Dear Goochland Families:

I am writing to share some thoughts on the horrific incident in Newtown, CT, yesterday.  My heart goes out to the families of students, teachers and principals who did not return home from school.  We are all saddened on so many levels by this terrible situation, and cannot imagine the multitude of emotions being expressed throughout our community.  I hope that you will join me in keeping these families in your thoughts and/or prayers.

We believe that our schools are extremely safe and I just wanted to share a few of the proactive safety practices that we have in place, amongst many others, to support your children and our schools:

  • Regular drills, including lock-down drills, fire drills, and tornado drills.
  • The Sheriff’s department provides a School Resource Officer to the GMS/GHS Complex.
  • We regularly review our crisis management plans side-by-side with our safety-based policies and our code of conduct.  As recently as Wednesday of last week, the leadership team met to review our practices and suggest improvements for the future.
  • Regular meetings with school-based law enforcement and discussions with the Sheriff to share best practices.

We are fully invested in being comprehensive and thorough in our daily approach, and are always looking for new ways to be a better and safer school division for all.  I think as a nation we must all use this opportunity to reflect on whether we are utilizing best safety practices in schools and we will continue to do so.  

I know some of your children may be feeling anxiety as they learn the details from this school throughout the weekend.  We will do everything in our power to continue to provide a consistent, yet safe and supportive atmosphere in the wake of this tragedy.  We will ask our school psychologists and school counselors to hold “as needed” meetings to allow students to talk about their feelings in a developmentally appropriate way. I know that families throughout Goochland will be discussing this incident throughout the weekend and we urge you to contact us if you have any questions.

 

We are here for you if you need us.

We had an exciting week in our schools!!  At this time of year, many of our classes are focused on culminating events such as concerts, recitals, projects, etc.  There is an unbelieveable number of great things going on and we hope that you have been able to join us for a few of them.

HEROES AND CHAMPIONS

At our school board meeting on December 11, Sheriff Agnew and the School Board recognized Mr. and Mrs. Rohrer for their bravery.  I wrote about their heroic efforts last week, but we wanted to thank them formally for everything they did.

Next, as you may all be aware at this point, the Goochland Bulldogs Football Team won their State Championship Game against Essex 41-14!!!!  Please congratulate our players and coaches on an amazing season and our burgeoning football dynasty!  Here is a picture from Mr. Newman’s blog, which includes a great write-up of the event.

Mrs. Gordon’s blog also has a great write-up, including a picture of me playing with the band.  I grew up playing in pep bands and can attest that our band made me extremely proud with their professional sound and phenomenal school spirit.

In addition to our athletic success, we are extremely pleased to announce that we also saw unbelievable academic success this week as well.  The Byrd Elementary School First Lego League Robotics Team, Granny’s Helpers, competed in the state championship in Harrisonburg last week.  Mr. Hopkins shared his thoughts on our success here.  A special thank you goes out to our coaches and volunteers:  Mrs. Hawk, Mr. Payne, and Mr. Carchman.  Congratulations on your robotic success!!  Here is a video Dr. Gretz produced to share more about the team and their presentation:

 

HONORS and AWARDS

I already wrote about this on my blog, but Goochland was extremely honored to have our District 3 school board member, John Lumpkins, speak at the Governor’s press conference on education this week.  Mr. Lumpkins did a phenomenal job and we are looking forward to the education innovations shared by the Governor.

GCPS participated in the joint Local Schools and County United Way Campaign, raising almost $3300 dollars, about three times last year’s donation.  The Foundation donated an iPad2 raffled among donors who gave at east $5/month or a total of $60.  The winner, Mrs. Gordon, is announced here.  Congratulations to Mrs. Gordon and we thank everyone for their generous donations!

As the VHSL reorganizes some of its team/school configurations, GHS is now involved in the establishment of the new Conference 34.  This group will include the school divisions of Amelia, Bluestone, Brunswick, Goochland, Greensville, Nottoway, and Prince Edward.  At the first organizational meeting, Bryan Gordon was elected to serve as the Conference 34 representative and Mike Newman was elected as Vice-Chair.  Congratulations to Mr. Gordon and Mr. Newman!

INSTRUCTIONAL FOCUS

Learning engagement has been the focus of our instructional team.  Over the past few weeks, I have seen more and more examples of what we think engagement looks like, but in the meantime, a perfect description of this write-up was shared by Dr. Geyer here.
FROM OUR SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
  • Many of you know John Hendron and the work he has done to improve technology integration in our county.  For the second week in a row, we are proud do announce that he has won another award.  VSTE presented him with the “Making IT Happen” award, a very prestigious honor from his professional association.  Learn more about the award by clicking this to see a write-up by Dr. Gretz.  Also, please make sure to take a look at Mr. Hendron’s blog.  John talked about the future of books, you may remember that he’s author of a book on using RSS feeds in the educational setting.
  • Mr. Bruce Watson spoke at the school board meeting this week about his plans to bolster our school division’s Career and Technical Education program.  Mr. Watson did a phenomenal job.  His presentation is linked on our school board’s agenda page here.  If you have a moment we also want to highlight this piece on his blog.
  • Speaking of our school board meeting, we had a long discussion on enhancements we are considering for regular board meeting protocols.  Learn more about these enhancements, such as a potential student school board member, here.  One of those enhancements was implemented last week as we have begun a section of the meeting called “reflections.”  During reflections, we will ask students to attend our meeting and share the best practices that we are implementing.  Below is a picture from the Children’s Engineering Project presented by Ms. Beth Ferguson and her 4th grade students from Randolph Elementary School this week:

 

WINTER PERFORMANCES

From Randolph Elementary School – for their G21 project, fifth graders are participating in “Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” an organization to raise money for childhood cancer.  The fifth graders made lemonade and baked goods, which they sold at our Winter Program.  They designed advertisements, planned the evening, and worked the stand.  They learned a lot about how to run an event.  They made $192.50!  This money will be donated to help find a cure for childhood cancer.  RES fifth graders are practicing the true meaning of the holiday season.

All of our schools held many other concerts and events, so I encourage you to check out the blogs from each of the schools.  I do, though, want to share a blog post by Mrs. McCay from Goochland Elementary School with an extensive number of pictures to share here.
Congratulations to all of our students and teachers on their excellent Winter programs!!!
  • Goochland High School held their Dance recital this week.  Thanks to Ms. Kuhns for these shots!
  • Goochland Middle School will have their Annual Winter Band Concert on Thursday, December 20, at 7pm.
As you can see, we have so many amazing things going on that I could not list them all in one blog post.  I am so proud to be a part of the community and work with our team and had an exciting first “official” week.  I already blogged about my plans for my first 100 days here, but I really just want to thank all of you for an amazing transition and for welcoming me and my family to Goochland!

District 3 School Board Member, John Lumpkins, was invited to speak as part of Governor McDonnell’s education press release today!  Click here to view the Governor’s press release, which includes a quote specifically from Mr. Lumpkins!!  Amongst other education innovations, the Governor proposed:

  • $59 million for teacher compensation
  • $15 million for strategic compensation
  • Increasing the probationary period from 3 to 5 years for teachers
  • Revisions to the grievance process
  • A Governor’s Teacher Cabinet

Lumpkins was asked to speak as the representative of the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA).  In his remarks, Mr. Lumpkins expressed support and gratitude for the Governor’s proposals.  The VSBA, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals all shared their support for the initiative.

Please congratulate Mr. Lumpkins on this amazing honor!  He did an amazing job and I was proud to see him represent Goochland so well!

Hello everyone! I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for your kind words and excellent support on my first day. I thought our transition phase over the past three months went extremely well and felt on my first day as if I had been here for years. The team that we have built already is exciting and I am looking forward to working with all of you.

Mr. Hendron and I filmed a video today regarding the transition and entry plan that the board and I created to guide my first 100 days in office. If you have time, please enjoy. We have also included a link to a two-page summary of the plan on the website here.

As always, if you ever need anything, please contact me!

They wake up earlier than most of us every day because they want to get to school well before the students. I’m sure they left the house that morning as they do every day expecting a normal day full of fun and learning with students. When they arrived at work and stepped out of their car, they saw a colleague being assaulted by a man nearly twice each of their size. Without hesitation Mrs. Rohrer, a fellow teacher, sprung to action and jumped on the man to stop her friend from further injuries. Mr. Rohrer also jumped in and eventually they pulled the man off her and the attacker fled the scene. The rest of the story has been well documented, he later turned himself in to the Sheriff’s office and the teacher was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover. Our Sheriff, Jim Agnew, has clearly stated that these teachers saved our colleague’s life.

In rural communities like Goochland, we like it quiet and we want the crime more often seen in urban areas to stay far away. In a flash, on December 5, our small community was shocked and saddened by a brutal attack on one of our teachers. In many areas, the attack and/or the school’s response to the matter would be the primary story, but due to the actions of Doug and Ann Rohrer, Goochland showed that we are better than that. They put themselves in harm’s way to save their colleague’s life. In time, people will likely forget the attack and all the sadness and concern we have about what happened, but I want to make sure that we never forget these heroes. Let’s remember what they did and allow it to inspire us. I believe that as teachers, we get into education to make the world a better place. The Rohrers were humble, they didn’t ask for recognition and turned down interviews with the local media. Their only statement was:

“It was only through prayer and the presence of God that we did what we were able to do. We were so grateful as well to be helped by a host of amazing GMS & GHS faculty family! Most importantly we thank God that our colleague will get well! We love her!”

I don’t know about you, but I am inspired. We work our entire careers to make the world a better place by improving the lives of children and the Rohrers have given me another example of excellent humanity. If heroism is the intersection of chance encounter and great character, then I hope that if I am faced with the same situation, that I make the choice to save someone’s life. As a superintendent and a parent, I want all children to have teachers like Mr. and Mrs. Rohrer, because if they can teach their students to have even half the bravery and character that they have, then I know that all the children in Goochland will live in a better world.

I woke up on Thursday and everything seemed better in this world. Because of these teachers, I want to be a better leader, a better father, a better husband, and a better teacher. As I have done “meet and greets” to get to know the community, I have told people that my goal is to learn what it is that is so special about Goochland. On Wednesday, it became obvious, it’s the people. For those of us with children in Goochland, just remember, your kids are being taught by heroes.