Columns Opinion Your Views — 04 September 2014
Filling in the blanks: A  busy summer of preparation for the new school year

School board chairwoman Karen Graf

By Karen Graf
(File Photo)

The first week of school is here! Hopefully summer was relaxing and restorative for families in Alexandria City Public Schools, but the district staff were hard at work.

Teachers, administrators and central office staff were busy preparing for the opening of school. There were many great highlights during the month of August, proving to the community that your tax dollars result in productive learning environments, safe facilities and strong instructional practices.

This summer’s basic maintenance was carried out in each school building, but there were some big building projects, too. The roof at George Washington Middle School needed to be replaced, and at present the work to make the building waterproof is complete and the rest of the project should be finished by the end of September.

A crew also spent time at George Mason Elementary School installing four new classrooms. These classrooms are built by a method of traditional construction where the major components are built off site and then delivered to the school and quickly assembled into classrooms that have a 50-year lifespan.

The biggest project in the city is the new Jefferson-Houston School building. Incoming students are going to feel school pride in every corner and excitement when they see their Jaguar mascot painted on the floor of the basketball court.

Meanwhile, the old Jefferson-Houston building has been demolished, and the playgrounds and an artificial turf playing field should be completed by Thanksgiving. In addition, the new principal met the staff and community last week and is ready to move to Alexandria. He also will be a parent: His second-grader will attend Jefferson-Houston.

The official Jefferson-Houston School ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 12 at 10 a.m. in the new gymnasium. Please join us to take a tour of the new facility and see all those kids in a beautiful learning environment.

Nothing is more important than supporting teachers and principals as they prepare for the new school year. Throughout the summer they frequently came together to learn, mentor and meet new colleagues. The theme throughout was that, above all else, our purpose each and every day is to act in the best interest of students.

Superintendent Alvin Crawley held a leadership academy in August that taught administrators about improving organizational management and building a culture of trust with teachers and the community. He values fostering teacher growth through coaching and modeling successful practices. Lastly, he sees an opportunity to focus staff to get to the root of any problems they may have and approach issues with a customer service ethic in mind. At the end of the two days, leaders felt focused, ready and motivated to go back to their schools and inspire their teaching staff.

Meanwhile, elementary school teachers participated in reading institutes to strengthen literacy practices. Elementary schools also will have new math materials that will help them be flexible to each student’s learning needs. Teachers were involved in training and workshops to expand the ways in which we teach math.

The middle school leadership worked together across the two campuses to provide a rigorous and engaged atmosphere for students.

Also, we welcomed 149 newly hired and certified staff members that attended new teacher orientation. At the same time teachers at T.C. Williams were trained on Amplify Tablets, which their students will use this fall.

The district has provided safe and productive school environments, and has spent the summer undertaking strong staff training and collaboration. All are vital to the mission of serving the needs of each and every student.

The writer is the 
chairwoman of the 
Alexandria School Board.

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