Wild Cat Blog
The latest and greatest from the Weller community
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.
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.
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.
Over 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:
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.
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.