Keeping the City Schools Safe and Secure
By Janice Miller, chairman
City of Fairfax School Board
The fundamental responsibility of any school is to provide a safe and secure environment for learning. This month's Close-Up Online will focus on how our schools maintain positive environments and promote good citizenship.
Below, you'll find information from City of Fairfax Police Chief Rick Rappoport, who at our March School Board Work Session shared information from the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force, which showed that community efforts to prevent gang activity are working.
Linda Burke, the Fairfax County Cluster Superintendent who supervises our schools, talked with us about how the County assesses school climate and what is in place in each of our schools to ensure student safety and positive behavior.
Scroll down for a recap of their presentations from Superintendent Ann Monday.
Lanier Middle School gets a clean bill of health
The topic of school safety gives me the opportunity to comment on an issue that has been of concern in one of our schools. A little more than a year ago, a group of teachers at Lanier told Dr. Scott Poole, the principal, that they believed the physical environment was causing health problems.
Specifically, they complained about the presence of mold in the building. After these complaints were received, Fairfax County Schools and the Health Department conducted a series of inspections which concluded with a two-day investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Additionally, inspections and tests were conducted by an outside consultant, HP Environmental.
Both NIOSH and HP Environmental have reported that Lanier does not have a widespread mold problem and that the building is clean and well-maintained and in good condition overall.
The evidence provided makes us confident that the environment at Lanier is not a problem.
Recommendations have also been made to maintain the good condition of the school and to prevent possible areas of concern in the future. The City is working with Fairfax County to implement these recommendations.
The City School Board appreciates the actions taken by Fairfax County and the leadership of Dr. Poole in dealing with this issue. In the last decade, the City has renovated all four of our buildings so that they are premier facilities.
We are very proud of our schools. It will remain a top priority that these buildings be well-maintained and safe so that students have the best possible learning environments.
If you have questions about the air quality at Lanier, contact the Environmental Health Engineer for Fairfax County Schools, Mark LaCroix, by email at email@example.com, or Scott Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Poole will post information provided by NIOSH and HP Environmental on the Lanier website (www.fcps.edu/LanierMS); click on Parents and Community.
As always, the City School Board welcomes your feedback. If you have any questions or comments for us, email me at email@example.com.
Safety First: Update on School Climate and Student Behavior
By Ann Monday, Superintendent
City of Fairfax Schools
Having been a principal for many years, I know that there is nothing more important to parents than making sure that schools are safe places.
In the City of Fairfax we are fortunate to have our City Police Department and Fairfax County Public Schools providing resources and expertise to keep our campuses safe. Our school staff receives training and guidance in dealing with critical incidents and handling student discipline.
I am often in the schools and see how well staff members supervise students and how vigilant they are in monitoring visitors to their buildings.
I also see lots of smiles on the faces of students and staff probably the best indication of a positive school climate.
But I know that school safety requires continual monitoring and proactive measures to prevent problems. It is in this spirit that Fairfax City joined with the rest of the region to deal with the gangs in our community.
At our March School Board Work Session, City of Fairfax Police Chief Richard Rappoport reported that the steps being taken by police departments, schools, and other community agencies have been highly successful.
In fact, the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force recently announced that "Northern Virginia has achieved notable success in thwarting gangs, in containing their spread, and in suppressing the number of crimes they commit."
While this finding is good news for our community, Chief Rappoport emphasized that we need to stay on top of this issue. "Continued vigilance and strong measures are needed to prevent gang involvement among our youth," he said.
Respect and responsibility
Also at the March School Board meeting, we heard from Fairfax County Cluster Superintendent Linda Burke, who had great things to say about how each of the four City schools is promoting the value of citizenship.
"Although each school has its own unique approach," she said, "they all actively teach and encourage students to be respectful and responsible so they can become productive members of the community."
In this issue
Below, you will hear from each of our four City school principals and learn about:
•The STARS character education program at Daniels Run Elementary School
•The Responsive Classroom at Providence Elementary
•Positive Behavior Support at Lanier Middle School
•A comprehensive character education plan at Fairfax High School
Feel free to contact me via email with any questions or thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite you to join us for upcoming School Board Meetings:
WORK SESSION #7
April 19, 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Fairfax High School
PRESENTATIONS TO THE BOARD
1. Student Panel
2. Plan for May Focus Group: Ann Monday, Superintendent
3. Draft Agenda for Annual Retreat: Janice Miller, Chair
4. Budget Update: Ann Monday, Superintendent
5. Legislative Update: Jon Buttram, Vice-Chair
REGULAR MEETING #10
May 3, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
Location: City Hall
1. MEETING OPENING
2. PRESENTATIONS TO THE SCHOOL BOARD
•Citizen Participation: Persons who wish to address the School Board should call 703-293-7132 to be placed on the speakers' list.
•Student Representative Report: Jonathan Earley
3. ACTION ITEMS: Approval of Minutes April 5, 2010
4. SUPERINTENDENT MATTERS
5. BOARD MATTERS
Coming Up in the next issue of Close-Up Online...
MAY 2010: Annual Student Panel
In the May issue of Close-Up Online, you'll hear from middle and high school students about their experiences in our schools.
Dates to remember:
Please mark your calendar for this year's Kindergarten Orientation in the City Schools
Daniels Run Elementary School
April 21, 2010, 9:30 11:30 a.m.
3705 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax VA
April 26, 2010, 1:00 3:00 p.m.
3616 Jermantown Road, Fairfax, VA
Please attend these FCPS meetings, where the FY 2011 budget will be discussed:
April 27 Board of Supervisors approves County Budget, tax rate and transfer amount to schools
May 11 & 12 FCPS School Board Budget Public Hearings
May 13 FCPS School Board Budget Work Session
May 20 FCPS School Board adopts Approved Budget
Daniels Run Elementary School
3705 Old Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22030
The STARS Program
By Kathy Mullenix, Principal
Daniels Run Elementary School, www.fcps.edu/DanielsRunES
At Daniels Run, we believe that a focus on good behavior and citizenship creates the foundation for learning and growth. We work to develop and nurture students who behave in a way that shows respect for themselves and others, and who feel connected to our school community.
Our STARS acronym is a cornerstone of character education at Daniels Run and stands for:
•Sharing Our Spaces
•Teamwork and Effort
•Attitudes are Positive
•Respect and Kindness = Success!
We display our STARS in every classroom, we share exemplary STARS stories through our news program and grade level awards, and we discuss how the STARS apply in the classroom and in school assemblies.
Staying on Target
In keeping with the FCPS School Board Student Achievement Goal 3, many of our students contribute their time and efforts to our school community through programs like safety patrols, SCA, "Library Dragons," and other similar activities.
In fact, this year we expanded the opportunity for students in grades 4-6 to become more aware of how they can get involved in their community. Our younger students are being introduced to the idea of service learning as well.
We also formalized the process for our sixth graders and created a service program we call Helping Hands. Sixth graders spend one hour each month working on projects that will benefit our school community in some way. For example:
1. Groups of six to eight students work together in our living classroom, beautifying our cafeteria and common areas, and creating welcome packets for our incoming new students.
2. Other student groups are spending their hour working with younger students in math and language arts, and creating media and materials to support our STARS theme.
3. Our remaining groups are working in our school bookroom, helping to recognize our parent volunteers, and documenting our community service activities. Woven throughout these sessions are discussions about who our work will benefit.
4. We also spend a few moments after each session reflecting upon our role and responsibilities as a Daniels Run community.
We believe that participating in an authentic service activity helps our students build character, and gives them the opportunity to appreciate the needs and contributions of others in our community. We are very proud of the children and look forward to continuing the STARS and Helping Hands program for years to come.
Providence Elementary School
3616 Jermantown Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
The Responsive Classroom
By Jesse Kraft, Principal
Providence Elementary School, www.fcps.edu/ProvidenceES
At Providence Elementary, the Responsive Classroom approach emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth in a safe school community by placing equal importance on the academic and social curriculums.
Teachers undergo an extensive training process to learn how to use tools such as interactive modeling, positive teacher language, and logical consequences. Following are some of the features of this exciting initiative:
The morning meeting. A big feature of the Responsive Classroom is the morning meeting, and this year all Providence teachers have built them into their weekly schedules. This is a great forum for building and nurturing a classroom community, reflecting on learning, and working together on ways for the class to realize success.
Students lead. Another feature of the Responsive Classroom is the "student-led rule" portion of the program. During the first weeks of school, we have all students share their "hopes and dreams" for the year. Teachers then work with students to show them how the rules they make together should help everyone realize those aspirations.
Classroom delegates. In October, we called a meeting of classroom delegates to hold the first ever Providence Constitutional Convention. Students brought their classroom rules to the meeting and worked together to shape rules that fit the whole school.
After the meeting, they went back to their classrooms to get approval for the rules which included: Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect Property. Once approved, the delegates returned to ratify our Constitution, which you can now find posted in the halls of Providence complete with the delegates' signatures.
Providence C.A.R.E.S. This program stands for Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, & Self-Control, and we promote these attributes through the morning meeting and our teachers' everyday interactions with children. By using specific feedback instead of tangible rewards, we're working to get students to embrace these qualities as a pathway to academic and social success.
Lanier Middle School
3801 Jermantown Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Positive Behavior Support: A new approach is making a big difference
By Scott Poole, principal
and Diana White, assistant principal
As one of 118 schools in Fairfax County that has become a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) school, we use positive behavior management to create a safer and more effective environment for all of our students, teachers, and staff members.
This program, which includes clear, school-wide expectations with consequences and incentives, recognizes and praises students for positive behaviors. In fact, this program is constantly evolving as we continue to monitor and review data to identify areas of strength and weakness.
How it works
Over the summer, teachers and administrators from Lanier attended a workshop to learn about how PBS works. We then formed a committee that meets on a monthly basis to assess our school and student needs.
In September, our new program was adopted by the Lanier staff and introduced to students. Throughout the year, we have all worked to tie this new behavior approach into our existing programs especially Pride Time (our mid-day enrichment and remediation period) and SOARing (our program to reward successful students and redirect those with academic and/or disciplinary concerns).
In fact, PBS and SOARing meshed especially well with PBS, as both initiatives reward students who model positive behavior. Our primary method of rewarding and recognizing students for positive behavior is by issuing Soar Cards.
Teachers, staff members, and bus drivers all received Soar Cards at the start of school to reward students when they observe them performing good deeds. Students can accumulate Soar Cards to purchase items in the school store or turn them in for a raffle every Friday.
In addition to selecting one 7th & 8th grade student every Friday morning, we also select numerous students during all lunches.
That's not all
We have also established a PBS database to monitor, evaluate, and modify our program, and we continue to solicit feedback from our teachers in order to improve it. Behavioral reports and referrals are posted daily.
At the end of the month, we aggregate the data to identify the behaviors we need to address. In addition, we keep track of the number of student infractions. Using this data, we create graphs and charts at the end of each month to share with the faculty and staff.
To date, we are pleased to report that we have seen a significant decrease in referrals and suspensions.
More work ahead
As we look over the data from the last four months, however, we still have work to do. As we enter the second phase of the program, we will identify the students who need interventions.
To accomplish this goal, we have a team of teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff who will identify and recommend interventions to help students change their inappropriate behaviors. We invite parents to support our PBS program by rewarding and recognizing positive behaviors outside of school.
This system is unique in that it is evolving and changing every month as we re-teach students and provide corrective feedback.
Fairfax High School
3501 Rebel Run
Fairfax, VA 22030
Comprehensive Character Education: A positive character education plan
By Dave Goldfarb, principal
Fairfax High School, www.fcps.edu/FairfaxHS
Fairfax High School promotes character development on an ongoing basis through establishing a culture that supports effective communication, collaboration, and inclusiveness. Instead of implementing a stand-alone program, we utilize several approaches to increase student participation in fostering a positive climate.
1. Freshman transition program. Fairfax High School's character education plan begins with how the school welcomes students new to our school. Our 9th grade transition program provides an orientation to the school and sets high expectations for a successful four years. The transition program at FHS consists of 10 sessions at the start of the school year designed to acclimate 9th grade students to high school and make them a part of the FHS community from the very beginning.
Through a partnership between our school counselors and the PE department, students attend a variety of sessions geared towards familiarizing the students with the building, high school in general, and the resources available to them.
The school counselors each meet with their 9th grade students individually and conduct lessons on learning styles, time management, goal setting, graduation requirements, and post-graduation plans. The expectation of the program is to engage and empower our 9th grade students to be active and involved members of the FHS community by giving them the information they need to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom.
2. Student Leadership classes. Perhaps most impressive is the role students play most prominently the Student Leadership classes in serving as role models and rewarding others who follow.
3. Positive enforcement of good behavior. A major component of our character education program focuses on providing positive reinforcement for students who demonstrate good character. Our school takes several measures to reward students who serve as role models academically and socially. Pawprints to Perfection is a program designed to recognize students for their character. This program was a result of collaboration between our Director of Student Activities and our Student Leadership Class.
4. Rebels on the Rise program. Teachers and staff members can nominate students for overall character, kindness to students and staff members, or just simply recognize a student who is working hard. The nominated student receives the statement written about them with a goody bag attached. The Rebels on the Rise program celebrates students who have impressed staff with improvements in their academic work and/or behavior and decision-making.
In fact, at a recent Rebels on the Rise ceremony, approximately 50 students were honored in our cafeteria. It was a wonderful moment for the students, their families, and the school. We look forward to honoring even more students at future celebrations.