Like you, I am saddened and horrified by the events and loss of life on August 12th in Charlottesville. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the three people who lost their lives and to all the people who were injured. Charlottesville has always been my home, and no matter where I travel, I am always happy to return to my hometown. I love this university town and its diversity is part of its greatness.
Some parents have concerns about what their children will learn regarding these events at school. We discussed this very thing the first day teachers were all together on Monday, August 14. We reminded teachers that as school representatives we are politically neutral. At the same time, we will always educate students through Hollymead CARES and reinforce the importance of being a welcoming community. Our school should be a place of safety for all students.
We anticipate that some of our children will come on Wednesday knowing all about these events and others will come knowing nothing about it. This is a parental decision and it is important for us to support your decision. As I wrote above, we will not start any conversations about the recent events. It is important to know that some students might start conversations. If this happens, teachers will redirect them so that they can continue the conversation with an adult in private. Megan Kopley, our school counselor, and Lauren Servis, our school psychologist, will be available to talk as necessary. Staci England, our assistant principal, and I will also be very visible and available for children as needed.
Our school community is remarkable. We expect to have another terrific year and are excited to build relationships with new students and build new class communities with all of our students. As our superintendents and school board chairs wrote in their message, “Our schools are where we make acquaintance with civic responsibility. The work we do in our schools must always bring to life our nation’s most sacred promise—“to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” This year we will continue with this work so that “We will be known as a community whose teachers and staff will continue to do what the best educators always have done—stand tall in modeling these American ideals in their work every day.”
The excitement is building. For a couple of weeks teachers have been in and out of the building planning and organizing classrooms in order to make sure we are ready for a great start to the school Year. It is a most wonderful time of year when we are all excited to learn and grow with our new classes!
We have a couple of changes in staff at Hollymead this year. As you may already know, Megan Kopley will be our new guidance counselor. She has many years of experience as a counselor and a classroom teacher. She is excited to get to know students, families and staff.
The lower numbers in grades kindergarten and first grade are moving up and there will only be three classroom teachers in second grade this year. Mr. Bernhardt is moving to 4th grade and Ms. Groeber-Fard is going to 5th grade.
All students at Hollymead will be using a new math program this year called ST Math. The “ST” stands for spatial temporal because they have to manipulate images in their mind in order to solve math problems. ST Math has been used in Albemarle County Title I schools for the last five years and has helped them be successful. In fact, the research shows that students who are using ST Math grow significantly in their mathematical achievement. This web-based program begins teaching concepts non-linguistically and then connects to symbols and language. This is a standards-aligned program that allows students to move forward as they master each level. Teachers have control over what students are working on and monitor student progress so that they can help when students are stuck. Each grade level will decide how ST Math will fit into their math classrooms. ST Math can be used whole class and/or in a center rotation. ST Math is designed to be challenging and will help us continue with our emphasis on “failing up”. We try to help everyone understand that you have to be willing to fail sometimes in order to learn.
We will continue our work on Project Based Learning. Our goal is to give students more opportunities to use creativity and critical thinking to learn and demonstrate their learning. Some PBL will give students more control and choices over what they are learning. Teachers will be developing opportunities for students while also sharing and receiving feedback on the PBL offered from colleagues.
As you know, we work to emphasize Hollymead CARES in all the work that we do. CARES stands for cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. We know that you are also teaching these things at home and together we will help our community be a place we can be proud of.
Please contact me if for any questions or concerns. You can reach me by phone, 434 973-8301; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or in person at school.