School year gets under way in Vicenza, Italy
August 30, 2012
VICENZA, Italy - DoDDS-Europe schools opened in the Vicenza Military Community Aug. 27 with more than 1,100 children arriving for the start of the academic year.
Registrations were up to about 250 at Vicenza High School in the week leading up to the start of classes. Principal Lauri Kenney said the school's emphasis on academic rigor and achievement would remain front and center in the year ahead at the school on Caserma Ederle.
"Our vision is to just keep plugging away and keeping our focus on the kids and on the classroom," said Kenney.
She noted the school's excellent Terra Nova and AP scores as indicators of the high performance of the student body as a whole. While Kenney's teaching staff remains acutely aware of the pressures present in a military community experiencing a deployment, and continue to be responsive to the social and emotional needs of their students, the administration and staff are going to ensure that the academic focus of day-to-day learning sets the tone at VHS, she said.
"We're going to make sure the kids know we care. We'll be keeping an eye on the whole child, so to speak," she said.
Enrollment was more than 240 at Vicenza Middle School, compared to about 210 at the end of last school year, said school principal, Dr. Julio Gonzalez, as he greeted newcomers at an orientation event Aug. 23.
"It's the growth from the first year to this -- and we're equipped to go to 500 -- that is really exciting," Gonzalez said. "You'll see some growth this year."
Gonzalez said he requested additional teaching staff and was awaiting approval from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) administrators in the U.S. "We've asked for two more. Will we get that right away? I hope so," he said.
"We are the only middle school in DoDEA in this region. It's more like the traditional American school, where the sixth- to eighth-grade are together. It's a developmental stage that is essential."
Gonzalez said he had charged his teachers with three main areas of focus for the year ahead: teams, exploring and advisement.
At the middle school level teaching teams work with larger than classroom-size groups of students to build learning activities that explore a range of subjects from various perspectives. Last year, for instance, a range of classes built teaching models around the theme of the Spice Road, which resulted in a holistic approach to the core subject.
"It's teams working together for kids," said Gonzalez.
In terms of advisement, Gonzalez said the middle school is dedicated to monitoring and mentoring student development through the potentially difficult early adolescent phase of growth. "It's critical, especially in times of transition, times of stress," he said. "That's why I love this age group."
At Vicenza Elementary School, principal Chris Beane was intensely involved in procuring additional teacher slots as the first day of school approached. Enrollments had reached 630 in the week before opening.
Greeting parents and children assembled for a newcomer's tour Friday, Beane announced that the school had just received approval from DoDEA headquarters in Alexandria, Va., to proceed with hiring actions to add several more teachers to the staff. As a consequence, administrators were working feverishly to shuffle classroom assignments and had to postpone the posting of teacher-student lists until Saturday.
"But this is beneficial to everybody. I'm so happy," Beane said.
On opening day, all three principals were on hand outside their buildings to welcome students as buses rolled in and parents walked younger children to meet their teachers and find their classrooms. And the weather was perfect.
Beane said the energy and excitement of children returning to school was exhilarating.
"But the best feeling of all, really the best feeling, when the rush is over, about 8:15, you walk down the hall and see all the backpacks lined up on the hooks and you know they're all back," he said.