News to Start the New Year

We look forward to the current weather pattern passing so we can get back to our normal schedule.  In the meanwhile, here is new news in the new year.

New Faces in New Places

Happy New Year!  The Colonial Family is excited to welcome several new faces to our community.  

First is Ms. Rachel Mills, our new Geosystems teacher.  She adds breadth to the department with unique industry experience, while bringing talent as an instructor at high school and collegiate levels.  We thank Mr. Ahmad who served as the long-term substitute throughout the fall semester.

Next, we welcome back Chinese teacher, Ms. Mian Chen.  Filling in for her was Ms. Booze, and we appreciate her help this past fall.

Finally, congratulations to History teacher Ms. Rebecca Schgallis on the birth of her daughter!  Her students will be in the very capable hands of long-term substitute Mr. Colley.

New SIIP Actions

TJ is nearing its midyear review for our School Improvement and Innovation Plan (SIIP).  In just a few short months, we have taken many actions relative to our focus areas. Below are examples of just some of our efforts to date.

Goal One is dedicated to exploring academic stress and workload. Faculty have assessed their syllabi to ensure intentions and outcomes align.  Teachers also completed a survey about homework load.  Within a week, a representative sample of students will take a similar survey. More information will be sent later this week via a TJ NewsYouChoose bulletin.  We look forward to seeing how reported perceptions and realities map onto each other.  PTSA also did a fantastic job hosting a mathematics forum for parents and a panel of teachers who addressed questions about expectations and workload.  

Goal Two focuses on academic integrity and personal balance. Administrators have given integrity presentations to the freshman class, and Restorative Justice continues to be a positive educational response to honor code violations. Syllabi were standardized for consistent messages about the honor code and student advocacy.  Most important, we are generating awareness about personal wellness and balance.  In the production phase is a We Care video from administrators and the Department of Student Services. We have a team of staff, students and parents researching positivity programs that may be a good fit for TJ.  Finally, staff, SGA and the Human Relations Committee are mobilizing around mental wellness issues.

Goal Three addresses safety and security. In addition to the implementation of secure entries and an enhanced visitor management system, we are pleased to announce TJ is able to move forward with installing interior security cameras that give us the same support found at other county high schools. The project is planned to take place in March and will not interrupt the regular school day.  As a reminder, the cameras will be installed only in hallways, common areas and public spaces, not in individual classrooms or private areas such as lockers and restrooms. Finally, with student ingenuity, we look forward to launching a bus depot app where students can see where buses are parked at dismissal. This will help speed loading and prevent students from unsafe practices such as chasing a bus through the depot when the wheels are rolling.  Thank you for supporting a safe and secure environment at TJ!

We will keep you posted as we continue to take actions and make progress on our goals.

New Weather Patterns

January ushers in arctic blasts that can impact instruction.  Our teachers do a tremendous job reaching out to students, soothing frayed nerves and communicating next steps for assignments.  If multiple snow days wreak havoc on our rotational schedule, we will take steps to balance Red and Blue days and make adjustments to assessment schedules and other school events as appropriate.

Please be aware that on days when schools and offices are closed, staff and students are not permitted on campus for safety reasons. Only essential personnel who maintain the facility may report.  When offices are open, we will have staff available during hours as designated by FCPS.  Anyone visiting the campus should come to The Dome and be buzzed in. 

Most important, when campuses reopen, snow and ice may still be on parking lots, access roads, and sidewalks, so please continue to exercise caution and patience whether you are driving or walking.

New Devices

The recent holiday season may have been filled with gifts bearing shiny new devices.  A gentle reminder that TJ is not responsible for personal devices.  Students should secure their personal items at all times, and if a device disappears, immediately notify a member of our security team.

Parents, this is a great time to revisit digital citizenship and safety with those new devices. FCPS wants to help you support your child in the online world. Here are some tips and resources:

Discuss expectations and privacy.

Do you understand how to set up accounts and privacy settings?  Protect personal information and check out this resource.  Do you plan to monitor your child’s digital footprint?  FCPS points you to tip sheets, media agreements, and device contracts.

Help your child monitor and manage screen time.

Sometimes overuse of screen time contributes to perceptions about homework load or leads to lack of sleep.  Use these guidelines and strategies.

Have a plan to address cyber bullying and harassment.

Discuss potential situations that may arise before they happen. Does your child know what to do if he or she is cyber bullied, harassed, or if someone sends  something inappropriate? Every difficult situation is an opportunity to help prepare them for life beyond your home. Watch short parent advice videos. Filtered by topic and age, they help you identify action steps. 

Teach your child to assess risks and make good choices.

Online communication is public and permanent. Talk with your children regularly and remind them that what they do online can impact current relationships as well as future opportunities for work and college.