Archive for April, 2017

MCPS School Board Members Attend VSBA Hot Topics Conference

April 24, 2017

Jim Goforth and Richard Shores joined Dr. Gretz for the Virginia School Boards Association’s Hot Topic Conference on April 20 in Charlottesville, VA. The event brought together school board members, superintendents, and other educational leaders from across Virginia.

Attendees heard from Phil Gore, Director of Leadership Team Services for the Texas Association of School Boards on the hot topic issue of how school boards make a difference in student achievement in their school divisions. Participants also practiced board governance skills related to improving student outcomes and developed action plans for their board to implement to help improve student achievement.

“Working collaboratively with leaders from across the commonwealth to design strategic ways to link school board actions to maximizing student potential was invaluable,” remarked Dr. Gretz. “Dr. Shores and Mr. Goforth both bring a tremendous amount of experience and discretion to their role on the board and it was inspiring to see them learning with other great board members from other localities.”



Death of the Library

April 18, 2017

The cost of textbooks is rising, the print press is collapsing and the accessibility of digital resources is the perfect, cost-effective solution for financially challenged school systems.

Are the days of school libraries numbered?

Ever since the internet spread to what…a few million people?…there have been forecasts for the collapse of the print industry. The ease with which people can share media and information makes print media pretty much obsolete. Major book retailers which were once shopping mall staples are now struggling to survive. Can libraries be far behind?

School systems across the country are embracing the usefulness of digital media. The amazing intellectual advancements of the last decade would have been impossible without the expansion of digital media technology across the educational sector. As this trend continues, we could be looking at entirely digital libraries, but is this a good thing?

Textbooks are more expensive than ever. Digital materials offer a lower cost, and with open textbook initiatives, often free alternative. Finding information digitally is easier than finding it in a book, and it is instantly updatable, meaning it can be changed to react to new discoveries and convey new findings within seconds. It’s searchable, without the need to spend time manually hunting through books. It’s available to everyone with an internet connection, and it doesn’t require the storage space of physical books. Digital media is more convenient. It’s easier to carry a tablet than a bag full of books, and highlighting is as simple as touching a screen. It sounds like a no-brainer to me…say bye-bye to libraries…

But wait a minute…libraries are more than just rooms with books, they’re social hubs. They’re centers of partnership, sharing and debate. It is this collaboration, this exchange of ideas and opinions that fuels social, intellectual and scientific progress. Libraries are the places which advance societies, devise better world order and spark revolutions. It’s the nature of the place that’s important. People learn from each other. Removing the social component of learning is a detrimental break-down to growth and development, and we do not want that to occur.

So visit your school…or local library. Pick up a book, interact with a friend…before it’s too late.

What Better Way to Learn about the Human Hand than to Build One!

April 10, 2017

Using a collection of materials that cost next to nothing, MHS teachers Vanessa Edwards, Melinda Hodges and Jessica Newsome created an extraordinary experience for students to explore the anatomy of the human hand.



The activity is part of the school’s larger MakerSpace initiative that grew out of Edwards’ desire to give kids a place to explore hands-on learning, design and creativity. The MakerSpace is open in the library every Friday morning before school and students use an assortment of materials and objects to design creative solutions to real-world problems.

And now teachers have started to book the MakerSpace during the week.

Vanessa was able to get $5,000 through a Department of Education grant, and the division is part of a Mary Washington College grant that will provide 3-D Printers, laser-printers, and a host of other “maker materials” that will further position the space to be an authentic 21st-century learning lab.

We are excited about the future of the MakerSpace movement and how allowing students to explore learning through creative problem solving with enhance the skills they will need to thrive in today’s economy.


Interested in Becoming a Math Specialist?

April 9, 2017

MCPS teachers,

We are thrilled to announce a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone interested in leadership in mathematics education!

We have been selected to participate in a grant initiative, The Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative: An Online Program to Prepare K-8 Mathematics Teacher Leaders for High-Need School Districts, which will fund one teacher from our division to receive full tuition and a $10,000 salary supplement for 3 consecutive years after completing the mathematics specialist preparation program.  

The Details

The grant covers tuition, fees, and books for the selected teacher to complete the mathematics specialist preparation program outlined in the attached document.  All course work will be offered in an online format.  Upon satisfactory completion, participants will receive a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies, Mathematics and Science Leadership track, from VCU as well as Virginia’s K-8 mathematics specialist add-on endorsement to their teaching license. In addition, the teacher will receive a $10,000 salary supplement each year for 3 years (Fall 2019 – Spring 2022).  

Conditions for teachers

Teacher recipients must (1) complete the entire MIS degree program, (2) maintain full-time employment in their nominating school district for five years (Fall 2017 – Spring 2022), (3) take on mathematics teacher leadership responsibilities during the 3 years of the teacher leadership service commitment (Fall 2019 – Spring 2022) and (4) participate in the online monthly meetings of the Mathematics Teacher Leader Mentoring program for 2 years (Fall 2019 – Spring 2021).

To be considered:

Please submit the following to Dr. Tracy Seitz no later than April 25:

  1. complete the screening application
  2. an updated resume
  3. brief statement of interest


If you have any questions, feel free to contact any of us and we’ll be happy to discuss this amazing opportunity with you!

Peter Gretz, Division Superintendent

Tracy Seitz, Assistant Superintendent

Carol Walsh, Mathematics Specialist


Reality Store: A Partnership with an Engaged Community

April 7, 2017

Members of the Middlesex Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs and the educators at St. Clare Walker Middle School team up each year to create a remarkable experience for middle school students. The “Reality Store” is set up in various locations throughout the school. The different aspects of life within a community are created virtually to allow students the ability to interact with the financial decisions and responsibilities that await them in adult life.

Students log onto a secure web portal where they research and select careers, they acquire (monopoly) money, learn the essence of the fundamentals of banking, and are then unleashed into a virtual society of decisions that require reflection and careful planning. At one station, a volunteer walks them through housing decisions, at another they recreate the purchase of vehicles and clothing – all the while coaching and mentoring students through the checkbook balancing process so they can see, in real time, the challenges of living within a budget.


We are thankful for the time, energy and expertise our selfless volunteers bring and share with our students. Reality Store is an incredibly valuable educational experience and one we look forward to flourishing for years to come!


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