle during our retreat, and I pose it to you as well. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, citizen, student – if you’re joined to this movement toward educating kids in Goochland in any way, I’d like to hear from you about this.

I hope you all enjoyed the wonderful holiday and had an opportunity to spend great time with the ones you love. Hope to see you soon.

College & Career Ready Seniors Celebrate Efforts at Goochland High School

Last week the RESOURCE Youth Network program of Goochland High School had their end of the year recognition dinner at Hickory Notch Grill. Twenty-three juniors and seniors, with the leadership of Doug Getter, participated in this new grant-funded program focused on preparing students for graduation through college & career readiness training.  Each student began the year setting goals for themselves.  RESOURCE then developed programs to help these students accomplish their goals.  During biweekly lunch meetings students would discuss career and college related topics.  They also had the opportunity hear speakers from a variety of post-secondary education options, took part in college tours, and had the chance to participate in both the Youth Leadership Summit and Teen Job Symposium.

With hard work and great leadership from Doug Getter, GHS students finished their senior year with a diploma and CNA certification.

Ten students attended eight hours of work readiness training exploring work place ethics, communication, initiative, and motivation.  For 13-weeks this spring, twelve students endured a 45 minute bus ride after a full day of school, four days a week, to pursue Certified Nursing Assistant and Medication Aide training.  They now have graduated, not only with a Goochland High School diploma, but also with a CNA certification that will allow them immediately to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health care organizations.  Each student demonstrated a desire to build upon the skills they were learning in school and to work to improve their opportunities for success in the future. I am especially proud of our first year in this new program and Mr. Getter’s exemplary program direction.  We look forward to expanding it in the years to come!

Welcome our new Director of Career & Technical Education, Bruce O. Watson!

I am thrilled to introduce Bruce O. Watson as our newly appointed  Director of Career & Technical Education. Mr. Watson brings extensive experience as a classroom teacher, principal, and most recently a division leader in career & technical education, with specific expertise integrating science, technology, engineering and math (seen those before?) innovations into students’ learning opportunities. We look forward to expanding the ability of our students to pursue specific skill certification programs and college/apprenticeship opportunities through Mr. Watson’s leadership. One of his immediate goals is to pursue the establishment of a Governor’s STEM Academy in Goochland. He has already met with our STEM and CTE advisory committees and is eager to roll up his sleeves and push GCPS into exciting new horizons. Please join me in welcoming him to our community.

Members of our Technology Department, Bea Cantor & John Hendron, attended the 2012 ISTE conference in San Diego this week. Keynote speaker, Yong Zhao, challenged attendees to engage students with the subjects and tools that inspire them. Mrs. Cantor reports it was the best keynote presentation she had ever experienced. John had this to say about the conference and the keynote, in particular:

“It reaffirms that the learner is at the center of everything we do. but we have a calling to re-focus our efforts at home on engaging students not with gadgetry but the things they are intrinsically passionate about. We have also seen time and time again that our approach with g21 as a product-based learning model is being endorsed by every major player at the conference.” - John Hendron


 Experience the keynote presentation by clicking here.

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in improving learning and teaching by advancing the effective use of technology in PK–12 and teacher education.

The community beautification project on the courtyard at Randolph Elementary has continued. Todd Walton of Tuckahoe Landscaping and his crew have completed the fountain and the team is now looking for colorful pond plant life to add to the pond. Mr. Walton has donated extensive hours of planning and manual labor to make our courtyard project possible. He has maintained continual communication with Luck Stone, STI, and Pete Rose Inc. securing landscaping materials to make this project a reality. In addition, numerous volunteers have contributed to the completion of several murals that depict life cycles of the butterfly, pumpkin, frog, moon phases, and water cycle.  We anticipate having concrete poured for our new greenhouse next week. Volunteers just this week painted two stunning murals, representing the life cycle curriculum – here’s an example:

Our partnership with the Science Museum of Virginia continues to strengthen.  Dr. Steve Geyer, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, has been in consistent communication with Chuck English at the Museum and has plans to meet with him next week for a third time since June 1.  One particularly exciting development pertains to our upcoming STEM Camp. The Museum has reserved a space and time for our students to participate in a live video link with the underwater science station Aquarius. Exciting opportunity!

Folks, have a fantastic weekend. As you enjoy this beautiful summer, I would love to hear from you.

Artful Reading by the Pond…

Emily Ray and Ann Rohrer (GMS Teacher of the Year) attended the Summer Institute for Teachers, offered by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. This year’s institute, Artful Reading, provided teachers with a creative explosion of ideas about how to relate quality literature to the world of art.

This particular class featured a children’s book titled Sandy’s Circus. The author employs literary devices such as metaphors, similes, alliteration, and personification to make the images move in the reader’s mind.  Teachers were encouraged to use the artistic elements of shape, color, line, and then add the dimension of movement to group projects, emulating Calder’s creations. Imagine how your children would respond to this creative exercise!

Our two attendees were inspired to use fine art to illustrate and explain life and culture through the core academic disciplines. English and art teachers from across the Commonwealth participated – and Emily and Ann are eager to put their inspiration into practice in the Fall.

Rohrer (L) and Ray (R) with dragon

Take a look at this inspiring work being completed at Randolph Elementary, well documented on Jennifer Gates’ blog. The RES community has pulled together to build an amazing pond in the courtyard. The final product is beautiful – and the collaboration among parents and teachers is tremendous.


I encourage you to get your hands on the latest Goochland Extension Office Quarterly Newsletter. The Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership between VA Tech and VA State Universities. We enjoy a wonderful partnership with the Goochland Office. Jocelyn Daily offers a variety of programs for youth development, including 4-H and agricultural & horticultural education. Access the newsletter here:

Goochland Extension Office Quarterly Newsletter June 2012

Please have a wonderful weekend. Stay cool, have fun, and I hope to see you around town.

Great News & Future Events 5

I hope summer’s treating everyone well so far. My family & I have been enjoying the YMCA pool, Hidden Rock Park, and a generous helping of Devil Monkey Ice Cream now & then…

I’m looking forward to attending the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School graduation ceremony this afternoon with District 2 Board member, Kevin Hazzard. The ceremony will be held at the Carpenter Center in Richmond and should be a wonderful occasion. I’ll report the details in a subsequent post.

Our efforts to recruit and secure great individuals for open positions continue to be fruitful. We are welcoming some phenomenal educators to our ranks who are certain to help us further create a culture of excellence and exemplary progress. I am especially excited about a new position, the Director of Career & Technical Education, for which interviews have just been completed. We had the privilege of meeting several stellar candidates, one of whom we hope to appoint at the next board meeting. This position will be a pivotal addition to our leadership team, enabling GCPS to expand opportunities to students and further connect our mission to the greater community. I anticipate tremendous success in this area moving forward.

District 3 Board member, John Lumpkins, has been nominated to serve on the Virtual Learning Task Force, established by the Board of Directors of the VSBA. This group, comprised of superintendents and board members from around the Commonwealth will consider best practices and innovations regarding the relatively untapped world of virtual learning. An initial report will be generated in October. We are thankful for Mr. Lumpkins’ willingness to serve on this task force and hopeful to find Goochland, a state leader in technology innovation, represented in this important discussion.

Summer school begins July 9th. Questions regarding summer school should be directed to Tom DeWeerd.

Many of you are aware of the Artists in Residence Program, in which local artists spend extended time mentoring and teaching our students about the wonderful world of artistic expression. We look forward to a forthcoming recognition in a School Board meeting which will further introduce the community to this fantastic program (stay tuned!). We are also delighted to learn about the new art gallery that opened in Goochland Courthouse. One local artist, Andre Lucero, whose work is featured in this gallery, spent considerable time with our high school students this past year (see it here). We are excited about our continued – and progressing – partnership with local artists and the impact it will have on our instruction.

This past April, GCPS underwent the reaccreditation process through AdvancED. Many of you participated in the site review interviews. The organization has granted our reaccreditation and the final exit report is available here. The report affirms that we have much to celebrate – and much work ahead of us. We are honored to partner with this great community to do that work and to make our schools the very best they can be.

You may have noticed the special meeting of the School Board this Monday, June 18th. At this meeting, the firm coordinating the search for a new superintendent will deliver a summary of the findings of the sessions many of you have attended in the recent weeks. Staff and community members have been invited, in person and through this survey link, to offer perspective on what is desired in a new leader for the division. The result will be a leadership profile to be shared in this special meeting. I hope you will be able to attend.

Enjoy the beautiful weather & the wonderful community. I hope to see you soon.

Great News & Future Events 4

Our first week after students have gone home… and our work begins to heat up. Surprising as it is to many, summer is perhaps the busiest time for division-level leaders. We step into the clouds to do some high level reflection & saw-sharpening, while actively painting the next year’s landscape, adjusting curriculum, hiring & inducting staff, writing handbooks & posting updated online content. It’s an intense time but one we all relish.

I’m thrilled to introduce Mrs. Sandra Crowder to the Goochland community. Sandra has been named principal of Randolph Elementary School, replacing Mrs. Dianna Gordon who will assume the Directorship of Elementary Instruction this July. Sandra comes with a wealth of experience and expertise, with specific emphasis upon differentiated instruction. I am decidedly confident in her leadership and know she will be a perfect fit for the Randolph and greater Goochland community. Immediately prior to her coming to Goochland, she has coordinated the Gifted & Talented Services for Hanover County. Please join me in welcoming Mrs. Crowder!

John Hendron, 2006 Virginia State Technology Leader of the Year, was the featured keynote speaker at the 2012 EdTech Conference at the University of Mary Washington this past weekend.  Teachers, administrators, university educators, technology specialists, and parents assembled for the meeting this year. The conference theme, “ Leading through Change: Teaching, Learning, and Technology“, provided a wonderful platform for John to address the changing landscape of instruction from the unique perspective of his expertise.

John Lumpkins and Kevin Hazzard, District 3 & 2 Board representatives, respectively, wrote an op-ed piece that was featured in the June 3, 2012 Richmond Times Dispatch. It offers a very common sense perspective to many of the challenges educators wrestle with in the current standardized climate.

I’m excited to report that the STEM camp I mentioned last week, which was then in need of students, is now overflowing! Thanks to the work of the STEM committee and, specifically, Adeeb Hamzey, we will likely be forced to turn students away due to so much interest. While we hate to have to do that, it’s a good problem to have.

We are especially grateful to the Board of Supervisors for extending the generous invitation to have our Teachers of the Year honored during their June 5 meeting. Family members, principals, Board members J.D. Wright and John Lumpkins were in attendance. It was a wonderful event and one for which we are appreciative.

Elementary grade level teacher leaders met this week to continue their work on developing a web site that will be home to all division curriculum documents, corresponding VDOE resources, that will serve as a resource for all stakeholders – teachers, students, parents. We hope to go live with this site sometime this August. Look for an update to be scheduled soon for a future School Board meeting. Thanks to Dr. Geyer for leading this effort and tapping these individuals and bringing their talents to bear.