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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 magazine@aasa.org.

  • Welcome to the 2015-2016 School Year!

    Amy Griffin's Blog|7/6/2015

     

    Dear CuCPS Faculty and Staff:

    It is with excitement that I welcome our new and returning staff to the 2015-2016 school year.  I hope you have spent the summer learning, relaxing, and spending time with your family and friends. This summer, I was fortunate enough to have lots of time with my family while enjoying beekeeping, cooking out, canoeing, and riding my new Honda Pioneer on wooded trails.   I never thought I would be one that would enjoy riding a UTV; however, as slow as I drive it—I find it very relaxing and love observing the wildlife. I have to admit that I did not have a good experience on a canoe trip in the middle of Richmond City where my husband tipped over our canoe and I got tossed around in the rapids and on rocks.  Of course, I blame him and he blames me.  All that matters, is that I know the truth (ha-ha)!

    A special thanks goes to all the faculty and staff that spent the summer teaching summer school, programs, and academies to ensure that our students have expanded learning opportunities.  I also appreciate those that have participated in professional development and on planning teams to prepare for the upcoming school year.

    Please closely review the pre-service week calendars that have been mailed to you. You can also find copies of these on the CuCPS website at http://www.cucps.k12.va.us/images/Downloads/Information/WelcomeBackCalendars.pdf Calendar-related items of special note are as follows:

    • Returning teachers are required to work any two weekdays, July 20-29, 2015.

    • The New Teacher Institute will be held July 28-29, 2015, for all teachers new to Cumberland County Public Schools.

    • All teachers report for school-level meetings on July 30, 2015.

    • The Division Convocation for all division staff will be held on Monday, August 3, 2015, from 2:00-4:00 p.m.  The workday (for this day only) will begin at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m.

    • Open House will be held on Thursday, August 6, 2015, from 3:00-7:00 p.m., with the exception of the Pre-Kindergarten Open House that will begin at 2:00 p.m.

    • Teachers may leave at 12:00 noon on Friday, August 7, 2015; however, school buildings will remain open until 4:15 p.m. for those who want to continue to work in classrooms.

    I look forward to working with each of you as we prepare our students to be successful 21st Century learners, workers, and citizens as well as overcome some of our challenges.  As I have learned and practiced throughout this summer, whether riding over rugged terrain on my Honda or fighting the rapids and rocks of the James River – with the right tools, support, and mindset – together, we can accomplish and survive anything!

    CuCPS Highlights:

     

    Events for the Week:

     

    Longwood Summer TAG Program Begins

    SVCC STEM Academy Begins

    • Monday
      • 10:00 Administrative Council Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • 1:30 Writing Committee Planning Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • 7:00 a.m.  Strategic Planning Meeting
      • 1:30  Assessment Team Planning Meeting
    • Thursday
      • Last Day of Summer School
         
      • STEM Academy Judging

  • Year in Review

    Notes from the Superintendent|6/29/2015

    Even though the weekend was somewhat of a washout, spirits were still very high as my wife and I made it to several graduation parties. We had a great year and there is much to be celebrated. I have to look at the school year from a 30,000 foot view and capture everything. While it is time to celebrate successes, there is also time this summer to work on growth areas.

    Our Successes: In the success department, one just has to look at the trophy cases, media stories, and the many awards that both the Fine Arts and Athletics Departments received. More importantly, all of the successes came from the classroom, which carried over into the auditorium, fields, and stadiums. That is exactly how we want it.

    Academically, I think it is important to note that from kindergarten through twelfth grade our students are giving their best efforts for their teachers, their parents, and me. Every time I visit a building or classroom, the students go out of their way to show me what they are up to, and they are proud and happy students. Every day is a great day to be the Superintendent and it is a role that I never take for granted.

    Areas for Growth: Along the way this year we picked up on some growth areas we will be working on for next year.

    • A Different Community - Our community continues to change and as the community changes, so do our students. When I arrived in 2008, about 8% of our students were receiving free or reduced lunch and 9 students did not speak English. Today our free and reduced lunch population is over 20% and there are 88 students who do not speak English. We have been working each year to make our schools as "small" as possible in order to help students in need, but there is still work to do.
    • Drug Prevention and Education - Marijuana and alcohol use were the majority of the poor choices that people were making in 2008. Now people are making those choices, as well as dabbling in prescription drugs and heroin. Again, we have been working in a positive direction with many community partners in this area but there is still room to grow.
    • Preparing our Graduates for the Real World - In the academic world we continue to reflect on what colleges, the workplace, and the military are looking for from our graduates. Strength of schedule is beginning to outweigh class rank and GPA, and more employers are looking for graduates with field/work/volunteer experiences. These are also areas that we will work on this summer. 
    • Communication at our Fingertips - Lastly, our Mobile Phone App is heavily used by parents and students as is our grade and assignment platform Schooltool. Continuing to update those offerings will be a focus as we head into next year.
    There will be a lot of work on our Capital Project this summer as well, and I will give a complete update when I blog again in mid-July.

    Thank you for your support, enjoy the summer, and take care.

    Chris

  • Monday, Monday...

    Amy Griffin's Blog|6/29/2015

     
     
    Why do we celebrate Fridays and dread Monday mornings? This is a question that author Todd Whittaker asks in his book, School Culture Rewired. Shouldn't we be celebrating Mondays?  In education, it is the start of the week to make a difference in a child's life. I also recently heard the quote/question, "Have you lost your why?" Have you lost your purpose?  If not, join me in celebrating Mondays! 
     
    Happy Monday- now let's make a difference in our students' lives!
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
    • Harris Makes CHS History:  http://www.farmvilleherald.com/2015/06/harris-makes-chs-history/
    • Cumberland County QuickStart PRO Summer School program with QuickStart PRO Rich Michaels wrapped up last week. To read all about the 4th year of tennis FUN go to http://www.quickstartcentral.org/pages/index.cfm?siteid=19916.
    • CCES Yearbooks are here and can be picked up between 12:45 and 4:45 p.m., Wednesday, July 1st, at the LPJ Center. Look for Mrs. Overstreet who will be distributing yearbooks. She will also have them during Open House, from 3:00-7:00 p.m., Thursday, August 6. No worries if pick-up times don't work for you. Any yearbook not picked up will be sent home with your child the first week of school, including those of rising fifth graders who will be at CMS.
     

    CMS summer school students went to a Richmond Flying Squirrels game last week. Haley caught a ball!

     
     
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 10:00 Administrative Council Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • CCES Yearbook Pick-up:  12:45-4:45 p.m.
    • Thursday
      • No Summer School:  CuCPS is closed for the July 4th Holiday
    2015 James Johnson Basketball Skills Camp: Friday July 10th, 5pm-8pm through Saturday July 11th, 9am-noon:
    • Where: Cumberland High School Gym
    • Who:  All-Cumberland students from 6th grade-12th grade 
    • What to Bring: Proper shoes & clothing for camp
    • Gatorade and water will be sold
    CHS Hall of Fame Inductee Will Robinson will be this years guest coach/speaker. Coach Robinson has won over 500 basketball games in a 30 year career in Virginia and North Carolina.  Come on out and improve your basketball skills and have fun while doing so!

  • Making Memories

    Notes from the Superintendent|6/22/2015

    An Incredible Weekend: How many people can say they were able to hand their youngest child their diploma (after having him as a student since Kindergarten) at graduation and then spend the next day with their dad at the ballpark? Not many.

    We meticulously plan our graduation ceremonies, and I thought that Saturday was one of the smoothest on record. The student speeches were very insightful and well written and the musical selections were out of this world! Thanks to Dr. Copeland, Mrs. Sierotnik and everyone else who makes graduation as special as it is.

    Special Days: While I truly believe that every day should be Father's Day and Mother's Day, we do designate days on the calendar so people can make them extra special. Our graduation coincides with Father's Day most years. If you are fortunate to have your father (or mother) still with us as I do, please understand what kind of gift that truly is.

    Background Stories: Our graduation is quite streamlined and attendees do not get to see or hear some of the side stories that are sometimes going on in the background. This year two young men who came across the stage abruptly lost their fathers within the past few weeks, one within 48 hours of the ceremony. There they were, coming across the stage to receive their diplomas and shake my hand. My sense was that they were being "tough" because they were helping to hold their families together and to show some normalcy.

    Always trying to learn from every experience, seeing them reminded me that there are a lot of little things in life that we let get bigger than they need to be and because there aren't bigger issues at the time to focus on. Don't let the little things get big, appreciate your family and friends while they are still here, and be kind to others because you don't know their story.

    Visit to the White House: Last week I had the opportunity to visit the White House to work with a small group of superintendents from around the country on an educational initiative called the "Maker Movement". Essentially the Maker Movement is a project-based learning approach to education and incorporates ALL subject areas, not just science, technology, engineering, and math as many other project-based initiatives do.

    West Genesee was selected to attend because we have demonstrated sustained success in a variety of areas. I was more than happy to carry our flag to the White House, and I am looking forward to attending again in the future.

    Preparing for the Arrival of the New Executive Principal: This week is the last week of classes. We will be doing the usual wrap-up items that we normally do, but we are also going to be preparing for the arrival of Geoffrey Morton, who was appointed as Executive Principal for the high school.

    Mr. Morton is currently a Middle School Principal in Baldwinsville. He also has high school administrative experience as well as having worked with at-risk, urban, and suburban students. For a period of time he was also a policy writer for the New York State School Boards Association. Before entering administration, he was a high school social studies teacher. He will begin his work at the high school with Dr. Copeland, Mr. Caraccio, and Mr. Blake on July 6.

    Enjoy the week and believe it or not, my next blog will be a year end wrap up!

    Chris

  • Refreshing Innovation during Summer School

    Amy Griffin's Blog|6/22/2015

     

    Raspberry Pie?
     
    As I walked down the hall, I heard buzzing and the words "raspberry pie" coming from a classroom. It is summer, so my mind drifted to bumble bees flying and tasting warm fruit pie with melting vanilla ice cream.
     
    I was quite surprised as I entered the classroom. The buzzing was coming from a drone that students were flying and the pie referenced was Raspberry Pi hardware.  Students will be using their coding skills and these tools to create an amusement park.
     
    Although I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be tasting any delicious sugary pie -- I was very impressed with the initiative and innovation shown by the teacher and students. I am eager to see what will be produced in this class over the summer and even more excited about the Maker Spaces coming to all three schools in the fall.
     
    Now-- I need to find a bakery!
     
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
     

     

    Motivational speaker Melvin Adams inspired summer school students, staff, and community members last Monday.

    Events for the Week:
     
    Monday-Thursday: Summer School
    • Monday
      • 1:30 Administrative Council Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • Region 8 Performance Based Assessment Workshop

  • Will we close our eyes?

    The Superintendent's Chair|6/19/2015

    Yesterday in Charleston South Carolina, nine people who gathered in a church for a bible study were gunned down by a man who did not know them but who hated them because they were black.

    I can't fathom hate like that.

    Intellectually I know it exists.

    Emotionally it is beyond what I can comprehend.

    In Novi our work rests on two pillars. All of what we do - our work in curriculum, assessment, evaluation, instruction, and student growth is built on helping our students learn to write and to understand social justice.

    Writing is an easy pillar to explain. If students can write, and write well, it means that they can think, that they can examine ideas, that they can reason, that they can communicate. Writing supports students as they learn math and science and social studies. Being a writer prepares students to enter into the conversations that they will have in the board room and the break room and the shop floor and the family room. Writing makes sense for a school district.

    Social justice. This pillar is harder to explain to people. People push back against social justice. People suggest to me that this is not what the district needs to focus on. Social justice is too political they say. Social justice draws attention away from the important work that we must do in helping students learn the curriculum. Social justice is not a priority.

    I disagree.

    I don't care how smart a person is if that person cannot understand another person's point of view.

    I don't care how smart a person is if that person is unwilling to reflect on the social and economic inequities that our country faces.

    I don't care how smart a person is if that person does not want to hear another person's voice.

    Smart is not the most important attribute we give our kids.

    It is important - don't get me wrong.

    And our district does a very good job of helping our students learn. Our district goals focus on our ability to move students forward, to prepare them intellectually for that next step in their life.

    But "smart" is not the only thing that matters.

    Compassion, understanding, the ability to see another person for who they are. The willingness to listen. The desire to work with, be with, live with, build with other people.

    These attributes are just as important as "smart."

    These are social justice attributes.

    And in Novi I am committed to helping our students learn these lessons as well.

    I want our students to learn these lessons so that we will not continue to close our eyes to the hatred that exists around us. I want our students to learn the lessons of social justice so that we can open our eyes and the eyes of others to the beauty of each and every life.

  • Artifact Collection

    Notes from the Superintendent|6/15/2015

    Celebrating our Students: Last week and weekend were one of the most enjoyable I have had in a long time. During the week we were able to celebrate our senior Fine Arts performers as well as our athletes.

    The number of awards and championships these students provided us are staggering, and an overwhelming number of both fine art students and athletes will be taking their talents in some way, shape, or form to the college and professional levels. Congratulations to all!

    The Corporate Challenge: We also put a healthy team of employees together for the Corporate Challenge. This is a great team bonding night for us. The food and company were great, and a math teacher and transportation department worker set blistering paces for the rest of us who took the time to enjoy the scenery!

    BOCES Graduations: I had the opportunity to attend two BOCES graduations. The first was for West Genesee students involved in BOCES Special Education programs, and the second was for West Genesee Students involved in career, trade, and technical education programs. Many of these graduates will head to college or good paying jobs in a few weeks.

    I really enjoyed hearing some of their speeches about rallying over adversity and never giving up. Very inspirational and I am looking forward to shaking many of their hands again at our graduation ceremony this Saturday.

    Classes Come to an End at the High School: You would have also been proud of how our high school students acted on the last day of classes. Yes we should "expect" them to act well, but there is pressure on them from the outside to conduct "pranks" and generally disrupt the school so people have something to talk about. Our students did not succumb to the pressure, conducted themselves with the utmost class and respect, and are now in the ready line for graduation.

    Everyone in our school community knows Andrew Bowman and our custodian "Jimbo"(pictured above), and I got to be with him on his official last day as a high school student as Andrew and his life lessons move on to the next level.

    Celebrating Flag Day: This past Friday our elementary students celebrated Flag Day with parades and ceremonies.It is always fun to watch our students honor our flag. Hooray for the red, white and blue! 

    Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR): Teachers and administrators are struggling through the new evaluation system that has been put in place for them. Much of the struggle has to do with trying to measure the success of a teacher or administrator based on a student "score", as well as evidence collection that what is being taught is of a high caliber. A teacher or administrator cannot be effectively evaluated on these measures because students and families change from year to year, as do their teaching and administering situations.

    To me the following picture would be the entirety of my "artifact collection", and I would want my performance evaluated on this photo to the right. Every person in this picture (except for the young boy) were either students I taught or was their superintendent. Now in their thirties, they are grown up and getting married.

    I was asked to be in this wedding by the person to the right of me because he felt that I changed the path of his life and was there when he needed support the most. Many teachers and administrators have these stories and artifacts. I had a blast catching up with all of them and although some of them knew the direct path to my office back in the day, they have all become contributing members of their communities. Evaluate that!

    Enjoy the week. Graduation on Saturday!

    Chris



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