The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Regarding Social Media

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Please join us for a Goochland Schools Hosted Roundtable for Awareness event at Reynolds Community College, Goochland Campus.

When:  February 13, 2014

Where: Community Room, Reynolds Community College, Goochland Campus

Time:    6:30 p.m.

Thanks, Teachers! Our superintendent’s message expressing appreciation…

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Dear GCPS Staff,

Today is National Teacher Day, when teachers all over America are recognized and celebrated. Please join me in expressing sincere gratitude and admiration for the inspirational work our teachers do each day to bring education to life in the hearts and minds of our students. The instructional staff of Goochland County is without question the finest with whom I have ever worked. I am honored to live and work in Goochland among such exemplary teachers. Our community is fortunate to have a team of selfless and dedicated professionals moving forward each day to advance the educational experience of every single student.

On behalf of the GCPS leadership and school board, I wish you a very happy National Teacher Day.

Thank you for all you do for this great county.

 

James F. Lane, Ed. D.
Superintendent
Goochland County Public Schools
2938 River Road West
Goochland, VA 23063
Office – 804-556-5601
Cell – 804-310-5131
Twitter – @DrJamesLane

Budget Workshop

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Last night’s budget workshop was a positive departure from past practice.  From the format of the meeting to the delivery of information from key stakeholders (principals), the new budget software, and finally, the positive interaction between our school board and our new superintendent, Dr. Lane, and our new director of finance, Ms. Deborah White, this evening workshop demonstrated the new day in GCPS.

While we remain in a flat funding mode which requires more belt tightening as there are naturally some increased costs and needs, the thrust is positive and the outlook clearly toward continued improvement in student achievement and academic progress.

One area that Mr. Lumpkins highlighted after the breakout session with the secondary budget is the need for more science equipment and supplies.  While apparently, there is no possible way to meet the total need in this year’s budget, there is clearly an understanding of the necessities.  The knowledge of our school board on our needs is based on the transparency of reviewing our budget line-by-line and by providing more staff involvement in the process.

Working Tuesday nights in January to get constructive involvement in budget building can be difficult; however, last night confirmed support for the dynamic energy and hard work of our team.  Our GMS principal, Johnette Burdette, and our new GHS principal, Mike Newman, made crystal clear presentations on their school budgets.  Thanks … school board and Dr. Lane for making this all possible.

Of course, the budget is not the only way to meet our needs.  An announcement this week at GHS demonstrates the creative way our teachers work.

Kelli Bratton has received grant funding from the Math Science Center.  She will be purchasing supplies to help our science department incorporate nanoscience and technology into our curriculum.  Congratulations, Ms. Bratton!

What Do GHS Teachers Think?

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What do GHS teachers think … about engagement?  The recent publication of the Goochland Instructional Newsletter  featured short quotes from teachers on page 5 detailing what they thought about engagement.  One was from Jennifer Abbott, teacher of English at GHS.

When I asked her for her definition of student engagement, she wrote, “It’s so interesting that you should ask this because I introduced my students to Edmodo today, and I feel like the level of student engagement shot through the roof.  If a teacher can successfully engage his or her students, the majority of the battle is won in that classroom.   Engagement leads to less classroom discipline and more productive interaction between one’s peers and teacher.   Edmodo is offering just that.  It’s offering my kids a unique opportunity to interact with me and with one another in a way that they can not only understand but relate to.  They’re accomplishing the same thing that a worksheet can do, but they’re not fighting me the whole way.  They want to answer the question or complete the task.”  One way you can see her engaged ideas is through her blog. Ms. Jennifer Abbott uses active strategies to keep her students thinking, participating and writing; she enjoys the tools of technology and so do her students.

Another high school teacher, Preston Gordon, who teaches mathematics had thoughts about this subject as well: “Student engagement is the ability to provide a learning experience that allows a class to participate and enjoy instruction.   A teacher can evaluate the engagement of students by their performance in class through one-on-one questioning, group activity, class discussions, projects, along with numerous other activities that allows for student participation.  Teachers need to sell themselves, their class, and lessons everyday, so the students will have the best learning opportunity available.  I have found that being energetic and entertaining has helped me improve student engagement.”

Mr. Preston Gordon when on to say, “One of the best teachers that I have been around at GHS is Ms. Erin Yearout-Patton, and the kids love her along with her teaching methods.”  Erin is on the cover of our recent instructional newsletter.

Erin Yearout-Patton regularly presents lessons that model engaged learning.  She comes at teaching from the perspective of being a student herself.   “As educators, we too remain students, because many of us have a commitment to lifelong learning. As a student myself, I know I am engaged when the professor ends class, and I find myself wanting to continue the class discussion or activity. Sometimes, I will stay after class or email my professors because I am very interested in the concept.  As a teacher, I apply the latter to my own classes. When my students compliment the lesson, provide ideas to improve it, tell me how the lesson applies to a principle from another course, or an event in their daily life, I know I have made a connection. A more concrete example: students will send me emails or tweets on events they want to cover in class. They also send me copies of letters they write to their Congressmen, concerning legislation, and the response they receive. Last year, it was SOPA. They also enjoy bringing in political signs and banners to support their political ideas. Furthermore, I know they are engaged when I go to vote and they are working the polls, ensuring a just and fair election. This is exactly what the Class of 2012 did, thanks to our community partnership with the Registrar’s Office. Every year our students complete their Senior Projects. The Class of 2011 raised over $15,000 for charities. It will always be an honor to be a small part of the process that engages our nation’s future, our children, in creating superb and dedicated public servants!”

Finally, our secondary instructional technology resource teacher (ITRT), Bea Cantor, who helps teachers connect technology with their lessons, knows first hand what engagement looks like. “Students are engaged when they are learning by doing, when they are active in a meaningful task rather than repetitive busywork: using technology, collaborating with their peers, applying knowledge to solve problems. This engagement is most meaningful when students are aware that what they are learning is not just to pass a test, but something that will be useful somewhere beyond the classroom walls”  Bea Cantors blog reveals the many engaging lessons she assists with from the 6th through 12th grade.  She is also writing a eBook about the photography of insects.   All of us can learn more about engaging lessons from Bea Cantor’s blog, Tech Salad.

Yes . . . STEM – Science Technology Engineering Math – Just This Week!

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Mrs. Curfman’s class designed a city of the future.

Mrs. Pechan’s firs grade class at Randolph Elementary School paired with Mrs. Ferguson’s fourth grade class for another engineering project!

 An assistant principal’s classroom observation found a focus on critical thinking skills and STEM taking hold within the classrooms at Goochland High School.

Robotics activities meet a STEM and the engaged, hands-on learning, criteria.

Fourth grade math this week about the properties for addition, and multiplication the science of ecosystems are both STEM highlights this week.

Low Retention Rate in STEM Majors?

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Dr. Richard Carchman, an active member of  the Goochland Public Schools STEM advisory committee, posed the question, why a low retention rate in STEM majors?  His question is based on an article Low Retention Rate in Stem Majors Prompts Study.

This is a good question for America but specifically for Goochland County Public Schools.

The answer may come from this research: “A new study being conducted by researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the University of  Colorado Boulder will attempt to answer this question and look at what can be done to encourage more students to remain in  those fields.”

We need to look for some answers from this study.  Even without this research, good preparation from our K-12 schools remains a wonderful start.  I applaud the support of STEM by our Goochland School Board with the hiring of a STEM focused CTE director, Bruce Watson, and an active STEM advisory committee adopted by them last year. Our efforts in the secondary schools continues to be part of a larger emphasis on engagement and 21st Century skills.  John Hendron, our supervisor of instructional technology, addressed this at an advisory meeting last year by showing what we are doing with project based learning such as our G21 initiative.  We need to continue our exploration for answers to Dr. Carchman’s inquiry while we seek ways to inspire students to follow their intellectual curiosity.  
 
Additionally, I suspect from my personal experience with two daughters graduating from college in STEM areas, that an increased emphasis on aiding students with the rising cost of education will help. By offering more scholarships and assistance like Pell Grants and by finding ways to address the massive school loan debt issue, Americans can encourage students to enter and stay in expensive STEM related fields. The Goochland Educational Foundation (GEF) that meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at our school board office is committed to providing more scholarship opportunities.  This is another exciting local response.

Teacher Generated Tests Online

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All Goochland teachers have a new tool to use to give quick online assessments with their students.  This Pearson Education product is called Schoolnet.   Our elementary grade level leaders and lead teachers gathered this afternoon after students left for home to have a training from Pearson with some special in-person training from Amy Spoonhower, our GMS science lead teacher. All teachers will be trained over the next few weeks and begin using this software to create and give short quizzes, classroom tests and district-wide marking period assessments.  This initiative that supports data driven decision making became a reality for Goochland Schools when Jen Bocrie to the lead for our technology team to write, win and now implement a $75,000 grant.

 

Teachers learn new software.

Keeping My Kids Out of My Basement

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That is a goal for education… yes, I want my kids to finish school and move out and find success as only they can define it.  I don’t want them in my basement!

This was one of the messages from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last week at the Region I Superintendent’s study group.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Although the goal of education to “keep my kids out of my basement” was said with humor, we all understood his message.  Sometimes it is hard to define what we want out of our educational system.  When we say we want our students to be successful, what does that mean?  Dr. Zhao convinced me that promoting creative entrepreneurship can be a positive outcome, and may well happen, if we pay more attention to the child than the content.  Mastering tests is all well and good.  We want mastery.  At the same time we need to build relationships, foster engaging and inquisitive study and promote growth.  As I continue to think about what I want for Goochland school students (and  for my own grandchildren) out of an education system, I am thinking about these three pillars: growth, relationships and engagement.  We have been talking about this in our leadership team meetings since July.  Dr. Yong Zhao reinforced this idea or ‘movement’ to go beyond test scores as a measure of our schools’ success.

I have asked a number of our GMS & GHS teachers to tell me what engagement looks like from their point of view.   For me, this is not engagement devoid of content but rather engagement encouraged by the relationship the teacher has built with each child and engagement created with the purpose of fostering growth in student thinking, content knowledge and self-awareness. In the next few weeks, I will share in this blog what our secondary teachers have told me.

 

PowerSchool? Can’t Get in? Grrrrrrrrr

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You have the correct login and ID … it is just that you need to create a new account this year.

When you go to PowerSchool for parents from our web-stie… this is what you see:
Please note your AccessID and Access Password, when linking your students to your account, are CaSe SeNsiTivE even if it was not in the past.
Or here is a quick guide to help you! Parent SSO Guide

Create an Account

Create a parent account that allows you to view all of your students with one account. You can also manage your account preferences. Learn more. ——————
You must set up a new account this year.  There is a new upgrade to PowerSchool.  If you have problems following the directions from the web-site that says “Alert ALL Parents…. ”   Then you can go to the PowerSchool Blog for directions there:  http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/powerschool/
If these do not help, please email me again.   This is working for most parents and i certainly want it to work for you.  We know how good it is for you to keep track of Chloe’s academic performance.  Thanks for your email.  Tom
Thomas M. DeWeerd
Director of Secondary Education
Goochland County Schools

What is a smooth opening of school?

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Now in our third week of school at GHS, I hear about the opening of school yesterday in Chesterfield County.  It comes in the form of a tweet… “A perfectly smooth opening in Chesterfield!  And, yes, the sun is shining! It’s going to be a GREAT year… we’re designed for excellence!”

I reflect on OUR opening.  One of the differences this year at GHS is the new principal, Mr. Newman,  and the ideas he brings.  As he listened to teachers and students before the doors were opened this year, he identified a couple of problems that he heard about and made some changes.  He wanted to correct the congestion in the halls first thing every morning and he wanted to assure a safe building from the start of the day. In addition, he wanted to know the students because relationships are important to him.  Building relationships is one of the themes for our division this year.

So, from the first day, students could move beyond the downstairs halls, they were encouraged by frequently “stationed” staff to go upstairs and to enter classrooms from the moment they walked in the school.  Access to the building was restricted to two doors, the front door and the back cafeteria door used as the entrance for basketball games from the student parking lot. At 8:25 a.m. this door is locked and anyone entering must come through the main office restricting access to those with permission to be there.  Two goals accomplished.

In addition, Mr. Newman appeared on the public address system, the first day and every day since, to greet students with his voice to say the pledge of allegiance, to have a moment of silent reflection and to give a positive message for the day.  The News 2 message he delivered the first day, the class meetings he held the second week and the past three weeks of frequent visits to classrooms and wide visibility in the halls have produced another result he sought . . . building relationships.  Mr. Newman is getting to know the students at GHS and greets them all, many now by name.

So, three weeks in, I invite you to take the challenge.  Come visit GHS.  I have seen for myself what teaching and learning looks like from the moment the bell rings in the morning until the last bulldog yell takes place late in the afternoon of the first Friday Pep Rally. Proof is in the witnessing . . .  I can tweet “A perfectly smooth opening in Goochland.   Rain or shine, it is going to be a GREAT year… we’re designed for excellence!”

Mike Newman on the right, new GHS Principal, pictured here getting the keys to the school from his two assistant principals, Karen Scott and Matt Covington

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