January 6, 2011 by jbrettjacobsen
As you read this Mid-Year Message, it is hard to believe a new decade in the 21st century is upon us, the School is halfway through our 39th year, and next year the SAIS-SACS committee will visit Mount Vernon for our reaccreditation. Looking back, the fall was filled with innovation, creativity, opportunity, academic vigor, and a great deal of fun. As I reflect on the four pillars of our School—Learning, Leadership, Service and Spiritual Growth—a common thread of unity emerges.
Together as one school, our students honored God at Convocation; gave back to the community through volunteer service on Helping Hands Day; dedicated firsts in opening the doors of the Middle School Academic Building and in launching the i.Design Lab, the only one of its kind in Atlanta’s independent school community; celebrated the accomplishments of peers in our awards ceremonies; developed mentorships through the Prefect program; applauded phenomenal performances at the Cookies and Carols Fine Arts Showcase; cheered the Mustangs to victory at this fall’s Homecoming football game; collaborated with world experts through the Global Learning Initiative; started a chain reaction of awareness and kindness with Rachel’s Challenge; and enjoyed our families and friends at numerous events including the memorable Concert on the Green.
Unity has also been an integral part of our renewed and increased emphasis on community service and in our ongoing journey of spiritual growth. Through the Community Service and Outreach Initiative, our students engaged in more than 4,000 volunteer service hours serving 40 non-profit organizations throughout Atlanta. Students were also extremely generous through philanthropic giving: collecting 4,000 items in September’s school supply drive, donating more than $2,800 in October for Pennies for Patients, collecting more than 2,500 canned goods during November, and delivering approximately 1,200 toys during December’s Toys for Tots drive. Also, through a combined Middle School and Upper School student led and initiated project, the Glenn Campus collected nearly $1,400 in three weeks for the Invisible Children’s Schools for Schools program. After listening to the Invisible Children presentation, our students were inspired and motivated to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Ugandan students who attend schools that are inadequate at best and dangerous at worst. I am extremely proud of our students, and we are blessed to have such a giving community.
Under our pillars of Learning and Leadership, the Mount Vernon faculty and staff have been busy utilizing research-based practices and 21st century skills. Their efforts demonstrate our firm commitment toward implementing design thinking, learning, and teaching. As a matter of fact, since last summer, Mount Vernon faculty members have completed more than 1,000 professional development hours. Seminars included technology integration 2.0, writing across the curricula, rules of engagement, influence of story, and 21st century skills. Supporting faculty in pursuit of professional development opportunities is a major priority for the School and we are pleased to announce the 2011 Mount Vernon Fellows – Nicole Martin, Melissa Rothbard, Jenny Novoselsky, Samantha Flowers, and Ashley Glover. This summer, these teachers will participate in innovative professional development opportunities at Harvard’s Project Zero, The Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Learning and Brain Summer Institute, and the C.S. Lewis Oxford and Cambridge Institute. I must also commend several faculty members and administrators who are completing programs at the master’s level. We are very proud of our faculty and appreciate their dedication.
Additional achievements this fall included:
- Two members of the Class of 2010 were recognized by the National Merit Scholar Corporation.
- The Performing and Visual Arts claimed GISA all-select band members, Georgia National Fair award winners, a Georgia Music Educators Association Honor Chorus member, and a Georgia Theatre Conference all-star cast member.
- Twelve varsity athletes were recognized as all-region athletes in football, softball, or volleyball.
- The Middle School football and volleyball teams were crowned NAML Champions.
- Thirty-four top college representatives throughout major regions met with Upper School students, and in the spring the Upper School will host a college fair.
- Lower School students read more than 45 million words through Accelerated Reader.
- The Mustang Golf Classic raised $25,000—funds will used for the new Field House.
- To date, the Mount Vernon Fund has raised $330,000 with 100% Board and faculty participation.
- More than doubling last year’s amount, Mount Vernon raised more than $225,000 from the School community through the Georgia Private Tax Credit program for financial aid.
- Lower School students participated in 18 off-campus field trips including the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Carlos Museum, Alliance Theater, and many more.
- Four fun filled retreats (sixth, eighth, grades 9-11, and seniors) were organized for growth, bonding, and preparation.
- At the annual Tech Fair, 439 entries were on display highlighting web 2.0 from blogs to Prezis.
- Mount Vernon launched the Center for Design Thinking with six D.E.E.P. projects already underway.
Reflecting on the past is as much about focusing on our future. As the 2006-2011 Strategic Plan comes to an end, the School remains committed to advancing Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in an aggressive, comprehensive way impacting every facet of the Mount Vernon community. Recently, we launched the next strategic planning process for the future of the School and most importantly for our students. The philosophy behind the planning process, the guiding principles, the strategic framework, community involvement and input, and the progress of the process will be fully explored in the winter edition of the Mount Vernon magazine. In addition, the feature article, “Academic Innovation at Mount Vernon: Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders,” will highlight the innovation in action at the School through The Center for Design Thinking, the Writing Initiative, Upper School science, Lower School technology integration, and many other academic areas. Every family, alumnus/a, and grandparent will receive this quality publication later in the month.
We know everyone will want to mark their calendars for April 15, as it will be an exciting day in the life of the School. The inaugural Mustang Rally will be unveiled where all students in Preschool through Grade 12 will participate to celebrate school spirit, promote campus unity, and create pride in individual and group achievement. Ingredients for the day include an all student parade, field day races, Upper School “powder puff” competitions, faculty/student competitions, family picnic with entertainment, carnival-type rides, and much more. Co-Chairs Elizabeth Jones and Nancy Calhoun and their committed volunteer team have been hard at work for this special day, and all proceeds will go towards technology integration throughout Mount Vernon.
Academically, I want you to be aware that in April of 2012, the School will begin administering the CTP 4 (ERB) yearly standardized achievement test in lieu of the Iowa Test for Basic Skills (ITBS). As we have discussed, the School’s intent is to assess our students using a higher standard in comparing MVPS students against students from similar independent schools rather than a large pool of mainly public and private school students across the country. As a result, the faculty and staff are taking the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year to conduct an intense study of comparing the standards of the CTP 4 (quantitative analysis and verbal reasoning) with the School’s current set of curriculum standards in each grade-level (grades 2-8) as a way to identify strengths and areas of improvement before next year. Kindergarten through grade 2 will participate in the ERB Children’s Progress Program, an adaptive assessment, administered to students three times during the school year. CTP 4 and Children’s Progress will allow teachers and parents to “answer the important questions about student performance in key areas of school achievement.” Also, strongly endorsed by educational associations, leading researchers, and independent schools, Mount Vernon will be the first school, public or private in the state of Georgia, to administer the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA). Only given to Upper School students, this 21st century online assessment measures critical thinking through reading, writing and problem solving. Though we remain focused on preparation for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP exams, we believe the CWRA will enhance and enrich performance on these high-stakes standardized tests.
As we continue to explore new possibilities, there is without a doubt a sense of energy and momentum building at Mount Vernon. Over the last three months the Office of Admissions, with the assistance of students and parent volunteers, welcomed large groups of prospective families on both the Lower School and Glenn campuses during tours and at our annual Open House. Surpassing previous years, visitors have participated in campus tours, met with administrators, and observed classrooms. With your support in referring prospective families with the “Share the Love” campaign last fall, we believe our school will see growth next year. This month also promises to be extremely busy with numerous scheduled campus tours and an Open House scheduled for January 29 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
As you are, I am excited about our future. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School is blessed by your generosity and your involvement. Each day I come in contact with confident, articulate, engaging, giving, and respectful students—your children. Thank you for inviting us to be a part of their lives.