A Resolution for the New Year

January 1, 2012

Strings Duet

As a former teacher, elementary school principal, and currently as Superintendent, I’ve always found the time before and after winter break to be one of my favorite times of the year on our calendar.  Our schools use this season to organize concerts and special events, celebrate our community service organizations and support families in need in their local communities. When I received an email today about one of our student performance groups at First Night Virginia, I was reminded that our performing arts students work during the winter break to share their talents throughout the community.

We emphasize life-long learning skills in our mission statement and our teachers work very hard and creatively in the classroom to deliver core content that engages our students.  Just as important are those outside-the-textbook skills that were on such prominent display these past few weeks—caring for others, collaborating with teammates, fine-tuning performances until they were just right, and adapting to solve unanticipated problems.  Together, all of these capabilities shape success.

This also is a time of year for reflection upon the many contributions our students receive from our families and volunteers.  We are grateful for the suggestions and advice from our advisory councils and parent teacher organizations.  We appreciate all those in our community who come to our concerts, plays, sporting events and celebrations to encourage our students and cheer their achievements.  We benefit from the volunteers who assist teachers and students in the classroom.  In today’s highly demanding environment, every one of you makes a measureable difference in the lives of our students.

Finally, this also is the time of the year for resolutions.  Mine is to set the aspirational bar high for our students and  ourselves as educators, then work as hard and imaginatively as I can to provide the resources and support our teachers and students need to excel.   I’m hoping  you’ll join me in making a resolution of your own to participate in our school community—by devoting at least two hours a month to attending a school event, serving on a committee, volunteering in a school or offering your ideas for how we can improve a program.  Our students need you.

For more information about volunteer opportunities, please contact one of our schools or the Office of Community Engagement. Thank you for supporting our young people and the educators in our schools.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Pam Moran


A Community Speaks

December 8, 2011

Among the most difficult decisions a school division has to make occurs when the trailers start going up and it’s obvious there no longer will be enough classrooms in the school building for all students.

Many of the options when enrollments exceed capacity can be costly.  Building additions or constructing a new school can impact a budget by millions of dollars.  No one welcomes more trailers or increases in class sizes.  Parents are reluctant to see their child shifted to another school that has space available even when their current school is overcrowded.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few months to see all of these issues play out up close and personal in my role as the chair of a community advisory committee. Our committee has been looking at redistricting options that could affect four of our elementary schools.  The experience has been illuminating (I’ve learned a lot), rewarding (We’ve had some excellent ideas from parents) and enjoyable (We’ve become good friends and we’re making progress).

What’s impressed me the most is the willingness of our volunteers to resist the overwhelming temptation to look at redistricting strictly from their own interests. Our volunteers, instead, have been very serious about doing what’s best for students and families throughout the division.

Committee members have been industrious in developing hard data points for future enrollment; they have been thoughtful about the impact of various options on neighborhoods and they have been very empathetic about how the transfers of students would affect programs and services.

In short, the volunteers have us focused on what’s important.  That’s been proven in the public meetings we’ve held on whether and how we should redistrict families to different schools next fall.  Speakers have reminded us of the importance of maintaining services for special education students, of the value of after-school programs funded by local community service organizations that could be impacted and of how highly they value the teachers and staff in their current schools.

The committee will make its recommendations to the Superintendent this month and the School Board will make a decision early next year.  The good news is that all of our schools provide outstanding programs and services to students.  The even better news is that parent and community volunteers and speakers have brought tremendous value to the decision-making process.  I’m convinced we’ll find the right solutions for our students and their families as a result.

– Josh Davis, Chief Operating Officer

Memorial Day 2011: In Remembrance

May 30, 2011

On this Memorial Day, I am reminded that while our young people remain home from school, it’s an opportunity for their first teachers, parents, to actively engage in sharing the significance of Memorial Day as a national holiday. Memorial Day, unlike Veterans Day, is a day of remembrance of those who gave up their lives in service to the United States of America.  Today, all of us who live as U.S. citizens, some who have fought for our nation, and many who have not, are called to remind ourselves and others that the supreme sacrifice of a few preserves liberty for the many.

Fifth Graders Raise Flag as a Daily Responsibility

America has been involved in a string of wars in our own country, on this continent, and abroad since the American Revolution launched us as a fledgling country into our fight for independence. Despite this first war of our nation and the second that followed in 1812, the United States became an ally of Great Britain and our soldiers alongside the Brits fought the two great wars of the 20th century, World Wars I and II. We have fought in wars that have been well supported by our citizenry and some that have engendered conflicts of note within that same citizenry.

Over the two and a half centuries of our existence as a nation, soldiers have gone into battle for people in distant countries of seeming insignificance to the United States. Soldiers have fought to protect the rights of Americans to oppose the very war in which they themselves serve.  They’ve laid down their lives in staggering numbers so that we may go safely to work each day, choose to worship or not, and speak a range of political opinions despite who is in power. We have celebrated U.S. Memorial Day since 1868 to honor those who have died in service of us.

Monticello High Air Force JROTC

It’s difficult to find a family in America, current immigrants included, that has not had or does not have a service member in their midst. I walk the cemetery where my father lies under a Veterans Administration memorial plaque and I think of his service today. My mother’s name is already imprinted on that same plaque in honor of her service as well. I learned from her that Memorial Day isn’t about opening up the local community swimming pool or picnicking at a local park with friends and family. It’s about honoring those who have died so that we can have the chance to do so.

I’m fortunate to have had a mother and father who valued their role as first teachers.  While they were both strong supporters of public education and valued every opportunity my brothers and I had to access learning in a very rural area of the Low Country, they never saw themselves as abdicating responsibility to teach us.

Memorial Day will ever remain an important remembrance for me; not because my parents expected my teachers to make that real for me, but rather because they believed it was their responsibility.  My mother will wear a red poppy today and she will likely recite a few lines from In Flanders Field, written by a Canadian during WWI and the reason we wear those poppies today. I know she will think today about some she knew in WWII who never had the chance to raise families, go to college, experience a long and rich life as she has, and who will remain in a distant land for all time.

The Masters in Reading: A Literacy Return on Investment

May 23, 2011

Educators know that reading serves as a gatekeeper for high school graduation and success in college. Literacy opens pathways in life that otherwise could not be traveled.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. 

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”    

Dr. Seuss

Congratulations, Albemarle Teachers!

Since the 1980s, Albemarle County Public Schools has supported educators in our schools to enroll in the Master’s program in Reading at the University of Virginia. Teacher Laura Shifflett wrote the following piece to summarize the experiences of a cohort of fourteen educators who graduate in 2011 with an advanced degree in reading instruction from the Curry School of Education. Laura walked the full length of the Lawn on May 22 along with her Albemarle classmates.

By Laura Shifflett, secondary English educator:

I started this program as a high school English teacher who simply wanted to learn how to teach my 10th grade students how to read so they could pass their driver’s permit test.  However, in my adventures, I received so much more.  I got to meet, collaborate with, and learn from phenomenal teachers with expertise spanning from elementary through high school.  As I reflect on my journey, I wanted to pass along some numbers that went through my mind and I thought would be of interest:

75+ – The number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who attended the information session about the UVA Reading Program in the Spring of 2008.  The room at the ARC was standing room only.

30 – The original number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who commenced this degree program in Reading Instruction in August 2008.

14 – The final number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who persevered long enough to finish the degree program and will graduate in 2011.

9 – The number of those teachers graduating, who not only taught full time while pursuing this degree, but also left school at the end of the day to tend to their other full time job – as moms and a dad.  Furthermore, one of us is the mother to a handsome young boy with a big, bright smile, who also just happens to have cerebral palsy.

7 – The number of parking tickets we received from UVA!

100+ – The number of miles we walked from Barracks Road parking lot or Ivy Parking Garage to Curry School of Education and back, so we would not receive another parking ticket.

2 – The teachers who had never specifically taught reading to students upon starting this program; rather they introduce students to the excitement of physical education and the creativity of ceramics daily.  Now, reading and writing strategies are innately woven into their art and PE lessons.

1 – To represent the elementary school teacher who had her first child and returned to class just weeks after delivery.  She is now expecting her 2nd child in September.

14 – The number of teachers who are very appreciative of the opportunity to pursue this degree, an opportunity provided by ACPS. We will carry the literacy knowledge gained with us as we continue to work with students of all ages as well as teachers of all experience levels in our schools.

Comments follow from some of the teachers who graduated with Laura on May 22:

“I had such a feeling of pride and accomplishment today.  Receiving a degree from UVA is something I could not have afforded on my own.  I am so grateful to Albemarle County for funding this program.  Thank you so much.  I know my students will benefit from the knowledge I have gained.  I am a better teacher and a better person because of this program.”

“To say that we appreciate the county for giving us this opportunity would be an understatement!”

“I remember when the county offered the first information session about the masters opportunity.  The room was packed and people were standing and sitting on the floor.  It is such an honor to have gone through the program with the wonderful people that I did.  I made new friends with whom I am so proud to walk the Lawn! I am so grateful to the county for the gift of a Masters Degree from UVA!!!”

“We all are so lucky to have a school district that is willing to support us in our growth as teachers.  I have gained so much and I thank the county for letting me be a part of this cohort.”

The value added to our schools as a result of the lifelong learning work of these educators will accrue for years to come as they assist young people who are learning to read, both those who struggle with reading and those to whom literacy comes with more ease. Their work will provide a great return on our investment in them and their investment in the young people they serve. (Pam Moran)