Riverdale Elementary plans move forward

Published 10:21 am Friday, April 12, 2013

COURTLAND—The Southampton County School Board unanimously approved a specific plan Monday night to improve Riverdale Elementary School.

In fall 2012, Riverdale was placed on the accreditation-warning list by the Virginia Department of Education. This meant the school did not meet the state standards for achievement in math.

School Superintendent Alvera Parrish explained this week that Riverdale had been fully accredited in previous years, but for the 2012 year received the warning for that specific area. However, she maintained that in all other areas the school exceeded state requirements.

She said part of the reason could have been the changes that took place in the SOL testing in math. Parrish explained that the level of rigor and format of questions changed, saying the math portion was no longer multiple choice but instead questions that incorporated higher-level thinking skills.

Part of the process following the accreditation with warning by the state, was for Riverdale to form a plan, which it has done over the course of six months.

Principal Chris Tsitsera presented the strategy to the board Monday night. He said it is a three-year plan and once approved locally would go to the state for approval.

Tsitsera said a school team and a division team were formed to oversee the plan. He further explained that a state official assigned to them also performed a school review. That person, according to school officials, is a contractor and assists the school to identify instructional needs.

Tsitsera said the teams looked for areas needing improvement, and based on the state review, a list of indicators has been created – or tasks to get “where we need to be.”

The comprehensive plan presented to the state level will be a “living document,” in that it will change as needs arise.

Parrish told the board the state will monitor the plan as it is put into place “at all times” and will monitor the “level of success” for the different indicators.

In fact, the plan had to be developed using a computer program called Indistar. Parrish said they were required to use the technology program under the auspices of the state Office of School Improvement.

As Tsistera said during his presentation to the board, the school develops its goals and moves forward, but the plan is constantly monitored on the local and state level and feedback is provided. This process helps the state understand what resources are needed.

Quarterly reporting to the Virginia Department of Education is also required.

Parrish said Thursday that the state facilitator assigned to Riverdale, “has been pleased with the progress.”

Even though the improvement plan is a three-year process, Riverdale could get accreditation status back this year. But the plan will still be in place and the local team will continue to implement strategies and develop sustainability.

Coordinator of Instruction Services for Southampton County Schools Rodney Brown is a member of the division team assisting with the plan.

“As we determine the success of the strategy, we’ll monitor progress and see if something has to be adjusted,” Brown said.

Parrish said the experience has been “very positive” and a supportive process “to figure out the needs of the students.”