The Radford City School Board approved a new schedule for the high school and Dalton Intermediate next year at Tuesday’s meeting.
This comes after a multiple year process including visitations and planning, parent input meetings, student discussions during school classes, teacher input, and tweaking by the planning committee.
At the meeting, Superintendent Rob Graham explained that the district has been extremely open and transparent in receiving and sharing input and considering suggestions. Based on all of that information and data, Graham said the overwhelming choice of stakeholders was the Hybrid 7 schedule with dedicated lunch periods for Radford High School and Dalton Intermediate.
This schedule includes seven periods with 50-minute classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday and 90-92 minute learning sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Teachers wanted this weekly arrangement so they would see students more frequently with no long gaps. The more extended classes will be perfect for science labs, extended/in-depth discussion/exploration lessons, Career Technology Education and much more. Both schools will have the extended One Lunch program where activities, meeting with teachers, intramurals, integrative teacher planning, etc. can take place.
Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction Ellen Denny said the overriding question was, “How do you build a schedule that will best serve students?”
Beginning and ending times, One Lunch, collaborative teaching time and other issues will continue to be ironed out over the course of this year. The division is looking at having the students come in later on one day so that teachers can have time for professional development, common planning time, departmental planning, data analysis, paraprofessional professional development, etc., but specific details have yet to be decided.
The schedule has six teaching periods for teachers and will help to create some smaller classes. Also, in a trial run with the schedule, around 90% of students would have gotten their first choices for courses.
The new schedule was unanimously approved by the school board.
Two school board members were recognized for an Award of Honor from the Virginia School Board Academy based on earning credits for professional development. Adam DeVries received the Bronze designation for approximately 40 credits, and Joe Hester was awarded the Gold designation for about 50 credits. Carl Mitchell and Jessie Critterton, former board members, will also be receiving awards.
In the Employee Recognition Program for this month, two RCPS staff members were acknowledged. First, Josh Green, a custodian at McHarg Elementary, was nominated by a parent who said, “…Both of my kids are always saying something nice about Mr. Green. I don’t know how much he is recognized, but I always see him involved in things with the students. There are no strangers to him, and he is never too busy to give a smile or handshake. He appreciates the children and answers parents’ questions.”
Jenny Zienius, a fifth-grade teacher at Belle Heth Elementary, was also nominated. A parent wrote that “Zienius is an outstanding teacher. My son had her last year. He enjoyed her class very much and was excited to go to school. …He also liked to share that he was in Ms. Z’s class and that is the best class in the whole school.”
Principal Tara Grant, Assistant Principal Ken Keister and the staff at Belle Heth were recognized for their work with the House project they have implemented based on the Harry Potter books. Zienius, one of the teachers who brought the program back to Belle Heth from a school in Atlanta, Georgia, said she noticed that the school had “such a positive environment with the kids; they…have spirited competitions between the houses, but they’re also super supportive of each other.”
All of the students and staff have been separated into four Houses: Compassion—kindness, friendliness and friendship; Grit—fierce, brave and courageous; Visionary—leaders, innovators and enterprising; Tenacious—determined, loyal and persistent.
There are three main goals with the program: 1. Have good community relations within the Houses and school (the houses are a mixture of 3-6 grade students, which provides a built-in mentoring program). 2. Community service projects will take place such as the current canned food drive (which goes through Monday) that is benefitting the Radford Backpack program. 3. The program develops positive behaviors for children such as striving to be their best, be respectful, be kind, be responsible and be safe. Grant explained that there is a direct connection with PBIS (positive behavior intervention and support). Most of all, it does all of this with a fun sense of community engagement for students and staff.
The school board members and staff were all sorted into one of the four Houses at the meeting.
Four students from John Dalton Intermediate School, Cassidy Mann, SCA president; Madison Graham, SCA vice-president; Audrey Bucy, SCA secretary and Savannah Minnick, SCA reporter, provided a report to the school board.
They mentioned that many DIS students were actively participating in different activities: 58 students in the band program; 34 students in the choir; 51 students in the theater program; 20 students in the robotics program and over 60 students are participating in a fall sport. Students got a chance to go on a field trip to Virginia Tech to investigate self-driving vehicles, and students in Mrs. Edwards’ science classes have been involved in a Project Based Learning measurement unit with hatching eggs.
They reported that the SCA has been planning activities and modeling positive leadership. They help out with morning announcements and are planning a Fall Fling to encourage student involvement and build school community. During Anti-Bullying Month they will be writing kind messages on sticky-notes to be put on every student locker to help spread positivity throughout the school (they are hoping to make it to the “Ellen Show” with this project). They also gave each of the board members a positive message sticky note. Finally, they are conducting a school-wide fundraiser where they are selling raffle tickets for one dollar with the prize being a new car from Shelor Motor Mile. All of the proceeds will go to Dalton. The seventh and eighth-grade classes will be competing in selling raffle tickets to win a pizza party.
In citizen comments, Pat Fluke, chair of the Radford City Beautification program, provided the board with suggestions for the Radford High School and Dalton grounds. She said that all of the proposals could be accomplished by Radford City and Radford School maintenance crews at little or no expense. She also mentioned that her committee would like a senior student to join the Beautification Commission to provide input.
Renee Matusevich expressed a concern about the possibility of a later start time one day a week next year in the schedule, as it might provide difficulties for the parents’ work schedules for students who live outside the district. Graham explained that no decisions had been finalized for this, and the specifics of how the schedule will work are still under consideration.
Angie McCauley, chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee, presented the SEAC annual report to the board. One of the committee’s topics of discussion has been obtaining more parent participation on the committee, which has led to several new members. The committee members are McCauley, chair and parent; Nicole Burgard, parent and rep.; B’easy Thompson, PRC rep.; Barb Clark, NRV Disability Resource Center; Chanera Durante, parent; Sarah Bradbury, parent; Liz Altieri, school board member rep.; Lynn Burris, community rep./board; Kelly McDaniel, parent; Loren Wright Beasley, NRV peds rep. and Darren Minarik, RU representative.
Meetings are scheduled for 4:00 p.m. at McHarg on Nov. 12, Feb. 11, and May 13. Focus topics will be Family Involvement/Parent Involvement and Autism.
Required training for paraprofessionals concerning autism (House Bill 325) is advised by the SEAC, and the request includes compensation for paraprofessionals for the 20 hours of training. The SEAC also thanked the board for the continued funding of the Parent Educator Resource Center. Subgrants were awarded this year through the PERC for a Family Engagement grant and an Inclusion Day grant (helped with the wheelchair basketball game).
The SEAC is asking the school board to fund $145 for the purchase of the movie “Intelligent Lives” for a public viewing. They also requested that restroom facilities and water fountains be considered for the PERC building. McCauley shared that one additional goal is for special education teachers to make home visits to better engage parents and families.
“Take Your Legislator To School Day” is on Tuesday, November 20. Representative Chris Hurst will be coming, and Graham invited all school board members to attend.
Graham obtained information on the cost of seatbelts on school buses. The total cost per bus would be about $30,000. Hester shared research that said that the improvements and height of today’s modern buses make them very safe with a small increment of safety through belts compared to the cost involved. Burris said that seatbelts are the law in eight states, and he is concerned about buses on Interstate 81 and the speed involved on that highway. The board will continue researching this topic.
The division principals and Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction Ellen Denny discussed the Academic Plan for the school year. Graham emphasized that the schools are fully accredited by the state, and this action plan is a draft to be proactive in addressing instructional needs.
Denny indicated that the intermediate school and high school teachers have not had the ability to analyze data as the elementary schools have to target instruction for different groups. This year, however, the high school and Dalton took a data day by providing substitutes so teachers could look at English and math results. Goals are to have every school maintain a “data wall” monitoring student progress; analyze “watch lists” quarterly to make sure students are progressing and provide follow-up instruction based on benchmarks or in-class performance. Denny said the division is dedicated to giving teachers on the secondary level time for that data analysis.
The division is looking closely at the sequence of math courses and curriculum coverage. Denny said that students should be involved in math all four years of high school. The division will be looking at sequences for Math 7, Math 8, and Algebra to make sure students are prepared for the next level and that curriculum coverage matches assessment expectations.
Denny said the high school and Dalton teachers teach English as opposed to the heavier emphasis on reading at the elementary levels. She said the teachers are interested in techniques that can be used to aid with reading for those secondary students who still need improvement with those skills.
Denny also talked about making sure the language arts instruction at the elementary level is extremely “robust” to ensure students are as prepared as possible.
When looking at special needs students, Denny said that students will be able to receive both reading teacher and special education teacher for instruction which should help. Denny also emphasized that pulling out students for services has to be strategic so they are not missing core academic instruction. Teachers are looking at pushing into classes more on the secondary level.
She also emphasized that students need to have their reading level stretched higher than the independent level and be exposed to grade level reading. Denny talked about the importance of revisiting previous instruction regularly for additional practice and retention.
Denny said that on a very positive note with a visit to Dalton, she and Graham noticed that there are excellent relationships between the teachers and students and that the students were engaged in learning.
Graham added that traumatic events with students are increasing not just in Radford but everywhere, and its combination with poverty is difficult.
Board Member Liz Altieri said she was glad to see that a dyslexia screening will be put in place to catch students with reading issues. There was also a discussion about the possibility of peer tutoring.
The division is looking to begin the Evening Program for students who are suspended or chronically absent for the second quarter. The division is also discussing incentives for perfect attendance at the secondary level. A possibility is for students with perfect attendance in a quarter to have the opportunity to win a $50 gift card in a drawing. Some school divisions are having success in improving attendance with this approach.
Graham shared a report on teacher salaries in the area and thanked the board for making the district very competitive with other schools in the region. Graham mentioned that a school board goal is a 2% increase for teachers and at least that amount for support staff.
The division has received approximately $70,000 for a school safety grant. McHarg did not receive additional grant money from the state because of its excellent safety record.
In school board member items, Board Member Lee Slusher reviewed information from a conference: Radford is falling in the middle of the pack of schools with broadband access; there are concerns in the state about prospective teacher pools and the need to increase salary; there is also a concern with students having internet availability at home for homework. Critical issues in the General Assembly will be school safety, school modernization (renovation), tax conformity and school start dates. A significant statement was that “Laws don’t keep kids safe; caring keeps kids safe.” Also, physical bullying can be a crime, and teen suicide is a concern in the state. A disappointment was the equity inequality in funding for rural schools.
New board members will receive information about the budgeting process.
With the school cafeteria program, Hester said that he would like to see the board follow up on the cafeteria service salary situation discussed at the last meeting. Graham told the board that cafeteria participation is going well, and the cafeteria service is in the black financially.
Finally, several coaches were approved for this year: Marie Nicole Greco—varsity girls soccer; Don Mark Layne—varsity boys soccer; Clark Ramsey—JV boys soccer and Andrew Cox—varsity baseball.