June 2008

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club June 8th, 2008

Thank you to Neil and Linda Swanson for hosting our meeting (multiple fans much appreciated)!

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report-  David Roos stood in for treasurer Lisa Richard who unfortunately could not join us this evening.  David reported that our balance now stands at $225.55.  Thank you to all who recently made donations.

Dr. Keith Hummel for Congress- Dr. Hummel joined us to talk about his campaign for Congress in the 1st Congressional District.  The 1st CD includes 10 precincts in Fauquier County, south of Warrenton.  Hummel will be running against Robert Wittman who ran as a moderate Republican yet has voted the party line 97% of the time.  He cast his first vote against the SCHIP program and recently voted against Webb’s GI bill.  Dr. Hummel is an ER doctor from Montross, VA.  Although new to politics he believes this is a good year for Democrats to be running.  Please visit Keith Hummel’s website at http://virginiapopulist.blogspot.com/ for more information.

Bill Day did triple duty giving the following three flash reports:
§         Warrenton, the first “Community of Peace”, held a well-attended dedication for the peace pole and peace garden at Rady Park.  This garden is a peaceful spot located by a small creek.  The bench will be installed on Mon. June 9th.  All are encouraged to visit this lovely spot for reflection.  For more information on the work of Communities of Peace please visit www.communitiesofpeace.org
§         June 10th Primary for the 10th Congressional District which includes the Northern part of Fauquier County.  Mike Turner will be running against Judy Feder for the Democratic nomination.  Incumbent Frank Wolf faces challenger Vern McKinley for the Republican nomination.

The Barack Obama campaign event at Nissan pavilion was a huge success.  Go to www.barackobama.com for more information.   As Virginia is expected to be a swing state in this election
Fauquier for Obama is gearing up for an active campaign.  Donations for swag (campaign buttons, stickers, bumper stickers etc.) would be much appreciated.  To get involved or to
make a financial contribution please go to http://my.barackobama.com/page/group/FauquierforObama08  Or email  Rebecca Jaramillo (rebecca_j_m@hotmail.com)

For the Good of the Community

Brian Hedges encouraged all to get involved with the campaigns.  He spoke of how his ventures into canvassing had been a “tremendous experience” and encouraged everyone to give it a try.

Bob Zwick invited us all to his home, Dondoric Farm, for his annual 4th of July picnic.  Good food, good fun and free fireworks (compliments of Great Meadows)!

Guest Speaker

The SSC was pleased to host Dr. Jonathan Lewis, superintendent of schools for Fauquier County, as our guest speaker.  Dr. Lewis proved to be an engaging speaker as well as a visionary leader.  Once again I wished for the ability to take shorthand as I’m certain my notes will fail to do justice to Dr. Lewis words.

Dr. Lewis took over the job of superintendent for Fauquier County in January 2008.  He reports that he has spent a lot of time listening these last six months and has been quite impressed with the “great people” in our system.

Teaching and Learning: How things are changing.
§         We’re in transition.  The idea of the teacher being the deliverer of information (lecturer) is changing and we are moving more toward a student directed learning model.
§         “School used to be a place kids went to watch old people work.”  Now kids have to take more responsibility for their own learning.
§         Expectations:  All children, regardless of ability, must be prepared to be successful by a “rigorous, relevant, curriculum” applicable for all kids.
§         We must redefine how we deliver content to children- every child must be challenged every day.
§         The SOL’s have been very helpful in some ways but we must “never define the extent of what our children learn by the SOL’s”.
§         Shift in delivery of content due to development of new technology: distance learning, video conferencing, the internet.  “We must teach our children to be educated consumers of information.”

Content: What skills fundamentally will kids need to be successful in 2021?
We don’t know but we must make an educated guess.  The most pressing things we need to develop are:
1.     Foreign language abilities-   “There are three kinds of people in the world: those who are multi-lingual, those who are bi-lingual, and Americans.”
2.     Geographic literacy- We must develop an understanding of who lives in the world and what it is like to live in other places.  In Fauquier County all 8th graders must pass a geographic literacy passport.  Currently there is no statewide requirement for students to take geography.
3.     Focus on math and science (pre-engineering)- Math is emerging as being as important as literacy.  Knowledge based jobs of the future are going to be in technology/engineering/mathematics based.  “We must stress to girls that this is an appropriate place for them to be.”
4.     Partnering- Children need experiences working with kids around the world.  We need to expand to a global perspective on education and must change our students’ perspectives as to what the world is like.  We need to expand opportunities for collaborative projects with kids around the world as well as to encourage travel abroad and the experience of meeting people from other countries/cultures.
5.     Tolerance education- We must teach our children to be tolerant of people who think, look, and behave differently than them.   We must encourage tolerance of things they do not understand.

Key Work of School Board/Staff

1. Strategic planning process- Gather together people from all parts of the county and all walks of life to develop a plan for the future.  Dr. Lewis wants to use the Cambridge model to develop a plan that drives change.  “You must have a plan that holds you accountable.”
2.  Developing an accurate view of graduates’ perception of the quality of their education- Has their education served them well in college and work?  Did the work we’ve done pay off for our children?
3. Measuring “success”- What should we measure?  What do we value?
§         SOL’s
§         SAT’s
§         AP Performance
§         Community service- to what degree are our children committed to community service?
§         Are we inclusive?
§         Does every child have the same opportunity for a quality education?
“We can’t just say we’re good.  We must set standards and hold ourselves accountable.”

In this rapidly changing world, teaching and learning are a dynamic enterprise.

Dr. Lewis kindly answers questions from SSC attendees:

What is the commitment of the FCPS to make our schools accessible?
§         The new high school, Kettle Run, is fully accessibly.  Liberty High is more accessible than Fauquier High due to age of FHS.  Making FHS fully accessible would require a full renovation of the school.  Dr. Lewis believes FCPS meet the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act but not the “spiritual” requirements.  He spoke of his personal commitment as well as that of the board to renovate the schools.  Steps are already being taken to make FHS more accessible (the front entrance is being renovated this summer).
§         In 2006 a feasibility study on the renovation of FHS was done.  The Board of Supervisors has a general understanding that this will be the next capital improvement project but it is a 2-3 yr. project.
§         In the meantime, attempts are being made to make LHS and FHS as accessible as possible.

How do we preserve the traditional rural lifestyle of Fauquier County while teaching globalization?
Dr. Lewis does not believe these ideas are mutually exclusive.  We can be active in the world while still enjoying the charms of a rural lifestyle.  The days when you could hang out in Fauquier County with no contact with the outside world are gone.  Connectedness with the larger world is a fact of life.

”We can argue the merits of having Costco versus not having Costco or planned growth versus no growth but we cannot argue the merits of being part of the world.”

We must teach children to embrace and celebrate diversity, such as signs which now appear in two languages.

“We must give children the gift of celebrating difference.”

What is the place of music and the arts in the FCPS?
Music and the arts are fundamental to what we do in schools.  We cannot teach someone to be a well-rounded person without teaching about the arts.  Different children gravitate toward different activities:  all are important.

You spoke earlier of tracking student success?  How do you define success?
We must have conversations with former students, those that went on to college and those that didn’t, and ask them how well-prepared they felt entering the college and/or work world.  “Were you well-prepared in math, science, English, the arts?” “Did your K-12 education provide you with life skills?”

Is there any legislation which would help you to reach your goals?
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) needs a second look.  The concepts of this law are great but there are parts that do not work well.  The inflexibility of the law is going to harm schools in the long run.

What is right about NCLB?
NCLB has provided a much better understanding of which kids are succeeding and which are not.  It has put the focus on “at risk” kids (minority, disabled).  NCLB is more right than wrong.
One of the main problems of NCLB is the rigidity of the law- the law should give states more flexibility in determining the success of their programs.   The standards of the law make it difficult for some kids with disabilities to be successful.  This is unfair.
The greatest shortcoming of the law is that instead of giving help to schools that are struggling, NCLB punishes them by withdrawing funding.

Kids take different lengths of time to learn things.  We need to have the ability for individualization.  It is very expensive to build an educational system that allows for personalized education.

How do you deal with discipline and the resolution of conflict in the schools?
We need to rewrite the Code of Conduct as the expectations for behavior are not clear enough.  We must clarify expectations and consequences for failing to meet these expectations.  We must help kids take responsibility for their own behavior.  This also requires working with students and parents to help them understand the relationship between behavior and learning.
Bullying is a large problem and the biggest concern of parents.
We must teach children to be more respectful of faculty, staff, and one another.

Children do what you expect them to do.  Respect is “non-negotiable.”
“You have the culture at school that you create.  School should be like a loving home.”
We recognize that some kids come from a difficult home life and may need special time but they still must follow rules and meet expectations.

On behalf of the SSC I would like to thank Dr. Lewis for sharing his time and his vision with us.  We look forward to welcoming Dr. Lewis and his wife at future SSC meetings.

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

July 13th- Lynn Broaddus, current director of Friends of Milwaukee’s rivers, travels from Wisconsin to speak with us about the importance of clean water and sustainable water management.

Aug. 10th-  Mike McCoy from Appalachian Voices will educate us on the topic of mountaintop removal.

Sept. 14th- Mark Hackley, Food Procurement Office for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, will share with us about the increasingly vital work of the Food Bank.

Oct. 12th- State Senator Jill Vogel

Andrea Martens
Communications Coordinator
Sunday Supper Club