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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.

  • February: School Board Appreciation Month

    Amy Griffin's Blog|2/7/2016

    Maker Spaces and littleBits: Students in 6th Grade explore littleBits and electronic building blocks.

    February is School Board and Board Clerk Appreciation Month.  I would like to thank our Board members - Ginger Sanderson, Eurika Tyree, Christine Ross, Cindy Morgan, and Lee Dowdy; Dr. Jamerson, clerk; and Dr. Jones, deputy clerk.  Cumberland County is fortunate to have such dedicated individuals who truly put students first in their decision making. From academics to athletics; fine arts to career and technical opportunities; facilities to the resources in the hands of our students and staff-- this Board continues to seek excellence and equity for the children of Cumberland.  The Board has three goals for Cumberland County Public Schools that are the foundation for all decisions:

    • Cumberland County Public Schools will be student centered.
    • Cumberland County Public Schools will expand opportunities for learning.
    • Cumberland County Public Schools will develop committed stakeholders who build positive relationships. Stakeholders are defined as students, faculty and staff, parents, and community members.

    These goals are also the foundation of the D21 Strategic Plan (link: http://www.cucps.k12.va.us/images/Downloads/School%20Board/2015-2021%20Strategic%20Plan.pdf) adopted in December and the 2016-2017 School Operating Budget process.  Finally, I would like to thank our School Board Student Liaisons Ahkiya Allen and Hannah King for providing "the voices" of our students.

     

     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
    • Hayes Turner, CHS sophomore, was selected to attend the Hugh O’Brien Youth (HOBY) Leadership Workshops at James Madison University in June.
    • The CMS NJHS inducted 37 new students last week.
    • Ms. Whittaker has been awarded an Agriculture in the Classroom grant in the amount of $420.

    • Athletics News:
      • The Athletic Department celebrated Senior Night for the Indoor Track and Boys Basketball Teams. Recognized were:  Chris Giles and Kyle Shuart -- Indoor Track; and Andrew Brown, Devante Copeland, David Diming, Tyveon Goodwin, T.J. Jackson, Daquan Trent, Ahmad Booker, and Jordan Woodson --Basketball.
      • The Cumberland Dukes Wrestling team qualified for the 1A regional tournament being held Friday and Saturday at Northampton H.S.
      • The CHS Wrestling Team competed in the Southside Scuffle in Nottoway. Ricky Kirby finished 1st to become the 113lbs champion; Kavon Foster finished 4th at 182lbs; Trevon Foster finished 4th at 220lbs. The wrestling team finished 8th out of 13 teams from all over VA ranging from 1A-3A and private schools. 
      • CHS hosted the Conference 42 Wrestling Tournament:
        • The Dukes Wrestlers finished 3rd overall. Individual results were: Trevon Foster - Conference 42 Champion 2 195 lbs.; Raheem Rumsey - Conference 42 Runner-up @220 lbs.; Joey Riner - Conference 42 Runner- up @ 126 lbs.; Isaiah Johnson – Conference 42 Runner-up @ 145 lbs.; Ricky Kirby- Conference 42 Runner-up @ 113 lbs.; Khajhan Trent – Conference 42 Runner-up @ 285 lbs.

      • Wednesday was the NCAA National Signing Day for athletes to commit to attend college next fall. Ebony Jones committed to St. Andrews College for track and field and T.J. Jackson committed to Virginia Tech to play football.

    Events for the Week:

    • Monday
      • 7:00 February School Board Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • 10:00 Virginia Opera comes to CMS:  The Marian Anderson Story
      • 12:00 Administrative Council Meeting
      • 7:00 Board of Supervisors Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • Interims Home

  • In Honor of a Great Man

    #ibelieveinyou|2/5/2016

    The 2015 William P. "Spec" Jones Volunteer of the Year
    Last night it was my pleasure and my honor to present Mr. Melvin "Peanut" Parks with the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce William P. “Spec” Jones Volunteer of the Year Award. I first met Mr. Parks in the hallways of Chowan Middle School when he was introduced to me as the most prolific volunteer in our middle school. Mr. Parks greeted me with a huge smile, grasped my hand in both of his and welcomed me to the important work of caring for our children. The principal shared with me that Mr. Parks had been volunteering almost daily for years at the middle school.
    The hallways of the middle school are lined with the logos and mascots of colleges and universities. Each was meticulously drawn by Mr. Parks. He explained to me that each one was requested by a student or staff member. To accomplish the drawing he breaks smaller drawings down into a grid and draws it to a larger scale. He often shares the work process with students teaching the concepts of scale, geometry, and taking pride in one's work. The effect of this artwork is to surround our students with possibilities. They see the logos of universities and begin to dream about attending those prestigious schools one day.
    Beyond his artwork, Mr. Parks spends most of his time volunteering in classrooms. He "takes" math classes with the students and then helps them during independent work time. I have witnessed Mr. Parks explaining math concepts to students and patiently helping them master the learning objective. He wants a bright future for the children of Chowan County and works to bring about that vision through the time he spends in the middle school.
    After encountering Mr. Parks at Chowan Middle School on one of my first visits there, I was surprised to meet him again at a later time at John A. Holmes High School. I quickly found out that he volunteers almost as much time at the high school as he does the middle school. In talking with him, he explained to me that years ago, the students he helped at the middle school had told him that they were struggling with math at the high school. He was determined that they would not fail to succeed and began to volunteer at the high school as well. He told me that he had to learn the math at the high school so that he could help the students with it and unknowingly began to model for our students what it is to be a learner through the way he carefully listened to the teachers and took his own notes so that he would be prepared to help the students with their work.
    This is what #allin looks like!
    In addition to art work, volunteering in classrooms, and tutoring students for free, Mr. Parks also volunteers with our athletic teams. He takes great pride in being in charge of the game balls for the football team. He typically has a younger student with him. I have observed him charging his helper with paying attention, being ready to run to help, and always being respectful of the referees. These ballgame instructions are really powerful life-lessons gently imparted by a dedicated, caring adult.
    I have worked with children in schools for over twenty years. In all of that time, I have met and worked with many volunteers, each deeply giving of themselves for the children. As I think about Mr. Parks in the context of all of those volunteers, I can't help but think of him as the first among equals because of all that he does and because of the spirit with which he does it. If I asked all of those volunteers to line up, Mr. Parks would go to the back of the line, deferring to everyone else present. He does not seek attention or accolades. He simply wants to help and he does.
    Mr. Parks is a good man whose choices, action, and composure exemplify the spirit of community service. He has and does make a difference in the lives of children. He has made an outstanding contribution to Chowan County through his volunteer service to the students in our public school system. I believe that he serves as a great role model for our students and I know that he does for me. I aspire to be the kind of servant-leader that Mr. Parks is.
    Mr. Melvin "Peanut" Parks
    I am extremely grateful for Mr. Parks and I appreciate the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce for selecting him as the William P. “Spec” Jones Volunteer of the Year.

  • Do the Right Thing, Dagnabbit!

    It's Up to Us: Inspiring Excellence|2/3/2016

    “We need to start paying attention to the unfunded stuff and stop worry about the funded stuff.” – Dr. Christopher Thornberg, economist So many tragic events call into question whether we are paying attention to things that matter. Consider the … Continue reading

  • The Circle of Life

    Notes from the Superintendent|2/1/2016

    A Math Project: I was a math and computer science teacher before entering administration and eventually the superintendent position. I really enjoyed my time with my seventh graders, especially when it came to teaching real life lessons about math (to answer the question "when are we ever going to use this"). My teaching days were long ago, but the lessons live on and I am very proud of that.

    Yesterday while walking the dog I found a bird's nest that looked to be a near perfect circle. I immediately thought about the "old days". I brought it inside and took a picture of it. I then found some string and measured the diameter (distance from side to side as long as you are going through the center). I made three strings of equal length out of the diameter and laid them end to end around the birds nest. BINGO, they wrapped around three "and then some" times, or 3.14 times; pi.

    Big deal right? In the education profession, there are no bonuses, no parties for selling the most of something, and no commissions. We teach, lead, and educate for the betterment of children and hopefully the world we live in. Our reward is when we hear from graduates who tell us that we made a difference in their lives.

    I posted this little exercise online and heard back from one of my former students who is now a teacher. She remembered the lesson from so long ago and used it with her sixth grade classes. She then moved to second grade but made sure to leave the lesson behind for the new sixth grade teacher because "it is the best way to teach pi". Good stuff!

    Events From Last Week: We had some great events last week. First, and unfortunately in the same evening, we had the "Dialogue with the Superintendent" and the Camillus Optimists Oratorical Contest. Both events were fantastic. I had a chance to catch the speeches from the middle school students and they spoke as well and as passionately as anyone you would see on television. The future is in good hands.

    In my Dialogue with the Superintendent forum people in attendance were invited to write any question they wanted answered on an index card and pass them forward. I took each card and read them sight unseen and answered them. Many were about our substance abuse forum (which I covered in a previous blog) and several were about mid-term/regents week at the high school as well as the use of Schooltool. We constantly trend to get better so feedback of any kind is much appreciated. Thank you to the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council for sponsoring this event every year.

    Mr. Morton, our high school executive principal, recently started a blog himself that you should check out if you have a high school student or a child about to enter high school. He addresses in detail some of the questions we receive about the high school. Please take a few moments (after you finish here of course!) to check it out at http://wghsexecprincipal.blogspot.com/2016/01/feedback-on-mid-term-exams-and-use-of.html.

    This week we will be holding our strategic planning sessions. Our strategic plan is the main decision making driver for the District. Our strategic planning team includes stakeholders from every group you could imagine (including parents and students). The results will be shared later in February so you know what you can expect to see from the District next year. People always ask why I never look rattled, and I always point to having a solid strategic plan as one of those reasons!

    Some great weather coming up. Cannot wait! Thanks for the continued support.

    Chris

  • "Well Begun is Half Done"

    #ibelieveinyou|1/31/2016

    It is not often that I quote Aristotle, but this quote seems to perfectly capture my thoughts about the benefits of data and accountability in successfully meeting goals.

    "Well-begun is half done." Aristotle may have said it first, but someone a bit better known in our modern society said it again and brought it back into our consciousness. Of course I am referring to the incomparable Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins told us that medicine goes down easier with a spoonful of sugar and that anything can happen if you let it. Surely someone dispensing such great advice knew what she was saying when she said that starting well is half of the battle.

    January 31st is a day that few New Year's Resolutions ever see. I wonder if all of the #oneword2016 adopters have thought about their one word since identifying it. Without early success, people tend to abandon goals, resolutions, and words to focus on.

    I believe that data and accountability help us stick to our goals, particularly early on. A weight loss goal to lose significant weight over the course of the year is more likely to be met when early success is obtained. A weekly report of success is likely to drive continuing effort. 

    Data identifies where we are and leads to where we want to go.

    I started thinking about Aristotle and Mary Poppins while completing seven-mile run yesterday. This year, I have set a goal of logging 1,000 miles on MapMyRun, the tracking software that I have been using since June, 2012. For the month of January, I have logged 101.31 miles. This represents 10% of my goal obtained in just one month. I know that I need 83.34 miles logged each month to meet my goal.

    As I was running and doing this math in my head, I started chuckling at myself. I am not a "math guy" by nature, but goals bring numbers tumbling out. I love the accountability of the tracking software I use. There are other apps out there that do the same thing and may do an equally good job, but I started with this one and I can't imagine leaving it, because I want my data. I like being able to compare how I did in the month of January for each of the last four years. I find myself motivated to beat myself. Previous performance becomes a benchmark. To do less than what I have done before would be disappointing. I want to be better than I have ever been and knowing my own data holds me accountable to my own goals.

    I will, I will, I will!
    Running 1,000 miles in a year has seemed like an impossible goal in the past. As a casual runner, I logged 497 miles in 2012, 419 miles in 2013, and dropped to 379 miles in 2014. In January of 2015, I found myself looking over my running data. After making excuses for my diminishing performance like working on my dissertation and becoming a superintendent, I stopped giving reasons for not running as much as I could have and vowed to have my best year ever.

    I created a spreadsheet with month-by-month results and decided that I would concentrate on beating each month's previous record. When the year ended, I had logged 738 miles, almost doubling my 2014 tally. I know that it is because I kept visiting my own data and held myself accountable to it. This year I will run 1,000 miles and I will do it because of the numbers that keep tumbling out. I have had a great first month. Aristotle and Mary Poppins would say that I am on my way.

    Running, Disney Movie characters, and Greek philosophers may seem a bit misplaced in a blog that focuses on education and educational issues, but are they? Wouldn't it be safe to say that if we took each of the SMART goals in our District Strategic Plans or School Improvement Plans, closely monitored our results through paying attention to the data and held ourselves accountable to a great start on the goal, that we also would be well on our way to accomplishing great things for children?    

  • Remembering Keith White

    Amy Griffin's Blog|1/31/2016

     
    The community came together last Friday evening to celebrate the life and legacy of Keith White. Although I did not know him well, I would see him coaching our students on the court, the field, and in life. He would even take the time to eat lunch at the middle and high school visiting with the students and staff.  He was very supportive of sharing and preparing the Madison Ball Fields for the upcoming middle school baseball and softball practices and games.  From all the comments on Facebook (check out the posts on the Farmville Herald Facebook page) and at the service, it is apparent that he had caring and lasting relationships with many of our students, parents, staff, and community members.  Keith has left a legacy within the hearts and minds of our children, many grown now, as well as his family and close friends.  I thought the poem included on the service program was fitting:
     
    You taught us determination. You gave us the skills
    To persist in life's game; and for that we always will
    Give thanks for you, and look back and boast
    That we had the privilege
    Of calling you, Coach!
     
    The outpouring of condolences, memories, and love are testimonies to the life and legacy of Keith White.  He has truly made an ever-lasting impact on and for the youth of Cumberland County. For that, his CuCPS family is forever grateful.
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
    • Congratulations to Ricky Kirby for being the 113 pound weight class champion at the South Side Shuffle.
    • Congratulations to our Dukes Wrestling Team who finished 3rd in the JRD Tournament:
      • 113lbs Ricky Kirby 1st = District Champion
      • 120lbs Davidrick Brooks 1st = District Champion
      • 126lbs Joseph Riner 4th
      • 132lbs Jackson Pryor 3rd
      • 170lbs Kavon Foster 4th
      • 182lbs Sean Stinnett 4th
      • 195lb Raheem Rumsey 3rd
      • 220lbs Trevon Foster 3rd
      • 285lbs Kaijhan Trent 2nd = District Runner-up
    • Dukes in the Farmville Herald:

    Events for the Week:

    • Monday
      • 9-12 Local Alternate Assessment Planning
      • 7:00  School Board Budget Work Session
    • Tuesday
      • CCES Focus School Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • School Board Visits with Senator Garrett and Delegate Wright
    • Friday
      • Superintendent Student Panel Meetings
        • 9:00 CCES
        • 10:00 CMS
        • 2:00 CHS
     
     

  • You have to believe it to see it

    The Superintendent's Chair|1/29/2016

    It's the middle of winter. Skies are grey. Snow comes and goes. Walking outside is always an adventure. It's easy to get caught up and find one's self slogging through each day. The goal - get home, curl up, and wait for the next day to come.

    I read a book recently that changed my perspective. Circus Mirandus is not a book on greatness or vision. It's definitely not a self-help book. It's not a book on leadership or motivation.

    Technically, Circus Mirandus is a book written for students in grades 4-6. It's a book about Micah Tuttle and his grandfather Ephraim and a magical but real circus - Circus Mirandus.


    The only way to see Circus Mirandus is to believe in it. The only way to find this wonderfully entertaining and magical place is to believe. Those that don't believe - well, it just isn't there.

    As I read this book it made me think about what I believe in and, correspondingly, what I see. It also made me think of how I let what I see influence what I believe.

    With one set of eyes I can see the world as difficult, challenging, hard. I can see that people will disappoint and annoy and bother me. When I let myself see with those eyes I begin to believe that the world is always like that and there is nothing that I can do to make it better.

    But Circus Mirandus helped me remember that "you have to believe it to see it." When I start with what I believe then that is what I begin to see.

    I believe that people are good. I believe that there is joy and happiness in the world. I believe that people can figure out solutions to problems. I believe that we can find ways to work together. I believe that people can and will improve. I believe that there is always a reason to smile.

    When I remember what I believe, then I begin to see it.

    That's not to say that I don't believe that there will be problems and challenges and heartache. I know that is part of the world that I live in.

    But I believe that there are answers to questions and solutions to problems and ways to overcome our challenges. I believe heartache can be healed - it may take time and it may be hard but it can be done.

    And because I believe that I can see it.

    I would encourage you to find a copy of Circus Mirandus and read it.

    Remember - you have to believe it to see it!



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