School Days - Winter 2013

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Inspirational students, teachers and alumni | Pg. 4

Students across Henrico give thanks | Pg. 7

Spotlight on: School Improvement | Pg. 8

The road to leadership


“The Leader in Me” is helping schools build communities of character

verywhere you turn in Holladay Elementary School, there are colorful posters, murals and class projects referencing the work of author Stephen Covey. Why is a school so excited about the ideas of a noted business management guru? Because, say teachers, administrators and students, Covey’s leadership principles work for education.

“We’ve ended up with an atmosphere that is warm, caring, accepting, and has high expectations,” said Kim Olsen, principal of Elizabeth Holladay Elementary School, which is in its second year of the program. Olsen and Associate Principal Jennifer Drake discussed the program on a fall morning in Olsen’s office, surrounded by nautical souvenirs and the

words “Be the Captain of Your Leader SHIP.” “We’ve seen suspensions fall down. We’ve seen office referrals fall down. We’ve seen children working things out when they wouldn’t talk to each other before.” Five Henrico County schools have adopted an educational leadership process called “The Leader in Me.” The

model is patterned after Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The aim is to cultivate character to help students grow, and to create a thriving environment for learning. “The Leader in Me” schools commit to a five-year process. Crestview Elemensee LEADER IN ME, Pg. 3


December 2013

school days

Looking back — and ahead to a bright 2014 Dr. Patrick C. Kinlaw

Deputy Superintendent of Schools


elcome to winter! On behalf of the Henrico County School Board, it’s my pleasure to bring greetings as 2013 comes to a close. I’m very proud to tell you that the first half of the school year continues to go well thanks in no small part to the dedicated faculty and staff in all of our schools and offices. Before we all go on that well-deserved break, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about many of the interesting things that are taking place in our school division. We’ll be rolling out our new Student Performance Task Force in January. More than 400 nominations were submitted online, which tells me that there are many passionate stakeholders in our county. The task force will inform the Henrico community about academic expectations and concerns, create new strategies

place to keep the momentum going is our Coalition for Equitable and Inclusive Schools, which supports our teachers and students in creating stronger, lasting connections. In 2014 we will be implementing a new student information system called PowerSchool. PowerSchool has many beneficial features including online scheduling, a parent portal for on-demand grade review, and a powerful data analysis tool for teachers to track student learning. We will continue to update you as we move through the implementation process, and there also will be opportunities for feedback. Finally, I want to thank you for being so supportive of our students during this year. I have the highest of hopes for 2014, and with our awesome staff doing what they do best, my confidence is at an all-time high. Stay warm, be safe, and I’ll see you in the new year!

for overcoming student performance disparities, and generate more community support for improving the academic achievement of all students. The Student Performance Task Force is one part of our overall school improvement plan. As you may know, 17 of our schools were accredited with warning this year, and our teachers and staff are working harder than ever to get all schools where they need to be. Our students deserve a quality education, and we intend to ensure it. You can read more about our new Department of School Improvement in this issue. We also are making great strides in reducing the number of out-of- Sincerely, school suspensions. Since 2008, the total number of suspensions is down 38 percent, creating an additional 29,744 hours of instructional time for students. Among the strategies in

Helping Hand Volunteer of the Month and ABCD Awards


he Helping Hand Volunteer of the Month Award recognizes volunteers who make a difference in our schools. One winner is traditionally recognized each month for commitment, helpfulness and maintaining good relationships. The winner for October was Bruce Tarr from Fairfield Middle School.

responded proactively by anticipating needs and solving problems without specific direction. These people have gone Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

The Henrico Education Foundation in partnership with the Henrico Federal Credit Union joins us in recognizing these individuals by providing a check to each recipient.

The winners for October were: Charlene Fleming of The ABCD Montrose Elementary School award is preTarr and Bassam “Sam” Hatoum of sented to various Tuckahoe Middle School. Henrico County Public Schools support personnel who have made signif- The winners for November icant contributions that improved job were: Saraswathi “Sara” Bala efficiency, quality of services, safety, of Brookland Middle School or conserved resources; performed a and Lisa McCauley of Holman humanitarian or heroic act; or who Middle School.



November winners (L to R) Lisa McCauley and Sara Bala

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December 2013

Holladay students Samiyah Banks, Salma Mohamed, Cayla Randolph and Chrissy Hawley say the leadership principles are contagious.

yLEADER IN ME tary School is in its first year of the program. Three other schools – Arthur R. Ashe Jr., Dumbarton and Harvie Elementaries – were awarded $6,000 start-up grants this fall from the Henrico Education Foundation (HEF) to begin the process. Holladay hopes to become the first “Lighthouse School” in central Virginia, a status awarded to schools that take the program to an even higher level. FranklinCovey, the company that developed the program, says “The Leader in Me” can pay big dividends, including improved student self-confidence and interpersonal skills, reduced discipline problems, increased teacher engagement and parent satisfaction, and elevated student achievement.

When you improve the school environment, you make it more conducive to learning.” In Henrico, awareness of the program didn’t arise from one source, but sprouted in various places. Drake stumbled across “The Leader in Me” book in 2008, and knew she wanted to incorporate the ideas into her school. Crestview teacher Meg Zehmer saw some information about the program at a local preschool in 2009, and decided to apply for a HEF grant to create a 2011 pilot program for her kindergarten class. Olsen was principal at Pemberton Elementary School in 2010 when she took a tour of A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet School in Raleigh, N.C., the first school in the U.S. to implement the program. When Olsen moved to Holladay, she and Drake were raring to go. “It’s funny how things work out,” said Drake. “Before Kim had even officially started at Holladay, I told her, ‘We have this grant all ready for a new leadership program. Can you sign it?’”

Zehmer found that the ideas make perfect sense to even the youngest students. “We introduce a different habit each month. Setting goals is a key part of the leadership process. We have a poster that says, ‘How many habits have you used today?’ While empirical studies of the pro- We have a mirror that says, ‘I can see the gram’s effects on student achievement leader in me.” If someone is having a bad are just getting started, the company has day, I say, ‘Go over and tell me what you collected evidence that schools that fully see.’” commit to the process see a boost in test “This afternoon our classroom was scores. a mess, as kindergarten classrooms get,” “We’re hoping [improved scores] will show up in the future, as we establish the culture and move to the second phase of the process,” Olsen said. But there are encouraging academic signs. One of the seven habits, “Put first things first,” emphasizes work before play. Olsen said that has helped kids prioritize homework. “Homework is a big part of success. Also, in doing projects, students are more aware of “beginning with an end in mind.” Holladay’s Drake is a believer. “This transforms the school environment.

Zehmer said. “I turned off the lights and said, ‘I really need you all to synergize.’ They know exactly what that means. I got out a timer, and in eight minutes, that classroom looked better than before it got messy … I think it all begins with the concepts, the setting and how it’s presented. Little kids are so smart and sometimes we dumb things down for them and we don’t need to. They just get it.” So how does the process work? Once a school has committed, they work with FranklinCovey and The Leader In Me


Foundation to secure a grant. FranklinCovey provides the school with extensive staff training and materials. The staff reads and discusses “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Teachers learn how to integrate the ideas into the curriculum. Each class creates and commits to a guiding mission statement, and students, faculty and staff members record their goals, plans and victories – sometimes publicly. Schools come up with their own ideas and materials, and there’s plenty of sharing via an active online community. Each year culminates with a Leadership Day, where the school celebrates its successes with tours and songs, and invites parents and community partners to the school to show them what they’ve learned.

It’s positive peer pressure.”

The Seven “Leader in Me” Habits

Those costs can be defrayed by help from corporate and community partners, and from some government programs. For example, at Holladay Elementary, support has come from HEF, the I Am A Leader Foundation, federal Title 1 funds, the Holladay PTA, contracting firm ColonialWebb, and food company Wholly Guacamole, which gave the school $10,000 to kickstart the program. At Crestview, the program is supported by HEF, The I Am a Leader Foundation, the PTA, Walmart Corporation, as well as Randolph Reynolds Sr., Randolph Reynolds Jr. and Margaret Bowen.

1. Be proactive (You’re in charge) 2. Begin with the end in mind (Have a plan) 3. Put first things first (Work first, then play) 4. Think win-win (Everyone can win) 5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Listen before you talk) 6. Synergize (Together is better) 7. Sharpen the saw (Balance feels best) Source: FranklinCovey Education

While “The Leader in Me” develops student leadership skills, the model depends on buy-in from the entire school. “This is something people need to breathe, otherwise it becomes empty words.” Olsen said. “It has to have buyin. To do that, everyone needs to have a voice. There was ample time for those on the fence to have their questions answered.”

Holladay fifth grader Chrissy Hawley said that the language makes people curious. “I talk about the seven habits all the time at home,” she said, standing in a hallway near a green “Proactive Parkway” street sign. “My sister goes to Moody [Middle School], and she asked me what I was talking about. I told her and now she uses the seven habits all the time.” School commitment is also a must because the program is not cheap: schools commit to spending $6,000 per year for five years for the extensive staff training, consultation, materials and online resources. A representative from FranklinCovey is assigned to each school and takes an active role in implementing the program.

“Educators in schools become so convinced that this can have such an impact on students, teachers and schools that they don’t hesitate to go out and ask for corporate help. And the model is widely used in the business world, so it’s a natural,” HEF Program Manager Paula Roop said. “The process teaches essential leadership and life skills,” Zehmer said, “which is exactly what parents and business leaders are demanding.”

“Teachers don’t want one more thing on their plate.” Drake added, “But you start this and people say, ‘what can I do to help?’” Zehmer said she has gotten as much from the process as her students. “It’s been, professionally and personally one of the most inspiring and rewarding endeavors I have ever been engaged in.” One key to success is the common language based on Covey’s seven habits, which helps reinforce culture and commitment. Olsen said, “I get calls from parents saying, ‘I heard my children say, ‘We need to clean up our toys before we play, because we need to put first things first.’ I get calls saying, ‘I was in the minivan the other day after a soccer game and my child said, ‘Well, we lost the game, but we learned. That’s a win-win.’’

Media Specialist Debbie Teague assists students in the library beneath a quote from “The Leader in Me” author Stephen Covey.


December 2013

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Inspirational Henrico students, teachers and alumni

Danny Santo s of Hermit age High Sc earned “elite hool has status“ as a member o U.S. Army A f the 2014 ll-American Marching Ban d.

Andrew teacher d from h t a m l Schoo Heroes“ awar pany. Middle om Fairfield ceived a “Math Raytheon C r 21st e o r d f e a s n tio -ba Senk usetts ped a reputa ction where h c a s s Ma tru velo has de t-centered ins Senka n e d u t ,s d. century nts feel value e d u t s all

Anna W High S ong, a 2013 g r c Youth hool, was aduate of J.R recent Philan ly rec . Tucker t Assoc ognize iation hropist of d t o Centra l Virgin f Fundraisin he Year by as ia Cha g P rofess The pter. ionals

s Dylan Reissner, Henrico High School’ ts, received a merit a senior in Visual Ar e National Youngaward in the selectiv Reissner’s unique Arts competition. impressed judges “wearable art“ (right) use of fashion who recognized its memorable visual and color to create experiences.

ology techn l , a n io ct chool instru y Middle S r of n a od ato rry, at Mo vative Educ hnolm Be o Willia cher n a n e e t I T c ch he 2013 ociety for ablished t d resear e m S st en na Virginia Berry has e ching at e has be h t y . TE) ar b nd tea the Ye ucation (VS e thinking a n. Ed ivisio ovativ ogy in of inn hout the d e r u t g a cul throu y and d o o M

The creation of a thousand forests is one acorn. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

school days

December 2013


Boyle joins Henrico school board a special election can be held next year. Boyle has served on the Henrico Education Foundation board and HCPS’ Gifted Advisory Council. He also was an integral member of the redistricting committee for Kaechele Elementary School. “I am a dedicated supporter and advocate of the mission of the county schools and have demonstrated this support by serving on several county school committees in recent years,” Boyle stated in his letter of interest for the Three Chopt seat.


Robert Boyle

obert G. “Rob” Boyle Jr. has been sworn in as the newest member of the Henrico County School Board. In a unanimous vote Sept. 26, the board appointed Boyle to fill the Three Chopt District seat until

“All county residents understand that this is a difficult and highly important period for the county Schools… my only focus would be on making decisions that serve the best interests of the students and the county taxpayers,” Boyle said. “We are so pleased to have a person of Robert’s caliber represent the Three Chopt District,” said School Board Chair Beverly Cocke. “We’re confident that his

skills and experience will help us do great things for kids right away.”

“ only focus would be on making decisions that serve the best interests of the students and the County taxpayers,” Boyle is a graduate of the University of Richmond and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is a partner at Hirschler Fleischer, specializing in commercial real estate transactions. He and his wife, Amy, have lived in the Three Chopt District since 1998 and have three children who currently attend Henrico County Public Schools. Involvement in community and charitable service is an important part of Boyle’s career. He has done pro-bono work for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and served on the board of the

Richmond Police Athletic League. Once his children entered Henrico County Public Schools in 2007, he switched his community service efforts to supporting HCPS. He served three years on the Gifted Advisory Council, including two as vice-chairperson, and spent the past four years on the board of the Henrico Education Foundation. Boyle was also one of the Ridge Elementary School representatives on the Kaechele Elementary Redistricting Committee. “I am incredibly honored and humbled to have been selected to represent the Three Chopt District on the Henrico County School Board, and I will do my best to help HCPS achieve the stated goal of becoming the premier school division in the United States.”


More information on the Henrico School Board and school board meetings can be found at SchoolBoard.

Henrico art teacher drawn to new challenge


hen Betsy Pennington was asked to create the illustrations for a children’s book called “Everything Takes Practice,” she realized that there was irony in the book’s title. Pennington, longtime art teacher at Rivers Edge Elementary, usually paints using a blend of PostImpressionist and Fauvist styles. The book’s author wanted softer illustrations with more detail. “I thought it was funny that the book’s title reflected my challenge as an illustrator, because the project was so different from my style as a painter,” she said. “And then I realized that, as an art teacher, those are the kind of challenges I ask my students to accept.” The book was completed in August.

Pennington was approached by the author, Natalie Lewis, who wanted to hire an illustrator to help fulfill her dream of publishing a book. Lewis’ two children had been in Pennington’s art classes at Rivers Edge. “I didn’t want something cartoony or computer-generated,” Lewis said. “I wanted a true artist and I wanted that to show through.” Lewis had been impressed by the quality of the work her children had done in Rivers Edge art classes, and when she saw Pennington’s paintings, she was

sold. “I had confidence that she would be able to do these kind of illustrations. It turned out to be a great decision.” Based on Lewis’ own family, “Everything Takes Practice”


is the story of five-year-old Isabel, who doesn’t share her family’s baseball mania. As Isabel perseveres, despite her fear of getting hit by a ball or dropping a catch, her self-confidence grows – as does her enthusiasm for baseball. Richmond-area readers may recognize the inspiration for the book’s minor league mascot, a costumed black and red squirrel. After Pennington signed onto the project, she took Lewis’ manuscript and created rough drawings for the book. Then the artist and writer collaborated to arrive at the final ideas. Pennington drew

the finished illustrations using colored pencil and ink. The author worked with self-publisher AuthorHouse to create, market and sell the book. It is available as both an e-book and as a bound softcover edition. The book is available on, and through au t h o r h o u s e . com. “Everything Takes Practice” is also available in several local retail stores, including Disco Sports and the University of Richmond bookstore. Pennington grew up in Towson, Md., where she attended a lab school on the campus of Towson University. The creative freedom and encouragement she experienced there encouraged her to pursue art. She has taught art in Henrico County Public Schools since 1989 and is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Richmond. Pennington said she has drawn unexpected inspiration from illustrating “Everything Takes Practice.” After stretching her artistic muscles, she has

renewed a goal. “I would love to write and illustrate my own book one day.”

Betsy Pennington usually paints using a blend of Post-Impressionist and Fauvist styles.


December 2013

school days

Christopher Corallo

Distinguished Leadership Award


r. Christopher Corallo was a tireless advocate for students. As assistant superintendent for elementary education and organizational development, his beliefs and passions were key in shaping instruction across Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS). Corallo impacted more than policy and procedure; his efforts are reflected in every member of the school community. Taken from us far too soon by a condition known as “CJD”, we can only strive to live up to the example Corallo embodied and the vision he set. The Christopher Corallo Distinguished Leadership Award was created to honor Corallo and preserve his goals as an integral part of HCPS’ mission to

educate children. The tenets of this award are those Corallo himself personified: • Student centered – a continuous focus on what is best for students • Vision – seeing what could be and motivating others to get there • Passion – a relentless drive to achieve the goals despite obstacles • Innovation – groundbreaking work to benefit students Nominating an individual for the Christopher Corallo Distinguished Leadership Award is simple. There are no forms to fill out. Simply submit a name and an explanation (e-mail or hard copy) to a principal or a member of the Division Leadership Team. All HCPS employees are eligible for consid-

eration. Recipients will be recognized in the spring of 2014. The number of awards given each year will be dependent on the merit of the individuals considered.

Veterans Day: November 11, 2013

Studen ts Schoo at Arthur A l hono r veter she Element p a n t e r io ary m a e n tic so El ngs on s with their ndston a . S .S t U a Vetera honor graders ns Day second rm songs to . d n a t s o f r Fir e p l o o . h y tary Sc n Veterans Da so veteran

rms in d perfo man n a B l o Scho s Free an High Day at Dougla m e e r F The rans of Vete honor hool. High Sc

School e Elementary ak L o h c E erican Deep Students at and wave Am Run High e, lu b d an e it School A sembly. as J R ay wear red, wh O D ir Force T s C an posts the r Veter ei th ng ri colors at du Veterans flags the Day assem bly at S Pump Mid hort dle.

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December 2013

Students across Henrico...



December 2013

school days

Spotlight On: School Improvement


n October, Henrico County Public Schools adopted division-wide plans for school improvement. The newly-created Department of School Improvement spearheads the ambitious plans, including the addition of 16 new programs, action plans and checkpoints to monitor progress. The plans fall into four categories: • Breaking down and analyzing data • Developing new programs to address data points • Allocating resources • Monitoring progress Director of School Improvement Ingrid Grant recently discussed what the plans are all about.


with Ingrid Grant

they are and meet their different learning styles. We have a different population of students. Some of our kids have challenges and we’re faced with those challenges on a daily basis. Not only meeting their educational needs, but also meeting some of their emotional needs and trying to educate the whole child.

Q. How do you tell if a school is improving?

A. It’s

really the culture and the climate. You can tell by walking into a building if students are engaged, and teachers are more facilitators of learning, doing more 21st century skills and more hands-on and interactive activities. Active engagement. You don’t see the traditional classroom anymore. Test scores are also a factor, but they are a smaller factor. If teaching and learning have improved within the building, we will see changes in the test scores, and we won’t have to make the test scores our primary focus.

Q. What are some of the new improvement programs that you’re most excited about?

Q. Briefly, what is School Improvement? We have really reached out to the A. The purpose of School Improve- A. community and local universities in bringment is to assist schools in building capacity and sustainability in their drive for excellence. The overarching goal in Henrico County is to support existing and facilitate future school improvement in all of our schools.

Q. Why now? Has something changed to make this necessary?

A. In the high-stakes era of public

accountability and the new rigor in the SOL testing, we realize as a district that we have to change our teaching practices—and our leadership practices. If we’re going to continue to be a high-performing district, we’re going to have to improve teaching and learning. A lot of districts nationwide are realizing the same thing.

Q. What are the biggest impediments to improving schools?

A. Change.

Getting teachers and administrators to realize that we’re going to have to do some things differently. We have a different generation of students. We’re going to have to meet them where

ing in a great number of VCU and Virginia Union students to assist within the schools. Building that community collaboration. I’m working on professional development for our administrators. If our instructional leaders are going to continue to grow, we are going to have to provide them with the training. So I’m excited about working on a leadership academy this summer for principals.

A. They love it. One principal said

root causes.

Q. What is “root cause analysis” and how does it improve schools?

A. It’s looking at a problem and com-

ing up with ways that you can improve. Taking out those outside factors and saying, what can the teachers change, what can the district change? Then, coming up with a plan so that you can monitor those strategies you put in place.

Q. A large piece of the process is the twice-monthly principal meetings. What happens there?

A. I am excited about the training

that is provided to principals. We focus on areas that can improve teaching and learning and improve them as instructional leaders. The second part of the month they come back for reflective practice where they bring back a product and show how they have implemented it. For example, scheduling. All principals know how to make a schedule, but are we really making sure that we have students where they need to be? If students need additional remediation, do we have remediation blocks built in? Do we have enrichment blocks built in to meet those advanced student needs?

at the reflective practices meeting that it’s like a think tank. You have people with varying ideas and perspectives coming together and coming up with ways to improve. Just having a venue to share information. Sometimes the principals say we don’t have enough time. We only have a two-hour block, and they get engaged, and sometimes it goes over.

Q. What if a school is already doing well? Should these plans matter to them?

A. The ultimate goal is to help all schools. Even though you might be doing well, there’s always room to grow.

Q. This is a lot of stuff. How will you make improvements to School Improvement?

A. After every meeting I have the

principals fill out a Google Docs form. They give us feedback, which holds us accountable for meeting their needs. In addition, we’re having a debriefing session, based on what has been provided so far. Has it helped them? How are they using the school improvement information? Where do we go from here? How can I continue to support them?

Q. How

have the principals reacted to collaborating so closely?

Department of School Improvement Step in the Right Direction

Q. Data is a big part of the school improvement plans. Why is it so important, and how is your department using data?

A. We

work collaboratively with [HCPS] Research and Planning to provide schools with the data they need. Looking deeper —not just at the numbers, but also the

Henrico County School Board Beverly L. Cocke Chair Brookland District

Lisa A. Marshall Vice Chair Tuckahoe District

Lamont Bagby Fairfield District

Robert G. Boyle Jr. Three Chopt District

John W. Montgomery Jr. Varina District

Patrick C. Kinlaw Deputy Superintendent

Contact Us P.O. Box 23120 3820 Nine Mile Road Henrico, VA 23223-0420 804.652.3600 Twitter: @henricoschools

Awards & Credits School Days is an award-winning publication produced quarterly by the Department of Communications & Public Relations of HCPS. If you have questions about this publication, call 804.652.3725 or email

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