By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 15, 2018 | 12:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – One of Dinwiddie County’s elementary schools has been recognized by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the state board of education for their efforts to foster environments of advanced learning and achievement.
On the heels of the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Governor Northam closed out June by announcing Sunnyside Elementary School was among 15 school divisions and over 200 of the Commonwealth’s schools to receive the 2018 Virginia Board of Education’s Distinguished Achievement Awards as part of the state’s Virginia Index of Performance, or VIP awards. This award affirms that the schools met all of the state and federal benchmarks set for them and that they have made progress toward the goals of the governor and the state board of education.
“The criteria for these awards provide short-term and long-term goals for principals, superintendents, and communities as they develop the improvement plans all schools must have under the Board of Education’s new accreditation standards,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James F. Lane, who was also the former superintendent of nearby Chesterfield County Public Schools.
According to the state, the VIP program “recognizes schools and divisions that exceed state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals established by the Governor and the Board of Education.”
Only schools and school divisions that have met all state and federal accountability requirements for two consecutive years – and have not experienced significant irregularities in the administration of state assessments – are eligible to earn VIP awards.
For Governor Northam, these awards serve to praise those who work daily to carry out one of the most important jobs one can take in this life: the education of the next generation of Virginians.
“The teachers, principals and support staff in these schools share a commitment to academic excellence and meeting the needs of every learner,” said Governor Northam. “I congratulate our educators, school administrators, and the students of these great schools for achieving the Commonwealth’s highest award for schoolwide excellence.”
Those views were further echoed by Virginia Board of Education President Daniel Gecker, who remarked, “The Virginia Index of Performance provides a means for the Board of Education to recognize schools that far exceed the minimum requirements of state accreditation and federal accountability. It provides an incentive for continuous improvement for all schools. I congratulate all of these divisions and schools as they celebrate their success.”
Of schools that surround the Tri-Cities region, Prince George’s Walton and South Elementary Schools and Dinwiddie’s Sunnyside Elementary School were the only two school divisions to receive a VIP award for performance during the 2017-2018 school year.
When asked, Dinwiddie Schools Superintendent Dr. Kari Weston was pleased that the county’s students, teachers, and staff were praised on a statewide level by the Commonwealth’s education leaders.
“There is no better place to learn than Dinwiddie County Schools and this recent recognition is further evidence of that,” she said. “Sunnyside Elementary is a special place to learn. All of the students reside in the McKenney area, many of the staff have spent their entire careers in the school, and strong, long-lasting partnerships provide a great deal of support.”
She continued, “Sunnyside Elementary is a true community school and an example of what is possible when you employ smart, dedicated people, forge strong relationships with the community and focus on meaningful work every minute of every day. The Sunnyside Team is so deserving of this award and my heart is full of pride when I think about what this recognition will mean to the Dinwiddie Community. ”
Those views were echoed by Dinwiddie County School Board Chair William Haney who praised all of the members of Sunnyside Elementary for their efforts during the year to attain such an honor.
“I speak for all of our school board members, as well as our senior staff, that we are very proud of the accomplishments of Sunnyside Elementary School for receiving this coveted award,” the chairman said. “We know that we have some of the best teachers and staff in the entire Commonwealth, and we feel very strongly that we have a strong cadre of leaders at all levels of our School Division. The Sunnyside Elementary School Staff work hard each and every day to educate, encourage and support our children. The success of our kids is a direct result of collaboration with teachers, our building staff, and the parents.”
For Haney, the award Sunnyside Elementary received is more than just an accolade, it’s an example of the commitment made by every teacher and staff member that works there and at all of the county’s schools.
“We want our students, teachers, and staff, as well as the parents of those students, to know that their success is the result of a team approach to education, ” he remarked. “It was the result of good leadership in the classroom, hard work by everyone involved and committed. The Dinwiddie County School Board is very appreciative of this hard work and commitment.”
“This year’s success demonstrates what we have known all along, that we have good leadership, outstanding educators and motivated students that can and are highly successful,” he continued. “We are proud of our staff, that work hard each and every day, to make sure that our children receive a quality education. We really are blessed to have a highly motivated team of administrators, teachers and support personnel (to include our bus drivers, cafeteria workers and office staff) at all of our campuses. While our Board Members and Central Office Staff visit the schools on a regular basis and convey our appreciation for their hard work and success, it is really great when others outside the Division recognize our staff for their hard work and success.”
That sentiment was shared by Dr. Weston.
“We often joke that we are one of the best-kept secrets in the Commonwealth; however, with our schools receiving attention like this, that will not be the case much longer,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the county school division has received an honor from the state. In 2016 and 2017, Dinwiddie’s Midway Elementary received a Board of Education Excellence Award, which, which is the VIP program’s second-tier honor where divisions and schools also met all state and federal accountability benchmarks and made significant progress toward goals for increased student achievement and expanded educational opportunities set by the board.
In 2015, Midway earned a Board of Education Distinguished Achievement Award.