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What's New at Our Local High Schools

Coverage of what's new at the local elementary and middle schools will be in next week's Centre View.

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Not only does Chantilly High have a new principal this year, Jim Kacur, it also has a new assistant principal, John Vdovjak, who'll lead subschool five, and a new director of student activities, Terry Brown.

It also opens with nearly 30 new teacher in various subjects across the board. And with a projected enrollment of 2,850 students, it will also have 14 modular classrooms.

"The more days I've been here, the more excited I am about being principal," said Kacur. "I have a terrific staff and wonderful teachers, and I'm looking forward to meeting all the students and their families."

New this year, Chantilly's Guidance Department put together a reference guide to help families make their way through four years at the school. It was included in the back-to-school packets students received when they picked up their schedules, Aug. 30.

Kacur said the school focus will be on leading learning. "We're looking at every individual as a learner and will be helping and encouraging them to be successful [in their classes]."

Chantilly has long had a reputation for excellence in its music department and, this year, school Band Director Keith Taylor has been recognized by the Wolf Trap Performing Arts Foundation. He and his young musicians will be working with a composer from the Wolf Trap Symphony to compose an original piece of music to be performed at Chantilly's spring concert.

And although it has nothing to do with academics, but lots to do with safety, Chantilly High will be getting a much-needed traffic signal on Stringfellow Road at the main entrance to the school. Kacur had hoped it would be in place by the start of the school year, but it should be operating shortly.

"We'll still have crossing guards," he said. "But it's been needed for a long time because of the amount of traffic going to the school and to the [Chantilly Regional] library [across the street] and because students have been crossing without a crosswalk."

<sh>Centreville High

<bt>"I'm excited to be back for a second year," said Principal Peter Noonan. "Having a year under my belt gives me perspective to see how great this community is and how hard it works for its children."

The week of Aug. 15, Centreville High held its first-ever AP and Honors camp for students who'd never before taken these types of courses. It gave them a feel for the rigors of these courses and, in some cases, they worked with the teaches they'll have for these classes.

The school also held a freshman orientation enabling freshmen, for the first time, to be part of the Principal's Roundtable, a leadership group. This group put together activities and events to help the freshmen get to know each other, do team-building and learn more about the school and what to expect, from a student's perspective. Said Noonan: "It's new and exciting, and I'm really proud of our kids for putting this together."

And there's even more for freshmen. "We know that students who participate in extracurricular activities or athletics do better academically," explained Noonan. "So this year, for the first time, freshmen will be required to participate in at least two extracurricular activities. We're confident that there's a place for everybody at Centreville."

All the fall sports are underway, and Noonan's "very excited about the football season this year. We have great kids, great athletes, and they've worked very hard."

Centreville ended with 2,140 students in June and was expected to open with 2,300 on Tuesday. "We're OK with space," said Noonan. "We recently got a new, eight-classroom, modular building for history, P.E. and criminal justice classes."

The school has a new assistant principal, William Bates, replacing Ting Yi Oei, who's now doing the same job in Loudoun County. Another new assistant principal will also be hired to replace Sterry McGee, who's retiring at the end of the month.

Noonan will be working this year with an administrative assistant, Scott Bergquist, who taught English at Westfield. And there are about 20 new teachers, plus a new assistant librarian. Said Noonan: "We got the best and brightest that Fairfax County had to offer."

One of the school's major areas of focus will again be in Professional Learning Communities. "We've changed our master-planning schedule so that teachers have common planning time, by department," said Noonan. "They'll have an opportunity to develop common assessments of students to provide us with information and data about student performance."

That way, he said, the school can make better instructional decisions to make sure all students meet "the rigorous expectations we have of them in all content areas." In addition, a half hour has been built in each day for students to have an opportunity for remediation or enrichment, as their particular needs dictate.

Noonan said he's glad the school will be able to further enhance its capacity as a learning community. And, he said, "I'm confident that, through the efforts of the faculty — given appropriate time — all of our students' needs will be met."

<sh>Westfield High

<bt>The big news at Westfield High is its three-story, 30-classroom, brick-and-mortar addition. It's planned for completion during the 2006-07 school year to better accommodate a student body of 3,200 in a facility built for 2,500.

"The bottom floor was going to be left unfinished for storage or future classrooms," said Principal Mike Campbell. "But now with the overcrowding, we're going to go ahead and finish it off with six classrooms." (The addition was originally to be two stories and 24 classrooms).

It will also contain locker bays and bathrooms and will connect via a hallway to the existing building in the cafeteria area. It will arise in an open area between the cafeteria and 'E' wing, behind the tennis courts. Construction is underway and should take about 17 months.

"I'm excited to see the new addition," said Campbell. "The goal is to have the new wing under roof by December so they can work inside it during the winter months."

The school opened Tuesday with an enrollment of 3,225, so it had to add eight more trailers this year for 37 total. Since they're in the back parking lot by the tennis courts, said Campbell, "One of the biggest headaches is parking. We have 343 staff members and a senior class of 750 and only 916 spots total."

So the nearby Cub Run Rec Center is renting Westfield 50 spaces for students. However, visitor parking is scarce. "We lost 30 spaces for the new trailers," said Campbell. "So until we get the spaces back, it'll be difficult."

Last year's trailers consumed 20 spaces but, said Campbell, "They actually give us an 'outer Beltway' because they circle the school building equitably and actually reduce congestion in the hallway inside the building."

Westfield has more than 30 new teachers this year and one more guidance counselor for 13 total. A new county position is assessment specialist, and Linda Wilson will work with Westfield's teachers to help set up SOL-testing logistics. Then she'll assess the scores and work with department chairs to analyze the data.

This year's school motto is "Westfield High School - Tradition at its Best." Said Campbell: "We always try to excel in all endeavors — academics, athletics and the arts — and we want to continue that tradition of excellence."

He noted that the school's AP test scores were up over last year's scores. "In the 2003-'04 school year, on 59 percent of the tests, students got a 3 or better — meaning they'll get college credit for it," he explained. "And this past year, 2004-'05, it was 61 percent."

One big change this year at Westfield is that school will be dismissed five minutes earlier, at 2:05 p.m. instead of 2:10 p.m., at the request of the school system's Transportation Department. That way, buses will get to Stone and Rachel Carson on time. But, said Campbell, "We've built in five minutes in between our third and fourth lunch periods, so no instructional time will be lost."

He said this year will be a challenge, but "We've got great teachers, administrative staff and students. We had a great year last year and expect to have just as great a year, this year. Superintendent Jack Dale said [this school system] has great teachers and staff, and now we want to be world class. And on Aug. 29, that's what my message to the teachers was."