Showcases for Success
ResourcesInitiativesShowcases for Success


As a means of encouraging community awareness and positive press coverage of public education, the Virginia School Boards Association is inviting school divisions to recommend programs and initiatives that would serve as appropriate “Showcases for Success” in public education. Last year, 64 programs were profiled and the list was shared with journalists, school board members, superintendents, legislators, and top state officials. Press coverage was generated statewide, and this project served to be an effective tool for disarming the critics of public education. We are compiling a new list for 2024, and these successful programs will be showcased on the VSBA website for the entire year.


Click Here to View the 2023 Special Edition Newsletter

2024 Showcases for Success

Alexandria City Public Schools: You’re Speaking My Language: ACPS’ Culturally Responsive Approach to Substance Abuse Prevention
A division-wide substance abuse prevention engagement campaign designed for its socio-economically challenged and culturally diverse division to include opioid overdoses, especially fentanyl, that have surged nationwide. Based on research, ACPS developed strategic, clear messaging to engage families as partners in prevention while considering its multicultural landscape. Engaging families through a sustained, multilingual Information = Prevention campaign was realized through media, print, texts and phone calls. Events featured school leaders, law enforcement and community partners and subject matter experts. The objectives of increasing awareness, recognizing signs and connecting to resources were successfully met. Outcomes include: 0 total TV/Radio News placements in WUSA9 (1.287 million readership), FOX5 (1.253 million readership), NBC4 (1.399 million readership), and WTOP (1.549 million readership) – see supporting documents for additional stories. District Multilingual Newsletter: 13,073 readership Social Media & Online Engagement: 11,648 post reach (FB, X, Insta); 90 engagements. 705 QR Code scans.
Contact information: Taneika Tukan,, 347-517-3058

Alexandria City Public Schools: Tasting Tuesdays
Tasting Tuesdays is a new and strategic way for School Nutrition Services to engage with students and spotlight our vegan, vegetarian, and culturally inclusive meal options. The overall goal is to ensure that our meal offerings resonate with the diverse and unique palates within our school community. This taste testing not only exposes students to new dishes; it’s an opportunity for them to have a voice concerning what is served on our menus. From delectable vegan delights to savory vegetarian creations and culturally inspired dishes, we visit one school each week to gain student opinions as feedback. Students play a pivotal role in shaping our future menu, ensuring that it reflects the rich tapestry of our diverse school community.
Contact information: Dr. Alicia Hart,, 571-429-0081

Alexandria City Public Schools: Emergency Management Video Series
There are four videos in the emergency management series—Secure the Building, Evacuation, Lockdown and Shelter in Place. Each has been translated into our four most popular languages. These videos provide staff and families with an example of how each of these situations is handled if we must go into that status. The purpose of the series was to ensure that the school community could differentiate among the four statuses that may affect schools during a crisis or emergency. We created this series in response to feedback received from our school community that they wanted to better understand the way we handled each of the emergency statuses. Here is a link to all of the videos.
Contact information: Gladis Bourdouane,, 571-319-7841

Alleghany Highlands Public Schools: Small Animal Care Community Initiative
Small animal care classes at Alleghany High School exemplify how strong community partnerships benefit public schools. The classes are part of the agriculture program at AHS, which prepares students for possible careers in agriculture. Small animal care has led some recent AHS graduates to pursue careers in veterinary science. The courses are among career-technical education (CTE) programs offered by Alleghany Highlands Public Schools. Through partnerships with animal-care organizations and businesses in the community, students enrolled in Small Animal I and Small Animal II gain experience in observing and caring for small animals. Students assess their welfare and critique how well the animals do with people and other animals. Students work with the school division’s communications specialist to generate publicity to find the animals homes. Many animals are being adopted, which helps the community by alleviating overcrowding at animal shelters. Businesses have donated funds and materials to support the program.
Contact information: Teresa Reed,, (540) 863-1700

Alleghany Highlands Public Schools: WINGS Brings Better Attendance
To address chronic absenteeism, Jeter-Watson Elementary School implemented the Working to Inspire and Nurture Great Students (WINGS) program. WINGS stresses the importance of making connections, and JWES staff and teachers focus on knowing each student by name and need. A staff member is assigned to each student, and faculty members across other grade levels check on students periodically. The students are given positive praise and recognition. The staff members meet and greet students, and the staff communicates with families. Handwritten notes are sent to parents to recognize the improvements students are making. WINGS is bringing positive results, and the school has partnered with its PTO to start an “Attendance Matters” initiative. Students are awarded t-shirts and other prizes as part of a friendly competition. WINGS will continue in 2024-2025, and JWES is constantly developing other strategies to stress the importance of regular school attendance.
Contact information: Cynthia Morgan,, (540) 965-1430

Amelia County Public Schools: Raiders R.I.S.E
Amelia County High School began teaching positive action lessons during the 2023-2024 school year using homeroom time. The lessons focus on topics such as resiliency, being a good friend, seeking help, and identifying bullying. The lessons also connect with our R.I.S.E. positive-behavior expectations. To R.I.S.E., Raiders are expected to be Respectful, Involved, Safe, and Exceptional. Each month ACHS has a Golden Raider Assembly to recognize students who exhibit these expectations!
Contact information: Dr. John Ringstaff,, 804-561-2101

Amherst County Public Schools: The Amherst Express Mobile Lab for Exploring Career Pathways
In a world filled with possibilities, helping young minds embark on their journey toward a brighter future is a task of paramount importance. The “Amherst Express Mobile Lab” is an initiative aimed at empowering elementary school students with the knowledge and inspiration they need to chart their paths toward fulfilling and meaningful careers. The mobile education platform is set to engage students in exploring various career pathways while aligning with the ever-changing needs of our local workforce. In today’s fast-paced world, the choices available to the future generation are boundless. Yet, without proper guidance and exposure, many students may miss out on discovering their true passions and potential. The “Amherst Express Mobile Lab” bridges this gap by bringing career exploration directly to elementary schools, offering a dynamic and immersive approach to learning about various career pathways.
Contact information: Craig Maddox,, 434-946-9387

Appomattox County Public Schools: College and Career Fair
Our newly appointed WBL (Work-Based Learning) coordinator organized an incredibly successful college and career fair for our students and community members to participate in. This included over 50 college and career opportunities from the surrounding area. In addition, she worked with our English teachers and their students on preparing and writing resumes and quality questions of interest. Our students were highly engaged and prepared. Many of the businesses and colleges made comments to how prepared and professional our students were. Many students were able to walk away from this event with a plan for after high school. This was also open to adults from our community. It was an amazing event and I have a lot of photos if that is needed
Contact information: Luke C Cunningham,, 434-352-7146 (Ext. 4114)

Caroline County Public Schools: #OnePreschool: The Blending of Programs
Have you considered blending your various preschool programs? Announced as the new Head Start grantee, CCPS capitalized on the opportunity to braid together VPI, HS, Title I, and ECSE preschool programming under one umbrella. Benefits associated with this unified approach are numerous: equitable classroom materials, resources, and curriculum, collaborative preschool professional learning, streamlined marketing materials, collective family programming, and most impactful – a single point of application entry (minus ECSE). Since transitioning to the #OnePreschool model, CCPS has experienced not only enhanced enrollment, but capacity numbers and an extensive waitlist!
Contact information: Andrea Ross,, 804-633-5088

Caroline County Public Schools: All In With Mental Health & Wellness
Everyone is trying to solve the Chronic Absenteeism crisis. Have you thought about the why behind the attendance concern? In our parent attendance meetings, CCPS identified an increase in students who miss school due to anxiety, depression or other mental health/wellness concerns. To tackle this CCPS utilized ALL In funding to develop a new partnership with the Cook Center and Using a parent survey to identify needs, CCPS created a 5-part, virtual mental health series presented by clinical providers. In addition, all parents and staff have access to 1:1 weekly coaching to equip families with tools and resources. Staff will also receive summer professional development on taking charge of their own mental health and wellness. Through these efforts parents and staff are learning strategies to empower our students and increase classroom attendance.
Contact information: Rachel Wheeler,, 804-633-5088

Caroline County Public Schools: CTE Summer Camp
Looking for an innovative way to introduce middle school students to an array of divisional CTE offerings? Consider hosting an immersive CTE Summer Camp for rising 6th-8th graders. This week-long experience invites participants to rotate between six programs: JROTC, Carpentry, Automotive, Culinary, Criminal Justice, and Agriculture. Students learn about the related course offerings, career fields, and engage in hands-on learning. The final day provides a relevant culminating opportunity to be hip-to-hip with CCPS business partners. These partners in education provide real world connections to the week’s learning through activities such as a Virtual Reality Career Simulation, Welding Simulators, a Virginia State Police canine demonstration, a bucket truck demonstration, and a tour of the CCPS Food Truck. Camp registration, breakfast, lunch, and a t-shirt were provided to each student at no cost! The demand was realized as 75 slots maxed out within 72 hours of registration opening.
Contact information: Kim Young,, 804-633-5088

Charles City County Public Schools: Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.T. Program)
Charles City Elementary School, in collaboration with the Charles City County Multidisciplinary Team, has implemented a prevention program called F.A.S.T., Families and Schools Together. The Program is an internationally acclaimed, evidence-based family engagement program that supports child well-being and learning readiness, empowers parents, and builds social capital so children can thrive. It is run at the elementary school and meets for weekly 2.5-hour sessions over an eight-week cycle. The fall 2023 session was a success! During the sessions, families eat a meal and play games together, parents discuss and bond over shared experiences, kids and youth make friends with their peers, and parents engage in one-on-one special play/conversation time with their children free from distraction. The program has

  • Strengthened family relationships.
  • Engaged parents more with the school and enabled them to better advocate for their children’s education.
  • Connected families to other families and community resources to reduce isolation and stress.

Contact information: Dalphine Joppy,, 804-456-8076

Charles City County Public Schools: Rockin’ Readers and PAWS to Read
Rockin’ Readers – Weekly, members of the community (e.g., Fire/EMS employees, school board members, retired school division employees), read to various classes at Charles City Elementary School. Students get the opportunity to hear and see good reading modeled and enjoy a good book. Additionally, they get to establish a healthy view of those who serve in the community. The school principal and assistant principal also take time to PAWS to Read. They record videos of themselves reading a good book aloud for students and families to enjoy bi-weekly. PAWS is the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) acronym.
Prepare for learning.
Act appropriately.
Work hard.
Show respect.
Contact information: Dalphine Joppy,, 804-456-8076

Chesapeake Public Schools: Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program (DAPP)
The Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) Drug & Alcohol Prevention Program (DAPP) is a mandatory full-day course for first-time offenders of the CPS Drug & Alcohol Policy. This program is designed to provide education and awareness on the risks associated with tobacco products, vaping, alcohol, and marijuana use. Participants engage in interactive lessons, assessments, project-based activities, impaired goggle exercises, mindfulness exercises, and open forum discussions. They also receive counseling on decision-making skills, managing peer pressure, and individual consultations to address how negative behaviors may impact their academic performance. In addition, students take part in a condensed version of the Virginia Teens and Law course to understand the laws and consequences associated with substance use. Counselors follow-up with both students and parents to ensure that necessary supports are in place to encourage positive decision-making. This comprehensive program is intended to cultivate a safe and healthy environment for all students within the school community.
Contact information: Dr. Brooke Rudis,, 757-547-1318

Chesapeake Public Schools: In School Suspension (ISS) Reimagined
The In-School Suspension program (ISS) at Chesapeake Public Schools has been identified as a valuable resource for supporting students with behavioral challenges. In the 2023-2024 school year, a restructuring of ISS was implemented under the guidance of the Office of Student Conduct and Support. ISS Coordinators from all grade levels have participated in training focused on restorative practices, de-escalation techniques, Responsive Classroom practices, and social-emotional learning. This restructuring aims to provide students who are assigned ISS with additional support to help them reflect on their behavior, learn skills to prevent future infractions, and restore relationships within the school community. The goal is to create a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. Additionally, the ISS program is being used as a tool to reduce the number of days students are out of school and facilitate a positive transition back into the classroom.
Contact information: Dr. Brooke Rudis,, 757-547-1318

Chesterfield County Public Schools: Game Changer Award
This recognition is for any school system employee. Staff, parents or students can go online and write their recommendation, which is anonymous. Nominations must be submitted by the 21st of each month. The following month, the superintendent and the School Board member from that magisterial district visit the school to surprise the employee with a framed certificate (developed by CCPS) and gift card to a local business. 25-30 recognitions each month. Game Ball Award – Administrators – Schools/Central Office
Contact information: Amanda Altizer,, 804-748-1434

Chesterfield County Public Schools: Chesterfield Recovery Academy
High school serving Region 1 high school students (15 school districts with 40+ high schools) Students completing treatment programs and going into recovery Online academic program with certified teachers Every student and family – intake meeting Family counseling sessions Daily individual and group counseling sessions Therapy programs (music, art, etc.) Getting their diploma or getting to grade-level credit work
Contact information: Belinda Merriman,, 804-748-1434

Chesterfield County Public Schools: Freshmen Promise – First Day of School
Chesterfield County Public Schools makes the first day of school unique: Kindergarten students have a split week (attending either Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Friday with all kindergartners coming together on Friday); this allows teachers and students to get better acquainted. At the middle school level, we have only sixth graders attend on the first day and spend the day with their lockers, schedules and routines of the school while getting to know teachers and staff. School Assembly. At the high school level, we have only ninth graders attend on the first day, with a similar approach as middle school. A highlight of the first day of high school is that we take a photo of every ninth grader in a cap and gown. This illustrates our Freshman Promise: We will make every effort to help you graduate in four years with your diploma. This is a very powerful event for many students. Senior class leaders. Grades 7-8 and grades 10-12 start on day 2 of the school year. We want every child to feel important and supported — to have a great first day and kick off a productive school year. Come back for day 2.
Contact information: Belinda Merriman,, 804-748-1434

Danville Public Schools: Early College Program
Now in its second year, the Danville Public Schools’ Early College Program allows students to complete coursework towards their high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously. The two-year program allows for students to take courses at Danville Community College for half of the day, then return to their high schools for electives. The program began in August 2022 with 20 students enrolled. In August 2023, 73 students were enrolled. Not only does the Early College program allow students to accelerate their learning, it also relieves a huge financial burden from families, as the program is no cost to students. In May 2024, the first cohort of Early College scholars will have two graduations: high school and college.
Contact information: Lanie Davis,, 434-799-6400

Danville Public Schools: Parent Hubs
This year, Danville Public Schools has implemented Parent Hubs at two of our schools, Park Avenue Elementary and O.T. Bonner Middle School, with plans on expanding this initiative to all of our schools within the year. A project of the division’s FACE Specialists, the purpose of the hubs is to have a comfortable and inviting place to hold parent meetings and to house school and community resources for parents. Each hub is decorated in school colors and features comfortable furniture, technology for parents to use, and a space for small children to read or play. One of our division’s goals is to increase parent engagement, because we know it leads to student achievement, and by having dedicated spaces for assistance and conversations.
Contact information: Lanie Davis,, 434-799-6400

Dinwiddie County Public Schools: DMS Science Day
Last Spring, DHS students shared their knowledge of science topics with our 8th-grade students to prepare them for their Physical Science SOL assessment. This was a collaborative project between DHS science classes, our Science Coach, the Director of Secondary Education, and DMS teachers. Specific SOL strands were given to high school students derived from student performance data on our physical science common assessments so that targeted activities could be developed. Pairs of DHS students developed six highly engaging, hands-on activities for 8th graders.
Contact information: Natonya Robinson-Williams,, 804-469-4190

Dinwiddie County Public Schools: DMS Parent Shadow Day
On December 19, 2023, Dinwiddie Middle School hosted its first-ever Parent Shadowing Day, “A Day in the Life of a Middle Schooler.” The school staff considers parent engagement to be crucial. Parents were invited to join their children in class after breakfast on this special day. During the classes, parents and students worked together on hands-on activities related to the curriculum framework. Parents were also provided with lunch and had the opportunity to meet with the school’s principal, Dr. Torrie S. Walker, and get updates on DMS and upcoming events. During lunch, there was an open forum where parents could ask questions, address concerns, and learn about the DMS Parent Teacher Organization. The event was a huge success, with over 140 parents taking part. All feedback from parents was positive. DMS will host its second Parent Shadowing Day on March 6, 2024.
Contact information: Natonya Robinson-Williams,, 804-469-4190

Dinwiddie County Public Schools: Thriving Gens
Thriving Gens, an informative Dinwiddie High School Parent/Student night, was designed to support student success. Parents and students in grades 8-12 are invited to participate in an elective fair and to attend enlightening sessions. The sessions, led by counselors and others, are designed to assist students in transitioning from middle to high school, forging a path to graduation, exploring dual enrollment and Rowanty Technical Center opportunities, investigating career options and work-based learning, and researching financial aid, scholarships, and the FAFSA process. In addition, there are sessions on social-emotional topics, including Dangers of Vaping, Adulting 101, and 1-800-Get the Help You Need. This annual event allows the faculty to showcase their courses, programs, and clubs through the elective fair. It offers opportunities for others, including local community colleges, the military, etc., to present options for students. To complement the evening, we have food trucks and door prizes.
Contact information: Natonya Robinson-Williams,, 804-469-4190

Essex County Public Schools: Drone Development Program (Essex High School)
Essex High School (EHS) now offers our students an exciting new STEM opportunity – Drones I and Drones II – as a part of our Drone Development Program. Drones I is designed to get students exposed to flying drones; introduce important FAA regulations and protocols; explore related Science and technology; create basic multimedia products from drone video; and, investigate career opportunities. Drones II is an in-depth preparation for the FAA 107 Commercial Drone License Test. Further, students enrolled in this course compete in the Eastern Virginia Drone Soccer League; fly complex, high-powered drones; engage in career exploration; learn about the Science and Technology of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and create detailed imagery products for external customers. Instructor and Program Development: Mr. Robert LaFollette (Physics, Mathematics, and Robotics Instructor) Division Coordination and Support: Dr. Angela Byrd-Wright (Senior Director of Teaching and Learning) Fiscal Management: Dr. Angela Byrd-Wright and Ms. Elizabeth Franklin (Director of Accounting)
Contact information: Dr. Harry R. Thomas, III,, 804-443-4366

Fairfax County Public Schools: Attendance Matters
Fairfax County Public Schools proactively partners with students, families, school staff and our broader community to tackle the root causes of chronic absenteeism, which continues to be a leading cause and indicator of educational inequity. A whole-child lens is critical and resources and supports need to be matched to the barrier that a student and family is experiencing. Throughout FCPS, welcoming school environments foster connection and belonging and are essential elements to building foundational and life-long positive habits for our students. We work closely with our IT partners to provide up to date absenteeism data at the student, school and division level to support school teams in monitoring and problem-solving barriers to student attendance.
Contact information: Laura Thieman,, 571-423-4315

Fairfax County Public Schools: Attendance Matters – Dranesville Elementary
Dranesville Elementary School cut their chronic absenteeism (CA) rate in half, from 21.1% on March 1, 2023, to an impressive 9.9% on March 1, 2024. Their transformative approach includes several innovative strategies. The school includes morning therapeutic arts to incorporate positive and engaging activities for a strong start to the day. They have cultivated a shared ownership of attendance but making data available to families, celebrating milestones with the community and conducting daily attendance checks. In addition, their use of templates for newsletters, postcards, certificates, and attendance profiles demonstrates a well-rounded and systematic approach. Dranesville’s commitment to maintaining positive attendance is evident in their comprehensive strategy, which includes both proactive and reactive measures to ensure the success of every student. Their story serves as a beacon for schools facing similar challenges during the spring attendance doldrums.
Contact information: Laura Thieman,, 571-423-4315

Fairfax County Public Schools: Attendance Matters – “I See Me” Community Event
Langston Hughes Middle School’s chronic absenteeism rate has dropped 6.65% from Quarter 2 last year to Quarter 2 this year. The school hosted an outstanding community event on February 22, 2024. The sense of school community was truly incredible as families engaged, resources were shared, and students were put at the forefront of the event. Principal Mizell’s leadership fostered a welcoming culture, and the caring staff ensured every student felt a sense of belonging. This event was just one of the three planned for the school year, aiming to create an inclusive and welcoming environment. In addition, there were engaging student activities such as making bracelets, the Youth Entrepreneurial Club was represented, and a captivating Student Showcase featuring music and performances that truly represented the students. Langston Hughes Middle School fosters a strong sense of belonging which increases student attendance.
Contact information: Laura Thieman,, 571-423-4315

Falls Church City Public Schools
FCCPS is a district that is dedicated to providing safe and engaging learning environments that allow students to explore and innovate the world around them. STEAM is the culmination of various subjects, and STEAM in FCCPS focuses on problem solving scenarios, engineering design processes, and students demonstrating how to collect data, collaborate, and innovate with provided resources. It is important to expose students to all aspects of STEAM by implementing cross-curricula activities that are in line with grade level IB unit planners. To better prepare our next generation workforce, it is important that projects not only infuse the concept of STEAM habits of mind—problem solving skills that define success—but also align with horizontal and vertical curriculum. In 2018, Oak Street Elementary redesigned their annual STEAM night to provide students with more agency in their learning. STEAM night allows students to become the teacher and learn about STEAM concepts that are then presented to the attending community. These STEAM night ambassadors use time during their STEAM class to design and prepare exciting and engaging activities that tie into standards and unit planners. Over the years, the program has grown to over one thousand attendees and every year younger students look forward to becoming ambassadors.Now that the framework for STEAM night has been developed at Oak Street, over the next few years, the evolution of the program is to take the framework and have the older students partner with the younger. This puts the responsibility of learning on the students and further empowers them. The beauty of STEAM is that it looks different across schools, buildings, and communities. We in FCCPS are honored to share our innovative success with the world, because of course WE are IB learners!
Contact information: Tosin Adetoro,, 703-248-5561

Falls Church City Public Schools: GIVE Day – “Get Involved, Value Everyone” – Service Learning Program
GIVE Day stands for Get Involved, Value Everyone and is a division-wide service learning effort to help the local community. Started by 5th grade student ambassadors and the Falls Church Elementary PTA in 2016, the GIVE Day Club took inspiration from the International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile traits and Harvard’s “Making Caring Common” project which focuses on caring for others and seeking the common good. The program has since expanded to include students at the elementary, middle and high school and fostered a culture of caring in Falls Church City Public Schools. GIVE Day is held each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Students and families are encouraged to participate in various efforts: assembling weekend meal packs for the local food bank, rice/bean/protein packs for international food relief, making homemade animal toys for pet shelters, survival bracelets for first responders, thank you cards for veterans/first responders/medical professionals, giving blood, and brightening community spaces with public art. Money is raised through student fundraisers, along with donation drives for food and supplies.
Contact information: Chrissy Henderson,, 571-205-1929

Falls Church City Public Schools: Community-Engaged Medical Shadowing Program – Bridging Classroom Learning and Real-World Experience
This innovative program at Meridian High School bridges classroom learning in Human Anatomy and Physiology with real-world medical professions. By partnering with local medical businesses and professionals, we offer juniors and seniors a unique opportunity to explore their future career interests firsthand.
• To immerse students in the practical applications of anatomy and physiology through job shadowing, providing them with a deeper understanding of various medical careers.
• To foster meaningful connections between students and local medical professionals, enriching the community and encouraging future healthcare professionals.
• To empower students with the knowledge and experience needed to make informed decisions about their educational and career paths.

Program Description
• Students engage in a comprehensive exploration of medical professions, including physicians, chiropractors, veterinarians, radiologists, and many more, by shadowing a professional in a chosen field for over 5 hours.
• The program emphasizes professional etiquette, requiring students to initiate contact, schedule shadowing hours, and communicate effectively with their mentors, thereby enhancing their professional skills.

Impact and Outcomes
• Feedback from participants has highlighted the program’s effectiveness in clarifying career aspirations, with many students expressing a newfound interest or a more solid commitment to pursuing a career in the medical field.
• The initiative has strengthened ties between the educational and medical communities, opening doors for future collaborations and student opportunities.
• Through presentations and reflections, students contribute to a knowledge-sharing environment, inspiring their peers and providing valuable insights into various medical professions.

Contact information: Kish Rafique,, 703-248-5500

Fluvanna County Public Schools: FCPS BEST Lab Program
In 2016 FCPS started the Behavioral, Educational, and Social-Emotional Teaching (BEST) Lab at Carysbrook Elementary School. Behavioral Specialist Erin McCormack came up with the idea to have a Behavioral Educational Social-Emotional Teaching Lab. She worked with the team to make it a part of the school wide PBIS program. After completing a successful experience at Carysbrook, Ms. McCormack then helped to create a similar program at each of our other schools.

The goal is to support students who struggle in one or more of the following areas:
1. Meeting behavioral expectations
2. Regulating their emotional responses
3. Social interactions with peers and/or adults
4. Other areas of Executive functioning such as planning and organizing, task initiation, working memory, and self-monitoring

The BEST Lab aims to help these students learn the skills they need in order to be successful in all school environments. Students may participate in group activities, receive 1:1 support, complete educational tasks to increase their knowledge with a variety of social/emotional concepts, engage in problem solving in order to navigate complicated situations, or develop and use a self regulation routine. Each BEST Lab is staffed by an instructional assistant who is trained by Mrs. McCormack.
Contact information: Jennifer Valentine,, 434 589-8208 ext. 1318

Fluvanna County Public Schools: REST Lab for Staff
Central Elementary REST Lab
With the success of the Behavioral Educational Social-Emotional Teaching (BEST) Labs for students at Central Elementary School, teachers often joked that they needed an adult BEST Lab. Principal Amy Barnabei, who always works to take great care of her students and staff, came up with the idea to do just that. She created a space and called it the Recharging Educators Social-Emotional Therapy Time (REST) Lab for staff. This was done as a way to support teachers to give them their own space to decompress and to get away even just for a small amount of time. She worked with her PTO to turn a work room into a relaxing spa-like space for teachers to use as a way to take a break and recharge. It has been a great way for staff to recharge!
Contact information: Jennifer Valentine,, 434 589-8208 ext. 1318

Frederick County Public Schools: FCPS Transition Day
Frederick County Public Schools proudly introduced its inaugural Transition Day for the 2023-24 school year. This special day, designed for preschool, kindergarten, sixth-grade, and ninth-grade students, was a non-instructional day that fostered a sense of community. It allowed students to meet and connect with their peers and teachers while learning to navigate their new school environment. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and other stakeholders underscores the success of this initiative. We are excited about Transition Day becoming a cherished tradition in our future back-to-school activities, further strengthening our school community.
Contact information: Tara Helkowski,, 540-533-1249

Frederick County Public Schools: Pharmacy Technician Program
The Dowell J. Howard Center’s Pharmacy Technician Program, a one-year program for seniors, has recently unveiled a state-of-the-art simulated pharmacy. This innovative addition to our program includes shelves stocked with bottles, a customer counter, and other essential pharmacy equipment. The simulated pharmacy is not just a visual aid but a tool that will provide our students with a hands-on, authentic learning experience. By familiarizing themselves with the environment and equipment they will encounter in the workforce, our students are being equipped with the practical skills and confidence they need to succeed in their future careers.
Contact information: Tara Helkowski,, 540-533-1249

Frederick County Public Schools: FCPS Ambassador Program
This year, we launched the FCPS Ambassador Program, a testament to our commitment to supporting our school-based staff. The program involves dedicated employees from the school division’s administration building who act as ambassadors by adopting a school and volunteering when needed. These volunteers are ready to assist with various tasks, from office work to supporting the school nutrition staff, substituting in a classroom, or welcoming students at the school gates. The Ambassador Program is a tangible demonstration of our appreciation for our excellent school-based staff, always ready to lend a helping hand and provide the support they need to continue their invaluable work.
Contact information: Tara Helkowski,, 540-533-1249

Galax City Public Schools: Family Literacy Program for College Awareness
Spanish-speaking families of high school students are invited to participate in a 6-week program in which they learn how to support their child in school and to understand what it takes to go to college. They are introduced to the college preparation and application process and learn how to use resources at school. The program is based on a bilingual novel which is read together in class. The novel is about a young girl of immigrant parents who wishes to go to college. Families read about her journey of convincing her parents of the importance of continuing her education when they would prefer that she work to help support the family. They also read about the various resources available and the process of applying for admission to and financial aid for college. Families also have the opportunity to improve their English skills and work on new vocabulary in each class. Families have reported that they feel better prepared to help their children with the college application process, how to apply for financial aid, and they have a better understanding of the importance of education in the United States.
Contact information: Elizabeth Stringer-Nunley,, 276-236-2991 ext. 301

Galax City Public Schools: Family Literacy Program for Early Literacy
Spanish-speaking families of K-2 students are invited to participate in a 6-week program in which they learn how to read to their children to promote an early love of books and reading. Each week, families receive two bilingual books that reflect the experiences of Latino families. A facilitator models how to read the books in both languages, then the families take the books home to read with their children. When they return the next week, they discuss how the reading went at home. In addition, the family creates a family album in which they write about their own family experiences and photos. They can write and later read their own stories with their children. Families have stated that this program has shown them the importance of reading to their young children. Some have also said that the books they received in the class were the first books they ever had in their homes.
Contact information: Elizabeth Stringer-Nunley,, 276-236-2991 ext. 301

Galax City Public Schools: Mentoring Program with Virginia Tech
With our high number of unaccompanied minors and newcomer English Learner students, many of whom are enrolling at 17 years old with no transfer credits, it has been a struggle to keep them in school. We partnered with Virginia Tech to create a mentoring program for these students at risk of dropping out of school. Spanish-speaking students from Galax High are paired with Spanish-speaking college students from Virginia Tech. The purpose of the program is to offer the high school students a vision beyond the small, rural life in Galax. Many only see a future in construction or fruit packing, but through their conversations and activities with the VT students who come from the same countries, speak the same language, and have the same backgrounds as them, they are able to envision different futures for themselves after high school graduation. The program meets in-person once a month on VT campus, and via Zoom weekly. At the kick-off meeting, one of the students said, “Look! They look like us!” This program has made such a difference by offering some of our most isolated students the chance to have an encourager outside of the high school.
Contact information: Elizabeth Stringer-Nunley,, 276-236-2991 ext. 301

Greene County Public Schools: One School One Book
The elementary schools in Greene County constantly strive to engage and include parents. The One School One Book program provides us with this opportunity. Ten years ago Nathanael Greene decided to implement a One School, One Book Program. The program was so well received, it has been kept in place and expanded to Ruckersville. Our original purpose was to engage students and their families in the process of reading. When families read together there are observable results. Academically, students who are read to develop larger vocabularies, listen more attentively, and develop positive attitudes towards books and learning. With competing outside activities, many families have difficulty finding ways to spend quality time with their children. Since the One School, One Book Program occurs at home, and is assigned by the school, this “Forced Family Fun,” helps families include a time for reading in their nightly routine.
Contact information: Tina Arritt,, 434-939-9002

Greene County Public Schools: Career Strategies
The Career Strategies course at William Monroe High School is an essential component of ninth grade students’ educational journey. This course offers a comprehensive exploration of various career pathways, providing students with foundational knowledge and skills crucial for their future endeavors. Through a structured curriculum, students delve into research, interact with industry professionals as guest speakers, and embark on experiential field trips, enriching their understanding of diverse career fields. These engagements foster a deeper appreciation for the myriad of career options available, empowering students to make informed decisions about their academic and professional pursuits. By exposing students to real-world scenarios and opportunities, the Career Strategies course equips them with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of the modern workforce effectively including resume building, workplace readiness skills, mock interviews, and how to apply for desired careers. Ultimately, this course serves as a catalyst for personal growth and career readiness, laying a solid foundation for students’ future success beyond high school.
Contact information: Jess Peregoy,, 434-939-9005

Greene County Public Schools: Family Goal Setting
Nathanael Greene Elementary School and Nathanael Greene Primary School launched a building wide initiative to have teachers work with families to set family goals for the 2023-24 school year. The purpose in setting up this initiative was to consistently improve student attendance, to have them achieve at the highest academic levels, and to have them learn to regulate their emotions. Much of our time over the past few years has been focused on SEL needs. This work needs to continue but a stronger focus on academic achievement and family engagement will be ongoing throughout the year. Each student /family will have differentiated needs so each family goal will be unique. The main purpose of this project is to strengthen the school-community relationship for maximum buy-in with all stakeholders which will lead to improved attendance and student performance.
Contact information: Adam Midock,, 434-939-9001

Hampton City Schools: Learn to Swim
For the second year in a row, Hampton City Schools, in collaboration with the city of Hampton, offers the Learn to Swim program to all second-grade students. In the 2022-2023 academic year, over 1,300 students experienced five consecutive swim lessons, consisting of one hour of pool and deck time, at the Hampton Aquaplex. Conducted by Coast Guard Blue Dolphin instructors, the program employs the Swim America Curriculum, emphasizing basic aquatic skills, water safety, fitness, and aquatic recreation. Upon initial assessment, students are grouped by skill level to ensure tailored instruction for both beginners and more advanced swimmers. Ongoing assessments allow students to “Level Up” as they acquire necessary skills. The program concludes with a graduation ceremony on the last day, where students receive a Swim-America certificate and ring a “graduation bell” to celebrate their achievements in mastering water safety and swimming skills.
Contact information: Kellie Goral,, 757-727-2010

Hampton City Schools: Bringing Hollywood to Hampton: Next Generation Storytellers Film Festival
High school students from Hampton City Schools worked alongside Next Generation Storytellers and other Hollywood professionals to create, act, and produce top-tier short films. Guided by actors Jacob Young and Trent Garrett, along with industry experts like Roy Wagner, Mercedes Rozzano, Mark Rozzano, and Mick Strawn, the students had the opportunity to earn $500 for their screenplays and a chance for a professional IMDB credit. These films premiered at the American Theatre film festival, receiving accolades at the red-carpet event, including Best Film, Best Picture Audience Choice, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Staff or Community Member in a Supporting Role. These exceptional films were then invited to the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA, in October. Supported by the Virginia Film Commission and sponsored by Sony Red and Black Magic, the Next Generation Storytellers program provided participating students an invaluable Hollywood-to-Hampton experience.
Contact information: Kellie Goral,, 757-727-2010

Hampton City Schools: Floating Classroom
The Academies of Hampton City Schools is transforming a houseboat, the Floating Classroom, into a STEM+Lab. Students from all four high schools and 16 wall-to-wall academies are collaborating with industry professionals and community partners in the design and construction of this innovative learning space. The STEM+Lab will serve as an immersive site for STEM education, offering engaging activities designed and implemented by students, with support from educators. Upon completion, the Floating Classroom will bring together Hampton students and educators from various grade levels to explore STEM concepts in a meaningful and enjoyable way directly on the water. The initiative, in partnership with the Flying Classroom, emphasizes hands-on learning in a non-traditional setting. Students will gain real-world, marketable skills as they investigate waterways and contribute to the boat’s redesign, fostering a dynamic and interactive educational experience for the entire Hampton community.
Contact information: Kellie Goral,, 757-727-2010

Henrico County Public Schools: The Oak Avenue Complex – A hub for community engagement
When students moved from Highland Springs High School’s 1955 building into a new structure next door, part of the former school was reimagined as the Oak Avenue Complex, Henrico County Public Schools’ first full-service community school. The hub is a one-stop shop, connecting families with services, providing a framework for greater student success and making creative use of a public facility. “The Oak” debuted in 2023, with space for nonprofits and other partners to offer career and financial counseling, health and dental care, mental health services, adult education and more. It has also served as a base for winter food distribution. The Oak also has new spaces for student creativity, socializing and relaxation. A new partnership with the Henrico County Department of Social Services provides a space where families can learn about services and attend workshops on child care, energy assistance and more. As the Oak spreads its branches, it strengthens the community by helping students and families across Henrico County thrive.
Contact information: Kevin Robertson,, 804-328-4000

Henry County Public Schools: Tech Squad
The Tech Squad program, in high schools, has evolved into a hands-on class fostering creativity and innovation in 3D printing, technology, and coding. Collaborating with the Instructional Technology Team, students learn to troubleshoot educational technology issues, aiding teachers and peers in enhancing creativity. The program’s success is evident through students excelling in industry certifications, ensuring they graduate College and Career ready. Many alumni are now pursuing Cyber degrees at regional colleges, showcasing the program’s tangible impact on student achievement by preparing them for higher education and careers in technology. The Tech Squad initiative has effectively bridged technology support and educational empowerment, cultivating a generation of skilled and innovative learners.
Contact information: Michael Minter or Elizabeth Fulcher, and, 276-638-1668 or 276-634-4731

Henry County Public Schools: Advance Agriculture-Equine, Small Animal, and Veterinary Sciences
The agriscience program not only equips students with essential skills but also offers diverse career pathways, including roles as dog groomers, veterinary assistants, or managers in equine or livestock facilities. The program facilitates both immediate entry into the workforce and further education for aspiring veterinarians or technicians. Notably, students gain industry certifications such as National Horse Judging, Elanco Veterinary Medical Applications, Small Animal Technology, and Forest Products and Processing. The hands-on approach is a cornerstone, with on-site animal housing providing invaluable experiences. Utilizing animal models, including a CPR simulation dog and a bovine calf simulator, ensures practical training in tasks like intubation, injections, and blood draws. The agriscience program stands out for its ability to prepare students for diverse agricultural careers through immersive, industry-relevant education.
Contact information: Michael Minter, Jr.,, 276-638-1668

Hopewell City Public Schools: What’s Going on over Yondr? A Phone-free Approach in Hopewell
Hopewell implemented the Yondr pouch approach for a phone-free school starting at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year in its middle and high schools. This approach has resulted in benefits with students being more attentive in the classroom and increasing learning. It has provided a way to break students from their phone addiction and enhance social development, such as students actually talking to one another in the cafeteria, not running into one another in the hallways, and collaborating in the classroom. It furthermore has helped increase safety at school, reducing the number of serious incidents due and inhibiting communication to set up, record, and post fights.
Contact information: Jay McClain,, 804-541-6400

Isle of Wight County Schools: Isle Grow – Reverse Inclusion Preschool Program
Isle Grow is Isle of Wight County Schools’ Reverse Inclusion Preschool Program which places typically-developing students into Early Childhood Special Education classrooms to serve as peer models for students with disabilities. IWCS knew students with disabilities would achieve more if they could learn alongside typically developing peers. The division took existing self-contained early childhood special education classrooms and flipped the script. What makes Isle Grow so unique are the monthly community-based instructional opportunities our students experience. Our preschoolers are out in the community learning life skills, such as how to sit quietly in a movie theater, order food at McDonalds, and have fun at a trampoline park. Isle Grow has boosted student achievement by giving all students the opportunity to build on their academic and social skills. Our preschoolers are participating in appropriate social play, holding meaningful conversations, and learning life lessons on the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
Contact information: Trish Magner,, 757-365-1616

King and Queen County Public Schools: We’re Happy You’re Here
To boost student attendance, KQE has introduced an incentive program. Students earn attendance coins each day they arrive on time, which they can later exchange for treats like ice cream and squishies during a shopping event held every 10 days. On the 10th day, the coins are reset. Flyers have been distributed to all classes, and daily announcements remind students of their coin counts and upcoming shopping days. Moreover, the class with the highest average attendance in the last 10 days not only receives a certificate but also gets to showcase the Traveling Attendance Trophy. Students showing improved attendance are also acknowledged with certificates, along with phone calls made to their families to celebrate their achievement. The program commenced in November 2023 and has shown a reduction in absentee rates at KQE.
Contact information: Shante Harvey,, 804-785-5830

King and Queen County Public Schools: Central High’s Tiger Academy
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program or Central High’s Tiger Academy is vital for providing academic enrichment, especially for students in high-poverty and low-performing schools. By supporting core academic subjects and offering complementary enrichment activities, it ensures students meet or exceed state standards. Additionally, it extends educational services to families, fostering community engagement. At Central High School, the Tiger Academy program has been transformative, enabling the development of theater and band programs. Beyond academic achievements, it has given students a voice and sense of belonging in our rural community, enriching their overall educational experience.
Contact information: Jennifer Eddy,, 804-785-6102

King and Queen County Public School: Book Buddies
This year, LMES’ Librarian and Student Support Teacher created Book Buddies, where 6th Graders mentor and help 2nd graders with reading skills and serve as role models for our school. The idea was birthed out of a need for accountability for our 6th graders as we prepare them to transition to middle school. The two teachers collaborated and have been working all year on various projects and activities that not only showcases collaboration amongst different grade levels, but also vertical learning throughout the school. Since the beginning of the school year, the two groups have worked on specific reading skills such as reading comprehension, cause and effect, and author’s purpose where students partnered up to read stories and practice these skills. Students completed a novel study with the book Shiloh where our Librarian adapted the book for our younger kids and the two groups completed a book report project to display in the library. They also completed black history projects and had to research a person of their choice. The groups continues to work together each week and we continue to see improvements not only in reading from both groups, but with overall behavior and accountability for academics.
Contact information: Justin Bartlett,, 804-769-3116

Louisa County Public Schools: DISCOVER 2024
Louisa County Public Schools debuted an exciting new division-wide showcase in February to highlight its work in The 5 Cs: DISCOVER 2024! The showcase featured more than 75 exhibits, each manned by at least one educator and a handful of proud students. The exhibits highlighted projects, programs, and student-led initiatives that bring The 5 Cs to life both inside and outside the classroom. LCPS held its showcase on Monday, February 19 at Louisa County High School, and led off the program with a countdown video from Superintendent Doug Straley! Then, more than 600 staff members mingled their way through the exhibits, asking questions, and generating inspiration with each exhibit they visited! And there was no shortage of ways to be inspired. In one corner, students from Jouett Elementary School showed off their brand-new news desk, which is used for their student-run video news series. In another section, a group of middle school students demonstrated how they created their own business by 3-D printing custom decorations for Crocs. Walk a little further, and Louisa County High School’s Envirothon team was eager to share details of their latest projects as they continue to study plants and other natural resources around campus. “What’s really cool about this event is the amount of pride you can see in our students,” said LCPS Superintendent Doug Straley. “They have so much pride in the work they’re doing, and that’s what makes learning exciting for them!” LCPS plans to host a sequel to DISCOVER in 2025, with an even larger guest list that will include parents and other community members!
Contact information: Dr. Justin Grigg,, 540-894-5115

Louisa County Public Schools: The Living Wax Museum
African American history is brought to life each year at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School thanks to the school’s Living Wax Museum exhibit! Here’s how it works! At the start of the second semester, each fifth-grade student is tasked with selecting and researching an African American who has made a huge impact in the world throughout history. Their research culminates in a unique presentation at the Living Wax Museum, which is held each year in the last week of February. For the Living Wax Museum, students dress up as the person they researched, whether it be a famous scientist, abolitionist, athlete, astronaut, or even a former president! Then, as teachers and parents walk around the school, they come to life at the press of a button to talk about their subject’s life experiences and contributions. “Our students chose people that I may not have even ever heard of,” Moss-Nuckols Elementary School principal Anita Roane said. “So, I always look forward to going to the showcase. It shows our students that people – no matter what color they are – are special.” The Living Wax Museum has been the feature of various newscasts, including the award-winning series Building Better Minds on WTVR6 News in Richmond.
Contact information: Anita Roane,, 540-894-5115

Louisa County Public Schools: Culinary Arts at Louisa County High School
Inside the fast-paced kitchen at Louisa County High School, the students involved in the school’s Culinary Arts program can whip up some of the tastiest dishes you can think of. But what makes the program special is not just the culinary artistry that is on display; it’s how those talents are used. Each school year, the LCHS Culinary Arts program hosts appreciation luncheons for members of the Louisa County community throughout the year. In the past several years, LCHS Culinary Arts students have prepared meals for first responders, retired educators, and most recently, military veterans in the Louisa County community. The students handle all aspects of the event, from sending out invitations to food preparation. The program established a partnership with a local church to make the meals possible, as the luncheons are hosted in the church’s fellowship hall. On average, more than 100 individuals attend each lunch, which is provided for free to all guests. “Kindness is a major point of emphasis here at Louisa County Public Schools, and it’s so inspiring to see our students using their talents to make our community a better place,” said LCPS superintendent Doug Straley. The buffet-style luncheons feature tasty cuisine such as turkey, vegetables, salad, and a variety of cakes or puddings for dessert.
Contact information: Ben Howell,, 540-894-5115

Lunenburg County Public Schools: Central High School’s Initiative to Address Chronic Absenteeism
In response to the escalating rates of chronic absenteeism, administrators at CHS recognized the urgent need for intervention. Under the leadership of Principal Shelly Howell, Afterschool Administrator Megan Martin, and Attendance Clerk Cameron Matthews, proactive measures were implemented to engage families and promote attendance. Efforts included personalized outreach to families of students with attendance issues, urging their participation in the afterschool attendance recovery program adhering to VDOE guidelines for In-Person, Flexible Instructional Time. Through the afterschool attendance recovery program, students have the opportunity to regain missed instructional days and seat hours. Furthermore, CHS instituted monthly incentives to incentivize regular attendance, ranging from student-staff games to themed social events. These initiatives have yielded significant results, with chronic absenteeism declining from 29% to 9.74% from last year to mid-year this year. Consequently, CHS has fostered a positive atmosphere where students are motivated to attend regularly, spurred by the prospect of engaging in the monthly incentives.
Contact information: Meri Page Spencer,, 434-676-2467 ext. 2531

Lunenburg County Public Schools: Central Charger Language Liaisons
Lunenburg County faces a significant demand for translation services, particularly due to its sizable Hispanic population. In response to this need, Central High School has established the Central Charger Language Liaisons, a group of bilingual students dedicated to providing support. These student volunteers offer their services during elective classes, ensuring minimal disruption to their academic schedules. Teachers can request assistance by sending a chat message to the Language Liaison via school email, facilitating quick and efficient communication. The Liaisons are deployed to classrooms as needed, where they provide assistance to Hispanic students and teachers before returning to their own classes. Additionally, these students are extending their support to various division-wide events, including parent-teacher conferences, open house, as well as Kindergarten Registration Day and Preschool Recruitment Day, ensuring seamless communication and inclusivity across the school system.
Contact information: Meri Page Spencer,, 434-676-2467 ext. 2531

Lunenburg County Public Schools: The Charger Market
The Charger Market operates as a school-based enterprise specializing in printing services for the school division, alongside providing graduation packages for parents and sports banners for community recreation leagues. These comprehensive services encompass the production of banners and yard signs. The pricing structure for these offerings is meticulously determined by students, taking into account the cost of materials and associated expenses. Additionally, a robust order management system has been implemented to efficiently track and fulfill orders. Students are actively engaged in all facets of this enterprise, from managing point-of-sale transactions to overseeing production and distribution processes. Orders are processed promptly, with a commitment to delivering completed orders within three business days. The revenue generated from these services serves to offset the costs associated with procuring supplies and sustaining program operations.
Contact information: Meri Page Spencer,, 434-676-2467 ext. 2531

Madison County Public Schools: The “WHO” Club (Wetsel Helps Others)
William Wetsel Middle School’s W.H.O. (Wetsel Helps Others) Club is a service club for middle school students who are passionate about making a positive impact in their community, state, and beyond. The club members organize and participate in various events to help as many people as possible. For instance, on Valentine’s Day, they wrote letters to local nursing home residents and collected toiletries to send to the Kentucky flood victims. They organize events to encourage their peers to make a positive impact in their community. Their hard work and dedication have made the W.H.O. Club an integral part of the school community, inspiring others to join in their efforts to make the school, community, and world a better place.
Contact information: Andrea Wilson,, 540-948-3783

Madison County Public Schools: Primary Drama Program
Our after-school drama program for kindergarten through 3rd-grade students has been a fantastic opportunity for young children to develop their creativity, self-expression, and confidence. Students are working hard to prepare for their spring Seussical performance. Our drama program provides a safe and welcoming space for children to explore their emotions, imagination, and teamwork skills. Through engaging in after-school theatre, our students learn to communicate effectively, think creatively, and build social connections with their peers. Students are developing their public speaking skills and confidence. Also, through script reading and discussions, drama is supporting our literacy initiative. Overall, our after-school drama program is a valuable experience for our students, supporting their academic, social, and emotional development.
Contact information: Mike Coiner,, 540-948-3781

Madison County Public Schools: Waverly Dreamers
Encouraging students to take on responsibilities and gain practical experience can be an excellent way to help them grow and develop. Waverly Dreamers has been an excellent opportunity for 5th-grade students to apply for and work in various school jobs throughout the building. With a range of jobs available, from library assistant to school ambassador, students have the chance to build a diverse set of skills that will be useful throughout their academic and professional careers. This program helps students develop their confidence and sense of responsibility, while also providing them with valuable experience that can help them succeed in the future.
Contact information: Dr. Pattie Rees,, 540-948-4511

Manassas City Public Schools: A Cycle That Works
Manassas City Public Schools has implemented a comprehensive district-wide program called, “A Cycle that Works” (ACTW) to drive effective Professional Learning Communities at all levels. This program engages educators in cycles of unpacking curriculum, planning and delivery of aligned instruction, common assessment, and the use of data to inform instructional decisions using detailed processes and roles for school teams and their members. The program is supported through frequent and ongoing training, coaching, and feedback delivered by instructional facilitators in collaboration with school leaders and district-level content experts. The program has already yielded significant gains in student achievement, to include double-digit increases in early literacy skills as measured by the PALS assessment and solid year over year gains in mathematics at multiple grade levels. ACTW is a key strategic priority and investment that we are using in Manassas City to drive positive change in our instructional practices and student learning outcomes.
Contact information: Ed Stephenson,, 571-377-6010

Manassas Park City Schools: Manassas Park City Schools Teacher Leader Academy
The Manassas Park City Schools Teacher Leader Academy brings together secondary teacher leads (department chairs, team lead, etc.) and the division’s Instructional Team to meet monthly on a variety of topics. The goals of the program include developing teacher leader capacity to effectively lead teams of teachers to support student achievement, to build a collaborative community of leaders who can learn from and support one another in their leadership endeavors, and to provide meaningful professional development opportunities for teacher leaders around teaching and leading adults. Through their participation, these secondary teacher leaders have gained practical leadership skills that focus on communication, collaboration, problem-solving and learning how to motivate others to achieve shared goals. Teacher leaders receive personalized coaching and support and can expand their peer network. Monthly topics have included leading data discussions to improve student achievement, identifying team/department obstacles and planning on how to overcome them, improving teacher retention, and conducting peer learning walks.
Contact information: Pam Kalso,, 703-335-8850

Newport News Public Schools: Early Career
High school seniors in Newport News Public Schools can jump start their careers before graduation. The Early Career Program is a partnership between Newport News Public Schools and Virginia Peninsula Community College. The program is designed for high school seniors to pursue certifications that will open employment opportunities in the skilled trades industry immediately following graduation. During the first semester of their senior year, students complete their high school coursework. Students then take special, hands-on welding training courses from some of the region’s best welding instructors. Each of the welding courses build upon one another. Successful completion of the prerequisite course is required prior to moving on in the sequence of certification opportunities. Students can obtain marketable credentials at a limited cost. Job placement support is provided throughout the program. During the second semester, students can begin working full time with a local business or industry partner.
Contact information: Kathy DiMarino,, (757) 283-7850 x.10325

Newport News Public Schools: Youth Development Program
Through school leadership academies and participation in clubs and organizations, students in all grades have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, volunteerism and citizenship with Newport News Public Schools’ commitment to Positive Youth Development. The program has an infrastructure of dedicated school-based teams who increase the school division’s ability to implement evidenced-based programming at every school. The positive youth development initiatives build essential skills and empower students to lead, serve and contribute, beginning at pre-K and continuing through grade 12. Youth Development’s My Brother’s Keeper/My Sister’s Keeper and Level Up Programs, which benefit more than 500 students at 11 schools, emphasize mental health support, skill building and mentoring, and are facilitated by school-based site directors and dozens of community partners, including the Newport News Police Department, Department of Human Services, mental health service providers and several local non-profit agencies. Youth Development’s primary goals are promoting student success, student wellness, and creating productive collaborations with stakeholders to implement quality programming that promotes overall wellbeing for all students.
Contact information: Bridget Adams,, (757) 283-7850, ext. 10318

Patrick County Public Schools: Cougar Pride – Remediation/Enrichment Time
Cougar PRIDE (Purposeful Remediation and Instructionally Driven Enrichment) is a transformative 40-minute daily session designed to address pandemic-induced learning gaps and facilitate a smooth transition into post-secondary endeavors. It provides essential time for remediation, studying, completing tasks, and enrichment by allowing students to pursue personal interests. Notably, it has improved academic performance through targeted support and enhanced test preparation opportunities. Moreover, it serves as a safety net for missed classes, helping students catch up with coursework. Beyond academics, Cougar PRIDE emphasizes student well-being, fosters holistic development, and improves student engagement by providing new learning opportunities to students that normally do not fit into their class schedule. This program empowers students to thrive in the evolving educational landscape, nurturing resilience and a lifelong passion for learning. In an uncertain world, Cougar PRIDE stands as a testament to the transformative power of focused support in shaping brighter futures.
Contact information: Hope Perry,, 276-694-7137

Portsmouth Public Schools: STARBASE Victory
STARBASE Victory is a public-private partnership that provides Portsmouth Public Schools students with inquiry-based, hands-on STEM instruction in a dedicated space for STARBASE learning. With equity at the forefront, every 4-6 grade student in Portsmouth Public Schools spends one full week participating in the program which focuses on Environmental Science (EnviroBASE- grade 4), Medical Science (MedBASE- grade 5), and Aerospace Engineering (AeroBASE- grade 6). This is not a program that is application or selection-based. It is built into each student’s instructional schedule. Using a STEM to CTE approach, PPS will continue to expand the program into middle and high school over the next few years, connecting it to CTE and STEM pathways, as well as industry credential opportunities for students.
Contact information: Lauren Nolasco,, 757-393-8743

Portsmouth Public Schools: Graduate Profile
Portsmouth Public Schools developed its own Graduate Profile, a listing of the desired skills and attributes all PPS students should have upon graduating from the division. This profile came to fruition after months of working with stakeholder groups, including students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community. A draft profile was posted online to gather additional feedback before it was finalized. It is now published on the division website, and posters of the graphic were created so that all schools could showcase the new profile.
Contact information: Lauren Nolasco,, 757-393-8743

Portsmouth Public Schools: Principal PLCs
During the 23-24 school year, Portsmouth Public Schools has engaged all principals in collective inquiry and problem-solving through the use of professional learning communities. Using the widespread division issue of chronic absenteeism as the common challenge, PPS central leadership created principal PLC teams based on similar absenteeism data across schools. Principals engage in monthly PLC discussions and have collectively completed a root cause analysis, as well as developed strategic actions to use in their respective schools to address chronic absenteeism. Using PLCs as a vehicle to accomplish this work has also provided a model for how effective PLCs are structured and implemented so that principals know what to look for within their school’s teacher PLCs. Central leadership uses their engagement in PLCs as an opportunity to debrief with them on the PLC process and have them develop instructional leadership goals to strengthen teacher PLCs in their schools.
Contact information: Lauren Nolasco,, 757-393-8743

Prince Edward County Public Schools: Students Collect Canned Food & Volunteer at Local Food Pantry
Students from the elementary and middle school collected over 1,000 pounds of canned goods. They were donated to a local food pantry. In addition, some of our middle school students spent several hours volunteering at the pantry. Students helped sort, package, and weigh food to prepare it for distribution. When asked about the impact of the trip, one eighth-grade student replied, “I enjoyed sorting the produce and learning about this place. It’s nice to have something like this for people who need it. I want to come back!”
Contact information: Le’Tina Giles,, 434-315-2150

Prince Edward County Public Schools: Sandee Draper Express
Prince Edward County High School recently re-started a coffee cart program named “The Sandee Draper Express.” The coffee cart was initiated at the high school by the late Sandee Draper, who served as the adaptive special education teacher and transition coordinator. The cart allows students in the adaptive class to engage in a real-world job experience, promoting career readiness skills. The express cart currently operates once a month, managed by students in the adaptive setting with the support of the adaptive special education teacher and instructional assistants. All students in the adaptive program participate. Staff members receive the express cart order form before the scheduled delivery date. The cart includes hot coffee, coffee condiments, and a variety of snacks that staff can select, each costing $1.00. The proceeds collected from the sales are deposited into an account created to replenish the cart’s supplies.
Contact information: Le’Tina Giles,, 434-315-2150

Prince George County Public Schools: Sports Management
Prince George High School’s innovative sports marketing program has added Sports & Entertainment Management to its offerings, giving students hands-on experiences at event planning and execution, along with sports-focused digital content creation. The Sports Management course lies within the high school’s marketing cluster of Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings, alongside fashion, social media, and sports marketing pathways and entrepreneurship. The aim of the Sports and Entertainment Management course, led by athletics coach and teacher Mr. Travis Carr, is to provide students with a practical understanding of the preparation, operation, and execution of game events, as well as coverage of high school teams and athletes. Through this course, students can gain hands-on experience in the sports management field, which can help in college preparation and employment opportunities. Alongside their in-classroom instruction from Mr. Carr, students dive deep into sports management through the use of the high school’s own athletics department via hands-on event coordination, such as the “Royal Games,” and content creation that highlights the school’s programs and student-athletes (see attached article link). Students also provide coverage of our varsity athletic teams while also focusing on individual athletes who are excelling within their sport. Students gain experience with team previews, coach and player interviews, and social media write-ups. A few students gained experience with scoreboard operation this past fall at home football games, which included creating content published on the scoreboard during games for both players and spectators to see.
Contact information: Travis Carr,, 804-937-2234

Prince William County Public Schools: PWCS Sustainable Initiatives
Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is committed to ensuring our facilities are welcoming, safe, and sustainable. The PWCS Office of Energy Management and Sustainability has initiated a series of eco-friendly initiatives in our schools to optimize energy efficiency and reduce the division’s carbon footprint. PWCS is installing solar panels at seven schools, replacing all school lighting with LEDs, and constructing the county’s first net-zero school, slated for completion in December 2025. This net-zero school will incorporate environmentally friendly features that will contribute to its net-zero status, signifying a balance of greenhouse gases produced and removed from the atmosphere. The school will also include an outdoor classroom, offering a view of the solar panels, which can serve as an educational tool for students under the staff’s guidance. These modifications will result in financial savings for the division, encourage environmental literacy, and move PWCS toward renewable energy sources to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Contact information: Diana Gulotta,, 703-791-8720

Prince William County Public Schools: Grow Your Own Registered Teacher Apprenticeship
In February, the Virginia Department of Education awarded Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) a $350,000 grant to go toward the Grow Your Own Registered Teacher Apprenticeship program. The program is in partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and is meant to help address teacher shortages by removing cost barriers and providing quality teacher preparation. The program provides an opportunity for VCU undergraduates, who already have an associate degree, to earn their bachelor’s degree at no cost while concurrently working in a PWCS school. The apprenticeship not only covers tuition costs but also offers a full salary with benefits. Furthermore, each participant, who aspires to transition into a classroom teacher role, will be paired with an experienced mentor teacher for guidance and support. The $350,000 grant will support up to 25 apprentices, paving the way for a new generation of educators.
Contact information: Diana Gulotta,, 703-791-8720

Pulaski County Public Schools: Book Vending Machine
The book vending machine is Critzer Elementary’s strategy of rewarding and promoting good behavior. The books are purchased using Title I funds and possibly local grants in the future. Each student is awarded a token card that requires 10 hole punches to earn a token. Hole punches on the token card are earned with exemplary behavior or choices, then students “purchase” high-interest books from the vending machine with a token. Students don’t need their own money and all students at Critzer have the same opportunity to visit the book machine. Reading is the key to all other subjects. Allowing students to make choices about their reading material increases the likelihood that they will engage more in reading. Engaging more in reading will lead to more success. These books are for the students to keep, take home and build home libraries. This vending machine fosters a love for reading in our school community.
Contact information: Tony Viers,, 540-643-0920

Pulaski County Public Schools: PCHS GO
In September of 2023, Pulaski County High School held their annual PCHS Go Event. PCHS Go is a student led event in which students dedicate a full school day’s time to on campus community service projects. This year over 80 projects were tackled to help make the PCHS campus a better place and show their Cougar Pride. Some of these projects were painting areas in the school, landscaping, washing faculty/staff vehicles, cleaning our stadium, collecting and organizing donations for our clothing closet, and many others. This event started at PCHS, but soon spread county-wide with elementary schools and middle schools initiating their own volunteer projects. Those students who were not involved in on-campus projects read to younger students at the elementary schools, made homecoming corsages, delivered waters and student-made snacks around to those students who were working on projects, made care bags for nursing home residents and armed forces members.
Contact information: Jennifer Bolling,, 540-239-4299

Roanoke County Public Schools: Student-led conferences
Our Opportunity Ready Certification program began with 5 pilot schools last year and expanded to 15 schools this year, including students’ defenses of learning and student-led conferences. This is a flip of the traditional parent-teacher conference where the parent and the teacher discuss the student’s performance. Instead, the student discusses their performance directly with the parent and the teacher helps guide the discussion. The purpose of student led conferences is to help students take charge of their learning and hold themselves accountable for their successes and opportunities for improvement. As students progress through k-12 education, they will develop their presentation skills to the point they are ready to defend their portfolio in their senior year. Those students that successfully defend their portfolios are presented with an “Opportunity Ready Certification.” We collaborated with local businesses and colleges so that those students who have earned an Opportunity Ready Certification will receive an extra level of consideration for jobs and college admissions.
Contact information: Chuck Lionberger,, 540-562-3700

Roanoke County Public Schools: A-STEP
Roanoke County Public Schools understands that students sometimes needed second chances. Some students who were facing possible expulsion due to poor choices or were simply not being successful in the traditional high school environment, would be better served in an in-person alternative instruction program where these students could continue to pursue their high school diploma in a highly structured and supporting environment. The Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Program (A-STEP) has become a major factor in helping dozens of would-be dropouts become successful high school graduates. Today, A-STEP is becoming a model of alternative instruction that other school divisions are beginning to emulate. Through the A-STEP program, students are not absolved of their poor choices or the consequences of those choices. However, while attending the program, the student has the opportunity to continue their education while also helping to understand the implications of those choices and how they can attempt to repair the damage caused by those poor choices.
Contact information: Chuck Lionberger,, 540-562-3700

Roanoke County Public Schools: Limited Radiological Technician program
Carilion Clinic & Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) began this collaboration in early March of 2022. Both teams realized there is a great need for Limited Radiological Technicians (LRT) in our community. To meet this need Carilion & RCPS partnered and created one of only two LRT programs offered to Virginia high school students. Students will go through a 2-year program. They will be eligible to enter the LRT program in their Junior year and finish the program in their Senior year. Not only will students use the Pinnacle Machine to practice taking X-rays but students that are 18 years and older would be eligible to complete clinical requirements. The Claude Moore Scholars Charitable Foundation generously funded this machine for RCPS. Students that go through the LRT program will be academically prepared to take the ARRT Limited Scope of Practice in Radiology exam. Those that pass the ARRT exam will become LRTs and able to work in a variety of clinical settings at Carilion Clinic.
Contact information: Chuck Lionberger,, 540-562-3700

Rockingham County Public Schools: Tiered System of Support
The Tiered Systems of Support is a divisionwide, structured, and intentional model that provides social, emotional, behavioral and mental health support to students with the goal of helping more students be available for academic learning each day. All students receive Tier 1 support, with a focus on creating safe and nurturing school environments. As needed, some students receive Tier 2 and Tier 3 support with specific, targeted interventions from skilled staff members to build mental and behavioral health. These additional staff members include Behavior Support Assistants in each school, Elementary Behavior Specialists, Restorative Practices Specialists, and Early Intervention Counselors. Individual student data indicates improved skills for self-regulation and positive outcomes from intentional behavior intervention. Administrators identify the personnel who provide direct, dedicated behavior support in their buildings as overwhelmingly beneficial to positive behavior change and increased school engagement.
Contact information: Liza Coffman,, 540.564.3248

Salem City Public Schools: Promoting Oral Health in Schools
Students have difficulty learning if their teeth hurt! Salem City Schools and New Horizon Healthcare are working together to bring oral health care to students while they are in the school building. The pilot program, initially focusing on elementary grades, is structured to deliver essential dental services to students, with a primary emphasis on the preventative measures of dental screening, applying sealants and fluoride varnish, and dental hygiene. The implementation of the program is conducted in a student-friendly manner, with two dentists visiting classrooms and screening students as they sit in bean bags in the corner of the classroom. On the first day of the pilot program, over 300 students were screened in one elementary school! By bringing oral health care directly into the school setting, this collaboration aims to make dental care more accessible and convenient for students and families.
Contact information: Dr. Elizabeth Arthur,, 540-389-0130

Salem City Public Schools: “New” Special Education Teacher Cohort
Salem City Schools Office of Special Education offers a comprehensive program aimed at supporting “new” special education teachers. The monthly half-day sessions cover a range of topics, ensuring that teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their roles. Monthly training includes working with teachers on Individual Education Programs (IEPs). IEPs outline the personalized educational plans for students with disabilities. Understanding how to create, implement, and revise IEPs is essential. Encouraging teachers to build partnerships with families is crucial in special education. Teachers receive guidance on effective communication strategies, fostering positive relationships, and involving families. Specially designed instruction involves tailoring teaching methods and materials to meet the unique needs of students. Teachers learn how to adapt curriculum and instruction to address individual learning styles and abilities. The diverse range of topics covered in these sessions indicates a holistic approach to preparing new special education teachers.
Contact information: Dr. Randy Jennings,, 540-389-0130

Stafford County Public Schools: Specialty Centers of Stafford
Stafford County Public Schools has expanded its curriculum, launching Specialty Centers of Stafford – comprehensive, specialized, 4-year pathways for like-minded high school students designed to offer a rich academic experience that leads to high quality post-secondary outcomes. Each center will feature multiple pathways tailored to specific student interests and career goals and incorporate work-based learning experiences that elevate the student educational experience. The initiative underscores Stafford Schools’ dedication to academic excellence, fostering high expectations and expanding opportunities through interdisciplinary coursework, while supporting the division’s goal that every student will have a plan to be employed, enlisted, and/or enrolled in a post-secondary institution upon graduation. Further, the Specialty Centers engage the community and business leaders in the learning experience through mutually beneficial partnerships designed to offer real-world opportunities and mentorships in high-demand career fields to Stafford students.
Contact information: Michael Bolling,, 540-658-6000

Stafford County Public Schools: Adoption of Policy and Regulation Regarding the Use of Artificial Intelligence in Stafford Schools
Stafford Schools is leading the state as the first to officially adopt policy and regulation regarding the ethical and responsible use of Artificial Intelligence, redefining education by embracing the possibilities that AI offers with ethical and appropriate guardrails for learning that create an environment where students are not just consumers of knowledge but active participants in a future-driven learning ecosystem. Coupled with the implementation of expanded high school pathways, Stafford Schools aims to empower students and staff with cutting-edge technology to enhance learning outcomes. The new policy, developed in collaboration with school staff, parents, technology experts, and the Technology Advisory Committee, includes training for teachers and students regarding academic integrity, student data privacy, and inherent biases. Additional safeguards include use of AI as part of a planned lesson, guidelines for proper citation, and communication with parents about the age appropriate use of AI in school.
Contact information: Jay Cooke,, 540-658-6000

Stafford County Public Schools: Partnership with the JED Foundation to support student mental health
Stafford County Public Schools is one of 18 districts selected nationally to participate in the inaugural District Comprehensive Approach (DCA), a joint initiative by The Jed Foundation (JED) and The School Superintendents Association’s (AASA) to bolster students’ mental health. Over four years, the DCA will provide evidence-based framework, expert support, and data-driven guidance to address mental health and reduce suicide risks. This collaboration, rooted in JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for High Schools, underscores the increasing emphasis on students’ emotional well-being. The district will concurrently engage in the JED High School program, the only district nationally to do so, to develop a customized strategic plan to implement tools, strategies, and techniques that lead to measurable improvements in student mental health in its high schools. The initiatives align with Stafford Schools’ strategic plan, emphasizing the crucial role of schools in reversing alarming trends in student mental health.
Contact information: Ann Bueche,, 540-658-6000

Virginia Beach City Public Schools: TIDE Coalition
Amplification of student voice is one of the key high yield strategies in the VBCPS Educational Equity Plan. To better foster an environment through which authentic conversations can be held, the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has established the TIDE coalition. TIDE (Togetherness through Inclusion, Diversity and Equity) is a community of practice comprised of VBCPS staff and select high school students in grades 9-12. The purpose of the coalition is to create a forum in which students work directly with central support staff to identify resources needed to increase student sense of belonging and develop advocacy skills. The coalition collaborates to capture student voice on topics related to equity, social emotional learning, mental health, and civic engagement. Additionally, the central support staff working to address these concerns are able to get meaningful input and feedback that will help guide their decision-making. All of this is for the purpose of improving the approaches at the division level, as well as assisting schools in identifying key areas for improvement and building the capacity of students to lead the work in their respective buildings.
Contact information: Ty Harris,, 757-263-1218

Virginia Beach City Public Schools: LEAD VB
Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) prioritizes fostering effective leadership to enhance school and departmental outcomes. This commitment has led to the establishment of LEAD VB, a professional learning initiative aimed at bolstering leadership capabilities among staff. Designed for both aspiring and current leaders, LEAD VB offers tailored pathways for various employee groups to cultivate and apply leadership skills. The program includes Aspiring Administrators, catering to instructional staff with administrative endorsements aspiring to assistant principal roles; Aspiring Principals, tailored for current assistant principals seeking principal positions; and Leadership and Management, tailored for custodial and cafeteria staff aspiring to supervisory roles. Additionally, VBCPS has introduced new pathways: Aspiring Leaders for instructional staff interested in exploring leadership roles, and Advancing Leaders for central support staff aiming to enhance leadership skills for current or future positions. These initiatives signify VBCPS’s dedication to nurturing leadership talent from within its ranks.
Contact information: Janene K. Gorham, Ed.D.,, 757-263-6972

Waynesboro City Public Schools: African-American Read-In Event: Reading Between the Lines
Waynesboro Public Schools is proud to announce its upcoming African-American Read-In event, scheduled for March 10, 2024, at William Perry Elementary, located at 840 King Avenue, Waynesboro. The event will begin at 3pm and aims to celebrate the rich literary contributions of African-American authors while fostering a sense of community and appreciation for diverse voices. The keynote speaker for this special occasion is Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown, Dean of Mary Baldwin College for Women and Professor of History. Dr. Tillerson-Brown brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the event, making her an inspiring presence for all attendees. Students in Grades K-12 will actively participate by sharing their favorite poems, passages, monologues, speeches, essays, or quotes penned by African-American authors. This interactive engagement aims to highlight the significance of diverse voices in literature and promote a deeper understanding of African-American culture. Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Waynesboro Public Schools, Kendra Jones Carter, expressed enthusiasm about the event, stating, “The African-American Read-In is a wonderful opportunity for our students to connect with the rich literary heritage of African-American authors. This event aligns with our commitment to fostering inclusivity, diversity, and equity within our school community.” The event is organized in partnership with the Charlottesville Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. All community members, parents, and stakeholders are encouraged to attend this enriching event.
Contact information: Kendra Jones Carter,, 540-946-4600

Waynesboro City Public Schools: Fine Arts Program Increases Enrollment
In a remarkable journey of musical achievement, Kate Collins Middle School (KCMS) proudly announces a staggering 207% growth in its band program over the past three years. Kate Collins Middle School celebrates not just the musical prowess of its students but also the power of collaboration, dedication, and unwavering support from all involved. When Pete Echols, KCMS Band Director, took the helm three years ago, the 8th grade band consisted of six students. Fast forward to today, where a phenomenal group of 75 7th and 8th-grade students passionately rehearsed for their recent Winter Band Concert, demonstrating remarkable progress and proficiency. The incredible success story is attributed to the unwavering support received from various quarters, notably the invaluable collaboration with Waynesboro High School (WHS) and other dedicated stakeholders. “The tireless dedication and countless extra hours put in by the Kate Collins administration and counselors have been instrumental in nurturing the growth of the band. Their commitment to scheduling and providing unwavering support has been indispensable. Also, Sue Wright, retired Waynesboro Public School Administrator, was a key figure in making the seemingly impossible happen.” Pete Echols, KCMS Band Director Special recognition is also extended to Mrs.Sarah Maslock, WHS Band Director, a master educator whose daily presence and passion for teaching have significantly impacted the Kate Collins Middle School Band. Her love and expertise have been a driving force in the students’ musical journey. The collaborative spirit between Waynesboro High School and Kate Collins Middle School has undeniably been the linchpin in this remarkable achievement. Without their combined efforts, this extraordinary growth and success would not have been possible.
Contact information: Pete Echols,, 540-946-4635

Waynesboro City Public Schools: An Evening with the Stars: KCMS Sixth Graders Explore the Cosmos with University of Virginia Department of Astronomy
On December 7, 2023, from 6:30 to 9:00, the sixth graders of Kate Collins Middle School (KCMS) embarked on an awe-inspiring journey through the cosmos. The University of Virginia’s Department of Astronomy, was on-site enhancing the students’ learning experience with an extraordinary night of stargazing. High-powered telescopes, courtesy of the University of Virginia, were stationed at KCMS, providing students with the rare opportunity to observe planets and other celestial objects up close. The evening included an in-person presentation in the auditorium by Christoph Jacques, a distinguished speaker from the National Astronomy Radio Observatory. Jacques shared insights into using radio imagery to study celestial objects and bring firsthand experiences from his recent endeavors in Chile, where he played a crucial role in the construction of a massive radio satellite. Before venturing outside to explore the night sky, students were treated to a hot dog dinner paired with comforting hot chocolate, creating a warm and delightful atmosphere for this cosmic adventure. “This experience is designed to bring our sixth-grade standards ‘to life’ for our students. We believe that by immersing them in the wonders of the cosmos through hands-on exploration, we can spark a lasting curiosity and passion for learning.” Ryan Nunley, Science Teacher at Kate Collins Middle School.
Contact information: Ryan Nunley,, 540-946-4635

Williamsburg James City County Public Schools: Building positive culture and connection through school “house” system
To further develop positive culture and promote camaraderie between students across grade levels and among faculty and staff, Jamestown High School implemented its “Nest” system. Loosely based on Ron Clark’s House System, students and teachers were divided into five “Nests.” Student leaders of each Nest develop events and competitions. Participation in Nest events, like in-school competitions, as well as attendance at athletic events and performances, earn points toward quarterly celebrations. Leaders intentionally plan for event accessibility, and promote events in multiple languages, to increase involvement across diverse populations. Implementation of the Nest System has caused an increase in social interactions and positive experiences for all students, more opportunities for student leadership, and increases in participation by students who have traditionally not attended school-wide events. Inspired by the success at Jamestown, schools at all grade levels in WJCC have or are interested in developing similar house systems.
Contact information: Nick Kier,, 757-603-6442

Williamsburg James City County Public Schools: Launch onboarding program delivers new teacher supports, drives retention
Launch is WJCC’s new teacher induction program. Designed for teachers, by teachers, and in accordance with the VBOE’s Guidelines for Mentor Teacher Programs, program goals are threefold: -Connect newest educators to the WJCC learning community, -Support continuous growth of new educators through personalized mentoring and professional learning, and -Inspire new educators to launch a strengths-based professional career with WJCC. This team-based approach includes both division-wide and school-level supports to meet the instructional, emotional, physical, and institutional needs of both novice and experienced teachers new to the division. Aligned with the phases of first-year teachers’ attitudes toward teaching research, Launch is intentionally designed to strategically and proactively scaffold knowledge and skill acquisition at just-in-time moments. Program aspects include summer pre-boarding experiences, individual mentorship, monthly professional learning sessions, personalized learning days with opportunities to observe other teachers and participate in coaching cycles, and tiered supports for provisionally licensed and special education teachers.
Contact information: Alaina Trott,, 757-603-6452

Williamsburg James City County Public Schools: Timely, targeted professional development series for special educators
The Responsive Induction for Special Education (RISE), a subset of the division’s Launch program, is a professional learning series was developed as a tiered support for special education teachers who are new to the division. This series consists of five days during the school year where teachers work in person alongside the Department of Special Education to cover time-specific topics, goal setting and planning, and individualized support. Examples of specific areas that have been covered this year include IEP development, parent engagement, and implementation of specially designed instruction. The RISE PD series demonstrates the overall commitment of WJCC to support special education teachers in their professional growth to meet the needs of the students that they serve.
Contact information: Adam Brown,, 757-603-6533