Students — and teachers — get back to school in Rapp

Good news about accreditation, graduation rates, new teacher orientation and other successes marked the Rappahannock County School Board’s meeting Tuesday (Aug.11), a meeting held a day after students returned to the schools for the 2015-2016 academic year.

In a congenial meeting befitting back-to-school optimism, the board members heard presentations from school principals and staff.

Academic services director Shannon Grimsley and teachers Elaine Frank and Karen Sanborn described a new mentoring program for new teachers. Besides providing instructional support, the mentoring program is also designed to help new teachers navigate both school and community. Frank explained that experienced teachers would be assigned to “direct the new teachers to appropriate and needed materials and resources, and to other teachers who may be able to provide guidance.” Mentors will also help newcomers establish contact with community members and services.

The new teacher orientation included a bus tour of the county from Chester Gap to Sperryville. “We pointed out churches along the way and took them to the courthouse,” said Frank, “but we also showed the teachers where to buy gas, get their cars repaired and pick up a few groceries.”

After the tour, the teachers had lunch at Griffin Tavern and were treated to a “swag” bag containing brochures from the Visitors Center about area attractions, samples of Central Roasters coffee, beer cozies from Cooter’s in the Country, coupons and other items to help the teachers become acquainted with their new community.

Frank said the new program would be a valuable recruiting tool in the future.

Grimsley also made a presentation on the break-out sessions for teachers on back-to-school day.

High School Principal Mike Tupper and Elementary School Principal Cathy Hughes reported on the school system‘s summer school program that drew 84 students four days a week in June. Held at the elementary school, the session concentrated on reading and math skills for elementary students, while high school students worked on improving their SOL scores and completing courses needed to graduate.

In working toward full accreditation, Rappahannock schools have met and exceeded their benchmarks and expect to be fully accredited, technology assessment director Robin Bolt told the board. “Our three-year average growth has been incredible,” she said, in reporting preliminary findings. In addition, Bolt reported, high school graduation rates are up. She credited the success to the hard work of teachers, staff, and the school administration, as well as the support of parents. “We are very proud of our students and continue to set the bar high for student success in Rappahannock,” said Bolt. The Virginia Accreditation Report will become public Sept. 15.

Closing the reports to the board was a presentation about the Farm to Table and Local Foods Programs that were behind the school district winning the Virginia School Boards Association’s “Food for Thought” Award in July at a ceremony in Richmond. Stacy Whitt, the schools’ cafeteria director and Sarah Moore, the Farm to Table teacher and coordinator, accepted the award at the ceremony from Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.

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