Students testing electrical conductivity

Superintendent Message February 2016


IMG_5559edFebruary 23, 2016

Dear families—

“STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is a big talking point in education today.  What does STEM look like at Charlottesville City Schools? It starts in elementary and continues for the rest of our students’ lives. [show_more more=”Read more about STEM from Dr. Rosa Atkins” less=”Show Less” color=”#0066cc”]

img_1722STEM starts on the elementary level.  In pre-K and kindergarten, even our youngest students can be builders with blocks and other toys, and our students’ skills and activities progress from there. This month, first-graders at Venable held an “Invention Convention,” turning old cardboard, packaging, and hardware into bright ideas. All of our elementaries have STEM-related clubs, whether Jackson-Via’s coding club, the Makers’ Club at Clark, or Odyssey of the Mind problem-solving teams at Greenbrier and Johnson. And STEM can happen outside — Burnley-Moran students recently reminded us that our City Schoolyard Gardens are amazing STEM resources even with a foot of snow! Furthermore, in school, fourth-graders are gaining robotics experiences, and second- and third-graders are using the “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum.


IMG_5463edAt Walker, the “Tinkers and Thinkers” group combines coding and making with help from U.Va. colleagues. And just before winter break, some other U.Va. engineering students developed games, activities, and systems specifically for science students at Walker.  At Buford, the engineering program is continuing its partnership with U.Va., the Smithsonian, and area school divisions. This partnership has created an exciting curriculum based on “Invention Kits” that will soon be available nationwide. In addition, the BACON Bits and MATHCOUNTS clubs recently found success at regional competitions.  (Let’s wish our “mathletes” good luck at states!)

edIMG_5378The Charlottesville High School STEM program speaks for itself, since next year it will offer every available AP math, science, and computer science class, as well as a four-year engineering program.  BACON students (that’s Best All-around Club of Nerds; see below) have done well in a number of competitions, and there’s also the NASA Club, the Women in Computer Science Club, the CAD jewelry design club, the Maker Mondays organized by librarian Kelly Kroese, and the day-in, day-out good work of our science, engineering, and math teachers (and their students).

edIMG_3956Of course, STEM doesn’t end at Charlottesville High School.  A CHS diploma is the launching pad to industry certifications and to continuing education at PVCC, U.Va., and colleges and universities around the world.  STEM is touching every area of the future, and we want our students — in ways that fit their unique talents — to be ready for that future.

–Dr. Rosa S. Atkins


Division-Wide News

2016-17-finalCalendar updates:

  • We will have a two-hour delay on Tuesday, 3/1, the day of the presidential primary elections
  • We will have a snow make-up day on Friday, 4/1, the day before spring break
  • The 2016-17 academic calendar was approved by the School Board. See it here.  For people who have subscribed to our division-wide Google calendar, these dates have already been added to your calendar. (You’re welcome.)

Preschool registration is underway, with applications for 3- and 4-year-olds due March 1. The program is free for qualifying families. The preschool program recently received an $80,000 grant to improve the reach and access of preschool programs in our community.

MsRuthRyanKellyDailyProgress_squareCongratulations to our City Schools staff members:

  • “Ms. Ruth” (Ruth Hill) of Clark School is one of six winners of Virginia’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guard Award. Congratulations, and thanks for being so friendly and helpful!
  • Kari Miller and retired teacher Mary Plank’s good work with ESL students at Greenbrier is featured in a WMRA story about refugees in our community.
  • David Zentmeyer of Buford was named Virginia’s Special Olympics Coach of the Year. Congratulations to you and your team!
  • Liz Petry of CHS recently attended the 2016 Space Exploration Educators Conference, meeting and learning from astronauts, NASA scientists, astrophysicists, and more. She runs the NASA Club at CHS.
  • In April, Chinese teacher Daniel Stolkowski will present at the National Chinese Language Conference to an international audience.

Voices-of--Adult-Learners_coverAs part of the Festival of the Books, CCS is sponsoring two events on March 17 at Culbreth. At 6pm, there were be A State of Many Nations: Immigration and the Changing Face of Virginia, and at 8pm, there will be Beyond Background Characters: Life in Hyphen-American.

Our Adult Education program will host its twentieth “Voices of Adult Learners” program on March 17, at 6pm at Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.  All are invited to this inspirational evening as our adult learners share their experiences.

On March 5-6, Charlottesville City Schools will host its 4th annual Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit, attracting teachers from across the state and beyond for professional development.

ArtConnections_corrected-2ArtConnections, the division-wide art student art show, will run 3/14-23 (except weekends) in the CHS Small Gym, and the biannual CCS faculty art exhibition will run 3/15-5/9 in the MLKPAC lobby.

“Hoo” do you cheer for? A recent column in Charlottesville Family Magazine recently profiled all the ways that U.Va. athletes volunteer in our schools.

CHS News

CHS SARA Poster March 2016_WebCHS will host a community-wide parenting forum (“Engaging the Instagram Generation”) on 3/23 at 7pm in the MLKPAC.  The (rescheduled) event will feature community experts and a student panel for discussion on issues such as  communication, substance abuse, and sexual harassment.

Because of the division-wide 2-hour delay on 3/1, CHS will NOT have its monthly 1-hour delay in March (previously scheduled for 3/10.)

The Scholastic Bowl team at CHS won every single game in the district competition and qualified for regionals. Team members are Anna Davis, Santiago Padron, Sam Rimm-Kaufman, Matthew Robinson, Noah Robinson, Luca Sun, and Jonah Weissman. In addition, the team qualified for nationals in the 3-2-1 online quiz competition.

Marcos-Science-Olmypiad-by2Another weekend, another CHS BACON competition…. The CHS science club (Best All-around Club of Nerds) has been busy. In January, Winter Storm Jonas snowed the students out of the Zero Robotics global finals at MIT, so they camped out at the school’s Sigma Lab and attended virtually as their code controlled a satellite on the International Space Station. They also competed at the Jefferson Lab’s Science Bowl in Norfolk and qualified for the VirginiaFIRST robotics state championship. Finally, they organized and fielded two teams in the regional Science Olympiad, held for a third year at CHS. Junior Ellie Bright served as tournament director, leading a team of students to organize the regional event that attracted 1000 people from across the state for hands-on science competitions. In addition to the two CHS teams, Buford’s BACON Bits club competed for the first time.

All the arts, all in one night…. On February 10, CHS held its annual celebration of the arts, featuring the CHS band, choir, orchestra, jazz band, visual artists, and a sneak peek of Aida, the school’s spring musical (running 3/17-20).


IMG_1071edEnglish 10 (honors and unleveled) students are completing research projects that use international folk tales as a lens into world cultures. In unleveled classes, individual students choose whether to earn “academic” or “honors”-level credits. An honors credit requires additional assignments and other elements that increase the level of challenge.

three boys in all-state choirThirteen students represented CHS in this year’s All-District Choir, and congrats to Nathanael Hartke and Charlie Manning, who earned places in this year’s All-Virginia Choir! In addition, Adam Olszewski was named an alternate.

Local author Chris Barcomb visited AVID and creative writing classes to speak about his experiences as an author, a retired policeman, and a person who has thrived despite challenges.

scrimmageplay feature on girls' basketballIt was another successful basketball season for the boys and girls.  After winning the Jefferson District regular season (13-1) and tournament titles, the girls placed 2nd in Conference 23 and qualified for regionals.  ScrimmagePlay magazine ran a nice feature on junior leaders Destinee McDonald & Alaijah Ragland.  After a strong regular season, the boys qualified for the conference semi-finals.

The CHS String Ensemble performed Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at the Paramount Theater in January, featuring Mary Stelow and Micah Hunter-Chang as soloists.

Lugo-McGinness Academy, the CCS alternative education center, hosted a very successful midday roundtable and luncheon with local civil rights trailblazers in honor of Black History Month.


maker-Monday2CHS librarian Kelly Kroese is hosting “Maker Mondays” during lunch, offering students creative opportunities that range from origami to music composition apps.

To help freshmen make the transition to high school, this year, a group of 42 CHS student mentors have been collaborating on lessons and activities to present to freshmen during Black Knight Time.
In honor of Chinese New Year, Chinese and nutrition classes collaborated to make dumplings, sharing both knowledge and tasty food.

Six CHS students qualified for the state finals in track, and 13 qualified for regionals! In the Conference 23 finals, Susannah Birle (55m) and Tariq Carrington (55m and long jump) placed 1st.  At regionals, Carrington placed 1st in 55 m and long jump, as well as 3rd in high jump. Jaron White set the CHS record in 300 m, and the boys’ 4×200 relay tean of Carrington, White, Thomas Birle, and Hussein Osman placed 1st, breaking the CHS & meet record. Osman also qualified for states in 500 m, as did Emonta Burnley (triple jump) & Susannah Birle (55 m). Good luck at states!

At the state swimming meet, Zachary Greenhoe placed third in the 200 freestyle  while the boys placed 14th. Congratulations!

Walker and Buford News

BUF-Mathcounts2A team of “mathletes” at Buford claimed 1st place in the MATHCOUNTS regional competition. Congratulations, and good luck at states!

The new BACON Bits science team competed in their first Science Olympiad, earning 2nd in the Bio-Process Lab event! The club gets its name from BACON, the Best All-around Club of Nerds, at CHS.

Buford students Eleanor Brown, Ella Harrigan, and Margaret Folger earned 1st, 2nd, and honorable mention in the poetry and prose categories of the Writer’s Eye competition sponsored by U.Va.’s Fralin Museum of Art.

Congratulations to the following students for earning all-district orchestra honors:
  • Orchestra A: Eleanor Hilgart, Autumn Hiller, Jamila Pitre, Jonathan Lerdau, and Walker Lloyd — Violin 1; Minh Dao and Sofia Nichols — Violin 2; Ben Brantley, Wyatt Collier, and David Wiles — Cello; Rebecca Lerdau and Charlotte Bloor — Bass.Dante-Walker
  • Orchestra B: Dante Walker, Sam Bowling, Marietta Feigert — Violin 1; Briana Bradley  and Georgia Layman — Violin 2; Nina Brooks, Jack Dreesen-Higginbotham, Sophi Stewart — Viola; Jake Bowling, Amara Green, Nikolas Dillery, Zoe Moreland, and Ben Yates (alt) — Cello; Edie Calvert — Bass.

The Newsplex ran a nice story about the multi-talented Buford student, Dante Walker, who finds inspiration from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he plays the piano for patients and staff at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Buford Gear UpEighth-grader Caroline McLellan won the GEAR UP poster contest, and in total, Buford students earned 5 out of the top 11 spots in the contest open to 29 Virginia schools.  GEAR UP is a college readiness emphasis for the State Council of High Education for Virginia.

Buford hosted a read-a-thon and family reading night, featuring guest authors, a book swap, and more.

Guest violinist Eric Stanley performed at Buford, CHS, and Walker this month.  Stanley, a graduate of VCU, fuses classical, pop, jazz, and hip-hop elements.

Buford and Walker students recently participated in an art-engineering collaboration, creating a giant sea creature for use in the upcoming performances of No Wake, produced in partnership with the Bridge PAI.


SleepyHollow-25_credBuford and Walker students performed The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in front of a packed house on January 14.

Walker’s Jazz Band earned straight superiors at the district assessment. Though among the youngest musicians at the event, these 5th & 6th-graders excelled!

Walker is piloting a program to offer students swimming lessons at neighboring Crow Pool as part of the physical education program.  The idea was student-generated, after some Walker students lost a friend to a drowning death this summer and looked for ways to IMG_5608edprevent a future tragedy.  The program is for a limited group of students this spring, and will be for all 5th-graders next year.

Walker students celebrated “Random Acts of Kindness Week” by doing a little extra homework.  Students received individualized daily assignments, such as Smile at 3 people, Give a random compliment, or Ask, “Can help you?” In addition, students played mix-it-up games at lunch and in recess to get to know new friends. They also held Wacky-Tacky Day … since it’s wacky to be mean.

IMG_5632edFifth-graders (and third-graders) recently enjoyed a concert by Ensemble Plus Ultra, an internationally acclaimed British vocal group that specializes in Renaissance music. The concert was part of the schools’ partnership with the Tuesday Evening Concert Series.

Good luck to Walker’s Odyssey of the Mind teams in their upcoming tournament!

Elementary News

The City elementary schools observed “Random Acts of Kindness Week” with a variety of activities.  For instance, Jackson-Via created a compliment wall for students and parents to express their appreciation to teachers.

Kindergarten students recently celebrated the 100th day of school, marked by activities such as completing 100-piece puzzles or hands-on counting activities.


All 3rd graders (and 5th-graders at Walker School) recently enjoyed a concert by Ensemble Plus Ultra, an internationally acclaimed British vocal group that specializes in Renaissance music. The concert was part of the schools’ partnership with the Tuesday Evening Concert Series.

Symphony Preludes at Clark

The Charlottesville Symphony Preludes program has been making the rounds of the elementary schools, offering instrument demonstrations and show-and-tell.

Fourth-graders across the division have completed or will soon participate in a special robotics unit, a program piloted last year at Johnson and Jackson-Via.

Pietro Ciliberto of Venable and Anthony Medina of Jackson-Via received 2nd place and honorable mention  in the poetry and prose categories of the Writer’s Eye competition sponsored by U.Va.’s Fralin Museum of Art.  In addition, Calvin Lin of Jackson-Via was selected as 1 of 75 runners-up (out of about 5,000 national entries) for a Scholastic Storyworks contest.

CLASS fun at Greenbrier

CLASS (Creative Learning After School and in Summer) offers after-school activities for elementary (including Walker) students. Recent highlights from Greenbrier, for instance, include a talent show, a kids vs staff basketball game, and an activities fair.  Registration for the summer CLASS program (Camp ExL) begins March 21.

Not even a foot of snow could stop Burnley-Moran students from taking advantage of their garden.  In January, students headed outside for  a science lesson on states of matter (snow, water, steam).  Thanks to our schools’ garden coordinators and the good folks at City Schoolyard Garden!

BME students with their AVID buddies from CHS

Second graders from Burnley-Moran have been partnering with a CHS AVID class this year, participating in activities such as reading, writing, coding, problem-solving, and even a field trip to CHS. Currently, they are working together to brainstorm real-world innovations that can be applied at Burnley-Moran.

Remember the awesome field trip day sponsored by the U.Va. women’s basketball team for area students? As a follow-up, the women’s team visited Clark to eat pizza and have a dance party with Mr. Geddy’s class (winners of the game’s poster contest). Thanks, team!

And U.Va. Today recently ran an article about how their College Mentors reach out to elementary students, including those at Clark, to introduce children to college life.

Greenbrier held its annual MLK Jr. Celebration with student readings and songs.  They also held a Black History Day observation that brought African-American professionals from all walks of life to the school.  The school’s PJ and Reading night has been rescheduled for 2/29.

Good luck to the Greenbrier and Johnson Odyssey of the Mind teams in their upcoming competition!

Jackson-Via recently held a very successful math night. Parents, teachers, and CHS volunteers helped with math-related games, puzzles, and art activities. Plus, they had pizza. (Pizza is a natural way to learn about fractions, right?)

STEAM Team at Johnson, Math Night at Jackson-Via, and Invention Convention at Venable
STEAM Team at Johnson, Math Night at Jackson-Via, and Invention Convention at Venable

The STEAM Team is now underway at Johnson, with exposure to designing, building, coding, making, and more.

Venable 3rd-graders in Ms. Shook’s class recently wrote and recorded an original song with the newly founded group, Stories to Art.  Meanwhile, 1st-graders held an Invention Convention using recyclables to let their imagination and problem-solving skills run free.

School Board Update

Ms. Adriane Butler of Greenbrier receiving appreciation during School Counselor Week.

At their February 4 meeting,  the School Board approved the 2016-17 academic calendar and voted to have a 2-hour delay on Tuesday, 3/1, to accommodate the presidential primary elections being held in the schools. They heard updates about the community-wide effort to expand preschool access, the new allergy protocol implemented at CHS and other schools,  and ideas about renovating the track and field house at CHS. As part of national observations, the staff recognized several groups for appreciation:  principals, school counselors, school boards, and school board clerks.  The Board also continued budget discussions; the 2016-17 budget will be presented to City Council on 3/7.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming events include:

  • March 1, 2-Hour Delay at All Schoolfinalposters (due to presidential primary elections)
  • March 3, School Board Meeting, CHS Media Center, 5pm
  • March 14-23 (except weekends), ArtConnections Division-Wide Exhibition at CHS Small Gym
  • Mary 15-May 9, CCS Faculty Art Exhibition at MLKPAC lobby
  • March 17-20, Theater CHS presents Aida
  • March 19: Saturday Celebrations Family Event at ArtConnections, 10am-2pm
  • March 21: Registration opens for Camp ExL (the summer CLASS camps)
  • March 23: Open House with Musical Entertainment at ArtConnections, 4-8pm
  • March 25: End of 3rd quarter
  • March 30: All-City Choral Festival, 7pm, MLKPAC 
  • April 1: Snow Make-Up day

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