Appreciating staff for the first weeks of school, ACPS operations updates

Dr. Haas shows appreciation for the hard-working ACPS staff in these first few weeks of school and gives updates from the Child Nutrition Department and other APCS operations.

A Long Start

Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge that all of our ACPS staff deserve our thanks and appreciation and understanding that this year’s week-long beginning of school was very demanding. I am sorry about the long week! Everyone really came through, and I am so thankful. Our staff must have been exhausted on August 27, but at the schools I visited on that day, nobody showed it. Again, thank you to all of our wonderful educators.

I want to assure you all that this is not a new trend for ACPS (a whole week at the beginning of school). We plan to revert back to a midweek start in our calendar next year, and I look forward to hearing your feedback on the calendar as we begin the development process in just a few weeks.

School Visit: Agnor Hurt Elementary School

I had a terrific visit at Agnor-Hurt yesterday. I asked to sit in on two classes at the school, and I really enjoyed them both. As I visit schools this year, I want to highlight our teachers’ excellent work to incorporate strategies to promote student engagement. An example of such qualities can be found in educational researcher and author Phil Schlechty’s 10 Critical Qualities of Student Work.

First, I visited the multi-age fourth- and fifth-grade class taught by Cheryl Brooks Davis and April Barefoot, where students were using Seesaw to create a presentation explaining the states of matter to their families. Of course, this work showed many engaging qualities, but what impressed me the most was that students were performing for an audience, and this clearly made a difference in their attention to detail and the correctness of their information. I asked Ms. Brooks Davis why she and Ms. Barefoot planned the lesson this way, and she said that students will solidify their learning when they explain what they have learned to another person in their own way. One student, for example, was translating her work into her family’s home language so they could understand the concepts.

I visited Jenny Sanford’s third graders next, and when I asked what they were doing, one student looked straight at me and said, “We are practicing multiplication and division,” and indeed they were. Ms. Sanford was using her display board to give the students a picture with a grid of blocks, and the students needed to figure out how many blocks there were, show their work on individual whiteboards, and be prepared to explain how they came up with their answer.

Again, Ms. Sandford’s lesson contained several observable critical qualities, and one that really stood out for me—especially on only the ninth day of school—was the students’ sense of safety in sharing their answers and their solutions. I think the fact that Ms. Sanford had several routines in place and gave the students some choice on where they moved to get a good look at the display board really allowed them to build comfort with each other. Further, if a student presented a mathematically sound approach, she accepted it, and there was more than one approach. Also, the students shared their work with one another. All good practices to build engagement!

Ms. Sanford let me know that she based her lesson on the ACPS pacing guides and Investigations Math and that her classroom strategies are meant to be student-centered. I also noticed that her third graders were politely reminding each other about their masks when they slipped down. I was impressed by that.

I really enjoyed my visit with these teachers and their students. They exemplify all of our super educators and students in ACPS.

Operations Update

I recently asked our Director of Child Nutrition, Christina Pitsenberger, if there was something you all might find useful to know, and she shared this document with me: Important Reminders and Updates Within the School Cafeteria Program.

Thank you, Christina!

Video & Media Highlights

Here are some recent stories of interest, including the harrowing comments of an Albemarle High School freshman who safely made it out of Afghanistan to enroll at the school; a state award earned by a Stone-Robinson fifth grader for his beekeeper project; and an interview with Burley Middle School principal Kasaundra Blount and student safety coach Ivan Orr on how the Student Safety Coach program will support students:

Observances for Next Week

Labor Day is September 6, and if anyone deserves a day off from work, ACPS educators do!