Highlights from Superintendent’s Visit

Every Monday throughout the school year, our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, visits at least one school, center or academy in our school division. He writes about these visits in his weekly email check-in. The email is sent to all 2,647 of our school division employees, as well as our school board and board of supervisors members. On Monday, Dr. Haas spent a good part of the morning at Red Hill Elementary School and his Friday check-in focused on his time with us. I thought I would share the following excerpt with you:

For me, no visit to Red Hill is complete without a quick check-in with the school’s office associates, Casey Powell and Michelle Creasy, and the school nurse, Julie Mendelsohn. I greatly enjoy my talks with these professionals, plus they know the community and have good advice for me on just about any topic.

While I was waiting to visit with Nancy McCullen and Ashley Struzik, a couple came into the school with wrapped presents. We exchanged greetings, but I didn’t ask who they were. I wanted to send them a card, so I asked Casey, and she immediately identified them as George and Gloria Wood from Mount Olivet Church. Our OAs are amazing people!

Nancy and I walked about the school and checked in with several staff and students. During our time, I was very interested in kindergarten/first-grade teacher Beth Kavounas’s problem-solving strategies lesson using engineering and design principles. Students identified a problem based on a story they heard from a farmer (a.k.a., Ms. Kavounas) and then generated and designed solutions. The problem was that a fox was following Rosie the chicken, and the students had to figure out a way to make the fox stop (without hurting him). The lesson was inspired by Ms. Kavounas’s participation in the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning presentation at Making Connections.

We also visited amazing music teacher Tracy Brown’s class. I have stopped by Tracy’s class at Red Hill and Crozet several times, and what I saw on Monday was typical of the upbeat, active, and objective-focused learning that Ms. Brown facilitates in the music room. When Nancy and I observed, she used song, movement, call and response, and plenty of positive reinforcement to teach students how to read music notes and sing a song in two parts.

When we visited Angie Rutherford’s third-grade math class, Mrs. Rutherford, who is also a third through fifth-grade reading intervention teacher, was introducing students to a task that would allow them to practice calculating the area of features on a map. In addition to calculating area, students would use creative thinking and technology skills to produce maps on a grid. It was not surprising to see how eager the students were to begin this task.

My overall impression is that Red Hill is a place with happy and engaged students and staff who take teaching and learning with empathy seriously. Thank you to all the Red Hill staff and students for my visit; I had a lot of fun!

Red Hill staff and students are doing terrific work and I am so glad that Dr. Haas took the time to visit and acknowledge the great things that are happening at our school.