Going to visit one’s children’s schools during Back to School Night is an annual event for most parents. They enjoy meeting their children’s teachers, visiting their classrooms and hearing what the principal has to say. All but a couple of schools have hosted their Back to School Nights as the school year kicks into full gear.
“Back to School Night went great and the parents were supportive,” said Maura Caulfield, principal of Stratford Landing Elementary School. “So many families were represented — often both parents. They were positive with comments about the modular and how well it looked inside, as well as expressing appreciation that all classes at a grade level were located together in the building, therefore making the map easier to read and the building conducive to age groups. The parents also expressed their positive impressions on the new staff members/teachers who joined the Stratford Landing staff this year.
“At Back to School Night, we offered a Spanish translator during the general meeting to a portion of our new ESOL population which was coordinated by Aranka Gyuk, our ESOL teacher. The translator was available after the meeting as well. Mrs. Evans, our parent liaison, is working with Mrs. Gyuk to assemble standard documents used during a school year and to obtain translations for the documents to meet the family needs in our community.
“The modular unit is still under contract and final touches are being made. The modular unit and landscaping improvements were part of the changes at Stratford Landing this summer and fall. The canopy was put up over the connecting walkway between the building and modular unit which is 10 classrooms, a workroom, a conference room, and a resource room. There are group and adult restrooms in the modular as well. The modular replaced eleven trailers.
“The school year is basically going smoothly. The PTA continues to be incredibly supportive at Stratford Landing, offering to support all instructional staff with $50 to start the school year. Finding additional staff members is a challenge faced by myself and many of my colleagues in Fairfax County. The number of qualified candidates is not as plentiful as in years passed. Finding the best for the students continues to be our focus.”
JAMES DALLAS, principal of Hybla Valley Elementary School, said, “Hundreds of parents attended our annual Back-to-School Night program to learn about new programs and new initiatives at Hybla Valley this year. Perhaps the most exciting news was that the school made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in Math and English last year. Student improvement was significant in all subgroups with increases as much as 23 percent in some areas. Much of the success can be attributed to Hybla's relentless pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning. Most of last year was spent on examining student work and using data to make informed instructional decisions about next steps for individual students.
“Moreover, staff raised the bar for themselves as learners and for students. Despite having the highest poverty in FCPS and the highest ESOL population in the county, we did not make excuses because failure was not an option for us. What we are attempting to show, which is supported by a lot of research on Closing the Achievement Gap, is that having qualified teachers who are capable of delivering quality, explicit instruction that deepens a student's intellectual capacity matters more than the socioeconomic level of students.
“We have spent the better part of this year looking at and analyzing data to determine trends and patterns in performance. This practice will continue to afford us opportunities to gain a better sense of how our school has and continues to perform and to be able to target specific areas of the curriculum that have consistently been trouble spots for us. The challenge now is to sustain our growth. We won't rest on our laurels- we'll continue to work smarter in hopes of seeing our achievement gains climb year after year.”