One of the hallmarks of  our tremendous County is the presence of an army of community volunteers. These selfless people give their energy, time and unique skill sets to the greater mission of inspiring and maximizing the potential of our students.

We feel it’s important to remind everyone of our stance on the issue of requiring volunteers to submit to a background check.

The Code of Virginia requires that:

As a condition of employment, school boards of the Commonwealth shall require any applicant who is offered or accepts employment after July 1, 1989, whether full-time or part-time, permanent, or temporary, to submit to fingerprinting and to provide personal descriptive information to be forwarded along with the applicant’s fingerprints through the Central Criminal records Exchange to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the purpose of obtaining criminal history record information regarding such applicant. (Code Reference)

 

Let’s be clear. School Boards in Virginia are required by law to do a background check on anyone who’s going to work in the school division – no matter what capacity or how long they plan to work. Hourly tutors doing remediation for a week, evening custodians, substitute teachers – doesn’t matter. If we’re going to employ them for even one hour, the law says they need to be fingerprinted.

In Goochland, we have chosen to closely follow the guidelines for employees as we consider our volunteers. We have flexibility, but have chosen only to exercise it in very unique circumstances.

The guidelines we use include two simple questions:

  • Will the volunteer ever be unsupervised with children?
  • Will the volunteer be regularly spending time with children?

If the answer is “yes” to either question, we require a background check. Like the Code, we don’t not attempt to draw lines among people – those we know/don’t know, those our friends know/don’t know, those who seem trustworthy/seem suspicious, those with whom we’ve worked before/those who we’ve never met.

That’s a fruitless exercise and a very slippery slope. We all know people we trust explicitly and would never suggest they are a danger to your children. Our commitment is to ensure every parent that we will not give any adult access to their children, unsupervised or repeated, without ensuring that adult has completed the background check – the same one required by law of our employees.

We believe it’s our obligation to confidently look our community in the eyes and say we are doing all we can to ensure your children are safe at school.

It can be awkward to require those who have been volunteering in past years without the background check and doing inspiring work in our schools to submit to a fingerprint check. Those are often individuals who are well-known to be powerful positive influences in our community. It seems to be an affront to the selfless and generous spirit those people have poured out when we ask them to go through a criminal background check. It’s as though we think they might be criminals.

We don’t. Just as we don’t suspect the exemplary candidates to whom we offer jobs in our division to be criminals either. But as the law requires that we screen all employees, we extend that same level of precaution to all adults who will have repeated or unsupervised access to your children. No matter who they are.

Not because we suspect they need it, but because we want every parent to rest easy that we aren’t making that kind of subjective judgement call when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of their children.

We would never want to offend anyone, especially our wonderful volunteers. It’s even more important to us that every parent, after they put their children on a bus or drop them off at the school doors, goes into the day will absolute certainty that their children are safe.

Your child’s safety is non-negotiable.

Hello GCPS Families,

We are writing to make you aware of a situation that occurred today.  Through various outlets including social media, many students and families have become concerned that there have been threats of violence at Goochland High School tomorrow. We wanted to be sure our information was verified and  accurate before releasing an official statement to our community.

We are aware of these threats and have been working diligently with law enforcement to determine an appropriate response.  Additionally, as we have been made aware of students that are involved in this incident we have asked our law enforcement partners to contact or visit families of the rumored student(s) this evening if they have not already been in touch with the families.  Whereas our investigation has not led us to believe there are any credible threats, we are handling each students’ situation per our student code of conduct and our law enforcement partners are also considering consequences.

We are treating this situation with utmost seriousness and attention. As an added measure, the Sheriff has agreed to have a deputy on site immediately.  Additionally, we will have the entire shift at the GMS/GHS complex tomorrow along with another unit at GES.

The safety of our students and staff is our absolute top priority. Our law enforcement partners and the GCPS administration believe there is no credible threat at this time; however to ensure the security of the school we will have additional law enforcement presence throughout the day.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.  Thanks!

Goochland County Public Schools have been chosen to receive $24,000 in funding to support safety preparedness initiatives during the 2015-16 school year. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced last week that the Commonwealth has awarded $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to help ensure the safety of Virginia’s schools.

The committee that developed the grant application included:

  • Sonny Turner, Maintenance Supervisor
  • Peter Martin, Network Administrator and Technical Services Coordinator
  • Robin Powers, Accounting Technician
  • Tom DeWeerd, Director of technology and Administration
  • Bruce Watson, Director of Career & Technical Education
  • Peter Gretz, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations

The grant funds will support key initiatives, identified through the work of the GCPS Crisis & School Safety Task Force as well as continued partnership with the Goochland Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue Department. Specifically, this year’s award will enable the division to:

  • establish communication between Goochland High School and Goochland Tech,
  • establish communication between Goochland High School and Goochland PREP,
  • upgrade communication between Goochland Elementary and the ESCE Preschool (2nd floor of Goochland Tech),
  • provide new two-way radios to all schools, including Goochland Tech, the ESCE Preschool, and Goochland PREP,
  • install amplification of the intercom system in shop labs at Goochland Tech where noisy equipment and machinery can make communication challenging, and
  • purchase and implement a “Panic Button” software solution that will enable access to a mobile panic alarm, emergency notification, real-time location tracking, and a mass update system to better facilitate communication and resolution of emergency situations in all school facilities.

“We intend for our schools to be places where students, staff and community members can pursue deeper learning,” superintendent James Lane said. “As we work together to maximize the potential of every learner, we must also commit to ensure that all of our schools are safe.”

The School Security Equipment Grant program was established by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

“All those who visit our schools throughout the school year will be safer today because of this grant award,” school board chairman John Lumpkins said. “This will provide our schools and first responders with necessary tools to respond quickly and effectively if a security threat does arise.”

Goochland County Public Schools have been chosen to receive $24,000 in funding to support safety preparedness initiatives during the 2015-16 school year. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced last week that the Commonwealth has awarded $6 million in School Security Equipment Grants to help ensure the safety of Virginia’s schools.

The committee that developed the grant application included:

  • Sonny Turner, Maintenance Supervisor
  • Peter Martin, Network Administrator and Technical Services Coordinator
  • Robin Powers, Accounting Technician
  • Tom DeWeerd, Director of technology and Administration
  • Bruce Watson, Director of Career & Technical Education
  • Peter Gretz, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations

The grant funds will support key initiatives, identified through the work of the GCPS Crisis & School Safety Task Force as well as continued partnership with the Goochland Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue Department. Specifically, this year’s award will enable the division to:

  • establish communication between Goochland High School and Goochland Tech,
  • establish communication between Goochland High School and Goochland PREP,
  • upgrade communication between Goochland Elementary and the ESCE Preschool (2nd floor of Goochland Tech),
  • provide new two-way radios to all schools, including Goochland Tech, the ESCE Preschool, and Goochland PREP,
  • install amplification of the intercom system in shop labs at Goochland Tech where noisy equipment and machinery can make communication challenging, and
  • purchase and implement a “Panic Button” software solution that will enable access to a mobile panic alarm, emergency notification, real-time location tracking, and a mass update system to better facilitate communication and resolution of emergency situations in all school facilities.

“We intend for our schools to be places where students, staff and community members can pursue deeper learning,” superintendent James Lane said. “As we work together to maximize the potential of every learner, we must also commit to ensure that all of our schools are safe.”

The School Security Equipment Grant program was established by the 2013 General Assembly in the aftermath of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Virginia students, teachers, administrators, support staff — and the parents and others who visit our schools throughout the school year — are safer today because of this program,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “This program enhances school safety and gives our schools and first responders the tools they need to keep out intruders and respond quickly and effectively if a security threat does arise.”

 

We have revised the alternative “snow bus routes” that could potentially be used in periods of inclement weather. You can click on either route sheet below to enlarge:

 

“Will these alternate routes be used every time there is snow on the roads?”

No. Use of these routes is dependent upon main artery roads being safe for travel. We will coordinate our alternate system with VDOT so that they are aware of which roads need attention in order for these routes to be implemented.

“Does this mean we will never close school again for snow?”

No. It is absolutely possible that we will need to close schools again for inclement weather, even with these alternative routes in place. Main artery roads need to be safe for travel before we implement these routes. It should also be noted that these alternative routes are disruptive for many parents’ schedules. They enable us to open schools but they still require that people make personal arrangements that often pose an inconvenience.

These routes will only be used when (a) the main roads that feed the routes are safe for buses and (b) our only alternative would be to close the schools.

“Will there be approximate pick up/drop off times posted?”

Parents are now asked to meet the buses five minutes before the pick-up/drop-off time. When and if we implement these routes, we ask parents arrive at the stops ten minutes early.

“What about children who don’t have transportation to get to the alternate stops?”

The alternate bus routes do provide an opportunity to open schools during extended periods of inclement weather, provided the main arteries of travel that “feed” the alternate stops are clear and safe. The alternate routes, however, are not always convenient for families and they do not fully mitigate the disruption that comes with schedule changes related to unsafe road conditions.

Late openings, early dismissals, and school cancellations disrupt the patterns of many families’ routines. Parents are often forced to make childcare arrangements, sometimes at the last minute. Often parents find it necessary to miss work so they can be home with their children.

The alternative bus routes address some of those issues, but not all. Anything other than door-to-door transportation service will necessitate parents arranging for children to be brought to the common stop identified in the alternate route system. If it’s raining or excessively cold, some may find taking their children to the alternate stop problematic.

Alternate routes are typically only implemented when the division is in danger of missing an inordinate number of days. They enable us to open schools and continue instruction; they do not solve many of the convenience issues parents face during weather-related schedule changes.

“Does this mean children will be dropped off at the alternate stops in the afternoon and parents will need to be there to pick them up?”

Yes. Parents will need to arrange to meet the bus at the alternate stop ten minutes earlier than their regular drop-off time. Though this will cause disruption to many parents’ schedules, I can assure you will only implement these routes when the alternative would be an entire day of absence. Unfortunately there is no other method of establishing an alternate route that avoids unsafe, uncleared secondary roads except to implement stops that are not door-to-door.

“What if I determine that the conditions are not safe for me to transport my child to the alternate bus stop. Will my child’s absence be excused?”

Yes. On days when our schools are open using the alternate snow routes, we will excuse absences for students whose parents are unable to transport to and from the alternate bus route. Students who drive whose parents deem the conditions unsafe for driving will also be excused on days when the alternative routes are implemented.

 

We are honoring anti-bullying month in each of our facilities. Each school is pursuing activities to bring the issue to the forefront of student attention and to set the stage for a yearlong focus on honorable, respectful behavior among all GCPS community members.

GMS Principal Jennifer Smith stands next to the box in which students are encouraged to place anonymous feedback regarding bullying and behavior in the school.

We encourage you to note the updates we will offer throughout the month in the blogs and GCPS Facebook and Twitter feeds.

GCPS families,

We will again be administering the Gallup Student Poll measuring Hope, Engagement and Well-being.

The poll is absolutely anonymous and will be administered during school hours. Over 600,000 students from over 2,000 schools, nationwide, will participate in the survey. The data we receive will not identify any specific students, but will give us a picture of how our students are perceiving their experience with us generally.

View the Student Survey Questions Here.

If you would like to opt your child out of the survey, please contact me directly in writing, either by email or letter, no later than Monday, October 6, 2014.

Someone is killed in a distracted driver accident every 11 minutes.

Goochland High School will be hosting a “Distracted Driving Campaign” next week, May 12-16. GHS teacher and coach, Wes Farkas, and his students developed the slogan “Don’t Be Next!” All students and staff who drive will have the opportunity to sign a pledge to safe and undistracted driving. Please encourage your student to sign the pledge!

Next Friday, May 16, the entire 10th grade class will be wearing either a pink or black T-shirt to give the school a representation of the number of people that are killed during an 8 hour time period (an average school day), due to distracted driving. Drivers are not only distracted by cell phone use and texting, but also eating, music, drinking or other various things that take our attention on the driving task.

T-shirt designed by GHS 10 grade students and teacher, Wes Farkas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Shirts represent individuals that are alive due to NOT being distracted, and students wearing black shirts will represent those who are killed. Studies estimate that someone is killed in a distracted driving accident every 11 minutes. There will be 43 GHS students wearing black T-shirts. They will not be allowed to talk or use their cell phone for the entire school day.

Please wear pink in support of this effort next Friday, May 16, and sign the pledge to driving without distractions.

May 7, 2014, is National School Nurse Day. Join us in celebrating National School Nurse Day as a way to foster a better understanding of the role of school nurses in the educational setting.

Today’s children face more chronic health illnesses (e.g., asthma, diabetes, food allergies, etc.) than ever before. The knowledge, assessment skills, and judgment of licensed professional school nurses help ensure the provision of quality health care to children. School nurses take on a variety of roles every day. For many children, the school nurse is the only health professional they may have access to, except in emergencies. This becomes even more important as the prevalence of chronic social, emotional, and other health problems increase.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asthma is the leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have asthma. Further, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Today, approximately one in every 400 children and adolescents has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. According to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. The CDC reports that food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4-6 percent of children in the United States. School nurses help develop, implement, and monitor Individualized Healthcare Plans for these students.

We appreciate our school nurses, who contribute to our local communities by helping students stay healthy, in school, and ready to learn.

At 8:30 a.m. this morning, the Goochland County Public School System collaborated with the Sheriff’s Office to do a drug search at Goochland High School using the Goochland Canine Unit.  The school followed lock-down procedures during the search. Random classrooms were searched after students were removed from the rooms.  The search was concluded at 9:35 a.m.

We are happy to report that the search revealed no evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia at Goochland High School today!

Goochland County Public Schools have no tolerance for drugs or drug paraphernalia at school.  We believe that random searches of our building are imperative to ensuring that your child attends a safe and orderly school.

Please understand that while we are committed to keeping our parents informed immediately during emergency situations, we will not announce these types of events in advance or while they are underway in order to maintain a safe school environment and to ensure the efficacy of our efforts.

Don’t hesitate to contact me or your child’s principal if you have any questions or concerns.