Monday, September 5, 2016

Rooted in Excellence... watch us grow! Kicking off 2016-17

It's been quite a while since my last post, and I am sorry for that.  I really am... I find myself thinking the thoughts that I wish were in writing nearly every day, and well, the days just get long and busy, and before I know it, I'm falling sound asleep promising to blog again tomorrow.  This year, my resolution to you all is at least two posts per month!  No kidding... two... at least!  So, here's the first one in a while.  Enjoy!

I am fortunate and blessed to work in a school that dates back to 1952, and two of my favorite school days are grandparents' days (speaking of, K-2 lunch is Sept 12; 3-5 is on Sept. 13--letters/order forms went home to families last week) because so many generations attended school here.  "Can I walk down and see my old classroom?"  I always say yes, by the way!  Being a bit of a nostalgic person, I catch myself reflecting on my surroundings... getting misty-eyed over the history and tradition, the power of community, and the deep, deep roots that exist in this fabulous little school.  Roots that are strong and deep enough to not only hold us up, but to actually bind us together!  Roots that share common values and morals, but varying degrees of experiences and viewpoints, all of which make our school one of a kind!  So, how does all of that sappiness--pun absolutely intended, trees are sappy!--influence us today?  This year, Mrs. Kelley and I spent quite a bit of time talking with Ms. Gin and Ms. Dale about our school's past (you see, when renovations take place to the extent that they did this summer, you start to reminisce about the Old Place) and came to the conclusion that our school's deep roots are one of the most direct contributors to our tradition of success.  And along came a theme... Robert E. Lee Elementary... Rooted in Success...

Teachers, parents, administrators... every stakeholder who works with or supports a student at RE Lee is a Master Gardener. OUR kids are the evidence of OUR collective work to support them!  They are the end product, the flowers, fruits and healthy leaves on deeply rooted trees and bushes, each one different from the others but still from the same main trunk.  They are the result of tireless hours of gardening efforts from ALL OF YOU!  

  • You are the master gardeners who determine what our flowers, fruits and leaves should look like (unpacking the curriculum).  
  • You are the master gardeners who design the daily regimen of food, water, sunlight and soil that our little saplings need to grow the way we intend... of course, this is all research and evidence-based, no guess work here! (designing and delivering Tier I instruction).  
  • You are the master gardeners who measure your plants’ growth along the way and prune out the suckers that often detract from the plant’s successful development and adjust their daily intake of water, food and sunlight (assessment and progress monitoring).
  • When one of our samplings fails to thrive, perhaps as a result of too little or too much fertilizer, food, or water, or perhaps because of some invasive disease, you are the master gardeners who diagnose and treat the ailment with scientific precision (Tier II & III interventions, RtI).    
  • You are the master gardeners who take the nearly mature plants to show when the time is right, to show the exquisite growth, sometimes at record levels like a prize winning pumpkin or blue-ribbon sunflower (data celebrations).  
  • And of course, you are the master gardeners who collect the rewards from the judges at the fair who are there to evaluate your prize winning plants, fruits and flowers, and yes, sometimes the judging criteria is unclear or changes just before the competition, but once again this past year, you are the master gardeners who smile with pride as you see the accolades bestowed upon those winning plants, fruits, flowers, and trees (state assessment time!)

So, yes, master gardeners, we attained status as fully accredited according to state standards again last year.  That accomplishment is not easy to do.  Celebrate.  Smile.  Bask.  But remember, master gardeners never stop growing their prize-winning products, never stop analyzing the conditions and making adjustments, never stop researching ways to improve those products.  So… let’s get down to the work of our next growing season… Is the soil ready?  Does the greenhouse have a stable structure and working air controls to provide optimum growing conditions?  Are all of our resources ready for us to use, at our fingertips, and do we know how to use the new tools or deliver the next enhancement strategy so our plants grow to maximum capacity?  I know, I know… enough, Daryl! Sometimes even a great analogy runs it’s course.

Tomorrow, we will begin to sow our next crop of prize-winning students! One thing to keep in mind is that, like all gardens, our plants are annuals. They start over each season. Even though the seeds and saplings may come from the prize-winning plant the season before, there is no guarantee that our plants this year will thrive under the same conditions. We have to get to know our plants, we have to adjust our conditions to suit them best, and we have to make sure that we are working together to accomplish greatness again this year. Gardening is hard. It's easier with a team of folks all working together for the same purpose. I'm just glad I am a gardener at RE Lee where we are truly Rooted in Success!!

Yours in Learning,
Daryl Lann, principal

Friday, September 11, 2015

First week reflections...

      Welcome Back, Mustangs!  

2015-2016 is Off to a Great Start!

       Well, moms and dads, our first week of school for 2015-2016 is almost in the books.  It's time to settle in and share some initial reflections.

       First, let me start by saying how amazing our families are!  Parents and guardians, once again, you steal the show for being the most supportive team in the entire world.  Our Mustangs came back to us this past Tuesday with smiles on their faces, supplies in their bookbags, and positive, energetic attitudes ready to learn and take advantage of the powerful learning opportunities you know we provide here each day!  Without a wonderful send-off, our students would not be as ready as they are, as confident as they are, and as open-minded as they are when we finally get them back in the fall.  So, thank you, Mustang families, from the bottom of my heart, for your loving guidance and for trusting us with your most precious commodity each day.... of course, I also have kids of my own and know that there is a little joy in your day each fall when you finally have the house to yourself on the first day of school!  ;)

       Then there are the staff members at Robert E. Lee Elementary School... I tell them all the time what a pleasure it is to work FOR them as they are the front-line wizards who perform the magic each and every day in our hallways, cafeteria, office, playground and classrooms!  This year saw quite a bit of change among our staff as we said farewell to some fabulous staff members who retired on to other challenges and said hello to a crop of incredibly talented new folks.  The beautiful blend of returning staff and the new folks to the fold have created another team of committed, tireless professionals who are always seeking to grow, become better at their craft and find ways to help EVERY child grow and learn!  I am so proud (and quite surprised some days to be honest) to be at the helm of such a team!

       But team and adults are nothing without the kids!  So, this section of the blog is for them... read it with them, parents, not that you have to, because I tell them these things all the time.  Our students are simply amazing.  Whether in the eating lunch in the cafeteria, playing on the blacktop, painting in art, or engaging in a frustratingly challenging math problem, our kids rise to the top when it comes to effort, skill, persistence, and a deep desire to learn more each day.  Their pride beams when they show that Mustang Magic by being respectful, responsible and ready every where they go and in everything they do.  So, students, just like I tell the teachers and staff all the time, it is sincerely MY pleasure to work FOR you all!  Keep being amazing.

       I have so much more to say as I reflect on the many changes and our continuous mission toward school improvement, but I will cut this short for today.  Suffice it to say that this space will be full of specific information and comments about our school improvement efforts, our community engagement activities, and, yes, my personal reflections on a variety of topics related to education in general.  I hope you will check back often, read and reflect with me, and even send comments to this blog space if you choose.  Feel free to share this site with others, both inside the RE Lee community and outside.  My goal this year is to make this space more interactive and more of a platform for sharing the professional practices and celebrations that make Robert E. Lee Elementary School one of the best places on the planet to work, learn, and play.

Yours in learning,
Daryl Lann, principal

Monday, June 8, 2015

Final Week of School... whew, it's busy!!

We have a lot of things going on during this final week, and there are a lot of things to keep track of.  Hence the following list.  It is not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive as there are events going on in classrooms and individual grade levels too.  Probably your best source of information is your child or his/her teacher, but I will make my attempt to get everything in one location for you.
  • Tuesday, June 9--
    • Field Day for all grades.
      • Don't forget to send money for your student to enjoy the Kona Ice Truck time if you wish.
      • Apply sunscreen at home. Send proper footwear!!  As with every day, flip flops are prohibited.  
    • Fifth grade Awards and Celebration, 7:00 at Spotsylvania Middle School (students need to arrive by 6:45 to get organized and seated).
    • Final Spirit Night of the year at Sweet Frog in Cosner's Corner, beginning right after school!
  • Wednesday, June 10--
    • 10:15, Awards Assembly in gym for grades 1 & 4
    • 1:30, Awards Assembly in gym for grades 2 & 3
  • Thursday, June 11--
    • Fifth grade picnic
    • Early release for students.  Dismissal will begin with Daycare vans and auto-release students at 12:20. Buses will leave at 12:30
  • Friday, June 12--
    • :Last day of school
    • PTA Popcorn day, no charge to students
    • Early release for students.  Dismissal will begin with Daycare vans and auto-release students at 12:20. Buses will leave at 12:30
  • Each day this week:
    • Encourage your student to search Lost and Found--items left behind will be delivered for donations at the end of the week.
    • Send students to school--attendance is important right up until the end of the final bell!
    • Remember the dress code--it's going to get hot this week... sandals must have straps, shorts and shirts must be school-appropriate.
    • Encourage your student to ride the bus if that is their regular route home. Our parking lot gets very crowded each day at pick-up time. We find more traffic comes into the parking lot on special days like the last day of school.  If you must pick your child up, please remember the parking lot safety rules and expectations.  Also, remember the VAKOS property adjacent to our school is available when our lot is full.
Thank you all for a fabulous year!  Stay in touch this summer by following us on Twitter and reading my blog.  We will also be sending out summer emails filled with learning activities to do at home.  Before we know it, we will all be back for 2015-2016 and more POWERFUL days of learning!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SOL Season...

I have neglected my duties as a blogger, and for that I am incredibly sorry.  I know you all understand that this blog is important to me, but that like many other items on my to-do list, it sometimes takes a back seat to other important duties I have as a principal, father and husband.  Thanks for being patient and for understanding.  I hope you will continue to support this space by tuning in and catching up on some of my reflections...

This entry is actually an abbreviated and dusted-off version of an old Mustang Gazette article I wrote in April 2014.  It's worth re-reading!

At this time of year, I usually take time to remind you of the importance of scheduling and preparing our students in grades 3-5 for SOL testing during the last several weeks of school.  And yes, those same reminders—be on time, avoid making appointments for your children on test days, feed them a nutritious  breakfast, and put them to bed on time—are still important and need to be in the front of our minds.
But this year, I want to take time to reflect on a few of our accomplishments when we look at student growth.  Here are some very impressive stats:
  • Teachers met this year in professional learning communities to drive instructional decisions for reading and math every five days
  • 100% of students receive leveled instruction in reading, through a guided reading model, based on student achievement data--some get double or even triple dipped to accelerate growth
  • 100% of students in grades 2-5 participated with common formative assessments in reading and math, through the use of Interactive Achievement, as developed and created by OUR teachers for OUR students!
  • 100% of teachers use small group instruction for teaching math fact strategies and guided math instruction for content
  • First in Math
    • 1,400+ stickers earned per student
    • 1.5 million math problems solved
    • Top-ranked school in Spotsylvania County
    • Our school is ranked 7th in the Commonwealth of Virginia!

I could go on and on… those are just a few randomly selected items from our on-going analysis of student achievement.  Notice, not all grade levels or areas are represented in the samples, and there is no student discipline data reflected in those numbers at all!  Want to know how we are doing?  Stop by and visit for a while.  You will see students enjoying learning, being pushed at their own appropriate pace, being loved by the adults in our school community (teachers, staff, volunteers, bus drivers, and etc.) and turning into fine young people ready to inherit the world we live in—regardless of a test score in May.
The SOLs have their place, but they simply do not measure students in a way that tells the FULL story. They do now know that many of our students speak two languages, dance beautifully, take karate after school and have mastered three or more reading levels in the last six months.  They do not measure our students’ unique abilities such as a smile that can light up the room or laughter that is contagious, the ability to play a musical instrument or drive in the winning run in the bottom of the last inning, an artistic eye that can communicate emotions, or a voice for poetry that can bring tears to even the most grizzled soul.  There is nowhere on the SOL test that measures respect, responsibility, readiness, trustworthiness, honesty or empathy.

Yes, moms and dads, the SOLs will tell us something, but they will not capture the whole story of who our children are or of what our school community, one of the most unique in all of Spotsylvania, perhaps Virginia, embraces as valuable and important.  Please send them to school ready to shine on test day.  Please be sure to emphasize that we want them to do their best.  But also remember to celebrate each individual child and each unique personality trait, talent, and character component that makes them who they really are!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Welcome back after Spring Break!

It certainly is spring time outside today!  What a gorgeous day to return to the work of school!  Of course, we are taking advantage of every instructional minute we can scrap together, but don't think that we are only working hard!  Oh, no, we are playing a little bit today too!

First in Math

We celebrated two weeks worth of FIM sticker accumulation and acknowledged our teams of the past two weeks... Mrs. Simpson's class and Miss Groover's class won those honors.  Mrs. Simpson's class chain even hit the floor this morning which earned them ice cream today at lunch!

We are moving into the final half of the FIM Teacher March Madness Tournament. Final results of the championship match between Mr. McFadden and Miss Schlund will be tabulated at 12:00 midnight this coming Saturday.  Miss Schlund is off to an early lead, but Mr. McFadden has a pretty strong reputation for sandbagging and passing his opponents in the final minutes.  Who will take it all?  Follow us on Twitter and hit this blog on Sunday to find out who wins the cup!

And the biggest news of all from the world of First in Math... we have PASSED PARKSIDE ELEMENTARY for first place in the division!  We are currently up by 17 stickers over the Eagles.  Keep working, Mustangs!  It's harder to stay on top than it is to get there!  Way to go, guys!!

Musical Mustang Moments

We had four students and families who traveled to Washington, D.C. to perform in the Cherry Blossom Festival  Zach, Lizzie, Ashley, and Alison... way to represent!  They sang like angels and represented family, school, and hometown with pride!


Yearbooks continue to be available online. Our school code is 11942915. Deadline for ordering has been generously extended until April 24!!

Shampoo Donations to Treasure House

Our fifth graders made out like kings and queens today as a result of a friendly four-day competition to collect shampoo donations for Treasure House.  The top homeroom, Mrs. Merritt's fifth grade class, earned ice cream today, and the top grade level, 5th grade, enjoyed some extra time outside for a bonus recess with administrators.

Thanks to all of you who sent in donations.  We literally filled the back of a mini-van (seats were removed!!) with hair care products to support local families in need.  Another shining example of Mustang Magic and generosity!

It's not all play!!!

I've spent a lot of time walking through classrooms today and have been impressed by the level of student engagement and activity with there learning.  Everything from guided reading to reader's theater; math stations to history lessons!  Our kids are learning some powerful stuff today!  They are doing their part by being focused and owning their learning, and our outstanding teachers are doing their part by delivering lessons that force kids to think and enjoy their experiences at the same time.  And of course, parents, you did your part today by sending them back to school.  I'm sure that was a difficult thing to do what with you being home with them for a full week and two weekends... yes, that's a little sarcasm... sorry about that!

We will be sharing our SOL Testing calendar by the middle of this week.  This is a sure-fire sign that we are closing in on the end of another school year.  Parents, when you get this calendar, as you always do, I ask that you make appointments and adjustments so that your student can be seated in a comfortable space with the teachers they know rather than being in a make-up session.  We do have fewer tests to take as a school this year, and that is certainly good news.  But with fewer tests, more students must pass in order for us to meet our goals.  New this year are expedited re-takes for students who do not pass but score in a specific range.  That's a good thing too, but we are hoping we won't have many student who need to re-test.  We will be in contact with details for families if this should apply to your student.

So... it's back to work... and back to play.  About nine weeks to go until we close out another successful year at RE Lee.  I urge you to review prior posts where I reference our school improvement goals and ask you to support us in any way you think you can as we move to the tests that the state will use to accredit RE Lee this spring.  This year in warning was a learning experience.  While our faculty and staff has benefited from the increased rigor associated with our status, I am confident we don't need a second year of non-accredited status.  And... we don't NEED that as our students are more than capable of meeting the state standards and exceeding them.  Let's work hard (and play hard too!) Mustangs!  Show 'em what you are made of!

Yours in learning,
D. Lann, principal

Monday, April 6, 2015

April is MATH MONTH!

April is Math Month at RE Lee, and boy, do we have a ton of things going on... here is your one-stop location for the events... well, here and the RE Lee Calendar of Events of course!

  • Daily:  Math jokes and riddles during morning announcements
  • April 1: SPIRIT DAY:  Wear your favorite number day
  • April 15:  SPIRIT DAY:  Wear your favorite shape day
  • April 20:  SPIRIT DAY:  Wear a pattern day
  • Week of April 13:  Birthday graphing, all students will plot their birthdays on a large graph which will be displayed in the lobby area.
  • Week of April 13:  Number Poster creation in classrooms--each HR will get a number and will display all the ways they can come up with to represent that number.
  • Week of April 20:  Number Posters will be displayed in the cafeteria hallway.  Come check them out!
  • April 28:  The Main Event:  FAMILY MATH NIGHT!  Be there or be, a square!  5:00-6:30.  Pizza, drinks and cookies will be provided at no charge.  Lots of fun math games and take-home activities!  Door prizes will also be awarded.  Flyers with RSVP information will go home with students on April 16.
All of this just for Math Month!  Boyd, Mrs. Schettig, and Mrs. Zovak who are our math team extraordinaire!  

April is also National Poetry Month!  So much going on in our little school.  

Each day really is a POWERFUL DAY FOR LEARNING at Robert E. Lee!!

Yours in learning,
D. Lann, principal

First in Math March Madness Teacher Challenge Scoreboard update

Teachers Take Trash Talk to Another Level

As you know from your work with them, our teachers at RE Lee strive for perfection and high levels of achievement. Usually that competitive drive is reflected in the work they do with students every day.  Sometimes you may hear them complimenting or challenging each other to foot races after school or bragging about having the best kickball team in school.  But this month, March, the month of Math Madness at RE Lee, has brought out a different level of competition!

Our Final Four saw grade level teachers square off with LeDoux vs. Schlund and McFadden vs. Moss.

The results of the Final Four are in... Mr. McFadden defended his number one seed by taking down Miss Moss, and Miss Schlund came from the overall six seed to knock off her team mate, Mrs. LeDoux.

The next two weeks.. this one during break, plus the week we come back to school (April 13-18) will determine the grand champ among our competitive teachers.  So, pick your favorite and cheer him or her on!  Will Mr. McFadden survive living at the top, or will he be slayed in the next two weeks by the underdog?

Winner will be announced Sunday, April 19.