Middle School Staffs Prepare for New Year

Middle School Staffs Prepare for New Year

HMS Pilots Two New Honor Courses; Rachel Carson Celebrates 5th Anniversary

Aug. 22, 2002

At <b>Herndon Middle School</b>, Principal Frank Jenkins looks forward to piloting two new honors courses in science and social science. Last year, Herndon debuted its honors-level math course to rave reviews from teachers, students and parents alike, Jenkins said.

Twenty-four students took part in the math honors program last year and that number is expected to rise to 62 this year before doubling again next year. Of the 1,260 students expected to walk through the doors of his school on Sept. 3, 71 will be enrolled in the social studies honors course. Another 70 will be taking advantage of the science honors program, a curriculum developed and written by one of Jenkins' teachers, Bobby Biddle.

"The addition of these honors programs can only raise the ceiling for everybody in this school," he said. "My goal is for quality education for all students. My goal is to always do better."

Jenkins will also be welcoming seven or eight new teachers this year, as well as a new assistant principal, Justine Klena. This is the fourth middle school in the county for Klena who has a background in staff development and special education. Previously she was an assistant principal at Cooper Middle School in McLean. Klena comes back to Fairfax County to Herndon Middle after a brief stopover in Richmond. "I wanted to come back," Klena, who lives in Falls Church, said. "So I am very excited to be at Herndon. It's a place where I can make a difference. It's a big school with a lot of diversity. I love that."

Both Klena and Jenkins have middle school age children who go to different schools. Any advice for their own children before the first day? Klena didn't hesitate, "I warned him to think before he acts," she laughed. "Trust me, so much can be avoided that way."

Also new to Herndon Middle this year is Dr. Janet Allen. Allen, an award-winning teacher, researcher, writer and associate professor at the University of Central Florida will be working collaboratively with all 85 or so teachers. Allen, whose books include "It's Never Too Late: Leading Adolescents to Lifelong Literacy" and "There's Room for Me Here: Literacy Workshops in the Middle Schools," was hired by the Fairfax County Office of Middle School Instruction to work closely with only five middle schools in the county. "I will be walking the halls with Dr. Allen and talking with teachers to get their feedback on what is working and what isn't," Jenkins said. "If I don't see kids smiling in the halls then I wonder what is going on."

While one of Jenkins goals for Herndon Middle is a wireless computer lab, he did report that the school has 10 new computers this year. Herndon will have two trailers on its campus this year, but they will only be used for PE health classes, Jenkins said.

Gail Womble, the principal at <b>Rachel Carson Middle School</b> loves her job. Spend 10 minutes walking around with her through the gleaming white halls and this becomes readily apparent. "It is really refreshing because no day is the same," said Womble. "We are blessed with fabulous kids and fabulous teachers who are here because they want to be. Now I just can't wait for everyone to hurry back."

Rachel Carson, one of Fairfax County's highest achieving schools and nationally recognized for its award-winning design, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and Womble has been there since the beginning. "I remember before the first child ever came through that door thinking that it might take five years to become a community," the principal said. "In reality, it took about five days to develop into this incredible family we have today."

To celebrate the school's year-long birthday, Womble, her entire staff of nearly 100 and all 1,030 students will remind themselves of their school's roots and its philosophy with its emphasis on team-building, character education and technology integration. "Like we do every year, we will revisit our philosophy to make sure we are still going in the right direction. We haven't changed it, yet."

Womble, a former high school English teacher, will be welcoming about 15 new "hand-picked" teachers into Rachel Carson this year. She is excited about the "new ideas and new blood" that she says will be a great mix with her staff of young energetic teachers and experienced instructors. Like a Little League parent, Womble beams when describing her team of teachers. "As great as this building is — and it is fabulous — this school wouldn't be the same without the teachers and staff that occupy it," she said.

Carson Middle School is in the Oakton High School pyramid. Students from Crossfield, Floris, Fox Mill, and McNair Elementary Schools attend Carson Middle School. Womble is the first to admit that Rachel Carson is not the most diverse middle school around — far from it. Rather than shy away from diversity education, Womble has made it a top priority for everyone at Rachel Carson. "Family is key; it's the cornerstone," said Womble. "We have to be a community and a family away from home to be successful. From the best and brightest to those that are struggling, we are all one family."

Rachel Carson will continue its partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, EDS, and Scitor Corporation. The purpose of the partnerships is to empower students and to develop students into responsible, contributing citizens, Womble said. These partnerships involve activities and support that enrich both the school and the businesses, she added.