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( 5 Votes )

These holiday pictures were provided by photographer Amelia McConnell.


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Christina and her fatherOne Christmas morning when he was a kid, my dad ripped into a camera box given to him by his beloved aunt and uncle. His glee faded, however, when he discovered that the box was packed with socks.

“Merry Christmas, Tony,” they told him. “Oh, and happy birthday, too.” My dad’s birthday was New Year’s Eve, so he always got his gifts lumped together. Not like the lucky kids who were fortunate enough to have birthdays in months other than December.

So my brother John, my mom and I delighted in making his New Year’s Eve birthday special for him. We kept the tree up, and a couple days after Christmas more presents would mysteriously appear. John and I racked our brains to figure out how to disguise the telltale shapes of our gifts – blank videocassettes, batteries and highlighters – meager presents he specifically requested because he knew we could afford them on our piddling high school job salaries.

We’d make him cards, too, and he’d pick them up and flap them around, just in case a check dropped out. He never got a check from me, but he did get a bunch of homemade coupon books for things like back scratches and dinners together.For some reason he loved those even more than the highlighters.

As part of his birthday tradition, we’d gorge ourselves on my mom’s lasagna topped with homemade sausage and meatballs, then head off to someone’s house for a New Year’s Eve party.

I loved those New Year’s Eves with him. He’d laugh with his friends, telling goofy jokes and talking about ideas. One time he convinced the entire room to drop what they were doing and drive back to our house to watch an action flick, because, if you listened to him, it was incredible on a laser disc with surround sound. Yep, laser disc. John and I were – heck, we still are – the only people in the state of Virginia who even knew what those were. Add a comment

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( 7 Votes )

Scott MorrisScott Morris, Fluco athletic and activities director, traveled Dec .7 to Phoenix, Ariz., to accept an award from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) for excellence in his field.

The NIAAA recognizes outstanding individuals in athletic administration every year. Each of the 50 states proposes one outstanding administrator for this national honor. An NIAAA committee reviews the nominations and selects the top nominees to be honored.

Morris is one of the 11 recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Service Award. Obviously, he has received a very exclusive honor.

Morris, 50, has been at Fluvanna County High School (FCHS) for 19 years. He has a B.A. in criminal justice and an M.A. in administration and supervision. He has served as the activities and athletic director for the last 14 years. He came to Fluvanna from Madison County High School.

Initially, Morris taught history and government at FCHS, and coached softball. In those early years, he also served as an assistant coach for boys’ basketball and football. After five years, he took the full-time job of activities and athletic director.

During his tenure at FCHS, Morris has presided over a major expansion of the athletic and activities programs at the school. The school has added boys’ and girls’ varsity and JV lacrosse, varsity and JV girls’ soccer, wrestling, and has reinstituted the swimming program. Add a comment

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( 8 Votes )

Sensory swing in BEST roomCarysbrook Elementary Principal Scott Lucas didn’t like what he saw.

Lucas wanted students on the edge to feel supported, not punished.

After a year of searching, he and his staff opened the Behavioral, Education, Social/Emotional Teaching lab – the BEST room – in August.

“Any student who needs a time out, or to finish work, or decompress can ask to go,” Lucas said.

The room is available and open to any student. Students whose teachers know they routinely struggle can apply for a pass, which then hangs on the wall in the student’s classroom. Students who feel the need ask the teacher for permission, pick up the pass and go.

“We have the pass because we can’t have students just roaming around in the hallway,” Lucas said.

In the BEST room students get to hang with William Reese, a licensed teacher hired as an aide.

The room has study or work zones where students can finish work, a “zones of regulation” area where they can talk about how they’re feeling, and a “take a break” corner furnished with a hammock swing, exercise balls, books and bean bags.

They can also do “Teach Town,” an educational computer program with a social and emotional component. Each day, some students are scheduled to sign in to Teach Town. “We also have organized small group discussion led by Mr. Reese,” Lucas said. “The whole process is more reflective rather than punitive.”

But there are rules written clearly on the board:

  • I treat others kindly;
  • I follow directions;
  • I keep my hands to myself;
  • I take care of BEST lab materials and equipment; and
  • I leave the BEST lab when my time is finished. Add a comment

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( 7 Votes )

Middle school kidsRemember middle school?

Most of us would rather not.

What with the fluctuating hormones, the peer pressure, the growth spurts and the clumsiness, it’s hard to figure out who you are and where you’re going.

Social media thrown into the mix complicates things even further.

Fluvanna Middle School Principal Brad Stang and his administrative and guidance staff wanted to do something to help students navigate the often rocky road of adolescence. School Counselor Lynn Jenkins said it became obvious students needed help learning things other generations took for granted.

“We notice on a daily basis the changes that seem to be occurring in their ability to interact with kindness and compassion,” Jenkins said. “It appears that social media is attempting to replace the hard social work of dealing face-to-face with their peers, a skill that they will now need to practice in order to be successful in real life. It seems to be easier to be mean or cruel because they can do it either anonymously, or without provocation, and with no need to feel any empathy.”

Teacher Hillary Pleasant had her own concerns. Pleasant noticed students didn’t know how to greet each other or adults. She shared her observations with Jenkins.

As Jenkins, Pleasant and two other teachers and administrative staff spent hours over the summer researching packaged curriculums, Jenkins said they realized none fit. Either they didn’t cover the topics the FMS team felt were important or they were too expensive.

“I also didn’t want this to be a burden on teachers,” Jenkins said. “They already have so much to do. I knew we needed their buy-in. And we didn’t want just a video they’d put in and have students watch.”

Finally, Jenkins told Stang, “Let me take a stab at it.”

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