Superintendent Message October 19, 2016


October 19, 2016

Dear families—

We’re now well into the school year, and I hope that most of you have connected with your students’ teachers at back-to-school nights or conferences. We want to work with you to make sure we’re meeting the needs of all our students. We’ve seen a number of examples this month of ways that we challenge and encourage our students to do their best, from all-state jazz musicians to elementary STEM successes to the very special moment when Naia Fairchild was named the CHS homecoming queen.  In the arts, athletics, academics, in gardens, at camps, in labs, or in concert halls, we give our students a wide variety of opportunities to learn and grow.  You can read through this newsletter to see some examples of what we’re already doing.

Of course, we want to be doing more, and we want to be doing better. We will soon begin the process of creating our school division’s six-year strategic plan for 2018-2024. We want to hear from students, parents, teachers, staff, and community members as we dream and create plans to support our students even better.  If you would like to have a role in this process, please write…..

–Dr. Rosa S. Atkins

Division-Wide News

Remember, there will be no school for students on October 28, November 7, and November 8  for professional learning or teacher workdays.  Some schools will hold parent-teacher conferences on November 7.

The draft calendar for the 2017-18 school year has been posted online with a request for community feedback. The calendar is drafted jointly by the Albemarle and Charlottesville schools, through the work of a committee that includes staff and parents.

Charlottesville Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins was named one of two national finalists for the Women in School Leadership Award for Superintendents, sponsored by the School Superintendents Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Thanks to all the United Way Day of Caring volunteers who helped in our classrooms, gardens,  and more on September 21!

Did your student enjoy Farm-to-School Week? (Thanks, City Schoolyard Garden and the Local Food Hub!) If you would like to help our schools make these sorts of efforts more of a year-round reality, consider joining a new parent group that will work with the schools as part of a grant from the health department. You can learn more by joining their Facebook group.

CHS News

The CHS Marching Knights received a prestigious invitation to perform in the London London’s New Year’s Day Parade & Festival in 2018.  Schools are vetted before invitations to the largest New Year’s event in the world. It will be the band’s first international trip!

The band is also enjoying a strong marching season, most recently earning 1st place Percussion, 1st place Music, and 1st place class AAA at the Midlothian High School Showcase of Bands. On October 29 at 2pm, they will  host their annual Cavalcade  competition, a great chance to see and hear top bands from across the state.

CHS earned top honors (again) as a w!se Blue Star school for financial literacy, and the schools’s three economics and personal finance teachers also earned top honors as Yellow Star teachers.  Congratulations to our students and teachers Meagan Maynard, Deb Tewksbury, and  Yumeka Webb-Jordan!

CHS history teacher Zach Bullock was named one of 50 worldwide “flipped ambassadors” by the Flipped Learning Global Initiative.  In flipped classrooms (used by a number of teachers at CHS and in other Charlottesville schools), teachers typically present “lectures” via brief video presentations that students watch as homework. That leaves class time for activities, solving problems, and the opportunity to ask questions of teachers or classmates.

Congrats to Caleb Rose and Stella Sokolowski, just named to the All-State Jazz Ensemble. Only 40 are selected from across Virginia!  And 15 CHS Orchestra members were selected for the 2015 South Central Senior Regional Orchestra!

Elizabeth Bambury and Rachael Inlow took advantage of a Jefferson-Madison Regional Library program, listening in English & español to acclaimed Chilean poet Christian Formoso. iMuy bien!

4 CHS singers singing to support the organization SARA
Knightingales singing to support SARA

Knightingales Brianna Ramirez, Rebecca Sutphin, Casey Casarez, and Kiana Anderson were invited to sing with the UVA Women’s Chorus in a benefit concert for SARA (the Sexual Assault Resource Agency of Charlottesville).

Two signs of diversity….  Photography students have hung an exhibition of their images of CHS students and staff in the atrium.  Part of the national Inside Out project, the images showcase the beauty and diversity of our students.  In addition, a new Latino Student Association has formed and has held events at CHS to promote an appreciation for Latino cultures.

Francis MacCall  and Naia Fairchild, who has Down syndrome, served as king and queen of homecoming, as covered by NBC 29. In March 2015, Naia and her mother offered the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress.

Art I and art II classes visited Ix Art Park to work with local artist Chicho Lorenzo. Students cut stencils and spray-painted their designs on canvas and around the Art Park.

CHS and Buford students explored how businesses use technology in Charlottesville’s annual CBIC Tech Tour.

Students in human biology took a field trip to the U.Va. Health Sciences library, where mentors from the medical school assisted the students with research projects. The students will present their research in the spring.

CHS students recently hosted French peers from Charlottesville’s sister city of Besançon.

Two recent evening events benefited students, a college night and  a workshop about how the latest brain research can make learning easier.

Walker and Buford News

Face-painting at Buford Harvest Festival
Face-painting at Buford Harvest Festival

Buford Middle School enjoyed another successful Harvest Festival, celebrating the school’s amazing garden and community. Thanks to City Schoolyard Garden for their leadership!

Young Women Leaders Program Food Drive
Young Women Leaders Program Food Drive

Buford students and their U.Va. mentors collected more than 2,000 pounds of food for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank through their involvement with the Young Women Leaders Program.

Buford engineering students recently made a presentation at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum to teach national leaders from education, technology, science, history, & math about the school’s innovative engineering partnership with U.Va, the Smithsonian, and other partners.

Learning by building
Learning by building

CHS and Buford students explored how businesses use technology in Charlottesville’s annual CBIC Tech Tour.

Buford history students have been doing some hands-on learning about life on the Great Plains, delivering wheat to the market and building a sod house.

Throughout the month of October, the National Junior Honor Society at Buford Middle School, an organization of 8th graders dedicated to community service, is holding a winter hat and glove drive to help the children of Charlottesville.  Items may be dropped off in the school’s bins.

Congratulations to Buford students Sohl Park, Pray Meh, and Maya Wilmer, who placed 1-2-3 in the Rumi Forum’s Annual Peace and Dialog Art Contest.

Ready for fall foliage? Walker art students beat nature to the punch by creating beautiful leaf-inspired art.

Leaf artworks by Walker students
Details from works by Nyonnika, Isaac, and Hannah.
Jin Pickering Making Lemonade
Jin Pickering Making Lemonade

Sixth-grader Jin Pickering recently used a lemonade stand to raise money to feed the homeless through the Haven, tripling his goal!

The Walker Upper Elementary School Family extends an invitation to all current  and future Walker students to attend Bingo Night on November 16 at 5:30pm.

Walker CLASS students played “Human Hungry Hippos” to end a great week!

Walker’s new swimming program for 5th-graders is off to a good start and was featured by NBC29.

As part of our new iSTEM program to build a bride to the engineering programs at Buford and CHS, Walker students recently measured their soil components for their green roof project.

Elementary News

Thanks to the Special  Education Advisory Committee for organizing a September ice cream social to help build community and support for our families in the special education program!

The Walker Upper Elementary School Family extends an invitation to all current 4th graders and their families (and any CCS families, for that matter) to attend Bingo Night on Wednesday, November 16 at 5:30pm.

City fourth-graders have been on the go, between their annual science field trip to Camp Albemarle and their field trip Cabell Hall for the Charlottesville Youth Orchestra’s superhero-themed performance.

City Schools enjoyed special foods, visitors (including chickens and goats), plus time in the garden during Farm-to-School Week.  Thanks to City Schoolyard Garden and Local Food Hub for organizing, and thanks also to Casa Alma and Caromount Farms for time with feathered and furry friends!

Students are heading to U.Va.’s Fralin Museum to brainstorm ideas for the museum’s annual competition of writing inspired by art.

More community helpers visit our our elementary schools! First, it’s “Lunch with a Cop,” when police officers visit schools at lunchtime, sometimes accompanied by McGruff the Crime Dog.  Now, the Charlottesville Fire Department is making visits to teach home safety tips. Sometimes they even bring a fire truck to recess for “show and tell.” Thanks to all!

You’ve got mail! Burnley-Moran Bobcats have been writing and receiving letters from their senior pen pals at JABA’s Mary Williams Community Senior  Center. In addition, their artwork is on display at the Welcome Gallery as part of art teacher Ryan Trott’s exhibition of his works inspired by children’s art.

Clark students enjoyed their first whole-school meeting, featuring student leadership, dancing, book talks, awards, & singing happy 85th birthday to the school!  And after reading the novel Rules, fourth-graders invited the school’s occupational therapist, Lydia Cornejo, to the class to answer their questions and make connections to the book.

You’ve heard of taste-testing some new foods, but how about taste-testing some new books? Greenbrier fourth-graders rotated through stations hosted by “chef” and teacher Ms. Kumar. And second-graders spent a super-hero themed morning exploring Marvel-ous Matter!

NBC news visited Jackson-Via for the visit of Alice the Goat during Farm-to-School Week, and students, staff, and PTO volunteers are gearing up for spirit week, which concludes with their annual Rocktoberfest event, with a potluck, games, and more. And the after-school CLASS program enjoyed dance classes with the Charlottesville Ballet  in ballet, modern, tap, hip hop, and/or African dance form.

Johnson’s “Donuts with Dads” event overflowed from the cafeteria into the hallways with students plus their dads, uncles, friends, and grandfathers (not to mention some moms who wanted to be part of the fun, too).  In addition to breakfast, students received a book to keep. Another day, guest/mom/Walker teacher Ms. Rasnake visited the school to offer a hands-on activity exploring density.

Venable’s back-to-school night had some new leaders in charge this year — the students. The new student-led format will also be a feature of the school’s spring parent-teacher conferences, thanks to a grant from the Shannon Foundation.

School Board Update

At their October meeting, the Board approved the calendar for developing the 2017-18 budget and the membership lists of advisory committees. The Board also heard reports about the after-school CLASS program as well as the new extended day program for selected elementary students who need assistance with literacy.  The Board discussed capital improvements as well as the schools’ annual indicators of success.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming events include:

  • Last Day of First Quarter, October 27
  • Teacher Workday (no school for students), October 28
  • Cavalcade, the CHS Marching Knights’ annual band competition, October 29, CHS Athletic Stadium, 2pm. Tickets at gate.
  • School Board Meeting, November 3, 5pm, CHS Media Center
  • Teacher Workday/Parent Conferences at some schools (no school for students), November 7
  • Buford Engineering Night, 6pm
  • Professional Learning Day (no school for students), November 8
  • Bingo Night at Walker (4th-graders invited), November 16, 5:30pm
  • Buzz-by-Belmont Clark 5K, November 19, 9am. All families welcome!  Details here.
  • CHS Band Kicks off the Schools’ Fall-Winter Concert Season, 7pm, MLKPAC
  • Thanksgiving Break, November 23-25

Curious about next year’s calendar? Review the draft and give us your feedback!

Remember that you can subscribe to our Google calendar of school holidays and as well as Google calendars for school-specific events. Instructions are at


Buzz-by-Belmont: Clark 5K

It’s time to register for the annual Clark 5K run/walk, held on November 19, 2016, and benefiting the Clark Educational Fund. The rolling course tours some of Charlottesville’s most vibrant neighborhoods, passing through Downtown Belmont, around Belmont Park, and touching the diverse areas of Belmont, Carlton and Sixth Street that comprise the Clark district.

When: Saturday, November 19, 2016, starting at 9am (check-in at 8:30).
Who: Runners, walkers, and strollers are welcome.
Where: Start and finish at Clark Elementary School, 1000 Belmont Avenue.
Fees: $25 for families (and individual adults) and $20 for children. Register here! Includes a t-shirt (guaranteed for early registration).

  • 2014Clark5k_KM034_lo

Tours for Potential Jackson-Via Students

Front of Jackson-Via Elementary SchoolJackson-Via will be offering tours to parents on the dates listed below.  All tours take place at 9:15 a.m. and last approximately 30-45 minutes. We limit the number of participants on each tour to ensure that everyone can hear and ask questions.  Please call Ms. Harlow in the Jackson-Via office to register – 434-245-2416.

Upcoming Dates:

  • November 18
  • December 2
  • January 13
  • February 10
  • March 10
  • April 14

Parents should plan to arrive in the front office a few minutes early to sign in and receive visitors’ passes.  Please allot time for parking as there are typically few spots available on site and many of the neighborhood streets do not permit non-resident parking during the day.

Unfortunately, requests for tours at other dates and times cannot be honored due to the disruption to classes.

If you are an out-of-division family who would like to apply for a space in Charlottesville City Schools next year, we begin accepting applications in April.  Click here for information about the application process. 


Tours for Potential Venable Students

Ven-Bldg_edVenable will be offering tours to parents on the dates listed below.  All tours take place at 9:15 a.m. and last approximately 30-45 minutes. We limit the number of participants on each tour to ensure that everyone can hear and ask questions.  Please call Ms. Lawson in the Venable office to register – 434-245-2418.

Upcoming Dates:

  • November 18
  • December 2
  • January 13
  • February 10
  • March 10
  • April 14

Parents should plan to arrive in the front office a few minutes early to sign in and receive visitors’ passes.  Please allot time for parking as there are typically few spots available on site and many of the neighborhood streets do not permit non-resident parking during the day.

Unfortunately, requests for tours at other dates and times cannot be honored due to the disruption to classes.

If you are an out-of-division family who would like to apply for a space at Venable next year, we begin accepting applications in April.  Click here for information about the application process. 


Atkins Named One of Two Finalists for National Superintendent Award

Dr. Rosa Atkins
Dr. Rosa Atkins

Dr. Rosa S. Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, has been named one of two finalists for the AASA Women in School Leadership Award for Superintendents. Each year, the AASA, or School Superintendents Association, joins with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to offer awards recognizing the country’s outstanding female teacher (or school-based employee), principal, and superintendent.

“We are so proud of Dr. Atkins and her leadership in Charlottesville and beyond. We are delighted but not surprised to see her excellence recognized on a national stage,” noted School Board chair Amy Laufer.

Atkins, a former Virginia Superintendent of the Year, was nominated for the award by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.  The award is based on achievement in four areas: meeting the needs of students; personal and organizational communication; personal and staff-wide growth and professional development; and leadership in the local community and beyond.

“I’m humbled to be one of the award finalists,” said Atkins. “I don’t view it as an individual accolade, but as recognition of all the good work accomplished by the teachers and administrators of Charlottesville City Schools. Their commitment to serving our students is unparalleled.”

Atkins has been superintendent in Charlottesville since 2006.  During that time, both student achievement and graduation rates have risen, division student enrollment has grown, and Charlottesville has been consistently recognized as one of the top-performing divisions in the state. Among other innovative initiatives, Charlottesville has invested in technology and STEM while maintaining its commitment to its acclaimed fine arts programs.  The division’s acclaimed engineering programs at Charlottesville High School and Buford Middle School are indicative of her commitment to partnership since they have been supported and made possible by the joint commitments of businesses, foundations, UVA, PVCC, the Smithsonian Institution, and other area school divisions. Charlottesville City Schools is a charter member of The League of Innovative Schools.

In 2011, Atkins was named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, as well as Virginia State University Alumnus of the Year for Professional Education. She presently serves as past president of the Virginia Association of Schools Superintendents and vice president for the Urban Superintendents Association of America. Her previous service includes chairing the Virginia School University Partnership and serving as president of the Women Education Leaders in Virginia, along with additional leadership roles with numerous local, state and national committees and boards. In 2015 Dr. Atkins was selected by American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to serve as mentor in the inaugural AASA-Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy. In 2014, Dr. Atkins was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 Future-Ready Superintendents and invited to the American Association of School Administrators’ Digital Consortium at the White House.

Next, both finalists will interview with the award committee, and the winner will be announced at the organization’s National Conference on Education in California this March. AASA, the School Superintendents Association, advocates for the highest quality public education for all students, and develops and supports school system leaders. Founded in 1865, AASA is the professional organization for more than 10,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world.


CHS Continues to Outperform State & Nation on SAT

17 Students Recognized for High Performance on PSAT

CHS, State, and National Data for SAT:  In reading, CHS earned a score of 564; the state received 516 and the US, 487.  In math, the scores were CHS, 544; Virginia, 513; and US, 494.  In writing, CHS, 539; Virginia, 493; US, 472.Continuing a long tradition, students at Charlottesville High School excelled on the 2015 SAT college-readiness test, far surpassing their state and national peers (see chart, below).  In addition, based on the related PSAT test taken last fall, 17 CHS seniors have received recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, with five earning places as semi-finalists in the national scholarship competition.

  • Five National Merit Semifinalists: In the 62nd annual National Merit Scholarship Program, five CHS students are semifinalists: Claire Jenkins, Graham Keeley, Liam O’Brien, Matthew Robinson, and Pascale Starosta. They are invited to apply to become finalists, eligible to receive National Merit Scholarships. Semifinalists represent less than the top 1 percent of U.S. seniors.
  • Twelve National Merit Commended Students:  In the same National Merit program, twelve CHS students were named commended students, representing less than the top 5 percent of test-takers: Andrew Beling, Grace Brecht, Ian Cropley, Amanda Engel, Robert Harder, Byron Harris, David Kriete, Mollie Pepper, Leighton Read, Joseph Riley, Gaia Sorensen, and Gabriella Szabo.
  • CHS, State, and National Data for SAT:  In reading, CHS earned a score of 564; the state received 516 and the US, 487.  In math, the scores were CHS, 544; Virginia, 513; and US, 494.  In writing, CHS, 539; Virginia, 493; US, 472.

“We are proud of our individual students and pleased with our school-wide success on this important college-readiness test,” notes Dr. Kendra King, Director of Student Services and Achievement.

CHS Black Knights logo

CHS Upcoming Dates

CHS Black Knights logoThere’s plenty going on this fall at CHS…. Make sure your calendars are up-to-date:

  • October 10-14: Black Knight Spirit Week leading up to Homecoming
  • October 13:
  • October 14 :
    • Homecoming Assembly/Pep Rally
    • Homecoming Football Game, 7pm vs Powhatan
  • October 15: Homecoming Dance
  • October 19: PSAT Test for all 9th-, 10th-, and 11th-graders
  • October 27: End of the 1st 9 weeks
  • October 28: No School for Students (Teacher Professional Development Day)
  • November 7: Parent Conferences (No School for Students)
  • November 8: No School for Students (Teacher Professional Development Day)

Brain clip artLearn Smarter: Practical Strategies for Students

Parents and students, come to this evening designed to use the latest brain research to help you learn more efficiently. This free event will be Thursday, October 13 at 6:30pm in the CHS Media Center. Understanding how the brain processes information can enable teachers, parents, and students to design best practices for learning. Our presenter will be Allen Freeman, who taught in Albemarle County for 37 years and was a gifted resource teacher at both Albemarle High School and Western Albemarle High School. Practical strategies for improving student learning will be explored, including “how to’s” for creating long-term memory, surviving homework, reading texts, and organizing  your studies.

Rwandan and Johnson drummers making music together.

Elementary Highlights for September 2016

"Lunch  with a Copy" at Burnley-Moran.
“Lunch with a Copy” at Burnley-Moran.

In response to a suggestion from Burnley-Moran Elementary School, the Charlottesville Police Department is starting a “lunch with a cop” program in our elementary schools.  Police officers visit with students during lunch, answering questions, enjoying conversation, and building positive relationships.

Rwandan and Johnson drummers making music together.
Rwandan and Johnson drummers making music together.

City Schoolyard Garden started its “Harvest of the Month” program in September with delicious local peaches. The monthly fresh and local snack is also connected to science- and garden-related lesson plans.

Clark students playing "longitude-latitude" battleship
Clark students playing “longitude-latitude” battleship.

Our elementary schools have proven that it’s never too early in the year for some arts and inspiration! Rwandan brothers Patrick and Pacifique Niyosenga visited schools to perform and share their story of overcoming challenges. Pacifique founded the Niyo Cultural Centre, which is dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished Rwandan street children by teaching them drumming, dancing, and art to help them earn money to survive.

Burnley-Moran bobcats started off the year with their annual  leave a  “Positive Footprint” emphasis, following a national project for encouraging kindness, and they’ve already pulled out the bee-bots to make the programming-math connection.

Walking Wednesdays at Greenbrier
Walking Wednesdays at Greenbrier.

Clark bees have been busy with friction projects, community design activities, participating in the Belmont “Yard Dreams” community art project, observing the national “Dot Day” creativity project, and more!

Greenbrier has started its “Walking Wednesdays” program and welcomed a large crowd to its Back-to-School Picnic.

Girls doing a math activity with blocks
Hands-on learning at Jackson-Via.

Jackson-Via will welcome a canine friend on Fridays, as a therapy dog makes regular visits with kindergartners. And the school’s annual Grandparents Day lunch attracted a great showing.

Johnson students have been out in the garden, using their break-out boxes (and their brains), and welcoming guests to the school, including guest reader Superintendent Rosa Atkins.

Students painting
Let the art-making begin at Venable!

Each morning, Venable classrooms hold morning meetings to greet one another, establish daily goals, and complete a fun activity. The school recently held its new monthly school-wide morning meeting, a community-building exercise with greetings, music, activities, and a read-aloud.

Kori Ross demonstrates a generator during Sec. King's visit to Buford. Photo courtesy Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff

Buford/Walker Highlights for September 2016

Kori Ross demonstrates a generator during Sec. King's visit to Buford. Photo courtesy Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff
Kori Ross demonstrates a generator during Sec. King’s visit to Buford. Photo courtesy Daily Progress/Andrew Shurtleff

U.S. Secretary of Education John King visited Buford Middle School as one of the first stops on his Back-to-School Bus Tour, crossing the country to highlight school success stories. Past and current Buford engineering students led the visitors in engineering activities. The Buford engineering program has received international attention; it is a partnership with other area public schools, U.Va., PVCC, and the Smithsonian Institute.  Earlier in the summer, Buford staff and students presented at the International Society of Technology Education in Denver, and still other students and staff participated in a two-week engineering academy at U.Va. to continue developing the “invention kits” that are at the heart of the curriculum.

Student drawing in the garden on the second day of school.
Drawing in the garden on the second day of school.

The Buford Band greeted Sec. King with Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and earned a shout-out in the Washington Post. What other middle school band can handle a Sousa march three weeks into the school year?!

A before-school gathering of students and families participating in AVID  came to Buford to get the year off to a good start. AVID is a national program geared toward college readiness and closing the achievement gap.  AVID students also participated in Sec. King’s visit by writing thoughtful responses to the prompt, “Opportunity is….”

Walker friends at open house.
Walker friends at open house.

Eleven Buford and Walker students were accepted to Reflections, the Summer Regional Governor’s School Program for Middle School Students Gifted in the Visual Arts: Arianna Deiter, Belaynesh Downs-Reeve, Meg Gist, Eleanor Hilgart, Chu Keyer, Nora Liang, Anna Meyer, Emily Morris, Kyle O’Shea, Sohl Park, Yasu Shinozak, and Georgia Trainum. In addition, CHS 9th-grader Sahara Clemons was selected as one of two student assistants for the program.

Walker students are already celebrating the fine arts — on back-to-back days, sixth-graders attended the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival, and fifth-graders enjoyed performances by Rwandan dancers and musicians (see elementary news for more details).

Plenty of room for rockets in the Delta Lat at Walker
Plenty of room to learn with straw-powered rockets in the Delta Lab at Walker.

The new iSTEM program designed to build a bridge to the Buford engineering program “blasted off” with straw-powered rockets in Walker’s Delta Lab.  Through the activity, students explored force, distance, mean, and measurement.

Bingo cards for Walker's Mix-it-Up Lunch
Bingo cards for Walker’s Mix-it-Up Lunch.

Walker will host its second Mix-It-Up-at-Lunch event with the help of United Way volunteers on the Day of Caring. The program features events like get-to-know-you Bingo to help students meet new friends and acquaintances.

To reinforce some positive behavior routines, Walker hosted a Jeopardy! game featuring Alec Trebec (Mr. K) and Vanna White (Mrs. Geddy).  Students had a fun time answering questions related to Walker’s resources and behavioral expectations.