Teacher of the Year tops education news

Jackie Ryan Roller

In top education news this year, Strasburg agriscience teacher Jaclyn Roller Ryan was named Virginia Teacher of the Year, exhibiting part of what Shenandoah County school officials frequently tout through triumph and adversity: A school district’s success can be measured in many different ways.

Other area triumphs and adversity this year included Shenandoah County Public Schools’ school capacity and budgeting concerns, changes to Virginia Standards of Learning tests, the search for a new Warren County Public Schools’ superintendent and Stonewall Jackson High School alumnus Brittany Bowman’s succession of her twin sister Whitney Bowman as state secretary of the Virginia chapter of the National FFA Organization.

After being named Shenandoah County Public Schools Teacher of the Year at the school district’s convocation ceremony in August, Ryan, a Signal Knob Middle School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, quickly rose through the ranks of other top teachers around the commonwealth considered for Region 4 Teacher of the Year. She was named Virginia Teacher of the Year at an October ceremony in Richmond.

Ryan, who led her students to two consecutive titles of best middle school FFA chapter in Virginia and a national win last year, will be the commonwealth’s nominee in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

The 2015 National Teacher of the Year will be announced this spring at a White House ceremony.

School capacity problems in Shenandoah County have been growing for years as School Board members and Board of Supervisors members struggle to fund a solution.

At an August School Board meeting, Superintendent Jeremy Raley said two of the county’s schools are over 100 percent capacity.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg and W.W. Robinson Elementary in Woodstock were each at 107.6 percent capacity, and the county’s third elementary school, Ashby Lee in Mount Jackson, has a 796-person capacity rate and was at 82.4 percent capacity.

Discussing the particular concern of Sandy Hook’s three-hour lunch beginning at 10:30 a.m., the School Board has offered solutions of either building a new school on the northern county campus in Strasburg or building a new school gym that will allow for more cafeteria space.

The district’s Capital Improvement Plan for the next five years is $10,491,336 and for the 2015-16 school year is $1,876,788. Last year, the district received $450,000 in Capital Improvement funds approved by the Board of Supervisors. Most of the money was used for security upgrades and rooftop air conditioning units.

In August, Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Pamela McInnis announced plans for her retirement only weeks after becoming the longest tenured superintendent of any county school division in Virginia.

Superintendent since July 2001, she first joined the division in 1991.

Planning to retire at the end of the 2014-15 academic year, McInnis made the announcement at the division’s convocation ceremony. Plans to find a new superintendent began with the hiring of search firm Real Synergy and a subsequent community survey, which concluded on Dec. 18. The School Board plans to begin interviewing candidates after the Feb. 16 deadline to submit applications.

Changes in nationwide Standards of Learning requirements this year resulted in fewer standardized tests at the public school level going forward.

Long anticipated, the reduction of SOL tests happened after a statewide push by public school jurisdictions to address the high number of tests. The Virginia General Assembly voted in March to require 17 tests for grades three through eight instead of 22. Virginia students will take 29 SOL tests before graduating from high school.

Fewer tests free schools to focus on other ways of measuring student success, but SOL tests still play a role in determining state and federal accreditation.

All Northern Shenandoah Valley public schools were accredited for the current school year, but some were accredited with warning until they can raise student scores. Only 66 percent of Virginia public schools earned full accreditation.

In June, 19-year-old Brittany Bowman of Mount Jackson was elected to a one-year term as secretary of the Virginia chapter of the FFA Organization, succeeding her twin sister Whitney.

As far as they know, it’s the first time siblings have served Virginia in consecutive years, a feat even more notable since they are twins chosen for the same office.

Nationally, FFA has nearly 580,000 members and is one of the largest student-run organizations in the country.

The Bowmans are alumni of Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com