Football, other objectives on school system map for 2012

Rappahannock is ready. Coach Robert “Rowdy” Stump is fielding a squad of 26 hearties. “We have,” he said, “been lifting all summer,” meaning weights. The Panthers’ home opener is Saturday, Sept. 1.

There is clearly more interest in football now; the coach noted that 35 young men had shown up for the initial meeting. How was he able to recruit enough players to put a squad in action? “We’ve been talking it up,” said Stump, noting that he was the high school principal for two years until the close of the 2011-2012 year. (He is now the school division’s director of administration, having swapped positions with current high school principal Michael Tupper.)

Stump said he is also pleased with middle-school interest in the gridiron, noting that “we have 28 boys on that team.”

At its first regular meeting of the new academic year Tuesday (Aug. 14), the school board started with a series of lessons, an evening of learning for all five members. Four of the five are fairly new at this; only Aline Johnson is a veteran of the board.

The school division’s director of instruction, Carol Johnson, led the board through the new state government rules about measuring the progress of students, and evaluating the work of teachers. What are called new “annual measurable student objectives” were outlined.

As Johnson explained after the meeting, “student achievement will be a much greater part of teacher evaluation.”

The board also heard that emphasis will be placed on helping those youngsters “who have historically had difficulty meeting achievement standards.” Those, the report goes on, would be the economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English language learners, African-Americans and Hispanic students. There will be a lot more of this about measuring progress and achievement – of teachers as well as pupils – as the school system moves into the fall.

The ways that a public school district responds to the needs of gifted children is also of interest to the state, which has rules for attending to the “GTs,” as they are called – the gifted and talented. The state requires that each school district draw up and submit a plan for nourishing and challenging the GTs. The school system’s gifted education specialist, Lilo Wolfe, submitted such a plan at the board meeting. It is a 37-page report outlining screening of the youngsters, which begins in kindergarten. A child can be discovered to have “general intellectual aptitude” or, starting in the first grade, might show “visual aptitude.” Indeed, the little ones will be screened for this special talent with visuals each year from the first through the fourth grades. 

How does a pupil get to be considered “gifted”? A teacher makes a referral, Wolfe said, but a parent or guardian also may make such a referral. So could a member of the community. There is also provision for self-referral on the part of a student.

The idea is abroad in the land that the foods on students’ trays at lunch time could be healthier. Around here, the food service expert in the Rappahannock schools is Trista Grigsby. She explained to the board that there are now guidelines and limitations on calories and trans fats in the whole area of food acquisition and service. She took the board through the bidding process with local wholesalers, what procedures they observe and emphasize, what limitations they impose, and how she can use collective bidding with neighboring school districts. This cooperative effort with a larger school division, for example, Falls Church, could save the Rappahannock system some money, Grigsby noted.

The lightest moment of the evening came when it was announced that a trash pile had been discovered behind the elementary school. Apparently it has been there since the Truman administration. No one knows what is in it. Ideas were batted around about burning it in place (“No, you can’t do that any more!”) or hauling it away. The latter prevailed.