Hello all.  The next meeting of the GCPS Community Advisory will be at 7pm on Thursday, January 22 in the Randolph Elementary School Library.  The Community Advisory meeting will begin immediately following the RES PTA meeting.

We are taking our community advisory meetings “on the road” this year and have set “themes” for each meeting.  Tomorrow evening’s theme will be the FY16 budget.  Dr. Lane will also be addressing the budget at the RES PTA meeting earlier that evening.  All interested community members are more than welcome to attend community advisory meetings and there will be plenty of time for Q&A with Dr. Lane following a presentation on the budget.

Additionally, at the last community advisory meeting, there were two requests and we have honored those as well:

  1.  GCPS Technology Leadership will be completing a demo for parents on the Schoology Platform at the end of the advisory meeting around 8pm.

  2.  We have announced and have begun implementing a new blog forum called “Ask the Super.”  Please visit this section of Dr. Lane’s blog to ask questions (there is an option to submit anonymous questions) that will be answered on his blog.

Ask the Super!! – http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/jlane/ask-the-super/

Thanks!

Will the staff be learning sometime soon when they will be required to report to school in August? While I know this won’t be finalized for some time, it would be nice to know what is being considered so we can make our summer plans.

Unfortunately, we cannot give a definitive date at this time.  We rely heavily on our calendar committee, which includes parents, faculty, staff, and members of our leadership team to make recommendations on our calendar.  We hope to have a calendar proposal out soon, though, based on the committee’s feedback.  Our goal is to have a proposed calendar before the school board in February with adoption in late-March/early-April at the latest.  

If anyone is interested in submitting a question for the “Ask the Super” blog, please go to http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/jlane/ask-the-super/

Thanks!

The Virginia Lottery, along with its partners at Virginia PTA and The Supply Room Companies, has announced the opening of the 8th annual Super Teacher Awards. Between now and Feb. 13, Virginians can help honor outstanding public school teachers from across the commonwealth by nominating them at www.vasuperteacher.com.

On January 15, 2015 Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia Council on Women announced the 4th annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for female students in grades 11 and 12. The Council will award one $5,000 scholarship to a female junior or senior who will be pursuing a STEM career at an institution of higher education. Other scholarships may be awarded at the discretion of the Council.

You may read the full announcement here.

Applications and guidelines are available HERE.

GCPS will host our 3rd Annual Conundrum Day event on Saturday, February 7th from 9:00-11:30AM at Goochland Middle School. This is a free event for any interested students in grades K through 8. Conundrum Day is a morning full of hands-on problem solving, children’s engineering, and engaging team activities. (This year’s event will be directly tied to the school division’s One District, One Book program that kicks off on February 2nd.)

The program is designed and organized by our incredibly accomplished STEM Advisory Committee and has been generously sponsored by Kahlos Mexican Restaurant in Goochland. (Kahlos is formerly Frida’s.)

The registration deadline for Conundrum Day is Friday, January 30th. You may access a registration form here.

We hope to see you there!

In response to the interest and concern expressed by members of our community and others, the School Board met last evening (January 13) to review Policy LBE (Applications for Religious Exemption from Compulsory Attendance). The meeting was an amazing example of the democratic process. We heard from citizens about the best way to proceed with a policy about religious exemptions from school, and we were able to share more detail regarding our thought process in establishing the original policy.

We sought to establish a clearer process for receiving and responding to religious exemptions. Different interpretations of the law created situations where the policy was viewed as overreaching. As previously stated, we support parents’ rights to determine how they wish to educate their child/children as also outlined in the Code of Virginia 1-240.1 (https://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+1-240.1).

The school board took action to repeal the former policy and replace it with another that more accurately supports the state law as outlined in Virginia Code Section 22.1-254, Virginia’s compulsory attendance law. Additionally, it took action to suspend any religious exemption cases currently in conflict with the former policy until the new policy is finalized.

The policy approved by the school board last evening on first reading states:

Any pupil who, together with his/her parents, seeks an exemption from compulsory attendance, pursuant to Va. Code § 22.1-254(B)(1), due to their bona fide religious training or beliefs must submit a written letter of proclamation to the School Board setting forth the reasons for the request. Such proclamation must be signed by the parent(s) affirming that this proclamation is being made by the pupil together with his/ her parents.

We believe the newly proposed policy complies with the both letter and the spirit of the law, including acknowledgement of the child, without being overly intrusive. A second and final reading of the policy will occur at the January 27 meeting, at which time we will receive any additional public comment.

The School Board wishes to thank those citizens who respectfully participated during the public comment period last evening. This type of constructive input is a critical part of the democratic process and helps guide us in making decisions that reflect the will of the People, while operating within the legal framework.

~Goochland County School Board – our contact information can be found here.

January 12, 2015

Dear Elementary Families,

On behalf of the GCPS team, we hope your family had a restful, happy holiday season. We’re looking forward to an engaging, productive spring semester and a successful 2015 for our students, families, and educators.

In February Goochland County Public Schools will be embarking on a special project for the second consecutive year, a division-wide book club called One District, One Book (ODOB). ODOB is a unique program that provides elementary children at all grade levels with the opportunity to share the same book over the same time period. Curious as that may seem at first, it actually makes sound educational sense. Literacy experts recommend reading material out loud that is beyond a child’s individual reading level; the same experts support reading chapter books aloud with older children, even when they are able to read independently.

Our ODOB committee selected a title that can be followed, understood, and enjoyed by younger students, but that will still captivate older children. As the centerpiece of the program, every elementary school family will receive a copy of this same book and will be asked to share the literacy experience during the month of February. The title will be announced at a special school-wide assembly introducing the program and the book on Monday, February 2, and your child will come home that day with his/her very own copy. When the books are distributed, families will also receive a shared community reading schedule so everyone can keep up at home. Generally, you will be asked to read one chapter each night—about 10-15 minutes. We hope that you will find the time to participate in this special activity focused on community and the importance of literacy.

Reading aloud at home is incredibly valuable as it helps develop a strong foundation for all learning, as well as models lifelong literacy; moreover, it’s also a fun, worthwhile family activity. With the ODOB program, we aim to build a community of readers across our elementary school communities. Everyone—students, parents, teachers, bus drivers, and administrative staff—will be participating.

In school, your child will be engaged in literary discussions and invited to answer daily trivia questions to encourage and celebrate participation. We encourage you to make sure your family participates so your child can be included. You will find that your child will take pride in knowing and anticipating the details of the story. Throughout the month, everyone will be talking about the book!

On behalf of our entire GCPS team, please join me in thanking the Goochland Education Foundation (GEF) and Ms. Tamra Adams, Director, Adams International School, for their overwhelming generosity and continued support of our school community. Ms. Adams’ gracious and significant donation, by way of the GEF, has made One District, One Book a reality for us this year. We are appreciative and proud of this community partnership.

Good luck! I hope to talk with both you and your child about the book during the month of February. When an entire school division reads a book, there’s a lot to talk about. With your help, we will strengthen a community of readers in Goochland!

In response to the interest and concern expressed by members of our community and others, the School Board will review Policy LBE (Applications for Religious Exemption from Compulsory Attendance) at its meeting on January 13.

The Board appreciates the letters, calls, and emails on the topic of Policy LBE.  We believe it will be helpful to all concerned for the Board to share the following information on this topic.

Policy LBE was adopted by the School Board in October 2013, and later revised in December 2013, to establish guidelines and procedures for responding to requests for religious-based exemptions from Virginia’s compulsory education law. The basis for this policy is found in Virginia Code Section 22.1-254.  That section of the Code is Virginia’s compulsory attendance law. The two sentences from that section pertaining to the religious exemption read as follows:

B. A school board shall excuse from attendance at school:  

1. Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school. For purposes of this subdivision, “bona fide religious training or belief” does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.

As is our practice with policy adoption, the Board adopted the policy after two separate “readings” at two separate public meetings (in September and October 2013), both of which included opportunities for public comment.  The board then followed that up with a revision to the policy, adding an official application form, with two readings across November and December 2013.  During the four months that the school board debated this policy, there were eight opportunities for public comment.  All of the board members remember well the lengthy and detailed discussion held on this policy.

Most of the concerns we are hearing from the community surround the requirement that the board hear from the pupil at age 14 as to his/her position on the religious exemption. Per the law, it is actually the pupil who is asking for exemption from compulsory attendance and their parents must concur and support that objection. The law may be poorly worded in this regard, but we strive to have a policy that complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law. The age of 14 that we settled on came from a court case in Fairfax County that involved that County’s School Board policy to hear from the child at age 14.  In that case a state trial judge held in favor of the school board’s position and appeared to concur that as the age where the pupil might be reasonably asked for his objection to public education directly. This is not an attempt to usurp parents’ rights.

Other comments and concerns that we have heard appear to suggest that the policy is hostile to homeschooling. This is absolutely not the case as we continue to develop mutually beneficial relationships with many homeschoolers through various offerings and opportunities. Home schooling and religious exemption from compulsory attendance are two entirely different concerns. Home schooling comes with requirements: proof of the pupil’s academic progress, in particular. Religious exemption has no requirements and, once granted, there is no oversight whatsoever.

Policy LBE is solely limited to the subject of religious exemption from compulsory education, and was adopted to acknowledge what the Board interpreted as the law’s requirement that at some point the child has a say in whether she or he is conscientiously opposed to attendance at (any type of) school, based upon religious training or belief.  We believe our interpretation is also consistent with Virginia courts and Virginia’s Attorney General’s opinions.  We stand by our position that Policy LBE does not violate the law, but rather brings us into compliance with the law.

We sought to make the best decision for our community and one that followed the law.  We recognize this is a highly sensitive issue and welcome continued input.

We look forward to hearing from interested persons when we review Policy LBE on January 13, 2015.  The agenda for that meeting is available here.

~Goochland County School Board – our contact information can be found here.

For further reference, please review this document from the University of Virginia Law School:  http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/7000_Children_and_Counting.pdf

GCPS is offering community members the opportunity to learn exciting skills and explore cutting edge trades in the new Career & Technical Facilities. For more information, see the flyer below or contact Bruce Watson, CTE Director.

You must pre-register for these first-come, first-served classes, so don’t delay! Click the image below to access the flyer:

This wonderful piece appeared in Richmond Magazine, detailing the ongoing work of the Goochland Historical Society in preserving and publishing treasured vintage photographs depicting life in the county. One of the installations is in the hallway of our high school, where pictures have been mounted and captions developed by GHS students and teacher, Kenneth Bouwens.

We look forward to additional promotion of this ongoing partnership between the school division and the Historical Society in the future.