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SIT to Make Changes

Park View team pumps up school, student achievement.

Known as “G,” Gagandeep Singh joined the School Improvement Team (SIT) to turn Park View High School into the school he and his classmates want.

“It’s not only for us, I have brothers and sisters that will be coming to Park View,” said Singh, an American native whose family originated from New Delhi, India. “I would definitely like to see it improve so when they come to high school, they can have a great education.”

SIT consists of administrators, staff, students and parents working together on improving student achievement, the school’s climate and security and safety in the school building. To do this, the team implements several new initiatives that lately include a school-wide conference day, a sustained silent reading program and a study-hall class period for test preparation and independent study. These three initiatives earned the Economic Development Commission's (EDC) first annual Education Leadership Award to be presented next month.

The other recipient of the award is Frederick Flemming, Leesburg representative for the Loudoun County School Board. As the director of continuing education at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus, Flemming spearheaded a program to provide post-secondary work force training to local firms. He founded the Loudoun Education Foundation in 1991 with three other School Board members. He also proposed and leads the Loudoun School/Business Partnership, which encourages businesses to provide schools with products and services and students with career preparation opportunities.

"Mr. Flemming is seen as an educational leader in this county in every endeavor," said Edgar Hatrick, superintendent of schools.

THE EDC EDUCATION and Work force Committee created the Education Leadership Award to recognize individuals and groups for demonstrating leadership and achievement in education, work force development and public-school administration. In a statement, the EDC said Park View faces challenges in closing the achievement gap, maintaining regular student attendance and involving the parents and community in the school.

“The thing with leadership in a high school, it’s not any one person. It takes a team of people to make things happen. And it takes your faculty to buy into things,” said Anne Brooks, school principal. “It takes role modeling, talking positively and being persuasive about different initiatives.”

The SIT team, which has 26 members this year, is responsible for developing a three-year school improvement plan required of all public schools in the state beginning this year. The plan will address improving achievement and climate, ideas that the SIT team has been working on for the past three years through the initiatives.

For each initiative, members of the SIT team identify an improvement area, then conduct a data analysis to pinpoint the areas needing problem solving.

“If we think we have the ways and means to address the issue, we implement it,” Brooks said, adding that after an initiative is in place at the school, the team evaluates it for its effectiveness.

THE TEAM STARTED the Meet the Teacher conference day last year to give parents a chance to meet the students’ teachers in one setting. At the end of the semester and again in April, the entire faculty is seated alphabetically in the gymnasium, so parents can meet with the teachers in five-minute sessions.

“Parents can touch base with so many teachers so quickly without setting up a special conference,” Brooks said. “What a challenge it is to get the parents in the building. They think the kids are old enough to take care of themselves.”

Another program started by the team last year is sustained silent reading, a program typically found in elementary and middle schools but not at the high-school level. Extra time was added to the class period after lunch to allow students to read independently for 10 minutes.

“Whether it impacted the test scores or not, we know it helped to focus kids and helped with vocabulary,” Brooks said.

Park View also changed the school’s seven-period block schedule into an eight-period block this year. The seven-period block, which Park View initiated in 1994, includes a daily class and six classes that rotate every other day. With eight blocks, the schedule adds a study hall for remediation work on the state-required Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, one-on-one tutoring, SAT preparation and enrichment activities.

“The teachers are always here for you,” Gagandeep said. “They want you to do your best. There’s no doubt about it at all.”

“It’s a community of caring. Everybody’s there for each other,” said Jasas Jayawardena, a 16-year-old senior originally from Sri Lanka and a member of the SIT team. “It makes me feel comfortable.”

“The diversity of the school has a lot to do with that,” Gagandeep continued. “You don’t feel students have any grudges against you. We all unite to get the job done.”

The Education Leadership Award will be presented at the EDC VIP Reception on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Lightfoot Restaurant in Leesburg.