Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas holiday thoughts

Mecklenburg County Public Schools were open for student's on Monday and Tuesday of Christmas week while many other school divisions were off. I've heard some ask why and, of course, the reason goes back to the Standards Of Learning (SOL) tests. Teachers need as much time as possible to prepare many of our students to be successful with these tests. Our high schools are on a modified 4 X 4 Block schedule, meaning that they basically have four 90 minute classes during the fall semester and another four 90 minute classes during the spring. Students that are in classes that have an accompanying SOL exam must take that test at the end of the class. There are fewer days available for students to be in Fall class before Christmas then there are in Spring semester between January and the end of school. We try to give as much time to teachers and students in the Fall classes as we can to prepare for academic success.

The reality is that the final day of school before a holiday is a time for teachers to engage students in educational  activities that may be for social development more than academic because they are at the end of a course of study and excited for the holiday or vacation that is to come. Therefore, having monday and tuesday before Christmas for these activities gave us better academic focus throughout the week before.

I had the privilege of joining in pre Christmas activities at each of the elementary schools this week. Students were focusing on building their reading and thinking skills by incorporating popular Christmas themes. The book "Polar Express" has become a very popular book among our students and I had opportunity to see that the Conductor from the book was able to pay a visit to the primary-level students to encourage their reading interest. (See picture of some of the 2nd grade students having their Polar Express ticket punched by the conductor) Many thanks to the other members of the Central Office staff who made it possible for Mrs. Santa Clause, Rudolph, Olaf (from the movie Frozen), and a variety of Santa's elves visit the classrooms as well.

There is a final note on this issue of holiday time. Mecklenburg's students will return to class on Thursday, January 7th. They still get a full two weeks of holiday. The teachers return on Wednesday, January 6th for a workday that will prepare them for the 2nd semester. This should work out very well for all!

In other news, I am excited to share that Mecklenburg County's School Board is very anxious to get started on their task to provide leadership to the system. You may be aware that five of the nine members are taking their seat for the first time in January, and one other is a newly elected official having filled the seat for his district for just a few months previous to November elections. They have determined to have their organizational meeting on Monday, January 4th, so that these duties will be taken care of at the regular January meeting and they can get right to work. The Board is also having a special training session on the evening of January 7th and during the day on January 8th to become thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities and with the programs that are in place for our schools. I congratulate the Board on being so proactive with their duties and am very pleased for the opportunity to work with a group that is this responsible and engaged. 

Finally, I'd like to take this time to wish to everyone a very merry Christmas and most prosperous New Year as we move into 2016. I extend these greetings particularly to all the staff of Mecklenburg County Schools. I've now had the opportunity to visit with staff in all of the schools and at Central Office. I've discovered that we have wonderful and hard-working persons working with our students and they all seem most anxious for a great year ahead. I'm certainly looking forward to working with such a team!

Friday, December 18, 2015

From the Desk of the Superintendent

What a warm welcome I have received during this first week that I have officially been on the job as Superintendent of Mecklenburg County Public Schools. I am thrilled to be back to my home area and very much looking forward to working with the wonderful people here to  move our school division forward. 

During my first week and a half, the days before the Christmas holiday break,  I have had opportunity to visit with staff and tour all of the school facilities. We have wonderful teachers, counselors, and administrators working with our students. We are in the midst of SOL testing at our secondary schools and every one feels positive about the results that we are getting. In the elementary schools I am seeing wonderful presentations from the students as they prepare for the Christmas break. Those of you that can make it to the Colonial Theater in South Hill for the Christmas performance on the evening of Friday, Dec. 18th, should definitely go. These students are going to amaze you with their talents and put you in the mood for the holiday season. Congratulations to them all for such hard work and success. 

I've been very engaged with the School Board, particularly the new members that will take their seats in January. Most of us were able to make it to the annual conference of the Virginia School Board Association in November and had opportunity to participate in very good training programs that prepare us for our jobs. The new Board members will be have an organizational meeting on January 4th and will have our own two day training to review the programs and detail of the school division and meet all the leadership. This will provide a firm foundation of knowledge about the system so that they can do the best job moving the system forward. 

There are exciting days ahead for Mecklenburg County Public Schools. We are entering into a new day that is less focused only on academic testing and more focused on developing programs that will make the high school graduate better prepared for career and college. This will require the development of strong partnerships with a multitude of organizations including the Board of Supervisors, local business, churches, civic organizations, and programs that provide informat education programs for the students. I hope to work with the School Board and the schools to build these strong partnerships.

I welcome open communication with the public on the steps we take to provide our children with the best education opportunities possible and look forward to seeing you out in the community. I encourage you to keep an eye on this blog as well as the multitude of social media outlets that are being used by our schools to keep you informed. 

Have a very merry Christmas and happy, happy new year. 

Paul Nichols