Amy Griffin's Blog

Celebrate the Accomplishments and the Struggles

Celebrate the accomplishments and the struggles. As teachers officially report for the 2014-2015 school year this week, we have lots of accomplishments to celebrate. We also have some challenges ahead.  Dan Mulligan says that we must see struggles and challenges as opportunities. Lasting and authentic learning comes through struggling and overcoming challenges. This summer, our teachers and administrators have been growing professionally and learning best practices so that ALL students learn and achieve in Cumberland County Public Schools.  We have spent the summer learning how to analyze data for learning, develop pacing guides, align assessments, and implement researched-based strategies. I look forward to working with and supporting our staff and students for the upcoming school year. I know together we will make a school division that is FOR and ABOUT students!
CuCPS Highlights:
  • CuCPS was well represented and recognized at the VSBA Conference on Education!  The Little Duke Leaders presented on service learning and student leadership; Mrs. Jamerson and Dr. Jones participated in the Partnership Fair; and CuCPS was awarded the VSBA Food for Thought Award for Wellness and Physical Activity. The conference was attended by Mr. Reid, Mr. Dowdy, Dr. Jones, Mrs. Jamerson, Mrs. Gills, the Little Duke Leaders, and myself. We were joined by Farmville Herald reporter, Ilsa Loeser.
  • CuCPS commends 10th grader, Delante Street, for advancing to the 2nd round of the television show, "American Idol". Delante and his mother will be traveling to Kansas City on August 11th for the competition. If successful, he will be heading to Hollywood!
  • CuCPS is proud to announce that Ms. Angela Whittaker will be recognized at the White House on August 12, 2014, by the EPA Office of Environmental Education and the White House for being a Presidential Environmental Education Award winner! We are so proud of her!
  • Dedicated teachers attended Phase 2 of Assessment Alignment last Monday and Tuesday.
  • Mrs. Gills, Dr. Jones, and myself attended a Data Workshop in Roanoke last Thursday.
  • Dr. Ross, Dr. Jones, Mrs. Tillett, and myself attended the What Works Conference at Hampden-Sydney College on Friday.

Cumberland Middle School Football practice has begun!
Events for the Week:
  • Monday
    • Administrative Council Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • 8:00-3:30:  New Teacher Institute
  • Wednesday
    • 8:00-3:30:  New Teacher Institute
    • 10:00:  Mentor Training
    • 12:00:  Mentor/New Teacher Luncheon
  • Thursday
    • 8:00:  All CuCPS Teachers report to Schools
    • 1:00:  Division Special Education Teacher Meeting
  • Friday
    • 8:00-3:30:  K-8 English/Language Arts Professional Development
    • 8:00-3:30:  Food Service Staff In-Service

Busy Times!

Last week was full of exciting opportunities for our students and staff.  We began the week attending the Moton Museum's Brown Bag Lunch series. Betty Scales and Kern Gilliam spoke about the desegregation of Cumberland County Public Schools which began almost 50 years ago. The dialog from these trailblazers and discussion that followed were both informative and eye-opening.
Students completed summer school, the Longwood TAG Summer Program, a Dual Enrollment Economics and Personal Finance course at Longwood University, and the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge. CuCPS staff participated in numerous professional development including the SREB conference and a Hummingbird Robotics Workshop with ITTIP. The first Agriculture Advisory Committee was held to assist with launching our new Agriculture program at CMS and CHS.
CuCPS Highlights:
  • Summer School concluded with representatives from the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad, the Volunteer Fire Department, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, Fish and Game, and the National Guard. Students learned about the function of community organizations and equipment required to perform the community service. Students climbed the rock wall with the help of the National Guard SFC Jay White.
  • Mrs. Page and Mrs. Barr attended a workshop working with hummingbird robotics with ITTIP. The mission of ITTIP is to transform teaching and learning in K-12 classrooms through the use of technology by providing high-quality professional development for educators, in order to maximize the learning experiences and opportunities of K-12 students for a globally competitive workforce.
  • The Piedmont Community Supporters awarded five $500 scholarships to graduating high school seniors of 2014. Pictured (L-R) are Leah Whitehead (Randolph-Henry High School), attending Southside Virginia Community College; Shaterra Walker (Prince Edward County High School), attending Radford University; Kailyn Harris-Gilliam (Cumberland County High School), attending James Madison University; Sam Back (Randolph-Henry High School), attending Southside Virginia Community College; and Malcoln Tillerson Jr. (Prince Edward County High School), attending Bridgewater College.

Events for the Week:  CMS Football practice starts today at 5 p.m. Activity buses will be leaving Country Corner Store in Cartersville and JR's in Farmville at 4:30 p.m., practice will end at 8 p.m. 
Teacher Flex Workdays begin this week.
  • Monday
    • Region 8 Aligning Assessment PD: Phase 2 (Elementary)
  • Tuesday
    • VSBA Conference on Education
    • Region 8 Aligning Assessment PD: Phase 2 (Secondary)
  • Wednesday
    • Data PD in Roanoke
    • 14-15 Bus Routes Published
  • Friday
    • What Works Conference at Hampden-Sydney College

Junior ROTC cadets attended JCLC (which stands for Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge) Eagle at State Military Reservation Pendleton, Virginia Beach, VA.  The four cadets are, from left to right: Taylor Wright, Reese Summerall, Chris Giles and Caleb (William) Kinney.

Thinking Outside of the Venn Diagram

I enjoyed working with math teachers and principals last week during the Region 8 Math professional development with Dr. Dan Mulligan.  We learned to Celebrate the Struggle with deepening student understanding of math standards.  Dr. Mulligan provided us with many resources, strategies, techniques, and tips for working with students.  I have added the presentation and resources from the workshop to the Teacher Drive.  I have named it, Dan Mulligan Math Workshop.
I am unable to mention all the wonderful brain-based strategies and recommendations provided during the workshop; however, I will mention a few that I took note of, none of which appeared difficult to implement:
  • We need to give students "rehearsal" time instead of "think" time when asking questions. Rehearsal time consists of giving a student time to talk about the answer with a partner before anyone answers in whole group. This significantly increases participation and engagement with all students.
  • For students who are struggling or from poverty, vocabulary is the key to the kingdom.
  • When imagery is used with vocabulary, student achievement has risen 37%.
  • Interactive Notebooks, especially with the use of a glossary, are good for math vocabulary development.
  • Kindergarten is the new 1st grade
  • Math teachers need to incorporate reading strategies for vocabulary in math questions.
  • For justification and higher level thinking, Math and Number Talk are important (referenced Marilyn Burns).
  • To increase rigor, ask a second question.
  • Relationships are key.
  • Student self-assessment and correction are necessary for the deep understanding of math concepts.
  • School divisions need a common Prek-12 vertically articulated problem solving process.
  • Create is the verb used most in the essential knowledge and skills of the math standards.
  • Writing should happen in all content areas, including math.
  • Always give students a purpose for completing any activity.  This includes reading a math problem.
  • When using a Venn diagram, always give examples that do not fit into the diagram (leaving items outside of the Venn diagram).
  • When planning instruction and developing assessments, look at the weight of strands.
  • Students need to use yellow highlighters for highlighting important vocabulary, etc.
We participated in many hands-on, higher level activities for math that can be found on the Teacher Drive.  Teachers that attended the workshop will be provided time to share what they learned with other math teachers when we return to school so we can see these great strategies in our classrooms. 
A quote shared by Dr. Mulligan.
We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far.  -Ron Edmonds

Events for the Week:

  • Monday
    • 1:00 Administrative Council Meeting
    • 4:00 Little Duke Leaders Presentation to Administrative Council
    • 7:00  July School Board Meeting (Closed Session at 6:00)
  • Tuesday
    • 10:00  Agriculture Advisory Committee Meeting (LPJ)
  • Wednesday
    • Last Day of Summer School

To CuCPS Faculty and Staff:

It is with pleasure that I welcome our new and returning staff to the 2014-2015 school year.  I hope you have spent some of your summer exploring, relaxing, and learning new things. This summer, I have spent my free time canoeing and fishing. I find peace and reflection on the lake, although I do have to admit that one needs to practice great patience and good communication skills when going down river rapids. For my 27th anniversary, my husband scheduled a trip down the James River in the mountains.  Believe me, we used communications skills we didn’t even know we possessed while we tackled class 2 rapids by ourselves for the first time (ha-ha)!

A special thanks goes to all faculty and staff that have spent the summer teaching summer school, attending professional development, and developing aligned curriculum, instructional plans, and assessments.  Prekindergarten teachers have finished 10 unit Tables of Specifications (TOS), a group of K-8 teachers have been working on new K-8 English/Language Arts (ELA) Pacing Guides, while other groups have been attending train-the-trainer workshops for aligning assessments.

Please closely review the professional development calendars provided by mail, email, and on our website.  Changes have been made to the pre-service week professional development plans (originally scheduled in April/May) for teachers in response to end of year data, advice from consultants hired to assist K-8 ELA and math teachers as well as reflection from the summer aligning assessments workshops.  Principals will verify TOS, aligned assessments, and unit/lesson plan expectations at the school level.  CHS teachers and CMS history and science teachers will proceed with original timelines.  A school team will assist these specific teachers with assessment alignment using a TOS during the pre-service week.  The date and time will be provided by your principal (this is not optional as originally planned).

K-8 ELA and math teachers will attend professional development as indicated on the enclosed calendar.  Consultants Dr. Lisa Meyers (K-8 ELA), Dr. Lois Williams (CMS Math), and Dr. Ruth Harbin-Miles (K-4 Math) will assist these specific teachers through curriculum alignment and development.  Expectations for alignment of assessments and unit/lesson plans will be provided by your principal at the school level.

Other calendar-related items of special note are as follows:

  • Returning teachers are required to work any two weekdays, July 21-30, 2014. CCES teachers: if the elementary school is still under construction, teachers may plan to work in the CMS/CHS complex.  Please communicate with Mrs. Gills.
  • The New Teacher Institute will be held on July 29-30, 2014, for all teachers new to CuCPS.
  • All Teachers report for school-level meetings on July 31, 2014.
  • The Division Luncheon and Convocation for all division staff will be held on August 4, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. 
  • Open House will be held on August 7, 2014, from 3:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Teachers may leave at 12:00 noon on August 8, 2014; however, school buildings will remain open until 4:15 p.m. for those who want to continue to work in classrooms.

I look forward to working with each of you as we continue to align the written, taught, and assessed curriculum with a focus on teaching the standards at a deeper level through a 21st Century learning lens.  Once we have this solid foundation, we will work toward cultivating students that are leaders of their own learning through celebrating student work, student-led conferences, and researching standards-based grading. 

CuCPS Highlights:

  • Caylor Scales spent two weeks at Alcorn State University as part of the USDA's Ag Discovery Program.  This was one of 17 programs across the country exposing children to agribusiness, animals, plants, and veterinary procedures.  Caylor was one of 19 students at ASU with several students coming from Maryland, Georgia, and Nevada.

Events for the Week:

  • Tuesday
    • 7:00 Board of Supervisors Meeting
  • Thursday
    • Region 8 Math Professional Development with Dan Mulligan

Dedicated Educators


I enjoyed working with teachers and administrators last week on curriculum development.  On Monday and Wednesday, a dedicated group of teachers worked on developing new English/Language (ELA) Pacing Guides for grades K-8 with Dr. Lisa Meyers.  Dr. Meyers constantly told me what wonderful teachers we have at CuCPS!  On Tuesday and Wednesday, principals and a group of teachers participated in Region 8 Aligning Assessments professional development with Dr. Leslie Grant and Dr. Chris Garies. Again, I experienced very passionate educators who are committed to children in Cumberland County! This makes me very proud to be part of such a strong team! 

CuCPS Highlights:
CCES students participated in QuickStart Tennis during summer school.
Events for the Week:
  • Monday:  Administrative Council Meeting (1:00)
  • Thursday-Friday: Schools and Offices Closed for July 4th Holiday

Myth: Summer Off

What do PK-12 public school educators do all summer? We teach, plan, and continue to learn through professional development! Last week, summer school began and meetings were held to plan and prepare for our returning agriculture program. This week, teachers and administrators will work on aligning the written, taught, and assessed curriculum at a K-8 ELA Pacing Guide workshop and the Region 8 Aligning Assessment workshops. It is truly a myth that educators have three months off during the summer.
Summer Learning Resources:
CuCPS Highlights:
Events for the Week:
  • Monday:
    • 8:30-3:30  K-8 ELA Pacing Guide Development with Dr. Lisa Meyers
  • Tuesday:
    • 8:30 a.m. Board of Supervisors Meeting
    • 9:00-3:00  Region 8 Aligning Assessment Workshop
  • Wednesday:
    • 9:00-3:00  Region 8 Aligning Assessment Workshop

A Challenge!


Rising 6th graders attend a Flying Squirrels game!

Okay, thanks to Justin Reid (Associate Director of the Moton Museum and alum of CHS), I have been Cold Water Challenged!  To be honest, I didn't even know what that meant until I spent some time on Facebook watching video after video of people accepting and making challenges. I managed to put the challenge off for several days with the excuse that I wanted the children in summer school to assist. However, the first day of summer school is upon us and I can't put this off any longer. It will happen at 11:00 a.m. today. I contacted Mr. Motter this morning to see if he could assist me in planning my challenge.  That may not have been the best idea on my part, what was I thinking?  Mr. Motter is one of the biggest jokers around!  What have I gotten myself into?

CuCPS Highlights:

  • We are proud to announce that Ms. Angela Whittaker has been selected as a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) winner for 2014 by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Congratulations for winning such a prestigious national award!

Several football players attended VT Football Camp.
Events for the Week:

Summer School:  June 16-July 16, 2014


CUCPS Welcomes New Administrative Staff


At the regular meeting of the Cumberland County School Board held on Monday, June 9, 2014, Board members approved new administrative staff for Cumberland Elementary School. 


Mrs. Virginia “Ginny” Silveira Gills was named principal of Cumberland Elementary School (CES). She formerly served as CES assistant principal for three years. Mrs. Gills had previously been a foreign language teacher at both Cumberland High School and Powhatan High School. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Longwood University, a Master of Science degree in Culture and Literacy with a certification as a reading specialist from Longwood University, an endorsement in Teaching English as a Second Language from Shenandoah University, and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Administration and Supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University. Mrs. Gills is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the Foreign Language Association of Virginia, the International Reading Association, and Phi Kappa Phi.


Ms. Kathryn M. Garrett was approved as the new CES assistant principal. She has been the assistant principal of Powhatan High School for the past eleven years, where she was also the GED and Adult Education administrator, the Career and Technical Education program administrator, and the evaluator for Special Education programs. Prior to her years as an administrator, she taught English at Powhatan High School. Ms. Garrett has a Bachelor of Science degree in English Education from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Master of Arts degree in Instruction and Curriculum from Central Michigan University, and a certification in Administration and Supervision from George Washington University. She has been the recipient of the Certificate of Recognition for Virginia Department of Education Creating Excellence Award and the WRIC Golden Apply Award.


Two other administrative appointments at Cumberland Middle School (CMS) were made at the Board meeting. Mrs. Wendy Tillett was named Assistant-to-the-Principal for Cumberland Middle School. In addition to her duties as a special education teacher, she will be assisting with various administrative tasks including handling discipline issues and coordinating student activities and services. Mrs. Tillett has a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Longwood University, with a teaching license in Special Education General Curriculum. She has recently received her Master’s degree from Longwood University in Educational Leadership. She has been a special educator for CMS for the past six years.


Mr. Charles Motter III was approved to be the Instructional Technology Resource Specialist for the division. In addition to his duties as a math teacher and Sixth Grade Level Chairman, he will be coordinating and managing the division instructional technology databases, coordinating technology training for the division online learning management system, and evaluating technology resources. Mr. Motter has been a teacher for the division since 1998 and has assisted in several administrative capacities, including serving as the 21st Century Grant Program Coordinator, serving as the Webmaster for CES and CMS, administering the Interactive Achievement database, and coordinating the SOL Test Bank from the Virginia School-University Partnership.  He has received recognition by the Southside Virginia Regional Technology Consortium for his contributions in promoting the use of educational technologies in the region and has been a frequent presenter and trainer for technology integration across the state. Mr. Motter has a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. 

Busy, Busy Summer!

2014 VHSL All-State Track Team (SCHOOL RECORD)
Although the school year is over, there is a lot going on at CuCPS! Administrators are busy with analyzing data, planning for the 2014-2015 school year, interviewing, and participating in professional development. Administrators will participate in two book studies this summer: Mindset by Carol Dweck and Leaders of their Own Learning by Ron Berger. Summer School staff report today to prepare for Summer School which begins June 16th. Our athletes have been busy completing the spring season with soccer, baseball, and softball while 13 Track and Field team members went to State competition in Radford and came home with a State Champion and two state runner-up wins!  A special thanks goes out to all the coaches, Mr. Bell, and Mr. Scales for taking our athletic program to a new level.
Mrs. Sutton, Mr. Scales, and I attended the VCU Children's Hospital Graduation Celebration and Lunch for 2014 graduates who have battled and survived cancer.  CHS graduate Mary Huddleston was recognized and celebrated for her bravery, persistence, and passion for life! 
Other summer updates include that work continues on the CCES HVAC system; a new roof is being installed on the bus shop; and fresh parking lot and curbing line painting will take place this week.
CuCPS Highlights:
  • Congratulations to Annesha Harris, the 2014 State Champion- 100 meter Hurdles! She also was the State Runner-Up 300 Hurdles; 5th place- 4x400 Relay; and 6th place- Triple Jump.
  • Congratulations to Davonn Taylor, the State Runner-Up 400 Meter Run!  He also placed: 6th place 4x400 Relay and 6th place 4x800 Relay.
  • The following athletes were named to All-Conference Teams in Baseball:
    • Tyler Shores: 2014 1st Team All-Conference 3rd Baseman, 2nd Team All-James River District 3rd Baseman. 
    • Dione Booker: 2014 1st Team All-Conference Centerfield, 1st Team All-James River District Centerfield.
    • Jacob Perry: 2014 1st Team All-James River District Catcher, 2nd Team All-Conference Catcher.
    • Cody Tyson: 2014 2nd Team All-Conference Pitcher.
    • Keyvon Jones: 2014 2nd Team All-Conference Left field.
  • The following athletes were named to All-Conference Teams in Soccer:
    • Michael Walker: 2014 1st Team All-Conference Forward, 2nd Team All-James River District Forward.
    • Joevaun Brown: 2014 2nd Team All-Conference Forward.
  • The following athletes were named to All-Conference Teams in Softball:
    • Kailyn Gilliam: 2014 2nd Team All-Conference Utility Player, 2nd Team All-James River District Utility Player.
    • Infinity Anderson: 2014 1st Team All-Conference Centerfield, 2nd Team All-James River District Centerfield.

Recommended Summer Reading for Teachers:
Recommended Summer Resources for Students and Parents:
Events for the Week:
  • Monday
    • Administrative Council Meeting (7:00 am)
    • Summer School Staff Planning Day 
    • Winter and Spring Sports Banquet
    • June School Board Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Board of Supervisors Meeting (7:00 pm)
  • Thursday
    • School Board Summer Work Session (12:00-4:00 pm)

Summer School:  June 16-July 16, 2014



Leadership: Strong Work Ethic and Quality Work

“At the end of the day, what qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.” -Joseph Grenny
How do we instill a strong work ethic and quality work in our staff and students? With these two qualities, any organization and individual can achieve their goals. My question to our administrative team this summer is-- how do we lead the division and three schools so that a strong work ethic and quality work are the foundation of everything we do?
In a leadership article, George Couros defines five ways to influence change:
  • Model the change you want to see.
  • Show that you understand the value that already exists. 
  • Tell stories:  To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind. 
  • Bring it back to the kids.
  • Get people excited and then get out of the way.
You can read more in the blog post:
Summer Reading Suggestions for CuCPS Staff:  


CuCPS Highlights:

Madison White attended the HOBY Leadership Conference at JMU last week.

  • Congratulations to the CHS Lady Dukes as they competed Thursday and finished as the 1A East Region Runner up in Track and Field! Annesha Harris was named the Female Athlete of the Year. 

    CHS will have 8 student athletes to compete at Radford University next Saturday in the VHSL State Meet.  Good Luck to our Dukes as there are several athletes who have a chance of becoming state champions.

  • The Varsity Boys Baseball Team traveled to Altavista and defeated the Colonels 11-8 to advance to the Semi-final round of the Conference 44 Baseball Tournament. Cody Tyson earned the win and Kevin Huddleston had a big 2 RBI single that broken open the game for a 7 run inning.
  • The Boys Soccer Team has advanced to the the semi-final round of the Conference 44 Soccer Tournament by defeating Galileo Magnet H.S. at home yesterday 9-4.  The Dukes were led by Michael Walker with 5 goals and JoeVaun Brown with 3. 
  • CCES HVAC Update:  Colonial Webb is in the process of running communication cable now. Next will be the duct work crew, the machinery setters, electricians, and programming people.

Cumberland County High School Senior, Benjamin Westerhoff was recently awarded the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Junior ROTC Bronze Star. 

Events for the Week:
  • VSBA School Law Conference
Summer School:  June 16-July 16, 2014