GCPS Leaders Earn Business Officials Credential

Three leaders with the Goochland County Public Schools recently completed a two year training and education program targeting the professional learning of school business and finance professionals.  James Lane, Superintendent, Debbie White, Finance Director, and Pete Gretz, Assistant Superintendent, were members of the first training cohort, a partnership between the Virginia Association of School Business Officials (VASBO) and the University of Virginia.

The program covered topics in accounting principles, financial planning and auditing, purchasing and management systems, school law and general leadership. Practitioners from across the commonwealth gathered to learn from experts and university educators and to build a strong collaborative framework of support.

“One of the fundamental goals of our strategic plan is to maximize the efficiency and safety of our operations,” said James Lane, superintendent and cohort member. “We are in an even better position to deliver exemplary support to the operational systems that undergird our mission of maximizing the potential of every learner.”

AP Chemistry Lesson – Community (and University) Partnership

Last week I had the opportunity to spend part of an afternoon with Ms. Casey Rogers’ Chemistry class at Goochland High School. Ms. Rogers has the reputation of bringing science to life every day for her students, and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes in her classroom for that to reputation to be affirmed. She’s energized by both the course content and by her students.

The day I visited I also got to see firsthand the power of community partnership with our schools. Dr. Joseph Turner from VCU’s Chemistry Department co-taught alongside Ms. Rogers that afternoon. He gave of his time and expertise in an effort to enhance the learning experience for our students. Dr. Turner is an active member of our STEM Advisory Committee, as well as a committed volunteer who’s presence is consistent: from our annual S.T.E.M. Camp to Conundrum Day to last month’s outdoor classroom dedication at Goochland Elementary School.

Dr. Turner’s partnership with Ms. Rogers and with GCPS is one of many that helps make our division an exceptional place for students and staff. To Dr. Turner and all of our supportive community volunteers – thank you.

Ms. Rogers sets the stage for the day’s lesson on diffusion.

Dr. Turner conducts a first-person demonstration of the way gas molecules disperse.

Cross Country Runners Excel to Regional Competition Next Week

Congratulations Cross Country Runners!

The boys won the James River District Cross Country Meet on Wednesday, October 22 and the girls placed second. Both the girls & boys won the Quad Rivers Conference 34 Cross Country Meet on Wednesday, October 29.

Both teams advance to the Region 2A East at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, VA next Wednesday, November 5.  The girls run at 3:00 & the boys at 4:00.

Come support the Bulldog runners!

Play On…

I cannot believe it was an accident when I encountered Ms. Hall’s interactive obstacle course at Byrd Elementary School just moments after hearing Dr. Peter Gray’s provocative talk on “The Decline of Play.”

Gray, a research professor and author of Free to Learn, asserts that play – free, expressive interaction necessary to learning – has been sacrificed to what he calls a “schoolish view of child development.” Take a look at about 6:50 into the video:

A “schoolish” view. It’s offensive. And he’s right.

He refers to the myth that kids learn best when they learn from adults, period. And he attributes that to a widespread philosophy at work in schools, spreading now deeper beyond the classroom walls into the rest of a child’s world. All decreasing the importance – and availability – of play.

And he says play is necessary to learning. Watch the video, read his book – and agree or disagree.

Having spent 26 years in this field and raising three of my own, I agree without hesitation. Kids learn a great deal when they are free to play, to roam, to explore, to create, to question, to wonder.

Imagine the wash of comfort I experienced when I encountered Karen Hall’s Halloween maze, designed to incorporate creativity, collaboration and kinesthetic strategy into a smorgasbord of what would invariably be seriously fun for Dr. Papert.

Ah yes, I remember. Goochland is different.

I’m reminded of our deep commitment to personalized learning in Goochland. Our pledge to strive for engagement – not entertainment – but the kind of involvement in learning whereby kids become resilient, persistent, and gritty, committed to their work, co-designers of lessons.

Our work to build authentic assessments that are truly formative.

Thank you, Ms Hall.

May fun be “hard” for our students. And let them play on…





Debra Beasley Inducted in Educators Hall of Fame

What a privilege it was to join my colleagues, Dr. Lane, Dr. Geyer, Mr. DeWeerd and so many others in celebrating the life and career of Debra Beasley. Mrs. Beasley’s work as Director of Special Education and Student Services in Goochland has spanned decades. She has impacted countless lives and improved the educational services of generations of students in our great community.

It was fitting for her to be honored by this great organization and inducted into the Educators’ Hall of Fame, among so many other tremendous educators.

Another Firsthand Look at Learning

I spent Tuesday afternoon in classrooms at Goochland Middle School and Goochland High School, the absolute highlight of my week. Thank you to our teachers and students for the incredible hard work that goes on throughout our division every single day!

Ms. Brooks’ Grade 6 English class has become a 1:1 learning environment!

Students demonstrated impressive courage and creativity during this dramatic monologue exercise in Mr. Burch’s Theatre Arts class.

Evidence of student design and creation are ubiquitous in Mr. Herbert’s Grade 7 Inventions and Innovations class.

Eagle Block in Mr. Hecker’s classroom was filled with thoughtful discussion about opportunities after high school graduation. This particular conversation focused on the benefit of pursuing further education at the college and university level, as part of GMS’ “College Week” event.

BES Robotics Team Interacts with Professional Robotics Experts

Perrone Robotics, a company located in Charlottesville, VA that develops infrastructure software, hosted the Byrd Elementary Robotics Team on October 9th. Students learned from experts in the field how technology can be used to support the design and creation of robotics and automation vehicles.

“It was a great experience!” exclaimed BES teacher, Glenda Hawk. “The students represented the school and division so well, asking thoughtful questions and displaying gracious professionalism.”

With special emphasis on safety in designing autonomous vehicles, the Byrd Team was able to ask questions and share their own solution for their First lego League challenge. They met “Tommy II,” a robotic car and even attempted to outbeat the laser of the security system developed by Perrone!

“The Goochland STEM program represents such a well focused program,” said Richard Carchman, member of Goochland’s STEM Advisory Committee. “How rewarding to see this robotics team of elementary children joyfully stretching their minds.”

The story made the front page of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.

Charlottesville paper, The Daily Progress, features BES students on the front page this weekend.

School Board Honors First ECCHO Award Recipients

GCPS is serious about living, working and leading in alignment with the five Core Values expressed in our strategic plan. Additionally, we are thoroughly committed to the pursuit of our vision which calls us to be intentional about having a positive impact on those around us.

The ECCHO Awards will be given monthly at the school board meeting in recognition of students and staff who have exemplified that positive impact and the display of our Core Values.

During the September 9 board meeting, we recognized seven employees with the first ECCHO Awards:

  • Tim Greenway
  • Mike Verasstro
  • Kenny Bouwens
  • Zach Herbert
  • Daniel Allen
  • Staff Sgt. Dan Strong
  • Major Mike Petruzzielio
The nomination specifically highlighted these individuals’ display of Excellence, citing that “they performed quality work, painting the preschool facility as though it was their own home”, and Honor, because they are “committed to sacrificial service and leadership, intentionally had positive impact on others, thinking about the needs of another school and other teachers and students above their own.”

Goochland County Public Schools ECCHO Award winners. L to R: Dr. James Lane, superintendent, Tim Greenway, Mike Verasstro, Kenny Bouwens, Zach Herbert, Daniel Allen, Dan Strong, Mike Petruzzielio, Michael Payne, school board chair.

Congratulations to these employees who are giving hands and feet to our mission and vision!

We invite our employees to use the form below, found on the right of this page (“Educator Resources” page) to nominate colleagues or students for this award in the future:

Goochland Fully Accredited, Top 3 in Region

From today’s Press Release:

Goochland was one of 22 school divisions of the 132 in Virginia to have 100% of its schools earn full state accreditation.  This compares to 36 such school divisions last year and 87 the year before, during which both years Goochland maintained full accreditation.

“I’m so proud of our results,” said James Lane, Goochland superintendent. “Our school community has worked diligently and focused on the right things. This accreditation validates our focus on maximizing every learner’s potential.”

Goochland is in the top 3 regionally in all core academic areas (reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history) based on overall achievement as measured by the state’s SOL tests in grades 3-12.  For a second consecutive year, Goochland was #1 regionally in writing achievement. The division is especially proud of this recognition.

“Writing is the only one of the state testing areas that requires students to think critically and demonstrate understanding through the development of an original  product, “ explained Stephen Geyer, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. “In this case it’s a piece of writing. All other state assessments are generally multiple-choice in nature.”

Goochland also finished in the top 3 in all areas when compared with the top 10 highest funded school divisions in Virginia (based on per pupil expenditure).  Goochland’s per pupil expenditure ranks the division 57th of 132 in spending in the state.  More specifically, Goochland’s state ranks in achievement and per pupil expenditure are as follows:

 Area: State Rank: Percentage:

  •  Reading 13th Top 9.8%
  •  Writing 7th Top 5.3%
  •  Math 9th Top 6.8%
  •  History 19th Top 14.4%
  •  Science 16th Top 12.1%
  •  Per Pupil Expenditure 57th Top 43.2%

Advance Placement (AP) results are also on the rise at Goochland High School.  Sixty-seven percent of students tested received a score of 3 or higher during the 2013-14 school year.  That’s up from 55% the year before and 33% the year before that.  Goochland’s 67% “AP pass rate” is higher than both the state (65%) and global (61%) “pass rate.”

Finally, Goochland High School’s graduation rate is 95%, far outpacing the state and regional graduation rate, as well as the benchmark for state and federal accreditation.

Former GHS Student Featured in Richmond Family Magazine

We are proud of Abbie Allison, former Goochland student who received her diploma in only three years! Abbie is featured in this month’s Richmond Family Magazine in an article that highlight’s three exceptional Richmond teens for their big dreams and even bigger determination.

Goochland’s former Teacher of the Year, Jay Sykes, speaks to her talent and grit in the article.

Abbie, we are watching and proud of the positive impact you continue to have on the world around you!

Marine Corps JROTC Program Commissioned in Goochland October 1

Goochland High School Officially Commissions its new Marine Corps Junior ROTC unit at the Goochland High School Stadium at 2pm Wednesday, October 1st. 

The Ceremony will recognize the 117 MC JROTC Cadets who represent the very first class of students in this program at Goochland High School. The Guest of Honor for this event will be Colonel Wesley Fox USMC Retired, the most decorated living retired marine, a Medal of Honor Recipient and true legend in the Marine Corps. The event will include the Quantico Marine Corps Band and Silent Drill Team from the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C., a Marine Aviation fly-over and landing for static display, a section of 155mm howitzers from Richmond’s Hotel Battery 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, the Richmond area Marine Corps League Honor Guard, several WWII-Korean War Veterans in battle dress and a WWII Marine Corps static display.

Numerous local Marine units will also be present, including Marines from Ft. Lee, area recruiting officers and members of the other three MC JROTC units in the Richmond area along with many veterans of all services. All GHS students and many GMS students will attend and the public is cordially invited to experience this great event in Goochland history.

The establishment of this unit at GHS culminates two years of cooperative effort by Goochland County Public Schools’ leadership, the board of supervisors, and the school board. The October 1, 2014 event is supported by the James M. Slay Detachment of the Marine Corps League and Goochland’s American Legion Post 215.

The event will be held in the GHS Stadium, with a rain location of the high school auditorium.

Press Release Superintendent’s Contract Renewed

During its regularly scheduled workshop on September 23, 2014, the Goochland County Public School Board voted unanimously to appoint superintendent James Lane  to a new four-year contract.

“We’ve been thrilled with our partnership with Dr. Lane and the tremendous work he has led our division to accomplish,” remarked board chairman and District 1 representative Michael Payne. “He is everything we were looking for in a leader.”

Lane came to Goochland in December 2012, having signed a four-year contract after previously serving as superintendent of Middlesex County. The board’s decision this past Tuesday granted him two more years with the new contract which extends through June 30, 2018.  The school board has taken a methodical approach in considering this extension with discussion, as evidenced in school board agendas, for nearly two months following the successful completion of the superintendent’s evaluation over the summer.

Elizabeth Hardy, from District 4, served as chair at the time Lane was hired and expressed her support for the decision as well. “James has met all of our expectations during his first two years in Goochland,” Hardy remarked. “Our desire to grant another four years to his contract speaks to the confidence we unanimously have in his leadership and our desire for the very best for the Goochland community.”

“I am so honored to be the superintendent in Goochland and have shared several times that this is truly my dream job, Dr. Lane shared. “I am excited about the confidence the school board has shown in our school division’s progress and with this extension I promise to continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our students.”

“Internet Essentials”

Internet access is a challenge in many parts of Virginia, our community is no exception. While success in school is certainly not dependent on connectivity at home, we are always pursuing creative solutions for our students to extend and deepen their learning outside of school hours (i.e. the creation of rich, digital learning content that does not rely on an at-home Internet connection; the pursuit of grant opportunities that could result in free MiFi devices for in-home use; etc.).

We wanted to make our families aware of a program called “Internet Essentials from Comcast” that provides broadband access at significantly reduced rates for families who “have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.”

If you have questions about the National School Lunch Program, please contact your child’s school or Ms. Lisa Landrum, Supervisor of School Nutrition, at (804) 556-5604.

Marine Corps JROTC at GHS

Major Michael Petruziellio addresses the school board during its September 9 meeting, sharing video and explaining the work the cadets are doing in the new MCJROTC Program.

Two GHS cadets also addressed the board, offering remarks about the leadership being developed through the program.

Don’t miss the Opening Ceremony on October 1, where this exceptional program will be officially recognized.

Instructional Council, Year 3 – a Call for New Members

Dear GCPS Community,

The beginning of the 2014-15 school year marks the third year for the division’s Instructional Council. The Council was formed in September 2012 in an effort to serve in an advisory capacity to the school division on matters related to instructional programming and student learning.

By design, the Instructional Council has been comprised of a broad range of stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members.

When the Council first began meeting, the team’s discussion had influence on the school division’s strategic planning process. Since then, our School Board adopted a formal strategic plan (December 2013), and while the Council’s focus remains the same (instructional programming and student learning), the team’s impact has shifted to prioritization, implementation, and reflection.

We have a core team of about ten Instructional Council members who have been together since 2012 – and we’d like to expand the team to between 15 and 20. Generally, we meet in the evening (6:00-7:00PM), quarterly.

If you would like to be considered for membership to the Instructional Council for the 2014-15 school year, please contact Stephen Geyer, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction by Friday, October 3: sgeyer@glnd.k12.va.us | (804) 556-5609, direct office.

Many thanks!

Vote for Imagination Station Playground Today

GCPS community,

RES teacher, Mrs. Spessard, provided this wonderful post, Please consider voting:

Ever wanted to build your own playground?  Now your children may have the opportunity to do just that!  Elk Hill, a partner with Goochland County Public Schools, is the only finalist selected from Virginia to possibly win two Imagination Station Playgrounds.  Each Imagination Station Playground includes huge tinker toys that kids may use to build their own play set.  Should they win, one set would be available to GCPS to borrow.  What a great addition this could be to our STEM programs, field days, class picnics, etc. Elk Hill is up against several large public schools so they need as much support as possible.  You may vote once a day at www.facebook.com/Claritin from now through September 26. Elk Hill has partnered with Goochland County Public Schools for four years providing needed support to students and their families.  In addition to helping us, Elk Hill supports children in Powhatan, Charlottesville, Albemarle and New Kent Counties.


Supporting Students through School Nutrition

Dear GCPS families,

It is important to us that we build a strong partnership with you. Your support and involvement in our pursuit of the mission of maximizing the potential of every learner is vital to our success.

School nutrition and wellness has a critical impact on student learning. We are committed to providing affordable, healthy meals that will support our teachers and students as they develop strong, engaging instructional experiences together.

One of the ways we make this accessible to parents and students is through our pre-payment plan, which can be used at your child’s school by visiting the school cafeteria with a check or cash or by using www.MyPaymentsPlus.com or our telephone system @ 1-866-572-6091. Payment for meals can be paid in advance so that students can quickly and easily obtain their food without having to charge the meal, giving them more time to enjoy the social time with friends.

When students do not have pre-paid accounts and they forget their meal money, we will feed them without question. The meal will be charged and we will ask that you quickly remit a payment to bring the student’s account back to whole. Several students have already charged meals during the first two weeks and those accounts are already in deficit. If that is the case with your student, please address those charges immediately.

Thank you for your partnership in this important aspect of our students’ school experience. If you have questions or concerns related to our nutrition and wellness program, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Mrs. Landrum.

Cafeteria Payment System Problem Resolved


Due to a glitch in the GCPS student information system file, some of our student accounts became inactive in the MyPaymentsPlus online payment system and parents were unable to utilize their children’s meal accounts.

This problem has been fixed.   We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused to our students and parents. We do encourage parents to take advantage of the online payment system and are confident there will be no further difficulties with that process.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Gretz or Mrs. Landrum if you have any questions.

GCPS & Strategic Compensation


This past school year, GCPS was awarded a competitive grant from the Virginia Department of Education to design and deliver a strategic compensation program to reward high performing teachers for achieving a wide array of goals and objectives. While the state’s grant funding will not be available for the 2014-15 school year, GCPS plans to sustain the grant’s framework.

As you’re likely already aware, Goochland County Public Schools piloted a strategic compensation model for teachers during the 2013-14 school year. This opportunity was made possible through the work of the division’s Grants Committee, who spent much of Spring 2013 pursuing the Virginia Department of Education’s strategic compensation competitive grants initiative that was announced on April 26, 2013.

On August 9, 2013, then-Governor Bob McDonnell announced that Goochland was one of 13 school divisions to be awarded the associated funding. Moreover, in his remarks, Governor McDonnell mentioned Goochland by name as having one of the strongest applications in the state. We are proud of this accomplishment, though much more proud of the ability to reward more than half of our teachers last month with bonus checks that averaged more than $3,000 (some as high as $5,000).

As last school year came to close, it appeared as if the state’s grant funding would remain in place for divisions to continue strategic compensation into the 2014-15 school year. Following the evaluation of our model, we planned to make some improvements to our structure and looked forward to continuing our efforts to reward our teachers with strategic compensation. This month we learned that the state’s grant funding was not included in the FY15 budget.

Despite this fact, we plan to sustain our strategic compensation framework as part of our overall performance evaluation and compensation model. Our School Board, Dr. Lane, and the entire division leadership team is committed to the efforts of rewarding professional excellence in the classroom – and we are exploring ways to extend the compensation model to our non-teaching staff as well.

Our leaders are working hard to identify funding that may be used to deliver on the model once again next June (June 2015), and we’re optimistic about the future viability of this innovative approach to compensating our team members above and beyond the traditional salary structure.

To our teachers – thank you … for your continued hard work and dedication to the GCPS community. We recognize that an end-of-year bonus check is not the primary motivator for your investment in our students. (Research, by the way, clearly places money 3rd or 4th on the list of what motivates most of us to work hard. Make no mistake, compensation is on the list … typically following (1) participating in a workplace with a culture of support and (2) having a voice in decision making.)

We know our team members will continue to do all of the amazing things they’ve always done for our students, our families, and our division – long before “strategic compensation” was a consideration.

Finally, we have a strong core membership to our committee who will continue to reflect on and improve our strategic compensation model moving forward. If you are a GCPS employee and interested in serving on this committee, please contact Dr. Lane (jlane@glnd.k12.va.us) or me (sgeyer@glnd.k12.va.us).