School: From A Student's Point of View
By Janice Miller, Chairman
City of Fairfax School Board
The School Board's annual meeting with students, which is held each April, is always inspirational. Hearing from students confirms my belief that the generation of young people in our schools today is capable and motivated and not afraid to be challenged.
In the article below you'll find a recap by Superintendent Ann Monday.
Speaking of big accomplishments, congratulations go to Providence Elementary School Principal Jesse Kraft, who on May 11 was awarded the 2010 Nancy F. Sprague Outstanding First Year Principal of the Year.
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Dale surprised Kraft with the honor at 2:30 p.m. "Your letters of nomination say you value staff, students, and parents, as evidenced in your interactions, your support, and feedback on learning, and through the respect you show by taking a sincere interest in daily classroom activities," Dr. Dale said of Kraft. "Parents know you care about the community and you are open to new suggestions and ideas. Your personal values, genuine attitude, high level of commitment, and spirited energy are felt daily throughout the school. You are a valued administrator whose commitment to excellence is without question."
The City School Board applauds the selection of Mr. Kraft. He has stepped into the principalship at Providence with confidence, skill and hard work. He's won the admiration of his staff, parents and students. Read more here.
If you have any questions or comments, send me an email: email@example.com.
What Do Our Students Really Think About School?
By Ann Monday, Superintendent
City of Fairfax Schools
It was my honor to be at the April School Board Work Session where we heard from more than 20 middle and high school students about their perceptions of school.
This annual event is always enlightening, for as administrators we work hard to do the right thing for our students. Listening to their perspective is a welcome experience.
Following is a recap of what they told us.
The Middle School Perspective: Challenging, but Packed With Opportunities
Students from Lanier told the School Board that they felt the teachers and classes in middle school who challenged them the most were preparing them best for the future.
Music classes, foreign language and advanced math classes were among those that gave them opportunities to work at a higher level, they said. But what they are really looking forward to is starting high school where they know they will have even more choices.
Indeed, choice and opportunity were the key to being happy at school, the 9th graders told us. They reported that activities such as marching band and sports gave them opportunities to meet upperclassmen and feel comfortable with their new school before the school year began.
Freshman Year: Teachers are the Key
Like the middle school students, the 9th graders expressed appreciation for teachers who challenged them to excel in class. They described the best teachers as those who "pushed me to my limit," and "made me want to do better."
The students also acknowledged that the best teachers may be demanding and strict, but they were the ones who got them ready for future challenges.
In particular, the students spoke most highly of the classes where they learn "life-skills and how to think," where teachers use "real life analogies and help students recognize bias in what they read," and where they don't just "learn facts for a test, but how to analyze information."
From a Sophomore and Junior's Point of View
One junior said that he had teachers who know that "high school is about learning, not just getting a 5 on an AP exam."
The 10th and 11th graders talked about their positive experiences in activities and athletics, which gave them additional real-life learning opportunities and helped them fit in socially. Band was again mentioned as a great activity to engage in because it helped them make strong friendships.
The Power of Extra-Curricular Activities
I found it most interesting to hear the students rave about thought-provoking activities such as the Model United Nations, where students said they appreciated being "exposed to the issues of the world" and meeting diverse peers from across the region.
They also enjoyed Future Business Leaders of America, where students re-built donated computers for families in need. Here again, students said that doing meaningful, challenging work was most rewarding.
The Senior Perspective
Only one senior was able to come to the panel this year, but his insights were so impressive that we can only hope he speaks for his fellow classmen.
He talked about how he has come to realize that it is he not his teachers, classmates or parents who is responsible for his own learning. Rather than expecting opportunities to be handed to him, he said he now knows to "make opportunities to meet people and to learn about things." Instead of being told the answers to questions, he appreciates having to look for solutions himself.
He shared with the School Board that the first time he got an "F" in his AP Physics class, he did not focus on the grade but rather asked himself, "What did I forget to learn?" Needless to say, his grade in that class went up.
As with Everything, There is Room for Improvement
Although the student panel was very positive about their time in our City schools, the panel members made some suggestions for improvement.
Middle schoolers wished that some of their classmates showed more respect for teachers. Some high school students wanted more information earlier about all of the courses and activities open to them, while several upperclassmen regretted that they lacked the time to take advantage of the opportunities such as Academy classes that are available. High school students also appreciated the time being provided them during the day to get extra academic help, and they suggested that this time be given more frequently.
The students' insights were helpful and intriguing, and we'll look forward to continuing this dialogue. Send me an email with thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite you to join us for upcoming School Board Meetings:
WORK SESSION #8
May 17, 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Fairfax High School
George E. Stepp Library
PRESENTATIONS TO THE BOARD
- Board Communications Focus Group
- End-of-Year Reports from City School Board Representatives to FCPS Committees: Joan Rizek, Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities; Laura Welke, Advanced Academic Programs Advisory Committee; Pam Jones, Student Health Advisory Committee; Mitch Sutterfield, Superintendent's Business and Community Advisory Council
- Finalize June 12, 2010 School Board Annual Retreat Agenda
REGULAR MEETING #11
June 17, 7:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Fairfax City Hall
10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax VA
- Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance
- Announcement of Change in the Agenda, other announcements
- Recognition of Retiring School Board Members
- Presentation of Proclamation to Jonathan Earley
- Recognition of Retiring School Board Clerk
- Student Recognition
PRESENTATIONS TO THE SCHOOL BOARD
- Citizen Participation: Persons who wish to address the School Board should arrange to be placed on the speakers' list by calling 703/293-7132 or sign up prior to the meeting with the Board Clerk.
- Student Representative Report: Jonathan Earley
ACTION ITEMS Items under this heading are discussed and voted upon by the Board.
- Approval of Minutes May 3, 2010
- Approval of Adjusted FY 2011 Budget
- Approval of School Board Staff Employment Contracts
SUPERINTENDENT MATTERS The Superintendent may present other items for information.
BOARD MATTERS Board members may ask questions and introduce topics for further consideration.
Coming Up in the next issue of Close-Up Online...
In the next issue of Close-Up Online, you'll hear from community members and also meet our new school board members!
Dates to remember:
Please attend these FCPS meetings, where the FY 2011 budget will be discussed:
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
Extra-Curricular Programs Help Close the Achievement Gap
By Kathy Mullenix, Principal
Daniels Run Elementary School
At Daniels Run, we strive to challenge our students in creative ways in the classroom every day. However, we know that learning doesn't stop at the classroom door. We convey that idea to our children by providing a menu of extracurricular opportunities.
Part of becoming a lifelong learner is finding a passion for something educational that doesn't feel like work, and we strive to give our children the chance to find the right fit for them, in the classroom and out. In addition, we recognize that many of the skills our children will need as working adults are not always spelled out in our curriculum.
An important book by educator Tony Wagner, called The Global Achievement Gap, lists seven skills that children need to develop to "excel in a time of rapid social, technological, and economic change."
Many of these skills are those that are developed by allowing them the chance to be creative and curious, and to work in an authentic situation. In fact, the programs we offer at Daniels Run allow our students to share their talents in traditional school activities such as the SCA, Safety Patrols, and library helpers (our Library Dragons). Specifically, our student leaders learn valuable leadership skills and they get the opportunity to practice social interaction and conflict resolution.
Before and after-school programs also provide an outstanding opportunity to extend learning, and we take full advantage of this additional time at Daniels Run. Many of our female students participate in our GEMS rogram, which stands for Girls Excelling in Math and Science. These students have had the opportunity to meet and interact with professional biochemists, engineers, mathematicians, and others, and to learn more about these careers. Many of our young ladies love being part of the Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia program, where they learn about and practice running for fun and fitness.
The bottom line is that we believe these activities promote social interaction by allowing students to work with others in an area of common interest. They develop socially, physically, and emotionally by participating in real-life activities, and they learn about the world around us, relationships with others and themselves. We hope that by exposing our students to many opportunities, they will each find an interest that they can develop in the years ahead.
Providence Elementary School
3616 Jermantown Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Beyond the SOLs: A Look at the Exciting Extra-Curricular Programs at Providence
By Jesse Kraft, Principal
Providence Elementary School
At Providence Elementary, we have many opportunities for students to work with their strengths and develop specific talents.
As a Math Science Technology Focus school, we have more resources and opportunities than the typical elementary school in promoting hands-on learning through these disciplines.
Our students express themselves and their learning through interactive computer projects, including video editing, and utilize an inquiry-based approach to experiments in our science lab.
G.E.M.S. (Girls Excelling in Mathematics & Sciences) is an after-school program that we offer to 5th & 6th grader girls. They spend weeks investigating juicy problems while developing their skills in math and science.
On April 24 Providence celebrated its first Service Saturday. Focused on service learning, students and parents came to school to transform our courtyard into an extension of our science lab.
They created a mulch trail, planted trees and flowers, set up bird houses and feeders, prepared for composting, and created several planting beds for vegetables and other plants, which will enhance our studies.
It appealed both to the students' desire to contribute to their community and to those with a green thumb or interest in nature. Many families brought their own gardening tools to contribute. See the Providence website for a slideshow about the day.
Our specials teachers work tirelessly to make physical education, music and art places where students can develop their talents. We are able to provide opportunities for the whole child through regular fitness activities that promote students' personal best in P.E., multiple avenues for musical expression.
Thanks to our teachers for providing these opportunities and always looking for ways to develop students' talents and interests.
Lanier Middle School
3801 Jermantown Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
From Electives to After-School Activities, Students at Lanier are Learning While Having Fun
By Scott Poole, principal
and Diana White, assistant principal
At Lanier, we try to ensure that students have the core skills and knowledge they need while providing them with numerous opportunities to explore and develop their individual interests and talents. Whether it is a chance to try something entirely new or to pursue interests at a deeper level, our electives courses and after-school programs offer students a myriad of choices.
Our electives program is incredibly strong. Thanks to assistance and support from the Fairfax City Schools, we are pleased to be one of the few middle schools in Fairfax County that offers four foreign languages (French, German, Spanish, and Latin).
Our performing arts department also provides opportunities for students to participate in high performing band, orchestra, and choral programs as evidenced by our status as a "Blue Ribbon School" last year.
Our speech and drama program regularly puts on plays, musicals, and short vignettes. For those students interested in technology, courses in technology systems (databases, publishing, and presentations) and computer solutions (comprised of modular "synergistic" labs) are available.
We also offer 30 after-school programs at Lanier, including athletic opportunities (soccer, basketball, flag football), academic opportunities (Homework Club, Lego Robotics, SOL remediation), and extracurricular opportunities (Hip-Hop Dance, Creating with Computers, Babysitting).
Some of these programs give students a chance to meet peers, staff, coaches, and other individuals outside of Lanier, while others give students a chance to showcase their talents to a broad audience. For example, our intramural soccer and flag football champions compete against their counterparts from nearby middle schools, and our top student basketball team plays our faculty team each year during our "Lights on Lanier" event.
Each of these programs provides students with new learning experiences. The result, we find, is that their academic experience is enhanced and enriched thanks to these engaging opportunities.
Fairfax High School
3501 Rebel Run
Fairfax, VA 22030
Students are Inspired by Fairfax High School's Visual, Performing Arts and Science Programs
By Dave Goldfarb, principal
Fairfax High School
At Fairfax High, we offer a variety of programs that focus on the special interests our students have. By enriching their academic program with art, music, and theater classes, students develop and learn in new and exciting ways. Consider these dynamic courses:
Fairfax High School's Visual and Performing Arts classes provide our students varied opportunities to develop their interest and talents. Through our arts offerings, students can build their skills and talents while being challenged to grow and pursue excellence in a craft. Often, the students' involvement in the arts classes bring them recognition inside and outside the classroom, as they perform and display their work in the community.
Our music students can choose from band, chorus, and orchestra classes, and they can earn AP credit in Music Theory. All of the performance classes also allow students to pursue opportunities at district, region, and state levels through auditions. Solo, small ensemble, and large group performances offer students the chance to work in different settings.
In our theatre classes, students have the chance to learn how to lead audience members to laughter and tears and every emotion in between all during the same show. Through a variety of shows, students learn not only how to take on the persona of a play's character, but also how to explore the character of that persona.
Science Olympiad is a team competition where students show off their skills in many fields of science. Students are asked to apply the principles of biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and technology to events that ask competitors to do everything from constructing a bridge to reconstructing a crime scene. This year the Fairfax High School team earned more medals than any other high school team in the history of Virginia Science Olympiad.
In the visual arts, students are given the opportunity to learn how to use a visual image to get a message across to an audience. The students' work is displayed in the classroom as well as the One-Person Pyramid Art Show and Spotlight on the Arts shows.
At the Fairfax High School Academy for Communications and the Arts, teachers prepare students for future success by creating hands-on project work that incorporates problem-solving, collaboration, adaptability, leadership and technical literacy skills key skills valued by employers in many industries.
All second-year Academy students are now required to complete a Signature Project. By design, these projects demand significant effort and a ‘product' that represents the body of work the student plans to carry forward as he/she pursues further study or entry-level work.
Most importantly, the Signature Project experience is designed to replicate the experience of creating and implementing a professional industry project or product.
An Example: Second-year Fashion Design students design a collection of three garments from a thematic point of view. They work with a team of first-year students who assist them with developing visual presentation boards and a runway presentation.
A team of professional designers reviews the collections, listen to an oral presentation by the student, and provide immediate feedback from the industry point of view. The project deliberately mirrors what a fashion designer would experience in presenting a collection with students better prepared for what will be required of them in the industry. It's a dynamic program that truly prepares students for the future.