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A Sunny Outlook at London Towne

Just a few weeks into the 2003-04 school year, London Towne Principal Andy Camarda is excited, energized and enthusiastic about his school.

"Things are great — there's a real, positive atmosphere," he said. Opening enrollment was 830 students (down from 865 in June) and, said Camarda, "For the first time, no children are in trailers." It's because of a 10-classroom, modular addition to the back of the school — the new home of the first graders.

In his second year as principal, Camarda is also pleased that London Towne's students improved their SOL scores. "We went up in all areas, across the board — including an 18-percent increase in science," he said. "And the number of kids that passed [designated as] 'advanced,' and not just 'proficient,' went up significantly in all areas."

SAID CAMARDA: "It shows that we're really challenging and extending our learners beyond just the basic curriculum." For example, this year, the school is offering its Spanish-immersion program to kindergartners, for the first time. Parents registered their children for it, by lottery, during the summer; 45 kindergartners are enrolled in the program.

Also new this year is a literacy collaborative program — a staff-development opportunity for kindergarten-through-second-grade teachers. Explained Camarda: "A specially trained literacy coach goes into the classrooms, helps teachers look at their instructional practices and makes suggestions about how they can better develop [them]."

London Towne's staff has also spent a great deal of time creating its shared vision for the school. "We're looking at staff collaboration and a focus on learning, safety and a positive, friendly environment challenging all learners," said Camarda.

TEACHERS WILL be examining student progress throughout the year and developing ways to teach each child according to his or her needs. They'll also have common planning-time to meet and discuss things together in grade-level teams. And in the spring, London Towne will be part of the Lead Fairfax program, for school principals and teachers, to help further develop their leadership capacities.

This year, the school has some 10 new teachers and specialists, and joining the staff was a second assistant principal, Sigrid Ryberg. And Camarda says everyone's excited about the future.

"We're going to continue to build on the progress we made last year," he said. "I couldn't be more pumped about all the good things this school year will bring. I'm really proud of the staff we have at London Towne. They deserve a lot of credit [for what they do] — they really are an amazing group."