A new high school, students on the board, and summer ed


Sisters Madeline and Margaret Paczkowski collaborate during CoderDojo, Albemarle's summer computer-programming academy. Photo: Charlottesville Tomorrow Sisters Madeline and Margaret Paczkowski collaborate during CoderDojo, Albemarle’s summer computer-programming academy. Photo: Charlottesville Tomorrow

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. 

Fourth Albemarle high school in the works

The Albemarle County School Board last week rejected recommendations to focus resources on expanding existing schools to satisfy an expanding student population, leaving the possibility of a fourth high school in the county on the table.

During their discussion of the division’s capital improvement program, school board members unanimously agreed to continue the planning process for a new high school, despite the recommendation from the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee to build additions on Western and Monticello high schools. The committee had said the expansions would be a more cost-effective way to accommodate the growth in enrollment.

Also discussed were planned additions to Agnor-Hurt Elementary School, where construction is slated to begin next year as planned, and Henley Middle School, which could see a new auxiliary gym and modernizations to its media center. Other near-term improvements will include technology upgrades and security at county schools.

County board supports addition of student position

The proposal to add a non-voting student member to the Albemarle County School Board got further support last week, as board members took time at their Thursday meeting to discuss general requirements and duties of the future student representative position.

Also up for discussion was whether one student will take the seat or whether a rotational schedule would be adopted in order to increase student exposure to the school board.

The board members and the three County Student Advisory Council students present said they were excited about the student member cooperation. All preferred the rotational model for student participation in board meetings.

“We are looking for these students to speak up and become a part of the conversation,” said board member Pamela Moynihan.

The board was unanimous in its support of a student member, and directed staff to draft a detailed proposal on student rotation schedules and duties.

 Leadership program offers summer opportunities to county kids  

The second-annual Leadership Academy, a summer enrichment program for local high schoolers, is currently underway for Albemarle County students.

Students will explore and discuss the topic and skills of leadership such as goal-setting, strategy, and public speaking. They will also be free to follow and develop their own interests.

“Currently there are many fee-based opportunities for students in this area,” said Jennifer Sublette-Williamson, head of the County Student Advisory Council. “This program is free and county-led, allowing more students to participate.”

Sublette-Williamson said students from every county high school are participating in the program this year (attendance tripled from last year), and there are plans to expand in the future. She said she hopes the 30 participating students take what they learn during the summer and apply it during the year, as well as engage in discussion with their fellow academy members and other students.

Michael Thornton. Photo: Charlottesville Tomorrow

MEET YOUR EDUCATOR: Michael Thornton, kindergarten teacher at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School

Q: What is your favorite part of classroom teaching?

A: My favorite part of teaching is helping students understand that learning goes beyond school. I love it when a student comes to me and wants to teach the class about something that they studied and/or investigated.

Q: What is your favorite example of a rewarding experience you’ve had in the field of education?

A: Two years ago, I was asked to present at a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I asked the organizer if my third graders could present instead of me. He loved that idea. My third grade students developed a one-hour presentation on using Twitter, Livebinders, and Skype in the classroom, and presented to over 300 educators via Skype.

Q: If you had to pick one, what do you think is the single most important issue facing the public schools today?

A: As a whole, the educational system is behind. Public schools settle on the status quo too much. The system needs to be more progressive. We have to teach to the 21st century. In fact, we should be thinking 10 years in advance. I ask myself, “What will my students need to be able to do in 10 years? What skills do they need to learn now to prepare them for an ever-changing future?”


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