<![CDATA[Steuart W. Weller PTO - Blog]]>Wed, 02 Jan 2019 09:37:37 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Weller's Planned 2020 Expansion]]>Sat, 20 Oct 2018 12:30:00 GMThttp://wellerpto.com/blog/wellers-planned-2020-expansion
At the October PTO meeting, there was discussion about Weller being slated to expand in 2020. I reached out to Ashburn District Representative to the Loudoun County School Board, Eric Hornberger who was kind enough to send an extremely thorough response to my inquiry. We have invited Eric to a future PTO meeting to discuss this in more detail..... The below is directly from Eric.
 
The planned three-classroom expansion of SWES is part of a broader elementary school classroom expansion initiative within the school division that began a few years ago.  It is essentially increasing the size of all similarly designed elementary schools in areas of the county where additional capacity are anticipated to be needed, either because of continued residential development and/or the recent expansion of full-day kindergarten throughout the school division.  The elementary schools built using the same 44 classroom prototype would gain a similar three-classroom addition to bring them up to a total of 47 classrooms.  This is the number of classrooms in elementary schools under the last single-story ES prototype in use within the school division beginning with Cardinal Ridge ES which opened several years ago (LCPS has since gone to a slightly larger – 48 classroom – two-story prototype that is still in use for all new construction). Six such three-classroom additional project on the prior 44 classroom ES prototype have already been successfully implemented at Arcola, Creighton’s Corner, Legacy, Liberty, Pinebrook, and Rosa Lee Carter elementary schools.  These projects were funded in FY 2017, began in Spring 2017, and were completed in the Summer of 2018.  These additions have enabled the school division to respond continued growth in the county’s student population while also simultaneously implementing expanding access to  full-day kindergarten.
Both Dominion Trail ES (DTES) and SWES are the next schools to be expanded under this broader plan, though DTES is a much smaller school but with identified space for expansion. The planned additions of DTES and SWES are to be funded in FY 2020 and anticipated to be in use by the start of the 2022-23 school year.  There are also potential plans for more schools to get three-classroom additions, though as of yet, have not been designated to specific schools and would likely not be of a similar prototype to SWES (like DTES).  Planning for these all these projects, including SWES, can be found in the latest adopted Capital Improvement Program (CIP) at the following link:
 
https://www.lcps.org/cms/lib/VA01000195/Centricity/domain/66/cip/School%20Board%20Adopted%20FY19-24%20CAPP%20CIP%2011282017web.pdf
 
Specifically you can find the identified future elementary expansion projects on pages 72-73 in the adopted FY 2019-2024 CIP.  Additionally, you can see the projected student enrollment levels and anticipated capacity utilization impact of the proposed expansion of both DTES and SWES on page 128.
 
As already indicated above, the design plan for the three-classroom expansion project at SWES is similar to that used for several projects that have already been implemented for schools of the same 44 classroom prototype design. The schematic of that design can be found at the link below but may be in reverse, depending on the specific physical layout of the existing school:
 
https://www.lcps.org/cms/lib/VA01000195/Centricity/Domain/119/CR%20ADDITIONS%20-%20Presentation.pdf
 
Earlier this year, the Superintendent preliminarily proposed to the Board a switching of the proposed expansion from SWES to Hutchinson Farm ES.  Very little information was provided as rationale for the change.  Following my and other Board members concerns over this and other proposed preliminary changes to the current CIP, the Superintendent withdrew his preliminary proposal to await re-analysis using the latest student enrollment data and associated student growth projections generated from the student counts from the start of the 2018-2019 school year.  This is the typical process used in making revisions to the CIP which is done annually in the Fall.  The School Board is anticipated to begin the process of its CIP revision in late October or early November with the Superintendent’s Proposed 2020-2025 CIP based on the latest student enrollment and growth projection data.
 
The official 2018-2019 enrollment numbers are being shared with the School Board at its regular business meeting tomorrow night.  To see the data that will be presented, please see the link below:
 
https://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/files/B58N3H5DCA60/$file/September%2028%202018%20w%20Capacity%20Utilization.pdf

You will see from the data that will be presented, enrollment at SWES is slightly greater than anticipated at 817 students in a facility with a capacity of 904 students (currently 90% of capacity). This is 17 students greater than the enrollment projections for the school in October 2017 and will likely increase previously forecast growth projections going forward for the school within the next CIP.  In turn, this should increase the eventual need for the classroom addition, not decrease it.  However, depending on the realized enrollment and growth projections at other schools, the prioritization of the project could be impacted in both the Superintendent’s Proposed CIP this Fall and the next CIP ultimately adopted by the School Board later this year.
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<![CDATA[Interview with.... Anthony Borradori (PTO VP)]]>Sat, 13 Oct 2018 11:18:25 GMThttp://wellerpto.com/blog/interview-with-anthony-borradori-pto-vp
Tell us a little about yourself.

I am originally from California and have been living in the DC area for about 8 years. I moved to Ashburn 4 years ago and quite enjoy the area. I love to go out for long rides on my bicycle and am an avid cook. Recently I’ve been perfecting the art of smoking foods. 

I have one first grade daughter - Natalia. She and I like to spend our time going to movies, shopping for clothes, dressing in our tux and gown for operas and musicals at the Kennedy Center, and playing with Jupy, the most adorable Bedlington Terrier. We also travel quite a bit. Whether it is back to California to see family, jumping on a plane for a day trip to New York, or taking a road trip with my girlfriend and her son, we love to get out and experience new things. 
Most importantly, I love being around family and friends. I’m lucky to have a great group of people around me, especially Natalia, my girlfriend Melanie, and her son Clay. And I am thrilled that I am making new connections all the time through Steuart Weller and the PTO. 
1. What are your impressions of Weller since you joined the family in the last year?

Steuart Weller Elementary cares about their students, families, and staff. I see so much work going on that is directed towards welcoming everyone and creating a strong community. The school is also dedicated to providing the best education to its students. Such care is given to providing a learning environment that provides many opportunities for the students. 

Each individual I have interacted with at the school has been kind and supportive. They are always willing to work with me on anything that is needed. The extended Weller network is just as great. I’ve connected with so many families which makes me feel part of a bigger community. 

2. How did you get involved with the PTO?

I joined the PTO when my daughter started as a kindergartener last year. I wanted to bring skills I have as a project manager to the table and assist with anything I could. The first event I volunteered for was Spooky Bingo. Seeing how much the students and their families loved this event made me want to take part in all the PTO activities. Being a single dad that works full-time meant I had limited time to offer, but there were always opportunities to get involved that worked around my schedule. 

3. What inspired you to serve as Vice President?

I remember when I was in elementary school and my mom was on the PTO board. It always felt great seeing her around the school and knowing that she took my education and the support of it so seriously. When the opportunity came for me do the same for my daughter I jumped on it. I felt by volunteering to be the Vice President I could work to better the school as an active participant in the process. I wanted to show my daughter how I could support her, the school, and the community by giving some of my time. 

I also knew that if I became the VP I could work to increase parent involvement in the school and in decision making and directing of the PTO as well as build a tighter community. All of these things are what led me to take on this role. 

4. What is your favorite PTO event?

My favorite PTO event is Spooky Bingo. There is so much excitement in the gym that night. Students and their families come together for a night of food and fun. I see kids in costumes excited to walk around the gym before the game starts and it gets me excited. You can feel the tension in the room increase as people get that much closer to a “Bingo!” Then a few lucky winners can be seen smiling all the way up the stage as they win a round and select a prize. To be a part of that excitement and have an opportunity to spend a night with my family, friends, and the community means a lot to me. 
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<![CDATA[Interview With...Christine Fahim]]>Sat, 15 Sep 2018 07:00:00 GMThttp://wellerpto.com/blog/interview-withchristine-fahim
Today, we highlight Mrs. Fahim. Mrs. Fahim will be leading the Innovation Lab this year and through her efforts, the PTO was able to secure a $10,000 donation to fund the first phase of its development. Learn more about Mrs. Fahim and what she has planned for the year!
About Christine
This is my fifth year working in Loudoun County Public Schools. I grew up in Roanoke, VA and then attended UVA where I earned my Bachelors in Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Elementary Education. Very early on in my career, I realized a love of working with technology in the classroom because I saw the way it really unlocked some amazing opportunities for my students. And thus, I decided to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Designing Digital Learning in Schools. I completed that degree through George Mason University last year and I am thrilled to get to take on this role at such an amazing school like Weller! My role as Instructional Facilitator for Technology (IFT) is one in which I get to co-plan and co-teach with teachers to help facilitate lessons that have technology integrated into the curriculum that is already being taught so that it is more meaningful for students.    

What motivated you to want to lead the Innovation Lab Project?
I had seen and heard of a few other schools transforming their traditional computer labs into a more innovative and collaborative space so I was intrigued. I've also seen research that indicates the importance of having a "dedicated" space outside of the regular classroom that serves as sort of a "hub" of innovation, creation, and collaboration. When I found out that we would be getting a technology refresh this year and losing all of our big desktop computers, I knew it was the perfect time for us to explore transforming our space. 
How do you envision the Innovation Lab long-term?
My hope is that the Innovation Lab would be an ever-evolving and growing space that will be a catalyst for student-centered learning. I want to take feedback from teachers and students as we work to create this space together. What I DO know, is that I hope the Innovation Lab will always be a place where students are excited to visit and feel safe taking risks with something new as they engage in meaningful learning experiences. 

When can students expect the Innovation Lab to be student ready this year?
The furniture we ordered through the generous grant from the Graduate Management Admission Council is expected to arrive sometime in mid-October. Once we have that and a few technology pieces, we will be ready to launch with students! I expect students to be able to visit the lab before the end of the first quarter.
 
Why should students and Parents be excited about the Innovation Lab?
Students should be excited because we will explore new technologies and have fun! Parents should be excited because the Innovation Lab will open up new opportunities for learning, specifically in the fields of computer science and coding! These are not only growing fields in our economy and society, but also provide valuable thinking skills that are beneficial for any learner. 

Who do you think will get the most out of the innovation lab this year?
Of course, our focus is always student learning! So, the easy answer is that our students will get the most out of the Innovation Lab. But, I think the teachers will also enjoy visiting with their students. 

What are the three items you want most for the lab?
  1. I would love to add a set of Google Expeditions Virtual Reality (VR) devices to our lab! 
  2. Interactive Panel for video editing and instruction
  3. Bloxels for educational video game design

Use of technology is a hot button issue right now, especially among younger children. Do you have any advice for parents trying to determine the right amount of technology for their children?

Great question! As much as I love technology, I absolutely understand the need for moderation. Although technology has opened up new opportunities for us, it has certainly created a more complicated world for us to live in. With this comes an incredible need for us to help our students and children learn the importance of balance. As we have these Digital Citizenship conversations in school, it is imperative that these conversations continue at home. Keeping our students safe is our top priority and we cannot do this without knowing what they are doing online. Every family has its own needs and lifestyle and, therefore, I do not think there is one correct answer for amount of technology use, but I think it ultimately comes down to balance. There are some really great resources for parents on Common Sense Media that you can find here: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/parent-concerns
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<![CDATA[ASAP Update - Flex Academies Q&A]]>Sun, 09 Sep 2018 15:33:03 GMThttp://wellerpto.com/blog/asap-update-flex-academies-qaOver the last several weeks, there have been many questions raised regarding our transition to Flex Academies to manage and administer ASAP. Below are answers to the most frequent questions we have heard. If you still have questions, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail the PTO

Why did we switch to Flex Academies?

Over the last several years, the after school activities program (ASAP) has been a volunteer administered organization. This means that payment processing for parents, pay for teachers, attendance and staffing were all handled by volunteers. As ASAP continued to grow in popularity, finding enough volunteers to support the program became difficult and had a negative impact on the overall quality of the program. 

Flex Academies provided Weller with professional management which helped us eliminate the reliance on volunteers providing a sustainable approach to ASAP while ensuring consistent quality for the students. Without the transition to Flex, ASAP may not have happened at all this year.

OK, are there any other benefits to parents and students?
Yes! By moving to Flex there have been several positive changes. They include:
  • Larger portfolio of courses offered
  • Seamless online registration & payment
  • Professional administration
  • Addition of a third ASAP session during the school year
  • More than $1,500 in fees to PayPal have been eliminated
That sounds good, but why isn’t my favorite class offered anymore?
There are many reasons why classes aren’t being offered. Some are related to the transition and some aren’t. Unrelated to Flex, some teachers simply did not have the same availability as they had in the past and had to eliminate courses or push to later sessions. Related to Flex, some courses with a-typical schedules could not be added at this time. The new, shorter schedule (3 8-week sessions instead of 2 10-week sessions) were the reason for this.

Please be aware we take feedback seriously and want to provide courses that have a positive impact on our students. This is our first session with Flex and we are continuing to refine the process. We are investigating how we can fit all the courses you love into the new system.

Why did prices go up?
Not surprisingly, with a professional organization managing ASAP the cost of the program increased. To minimize the expected price increase, PTO reduced the amount of money it earned per registration to $10. Other factors impacting price include the cost of supplies, the length of a program and the payment structure of the instructor. We expect prices to stabilize from here on out.

I saw drama was not available, is it going to happen?
YES! We are excited to announce that through diligent efforts of the instructors, Flex and the school administration we have been able to offer drama at a lower than anticipated price. This took a bit of time to get sorted out (remember, this is our first session with Flex) but it has been resolved. We are happy to announce you can register for the drama class right now!

How can I request a class or request to teach a class?
Another benefit of working with Flex is they have a defined process for becoming a vendor. As mentioned earlier, our portfolio of classes is larger than ever and Flex is hoping to expand it further to offer benefits to the community. The PTO will regularly solicit feedback on the offerings to provide feedback to Flex, but if you have suggestions, requests or are a vendor hoping to run a course just reach out to the ASAP Coordinator Rasha Saad at ASAP@Wellerpto.com

The PTO is committed to open and transparent communication in regards to ASAP and all the business we conduct. If you have any questions, comments or concerns there are many ways you can reach out to us. You can e-mail anyone on the executive board starting with President@wellerpto.com, you can attend PTO meetings, you can message us on Facebook or alert the office and they can channel your feedback to us. Expect ongoing updates in regards to Flex and all other activities that impact the school.

And a last Reminder: Registration for Flex Academies is open through September 17, so if you’re interested register now!
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<![CDATA[Interview With....]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:52:57 GMThttp://wellerpto.com/blog/interview-with
...Karyn Baskette

Developing beautiful artwork for the PTO to use throughout the year
At Weller, we have so many great volunteers helping make us successful. To highlight their efforts and help you get to know them better, we are going to interview them so you can learn more about who they are and how they help. This post will focus on Karyn Baskette who is bringing creativity and flair to the PTOs flyers, logo and website this year.

About Karyn

I've been doing graphic design for almost 20 years and have owned my own company, Yondee Designs, for the last 11 years. I work with corporations and associations and my focus area is primarily anything print. I graduated from JMU (Go Dukes!) with a BA in Media Arts and Design. When I'm not designing for the corporate world, I also have an Etsy shop, Yondee Celebrations, and love creating whimsical pieces for personal needs like custom invitations, holiday cards, wall art, baby and bridal pieces. My husband Steve and I are busy raising our three boys Brody, 6 (first), Bryan, 8.5 (third) and AJ,11 (sixth). On any given Saturday, you'll find us running from game to game on the soccer field. In our down time, we love game night, dance parties or doing an art project. It's awesome to see my boys have a passion for art like me! You can check out my website at yondeedesigns.com or my etsy page at www.etsy.com/shop/yondeecelebrations

You're fairly new to 
Weller, what are your impressions in the last year?

We came to Weller from another Ashburn school so the transition was easy for my boys. The school itself was very similar, in fact the layout is even the exact same! One thing I felt was missing was the sense of community. I think our challenge at Weller is that families are spread across many neighborhoods and it would be great to somehow have more of a community feel. Teachers and kids have all been great, but would I would love to see more events like Muffins with Mom, Donuts with Dad or activities like Parents Night Out where you can get to know more people. The more people you know, the more connected and engaged you feel. All of that to me, leads to more involvement and morale for the school.

How did you get involved with the PTO?

I have never been on any PTA or PTO before. I've always given my time to my child's classroom and helped individual teachers. But, last year I was new and really didn't know a thing about Weller so getting into the PTO made sense to me. Also, my friend Heidi had signed up and asked if I would work on her committee. I work full-time so felt uneasy about how much time I could give, but ultimately realized it was a wonderful decision to jump in and join a committee with a friend. I committed to helping her with any graphic visuals she would need since that is my area of expertise. We have all strengths and gifts and I encourage everyone to jump in and find a way to get get involved. I've only been involved for a short time, but really have enjoyed giving back.

What was your inspiration for the re-branding of the Weller logo?

I loved working with the logo! This summer as I was creating the corporate sponsorship materials, I realized Weller didn't have a true logo. We have a beautiful custom artwork of the wild cats created by our art teacher, Mrs. Galvin. I wanted to keep her vision and wild cats, but add typography to it to create a strong brand for our school. The shield was a perfect shape for the artwork and symbolized strength and safety within our school. The wild cats come out of the shield just a bit to add depth and movement symbolizing our school not stuck in a box, but always growing and pushing the limits for our children. The block lettering is also strong and bold which is easy to read on many mediums.  
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