Henley Happenings 2018

Dear Henley Families,
Happy New Year! I trust you all had a fabulous break. The students came back on Wednesday full of energy and ready to start the new calendar year. It was great to be back with them!
A couple of informational items as we get started again:

  • This month’s ADVISORY theme is “My Digital World.” We will explore the role of technology and social media in our lives and discuss issues such as digital citizenship and cyber bullying. In my overall assessment, we don’t have a lot of technology/social media issues during school, but often an issue that arises overnight will spill into the school day. We want students to have some time to think about technology in their lives and how they use it.
  • We will add some resources to our PARENTS page on the Henley website. We are adapting lessons from Common Sense and hoping to use what students bring to the conversation as entry points for deeper learning.
  • My new year’s resolution is to spend more time updating the principal’s blog. I think it will be helpful in communicating more of what happens at Henley, in addition to helping families understand our school goals and priorities. A link to my blog is also on the PARENTS page. It says principal’s blog, but I imagine having my admin team, staff, and students contribute.
  • The end of the semester is January 19. We will send an email when grades have been stored. Please encourage your child to finish strong and ask for help if he/she needs it.
  • Are you interested in taking a “Day Tour” of some of the schools that have had modernization and security updates? On January 22 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. we will travel to Walton and Jouett Middle Schools and WAHS to take a look at their new classrooms and spaces. Please join us! I have reserved a bus or you can always drive and meet us. Interested? Please RSVP HERE
  • And lastly, everyone’s favorite topic…the Henley parking lot. In an ongoing effort to make pick up and drop off safer, we are implementing another safety measure for pick up at the end of the day. First, just a couple of review points:
    • As you know, we have asked for drivers to heed to the NO PARKING signs that have been posted to avoid blockage and congestion.
    •  We ask that you do not block other cars in any lot.
    • Maintain an appropriate speed and be mindful of students crossing and walking.
    • Communicate an area with your child for pick up to maintain his/her safety
    • Spill over parking should occur in the Brownsville lot.
  • Starting Monday, we will block off the upper exit of the Brownsville parking lot. From 4:05-4:20 all cars must exit from the bottom of the lot by the pine trees/baseball field. Mr. Crutchfield at BES will communicate with his families so that they are aware of the change. Our purpose in doing this is to create fewer lines of cars trying to exit both lots. If you have been one of these cars, you know that significant delays can occur when three or more lines of cars are attempting to exit at once. We think this will help with time. As always, we will monitor and adjust. Thank you for your cooperation as we implement this change.

OK, I think that’s it! Please feel free to email with any suggestions or feedback. I enjoy hearing from you.

Happy New Year!

I woke up with the most amazing feeling! All of a sudden four months of Henley events, community celebrations, students successes, and our collective challenges synthesized into a new year. I look back at what we have accomplished as a school community and I believe we are the right track to provide high quality learning experiences for each and every child who walks through our doors each day.

With the advent of a new year, we can recommit to our goals for the school year and add resolutions for the coming of 2018. I feel a renewed energy to connect with students, for them to know that I care for their social, emotional, and academic well being. I want them to feel safe and connected to adults in our building. I want them to feel visible. If they do, we are on the right track and students are thriving.

The Winter Formal is Almost Here!

The Winter Formal is Friday! Students are very excited for this event. Our SCA has decorated the cafeteria; it looks festive and amazing.

A couple of things to help students and parents prepare:
• The dance is from 6:30-8:30 pm. Tickets are $5 and are sold at the door. All students must have a permission form including a family/guardian contact number.
• Student attire runs the range from casual to semi-formal. Boys will be dressed in a collared shirt and/or tie. Girls wear dresses, skirts, or dress slacks. Students can wear the clothes they wore to school.
• Pick up promptly at 8:30 is appreciated.
• If students need to be picked up early, parents must come inside the school to pick them up; however, parents are not permitted to be in the dance area. A teacher or chaperone can help you locate your child.
• All school rules are in effect.
• Refreshments can be purchased (pizza, fruit, snacks, candy, water, and soda will be available)

I hope all students have a great experience!

Henley Happenings 12-4

Dear Henley Families,

Well, the recent weather certainly doesn’t indicate the coming of winter, but I think our students are greatly anticipating winter break in just a couple of weeks.  I thought I saw some news about cooler weather on the horizon and it gets pretty exciting in middle school when snow rumors start!

Our students and teachers have been busy. We’d like to share several informational items with you.

  1. Students took a brief survey about how we are doing to achieve our School Goal #2: All students will be visible, feel safe, and have an adult connection in the building. We are looking at the results this week with our teacher leadership teams and we will share that data with you shortly.
  2. We’d love to hear your feedback about how you think we are doing toward making this goal a reality for all students. The survey also asks if you are interested in taking a tour of schools that have had recent security additions and modernization projects completed. Please respond! https://goo.gl/forms/qcFYclnCayXTVGQk2
  3. We are teaming with Brownsville Elementary School to support Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts. Some of our 7th and 8th graders have joined forces with BES students to gather much needed supplies and donations. Here is more information on the project and how you can help. Let’s make a difference for those in need.
    1. Hurricane Maria caused great devastation to the island of Puerto Rico and many areas remain without power, water or food!
    2. Brownsville parent, Elizabeth Alvarez, recently returned from a trip to Puerto Rico, where she helped distribute much needed supplies and provided medical support to those in need of care. Elizabeth will distribute any items or funds collected by Brownsville BEEs and Henley Hornets during her next mission trip to Puerto Rico in December. There are multiple ways you can help listed below:
      1. Supplies needed: diapers (any size), wipes, baby formula, water filters (i.e. Brita), solar lights, flashlights, and batteries.
      2. Option to order supplies online here: https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/ACI1N6A8FE7F<https://brownsvillepto.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=68c76c79307c5693c1f95ff0a&id=d4d2ffa416&e=301f36ef34>.
      3. Supplies can be dropped off at Henley in boxes near the main office.
      4. Supplies will be collected until December 13.
      5. Monetary donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/puertoricocville<https://brownsvillepto.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=68c76c79307c5693c1f95ff0a&id=743b2609d8&e=301f36ef34>.
  1. We are working on a matrix of “Who Do I Contact When…” for families to help make communication easier. In essence, we are trying to connect you quickly with the right resource for your question, concern, or feedback. Look for that document in the coming weeks.
  2. Speaking of what is coming…we are trying to push out more timely information on our website, not just to our families, but to our students, school community, and prospective families. Part of doing that is asking you to weigh in on what you’d like to see more of on our website. We’ll send you a survey after the Holiday Break.
  3. Please remember to respond to ACPS’s Budget Initiative Survey. The survey is open until December 17.
  4. This month’s Advisory theme is Diversity. We believe that we should explore how we are all diverse and how we use our cultures, heritages, and experiences to make meaning and construct our worldview. Our first task is to get to know each other better and learn to appreciate how we are all unique.

I realize that was a lot of information. I am very interested in hearing what you would like to learn more about, so that we can share relevant and meaningful information with our stakeholders.

I hope you will join us for the many student performances we have in the coming weeks (e.g. band, Strings, drama). Check out our school calendar for specific dates.

Please contact me directly with any questions or feedback.

Beth Costa, principal

Advisory for Wonder

HERE is the link to the Wonder Advisory…this is the anchor lesson that I provided. Teachers have several other activities to do with students…some are writing, others are discussion. Much of what happens depends on the students and how they want to explore the themes and ideas presented in the movie.



I would like to thank all of our students, teachers, staff, and admin team for planning and orchestrating such an amazing school wide field trip to see Wonder at the Stonefield Regal this morning.

Interestingly, a woman stopped me outside the theater as we were loading the buses and asked, “Are you with the school group?” To which I responded, “Yes, we watched Wonder.” 

“Oh, that makes so much sense!” She replied. “Did you have a good time?”

We had an amazing experience, one that we think contributes exponentially to our school goal of building a community where all students are visible. So much has been written recently about the importance of social/emotional learning and I am proud to be in a school where the parents, teachers, and students believe in the importance of developing these skills in all of our students and creating a safe learning environment where all students have an adult connection.

We have planned a movie debrief for tomorrow, 11/21, that will give us a lot of insight about how students perceive the importance of the movie’s themes #ChooseKind and #KindnessIsContagious, but more importantly than recognizing the importance is understanding how each one of our students contributes to the creation of a community where kindness is the norm. Stay tuned!

Henley Happenings

Dear Henley Families,

Tomorrow is our school wide field trip to see Wonder!  We have over 820 of 860 students attending, and I know that number also factors our families who have already started their holiday traveling.

A couple of informational items:

  • Tomorrow, we will leave at 9:15 in the morning and stagger our arrival at Stonefield Theaters. 8th grade will leave and return first. We will have all students returned to school by around 12:30. Classes for the day, after lunch and recess, begin at 1:20.
  • Tuesday’s schedule is altered for an extended Advisory. We will be exploring the themes of the movie (#Choose Kind, #KindnessIsContagious, Diversity) and debriefing our experience. We also have our November Activity Period in the afternoon.
  • During the week of 11/27, we will be asking students to give us feedback about our school climate goal #2: All students will be visible and have an adult connection in the building. Students will report feeling safe at school. We will administer a short survey during advisory and share the results with you by the end of that week.
  • We will also be sending parents a survey about some of our school goals around climate, communication, topics for exploration, and our modernization plans. Please participate. I value your feedback and we can only improve if we are in this together!
  • Are you aware that Henley will be undergoing a security addition and other modernization improvements? Would you like to tour other schools that have had similar improvements and talk about the opportunities for our Henley students? Part of the survey sent next week will ask for an RSVP to do either a day or evening bus tour of Jouett, AHS, Walton, and WAHS.

I hope you have the most amazing Thanksgiving Break! Find time for family, fun, and the activities that make you the happiest. We value your partnership in your child’s education and we appreciate you being a part of our team.



Beth Costa, principal

First Nine Weeks

So many bright spots for this first nine week term…a couple that immediately jump out at me are the school-wide unveiling of our Henley Social Contract for a Safe Learning Environment and our fall Field Day. In both cases our staff took risks and tried new things to make Henley a stronger school community and both went very well! The kids had fun and we are better as a result.

What is this new Advisory?

In the second half of the 2016-17 school year, I began having conversations with community members, parents, and teacher leaders about the direction for Henley Middle School. We were already in the ideating phase for 2017-18. A theme of kindness and community emerged.

Middle school is as tough as we all remember. I believe these three developmental years in a child’s life are the most critical. I am not a doctor, but from all that I see and hear on a daily basis, at no other period in our life do we experience such dramatic changes to our body and minds.

So, we did a “360” analysis of our school community and hypothesized that we could make significant gains as a learning community if we instituted a very purposeful social and emotional curriculum. In order to increase students’ academic achievement, we need to attend to their social and emotional development.

All of our elementary schools have a social and emotional curriculum in place-Responsive Classroom. They come to us having rich experiences in building community and having strong adult and peer relationships. It is our responsibility to build upon their elementary school foundation, consider their pre-adolescent and adolescent development, and establish the same safe and effective learning environment at Henley.

Henley Middle School committed to implementing a social and emotional curriculum for all students. Our school improvement goal #2 drives the work we will do throughout the entire school year: ALL students will be visible and report that they have an adult connection at Henley.

Over the summer over twenty teachers attended the week long professional development institute. They learned more about the philosophy and principles of Developmental Designs. Our “pioneer” teacher leadership group “tested” the principles of Developmental Designs against the Guiding Principles at Henley and found that we were a good match for each other.

Henley Middle School’s Guiding Principles:

  1. We are a community of educators, learners, and families who work together to ensure all members are visible, safe, and achieve to their fullest potential.
  2. We are welcoming inclusive, and student-centered.
  3. We are a community that takes risks, pursues passions, and fosters a growth mindset.

On August 14, the first day of Teacher Pre-Service Week, all of our teachers learned about implementing an Advisory, a period in the day when a smaller group of students meet to build community and have fun. Developmental Designs recognizes that middle school students have a need for autonomy and responsibility. We use the structure to support students’ development of these critical skills. The premise, “assume nothing, teach everything” will be an important reminder that it is our responsibility to not only teach the content of our classes, but also to teach students the “hidden curriculum” of self-management, empathy toward others, collaboration, problem solving, and many other skills.

For the first three days of school, we modified our bell schedule to make a lot of time for Advisory. We were intentional in our focus: welcome students, build community, develop relationships. It was a lot of time, but we believe the return on our investment of time will pay dividends throughout the year when students say they have an adult they trust, they are excited to come to school, and they are in a welcoming school community where students are kind to each other. When they say those things, they will learn more and they will learn better. We will be a stronger and better Henley.


On Saturday, 12 August 2017 I was a couple of hundred miles away in Aberdeen, MD. My son was playing in the Cal Ripken Experience Chesapeake Tournament.

By the early afternoon, I began to receive text messages from family members and friends from other parts of the country. I grew more and more anxious as my Twitter feed reported angry exchanges, fights, then a fatality.

As I looked around, other families were talking on the phone, checking on employees, or sharing their disbelief and sadness with each other.

All of a sudden I turned my attention to the field. Pre-game activity had stopped and the 13, 10 year old boys were down on one knee with their arms wrapped around each other and heads bowed. They were praying.

They weren’t praying for a win. They were praying for Charlottesville. They were praying for the safety and security of its people. They were praying for something they don’t know a whole lot about…an end to racism, hate, and evil.

In that moment I no longer felt sad. I felt hope. I shared this story with our staff on our first day of teacher pre-service and I told them that I believe in our young people and I believe in every member of our school community. We can have an impact on this hatred, this evil. We can challenge one another to make a difference in the lives of the next generation, so that they embrace people from all backgrounds, races, religions, etc. In our differences, we are similar.

In just a couple of days, we will welcome over 850 students. We will welcome them to a place where they are safe. We will welcome them to a place where they can learn. We will welcome them to love one another and make the world a better place.