Middle School Weekly 9.25.20

Happy Rainy Friday, Families,

It’s an exciting day at Community Middle, as Friday clubs kicked off today! Social development is such an important part of the early adolescent experience, and we are constantly looking for ways to engage kids in our community, give them a space to express themselves, and explore their interests. If your child hasn’t signed up for a club yet, it’s not too late! Here’s the link. We’ll also start a few lunch groups next week, though we encourage kids to get away from the screen during lunchtime, too!

This week was all about the design process and wildflowers. Did your child share their fire escape plan with you? This weekend, look for ways that you use the design process in everyday life; do you try, fail, and try again when cooking, or training a new pet, or in your own job? That’s an important part of the work we do at Community Middle! Also be sure to ask your children about their wildflower garden plan. Yes, there are actual wildflowers involved! Today your child ordered flowers, and you can come pick them up (along with some other school supplies and lots of compost) next Friday, October 2. Sign up for a time next Friday to come pick up the materials, and let us know if these times don’t work well for you. Masks required for pick up!

This week students took reading and math MAP tests. Focusing on a 40 to 50 question assessment in school is hard, and doing it at home is a whole new challenge; congrats to our kids for hanging in there! All Albemarle County middle schools use the MAP assessment, but it’s also only one tool we use to understand what students know. I’ll share more information about what we learned with you over the coming week.

Next week our PTO will host their first meeting of the school year! We are thankful for a strong partnership between home and school, which is even more necessary than ever. We know it’s also even more helpful than before to have other parents with whom you can connect during this time. Contact Maryfrances Porter (maryfrancesporter@gmail.com) with questions.

Upcoming Events:

Fri, Oct 2, 8:30 am, PTO meeting


Fri, Oct 2, 12 – 7 pm, Wildflower and supply pick up

Sign up here for a time

Thurs, Oct 8, 6:30 pm, ACPS School Board Meeting

Enjoy your weekend,

Stephanie and the Community Middle Team

An archive of all Middle School Weekly newsletters can be found on the leadership blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/middle-school-weekly/

High School Weekly 9.25.20

Hello Murray Community Students and Families!

Another week behind us, and a *pile* of exciting experiences for our students. Some highlights:

  • Dr. Baran’s AFDA students are planning what has been described as the “illest road trip of all time,” in an effort to delve deeper into the amazing world of systems of equations
  • Ms. Barazi’s biology students took a timely look at pathogens
  • Dom’s design students are getting started on a super-cool CubeSat project
  • Chad is signing off as Health/PE teacher as our bona fide Health/PE teacher Sarah Severs prepares to return next week (sad face emoji)

We received some great feedback from students this week about what sorts of clubs and activities they are interested in. Some great ideas in there! Keep an eye out for more information on which clubs will be happening when.

Speaking of surveys, the parent survey we sent out last week is still open. We would love to hear from all of our parents! Here is a link to more information on the survey and how to go about filling it out.

A few more tidbits:

  • Book of the Week: Ms. Craddock is recommending With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Check out her weekly summary for more information!
  • Dr. Powe has important information for juniors about the College Board. Have a look at her summary for details.

Finally, click on a teacher’s name to hear more about what they’ve been up to this week!

Have a good one!

Josh Flaherty and the Murray-Community Team


John Baran Jenna Barazi Don Barnes Mae Craddock
Josh Flaherty Cathy Glover Miles Gooch Dom Morse
Ouida Powe Cindy Pryor Fran Racette Chad Ratliff
Destiny  Andrew Sherogan  Dustin West Kristen Wilson

An archive of all High School Weekly newsletters can be found on the Leadership Blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/high-school-weekly/

Introduction to our Lab School Research

Hello, Dragon Families!  I write with a small request for your time and voice.

With the school year officially underway we are working hard to grow and adapt our learning model in ways that better serve the needs of our students and their families.  Toward that end, we humbly ask that you please complete this brief survey by Friday, 10/2.  

As you’ve heard many times throughout the process to choose our school, and now as a member of the school community, engaging in innovative and forward-thinking research is an integral part of our school’s identity both in practice and policy as a lab school for student-centered learning.  Since 2018, we’ve been partnered with a research team from the University of Virginia, led by Dr. Shereen El Mallah.  If you’ve yet to meet Shereen, I have no doubt you will find her as delightful as we all do!

Our work with Shereen and the research team is unique from most research-school partnerships in three important ways:

Data Collection Methods: We use multiple data collection approaches (i.e., not “just surveys”) The research team collects a wide-range of data including surveys, interviews, focus groups, game-based direct assessments, etc. By using different approaches, we are able to draw more meaningful findings from our data.

Participant Voice: We collect data from multiple stakeholders.The research team collects data from students, staff, and families to ensure all voices are heard as we work towards identifying the school’s strengths and potential areas of improvement.

Timing and Transparency: When possible, we make changes quickly and are committed to sharing our findings with students, staff and families along the way.The research team engages in rapid-cycle research which facilitates fast learning and helps inform decision-making.  Research findings are shared through email updates and presented at staff meetings, parent events, etc.

Finally, if your time permits, please sign up for a 15-30 min check-in interview with a member of the research team. Time slots have been made available from Monday-Sunday, every half hour between 8am-8pm. All feedback shared with the research team during these check-ins will remain anonymous.

Thanks again for choosing our school, its mission, and the larger journey to improve the 6-12 educational experience for our students and beyond.all.  Your voice makes our voice stronger and we deeply appreciate your time in this ongoing effort and your trust in our school in general.

Sincerely yours,

Chad S. Ratliff, Principal

High School Weekly 9.18.20

Hello Murray Students and Parents!

Another week in the books! I feel like we’re finally starting to settle into this virtual learning thing. Teachers are starting to figure it out, and students are of course way ahead of us. Here are some highlights from week 2:

  • Do you know what the Protist kingdom is? I sure don’t. If you have a student in Ms. Barazi’s Biology class, ask them!
  • Our awesome librarian Mae Craddock reports that students are starting to check out books! Looking for a good read? Check out her weekly summary below.
  • Mr. West managed to work Jar Jar Binks and a Beethoven quote into his weekly summary, so it must have been a good week!

We have two surveys this week, one for parents and one for students. Please fill them out. We love to get your feedback!

Students: We know the biggest thing missing for most students this year is social contact and interaction. With that in mind, we’re hoping to start having club activities or other social events starting soon. Please fill out this survey and let us know what you might be interested in!

Parents: We have put together a survey for parents to give us feedback on their and their children’s experience with virtual learning so far this year. As a laboratory school, we are always focused on ways to innovate and improve the learning experience for our students. Over the last few years, part of this has been a collaboration with researchers from the UVA School of Education, helping us to gather feedback from parents and students. This allows us not only to improve the experience for our students, but also to influence practices across ACPS and beyond. If you haven’t met her already, our lead UVA researcher is Shereen. (You can reach out to her at se5yk@virginia.edu.) Please help us out by filling it out! (Note: There will be a different survey coming next week from ACPS. The survey we are sending now is more specific to Murray and will help guide us in our instruction over the next year.)

Until next week,

Josh Flaherty and the Murray Community Team


Teacher Weekly Summaries

John Baran Jenna Barazi Don Barnes Mae Craddock Josh Flaherty
Cathy Glover Miles Gooch Dom Morse Cindy Pryor Fran Racette
Chad Ratliff Destiny Reimers Andrew Sherogan Dustin West Kristen Wilson


An archive of all High School Weekly newsletters can be found on the Leadership Blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/high-school-weekly/

Middle School Weekly 9.18.20

Happy Friday, Community Middle,

We have successfully completed our first full week of school, and we had fun! We are learning so much about the members of our community through their websites, interviews, and informational videos. Invite your children to show you the website they’ve put together so far. We’ll use this throughout the course of the year as a digital portfolio, so bookmark their website on your computer! We have also been learning to manage life behind a screen, which takes so much self control! Talk with your kids to brainstorm ways to stay focused and engaged in  our community.

Mathematicians have been investigating integers – we’re talking whole numbers and their opposites (ask your child if 0 is considered an integer!), and their absolute value (distance from 0). So, if you’re watching football this weekend, ask about gained yards, and lost yards, and look for positive and negative numbers in action. Our older students should be able to tell you which players have jerseys with square numbers on them, too!   

This coming week, students will take their reading and math MAP tests, which help us understand what they have already mastered and what we should teach them, and will measure growth when they take it again in the spring. This site has explanatory videos and a practice test that you can explore with your child this weekend. This is our first time administering this test remotely, so we know we need to be patient and troubleshoot together, but we believe that we are ready to rock! We’ll give the test during project time (10 am – 12:30 pm) according to the follow schedule:

Mon, 9/21 Tues, 9/22 Wed, 9/23 Thurs, 9/24
8th grade reading 7th grade reading 6th grade reading All grades math

As you can see, our experienced 8th graders will be our guinea pigs to work out any challenges prior to 6th and 7th grade testing 🙂 

We’re also eager to engage students in a variety of social opportunities. Teachers and students alike are missing those casual hallway conversations and lunchtime connections. Next week we’ll share with students more information about optional lunch groups and Friday afternoon clubs. Theater, superheroes, art, and more – all coming your way!

Finally, as promised last week, our research partners at UVA’s School of Education have put together a survey for parents and guardians to complete about your child’s experience so far this school year. As a lab school, we are always focused on ways to innovate and improve the learning experience for our students and we are incredibly fortunate to work with Shereen El Mallah, the coolest researcher at UVA. Here’s the link, and by filling it out, you’ll directly impact instruction at Community Middle! Please note that there will be a different survey coming next week from ACPS, and we hope you’ll fill that out, too.

Enjoy the fall weather this weekend!

Stephanie and the Community Middle Team

An archive of all Middle School Weekly newsletters can be found on the leadership blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/middle-school-weekly/

Middle School Weekly 9.11.20

Good Afternoon, Community Middle!

Woohoo! We have been preparing for this week for so long, and now the first week of the 2020 – 2021 school year is complete and we have absolutely loved getting to know our new students, and getting back to work with those of you who are returning! The beginning of life at Community Middle always feels a little disorienting because our interdisciplinary, project-based model means that we don’t have a traditional, easy-to-follow schedule on Power School. But wow, our kids have gotten accustomed to the technology, the schedule, and the format very quickly! You’ll all be experts in no time, and until then, always remember that you can ask any of us for help.

The first week is all about laying the groundwork. Students have participated in their daily advisory meetings, allowing them to get to know grade level peers. Our main project this week and next week is focused on how our students can share who they are as a person, even in a virtual world. Ultimately, students will be building a digital portfolio where they will be able to share their work with you and others all year! This week, they created top ten lists and conducted interviews to share about themselves and learn about others. Whether we are in person or online, our priority continues to be building a strong community that works and learns together. Math classes and electives are underway, too; is your child learning to share their voice, planning a trip to anywhere, telling scary stories, or exploring black holes? So many exciting options!

This week we also brainstormed how to create the best possible environment to do work at home. We agreed that having something available for writing is helpful, being comfortable is important, and we like to have some sort of fidget in our hands to help our brains stay focused, It’s also helpful to remind your kids to get up from their computer and move during all of our breaks throughout the day. It feels good and helps us stay focused – students and teachers alike! Ask your kids how their setup is working, and let us know if there is anything we can do to help, or any supplies you need.

As a lab school, we have always valued feedback from students, parents, teachers, and community members and now it is more true than ever! We’ll continue our relationship with researchers at UVA, and you’ll hear more about that from Chad next week.

Happy Weekend!

Stephanie and the Community Middle Team

An archive of all Middle School Weekly newsletters can be found on the leadership blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/middle-school-weekly/

High School Weekly 9.11.20

Hello Murray Community Students and Parents!

We made it! The first week of the historic 2020-21 school year is in the books. There was confusion, there were a few technology issues (looking at you, Schoology), and there may have been a few tears, but there were a lot of successes as well. And the best is yet to come!

A few highlights from this first week: Barnes and his IB Film class looked at what some consider the “first comedy” film; our very own Chad Ratliff is navigating the Health/PE curriculum and, I can confirm, having a ball getting to spend more time with his students; Mr. Sherogan and his Econ/Personal Finance class are exploring the age-old question, “How do we make a lot of money?”; finally, Mr. West and his Freshman Seminar student made some pretty terrific memes.

Down below you will find links to teacher summaries of this week. Click on them to read more!

I think we’re all relieved to have made it through this first week and even more excited about what we’re going to be able to do with this most unusual school year. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts. We’re always happy to hear from you!

Until next week,

Josh Flaherty and the Murray Community Team

Click on a teacher’s link to see what they’ve been up to this week!

John Baran

Jenna Barazi

Don Barnes

Mae Craddock

Josh Flaherty

Cathy Glover

Miles Gooch

Dom Morse

Cindy Pryor

Fran Racette

Chad Ratliff

Destiny Reimers

Andrew Sherogan

Dustin West

Kristen Wilson

Ouida Powe

An archive of all High School Weekly newsletters can be found on the Leadership Blog: https://admins.k12albemarle.org/labschools/category/high-school-weekly/

First Day Reflection: Zoom Links, Schoology, Schedules… and Making History

Dear Dragon Community,

Congratulations, you are a part of history. For better or worse, today you experienced the first day of the most radical transformation in American K12 education since, well, K12 education became compulsory in America a century ago. And we all survived! Some tech glitches here and there, the gamut of emotions–all as expected–but, overall, I tip my hat to all of you for the patience, positivity, and grace I witnessed throughout the day. This is truly a remarkable school community.

As we head into Day Two, here are a few things you will find helpful:

  • Zoom Links: Accurate links are in these documents and on the specific course/project Schoology page.
    • Middle School Zoom Links
    • High School Zoom Links
  • Schoology: Be sure to use the ACPS log-in page at https://lms.k12albemarle.org not schoology.com.
  • Daily Schedules:
    • Middle School
    • High School

I so thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the new and returning faces today, problem-solving with families and students via phone, Zoom, texts, and social media (phew!), and watching the creativity of teachers begin to unleash further as our new reality shifts to potential opportunities.

Please do not hesitate to ask for help. We are here for you and your child.

It felt great to be back. The best is yet to be.

Sincerely yours,
Chad S. Ratliff, Principal

Welcome Back!

Dear Dragon Families:

It’s hard to believe the new school year is upon us!  I hope everyone has had a fun, safe, and relaxing summer, despite the unusual circumstances.  Things have definitely been busy around here! 

This will certainly be an exciting year for our school. While the medium has changed (for now, at least) the mission remains as pure and true as it always has. 

As a district-backed lab school, we will continue to emphasize our role as a model for student-centered learning.  Our approach is designed to address the whole child, which means we dedicate much time for delving into social and intellectually engaging learning experiences; to provide equitable access to opportunities and resources, fair and meaningful assessments, boosting creativity, and offering flexibility that empowers students to choose paths aligned with their learning goals and personal interests. 

While exciting, our approach shouldn’t be considered “experimental.”  Our model simply weaves together what we’ve long known to be the best and most developmentally appropriate approaches to teaching and learning–and I believe our work is more important now than ever before!  Here are two very recent articles that you might find interesting in that regard:

What an incredible journey we are embarking on together.  This year marks my 20th in public education, and I can easily say I’ve never been more excited for a school year than I am for this one. While some hiccups and stumbles are inevitable, I have no doubt our school community will find a way to thrive.  I’m so honored and proud to be part of such an amazing team and we can’t wait to partner with you to make this a positive and meaningful year of learning. 

Toward that end, be sure to check your email!  You will soon be getting First Day Zoom links and other information directly from your teachers, if you haven’t already.  In the meantime, here a few key informational items and some tips to help get us all off to a strong start! 



  1. Log on to your computer prior to the first day of school. Your password is whatever you most recently set it to.  If you need assistance with this or other technology help please contact the ACPS Service Desk at https://servicedesk.k12albemarle.org/ or 434-975-9444.
  2. Use your k12albemarle account to log into your computer and check email frequently. 
  3. Update Zoom on your computer: Here’s how
  4. Check out this How do I Use Zoom on the 1st Day presentation
  5. Get the Zoom mobile app for your phone (perhaps a parent’s too) to have as a backup!
  6. Login to Schoology using your k12albemarle user name and password. Click through the folders of your classes to get a feel for what’s what.  
  7. You may want to bookmark all your Zoom Links, so that you have easy access to them. You can watch a video on how to bookmark links in Google Chrome here: Bookmarking Zoom Rooms Tutorial
  8. Find a comfortable space to work
  9. Setup an alarm for class starts on your phone, computer, or smart speaker.   See Daily Schedules above!
  10. Get a good night’s sleep
  11. Know how excited we are to see you. If you are nervous, it’s OK, so are we. We are in this together! 

If you find that your internet is slow: 

  • Join Zoom sessions using audio only and follow along in Schoology. 
  • If you have access to a cell phone, use the cell phone to join sessions through the Zoom app using only audio while also using their ACPS device to join sessions using video.
  • WiFi continues to be available in all ACPS school parking lots.


The main parent resource is the ACPS Parent Portal. If you do not have access to the Parent Portal please reach out to Diana Maupin, Database Administrator, for assistance at dmaupin@k12albemarle.org or 434-296-3090. Note: The mobile app will not be functional until the first day of school!

Families can also access student Schoology pages by following the process found here: Schoology Parent Accounts. Please note that you must have a Parent Portal account before you can access Schoology. 

Please feel free schedule a Zoom or phone call with me directly by using this link: https://calendly.com/chadratliff/conversations or by contacting Lucy Akers-Allen at 434-296-3090 or lallen2@k12albmarle.org.

See you Tuesday!

Sincerely yours,
Chad S. Ratliff, Principal

Virtual Open House… and More!

Good Afternoon, Families!

Hint: The best part of this whole email is in the last paragraph 🙂

At this point, many of you have accessed your schedules online and are getting excited about your courses for this year! Currently, you can only access schedules via the website, and the app will be accessible on September 8, the first day of class.  If you have questions about viewing the schedule, contact Diana Maupin (dmaupin@k12albemarle.org) and if you have questions about your actual schedule, contact Ouida Powe (opowe@k12albemarle.org). 

Now, let’s put those schedules to use! Our virtual Open House is tomorrow, Thursday August 27. The middle school event is 5:30 – 6:30 pm, and the high school event is 6:30 – 7:30 pm. This will be an opportunity to meet your teachers and learn about the courses you’re taking. If you want more general information, check out the slides we used for the Town Hall Meetings earlier this month.

Middle School Open House Zoom (see email for link)

Thursday, August 27, 5:30 – 6:30 pm

During this time, families will be split into small groups and will hear from all of the middle school teachers about your schedule, projects, and learning opportunities this year.

High School Open House Zoom (see email for link)

Thursday, August 27, 6:30 – 7:30 pm

During this time, click on any of the teacher’s Zoom links to say hello and learn about courses with them this school year! Come and go through their Zoom rooms at your own pace throughout the hour. Middle school students taking high school classes, join during this time, too!

But, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to meet your teachers! Gather your family around the screen, pop some popcorn, and meet your teachers! Check out these video introductions of all of your faculty and staff. We can’t wait to work with you!

See you soon!
Your Teachers