The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

Part Two of the End of Year Interview with Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence

Assistant Editor Callie Stravinski sat down with Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence for the second part of their interview, where they discussed new in-school technology, new programs at certain schools, and future plans for the county.
Olivia Columbel
Assistant Editor Callie Stravinski and Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence sat down for the final part, in their end of year interview.

How successful have the changes to the bathrooms been in high schools?

I think it was fairly successful. We’ve heard very good things from our administrators about the decrease in the use of vaping. I was in a school that was running a pilot program talking to some students and the students were like, ‘Yep, I can walk through the halls and I don’t smell vape anymore.’ I think anecdotally [they are] very successful. We are collecting some survey information from the schools that have had the pilots. We are really interested in trying to understand the technology and how the bathrooms are working. 

Are there plans for these to be included in every school? 

Right now we’re going to get that survey information and make sure that the information is verifying what I’m saying anecdotally. If it’s as positive as it initially appears to be, I definitely will be working with our school board to try to move it forward into our other schools. There’s the single use bathrooms, and then there’s the technology that we’re putting as a pilot in some of our other schools. We’ll have to take a look at which of those is giving us the most return on our investment.

What led to the decision to pilot 8- period school days at Trailside Middle School?

My understanding is that the principal was looking at their data and they were seeing the need for more opportunity to intervene, to have some intervention time with their students then also provide acceleration for other students. They wanted to try this schedule to see if they could build more of that time into the day and see if it made a difference in terms of student achievement. They want[ed] to run it and see what kind of impact it has on student achievement and then that would be something that we would look at and see if [it] was a good idea or  [it] wasn’t. 

What changes has the addition of the IB Diploma Program brought to Heritage and Loudoun Valley High Schools?

They’re in early stages, both of the schools were authorized as IB world schools this year. I think mostly next year, the 10th grade students will just start taking the real IB [courses].  I would say [it is] a little too early to really diagnose what kind of changes are coming to the buildings. I think there’s been a few students who have transferred into those schools for the IB program, but on a large scale, I wouldn’t say that there’s been any changes yet, because they’re really just in their infancy.

How has the program been received from what you know? 

My understanding is that the teachers who are involved with it are very excited. The training has been really good. I think the work that they’ve been doing on the curriculum to get themselves authorized as an IB World School has been really positive. Generally, I think there’s a very positive vibe around the IB programs and it’ll just remain to be seen how it launches.

Will it expand to other schools in the county?

I do think there is some conversation about expanding the IB program beyond the first two schools but we held off on putting that in next year’s budget while we get these up and running. I think we’ll probably try to do that down the road. 

What are the ways LCPS  is looking to accommodate the state’s increase in mandated teacher training?

You probably saw that we put out some recommendations that we start with the late arrivals and that was not particularly well received. That’s fine, we are talking to the school board tonight about another alternative, which would be to turn four of our current instructional days into teacher professional development, so we’ll talk about that tonight. 

*As of June 11, 2024, the School Board approved the addition of four new Professional Development days, which will be on October 4, November 4, January 28, and June 16. 

Going on to the future, how has working with the new school board?

It’s been great; they’re a very hard working, sincere, group of people who really are invested in doing what’s right for the school system. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and kind of working with them. It was a little hectic early on. When you come in and you’re a brand new board member, one of the very first things you have to do is you have to get a budget done. We had to work really hard the first couple of months to get the budget done with folks who are brand new, and trying to learn the job. I think for everybody, that was a pretty stressful time, but we got through that. As new board members, they’re starting to really find a rhythm and I think it’s been really productive. It’s been good. 

What do you see to be the biggest challenge you’ll face in your second year as superintendent?

I think it is going to be working with our school board to really prioritize what we need to be doing as we move forward, based on what we found this year. The Post Entry plan and all the listening sessions, taking all that information and talking to the board and saying, ‘Okay, what’s the most important work as we move forward?’ Again, there’s a lot of training and new requirements coming out of the state, we’re gonna have to really pay careful attention to how much work we put on our teachers so that they can get that done. We want to deliver on that, [and] a lot of it revolves around teaching literacy. We want to do a good job with that; we have to give our teachers time to really learn what matters there, that’ll be a significant challenge. I think just working through with our school board, [and asking] how do you want to measure what matters? How do we want to engage with our community and make our conversations about pathways for students and the kind of learning experiences that we want all of our students to have? I’d call them opportunities, just lots of really good opportunities in front of us. 

What changes do you hope to inact during your second year?

Right away, one of the big things that we’ve been working on is an instructional framework. This idea that if I put 50 teachers in a room and said, ‘what should teaching look like and what should learning look like in Loudoun County schools?’.  Right now, we would get a lot of different answers. I think we need to have a more consistent answer, because if we have a consistent understanding of what teaching and learning should look like, it’s easier to push our professional development in that direction, One of the big challenges is to make sure that we have a really clear and strong instructional framework in place and begin to help teachers and principals and others understand what that looks like.

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About the Contributors
Callie Stravinski
Callie Stravinski, Assistant Editor
Callie Stravinski is a third-year member of DHS Press and is currently an assistant editor for the publication. Callie joined her freshman year solely to hear bad dad jokes but fell in love with it and has been there ever since. Her favorite things to write include Q&As, news, and feature stories. If she is not on the field practicing or playing field hockey, she will most likely be found reading romance books, hanging with friends, or shopping at Target.
Olivia Columbel
Olivia Columbel, Assistant Editor
Olivia Columbel is an Assistant Editor for DHS Press. She is currently a junior and serving her second year with the program. Olivia hopes to pursue a career in social work and possibly expand to journalism as well. She loves to investigate teachers, sports and students for fascinating feature pieces. If Olivia is not at Dominion, in a classroom or on the field managing a sport, you can find her fast asleep in her own bed, getting food with friends, reading a book or doing her favorite activity, listening to music. 

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