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School Staff Prepare for New Year

Middle Schools deal with after-school programs, AYP and PBS.

Otha L. Davis, principal at Walt Whitman Middle School, is still waiting to hear if his school made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Preliminary figures indicated that they had made it; then some of the numbers changed. Paul Regnier, coordinator, FCPS Office of Public Relations, said the state is still working on the numbers and final figures will be released soon.

“Regarding AYP status, we will continue to analyze the data and develop a plan of action that will focus on the instructional needs of all students. Our staff is committed to ensuring that all students achieve academic success,” Davis said.

In the meantime, Davis said that the Middle Years International Baccalaureate Program continues to be an integral part of their instructional program. Sophomores attending Mount Vernon High School will be the first group to receive their Middle Years IB certificates since the program began.

“We still plan to continue the Middle Years IB program,” Davis said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of kids committed to taking advantage of IB classes. We will tweak and refine the process in terms of working with the elementary and high schools.”

The Professional Learning Community (PLC) continues to be a major focus at Whitman. The practice of using common assessments for all students has paid off, and Davis said, “I think we’re looking at reducing the number of [discipline] referrals. It ties in with the student responsibilities and rights — the kids take ownership.”

Whitman’s motto is: “Be Productive. Be Prepared. Be Prompt. Be Safe. Be Polite.” Davis said that PFC Robert Miller, SRO, has been very supportive.

“He works with the kids and provides that kind of safety net. He works with the parents and is a great role model.”

WHITMAN WILL have some new faces this year. Davis said that overall turnover wasn’t high; four teachers left to join the new South County school and a few others left for other reasons.

The school also lost key players, including their parent liaison, who retired and Rose Dixon, who served as the school-based technical specialist for 10 years, who also retired.

Two other important staff members retired this year: Deanna Williamson, director of Student Services, 26 years, and Cynthia Jacobus, librarian and media specialist, 30 years.

“Both [Jacobus and Williamson] were extremely dedicated and committed to the success and the education of young people in the Mt. Vernon Community, and they will be sorely missed by students, parents, and staff members at Whitman Middle School,” Davis said. “Both are what I consider mainstays — not only were they part of the education here, but they were part of the community and were very committed individuals. We will sorely miss their talents, abilities and leadership.”

While Davis is sad to see these key people leave, he welcomes Nancy Berge, formerly from Woodlawn, who is the new director of Student Services, and Heather Norris, who has come from Lane to assume Jacobus’ position.

Davis said that enrollment will come in as projected-approximately 985 students. He is not concerned about the possible impact of BRAC quite yet, but said that they will probably have to deal with it in a couple of years.

Whitman will continue to offer an after-school program two days a week with activities such as chess club, step, soccer, dance, technology, yearbook and Science Olympiad.

Whitman’s Seventh Grade New Student Orientation will be held Friday, Sept. 2 from 8 a.m. to l0 a.m.

DONNA PASTEUR, PRINCIPAL, Carl Sandburg Middle School, is also gearing up for the new year.

“We’re pleased about making full state accreditation and meeting AYP goals,” Pasteur said.

She is also pleased that Carl Sandburg has received the designation of being a Fairfax County Exemplar School based on last year’s initiation of PBS (Positive Behavior Support). Using this schoolwide approach to managing student behavior, all students know from day one what is expected of them and good behavior is taught and reinforced.

“It’s a great balance of academic achievement and behavioral achievement,” Pasteur said.

Sandburg’s enrollment is down from last year (1215 to 1100), but Pasteur said that is a trend in middle schools across Fairfax County. Fortunately, they have not had any staffing cuts. They will have 15 new staff and faculty members; a lower turnover than other years.

Pasteur is pleased with how both the community-based summer school and SOAR (Sandburg Outstanding Academic Recruits) program went and said about SOAR, “Anything that brings about a strong connection is good. The program will provide support for those students and we are looking at their schedules to make sure that they have at least one honors class. Our support with ensure their success.”

Regarding the summer school program, which allowed Sandburg students to attend their base school with their same teachers, she said, “It helped for us to continue their education and we will continue to focus on their strengths and weaknesses.”

Pasteur is very excited that they will be offering the Club 78 after-school enrichment program. This county-based program operates five days a week during the school year, with student fees ranging from $169 to $10 per month, based on adjusted family income.

Enrollment, which will be limited to 60 students, begins Sept. 1, and will offer homework help, recreational activities, performing arts, visual arts and opportunities for community service.

“We will continue to improve in all areas of professional development,” Pasteur said. “I’m feeling really good about this year.”