Legislators Take Time to Go Back to School

Rep. Barbara Comstock (10th District) led a number of elected officials who visited Loudoun County schools on Tuesday, November 28th, and Wednesday, November 29th, as part of the Virginia School Boards Association’s “Take Your Legislator to School Month.” 


Comstock spoke to a civics class at Briar Woods High School about a resolution she sponsored with Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, to mandate anti-harassment training for members of Congress and their staff. She also outlined her hope that Congress would end the practice of using public funds to settle harassment complaints against its members. In response to questions from students, Comstock talked about her longstanding efforts to end human trafficking. 


Comstock made stops at Madison’s Trust Elementary and Briar Woods on Tuesday.


At Madison’s Trust, Principal Dave Stewart gave the member of Congress a tour of the entire school with an emphasis on interactive learning. Blue Ridge School Board member Jill Turgeon and Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington accompanied Comstock at Madison’s Trust (Turgeon went on with Comstock to Briar Woods).


At Briar Woods, Band Director Duane Minnick and his students demonstrated sight reading on some holiday favorites to their visitors. Minnick also explained how he wove several academic disciplines – including history – into his instruction on jazz.


State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (33rd District) toured classrooms at Madison’s Trust Elementary with Stewart and Dean Robert Rauch on Wednesday, November 29th. Wexton observed a lesson on the book “Wonder” during a fourth grade language arts lesson in Victoria Polk’s classroom. She then sat in on a math lesson about converting kilograms to grams in a fourth grade math class taught by Colleen Sallee. She took part in a third grade word study lesson with Tom Haywood’s class, watched a video of actress Melissa Gilbert reading from “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” and saw students analyzing a character in a book in Kassandra Hoffmeister’s class. In second grade, Dana Tolli’s students were rotating through literacy centers, while Lauren Stevenson’s students were engaged in word study.


Wexton also visited the gym, library, playground, cafeteria and computer lab.  Wexton, Stewart and Rauch took a photo in front of the school’s Macaw Wings to wrap up the tour.  Each student wrote a goal for the year on a feather, and the feathers were assembled to create a pair of wings to lift the students to their achievement.


Later in the day, Wexton visited Riverside High School. She was greeted with a hand-painted banner above the school’s front entrance and by a delegation of 10 students. The students were representatives of the National Honor Society and Student Council Association. They served as Wexton’s tour guides, showing her the arts wing, the auditorium, the main and auxiliary gyms, the school store, the library, the cafeteria and even the senior courtyard.  She popped in on the Social Studies Department’s workroom and asked the teachers having lunch there for any input they might like her to take back to Richmond.  She concluded her visit by speaking to the students enrolled in Kevin Ahearn’s AP Government course.  The students asked insightful questions about Wexton’s career as a public servant, her motivation to serve, her proudest accomplishment and her greatest challenge.  The students were in the middle of a unit on campaigns, so they also inquired about the progress of her current campaign for Congress.


State Sen. Dick Black (13th District) told students in a research chemistry class Wednesday at Freedom High School about his explosive field work in that subject as a youth in Florida. Black said many highly restricted chemicals today were easily attainable when he was young. “If they discovered a lab like I had today, they’d have to go in with bubble suits.” Black said his father obtained many of the chemicals on business trips. “He had no concept of safety. Safety meant nothing to him.”


Black said he wasn’t a good student with the exception of subjects that truly interested him. “I was a lunatic for chemistry… I was always interested in stuff that blew up, pyrotechnics. I developed an intrinsic feel for chemistry.”


 Developing that feel involved a few mishaps.


 Black remembered a spontaneous explosion that resulted from an experiment with red phosphorous. “I was literally blown onto a different career track.”


State Sen. Barbara Favola (31st District) visited Lowes Island Elementary on Tuesday, touring the school with Principal Bruce Shafferman.  Her tour started in the school’s innovation lab, where she engaged with fourth grade students. The students were using Loudoun Creates iPads and an app called “Explain It” to create their own weather forecasts using information from the National Weather Service.  Fourth grade teacher Haley Huberty and Instructional Technology Facilitator Gia Parrott collaborated on the lesson. Favola then visited the second grade class of Emily Meadows for a story read-aloud.  Favola also toured the library’s guided reading collection and the cafeteria before returning to Shafferman’s office for a discussion of statewide education issues.  Favola chairs the School Leadership and Student Outcomes Committee.


Del. John Bell (87th District) visited Freedom and John Champe high schools and Liberty Elementary on Wednesday. Bell toured the early childhood development classroom at Champe and spoke with instructors and teacher cadets. While conversing with students at each high school, he noted that, while sales are up in Virginia, revenue from sales tax is down because of internet shopping. Bell asked students about their shopping habits and where they saw the future of retail outlets going.