Mount Vernon Plans for 2012-13 Include New Family Welcome Center
A new Family Welcome Center at Mount Vernon Community School will give families access to bilingual staff and the Internet, Principal Peter Balas announced this week. Designed to make the school a more welcoming place for students, staff, families and members of the extended community, the center is one of several priorities for the new school year, which will start on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) Superintendent Morton Sherman announced in April that Mount Vernon would begin a transformation process focused on improving student achievement. He appointed Balas, then executive associate principal T.C. Williams High School, to lead that process. Balas assumed his responsibilities as Mount Vernon's principal on May 3.
"Since May 3, we have accomplished more than any of us expected," Balas said. "The staff rolled up their sleeves and embraced the notion of transforming our school and being involved in all major decisions."
"We have filled 20 staff vacancies after conducting hundreds of interviews. We wanted to be certain that we have the best teachers who can communicate with all of our families," Balas said.
The school remains committed to its Spanish dual language program, Balas said. "Over the next several months, we will work with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive three to five-year plan for this program. In the meantime, our 2012-13 daily schedule contains the proper amount of dual language instructional time."
This year, Mount Vernon staff will focus on improving math and reading scores at all levels. The math team has worked with Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology staff and ACPS Curriculum and Instruction staff to develop a plan for math instruction. The 75-minute daily math block will be filled with strategies that strengthen both math and literacy skills. Mount Vernon math teachers will begin training on the cycle of continuous improvement, which has been implemented successfully at Cora Kelly.
The reading team chose Success For All, a research-proven program that is designed to address the needs of all students.
"The staff made this decision after visiting Patrick Henry Elementary School and Jefferson-Houston School, both of which already implemented the program," Balas said. "The staff also conducted research, reviewed data and collaborated with the English Language Learning and Special Education staffs before selecting SFA as our approach to reading instruction."
Teachers will continue to train on the latest version of the ACPS curriculum. This will be the strategy used for teaching science, social studies and writing. A Spanish literacy block, based on the successful approach used at Escuela Key in Arlington, will be available for students enrolled in the dual language program. Students who are not enrolled in the dual language program will be scheduled for language acquisition instruction.
The school will not pursue implementation of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme at this time.
"We have decided that while the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme has so much to offer our school, now is not the right time," Balas said. "We will keep the conversation alive to determine what needs to be solidly in place for us to re-examine this program."
"We have selected the Conductor as our new mascot, and red and blue as our new school colors. The Conductor is reflective of the caboose outside the school, and the colors are in keeping with those at T. C. Williams," Balas said.
"I am very excited about the changes we have made and those that we will continue to make as we go forward," Balas said.
Mount Vernon Community School is in the heart of Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood and serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school offers an English-Spanish dual language program and operates on a modified calendar. The school year begins Aug. 1 and ends in June 2013, with extended learning sessions in October and April. Students may participate in four weeks of Extended Learning Opportunities during the October and April Breaks.
For further information, contact Balas at 703-706-4460 or .