Officials brief families on historically black schools

Second graders at Meriwether Lewis Elementary doing “morning mover” dances. Photo courtesy Charlottesville Tomorrow Second graders at Meriwether Lewis Elementary doing “morning mover” dances. Photo courtesy Charlottesville Tomorrow

Nearly 100 parents and students came together at Albemarle High School last week for a discussion about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

University of Virginia Associate Dean of Admissions Valerie Gregory stressed that college preparation should start in middle school, when students should begin taking advanced classes to prepare them for more challenging high school courses in the future.

Other topics included the historical significance of Greek organizations on HBCU campuses, as well as cultural differences African-American students will face at an HBCU.

Albemarle High School teacher Wes Bellamy said attending an HBCU has the potential to instill a sense of cultural pride in a young person.

“When you get to go somewhere and see individuals who are just like you and are achieving,” Bellamy said, “whose parents are doing well and you learn in your textbooks and readings that you come from a very rich lineage…it exudes through you.”

Albemarle High School will take interested students to an HBCU fair in February.

Promise Gala supports higher education

At the third annual Promise Gala last week, donors, scholarship recipients, and community members came together to raise funds for the Charlottesville Scholarship Program (CSP), a fund that makes financial gifts to help low- and moderate-income citizens further their education.

The program, which has provided 82 scholarships to date and is currently assisting 30 people, was established in 2001 when citizens called for City Council to invest a $250,000 budget surplus in the city’s future.

Adults, city schools graduates, and city employees are eligible for the partial scholarships that usually increase each year and renew until a student graduates. In addition to the financial support, board members also mentor recipients during their tenure in school.

This year the CSP honored Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins with the Russell M. Linden Promise Award, which honors a community member who helps create opportunities for Charlottesville’s students to build futures for themselves.

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School named a Blue Ribbon school

The students at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School have outperformed their peers across the state, garnering recognition last week from U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes K-12 public and private schools that demonstrate high academic performance or significant gains in student achievement.

“I am enormously proud of our teachers, students and parents for their wonderful engagement with our school, for their enthusiasm for learning, and for the high personal standards they set for achievement,” Meriwether Lewis Principal Kimberly Cousins said. “Every member of our school community should be congratulated for making such a significant difference at our school.”

The Virginia Standards of Learning results released last week show Meriwether Lewis students’ scores surpassed state benchmarks. For the 2012-13 school year, 88 percent of the schools’ students passed in English, against a benchmark of 75 percent. In science, math, and history, pass rates ranged from 85 to 97, against a benchmark of 70.

Meriwether Lewis Elementary will be honored November 18-19 in Washington, D.C. with the rest of the nation’s Blue Ribbon Schools, including nine others from Virginia.

Tamara Wilkerson


Charlottesville school pictures: Johnson Elementary, Thursday October 3; Venable Elementary, Friday October 4.

Albemarle parent-teacher conferences: Albemarle High, October 2, 4:30-7:30pm; Monticello High, October 2, 4:30-7:30pm; Western Albemarle, October 2, 4:30-7:30pm; Murray High, October 3 from 3:45-7pm; Jackson P. Burley, October 3 from 4:30-8pm; Joseph T. Henley, October 3 from 4:30-8pm. Please call your school for more specific information.


Tamara Wilkerson Spanish Teacher, Jack Jouett Middle School

What has your classroom experience taught you that studying education could not have prepared you for?

The most important thing that I have learned in my classroom is to always expect the unexpected. When I decided to become an educator, I thought that as long as I planned engaging lessons and stayed organized, that my class would always flow smoothly. However, things don’t always go as planned, and even the most organized plans can shift and change. I’ve found that as long as I remain flexible and attentive to student needs, then learning will take place, despite schedule changes. I’m dedicated to making sure that my students learn, regardless of the small bumps in the road!

What teaching adjustments do you plan to make moving forward?

I truly believe in community involvement and I have a strong desire to teach my students how to become responsible teenagers as they grow to become community citizens. I plan to provide my students with opportunities to communicate with our English language learners, through an international food night and a lunch club. Not only will this allow the English language learners to feel  more comfortable at Jouett, but it develops my students’ cultural awareness inside and outside of the school. As much as I love teaching Spanish, I think that students should also learn life skills, and interacting with individuals with various backgrounds will help them in the future.

In your eyes, what is the biggest challenge facing education currently?

I think that funding for education is one of the biggest obstacles that our nation is currently facing. It seems that every day we learn of a new budget cut or funding shortage for various student programs, as classrooms continue to get bigger. I am an advocate for ensuring that students and teachers have all of the resources that they need in order to make sure that learning happens, and financial shortages make it more difficult for teachers to provide that individual support that is necessary for student growth. I emphasize the quote that “teaching creates all other professions”, and if we place attention on more funding for education, then we continue to create leaders for tomorrow.

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