A Historical Portrait of Hartwood Elementary School
In early 1963, after many discussions and negotiations, construction was begun on a new school in the Hartwood area of Stafford County. Citizens in southeastern Stafford County were upset and felt that the Hartwood area would never have enough students to support a school; they strongly felt that their area should have the new elementary school instead of Hartwood. The late Hansford Abel, Hartwood Supervisor for 30 years was the driving force for a new Hartwood school. Thirty acres of land, near where Route 612 and Route 17 intersect, had been purchased from Dent Monroe for $10,000.00 by the county. The building was to be one easily constructed in a short length of time, with an eye on a fall opening. It was to include six classrooms for grades 1-6, a library, a small office, a small clinic, restroom facilities, several storage areas, a kitchen, and a multi-purpose room.
Although it opened for the fall term in 1963, Hartwood Elementary School was still under construction with many features not yet complete. A staff of five classroom teachers, a teacher-principal, Mrs. Virginia Ballard, two cafeteria workers, and a janitor comprised the working force for the first year. The following year, a teacher-helper was hired to assist the Principal with her teaching duties.
Within a three year period, due to increased enrollment at the school, an addition was begun in May 1966. This addition would increase the size of the school by nine classrooms, two more student restrooms, a teacher’s lounge, and several storage rooms for books, audio-visual equipment and teaching supplies. When school began in the fall of 1966, the addition was still incomplete. This necessitated two teachers being in the same classroom since teachers had already been hired for the additional classrooms. There were 45-50 pupils in each of the six existing classrooms. It was not until November 1966, just before Thanksgiving, that the move was made into the new wing.
Mr. Charles Williams became the principal of Hartwood Elementary at the beginning of the 1967-68 school year. He remained principal at Hartwood until his retirement in June 1986. Mrs. Catherine K. Walker assumed the leadership role as principal at Hartwood in July 1986.
In August 1987, voters in Stafford Count approved a $30 million bond referendum which included over $2 million designated for an addition to and renovation of Hartwood Elementary. Construction began in July 1988, continued throughout the 1988-89 school year, and was substantially completed by mid-August 1989. The project added a new cafeteria and multi-purpose room, music room, an art room, seven classrooms, and air conditioning for the entire facility. The old multi-purpose room became an expanded library and the old library became a needed resource room. This major renovation and expansion was undertaken with the intention of returning the fifth grade to the elementary setting; this goal was accomplished for the 1989-90 school year. However, the revision of school attendance zones along with the Stafford County’s rapid residential growth would quickly fill the “new Hartwood.” Enrollment for the 1989-90 school year exceeded 400 students for the first time in Hartwood’s history.
The 1992-93 school year marked the fourth year of half-day Kindergarten, the beginning of the elementary guidance counselor program, family life education, and of fifth grade being housed in all elementary schools throughout the county. It was also the second year for the STARS after school program for at-risk students.
The Hartwood staff has continued to grow professionally by investigating the “teaching and learning process” in detail. We attended workshops, classes, and undertook overall objectives that concentrated on whole language, Math Their Way, T.E.S.A., writing, C.R.I.S.S., 4-Mat, developmental theory and “at risk” and gifted students. We researched “how we can do what we do” better. Out efforts began paying off in 1992. Hartwood Elementary School received a Washington Post Grant for $1500.00 to conduct our Totally Tech Program from January through May 1992. Then, on July 1, 1992, we were notified that Hartwood Elementary School was selected as one of the 12 state-wide Early Childhood Demonstration Projects in the World Class Education initiative. What a tremendous honor for a hard-working and forward-thinking staff! We spent the 1992-93 school year and summer planning and preparing to initiate the Early Childhood Programs proposed in our grant. It was an exciting year!
Of course, construction can never be far from everyone’s minds in Stafford County. Thus, ground was broken for Hartwood Elementary’s third addition in March 1993. Construction was delayed by unusual weather conditions causing us to begin the 1993-94 school year with four fourth grade classes housed temporarily in the cafeteria and with all classes eating lunch in their classrooms. Thankfully, the 1993-94 school year was also the first year that Hartwood was blessed with a full-time Assistant Principal, Dr. Patricia K. Dodd. While students in grades 2-5 came to the cafeteria to pick up their own lunches and return to their classrooms to eat, Mrs. Walker and Dr. Dodd served lunches to all Primary I (multi-age) classrooms daily in order to make lunch times efficient and effective for our youngest students.
On top of the construction, Hartwood opened the 1993-94 school year 10 days early on August 23. Although some parents grumbled about the early opening, 560 students showed up for class on the first day of school. For the first time since the “Kings Dominion” law, Labor Day was a true holiday for our staff as well as for the students and their families. Also, this year, we began our multi-age classes for the first time; students, K-3, were purposely grouped into K-1 and 2-3 classes so that a multi-age format and instructional model could be implemented. The classes were called Primary I and Primary II, respectively. Although the teachers and staff were well prepared to deliver an outstanding program of studies to the children, we were unprepared for teaching under the goldfish bowl atmosphere that our program created. Our staff leaned a lot on each other for support. Also, in 1993-94, we piloted, along with Widewater and Moncure Elementaries, a developmental report card with our K-3 students. After meeting with parents and listening to their concerns, staff felt that the report card could be revised successfully for the 1994-95 school year. However, the school division kept the OGSNU grading scale for 1994-95, but decided to continue working on a report card revision for the following year.
Construction of the fourth-fifth grade wing was completed in December-January 1994. The fourth grade was delighted to have real walls that reached the ceiling in their rooms. Before Christmas vacation, fourth grade teachers and students excitedly “picked up their desks” and moved them from the cafeteria into the new wing. The fifth grade, after break, enjoyed being the first students to use their new rooms, too. The 1994 wing added 8 classrooms, a dedicated computer lab, a science lab which could become a classroom if needed, an activities room (referred to by the kids as the “gym”), an assistant principal’s office, a special services office, two staff restrooms, two student restrooms, and a tiny workroom. The computer lab was the most advanced, comprehensive lab in any elementary school in Stafford County with 21 Macintosh LC III machines, dot matrix and laser printers, and the capacity for extensive graphics, sound, and video. An Ethernet network was fully operational by Fall, 1994. A formal dedication ceremony of the new wing and facility was held on May 22, 1994.
As the 1993-94 school year drew to a close, parents were given a choice of classroom format for their children for the coming year: multi-age or traditional graded classes. Since we had planned for teachers to “loop” with the younger aged children in the multi-age setting, those students had the opportunity to stay with the same teacher for the second year of the Primary I or Primary II program. The majority of parents chose multi-age classes for their children. Only one traditional class was offered at each grade level, Kindergarten through grade three. Fourth and Fifth grades continued to be self-contained, but teamed classes. Regular special classes and opportunities are offered to all students, regardless of classroom format. All teachers continued to work on teaching teams. Two yearly goals for 1994-95 were the documentation and improvement of assessments and inclusion practices, which complimented the validation procedures for the grant process as well.
The experiences and knowledge gained by the staff during the Early Childhood Grant process continue to benefit the entire school as well as each staff member individually. Visitors from all over Virginia have visited Hartwood to see a “Demonstration Site” in operation. We continue to hosts such visits as we move into 1995-96. Early indications regarding classroom format choice reveal that the vast majority (approximately 80%) of parents are maintaining their support of the multi-age program. A major report about the assessment data gained during the last two years was presented by the Hartwood staff at the September 1995 School Board Meeting. As part of the School Board’s 1995-96 objectives, all schools will concentrate on raising the tests scores of our students on the state mandated, standardized tests (ITBS) during the 1995-1996 school year. In addition, we will review and build upon our assessment, inclusion, and technology models to meet the grant criteria while implementing the objectives of Taskforce 2000. Indeed, the Hartwood Staff will SHARE THE VISION.
On August 1, 1995, our assistant principal, Dr. Patricia Dodd, capped her two-year educational stint at Hartwood by ascending to the role of principal at Stafford Elementary School. On August 23rd, Nelson Kahle assumed the role of Assistant Principal of Hartwood Elementary. A second water well was dug at Hartwood during the summer, 1995. However, various problems caused us to haul water from the Able Lake system throughout October and the first part of November, 1995. Unfortunately, bottled water returned to Hartwood on May 3, 1996 as a result of excessive level s of EDB.
For the 1996-97 school year, teachers received an extra 1% pay raise as stimulus to complete 10 hours of additional technology training. Multi-cultural awareness, parent involvement, and discipline joined technology as major 1996-97 School Board objectives. New reading and science series were implemented. New SOL’s have been drafted for all subject areas. Space is tight once again at Hartwood since enrollment is expected to top 700 for the first time during 1996-97. As a result, all teaching teams (PIA, PIB, PIIA, PIIB, 4th and 5th) have five members, for a total of 30 classroom teachers. Two positions became full time for 1996-97: Computer Technician Trainer and the music teacher . Staffing was completed late in August, causing us all to begin the year somewhat breathless. Still, in 1996-97, the Hartwood Team will STAY THE COURSE TO ACHIEVE EXCELLENCE!
SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS was the school’s theme for 1997-98 and it certainly represented the efforts needed to meet the year’s objectives. The School Board outlined 5 broad objectives for the year centering on: curriculum, rigorous instructional offerings, the Governor’s School, safe schools, and parental and community involvement. The Central Office added strategies that flesh out the Board’s plan; each school also enhanced these strategies with others that were site-based. Multicultural awareness, discipline, and technology remain major topics that were addressed. Raising tests scores was Hartwood’s main objective across the board. All our P II – 5th grade staff received CIRC training and the P I staff received Reading Recovery training as interventions for improving reading skills. We continued to stress CRISS, Talents Unlimited, Differentiating for the Gifted and Special Needs Learner, Math Their Way, and higher level thinking skills. In addition to our curriculum and assessment emphases, we held our breath about the number of students enrolling during the summer. Space continued to be a big issue at our school; we expected to top 750 during the school year. Even though our staffing remained at 30 classroom teachers, as organized for the 1996-97 school year, there were several new faces added to our teaching staff as a result of transfers.
As the 1997-98 school year began, Hartwood remained on bottled water, not because our water was deemed contaminated, but because the well could not keep up with the demands of both drinking and sanitation water needs. About 4500 gallons of water were hauled from the Abel Lake Water System to Hartwood each school days during the fall to supplement our well supply for cleaning and sanitary needs.
Hartwood Elementary received for the second year, a Violence Prevention Grant from the Governor’s Office, funded by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. The grant award of $29,700.00 enabled us to undertake additional community, parent, staff, and student development projects to enhance the well-being and safe atmosphere of our caring community.
Growth and SOL testing were the big issues for 1998-99. The increase in student enrollment along with the state’s emphasis on grade-specific, discrete skills, led us to shelve our Primary II multi-age format and return to standard second and third grade classes. One of the two Primary II teaching teams was assigned to second grade and the other team to third grade. Students who had teachers who became the third grade team remained with that teacher for 1998-99; students who had teachers who became the second grade team were distributed among the third grade team. A sixth teacher was assigned to third grade, bringing the total number of classroom teachers to 31. In addition, several long-awaited improvements to the school took place. Eight new outside pole lights were brightening all our parking lots. The major crack in the building foundation at the bus ramp entrance was beautifully repaired. Instructionally, our Mac computers were replaced with Xram DO-based machines; printers did not arrive until late October, though. As the Hartwood staff is “REACHING FOR THE STARS,” we definitely supported the School Board’s theme, “Reaching Higher.” School Board objectives for 1998-99 focused on recognition of teachers and staff, curriculum and testing to ensure that students master the skills measured by the Standards of Learning, instructional staff development, improving the gifted program, and improving two-way communication between the School Board and its internal and external public groups. All staff, grades 2-5, were trained in the CIRC reading program; the year was spent fine tuning various instructional strategies to better meet the needs of our talented students and our at-risk children as well as to assist all student in enhancing their performance on the SOL tests. We devoted large blocks of time to reading/language arts----including process writing---and math, in particular, during the 1998-99 school year.
Even though we were LIGHTING THE WAY FOR OUR STUDENTS to meet success, the teacher shortage was definitely felt when preparing for the 1999-2000 school year; it seemed that we interviewed all summer! Just as we thought that we had all staff in place, another development took place. Two staff members were promoted to jobs they had trained for over the last several years; two moved north to Fairfax County for better pay; one transferred internally; two moved residences further from Hartwood and got jobs in those areas; one took a year’s leave of absence. We also accepted some internal transfers, and some teachers changed grade levels. Two of our support staff moved to the “soon to open,” brand new Colonial Forge High School. As a result, we welcomed sixteen new full and part-time staff members for the 1999-2000 school year! A record number for our school!
The building and grounds were spruced up a bit. We were delighted that the bus loop was paved and lined right on schedule before the opening of school. A new security camera was installed to watch our main front entrance night and day; a door “announcer” bell was also installed. A “Facilities Audit”, listing the maintenance and security needs of the school, was completed during the summer; we prayed that several of our pressing needs would be addressed in the next budget. In particular, we needed a new roof and the water storage tanks were leaking water at an alarming rate. The extremely hot summer had baked our deteriorating roof, causing several rooms to leak when it rained even a little. Fortunately, during Christmas holiday break, the two 6,000 gallon storage tanks were drained to repair leaks. After the repair work, the tanks were disinfected and refilled; testing of the water and tanks showed that all results met standards. Instructionally, we continued our emphasis on the Standards of Learning results. Although our performance improved significantly, we did not meet the passing criteria mark on all tests in third or fifth grades. We increased our efforts in preparing students for success on the SOLs; improved SOL results overshadows all else.
For 2000-2001, Hartwood Elementary lost about 200 students to the new Rocky Run Elementary School, located in the Stafford Lakes Subdivision area. As a result, we regained a music room, a teachers’ lounge, and classrooms of normal size for all classes. Hartwood fifth graders began broadcasting morning announcements from our “WHES TV studio” daily, with the guidance of our CTT. Unfortunately, our art, music and one of the PE instructors have to travel this year. Each grade level team had only four members for 2000-2001. Still, the Hartwood staff continues to achieve great things. A major goal is to meet the criteria on all the SOL tests in both grades 3 and 5; third grade met the mark on all SOL tests in Spring 2000! We expect to maintain our third grade performance and improve on our fifth grade scores for 2001. INVESTING IN THE FUTURE, Hartwood’s theme for 2000-2001, signifies the importance that we place on turning in a good job each day---just like adding up pennies; by employing sound, consistent teaching methods, each teacher is taking his or her students as far as they can go during the school year. Such an investment in children will yield great dividends in the future.
In June2000, we began experiencing water difficulties related to a malfunction in the control module for the well pump. Water had to be hauled into the school throughout the summer. In September 2000, the School Board approved a contract for a new wastewater treatment plant at Hartwood. Water issues went well for a brief period during this school term; then, the entire population of HES trekked to Stafford Senior High School on January 3, 2001 because there was no water and the problem could not be fixed quickly. Water was hauled to the school in March and September 2001. In October 2001, parents were notified that bottled water would return to Hartwood in order to meet the daily demands for water in our facility. Hauled water continued to be needed in November and December 2001. The second well was still not operational. Additional repairs were made to the storage vaults in May 2002 to stop water leakage.
Our “Camelot” time in 2000-2001 with enough space and adequate time/attention to the individual needs of our 550 students, lasted only one year. As we began school for the 2001-2002 term, we scrambled for rooms and dealt with more than 70 new students. Once again, music instruction took place from a cart and the Teachers’ Lounge became a multi-task room---Music Office, SOAR instruction, and Teachers’ Lunch Room. One new position was added to Primary I, to second grade, and to third grade. The possibility of needing another Primary I teacher and another fifth grade teacher loomed on the horizon. The Primary IA team began the year with 5 teachers as did the second and third grade teams. Two veteran teachers were added to our PI staff. This was our first year for a Developmentally Delayed class at Hartwood. Many new paraprofessionals joined the staff to support efforts to improve the fifth grade Standards of Learning scores and to maintain our level of performance in earlier grades. In Spring 2001, our third graders led the county in reading, math, and science; our third graders were in second place in social studies by less than a full percentage point! A Student Council Association was formed. As a staff, we continued MAKING STRONGER CONNECTIONS in our overall instruction, in our daily classroom strategies, in our assessments, in our staff development, in our school climate, and in community relations as we proceeded through 2001-2002. Building on past successes, we instructed students how to build the “mental hooks” needed to develop all parts of their brains. Then, we assisted them in connecting new information to those hooks, the basis for cognitive growth and development, brain-based learning. Fifth grade Mediation Teams continued to provide guidance in helping fellow students resolve small problems together. In addition, we taught peaceful problem solving through Kelso’s Choices and Responsive Classroom strategies to stress the importance of developing the total child so that he or she can make meaningful and productive connections to people as well as to sources of knowledge. Our focus continues to be turning our “good people”, not producing solely good students.
In 2002-2003, enrollment grew again. Even after 10 years, the Primary I Multi-age program remained very popular. Requests for student enrollment in the program came from out-of-state parents moving to our area as well as from other schools within Stafford County. Water and the sewage treatment plant continued to be major concerns at Hartwood. Primary I A and second grade added a sixth teacher and fourth grade added a fifth teaching position. Primary I B, third, and fifth grade maintained their five teaching positions of each of their teams. After school foreign language classes, especially Spanish, were popular.
Water testing in July 2003 revealed an elevated lead level and bottled water dispensers were once again lining the halls of Hartwood. A plan for regular weekly flushing of the entire plumbing system was developed and implemented.
Even though we were BUILDING ON OUR SUCCESS, Hartwood’s theme for the year, the roller coaster student enrollment caused some changes in staffing again for 2003-2004. Primary I A, second, and fourth grade teaching teams were back to five positions while third grade added a sixth position. A math specialist was added to our staff for the first time. Our PTA was involved and active, expanding their membership greatly. Hartwood students and staff celebrated meeting all the criteria for Adequate Yearly Progress on the Standards of Learning tests. Mrs. Walker, our principal, received the Washington Post Outstanding Educational Leadership (Principal of the Year) Award.
Meetings to discuss resolutions to Hartwood’s water needs were held throughout the summer 2004 and a consulting service was hired in August to complete a comprehensive engineering study of the internal and external water systems. The study was completed in January 2005 and recommended a plan to put well #2 into operation. High copper and lead levels were found in testing in January and February. Bottled water continued to be used for drinking and cooking.
Students and staff continued to journey ON THE RIGHT TRACK FOR SUCCESS during the 2004-2005 school year. Both Primary I teaching teams were back to four teacher teams whereas teams in grades 2-5 had five teachers on each grade level team. Certainly, maintaining our level of performance on the state SOL tests was a priority. Math Problem Solver Clubs and Word Master Competitions enhanced our students’ competence in math and vocabulary skills. Moreover, we also continued to showcase the talents of our students through the arts. Music and art students continued to impress staff, parents and community members with their works at the annual Fine Arts Festival as well as during monthly PTA performances and school art shows. Additionally, a variety of school assembly programs exposed all students to poetry, dance, music, and drama as well as science and historical events and people. The PTA continued to provide exciting opportunities for students and staff.
We were proud that our school continued to be fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education; Hartwood has NEVER failed to be fully accredited! We also continued to meet all the benchmarks for AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) on the national standards prescribed by the "No Child Left Behind Act.” For the 2005-2006 school year, Hartwood hired it’s first Technology Resource Teacher, a newly created position for elementary schools. In the area of staffing, grades 3-5 maintained their five person teaching teams and Primary I B became a five person team this year. However, Primary I A and second grade each lost a teaching position to become four person teaching teams. Regardless of the staffing moves and changes, the Hartwood staff constantly examines their practices and looks for new ideas to use in improving student achievement.
During the 2005-2006 school year, the staff researched, studied, sought community input, and reflected on our beliefs and activities in order to develop a School Improvement Plan and to become an even stronger “Professional Learning Community.” One of our goals was to lay the foundation for active civic involvement by our students. Each grade level team at Hartwood continued to choose at least one service project during the school year for their students to complete. Among this year’s projects were collecting pennies for Leukemia, cleaning up the roads bordering the school, exercising for Healthy Hearts and publicizing the importance of healthy life style choices, and “trick or treating for Unicef.” The staff also modeled community support and involvement. In order to have casual Fridays, staff members paid a monthly fee that was donated to different charitable causes. Through active participation and through the modeling of caring behavior by adults, our students gained awareness and understanding of the importance of giving something back to the community in which we all live. In this manner, we hoped to create an even larger “Learning Community” as Hartwood students become responsible, productive future citizens in their communities, wherever they choose to live.
The results of copper and lead monitoring received in January 2006 indicated that the waterworks met the action levels for lead and copper during the monitoring period. In a report to the School Board in February 2006, it was noted that well#2 was not operational and that there were additional design issues to resolve. A new 18,000 gallon well water reservoir/storage tank was installed on the grounds during summer 2006.
For the 2006-2007 school year, there were 26,508 students and 4,500 employees in Stafford County Public Schools. Stafford County itself contained 120,511 residents within its 277 square miles. There were 30 school attendance sites: 17 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 5 high schools, and 1 multi-program complex (Head Start, Alternative Ed, Home-Bound, etc.). The Budget for SCPS for FY 07 was $267.4 million. Hartwood’s theme for 2006-2007 was DIVE INTO LEARNING AND SHARE THE TREASURE! Expanding the math skills and knowledge of our students was emphasized throughout the year; several of our teachers completed the three-hour graduate level math course, Investigating Number and Number Sense.
A final walk through inspection of Well #2 was set for August 20, 2007. Water samples collected in September showed elevated concentrations of ethyl benzene; xylenes, total; total THM; methyl butyl ether; chloroform; bromodichloro methane and nitrate. Approval to put Well #2 into operation was received in October 2007. Well #1 and Well #2 were placed on different sampling schedules since they would not be running simultaneously---alternating every 3 days. Well #2 does not produce as much water per minute as Well #1. However, Hartwood finally could get rid of the bottled water dispensers!
Reading and math performance continued to be the main instructional focus and our efforts paid off when our fifth grade SOL scores were among the highest made at Hartwood! Sixty-eight students in grades 3-5, made perfect scores of 600 on one or more Standards of Learning tests. Hartwood was certainly, BUZZING AHEAD!
Although there was a big surge of student transfers to take part in our Multi-age Primary I program, all teaching teams remained four person teams for the 2008-2009 term. Instructionally, the staff focused on the importance of establishing and maintaining high expectations; this approach was emphasized by our yearly theme, A COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. Each teaching team met monthly with the principal, reading specialist and math specialist to review curriculum pacing, common assessments, and student progress and needs. Best Instructional Practices were discussed at each Faculty Meeting and faculty conducted walk-throughs to learn from each other. The annual Gathering before Winter Break, Family Movie Nights, Multicultural Night, Math-Science Family Night, after school PE offerings, and Field Day continued to be popular learning and fellowship opportunities for our school and community. Special after school tutoring continued to be offered to select students to improve their math and reading skills.
For the 2009-10 school year, there were staff changes as enrollment grew again in certain grade levels. Various Interest Clubs were offered outside of the regular school hours to enhance student inquiry and development. Musical Hornets and Recorder Club remained strong draws for students who enjoy singing and performing. The Tech Team allowed students to delve deeper into computer applications and projects. A new formed Science Club challenged a large number of students who were interested in pursuing science experiments and issues. Instructionally, teachers focused on accelerating student learning and added to their own skills in the process. Strategies for the reluctant and struggling learners were researched and discussed along with RTI and benchmark assessments. An increased number of workshops in reading and math were offered. Eight additional teachers took part in the week-long Responsive Classroom training. By Fall 2010, eighteen Hartwood teachers have completed advanced math training by completing the graduate level Number and Number Operations Class through the University of Virginia. Most assuredly, Hartwood staff demonstrated their dedication to their profession by modeling the importance of continuous learning and growth; they used their skills and knowledge to make certain EVERY STUDENT COUNTS AT HARTWOOD!
During the summer 2010, a new security entrance to the school was installed, causing the main office to be completely vacated while the construction was underway; the music room was transformed into a temporary office in order to continue conducting the business of the school. Student enrollment was growing once again for the 2010-2011 school year and new teachers as well as replacement persons needed to be hired. A new program to support at-risk students was begun this year; a Therapeutic Day Treatment counselor joined the Hartwood staff and met regularly with students each week. A new garden club not only beautified the school grounds, but also assisted students in understanding the science of growing things. Buddy readers continued to enhance the reading skills of all students. Service projects were expected, as usual, from each teaching team and their students. After school classes and clubs continued to be very well attended. Special events such as Multicultural Day, DARE graduation, Movie Nights, and Math-Science Nights were family occasions for fun and learning. SCA sponsored the first fourth-fifth grade dance this year; it was a terrific success and a good time was had by all. When Mr. Justin Barr took a job at GEICO in February, only a long-term substitute was hired to complete the year because his position was a “growth” one that ran for only one year. Staff added to their technology skills by being trained to use Student Response Clickers and SMART Boards. Faculty undertook a year-long study of Teacher Language and ways to deal with challenging students. Walk-throughs and lesson studies enhanced staff and student learning as well.
It seemed that the 2011-2012 school year would see few changes in staffing at Hartwood Elementary. Student and Family activities continued to flourish with strong attendance at most Hartwood events on and off campus. Faculty studied Teaching with Poverty in Mind throughout the year during Faculty and Team meetings. With the exception of 3 new teachers, all Hartwood teacher have participated in a graduate level math class from UVA; all have also received training in the Responsive Classroom Model. New Benchmark assessments were implemented in both reading and math; these results were discussed at the monthly data meetings held with the principal, reading specialist, math specialist, and the teaching teams to monitor student performance and success. Since children watch and listen carefully to everything adults say and do, the Hartwood theme for the year, PATTERNS FOR THE FUTURE, focused on the virtues and patterns of behavior we want to see in our children. As children imitate adults, they are creating patterns for their future behavior. In addition to modeling appropriate behavior, the Hartwood staff emphasized the importance of using “uplifting/feather” words instead of “rock/putdown” words when interacting with others. In this manner, teachers and all adults serve as examples or patterns of behavior that will serve our children successfully in the future.
At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Principal Catherine K. Walker retired and was replaced by Principal Scott Elchenko.
During the 2012-2013 school year and with new principal, Mr. Scott Elchenko at the helm, the school embarked on a journey entitled “Imagine the Possibilities”. The creation of five new action committees are formed; Exemplary, Technology, Community Engagement, Climate, and a Response to Intervention Committee. Each committee made an immediate and tremendous impact on Hartwood. The Exemplary committee researched and made several site visits to other “exemplary” school sites in Virginia and Maryland researching and investigating program models for implementation. As a result of this year long process, our staff formed a renewed vision for Hartwood. We are working to establish ourselves as a nationally recognizable and innovative school site that builds upon the components of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) education. Along with the work that we are doing to support our national efforts of improving our young scholars with skills necessary for the 21st century, we form a partnership with University of Mary science professor Dr. George Meadows. This partnership has us developing an Engineering Lab in the space formerly referred to as the Mac Lab. This space will allow students to experience 3D printing, a MakerSpace with Makey Makey Boards, Hummingbird kits, computer programming using “Scratch”, constructing Legos and robots into creative and practical devices. Furthermore, we implement an after school program called Camp Excel, where several staff implement curriculum developed out of the Museum of Science (Boston) entitled “Engineering is Elementary”.
The school also submits an application to become one of the John F. Kennedy’s Changing Education through the Arts (CETA) focus school sites. We are fortunate enough to have the director of the CETA program and a teaching artist visit our staff and provide us with their comprehensive overview presentations. Our staff is joined by several key stakeholders for this presentation, including two School Board members. These two members, along with the rest of the School Board, follow up by approving our work with a nationally renowned teaching artist for follow up consulting work and training during the 2013-2014 school year. Several staff members make the trek for three consecutive days during the summer of 2013 for the national CETA conference in Washington, D.C. and come back with many ideas to share with the staff in helping us to deliver rich and deep content experiences to our students.
After nearly two decades of the Primary (multi-age) format in Kindergarten/First grade, the school begins a process to research and discuss the feasibility and desire to continue this format of grouping for students. Parents are surveyed, longitudinal data is gathered and analyzed, along with much dialogue and rationale presented throughout the year before finally deciding that all of our K/1st grade classrooms will go back to a traditional setting.
The Hartwood staff makes tremendous strides and increasingly builds upon our technology usage. All classroom teachers are actively using and learning about the capabilities of their SmartBoards, using Google Docs to rewrite curricular units that support the integration of curriculum using a Three-Stage Understanding by Design planning process.
Our staff also organizes and hosts its first ever Spaghetti Night dinner. This event draws upwards of 300 of our families, students and staff together for an engaging event to build community and to share learning activities that strengthens the home/school connection.
Hartwood remains fully committed to providing all of our students with an exemplary educational experience. Our school experiences a demographic shift and becomes one of only 5 elementary schools in Stafford County to be called a Title 1 school site. Our Free/Reduced lunch population continually rises and reaches a high of 37% where students are coming to us with families experiencing financial hardships. Nonetheless, our students for the first time are tested with the newly adopted and highly acclaimed rigorous math standards via the Standards of Learning (SOLs) that assess the newly adopted 2012 curriculum. We proudly make all of our AMOs (Annual Measureable Objectives) in all federal and state reporting categories and embrace what the future has in store.
In 2014, Hartwood was recognized for many accomplishments. While our percentage of students on Free/Reduced lunch increased to 42%, our school was named a Title 1 School of Distinction for our high academic performance. This prestigious award was given to fewer than 70 schools across the state of VA and we are so proud to be amongst this elite group of schools for our excellence in teaching and learning.
Additionally, as a result of our work with becoming a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) school site and implementation of our own Engineering Lab/MakerSpace, we received two prestigious awards. We were the proud recipients of the Virginia Math and Science Coalition’s (VMSC) “Programs that Work” and the Virginia School Board Association’s (VSBA) “Showcases of Success” awards. Several members of our staff traveled to Richmond, VA and had the opportunity to share with our state legislators what our program is about and how we need to continue to support greater STEM initiatives within schools.
Throughout the 2014 school year, we continually worked to refine our school vision statement:
“As a result of graduating from Hartwood Elementary’s STEAM program, all students will behave like scientists, engineers, artists, and other professionals in the STEAM fields. We will produce effective problem solvers, critical thinkers, and risk takers who persevere through challenges and failures. Our students will use, access, and communicate creatively and effectively through a variety of media. Students will work collaboratively to become producers who solve global problems and manipulate their world in creative and positive ways. Hartwood students will give back to the school and community and be prepared for the changing world of work and careers in the 21st century, including human interaction and collaboration competencies.”
As the 2014-15 school year closed out, the staff built a specialized STEAM curriculum. Each grade level worked on developing four integrated units (one per quarter) that will vertically align our focus areas for our STEAM program. These focus areas (communication, scientific investigation, using technology and engineering design to solve problems and make decisions, problem solving, creative and artistic expression, using math as a language) and our grade level specific essential questions, will help students successfully complete performance based assessments or “transfer” tasks related to their units of STEAM study! This curriculum helps us understand what we want our students to “know, do, and understand” as it relates to STEAM education at Hartwood Elementary.
As we begin the 2015 school year, Hartwood will no longer be a Title 1 school, nor receive the additional staffing and financial support that comes along with this federal program even though more than 37% of our students receive either a free/reduced lunch. As a result, Hartwood lost three full time teachers and five support staff members (both full and part-time) to start off the school year and will experience larger class sizes than we’ve experienced in a long time. Furthermore, we received news during the summer that Hartwood achieved all Federal Annual Measureable Objectives (AMOs) and full state accreditation due to our impressive student achievement results based on the most recent SOL tests.
The summer of 2015 presented many construction projects on-site. The new section (1993) was fitted with new fire sprinkler equipment and piping, along with an upgrade to our sewer system. As a result of this work happening in our building, our summer school program was kindly hosted by Rocky Run Elementary.
The 2015-16 school year presented many challenges. With being faced with a reduction of staffing, we had several classes with over 30 students and our K and 4th grade classes went to having only 3 teachers on a team. Additionally, we experienced a flooding of our new section of the building during the winter when a sprinkler valve released water that covered many classroom floors. Nonetheless, our teachers and staff remained focused on giving our scholars the best possible education and our STEAM vision grew. This year saw the introduction of Green Screen video production where all students created and produced their own video, thus strengthening the “T” in STEAM. We are proud to have continued our work with SeaPerch, which is a program supported by the Department of Defense that has students building, testing and competing with an underwater submersible that is built by students! Furthermore, our work with arts integration continues with excellent results. Our focus this year was on the visual arts and “Using Portrait as Biography”. Students learned about 9 elements of portraits and were guided towards using this strategy to help make stronger inferences in hopes of deepening their comprehension.. Hartwood was also selected to present at the John F. Kennedy Center’s “Changing Education through the Arts” (CETA) conference. This international conference put Hartwood center stage for sharing the exemplary work we have done with arts integration.
Hartwood entered the 2016-17 school year with the goal of continuing to be the most progressive school in the area. As a leading STEAM school already, our staff had conversations about implementing a world language opportunity for our students. The staff recognizes the importance of preparing students for a globally competitive world. As a result, we implemented Middlebury which allowed all of our students in grades K-2 to learn Spanish during the school day. We approached the implementation with the idea that the learning of a world language could happen during the literacy block or any other time the teachers thought it would be beneficial.
The school’s exemplary committee also continued to pursue great initiatives. As such, we held a school wide Hornet Habitat build which allowed all students the opportunity to build a shelter for our school mascot…the Hornet! We also laid the groundwork for adding onto our Patawomeck Village. The committee continued to have conversations related to building a Nature Trail. Our goal is to have students participating in as much outdoor environmental learning as possible.
The school year concluded with our building remaining a Title 1 building for the following school year and achieving some of the highest SOL testing scores in the county. We proudly had all subject areas well above the top 50% percentile and our science and history scores were in the top 3 of the school system! To continue the fine tradition of excellence that has been established, we continued to have multiple summer learning opportunities. Our school supported two summer Google Classroom book studies…Jan Richardson’s Guided Reading and a Hartwood Nature Trail book study. As we approach the start of the 2017-18 school year, we have partnered with Ellen Lewis as a consulting partner with Jan Richardson. Our school will be implementing an intervention program called RISE and RISE Up as a result of our partnership. Additionally, we are expecting to have Hartwood highlighted as part of a publication through Scholastic as our results are going to be closely monitored and supported.
At Hartwood, we are moving full “STEAM” ahead!