Dear Parents and VBCPS Employees:
As this school week begins and we move forward with teaching and learning, I’d like to pause for just a moment and thank our students, employees, parents and community members for their support of and dedication to this school division. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of holding school on Saturdays to make up lost instructional time, I’m pleased that the majority of those who have contacted me about the schedule have done so with sincere concern for our public education system.
There is no question that opening schools on Saturday posed challenges for all of us; however, the attendance data show that the majority of our students were present. I personally visited nine of our schools (elementary, middle and high), observed in classrooms and labs, and talked with students and staff. What I saw Saturday was not unlike what I’ve seen in previous visits to the schools. My executive leadership team confirmed the same. The bus drivers were smiling and ready to roll; the security assistants were welcoming and helpful; the teachers were presenting engaging lessons; the students were actively involved in their learning and administrators were visiting classrooms. What was different was first, the traffic. Bus drivers and many others with whom I spoke said they made their bus runs and got to work in record time - virtually no traffic. Second, the number of parents and volunteers in the schools - at the elementary level in particular, parents were present in large numbers, thrilled to be able to have lunch with their children - an event that can’t take place when parents work during the week. Volunteers who enjoy working with students but aren’t available during the work week were in the schools on Saturday in large numbers to assist teachers with activities such as learning stations, computer labs and science activities.
Just as many of you who have seen the social media postings, I was informed of reports, some from students themselves, that students spent the day participating in activities that had no relation to the curriculum. In a number of those situations, the information was exaggerated or not accurate. Yet there were a few incidents that were true and they were and are being addressed appropriately with staff. It bears repeating, however, that the majority of staff members rose to the challenge of working on a Saturday and delivered high quality instruction to the 55,239 students present.
Because of community interest in student attendance, the school division released earlier this afternoon preliminary attendance data for February 15, 2014. Additionally, data on the number of substitutes in each employee category is posted on www.vbschools.com for each day during the week of February 10, 2014.
Finally, I am grateful to lead a school division in a city that holds the education of its children in high regard.
Dr. Sheila Magula