Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Take Your Legislators to School" was a Success!

Senator Stanley, Mary Franklin (Del. Marshall's Office)
and Del. Adams talking with Warrior Tech Students
This week, we invited several of our legislators to visit our schools to learn more about the programs we have available to students in HCPS.  We were fortunate to have Senator Bill Stanley, Delegate Les Adams, and Mary Franklin (from Delegate Danny Marshall's Office) take us up on the offer!  The tour started at NCI and the group finished with a tour of several classes and programs at Magna Vista High School.  Our legislators were very interested in our programs, and they asked several times how they can help support our efforts in HCPS.

I joined the group for part of the tour.  I was most impressed with our students.  Mrs. Black, principal of Magna Vista High School, selected several student leaders to serve as tour guides for the tour. These student leaders planned the tour for the visitors, and took the lead by explaining the exciting work they are involved in at school and sharing information about their learning experiences.  I was impressed by their leadership and communication skills.  This is another example of a time when I have been reminded of the importance of high expectations.  We have to always remember that students rise to these expectations each and every day.  Our students have incredible potential to be leaders, we just need to "get out of their way" and provide them with opportunities to show leadership.  Our legislators were very impressed with our school division, but I think they were more impressed with our students!  In my opinion, this is how you determine the effectiveness of a school and school division.  Our students need to be the ones who tell the story through their success.

Legislators learning about FFA Programs at MVHS
Goal 1: High Quality Instruction
Goal 5: Family and Community Engagement

Thank You General Via for Your Visit to HCPS!

General Via Speaking to Students at Bassett High School
I didn't know General Dennis Via very well before this week, but now I am one of his biggest fans!  If you don't know General Via, he is a hometown hero for Henry County and Martinsville.  He grew up in Henry County and graduated from GW Carver when it was a high school.  Today, he is one of 12 four star Army generals in the United States.  However, I would argue that General Via is much more than that.  He is an inspiration to all of us.  As a part of his visit to HCPS, he made it a priority to visit as many schools as possible.  At each school site, he took time to speak to students in order to "give back" to the community that supported him during his youth.  I was impressed with his message to our students.  Some of the items below represent just some of the important points that he shared with our young people during his visits to schools:

  • It all starts with education!
  • Find your passion and become and expert in it.
  • You must work hard every day because there are no shortcuts in life.
  • Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.
  • It is important to always be a good person and a good friend.
  • Good manners can take you far in life.
General Via with BHS Assistant Principals R. Proffitt and T. Gravely
In addition to his powerful message to students, I was also impressed with his commitment to thanking those who supported him during his youth in Henry County.  He talked about individual teachers and counselors who had a profound impact on his life.  It reminded me of the power a teacher, counselor, bus driver, custodian, and/or cafeteria worker can have on the life of a child.  Everyone in the school division has a unique opportunity to have a positive impact on a child each day.  At any time, any one of us can be the "caring adult" who changes the path for a child's future.  You never know how your kind words, warm smile, high expectations, or unwavering support can change the course of a student's life.  This was a powerful reminder for me as an educator.  Thank you, General Via for your visit and your powerful message to students and staff.  We look forward to welcoming you back to HCPS in the future.  You are a true hero in our eyes!

Goal 5: Family and Community Engagement

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Horticulture and Agriculture Program at MVHS = Relevant Learning for Students!

Greenhouse at Magna Vista High School
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to tour several of our schools with a fellow superintendent from Pennsylvania.  On our first stop, we visited Warrior Tech Academy at Magna Vista High School.  In addition, I took her down the hall to meet Mr. Holland and Mrs. Barker who teach the popular horticulture and agriculture courses at MVHS.  Whenever I talk to these fine educators, I quickly determine why students enjoy their programs.  Both Mr. Holland and Mrs. Barker are excited about their curriculum and their excitement is contagious.  As we talked to both of them yesterday, I was reminded of the importance of these programs for students.  Certainly, students learn a great deal about horticulture, agriculture, and veterinary science.  However, they learn so much more than that.  In HCPS, we are working on the 4 C's (Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication).  In the short time that I was in the classes yesterday, I saw several examples of these skills.  For example, the students in Mrs. Barker's class were busy preparing for their annual Wedding Show.  I saw students being creative as they worked to select a theme that has not been used in the past.  In addition, they had to "think outside the box" to apply the selected theme to the show.  I also saw students working collaboratively  to complete the project as a team.  When I stopped by to visit with Mr. Holland, he explained how he works with students to make the learning relevant to life outside of the classroom.  Both teachers have students sell their products to see how the business side works.  I left feeling that we need to create more opportunities like this in all of our career and technical education programs.  In addition, we need to work toward creating this type of learning environment in the core classes (English, mathematics, science, and social studies).  Students should be excited about their learning and as educators it is our job to make the learning relevant.  Thanks for Mrs. Barker and Mr. Holland for setting a great example for all of us!  

Goal 1: High Quality Instruction

No Bullies in HCPS!

"Bullies Make Us Sick" Display at Carver Elementary
As Superintendent for Henry County Public Schools, I have the opportunity to visit schools throughout the year.  Last week, I visited G. W. Carver Elementary.  As a fall activity, each of the classrooms decorated a pumpkin to put on display in front of their classroom.  I was immediately drawn to this display in from of Ms. Shelburne's preschool class.  The pumpkin display had the caption, "Bullies Still Make Us Sick."  Mrs. Edmonds, the principal, told me that the class created a similar display last year.  This year the teacher and students decided to continue with this important message and they added the word "still" to emphasize how important it is to get this message out.  As a part of our strategic plan in HCPS, EnVision 2018, we are working to maintain a safe and orderly environment in all of our schools.  I've learned over the years that our parents and students play a critical role in this process.  It is so important for students to report any safety or other concerns to a responsible and caring adult in the school.  It is my expectation that HCPS staff address any and all concerns in a timely manner.  Sometimes our students would prefer to report these concerns or issues to their parents.  As a result, it is so important that our parents contact the school principal to immediately share these concerns so that they can be addressed.  Certainly, our parent/school partnership is vital in matters like this.  We want all students to feel safe and respected in our schools.   It is important for everyone to work together to ensure student success!
Goal 3:  Safe and Orderly Schools