December 2, 2020
Posted on 12/15/2020
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School Board Meeting of December 2, 2020

View the agenda on the Electronic School Board webpage.
Watch the School Board meeting on PWCS-TV.

The School Board Approved:

  • The 2021 Annual Internal Audit Plan (PDF) and directed internal staff and management to work cooperatively and in partnership to fulfill the 2021 Annual Internal Audit Plan;
  • The award of a contract (PDF) for HVAC Repair and Replacement Services to the highest rated Primary: Service Mechanical; Secondary: Boland Trane; Tertiary: Carrier; Quaternary: Atlantic Constructors;
  • The Development Impact Statement (PDF) for the University Village at Innovation rezoning that states the School Board is opposed to any rezoning application that causes student enrollment either Division-wide, by school level, or at any affected school, to exceed 100 percent of capacity;
  • October 2020 payrolls (PDF) in the amount of $59,824,587.08; and
  • The appointments of Carl Mainwaring to represent Diane Raulston of the Neabsco District, Tiffanie Rosier to represent Lillie Jessie of the Occoquan District, and Michele Weatherly to represent Loree Williams of the Woodbridge District on the CTE Advisory Council.

Citizens Addressed the School Board on the Following Topics:

  • Returning to school buildings
  • Virtual learning
  • Homework policy and student workloads
  • Budget

Student Matters:

  • Diversity Committee Update
  • Recent PWCS survey
  • Danger of increase in students failing
  • Cameras
  • Unity Reed High School rebranding
  • Superintendent input from December 1

Staff Presentation Topics:

  • Return to School Buildings (PDF)
  • Superintendent’s update on the pandemic and health services update (PDF)
    • In my pandemic update, I have a few key points to highlight. I will then turn it over to Associate Superintendent for Student Services and Special Education, Denise Huebner, and Supervisor of Student Health Services, Teresa Polk, to provide a more detailed update.
    • I would like to begin by recognizing the significant amount of work that has been accomplished by our Office of Finance, and specifically our procurement office led by Supervisor Anthony Crosby, who is retiring later this month.
    • I received the following from Adam Russo, our director of the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, regarding the support of this office – and I quote, “As you know, our team has served more than 7 MILLION meals to meet the needs of our community during this pandemic. There have been some challenges and recently we were presented with a new one – with the weather turning we wanted all-weather jackets to increase our employee’s safety/comfort during distribution… but with our size, all purchases take time – lots of time usually! Time was not on our side dealing with the safety and comfort of our employees, so I called Tony Crosby and told him the problem and he made solutions. His words, ‘I love what the team is accomplishing for our kids and I want to be a part of it… I got this, let me make some calls.’ That was it - the whole call. I left knowing a pro cared and had it handled and I don’t have to tell you what a relief it is to deal with pros! I cannot articulate how much it means to have so many people working in our Division who care for those we serve. Big shout out to Tony and the crew – I know the Division will surely miss his servant leadership and get-it-done attitude!”
    • This message exemplifies the total teamwork approach taken by all our employees to support our students, teachers, and families throughout this ongoing pandemic.
    • Beyond supporting Food Services, our Purchasing Office has helped purchase nearly 80,000 laptops and tens of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment, and ensured it has all been done according to the state and federal rules and regulations.
    • I wish Tony well in his retirement and thank all our staff for their continued hard work.
    • Next, I’ll address a question we have been asked regarding what can be done to enhance the gradebook experience for teachers using Canvas and The Hub.
    • For the past couple decades, teachers have had to track grades independently and then enter them into an online gradebook. This year is the same, with the added challenge of numerous gradebooks this year due to the pandemic impacts and the various learning methods that must be accommodated including in-person twice a week, four-day in-person, and all virtual instruction.
    • These various learning methods require the gradebook within The Hub to incorporate each learning mode for scheduling purposes. As such, The Hub gradebooks are currently set up with many sections. In a normal school year, with typical schedules, teachers will see their normal five sections by class.
    • However, IT is currently working on the grade pass back from Canvas to The Hub as one method to mitigate this difficulty. It is important to note that this sync between these two systems is very complex and must be custom coded to PWCS.
    • As we have various grading structures, at different grade levels in PWCS, it is a highly complicated and we must ensure it works as intended in order to not create more problems.
    • We are working with both vendors on the build-out and will launch the solution as soon as proven reliable. This will likely require additional weeks of work and testing.
    • While the sync will help, it will not solve all problems, and is really just supplemental to the work teachers have traditionally done in tracking grades and then entering them into the student information systems.
    • Teachers have been provided a number of tips to help with managing grades, these tips and other technology tool tips are sent weekly to all staff and are provided by Instructional Technology Coaches or as they are better known – ITCs – at the building level.
    • One of the keys for teachers is to enter grades as close to “real-time” as possible, and to ensure they are using grading as effectively as possible to measure progress against standards, we have lowered the number of required grades to provide teachers additional flexibility.
    • We also know that some teachers have asked questions regarding concurrent teaching and other relevant training. In order to meet the wide range of professional development needs and various skill levels of our teachers, staff, and leaders, we continue to offer a large menu of professional learning options utilizing national experts and our own exemplar practitioners in a variety of delivery platforms such as asynchronous, on-demand, and live virtual, to name a few.
    • If professional educators need assistance in selecting professional learning opportunities, I recommend that they collaborate with their supervising administrators and the appropriate content supervisor.
    • We welcomed back about 2,740 first graders this week. This brings our total of students in the buildings each day Tuesday-Friday to about 3,870 students, or approximately 7,750 weekly. This includes prekindergarten through first grade students who have opted for in-person learning along with our most vulnerable learners at all grades.
    • Additionally, on Monday’s advanced coursework for five career and technical education programs have returned to in-person learning, including students in the firefighting academy and agriculture/horticulture program. Six additional CTE programs will return for in-person learning on December 7.
    • Moving to our continuous monitoring of COVID-19 in the county, state, and country, we do see that the trend is one of increasing transmission of the virus.
    • We continue to share the latest COVID-19 information on pwcs.edu, where it is updated daily. Since the last School Board meeting, we have had 69 cases of COVID-19 of either students or staff virtual or in-person, reported to PWCS for November 15 to November 21, and 39 cases reported November 22 to 29. This brings the total for November to 177 cases as of Monday November 30, compared to 84 in October, and 50 in September.
    • At this time, I am not recommending any changes to our operations, which is due in large part to the limited numbers of students we have in the building currently coupled with our extensive mitigation efforts. This includes winter sports at the high school level which will continue as planned with additional mitigation requirements.
    • However, it is very important to note, as I mentioned at the last School Board meeting, we will continue to monitor the situation closely, and should more indicators reach the highest levels, changes to operations could occur that could include recommendations to delay further return of students or other mitigations. 
    • I also want to clarify a media report from yesterday that quoted me and has caused some confusion. The story only included one of the mandates which I mentioned would close schools for sure, and that would be a mandate from the Governor. However, what was not shared is the fact that I mentioned that in absence of a mandate from the Governor, this is a school-division-based decision that relies on several local factors, that Ms. Huebner will go through in detail in just a moment. I encourage parents to rely on PWCS official communications including this meeting, the SCOOP!, and our website for the most accurate information as media stories and headlines can sometimes contain only partial or out of context information.
    • Staff and community members may submit questions or concerns about the implementation of the PWCS Health Plan and other health mitigation strategies in school buildings, 24 hours a day, by sending an email to healthandsafety@pwcs.edu.
    • Additionally, Heather Wines, current director of counseling at Parkside Middle School, has accepted the pandemic coordinator position in the Office of Student Services. Heather will be providing support to our Health Leadership Team and working to support our school teams with pandemic related tasks. Her background in counseling will be key as our team works to support not only our students physical, but their mental health as well.
    • We will remain vigilant in our monitoring of the situation and we will update the School Board and public should our operations need to be updated.
    • I will now turn it over to Ms. Huebner for an update on the latest health metrics. (See health services update (PDF) for more information).

Superintendent's Time:

  • I appreciate the opportunity to update the School Board, staff members, parents, students, and community members on the important work occurring during this pandemic.
  • Even during a pandemic, our students and staff continue to shine. Congratulations to Dr. Jason Calhoun, director for the Governor's School @ Innovation Park, who has been named to the board of directors of the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools. The Consortium provides a forum for specialized secondary schools focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, better known as the STEM disciplines, to exchange information and program ideas.
  • Congratulations to Kelley Endreola, business education teacher at Battlefield High School, who, during a pandemic, has been selected as the winner of the 2020 George Mason University Outstanding Economic Educator of the Year award through the Virginia Council on Economic Education. Patrick DeRosa, social studies teacher at Osbourn Park High School, also was awarded with a $250 mini grant and awarded the most effective project completed.
  • Congratulations to Andy Jacks, principal at Ashland Elementary School, and Hamish Brewer, principal at Fred Lynn Middle School. The National Association of Elementary School Principals has named Mr. Jacks a senior fellow, and Mr. Brewer a fellow for their experiences as leaders with a track record of connecting with colleagues and creating powerful professional networks, especially during the pandemic.
  • I want to highlight for everyone that Governor Northam has designated this week as EdEquityVA Week. The Virginia Department of Education has also released a guidance document called Navigating EdEquityVA – Virginia’s Roadmap to Equity.
  • Last year, I established our Superintendent’s Advisory Council on Equity. Equity has also been identified as one of the most important core values for PWCS, as those values have been identified for the new Strategic Plan as well as in the theme of Learning and Achievement for All.
  • The Superintendent’s Advisory Council on Equity has its next meeting on December 10 and will be finalizing a PWCS equity statement, discussing equity in school operations during COVID-19, and refining equity priorities to inform the upcoming budget cycle.
  • At future School Board meetings, I will continue to update the Board on the work of the Equity Advisory Council, most notably, our Equity Lens, as we look at everything we do in PWCS.
  • Last Friday I had the pleasure of touring the planetarium at C.D. Hylton High School, which has been renovated thanks, in part, to a donation from the Cecil and Irene Hylton Foundation.
  • On Monday, November 30, I presented at the International Society for Technology in Education conference, or as it is better known – ISTE, which has continued, even in a pandemic. Topics included technology innovation and attention to mental health support for students and staff. As I mentioned last time, ISTE has recognized PWCS with a Distinguished District Award. PWCS is one of only three divisions in the nation being recognized.
  • Monday night I had the pleasure of presenting at the Human Right’s Student Leadership Council’s Orientation, which was held virtually due to the pandemic. There are 46 student representatives in this year’s cohort, which is the highest ever. I congratulated the students for the presentations made to members of the Human Rights Commission focusing on change in our community.
  • On December 1, I visited Rosa Parks Elementary School to help welcome back our first-grade students, and I was pleased to see the very excited and engaged students. I talked to several staff members and students. One kindergarten teacher told me she was very happy to be back in the building. The principal also shared that she appreciated the slow return of students because it allows the school to make small tweaks to the mitigation processes.
  • Thank you and stay safe and healthy.