Smooth school opening reported in Lancaster

by Madison White Franks

KILMARNOCK—Lancaster school superintendent Steve Parker reported at last week’s  school board meeting that the beginning of the school year went well.

“We had an incredible outpouring of community support for our new and returning staff during the week of August 21. We had gift cards, dinners, spa treatments, sailing opportunities and more,” said Parker.

Business and community partners that made donations to the schools include Ace Hardware, American College, Bank of Lancaster, Bartlett Tree Experts, Bay and River Home Decor, Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital, Booth Furniture, Burkes Fine Jewelers, Chesapeake Bank, Dandelion, Docks of the Bay, Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Front Porch Coffee House, Good Luck Cellars and Great Fortune Chinese Restaurant.

Also KC’s Crabs and Cues, Kilmarnock Trolley/Bay Transit, King Carter Golf Club, Lancaster by the Bay Chamber of Commerce, Lancaster Education Foundation, Lancaster Tavern, Lee’s Restaurant, Matt and Candy Terry, Merle Norman, Northern Neck Boys and Girls Club, Northern Neck Burger, Northern Neck Popcorn Bag, Northern Neck Insurance, Northern Neck Family YMCA, Rappahannock Art League and Rappahannock Community College.

Also Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts, Rivah Antiques and Accessories, RiverLand Insurers, Sal’s Italian Pizza, Sports Centre, Tides Inn, Town of Kilmarnock, Two Rivers Communications, Union Bank and Virginia’s River Realm.

“The community support for the teacher induction program was tremendous,” said instructional coordinator Anna Kellum. “We are very blessed to have the community support.”

Principal reports 

Lancaster High School principal Butch Gross reported an enrollment of 377 students. The school is fully staffed with the exception of one special education teacher, he said.

“Our school-wide goal is very strongly tied to PBIS,” said Gross.

The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) reward system is focused on PRIDE (polite, respect, integrity, disciplined and excellent). Each time a staff member of the school catches a student doing one of these acts, they will get a point towards their reward virtually, said Gross.

Each student has received a student identification card with a lanyard and a quick response code which allows the staff member to scan the code and give the student a point towards certain rewards such as free admittance to sports events and gift cards.

“It’s a change of culture for everyone. Let’s focus on the good and stop focusing on the negative,” Gross said.

He also indicated that academically, the focus will be on improving student math skills.

Gross introduced Regina Howard, the new dean of students at the high school.

Lancaster Middle School principal Jessica Davis reported the start of school there was full of positive energy.

The middle school also will focus on PBIS and a reward system using card punches. She also indicated the middle school will continue to implement the corrective action plan.

Lancaster Primary School principal Mike Daddario said the primary school also has had a very good start to the school year. At the August 30 Back to School bash, over 80% of the families were in attendance.

He also said they have new ideas for their PBIS rewards with new incentives including experience opportunities such as eating lunch with a teacher.

Daddario reported new smart boards have been installed in the third grade classrooms under a grant from the Wiley Foundation.

Diversity

Among other discussion, school board member Joan Gravatt readdressed diversity at the administrative level. Lloyd Hill raised the topic at the August meeting.

“As a matter of fact, Lancaster is above the national and state average in hiring minorities in certified non-administrative positions,” said Gravatt. “I would like to assure Mr. Hill and others in our community that this board is aware and constantly striving for more diversity. Our administration works hard at finding the right people for our students.

“The administration only interviews and recommends certified or eligible candidates for administrative positions. If the applicants are not certified or eligible for certification at the administrative level, then we as a school system would be non-compliant to state requirements,” she continued.

“We are trying to make proper education and certification an easier process in our community. Programs have been put into place to train educators while giving financial help. By taking advantage of these programs, it costs less for the student and after the student graduates, he or she will be indebted to Lancaster County. The graduate will return to Lancaster and work within the school system. A true win-win for our county,” she said.

“We are working on hiring at the administrative level from within our educational family. It is easier and more beneficial, in a rural community, to move our employees up rather then bring in new personnel whenever possible. This too is a win-win situation. People who already live and work here are more inclined to stay here. They know the area and like it. It is better for students to not have too much turnover. We have had enough of that recently,” she continued.

“Our first priority is always, what is best for our students,” she said.

“Am I to believe that you are satisfied with the results that we are making in the area of diversity? Are you satisfied with the number of hires that we have made and put in front of our students? I’m looking at the results, are we doing all the things that you know to do in order to have a more diversified staff?” responded Lloyd Hill.