Ed beat: A focus on math, foreign language classes for kids, and a new principal at Walton

THE EDUCATION BEAT

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UVA Health System Physician Dr. Ayotunde Dokun stresses the importance of mathematics to students during M-Cubed, a summer math-readiness program at J.P. Burley Middle School. Photo: Andrew Quarles. UVA Health System Physician Dr. Ayotunde Dokun stresses the importance of mathematics to students during M-Cubed, a summer math-readiness program at J.P. Burley Middle School. Photo: Andrew Quarles.

Our regular Education Beat reporting is the result of a partnership with the nonprofit community news platform Charlottesville Tomorrow, which covers growth, development, public education, and local politics. 

Walton Middle School fills assistant principal vacancy

The county school division has hired Rick Vrhovac as the new assistant principal at Walton Middle School. Vrhovac’s arrival, announced last week, comes on the heels of numerous leadership and student conduct complaints at the school.

Vrhovac comes to Walton from Albemarle High School, where he served as assistant principal since 2009.

Prior to working in Albemarle, Vrhovac taught, coached, and directed athletics in Louisa County for eight years. He has taught science at Burley Middle School and in 1996 joined the staff at Albemarle High School, where he’s led the anti-bullying program “Stop One, Save One” since 2011. Walton principal Alison Dwier-Selden plans for Vrhovac to develop a similar program at the middle school and said Vrhovac’s experience working with eighth graders transitioning to high school will be a benefit.

Walton’s new administrator is a graduate of David Lipscomb University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education, and James Madison University, where he completed a Master’s degree in physical education

Foreign tongues for elementary kids

The Albemarle County School Board continues to update its Strategic Plan—the division’s main policy guidance document—and last week elementary foreign language instruction was named one of the board’s main priorities going forward.

New funding from the Board of Supervisors would be required to launch the new language program, which board member Diantha McKeel said county parents have been requesting for years.

Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun said cost, the grades included, and languages taught will depend on the program’s purpose, which can range from cultural awareness to fluency. Haun said as elementary students master world languages, the division will also have to adjust middle school language instruction, and the initiative would require hiring new teachers and central office staff. Staff will include the program in the upcoming budget approval process, which begins this winter. If approved, Haun said instruction could begin as soon as the 2015-16 school year.

The board adopted the current Strategic Plan in 2005, and reassess the plan’s priorities every two years.

M-Cubed: a partnership for math and life skills

Last week, members of the national African-American education advocacy group 100 Black Men offered local middle school students a lesson in why math matters.

The presentation at J.P. Burley Middle School was part of M-Cubed (Math, Men, and Mission), a year-long mentoring program with a two-week summer component designed to increase male African-American enrollment and performance in middle school mathematics. Twenty-one local professionals impressed upon the fifth- through eighth-graders in attendance the importance of education and self-confidence, as well as fostering an interest in completing advanced mathematics courses, such as Algebra I and Geometry, in middle school, saying doing so will help them start preparing for college early.

Other M-Cubed activities consist of reading about prominent African-Americans, mentoring sessions focused on homework, personal issues, and life goals, as well as mandatory workshops for the participants parents to reinforce these principles within the home.

UVA Health System Physician Dr. Ayotunde Dokun stresses the importance of mathematics to students during M-Cubed, a summer math-readiness program at J.P. Burley Middle School.—Tim Shea and Andrew Quarles

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