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Our “Best of the Blogs” section includes thoughtful insights on school leadership being shared through blogs maintained by AASA members. This representative sampling of five bloggers, through an RSS feed, will change periodically to showcase other member blogs, so check back regularly. If you are aware of others, contact

  • Passion + Persistence = Excellence

    Amy Griffin's Blog|3/29/2015

    2nd graders perform Shakespeare's Twelfth Night  
    Wow!  Last week was AMAZING--from professional development opportunities for staff to a wide variety of quality experiences for our children! Beginning the week, a small cohort of teachers began the journey of developing performance based assessments. This is a start to developing assessments that assess at a higher cognitive level and show legislators that teachers are the best people to develop assessments. Lisa Meyers worked with CMS teachers on increasing student engagement as well as with CCES teachers on balanced literacy.  Lois Williams and Ruth Harbin Miles worked with CCES and CMS teachers in the area of math.
    There was a multitude of cultural experiences and learning opportunities for our students.  2nd graders performed Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on Thursday and Friday. Their quality performance was professional and will have a long-lasting impact on mindsets and expectations. On Friday, 4th graders visited Jamestown; 3rd graders attended UVA tennis matches, and the high school hosted the Motivated for Life exhibits, dinner, and youth motivational speaker David Garcia. It is wonderful to see our students and staff taking advantage of expertise and cultural experiences in our community and beyond.
    To conclude the week, our students showed our community, the region, and the state just how we measure up!  Alexa Massey was named a State Champion at the State Forensics Competition and the team placed 4th.  At the Charles City High School Track Invitational, Annesha Harris and Tony Ford were named Most Outstanding Performers against 6A, 5A, 4A and 1A competition.  As I have said many times-- CuCPS may be small and have less resources than others; however, we are mighty and strong! We can achieve above all others with passion and persistence. 
    I would like to thank every staff member that make these opportunities and successes possible for our students.
    2015 CHS All-State Forensics Team:  Brenton Morris, Alexa Massey, Brittny Price, and Wyatt Salinas
    CuCPS Highlights for the Week:

    Congratulations to our Medford Basketball Team who placed 5th!

    • The CHS Forensics Team tied for 4th place out of 23 teams for 1A level schools at the VHSL Forensics Championship.
    • Congratulations to Alexa Massey for being the State Champion in Impromptu category. Other strong CHS performers were: Brittny Price-Extemporaneous (3rd Place), and Brenton Morris / Wyatt Salinas-Dramatic Duo (3rd Place).
    • Below is the final placement of all CHS Forensics Team participants. 
      • Impromptu – 1st Place – Alexa Massey
      • Serious Dramatic Duo Interpretation – 3rd Place – Brenton Morris / Wyatt Salinas
      • Extemporaneous – 3rd Place – Brittny Price
      • Humorous Dramatic Duo Interpretation – 4th Place – John Jefferies / Shayna Swanson
      • Poetry Interpretation – 4th Place – Cheyenne Johnson
      • Serious Dramatic Duo Interpretation – 5th Place – Kyrra-Mae Hodges / Harleigh Marion
      • Storytelling – 6th Place – Riley Jo Giles
      • Serious Dramatic Interpretation – 6th Place – Justin Crawford
      • Prose Interpretation – 6th Place – Madeline Johnston

    CCES students attend UVA Tennis Matches.

    • The CHS Track Teams participated in the Charles City High School Invitational Saturday and performed very well. Annesha Harris and Tony Ford were selected as Most Outstanding Performers against 6A, 5A, 4A and 1A competition. Below are the results:
      • Girls Score: 1. Warhill 135; 2. Patrick Henry (Ashland) 119; 3. Meadowbrook 60.50; 4. L.C.Bird 48.50; 5. Cumberland 50, 6. New Kent 31; 7. Matthews 30; 7. Sussex; 8. Central 30; 9. King & Queen 16; 10. Middlesex 14; 11. Windsor; 12. Nandua 9; 13. Petersburg 8; 14. Charles City 3.
      • Congratulations to Annesha Harris who was named Most Outstanding Performer - 1st Long jump, 1st Triple Jump, 1st 100 & 300 hurdles and Tonishea Ford - 4th discus, 8th shot put.
      • Boys Score: 1. Warhill 95; 2. Meadowbrook 73.50; 3. New Kent 69; 4. Patrick Henry (Ashland) 61; 5. Henrico 57.50; 6. Cumberland 52; 6. Petersburg 52; 8. L.C. Bird 42; 9. Windsor 38; 10. Matthews 24; 11. Middlesex 15.50; 12. Charles City 13.50; 13. King & Queen 13; 14. Nandua 10; 15. Sussex Central 7.
      • Congratulations to Tony Ford - 2nd long jump, 2nd 110 hurdles, 1st 300 hurdles, 5th 4x800 relay team of (Tony Ford, Deitrich Brown, Darron Ridley, Ronnie Allen) and Timothy Jackson- 1st Discus, 3rd shot put; Ronnie Allen -8th 800 meters; and Deitrich Brown 4th 800 meters.

    • The CHS Track Teams performed very well in Buckingham.
      • Girls Score: Cumberland 51, Randolph-Henry 48, Buckingham 44. The Girls were led by: 4x800 relay 1st place-- Ebony Jones, Annesha Harris, Kyera Broxton,Marya Elasha;100 meters & 200 meters 1st place -- Ebony Jones; 800 meters 1st Place-- Marya Elasha, 100 hurdles & 300 hurdles 1st Place-- Annesha Harris.
      • Boys Score: Buckingham 63, Cumberland 51, Randolph-Henry 44. Boys led by 4x800 relay 1st place--Tony Ford, Deitrich Brown, Daquan Trent, Darron Ridley; High jump, 300 hurdles 1st Place-- Tony Ford; Shot Put 1st Place-- Timothy Jackson;800 meters 1st Place-- Deitrich Brown.

    CHS students with youth motivation speaker David Garcia.

    • Congratulations to the newest members of the CHS National Honor Society: Infinity “Bria” S. Anderson, Tayziana N. Booker, Shakiera Q. Branch, Lorraine P. Foster, Kasie M. Fowler, Allison P. Gilbert, Chelsea F. Giles, Riley Jo Giles, Charles “Chase” L. Grubbs, John D. Jefferies, III, Madaline O. Johnston, Lora Long, Wyatt D. Long, Harleigh D. Marion, Kaylah D. Paras, Mary Katherine Perry, Brittny L. Price, Zion P. Salmon, Rebekah M. Stevens, Trevis Ali Coles Trent, Demory M. Williamson, and Aniya Shalese Woodley.

    Youth motivational speaker David Garcia wearing his new Cumberland Duke shirt!
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 3:00 CHS Data Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • 8:30  Gov. School Senior Symposium
      • 3:00 CMS Data Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • 12:00  Administrative Staff Meeting
      • 3:00  CCES Data Meeting
    • Thursday
      • 5:00 CMS Celebrating Excellence Night
    Spring Break:  April 6-10, 2015
    • Board of Supervisors Budget Hearing:  April 7 (7:00 p.m.)

  • How to kill a profession

    The Superintendent's Chair|3/26/2015

    So you want to kill a profession.

    It's easy.

    First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm.  As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are "rotten apples."

    Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

    Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don't give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

    Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets. 

    Additionally , introduce "independent" charters so that "competition" and "market-forces" will "drive" the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for "customers" and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

    Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality. Require the system to use a value-added measure (or VAM) that may or may not be equipped to do what its advocates say it can do. The American Statistical Association states:

    Under some conditions, VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used, and a thorough analysis should be undertaken to evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to different models.

    Then make high stakes employment decisions based on the VAM.

    Then you create an accountability system that purports to evaluate the quality of organizations. Then, using this system, rate over 80% of organizations as average or below average, furthering diminishing the respect of the profession.

    It's easy to kill a profession.

    All of these things have happened to public schools in Michigan. While I don't want to believe it, the argument could be made that some people are trying to kill the profession of public school educator in Michigan.

    Some might argue that what I should focus on is the students. Student needs are the most important.

    I agree.

    But unless you create a meaningful, respected profession - who will teach the students?

  • Writing is Writing

    Culture of Yes|3/23/2015

    Every month I read the magazine School Administrator cover to cover.  Produced by the AASA – the American Superintendents’ Association it moves from big picture issues, to practical current topics to interesting slices of life from a variety of others who serve in the same role as me.   It is my go-to professional journal.  Over […]

  • Motivated for Learning and Life

    Amy Griffin's Blog|3/22/2015

    I am so proud of our staff and students. We continue to get out of our "comfort zone" and "the box" in order to motivate learning for students and ourselves. Last week, I enjoyed spending time with Phyllis Langhorne, Kim Page, and Stacy Manuel as they were recognized with SVRTC awards for their use and support of technology.  I had the honor of having a private Art Show hosted by the seniors.  The artwork was beautiful and the invitation from the students meant so much to me. 
    I visited CCES and CHS classrooms last week. I loved seeing flexible and comfortable learning environments in many CCES classrooms. While students took a spelling test in one classroom -- some students were seated at a table; several were in small comfortable chairs; one was laying on a sofa; and one was happily tucked in a cubby hole. Talk about an environment conducive to individual student learning.  At the high school, I saw German students describing their Dream Apocalypse zombie teams in German; Kahoots used for assessing learning in Astronomy; and Algebra II students using z-scores to solve real world problems.  You will also see examples of motivation from CMS in the highlights below -- a 5th grade Destination Imagination team,  Egg-speriment Labs, and collecting data from Hula Hoop activities. In the Friday edition of the Farmville Herald, Ilsa wrote a wonderful article about hummingbird robotics being used in Spanish.
    Excitement Ahead...
    We have an exciting week ahead of us!  A team of teachers will be heading to the Estes Center in Chase City to begin developing Performance Based Assessments for 3rd grade history and science, 5th grade writing, and 6th and 7th grade history.  As I have said before, instead of complaining about the amount of high-stakes testing, we must be able to show legislators alternatives. I look forward to this work and the products that will be designed for a more authentic way of assessing.  
    Thursday, Mrs. Hoyt's second grade students will be performing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. On Friday, CHS will host a Motivated for Life dinner and youth speaker, David Garcia. I heard Mr. Garcia speak several summers ago and he is outstanding! He will deliver a meaningful message filled with humor, inspiration, and motivation.
    CuCPS Highlights:
    • For the first time, a 5th grade team competed in Destination Imagination competition.
    • Dr. Jones is highlighted in the SVCC Alumni Spotlight.

    • We would like to recognize the following basketball players who earned All-Conference 44 and 1A East Regional honors for the 2014-2015 season:
      • Girls Basketball
        • Infinity Anderson - 1st Team All-Conference 44
        • Annesha Harris - 1st Team All-Conference 44
      • Boys Basketball
        • Deitrich Brown - 1st Team All-Conference 44 & 2nd Team All-1A East Region
        • Ahmad Booker - 2nd Team All-Conference 44
        • Jeremiah Mayo - 2nd Team All-Conference 44
    • Pictures from my CCES visit:
    • 7th graders in Mrs. Grournard's class collected and analyzed data during an "Egg-speriment" Lab.

    • Math 8 Fun in Mrs. Finnegan's class:
      • Hula Hoop Activity: Students collected data to show the correlation in a table and then a scatter plot for the relationship between time allotted and the number of passes through a hula hoop groups could make.
      • Students also used blocks to model population samples of frogs with mutations and then created a table and made predictions based on their sampling data.
    • Senior Art Show pictures:

    Events for the Week:

    • Monday
      • CMS Academic Review Workshop
    • Tuesday
      • Region 8 Performance Based Assessment Development 
    • Wednesday
      • Region 8 Performance Based Assessment Development 
    • Thursday
      • Mrs. Hoyt's Class Twelfth Night Performance (5:30 p.m.)
      • Board of Supervisors Budget Work Session (7:00 p.m.)
    • Friday
      • Mrs. Hoyt's Class Twelfth Night Performance (9:45 a.m.)
      • Motivated for Life Dinner and Speaker (5:00 p.m.)

  • Do something!

    The Superintendent's Chair|3/17/2015

    Last week the Governor and the Michigan legislature officially took a stand. Schools, education, and the students in Michigan are not a priority.

    How do I know? I watched what they did. 

    Instead of using money that is dedicated to the students in Michigan - the Michigan State School Aid Fund - the Governor and the legislature used money from that fund to plug a general fund budget hole. 

    Instead of using the State School Aid for its intended purpose, the Governor and the legislature made the point that the State School Aid Fund is a pot of money to be used as they see fit. 

    Instead of saving the $167 million surplus in the State School Aid for the next fiscal year or instead of giving some of the State School Aid to schools for this school year, the Governor and the legislature spent the money to plug a hole in this year's state general fund budget.

    So that is done. We can't go back and get that money for the State School Aid Fund.  

    So now what do we do?

    It’s easy to get depressed. It is easy to think that there is no use in trying to get the Governor and the legislature to do the right thing.

    But I would encourage you not to give up.

    Let the Governor and the legislature know that you don't believe that was the right thing to do.

    Call them. (House. Senate. Governor.)

    Write them.

    Email them.

    Be specific.

    Let them know the State School Aid Fund should be for K-12 education. That is its purpose. That is why the State School Aid Fund exists.

    The Governor’s proposed budget for next year has a planned reduction for the Novi Community School District and only a marginal increase for most school districts in Michigan.

    Why? Because the State School Aid Fund does not have enough money to provide for a larger increase. Yet the governor and the legislature just gave away $167 million to the General Fund to plug a budget hole.

    If we communicate clearly with our legislators that the State School Aid fund should be used for schools and schools alone, I believe that the legislature will do the right thing.

    But they won’t do the right thing unless the hear from you.

  • CuCPS: Movers and Shakers!

    Amy Griffin's Blog|3/15/2015

    2nd Grade Presidential Wax Museum
    Finally-- we had a full week of school!  From student highlights, presentations, and celebrations to running a 5K, CuCPS students and staff didn't waste one single minute! We began the week with March School Board recognitions and highlights and a CMS student presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Climate Change.  The middle of the week consisted of a 2nd grade Presidential Wax Museum, a visit to Albemarle County Public Schools to learn about Maker Spaces, and FBLA bringing home gold from the Longwood Conference.  I have to say that the picture above of a student portraying George Washington has to be one of my all time favorites! The end of the week brought great excitement and fun with the celebration of Pi Day at CMS, the CCES PBIS Carnival, the CuCPS Foundation/Centra 5K, and the Longwood Center for Visual Arts Youth Art Exhibit.  There is never a dull moment around CuCPS!

    CMS students present on Climate Change to the Board of Supervisors.

    CuCPS Highlights:

    • Friday evening, KaTyra Brown (7th grade) represented CuCPS in the Richmond Times Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee.
    • Riley Jo Giles has been selected as the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership conference attendee.
    • Caylor Scales has been selected to attend the “Building Leaders for Advancing Science and Technology” (BLAST) program at UVA this summer. 
    • Congratulations to our DAR Winners:  
      • Graceyn Cubbage won the essay contest.
      • Sam Cahoon won the 2015 DAR Good Citizen Award.

    LCVA Youth Art Exhibit
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 11:30  SVRTC Banquet
    • Tuesday
      • Tornado Drill
    • Wednesday
      • 9:00 CCES Supt. Student Panel
      • 10:00 Administrative Council
      • 1:00 CMS Supt. Student Panel
      • 2:00  CHS Supt. Student Panel
    • Thursday
      • Report Cards Home

  • Data is not the savior of education

    The Superintendent's Chair|3/10/2015

    Standardized tests will not save American education.

    It's not that I don't need data to help me make decisions. It's just that the data I receive from standardized tests does not give me a complete picture of whether or not my students are learning.

    Don't get me wrong. Data is important.

    I need data to analyze how well the students who sit in my classrooms are learning. I need data to measure if students are mastering the standards.

    I need data so that I can figure out how I can help a student learn what they need to know.

    I need data to analyze if my teachers are doing a good job. How can I tell if a student is really benefiting from a teacher's instruction unless I can measure the impact that teacher is having on her students?

    Without data I would not be able to tell if a student is learning and a teacher is doing their job.

    But data alone is not what I need. In fact, if I rely only on the data from standardized tests I will have a distorted view of my students and my teachers.

    Standardized data cannot capture what happens in a classroom. Learning is about engaging ideas. Learning is passion, following ideas, understanding the why.

    I want students who are engaged, who care about what they are learning, who understand not just the information but why it is important.

    I want students who will dig for answers. I want students who don't just memorize information but who wrestle with ideas. I want students who grow excited about what they are learning and lose themselves in learning. 

    No standardized test can measure that.

    Tests are also artificial. They measure a very narrow slice of learning and certainly do not capture the breadth and depth of all that students know and care about.

    There has been a lot of conversation about the value of our American testing program. Many would argue that our current form of standardized testing is not very good.  (See this article.)  Some parents are going so far as to opt students out of testing. (Here - #myoptoutletter, here)

    But I believe that parents deserve to know if a student is making progress. I believe that taxpayers deserve to know if the investment that they are making in schools is really making a difference.

    Standardized tests give us one perspective.

    But we have come to rely on them as the only arbitrator in learning. We have come to see standardized tests as the only true measure of whether or not a student has learned anything.

    And that is just not the case.

    The question is how can we balance our need to know if students are learning and teachers are making an impact with our understanding that standardized assessments are not completely or wholly accurate reflections of all that students know?

    It is a delicate balance.

    But we have to figure out. We have to get the answer right.

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