A Word from Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins
Dear staff, family, and community:
I write this note in the midst of Kindness Week in our schools. For instance, the superheroes at the right wore capes and masks to remind us that we all have the power to be kind. Does it get any cuter?
Love and kindness are key to our schools. Kindness is always available to us, but it is also hard to carry out. Many on our staff were reminded of this truth by Dr. Luvelle Brown, a native son who is now Superintendent in Ithaca Public Schools in New York. He reminded us that we need a culture of love to make our schools better for everyone. This newsletter reflects some of the ways we are taking care of our students, staff, and families. It also reminds us about next week’s Community Conversations on Equity, a chance for us to reflect on our equity work and what has (and hasn’t) gone right.
As we move forward, let’s take a cue from these little ones and lead with kindness. Now where did I put my cape?
Dr. Rosa Atkins
As noted last month, we have been exploring options for how to attract and retain substitute teachers. A few updates: We’ve had some successes recruiting additional subs, we are budgeting to raise subs’ pay next year, and we are implementing better ways to welcome and support subs. In addition, at Walker, Buford, and CHS, we will start compensating teachers who need to cover for peers when no sub is available. We’re also exploring how to begin a similar system at the elementaries. Read Daily Progress coverage.
We’re hosting four Equity Conversations from 2/24-2/27, a chance for the community to hear what we’ve been working on and to share their perspectives. Dates are 2/24 at 6pm at CHS, 2/25 at 6:30pm at Friendship Ct., 2/26 at 6:30pm at Boys & Girls Club (Cherry Avenue), and 2/27 at 12pm at City of Promise. Spanish translation and childcare are available. For more information, call 245-2962 or see our web site.
As the school division and educational architects VMDO plan for an improvement project at Burnley-Moran, we are gathering feedback from stakeholders — including students. Focus groups of fourth-graders moved through stations to test furniture, explore the proposed designs with virtual reality goggles, and give a thumbs up (or down) to possible elements. Burnley-Moran will be the third elementary to receive a $1 million update. In addition, the City is also currently reviewing proposals to plan the redesign of Walker as a city-wide preschool center and Buford as a grade 6-8 middle school. Learn more.
A student-run, no-fee clothing exchange at CHS is a fun and important way to meet students’ needs — and even their wants. Located near the main office, the swap shop’s racks are available to all. Students and staff can grab a new look AND recycle the things they’re no longer wearing. Student leader Elana West-Smith notes, “I’m a thrifter and I also really enjoy the idea of people being able to have the resources they need.”
Two family-led projects will make a big impact at Walker. First, over the MLK Day weekend, volunteers completed a weekend make-over of the teachers’ lounge. Next, students will receive a long-awaited playground to enhance their recess choices. Together, the joint Buford-Walker United PTO raised (and continue to raise) funds to build a playground, and the School Board approved the project in February. Thanks for making a difference!
Real-world activities and community service are important ways to bring learning to life, and it’s never too early to start, whether it’s K students practicing conservation, fourth-graders sewing cozy pouches to warm up orphaned wildlife at shelters, Buford students raising money for SARA, or CHS English classes using real estate records for “Mapping Cville” to find patterns of housing inequities. Schools benefit from volunteers, too — whether a visit from Miss Virginia, guest readers from the men of Alpha Phi Alpha, or field trips and mentoring from the UVa Medical Center, the School of Medicine, or the School of Engineering.
From door-decorating contests to soul feasts to daily fun facts to guest lecturers or lunchtime performances, our schools are celebrating Black History Month. We were especially charmed by Jackson-Via’s art students, who have studied and been inspired by Black artists. Beyond February, however, we are doing ongoing work to “Change the Narrative” and feature more black and other sometimes-silenced voices in our social science and history classes, assigned readings, and media centers. Learn more about BHM celebrations.
In recent weeks, the School Board has continued to work on next year’s budget, holding work sessions and community updates (see the calendar of budget events and presentation slides). At their February meeting, Board members heard updates on the MP3 black male mentoring program and our literacy instruction (including the introduction of a new elementary curriculum). The Board also expressed approval and appreciation for the family-led initiative to add playground equipment to Walker. Find more School Board information, including agendas, minutes, and livestream video.
Ongoing Preschool applications. Find info online.
2/24-27 Community Conversations on Equity. See details.
2/27 CHS Band Pre-Assessment Concert, 7pm, MLKPAC
2/29 CHS Choir participates in Winter Songs, 7pm, Monticello HS
3/2-3 No School for professional learning/teacher work day
3/4 Special Education Advisory Committee, 5:30pm, Jackson-Via
3/5 School Board Meeting, 5pm, CHS Media Center
3/5 Harvest of the Month Snack Program (thanks, City Schoolyard Garden)
3/9 Governor’s Conversation on the State Equity Plan, 6-8:30pm
3/10 School Health Advisory Board, 4pm, Division Annex
3/11 Art Connections Evening Hours (with Buford Jazz Band), 4:30-6pm, CHS Small Gym
3/14 Art Connections Saturday Celebration, 10am-2pm, CHS Small Gym. Note: Enjoy Parent University (10:30am-1pm) while you’re there!
3/18 Art Connections Evening Hours (with Walker Jazz Band), 4:30-6pm, CHS Small Gym
The family engagement team continues its good work with a cooking class at Greenbrier. Follow @EngageFamCCS
CHS held its annual celebration of the arts in January, with joint performances by students in band, choir, orchestra, theatre, and visual arts. If you missed it, you can catch the video here..
Venable crossing guard Ursula Coleman was named 1 of 6 VA Outstanding Crossing Guards! Ruth Hill of Clark won the same award in 2016. Thanks to all our hard-working guards who keep our walkers safe!