Check out this amazing blog post from John Hendron on Trimble SketchUp for use in the classroom.  This program is an excellent introduction to 3D Drawing and Design (and the soon-to-be 3D printing)!  John will be presenting on SketchUp as part of his leadership and partnership in VSTE (the Virginia Society for Technology in Education).

 

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Mark Fernandes (our convocation speaker this year) is returning to Goochland on January 30 to meet with faculty and staff serving in leadership roles to continue our conversation on Values Based Leadership.  Even though we have asked some of our teacher leaders to attend, we want to open this session to anyone that would like to join us as well.  As a team member that started after convocation, I have been inspired by Mark’s work outside of Goochland and hope that this session will ignite our discussions as we formulate a team to draft an updated strategic plan for GCPS beginning in February. We hope to see you there!

The school board held their first budget workshop since the presentation of the Superintendent’s proposed budget.  At the workshop, the board members took the time to discuss the budget line by line with each of the principals and directors in the school division.  This detailed analysis is the first time that Goochland board members have discussed the budget at this level of detail.  Additionally, principals and directors shared with board members that they appreciated the collaborative approach we have taken to develop the budget.  We have tried to make sure that all stakeholder voices are heard in developing a fiscal plan for the next school year.  Please come out to our public hearing on January 22, our last workshop on January 29, or on February 5 when we adopt the FY14 GCPS Budget!

Mr. Lumpkins worked with our high school and middle school principal to gain insight into our Secondary programs.

Mrs. Hardy worked with Dr. Geyer and our Elementary principals:

Mr. Wright discusses our Administrative budget (with a view of all 5 break-out sessions):

One more reminder… the public hearing on the budget will be Tuesday, January 22 in our new location in the County Administration Building at our new time of 6:30 p.m.  See you then!

We held our “annual meeting” as part of the regular school board meeting this week.  We are excited announce school board leadership for 2013 – Mr. Wright (District 5) was elected chairman and Mr. Payne (District 1) was elected vice-chairman.  The school board also agreed to hold all future school board meetings at 6:30pm instead of 7pm. (with a closed meeting at 6pm if there is a need to discuss personnel, discipline, or legal matters). Additionally, we will begin holding school board meetings at the County Administration Building beginning January 22 (with the exception of February 5).  A full schedule of our board meetings is posted here.  Lastly, the board set some tentative “themes” for workshop meetings and those topics are posted here.

One of our new additions to the board meetings is called “Reflections.”  During this time, we will highlight a program from each school every month.  Dr. Geyer wrote about our latest reflection and how it stole the show!

This week we welcomed our students back from the Winter Break.  I was so impressed to see our students engaged is high-impact activities immediately upon our return!

Often times, we talk in terms of the 5 schools that we have in Goochland, but really we have many more school opportunities for our students, including our two Governor’s School Opportunities – Blue Ridge and Maggie Walker.  On Thursday, Mr. Hazzard (District 2 School Board Member), Ms. Hardy (District 4 School Board Member), and I had the opportunity to have an in-depth tour of the school, but one highlight was the opportunity to eat lunch with a few of our local Governor’s School students to learn more about the program.  The students spoke at length about how hard, yet rewarding, the program is.  We hope that everyone thinks of Maggie Walker as one of their schools!  The school board has committed to increase our enrollment by 3 additional students per year over a four year period to a total of 28 students by 2017.

We also began the process of meeting with each school to discuss data and how we can better meet the needs of ALL our students.  After each data meeting, we spent time visiting classes and I was so impressed to see a safety lesson being presented through a partnership with our Fire and Rescue Department.  Earl Taylor leads this discussion and we were so impressed about how he taught safety in an engaging way with our students.

Last week, I shared that Governor McDonnell visited Goochand.  On Wednesday of this week, the Governor presented his annual State of the Commonwealth.  As a “thank you” for hosting him in Goochland (and for John Lumpkins (District 3) speaking at his first press conference), the Governor asked Mr. Lumpkins and I to sit in the gallery of the General Assembly to view the State of the Commonwealth speech.  I have seen these speeches on TV in the past and it was an honor to have been asked to be there in person.  While there, though, we ran into Alex Herrera, the Goochland student chosen to serve as a Page in the House of Delegates.

Ms. East, our assistant principal at GMS, shared this post about an iBook about nature that Bea Cantor, our instructional technology resource teacher, published on iTunes!

If you are a user of social media, Mr. Hendron created this document to explain all of the ways that you can engage with Goochland County Public Schools.   He also created this video about how to get all of your favorite blogs (i.e. your child’s teachers) into an email digest.

The GHS Fall Athletic Awards program was held Thursday evening.  Congratulations to all of our Fall programs and to our numerous district champions including Cross Country, Volleyball, JV Football, and Cheerleading!  Of course, congratulations to our State Champion High School football team!

Lastly, please don’t forget we have our workshop on the budget this Wednesday, January 16, at 6:30pm at GHS!

At the school board meeting on January 8, we presented the proposed budget to the school board as part of their regular business meeting.  Please click HERE to view our budget calendar and to see the documents we have prepared thus far in our budget process.  We plan to share budget information in a transparent manner, so we will also date each of the documents as we post them.  My recommendation is that you click on the most recent documents.  Other than the presentation that I prepared as a summary for the board, there are four other documents to view:

The proposed budget is based on level funding as requested by our county leadership and a 9.2% reduction in all federal programs if sequestration occurs; however, we are extremely excited to announce that we were able to bring many updates to our budget, including:

  • We added a Title I Pre-K Classroom at Byrd Elementary meaning that we will now be able to offer free early childhood education for 18 of our most needy 4-year old students each year (approximately 36% percent of families with 4-year olds in the Byrd District)
  • Our Career and Technical Education program is expanding through additional equipment funding to bring us from 10 to 12 Career Pathways that will be offered at Goochland High School
  • We will complete the state-mandated phase-in of the new VRS rates immediately rather than continuing to phase over the next 3 years.  Teachers and all VRS eligible staff will now pay an additional 4% (for a total of 5%) of their salary as a VRS contribution, but we are going to match that with a 4.66% pay increase for all teachers to make sure that their take-home pay is not impacted
  • We reinstated the funding for the Summer Regional Governor’s School
  • Many other line-item adjustments were made to provide programmatic support for our teachers, such as funds for science lab equipment, band uniforms, etc.

The proposed budget does not call for a salary increase for faculty/staff above and beyond the VRS-based increase listed above.  In a letter from county administration, we were asked to provide the cost of a 1% salary increase as a figure above and beyond our budget.  My presentation provides this figure along with a figure necessary to fund the local match of the Governor’s proposed 2% pay increase – we would have to request an additional $222,000.

To see detail on all of these programs and other items proposed in our budget, the copy of the presentation that I made to the board is posted here.

We want our budget to be reflective of the needs of our schools and the innovations sought by our community.  For this reason, if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to email or call me at any time!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you had a restful and relaxing Winter break.  We have spent much of the break focused on our proposed budget.  Please take note that the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget will be presented to the school board tomorrow (Tuesday, January 8) at 7pm at GHS during our regular board meeting.  I will write a blog post later this week with specific budget details, but please join us if you want to hear the update in person.  After each public meeting, we will post our budget details on the school division website HERE.  Please check back either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning to see a copy of my presentation and the budget detail documents.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time!

Also, last month, we introduced the idea of moving our board meetings to 6:30pm and to the County Administration building.  The school board will vote on that measure tomorrow night and if approved, we will have our first meeting in the new location at the new time on January 22.

For clarification, budget meetings this month will be:

  • January 8 – 7pm – GHS – Superintendent’s Proposed Budget
  • January 16 – 6:30pm – GHS – Budget Workshop
  • January 22 – 6:30pm – County Admin Bldg – Budget Public Hearing
  • January 29 – 6:30pm – County Admin Bldg – Budget Workshop
  • February 5 – 6:30pm – GHS*** – Final Budget Approval by the School Board (***County Admin Bldg was not available)
We will also be adopting our Capital Improvement Plan on February 5 and have vacancies available if any citizens would like to serve on the Facilities Committee.  If you live in Districts 2, 4, or 5, please contact Dr. Gretz for more information.

Governor McDonnell visits Goochland Middle School!

The other major news from the break was the visit by Governor Bob McDonnell.  The Governor chose Goochland Middle School to release his education-related legislative agenda.   The full press release from the Governor’s Office is located HERE.  Mrs. Burdette and I were honored to have been asked to speak at the press conference, a copy of the comments that I gave are posted HERE.  Thank you so much to the numerous parents and citizens that attended to support us!  Also, all five of our school board members and numerous other local officials (including four members of our Board of Supervisors) were in attendance and we thank them for taking the time out of their schedules.

Governor McDonnell, we would like to thank you, Secretary Fornash, and Deputy Secretary Siddiqi for choosing our county for this announcement!

Here is the full-length video of the press conference. We posted the full un-edited stream, please jump to 9:22 to see the beginning with the Governor’s entrance and Secretary Fornash’s introduction of Mrs. Burdette.  Mrs. Burdette begins speaking at 11:22.  Governor McDonnell begins at 13:33.  My speech begins at 35:08.  Thanks to Mr. Hendron for many of the pictures and for posting this video!

The Governor Arrives at GMS/GHS.

The Governor Meets Our Impressive Students.

Mrs. Burdette Introduces the Governor.

We were all so honored to be on stage with the Governor.

Thank you so much to everyone from Goochland that joined us in the audience!

Look at all of our proud parents!

Finally, it has been a couple weeks now, but I just have to highlight a few activities from before the holidays.  At Goochland Elementary School, Mrs. McCay shared with me that we had books donated by the Delta Kappa Gamma Chapter of Alpha Epsilon to our Headstart Program.  The students were so happy to receive their books and we thank you so much for your donation!

I was also impressed to see this post about brain-based learning from Amie Potter, one of our GIST facilitators.

Lastly, many of you know that our Goochland Bulldogs won their State Football Championship, but we are also proud to announce that the Touchdown Club of Richmond named Coach Fowler as his group’s Coach of the Year!!  He will be honored at a reception later this month, please wish him congratulations!

Have a great new year and an amazing 2nd semester!

Governor McDonnell, on behalf of the Goochland School Board and the Board of Supervisors and our Community, we want to thank you for being here to share your message with us this afternoon.  I am so impressed with the number of teachers, students, and community members that have come today and I cannot begin to tell you how much your support of our schools means to our school division.  We are an innovative school division and your presence here today affirms our efforts to build a model rural school division with world-class schools are beginning to reach outside of our county lines.    We also believe Goochland is primed for greater economic development and we know our schools are the key to building a stronger economy in Goochland and in the Richmond-metro region.

We would like to commend you on your proposal to implement the K-12 Red Tape Reduction Act.  Furthermore, the additional staffing flexibility you have proposed will free up funding for small rural schools to target specific needs, especially those we see in our own school division.  We know our students.  Any move to bring more local control regarding what is best for our students should be looked upon favorably.  The flexibility you have proposed will provide Goochland an easier path towards implementing new innovative initiatives that may not be permitted in the current state regulations.  We realize that greater flexibility will lead to greater accountability, but we are confident we can demonstrate that making allowances for innovation will also lead to more opportunities and higher achievement.

We also appreciate your efforts to bring the focus back to literacy in the early grades.  The educational research is clear on the importance of reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.  Your proposal to give struggling schools the flexibility to focus on reading and reduce the number of SOL tests given to students is a very strong step in the right direction.  We share the belief that social studies and science are extremely important and must remain a focus, but we would like to see these tests removed permanently from the 3rd grade in all schools.  We realize that Goochland’s schools are high-performing and will not qualify for this funding and flexibility this year, but we view your proposal today as a move towards offering this flexibility to all schools in the near future.  Furthermore, reading specialists are absolutely essential at the elementary level and we are supportive of your decision to provide funding for these vital positions and hope they become a permanent fixture in the Standards of Quality with funding for all schools in the future.

We also believe that Algebra Readiness is a key component in improving graduation rates and college success.  For this reason, Goochland implemented an initiative to have all 8th grade students complete Algebra and even with the new and more rigorous SOLs, 92% of our 8th graders met the mark.  We hope that your Algebra Readiness initiative will give us the support needed to reach those last few students and we thank you for making this a focus.

Lastly, one of our school board members, John Lumpkins spoke last month in support of your proposal to increase the teacher probationary period and fix the grievance process and we continue to support your efforts to reform teacher contract legislation while protecting the due process rights of our teachers.

Thank you again for coming to Goochland, we have a small gift for you to help you remember your time at one of the best schools in the world.

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!