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.


Plenty of Summer Left…

As soon as August 1 hits, the pace of the slow summer changes in schools. At Henley our custodial staff is busily working to get our hallways, classrooms, and common spaces sparkling for students and teachers when they walk through our doors in just a few short weeks. I hope you are all having an amazing summer, filled with fun, family, and friends. I hope you had the opportunity to learn more about yourself and what makes you happiest. We cannot wait to see you on August 23rd. Stay safe!

Be Your Own Superlative

As delivered at the Rising Up Ceremony on June 9, 2017…

Good morning and welcome to our 2016-17 Henley Rising Up Ceremony,

Thank you families, students, teachers, and staff. We are here today to celebrate another milestone in our children’s lives. We appreciate all you have done to support these amazing young people.

I would like to acknowledge our families for all of their love, time, and commitment. You encouraged our students to do their best, high-fived them when they achieved, and stood beside them when they failed. When it was time to get back up, you held out a hand and they ROSE.

I would like to acknowledge our faculty and staff, not only the 8th grade team who worked tirelessly to deliver high quality instruction, to teach content, skills and understanding, and to support, mentor, and enrich the lives of our 274 students, but also the 6th and 7th grade teachers, cafeteria, office, and custodial staff, our guidance counselors and the countless others who work to do whatever it takes for kids.

I would also like to acknowledge each and every one of our students. You have breathed life into these halls for three years. You cared for each other, you worked hard, and you challenged us to give you all that you could handle. We hope you are proud of who you have become. You did well.

I took a small poll yesterday about how many boxes of tissues we may need for today’s event and the 8th graders looked at me as if I had sprung a second head! They have been waiting for this day for days, maybe even months, and they are anxious to transition to high school, to enter into that new and fresh part of their lives. We did all we could to get them ready and we have to have faith that we send them with the skills, the hopes, and the desire to become their best selves.

While it has been a long time since I was in middle school (and I will thank you all, 8th grade, to not ask how long:), I’d like to share a memory of my own middle school years. I remember a point in my life when I started to be more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Learning had been something that came easily…I usually caught on to new concepts quickly and I was experiencing success as both a swimmer and a soccer player.

And yet, inevitably, there is a time when that changes and it did. I was driving home with my mother from a summer swim meet and I had just gotten beaten by a rival competitor. I wasn’t feeling great. My mom tried her usual pitch to cheer me up and finally stated, “Be your own superlative.” Don’t compare yourself to others, compete against yourself.

Now, let me pause by saying that I did prep our students at yesterday’s awards ceremony by asking them if they knew what a superlative is…they were mostly familiar because of the yearbook class’ tradition of putting out the “Best of the Class” honors, like Best Smile, Best Sense of Humor, etc.

So, to expand on that idea, a superlative is a comparison suggesting the highest quality of an adjective or adverb. For example, strong is an adjective and strongest is its superlative because it indicates the highest degree of strength. Likewise with prepared and most prepared.

“Be your own superlative” is an important piece of advice that I would like to pass on to you, Henley Class of 2017. It is often our habit as humans to compare ourselves to or compete against others. It is in this way that we “size each other up,” yet it is in this way that we begin to gain or lose confidence in our own abilities. For example, if you work really hard to earn a B in Algebra and hear that a student got an A, our inner voice may tell us that he/she is smarter than us. Today I challenge you to stop comparing yourselves to others. Do not become someone else’s superlative, but rather, be your own.

Let me just take one more minute to point out the gains you make when you do this. Each of us is an individual who has differing strengths, interests, passions, and areas for growth. We do not learn at the same rate or in the same way. We don’t develop in step with one another, but in our own way and in our own time.

So, as you “rise up” to 9th grade, take some time to learn more about yourself, your interests, your passions, and your areas for growth. Pursue things that you do not want to stop doing and set goals for yourself based on what you want to accomplish. Do not look at others and say they are better, smarter, happier, or more successful. Look within you and challenge yourself to get better at something you love, learn more about something that interests you, be happier because you take time to appreciate who you are, and be more successful because you are not comparing yourself to others, but improving your own self. AND, remember you is good, so celebrate you, all you have accomplished at Henley and all you will become at Western (or your high school destination) and beyond. We love you all and wish you the very best as you take this next step in your life. Come back and visit; you’ll always have a place here.



Henley Happenings-April 27

Dear Henley Families,

We are making our final push toward the end of the 2016-17 school year. I marvel how time can go by slowly and quickly at the same time! I wanted to share a couple of things with you this evening:

  1. Final day to make course overrides is tomorrow. Please double check your child’s recommendations to ensure that he/she is appropriately placed. This is so important for us to know early.
  2. Henley Summer Camp will be held June 26th-July 14th. Our teachers are planning an engaging project and passion based experience for our students. We are also offering an Algebra 1 BOOT CAMP. We are offering a three week course (same dates) to boost students’ confidence and ability in mastering the concepts in Algebra 1. It will be offered for both students who have taken the Alg 1 course already and for those who are going from Math 7 to Alg 1 (rising 9th graders MAY attend). Contact Matt Hopewell, summer school principal (mhopewell@k12albemarle.org) for more information. Conversationally, a rising 8th grader recommended for Pre-Alg Math 8 who takes the Boot Camp course could be ready for Alg 1 next school year. We will make an exception to the course override deadline for those students.
  3. Next week we will hold grades 6-8 Town Hall Meetings. Our focus is on finishing strong! Please talk with your child about the basic tenets of respect-respect for self, respect for adults, respect for peers, and respect for our Henley environment. We will be reiterating these basic principles and working on keeping the culture at Henley kind and welcoming for all stakeholders. We will be sending home a document next week for you to review with your child(ren).
  4. Please don’t forget to check your Parent Portal. Teachers update grades, at minimum, every two weeks. Your child’s teacher should be in touch if there are any problems; however, the Portal is an excellent resource for keeping up to date on your child’s progress.
  5. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week! I know PATSO has requested gift cards for their daily drawings, but there are dozens of other ways to show our teachers that we appreciate all they do for our students and school community. I am sure that they would love a hand written note or email that shares how they have made a difference.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.  It is a daily pleasure to be with your child(ren) at Henley.


Beth Costa, principal

Henley Happenings

Dear Henley Families,

We hope you had a great weekend! As you know the 1st semester ended on Friday; your child’s teachers were busy completing grades and planning for the second semester. We hope this second semester is even better than the first.

Just a couple of informational items:

  1. While we are only just starting the second semester, it is also time to select classes for next year! Rising 7th and 8th grade students will start meeting with our school counselors and admin team to pick electives. Please have your child bring his/her elective sheet (with your signature) to school tomorrow.
  2. If you would like to review the timeline for registration and scheduling, please visit our Henley School Counseling webpage.
  3. The UVA Women’s Basketball team is hosting a “Henley Day” on Sunday February 12th.  The game starts at 2pm and they are playing against Wake Forest.  This is a free event for students and parents/guardians can receive two free tickets.  The permission slip due date has been extended to Tuesday January 24th.  At the game there will be opportunities for students to participate: ball boys/girls, making a tunnel for the team to run through as they enter the court and much more!
  4. Our Henley Huddles for the next several weeks will focus on Acts of Kindness or The Great Kindness Challenge. We continue to work on helping students develop the Social/Emotional Intelligence that they need to be successful at school and with each other. Ask your child how they are showing kindness toward others throughout the day.
  5. For 8th grade families: The staff of the ECHO (yearbook) would like to offer you an opportunity to capture forever these important years in a more personal format than the typical yearbook mug shot. We will be selling personal ad space for you to create a custom remembrance of your son or daughter. Your ad can be as simple as a note of love or appreciation or as bold as a photographic essay of your child’s life. The ECHO staff will work with you to create any layout that suites your needs. You may purchase a simple 2” x 2” block of space, an entire page (12 blocks), or any combination thereof. For more information, please visit the PARENTS page on our Henley Website. The deadline for ads is 2/22.

As we enter the 2nd semester, I want you to know that I value your feedback and partnership! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or ideas.



Beth Costa, principal

Happy New Year’s…Again!

As a school leader, I get excited by two new years a year…the start of the school year and the start of the new calendar year. As I shared with students, it is a time for an important pause for reflection. How is it going? What have we accomplished? What do we still need to do? How will we do it?

This week we are having our quarterly Town Hall meetings, grade level meetings designed to check in with students and bring the school community together. I hope you ask your child about our discussions. Some of the topics will surround our important R2C2 values (Respect, Responsibility, Community, Creativity). Other topics will involve the upcoming scheduling process (can you believe it’s already time). I enjoy getting together in our Town Hall Meetings and hope that they give us the opportunity to connect with each other and share important information. I will let you know how it goes!

Henley Happenings: October 25

Dear Henley Families,

Can you believe it’s almost November! As we near the end of the first nine weeks, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information:

  • Thursday is the end of the 1st nine weeks. Teachers will have a work day on Friday (10/28) to finalize and enter grades and plan for the 2nd nine weeks. I will send out an email when grades have been “stored” in Parent Portal for the first quarter.
  • Henley’s Annual Halloween Party is this week! The Henley Creepy Crawl will be held on Thursday, October 27th from 4:05-6:00. There will be games, music, a Haunted Classroom and more!
    • This party is a PATSO fundraiser. All proceeds go right back to the school. Admission is $5 and all games and food are $1. Small bills for payment are appreciated.
    • WE NEED YOUR HELP to make this party fun, safe, as well as a successful fundraiser. Many of you have already signed up to donate time or concessions. Thank you! We are in need of more volunteers to run the games or clean up after the dance. If we do not fill the volunteer spots for activities, then we will have to cancel things like the Cupcake Walk, Trick or Treat Transfer, and The Movie Room. Please consider signing up because the students really enjoy ALL of the activities!
    • Please email Dianna Gibson (Dianna@tribegibson.com) or Ames Winter (ames_cville@yahoo.com)
    • Halloween costumes are allowed for the dance (or “blackout”). Students may change into their costumes after school before going to the dance.
  • The Student Council Association (SCA) will be hosting their annual Halloween Costume Contest on Monday, 31 October. Students may wear costumes to school. No masks or clown costumes, please.
  • Activity Period was moved on our calendar to Monday, 31 October from 3-4. Our Entrepreneurship class will be selling Scott Pops and other concessions. Please bring small bills.
  • We have started a Positive Behavior Support with OUTDOOR LUNCH! Once a week we will allow interested students to eat outdoors. Last week 8th graders had a BLAST. This week 6th and 7th students can eat outdoors one day. We wanted to recognize their positive behavior at lunch and students have indicated that they love this opportunity for some extra time outdoors. We do keep the lunch room open for students who do not want to eat outside.
  • This week’s Henley Huddle was our annual Peer Support Nomination Each fall since 2010, we have asked students in grades 4-12 to voluntarily make their school counselors aware of classmate(s) who may be victims of bullying. This Peer Support Nomination process is a vital piece of bullying prevention at our schools. We conduct the peer support nomination in the fall to reach students in need of support early, making help available to them throughout the school year. A copy of the full letter, which details our complete process, will be placed on our Henley Website under the parent tab.
  • From our School Librarian Mrs. Guerrant: You have a unique opportunity to provide input for Albemarle County Public Schools’ technology plan.  Since 2003, data from over 2.6 million SpeakUp surveys have been shared with local, state, and national leaders. Staff, student, & parent opinions are used each year to help make decisions about how to improve education at schools around the country.  The division will use the data to inform and measure our work related to our educational technology plan as well as professional development programming.  Our staff members are taking the survey, and over the next several weeks, your child will have an opportunity to take this survey as well.
    • We want you to share your input, too.This brief survey, which takes about 20 minutes, will inform our school division on topics of technology availability and use in Henley households. Your participation in the survey would be greatly appreciated.
    • The link to the survey is http://www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2016 .Our “secret word” is acps2016.
    • Thank you in advance for your participation in this helpful survey.  The survey closes on December 16th.

I know that was a lot. Thank you so much for a phenomenal nine weeks…we value your partnership in your child’s (childrens’) learning!


Beth Costa, principal

New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year! I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our newest Hornets, our returning students, our staff, and the official beginning of my second year as Henley Middle School principal. I am excited for all of the possibilities that a new school year brings! I have a couple of New Year’s Resolutions and I would like for you to think about what you would like to accomplish this year and what it would “look like” to say you met your goal.

In just a few days we will kick off our teacher pre-service week. Teachers will be preparing their rooms, designing learning for students, and collaborating around our big ideas for the year. Last year we looked a lot at movement in the instructional block and we have a strong foundation from which to build our work this year. In addition, a cohort of our teachers participated in the Buck Institute’s Project based Learning Professional Development, so we will take some time as a staff to consider how best to build that our so that all students may have similar learning experiences.

I look forward to seeing many of you on August 22nd at our annual Open House. The format is fluid and flexible; we don’t organize any events, but allow our students to walk their schedules, meet their teachers, and get acclimated back to school before the first day.

If students cannot make it to the Open House, I look forward to welcoming you on Tuesday, 23 August. One big change that you can expect is that we have moved STING. STING and recess are now between third and fourth period. I didn’t want you to be surprised on the first day; we will take some time review the entire schedule upon your return. If you are a little nervous about the first day, you are not alone. I am, too!

If I can do anything to help make this year your best one yet, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at school. See you soon!


Beth Costa, principal

Quiet Halls

While the buzz continues with our summer school program, the halls are generally quiet and I find myself anxiously waiting for the start of the school year. I will take some time in the coming weeks to share what we are doing to prepare for the 2016-17 school year!