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What Are the Most Exciting Changes in McLean Area Schools?

Donald Hutzel, Churchill Elementary School principal (pictured with Assistant Principal Sharon Jones)

Donald Hutzel, Churchill Elementary School principal (pictured with Assistant Principal Sharon Jones) Photo by Sandy Cho

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Ellen Reilly, McLean High School principal

Ellen Reilly, McLean High School principal:

“One of the things that we’re starting this year is that we’re having a Highlander Kickoff on Aug. 27. We’re trying to find a way to welcome the community and the kids back, and make it a fun atmosphere for everybody. It is a day for students to come get their schedules, pick up their parking and uniforms, meet some coaches, and for clubs to sell some stuff and start fundraising. It’s a day for everyone to get back in the mood and get ready for school. We’ll have food, cheerleaders, and the band. It will be the first time we’ll ever be doing it. The second thing is that we’re embedding our Highlander Time, which is our intervention period, so we’ll be having intervention everyday for half an hour so kids can meet with teachers, catch up on their homework and do things to de-stress during the school day. We also have a new instructional coach at our school, Kate Stavish, and she’ll be working with our teachers and team during the school day on curriculum and different components about teaching, so we’re very excited about that too.”

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Jessica Statz, Langley High School assistant principal

Jessica Statz, Langley High School assistant principal:

“I think the most exciting change that is coming to Langley is just our emphasis on teacher and student morale in the building. Although this is first and foremost a place for kids to learn, we still want kids and teachers here to be happy and have a good time. We’re trying to come up with creative ways to really establish a school culture that embraces the aspect of students still having some fun and doing that without affecting their grades entirely. In terms of new changes, we are revamping our Saxon Time, which is our intervention period that we have during the school day, and the new guidelines will be coming out in the next two weeks, so that will give kids a little bit more freedom and free time.”

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Christie Day, a seventh grade English teacher, and Cherith Pierson, the assistant principal at Cooper Middle School

Cherith Pierson: “At Cooper, I think one of the most exciting changes is that we are really focused on raising our expectations for students and increasing our rigor. That’s going to really provide a well-rounded experience for our students and that is exciting for us. One of the things we have created and that Mrs. Day has been working on this summer is the CELL program, which stands for Cooper Empowered for Life and Learning. This program basically provides our students with the 21st century skills they need in order to look successfully forward into the future, such as executive and thinking skills. At Cooper, we’re really a team. The students, the teachers and the parents are a team, and we’re excited to work together as a community."

Christie Day: “The CELL program has been going great and we’re working on our eighth grade portion of it right now. The past Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 12 and 13, we had about a third of our rising seventh graders come in to get a great introduction to middle school and learn about the school but also our increased expectations here compared to elementary school. We want to get them ready to start thinking about what they need to do themselves to be able to critically think and be a little bit more creative. We talked to them about the importance of experimenting on their own academically and taking ownership over their learning—thinking for themselves, figuring out where their academic strengths lie, and being successful in middle school themselves. For the eighth grade session, our eighth graders will be mostly going to Langley, where there are high expectations, and we really want to give them a solid foundation. There will be a very intensive focus on study techniques and organizational strategies, thinking critically about their own lives."

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Donald Hutzel, Churchill Elementary School principal (pictured with Assistant Principal Sharon Jones)

Donald Hutzel, Churchill Elementary School principal (pictured with Assistant Principal Sharon Jones):

“There are several things we are very excited about for the upcoming school year. The biggest change, or addition, is our initiative to have a one-to-one ratio of laptops to students, especially for the upper grades. We worked hard last year to acquire laptops and get them re-imaged so when students come back, they’ll be assigned to a laptop that they will be able to use for the whole year. They’ll be stored in the classroom and we are so pleased that we’ve got all this technology available for students to access and utilize in school. Students will also be able to bring their own devices but we’re really happy to have laptops for every student in the building. In terms of other changes to be excited about, we’ll continue to focus our efforts on environmental education, making connections between curriculums that the students are learning and applying that to environmental education. The third change is that our enrollment is going up a little bit this year. We will begin with over 840 students and we’re really happy to be able to welcome a lot of new families to the community. Every time we gain more families, they bring great ideas and interesting backgrounds to our school community that makes everything richer and more interesting.”