Education beat: County balks at funding Yancey learning center and other school news

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Matt Shields, a physics teacher at Charlottesville High School, talks about the changing role of a teacher during last weekend’s Tom Tom Founder Festival. Photo: Tim Shea Matt Shields, a physics teacher at Charlottesville High School, talks about the changing role of a teacher during last weekend’s Tom Tom Founder Festival. Photo: Tim Shea

Our education reporting appears thanks to a partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow.

The funding future for an “intergenerational learning center” at Yancey Elementary is unclear after the Albemarle School Board met last week. “We need to define what the programming for an intergenerational center is to get a better vision of where we take this,” school board chair Ned Galloway said.

Dr. Bernard Hairston, the Yancey Advisory Workgroup’s liaison between the school board and the Board of Supervisors, presented a recommendation that the school board fund an estimated $40,000 for a director of the future center.

School board member Pam Moynihan was uncertain how the school division could find extra funding with this year’s budget likely facing a deficit of over $2.5 million. She suggested the center’s funding may come from the Board of Supervisors in the future.

“Because the center happens to be in a school does not make it our budget responsibility,” Moynihan said.

Hairston said that what’s most important at this point is for the advisory group to have clear and consistent support from the school board to continue developing plans for the Yancey center. Moynihan and the rest of the board agreed.

“We are happy to endorse the project and allow the group to move forward with the charter,” said Moynihan. Yancey will host a community expo at 5pm on Wednesday, April 16 for organizations providing programming at the school.

Charlottesville Schools undecided on start time

The Charlottesville School Board wasn’t sold on the latest school day scenario presented last week. The proposal, in which all students would have begun school after 8am, was the fifth scenario the board has reviewed during its month-long consideration of the start of the school day.

The board ultimately rejected the plan because it would have forced Charlottesville High School to dismiss its students at 4:15pm, which school officials said is too late, citing afternoon traffic and after-school activities as obstacles.

Some board members said they supported scenario two, which would see the elementary day run from 8am to 2:30pm, the middle school day from 8:30am to 3:15pm, and the high school day from 9:05am to 3:45pm. The school board expects to vote on this issue in May.

Educators stress entrepreneurial thinking during Tom Tom

Last weekend’s Tom Tom Founders Festival offered local teachers, students, and administrators the chance to publicly discuss a new push in education: fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in schools.

In a panel discussion at The Haven on Saturday, Ira Socol, Albemarle’s design program manager, said one way of innovating is to arrange content around student interests and give them choices. While a teacher would continue choosing the books a class might read, Socol said, he or she would stop expecting all students to express their learning in the same way.

Charlottesville High School physics teacher Matt Shields said he no longer thinks it’s his job to “send out knowledge,” but to help students navigate, and make sense of, the “deluge of information that they live in.”

The panelists agreed that the emphasis on standardized test scores isn’t promoting innovation. “It’s pretty explicit to the kids that the reason they’re here is to take a standardized test,” Shields said. “It’s good that schools in Charlottesville and around the country are trying to figure out another way to do this.”

Eric Siegel, the director and chief content cfficer at the New York Hall of Science, said going forward, educators could help reinforce the notion that great innovations aren’t plucked from thin air. “New ideas come from the periphery of where old endeavors were,” Siegel said. “The exemplar of entrepreneurial thinking is looking at the resources around you…and understanding what’s already been done.”

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR: Joan Ackroyd, Librarian, Monticello High School

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Providing equity of access for all students. While many of our students bring their own devices to school, we have far too many students whose families cannot afford the luxury of mobile technology or even Internet access at home. Until we can become a 1:1 school for all grades, an almost daily challenge is either working late to give students computer access after school or loaning out used laptops for students to successfully work on projects at home.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That librarians sit around and read books all day long. If only! The popularity of our Library Learning Commons translates into spending every minute helping students and teachers with research, book selection and [entrepreneurial] activities.

What outside experience prepared you best for your position?

It may seem strange, but the outside experience that prepared me best for my job is being a mom. My own children have taught me patience, kindness and how much fun learning can be.

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