Dumbarton Elementary library named best in state

Dumbarton Elementary School librarian Suzanna Panter works with a group of students during a recent collaborative learning exercise in the library.

The Dumbarton Elementary School library is a special place – just ask any of the school’s students, who regularly participate in collaborative learning projects with classmates and their teachers there and who are free to return and check out books any time during the school day.

Ask principal Eileen Traveline, who has witnessed a revival of the library as a place where true 21st century learning takes place each day and where students become excited about new technology and well-versed in group interaction and communication.

Ask parents of students for whom English is a second language, who have engaged in family literacy nights and taken field trips to public libraries to become more proficient in a new culture, thanks to the efforts of school officials.

Ask sixth-year librarian Suzanna Panter, whose leadership efforts have transformed the library into the focal point of the school.

Or, simply, take the opinion of the Virginia Association of School Librarians, which recently named the Dumbarton Elementary library its library of the year – making it the first elementary school ever to win the award.

“Our kids are constantly over-achieving,” Panter said. “It’s definitely a success story, and the library plays such an important role in the school.”

Dumbarton is unique in the way it utilizes its library as a developmental classroom for students. Instead of simply being dropped off by their teachers to spend time inside, students in second through fifth grades come to the libraries with their teachers to work on special projects and assignments that go beyond simply researching and reading.

“The teachers buy into the flexible schedule because they are a part of it and see the academic results in their students,” Henrico Deputy Superintendent for Policy and Elementary Education Pat Kinlaw wrote in a nomination letter on behalf of the school.

Achieving buy-in from teachers for the new system required some adjustment, principal Eileen Traveline said. But “I don’t think anyone would go back now. Once they got in there and realized the benefit of it for the children an their learning, I don’t think they would turn back.”

Reaching a diverse student body
Dumbarton has a diverse student population – 43 percent black, 25 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Asian – and more than a quarter of its students speak English as a second language. Panter found that many children and their parents had not been to a county library, so she established regular family literacy nights at the school, during which students play literacy-themed games and read with their families. On other nights, translators explain the program to new ESL families and encourage parents to get their own school library cards as a way to help them learn English.

The school also has organized several field trips to public libraries to further its education and outreach efforts.

Because only about half of Dumbarton’s students live in households that have computers, it’s even more critical that they are exposed to technology in school, Traveline said.

“If we don’t provide them with 21st-century skills, then they don’t get them,” she said.

Traveline credits Panter with creating the culture that has helped students excel.

“She’s very innovative, very much on top of what current research says,” Traveline said. “She has a vision, and she’s constantly trying to think of new things to do.

“The kids are excited about what they’re doing. They’re working in groups, they’re collaborating, they’re learning.”

Panter and Dumbarton officials have viewed the school’s library as a model for other elementaries because of the unique way it serves its community. Now, the VaASL has concurred.

“Ms. Panter integrates information literacy, skillful research and inquiry, and ethical use of technology for all students,” VaASL officials said in a statement announcing the award.

The library’s “open-access” model is designed to encourage students to spend time in the library any time. With their teachers’ permission, students can visit the library during the school day to return and check out books.

“People just think that kids just come to the library, read books and go, and that’s just not how it is in Henrico and at Dumbarton,” Panter said. “We collaborate with teachers to come up with projects to teach SOL skills on problem solving drills.

“I’m hoping that we’ll become even more of a model, especially with the collaboration piece.”

Thanks to federal stimulus money several years ago, the school was able to purchase 10,000 new books for its library, replacing a number of old ones in the process. Now, with a complement of 15,000 books overall, students have plenty from which to choose – and choose they do. They check out an average of 7,000 books each month.

Dumbarton also recently earned a grant from the Henrico Education Foundation to support its e-reader incentive program, which Panter identified as a way to engage students who weren’t excited about reading. Students can check out an e-reader for six weeks, take it home and read with their parents.

“The ultimate goal is for kids to love to read,” Panter said. “Students will check out the [e-readers] for six weeks and twice a week will come to the library to discuss the books they’re reading. Parents are invited once a week as well.”

Said HEF program manager Paula Roop of Panter’s concept: “We like the idea that she was trying to use technology to impact achievement. By letting children take it home, it engages the parents as well as students.”

Dumbarton officials will be honored during the VaASL Conference in Hampton Nov. 9.
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Henrico Schools to host College and Career Night Nov. 1


Students of all ages are invited to investigate options for life after high school at Henrico County Public Schools’ 2017 College and Career Night. The annual countywide event offers a chance to talk with representatives of more than 100 universities, colleges and professional programs, as well as about 50 representatives of career options such as businesses and branches of the military.

College and Career Night will take place Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Ave. > Read more.

Business in brief


Henrico-based nonprofit Commonwealth Autism recently received the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Seal of Excellence for successfully completing its accreditation program. Commonwealth Autism voluntarily opened itself to analysis by a peer review team during the last 18 months that examined the organization’s compliance with the “Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.” These standards cover areas such as: mission, strategy and evaluation; leadership – board, staff and volunteers; legal compliance and ethics; finance and operations; resource development; and public awareness, engagement and advocacy. Commonwealth Autism was one of six organizations in the Richmond region to be recognized and the first in the region to achieve full accreditation. In addition to this accreditation, Commonwealth Autism is recognized as an Accredited Charity with the Richmond Better Business Bureau and holds accreditation from the Code of Ethics for Behavioral Organizations (COEBO). > Read more.

Purify Infrared Sauna opens at GreenGate


Purify Infrared Sauna recently opened its second Henrico location at GreenGate Shopping Center in Short Pump.

Owner Mary Woodbridge opened her first Purify location on Patterson Avenue in July 2015. The new store is located at 301 Maltby Boulevard, Suite C, west of Short Pump Town Center. > Read more.

Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27


The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair


Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

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October 2017
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The Friendship Circle of Virginia, in partnership with the ALS Foundation, will present “A True Wonder Woman and her Superhero Husband: An Evening with Dina Hurwitz” at 7 p.m. at Chabad Community Synagogue, 212 N. Gaskins Rd. Hurwitz will share her powerful story of how she and her husband, Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and their seven young children maintain a meaningful relationship and thriving organization (Chabad in Temecula in California) despite Yitzi’s condition. The program will also feature remarks from Dr. Scott Vota, chairman of the Department of Neurology at VCU Medical Center, and an elegant dessert buffet. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested. To RSVP, call Paula Carl at 740-2000, ext. 0. Full text

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