By Maeve Curtin
At the School Board’s September 24th work session, we discussed two new system-wide rollouts: bus cameras and a standardized rubric for teacher performance.
The new bus cameras were officially announced on October 17th and will be operational as of Monday, October 28th. Starting November 4th, tickets will start to be issued to any driver who passes a stopped bus when it’s stop sign is out, it’s lights are flashing, and it’s brake is on.
The installation of bus cameras on many of the Falls Church City School buses is in response to concerns for children’s safety when cars pass buses that are stopped picking up kids. While FCCPS parents raised this issue, the standardized teacher rubric was created at the request of FCCPS staff, so that every staff member, all of whom need to be evaluated every year because of new state regulations would be evaluated in a transparent and fair manner.
The bus cameras have been installed on six buses and more cameras will continue to be installed as deemed necessary. These cameras, developed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) are currently being used to track data and ensure any potential flaws are worked out before they go into full operation.
All the information from the bus cameras is transmitted wirelessly to ATS headquarters where all the traffic violations are processed and tickets are expected be in mailboxes 5 days after the violation occurred. Central office staff, ATS, city employees, and the Falls Church Police department are all working together to ensure this program is implemented effectively and that overtime violations decrease so that the safety of FCCPS’s students increases.
For more information about the FCCPS School Bus Safety Program, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjqmpMzmMFU
Aside from the bus cameras, teacher evaluations were also discussed during the September School Board work session. According the Dr, Jones, the new teacher evaluation rubric is the result of hours and hours of work put in by a committee of teachers and staff members from every FCCPS school to ensure a broad representation of content areas and opinions. Because of new state regulations that require teachers to be evaluated every year, principals of every FCCPS school must now observe every teacher in their building at least once a week. These observations lead up to a summative evaluation that heavily emphasizes student growth.
Teachers are given the opportunity to design some of their own goals for the growth and learning of their students, but the state requires that SOLs be factored into this evaluation. This evaluation document has been condensed significantly from previous years to reflect what matters most to teachers and make it easier to understand. Teachers are evaluated on: professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of and for student learning, learning environment, professionalism, and student academic progress. The full document draft can be found at this link:
By Allie Plata
Integrating technology into academic curriculum has become a huge part of modern day learning. Students at George Mason have access to numerous online sources and mobile apps including Naviance, PowerSchool and Schoology, only to list a few. While students are able to use these features that are provided by the school, some teachers choose to utilize Facebook and Twitter as well. This brings up the question, is it ok for teachers to connect with students through social media sites not affiliated with the school?
In the past two years, I have witnessed the Twitter boom. As a sophomore, if you were to ask me if I ever thought my AP government teacher were to tweet government questions at me I would promptly reply “No!” However, if you were to ask the current sophomores this question, they wouldn’t think twice about it being out of the norm.
AP US Government teacher Pam Mahony is one of the many teachers at Mason who chooses to use Twitter as a way to connect with her students. Mahony tweets US government related tweets, to help keep her students updated and informed on the status and decisions of the government.
“It is a big trend in education right now to use Twitter for communication, professional development, and class activities and because things are so dynamic right now in the government, Twitter provides a great way to keep up and get analysis from people who are usually much smarter than me,” said Mahony.
Mahony is one of the many Falls Church City Public Schools teachers who began to use Twitter as a means of informing students about school-related topics. In fact, at the beginning of the school year the FCCPS staff was encouraged to set up Twitter accounts as a way of communicating with students and families.
Principal Tyrone Byrd is an avid Twitter user as well, along with Assistant Principals Matthew Hills and Jeanette Seabridge. All of their tweets are linked directly to the school website. But while many teachers are starting to dive into this social media, others choose to stick with what the school pays for and provides us with.
“I use Schoology for the purpose of communicating with students… Twitter is not my cup of tea,” said history teacher Mr. Paul Ferentinos.
As a student, I enjoy being able to see updates on my social media. I enjoy scrolling through my Twitter feed and seeing what students in Mrs. Tooze’s eleventh grade English are up to, it’s great. However, with this popular trend of teachers making Twitter and Facebook accounts that are easily available for student access, there must be more guidelines on how we can and should be able to interact with teachers.
Some teachers recognize this blurred line too. English teacher (and Lasso advisor) Mr. Peter Laub for example, has a policy that only graduated students can be his friends on Facebook and when it comes to Twitter he will only follow a student if they ask him to.
Other teachers and administrators don’t seem to have this policy. I have heard my friends talk about teachers following them on social media and not all students feel comfortable with the concept of a teacher or principal seeing the things they post about their personal lives.
“It’s not that I felt uncomfortable, but it did catch me a little bit off guard,” said Senior Dana Sembera about being followed by an administrator on Twitter. “I definitely pay more attention to exactly what I am saying on it now.”
As mentioned before, many of the administrators and teachers within GM have their Twitter account linked to the school website. When teachers follow students without permission, or even with permission, an unintended audience can very easily access a student’s personal life.
Obviously the goal is to notify the community of what’s happening within the schools, to let parents know what students at GM are up to on a daily basis and most importantly to update students on any school related activities. But to me, with such high emphasis on using technology and using social media sites like Twitter, why have no guidelines or restrictions been enforced?
This being said, the emphasis on technology is higher than ever. Each year all FCCPS teachers are critiqued and rated on a broad spectrum of how they teach their classes. The rubric emphasizes technology use, and interestingly enough, to get an “exemplary” rating within certain sections, teachers must use some aspect of social media/collaborative technology.
I’ve watched my mom who is a second grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary start using Twitter as well. She, along with every other teacher at TJ, has been encouraged to start using this social media outlet. She started with her personal Twitter account and used it to Tweet information to parents, but soon after realized that following the vibrant personalities on the channel Bravo, wasn’t entirely suitable for a second grade classroom.
She has since created a professional account for school related tweets that reaches out to the parents of her classroom, and has kept her music and television interests to stay on her personal account. Without any specified direction from the FCCPS technology team, I have had to show her the ropes of the “Twitter-sphere” (#repeatedly).
This is yet another example of FCCPS not providing any informative instructions or conduct when it comes to using the social media sites that are so highly stressed, such as Twitter.
If teachers are encouraged to use their FCCPS emails and create separate accounts, maybe students should be prompted to as well. Before FCCPS decides to put so much pressure on students and teachers to start using social media to interact, there have to be stricter guidelines enforced. Right now this situation is a blur and until an FCCPS official steps in to define the steps to proceed, this won’t change.
By Erin McFall
Have you ever wondered what your teachers listen to? If Mrs. Hawkesworth rocks out to hip-hop on the way to work? Or if, beneath that unsuspecting aura, Dr. Mecca jams out to reggae? In this new feature, “Teacher Playlists with”, we’ll bring you a bit closer to your teachers through their choice in music.
This week, The Lasso’s investigations led to PE and Drivers Education teacher Brandon Dye. Dye, a man of many tastes, enjoys a variety of music ranging from country to hip-hop.
“I like [almost] everything- eighties, country, rock… but no Miley Cyrus, no classical, no Lady Gagá…and her name is [definitely] Lady Gagá…with an accent,” insisted Dye. “She’s crazy, I’m honestly scared of her.”
According to Dye he’ll listen to almost anything except rap, classical, and techno. “I like “The Monster Mash”…because it’s a graveyard smash,” he added with a smile, referring to the song by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Killers. “I know all the words.”
Dye also enjoys eighties and nineties songs plus a few country artists.
“I like ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham, ‘Driftaway’ by Uncle Kracker, ‘Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty, and some classic country songs. I like George Straight, Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw,” Cue Dye’s best Michelle Tanner voice: “Tim McGraw, you still got it dude!”
Mr. Dye’s Playlist:
- “The Monster Mash” by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers
- Lonely Island Songs
- “Last Christmas” George Michael/Wham
- “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line
- Anything on country station 98.7, “I love commercial free Tuesdays…I play it in PE,” added Dye.
Check the Lasso next week to see the next featured teacher playlist.
By Tara Holman
“Shame to him whose cruel striking kills for faults of his own liking!”— William Shakespeare exemplifies the heart of Measure for Measure through this insightful line. Written in the early 17th century, the play emphasizes justice with an underlying subplot of hypocrisy in leadership, the latter being Jonathan Munby’s primary focus. Munby’s rendition of Measure for Measure captures the essence of the classic Shakespearean comedy, whilst interweaving present day debates within the play.
Munby begins with a sensuous cabaret, capturing the spirit of immorality within the streets of Vienna between World War I and II. It is here that he makes his first attack. In the midst of the government’s difficulty to regulate the immorality, Munby ironically introduces the Duke (Kurt Rhoades) as an active participant of the immoral behavior. A pivotal scene between the Duke and a young male begs the question: do governmental laws have the ability or the authority to regulate one’s personal preference?
Illustrating the theme of hypocrisy, Munby outstandingly demonstrates the hypocrisy in leadership during a climactic scene between Angelo, played by Scott Parkinson, and Isabella, played by Miriam Silverman. The characters are cleverly maneuvered around the desk, as to symbolize Angelo maneuvering around the law to fit his desires. Embodied in the scene is Shakespeare’s blunt declaration of the hypocritical behavior of leaders “…bidding the law make court’sy to their will/ hooking both right and wrong to the appetite…” Munby subtly delivers this message through the actions of the characters. His creative implementation of ideals via multiple avenues such as stage directions, lighting and sound, complemented and increased the receptivity of the message. The synergy of this collaboration differentiates the production from a typical play.
Alexander Dodge (Set Designer), Walter Trarboch (Sound Designer) and Philips Rosenburg (Lightening Designer) deserve recognition for their technical contributions. Paired with the intimacy of the Lansburgh Theatre, the set and sound generated an aura that radiated throughout the entire theatre. Collectively, these aspects created an almost palpable feeling of sanctity during the monastery scene.
The cast performed exceptionally well and it was truly refreshing to see actors completely surrender to their roles. Jonathan Munby’s casting produced a high caliber of acting, which was especially evident in Avery Clark’s convincing role as Claudio and Miriam Silverman’s portrayal of Isabella. Silverman not only embodied the meekness and purity of a nun, but also personified the present-day strength of a woman. An additional nod goes to Scott Parkinson as Angelo, whose rapid transformation from staunch ruler to carnal deviant was made evident through his tremendous performance.
The only dissatisfaction lies with Kurt Rhoades as the Duke. Rhoades played his role as the friar adequately, but failed to exhibit any distinction between the friar and the Duke. Consequently, as a result of his one-dimensional persona, the audience was not able to relate with his two distinct characters, and his monologues and asides lacked emotional connection.
All and all, the simple effort to take on William Shakespeare’s controversial classic deserves commendation. Similarly, the ability of not only the cast, but of the whole company to transcend one of Shakespeare’s most challenging works to a thought-provoking and contemporary performance is worthy of praise. Moreover, Jonathan Munby’s addition of the Duke’s conflict with his sexual identity warrants admiration for his effort to relate current issues into the production. If you are seeking to experience a well-performed play with a captivating plotline, Measure for Measure will not disappoint.
By Andrea Philbin
The colors red, black, and white flash around the gym. Cries of encouragement from the crowd and intimidating growls from the players ring in my ears. On the sidelines I watch the eager players move swiftly across the green field. Intensity builds as the players line up in their 3-point stance and wait for the ball to be snapped to the quarterback. A gasp is taken before the whistle is blown and only let out until after the play is completed.
At Mason, excitement builds up for one special week each school year: Homecoming week. It’s a time when each class at Mason competes to see who is the most spirited. The widespread pride and school spirit is the highlight for many students’ fall seasons.
The senior class has traditionally won the title of spirit week each year. Whether this is because of favoring from judges or because they win fair-and-square, it is unknown. The competitiveness is heightened during this week not only between juniors and seniors, but all grades. The villain seems to always be the seniors; each grade wants nothing more than to see the seniors lose.
Because of this, seniors try harder to defend their crown during spirit week, and underclassmen prepare extensively to try and defeat the upperclassmen to become the underdog champion. This has pressured students to push harder and take the games way too seriously this year, leading to multiple injuries.
Seniors Alexandra Hairston, Poppy Mason, Alex Hill, and sophomore Erin McFall received injuries during spirit week that put them out of sports and other afterschool activities for weeks.
The powder puff game is a perfect example of this pressure. Both seniors and juniors played a dirty game of flag football, which included overly aggressive defense tactics and even tackling.
Hairston played in the girls’ powder puff game and was injured from the rough playing.
“I sprained my ankle from falling after being pushed. [Also,] I have a cut on my neck from a junior grabbing my neck rather than my flag,” said Hairston.
Mason was injured as well during the passionate game. “I basically just popped my knee cap out of place because someone hit me from the side,” said Mason. “I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't play the rest of the game because it was something I was really looking forward to and won't get to do again.”
The rivalry between juniors and seniors has always been adamant during homecoming week. However, this seemed a bit over board to be playing such a shockingly dirty game of flag football.
Not only the powder puff game, but the volleyboys game also had injuries too. Hill was injured badly during a practice leading up to the game.
“I sprained my ankle. [Another player] and I both went up for a ball while playing volleyball, but he ended up landing on the inside of my ankle and it rolled pretty badly.”
This injury was not due to aggression; however, it is still an example of how seriously the games are taken.
The most competitive part of homecoming week is the games held at the pep rally. The main gym is transformed from a dusty old gym to a lively battlefield filled with students cheering on their grades. Knockout, flag-tag, arm wrestling, and musical chairs are some of the games played by selected students who represent their grade. The overly competitive attitude shown on the powder puff field was also obvious during the pep rally.
Senior Michael Addo-Ashong participated in the musical chairs event, but lost to junior Ashley Brooks.
“[The games are] really nerve racking. As a senior, I felt I had to win—I was cheated,” said Addo-Ashong.
The tug-o-war challenge between the sophomores and freshmen led to yet another injury.
Mcfall broke multiple bones in her hand and knuckles. “[My] friend told me to wrap the rope around my hand so I did. Then the people behind me started pulling the rope before I did- so the rope just crunched my hand,” said McFall.
All of these injuries have put the students out of activities and sports, which they would be able to do if it wasn’t for the aggression and intensity.
“I had to miss one day of swim practice, two days of a swim meet, which was supposed to be a big meet for me, so I was really irritated. I have to have a cast on for 4 weeks. I can swim with my cast [since] it's waterproof, but its super heavy especially when it fills with water,” continued McFall.
“I am currently unable to complete my Candidate Fitness Assessment for the Air Force Academy,” said Hill.
The majority of students believe that winning is the most important thing when it comes to spirit week. Others just want to enjoy the games but are unable to because of over aggression.
Students should relax and enjoy spirit week in a sportsman-like manner. All grades in the future should take into consideration that it is just spirit week. An injury may be worth it in the moment, but not two weeks later while your limping down the hallway.
By Maeve Curtin
Maeve Curtin is the student representative to the Falls Church City School Board. If you have any concerns to bring forward, she can be reached at:
Standardized tests have been a large part of the American education system since the 1980s, with surges in popularity after The No Child Left Behind Act (2002) mandated annual testing in every state. These tests have been used to dictate the direction of American schools as our data shows a decline in student performance and ranks, putting The United States significantly lower than other developed nations.
While proponents of high stakes standardized tests say they are a fair and objective measurement of student achievement that hold teachers and school divisions accountable for student learning, the opposition to these tests is growing. Opponents say that use of standardized tests promotes an arbitrary curriculum and “teaching to the test” so that students are only expected to know basic facts about many topics, but are never taught to think critically and problem solve.
The question that now confronts leaders in education and school board’s across the nation is how effective these tests really are and if their usage is improving the quality of education. This is an issue that was brought up at the FCCPS Community Visioning Session on June 29th, 2013, and was discussed at school board work sessions on September 3rd, and September 24th. The Falls Church City Public School Board is considering adopting a resolution on high stakes testing asking the Virginia General Assembly to reexamine Virginia’s public school assessments and accountability system, and discussed this resolution at the October 8th meeting.
This resolution would not be seeking to eliminate these tests, but rather to create a system where the quantity of tests is reduced, the tests are more balanced and provide a complete picture of student learning, expedited retakes are available, and where there is local control of the testing window. The Board is seeking input from both students and teachers to see how standardized testing has affected their learning or teaching and will take all comments and suggestions into account when writing the final resolution to send to the Virginia General Assembly.
In addition to the conversation regarding standardized testing at the October 8th meeting, the Superintendent’s amended contract was approved. The new contract is effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017, and will be renewed by the School Board every year for the next four years and the board is excited to have Dr. Jones with us on a more permanent basis. The contract with Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) was also discussed and the Board is committed to ensuring that Falls Church City students still have the ability attend TJHSST despite added tuition costs.