October 23rd Community Check-In
Scottsville and Red Hill Elementary Schools
While attendees closed the meeting by stating that they love their schools and want to see their children succeed as all families do, they raised concerns during our conversation, primarily about Scottsville, but also about Red Hill. Points of view included the following:
- Special Education services feel inadequate because some students are bused to other schools for programs rather than remaining at their home school.
- There is a perceived lack of structure (discipline) and accountability for student behavior at Scottsville.
- Some parents stated that they do not see evidence of their children using the reading instruction strategies that they were used to teachers employing in the past.
- Some parents stated that they do not agree with the homework philosophy that the school is now using.
- A parent raised an issue that her child is identified for Gifted and Talented services; however, she is not aware that any services are being provided.
- A parent shared that the K-1 instructional model felt like a repeat of kindergarten for her child and that her child was not as strong academically as she should be.
- Some concerns were raised about “open classrooms.” (This term is often used to describe classrooms like those at Red Hill where two classes share a larger space and the teachers collaborate.)
- Some parents complained that they are not notified by the school in a timely manner of serious discipline problems, such as bullying.
- One parent expressed concern over the substantial workload of the school counselor.
- One person stated a belief that there is a desire on the part of the school system to see Scottsville fail.
- Scottsville should have a Spanish language program.
Superintendent Haas responded to comments throughout and summarized to the group what he heard. Highlights from his responses are as follows:
- All Albemarle County public schools, including the schools represented in the meeting, have excellent structures and support using evidence-based practices. The School Board and school system are highly supportive of Scottsville. The idea that anyone would like to see a public school fail is difficult to entertain. We are about to spend several million dollars in capital on an addition and improvements to the school. In October, the School Board approved schematic design plans for Scottsville and Red Hill, both of which have experienced significant enrollment growth since last year, as of our counts on September 30, 2019.
- The homework approaches used at Scottsville align with the ACPS Homework Policy. While they may seem different and unfamiliar, they are evidence-based. I suggest calling your child’s teacher for more information.
- Special Education staffing and programs at Scottsville are on par with ACPS staffing standards and meet all state and federal guidelines. Please call Kevin Kirst, our Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services, at 434-296-5885 with questions about Special Education.
- ACPS uses evidence-based practices for reading instruction. While it is true that our SOL scores for reading took a dip during the 2018-19 school year, this was true across Virginia. You can refer to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Performance on state SOL tests dips across Virginia. In an effort to improve our third-grade reading results, all third-grade reading teachers across the school division are working together this year to learn and implement best practices from each other while studying their formative results throughout the year.
- All of our elementary schools have a full-time counselor and school nurse. With regard to the concern about counselor workload, we will need to study how the counselor is prioritizing time usage and ensure that school staff and the principal are putting forth a team effort to meet the needs of all children in crisis.
- ACPS is shifting our Gifted and Talented model to focus, to a greater extent, on talent development. We anticipate, from a study we are conducting and the input and questions we are receiving from ACPS families and educators, that changes will be coming to Scottsville as well as other schools in the division. For more information, please contact Melanie Lichtenstein, our Talent Development Specialist, at email@example.com.
- In my opinion, all of our elementary schools should have world language programs; Spanish, for example. We will incorporate this feedback into our upcoming annual review of our State of the Division, on which the School Board will conduct a work session in November.
- One of the things that I heard as a theme when doing my Listening Tour last year was that teachers and families want to be involved from the start as we consider significant changes to our programs and facilities. I think we are delivering on that request, including continuing to host listening opportunities. My comments are reflected in my 100-Day Report to the Board. I think that innovative practices are not just new, they also are an improvement as demonstrated through research.
- Many of our teachers assign homework that requires internet access, and we realize that there are parts of our county in which internet access is still sparse. In November, I believe on the 7th, our Department of Technology will present a broadband update to the School Board. During that presentation, we will learn about our approaches to closing digital divides for our students. For more information, please contact Christine Diggs, our Chief Information Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Principal Staci England conducts school-level climate surveys for students quarterly to study students’ feelings of safety, support and structure at Scottsville Elementary School. She and staff use that survey data to actively make improvements throughout the year. I have reached out and asked Dr. England to administer our division-level 2019 Elementary School Climate Survey this fall. (Most schools conducted this survey last spring.) Agnor-Hurt and Meriwether Lewis will join Scottsville in administering this survey before November 8. This will enable central leadership to identify strengths and weaknesses that can guide efforts to improve school safety and learning.
I want to thank Laura Mellusi for hosting this Community Check-In. I greatly enjoyed meeting and spending time with the families in the southern part of our county. Scottsville, in my opinion, is a beautiful place and a treasure of Albemarle County. That is one of the many cool things about Albemarle County and ACPS: We have different settings (rural, suburban, and somewhat urban) and different cultures all throughout a very large county (the sixth largest by land area). As I said in my Weekly Check-in to all of our employees on October 25:
I finished up Wednesday night with a Community Check-In at the James River Boys and Girls Club in Scottsville. Last year, I learned so much about our schools through the Listening Tour, so this year, Gloria Rockhold and I are scheduling community check-ins in homes, community centers, and other gathering places around the county so that we can continue to listen. For transparency, I am posting what we hear on my Community Check-In web page on the division website. The good news is that we are a learning organization. We can take actions to build on positive feedback, and we can learn from our mistakes through negative feedback to make our work better.