Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chesnut Charter Elementary School - a gem of Dunwoody - 2014 Year in Review

Such a wonderful neighborhood school !

May 23, 2014

Dear Chesnut Families:

As the school year comes to a close, I think we can look back on a very productive year.  We have a great deal to be proud of, as we have made a lot of progress. The strength and passion of our community – the faculty, staff and you, the parents – continue to make Chesnut a wonderful place of learning. 

I am proud to share just some of the accomplishments and initiatives of the 2013-14 school year.

  • Chesnut’s scores improved by 20% on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), which is Georgia’s statewide accountability system, implemented in 2012 to replace the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  
  • 95% of Chesnut’s fifth grade class met or exceeded state standards on the 2014 Georgia Grade 5 Writing Assessment, placing Chesnut this year among the 10 schools in Dekalb with the highest scores on this test.  
  • We received (electronically) initial 2014 CRCT scores for each third and fifth grade class from the Department of Assessment and Accountability (we have not yet received individual student scores), and, overall, they show significant gains in our benchmark grades (3rd and 5th) in the areas of math and reading.
  • As a part of our Chesnut Charter school improvement plan, we have focused on the study of statistical data and have developed plans to address all subgroups, content areas and concerns.

  • Chesnut continued to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) certification, a multi-year process that we are hoping to complete within the next year or two.  We have made tremendous progress.
  • If you recall, early in the year, the kindergarten classes incorporated the ecology club into their curriculum. We are working very closely with a county representative who was instrumental in helping Hightower earn its STEM certification, and she has helped develop school-wide curriculums guided by STEM principles.  
  • We have been following and will continue to follow a month-by-month guideline of STEM initiatives and achievements to reach throughout the school year.
  • This year, all teachers participated in two school-wide STEM training events, and all of our students – on every grade level – enjoyed their first STEM Day. 
  • Last week we hosted Chesnut’s first Family STEM Night, and I am proud to say it was well attended and very successful.  

  • We began the school year with a renovated media center and faculty lounge, thanks largely to funds raised by the 2013 Boosterthon Fun Run.
  • The 2014 Boosterthon Fun Run raised approximately $11,000 to help fund a brand new sound system that was purchased and was in place in time for this year’s performance of Aladdin Jr.
  • We received grants from Whole Foods' Whole Kids Foundation as well as The Captain Planet Foundation that allowed for enhancements to our outdoor garden, as well as the development of a new Math-themed Pizza Garden, which will feature geometrically shaped beds to facilitate hands-on Farm to School math lessons.  The Captain Planet Foundation funds also went toward the visit from the G.A.B.I.E. bus.
  • We used our summer camp funds to purchase 10 new iPads for student use.
  • Our Spring Fling Dance and Silent Auction, which saw the return of the auction to school property, raised approximately $6,000 for Friends of Chesnut --money that goes back into the school.  
  • We held numerous Spirit Nights with community partners, and the money raised went to Friends of Chesnut and was used toward programs, resources and improvements that help make Chesnut the best place for your children to learn and grow.
  • The back playground area was renovated to include tetherball equipment.
  • Families continued to come out on Saturdays for Clean & Beautiful, enhancing the outside and inside of the school.  We were also grateful and proud recipients of a landscape improvement plan, plants and flowers from local business, Blooms of Dunwoody.
  • To me, perhaps the most important accomplishment on school property was Chesnut earning a 102% on the county lockdown drill.  Your children’s safety is our first priority.

  • In 2013-14 we saw one teacher accepted into the K-5 Science Endorsement program. This will also support our STEM initiatives. 
  • Over the past year, three teachers and our school counselor worked hard to successfully complete their School Master Gardener certification, which helps us with STEM learning as well as with our outdoor classrooms. 
  • Seven teachers pursued gifted certification this year, to be completed by August.  This will bring our percentage of teachers in the building with gifted certification to 78%. 
  • One teacher was accepted into a program to pursue a Masters in Special Education.
  • I am, however, extremely proud of all our teachers.  There are countless teachers who work “behind the scenes” to support their students as well as their coworkers.  All of our teachers love teaching, they love your children, they love Chesnut, and their dedication is unmatched. I can and would not single out anyone, as it is virtually impossible to do. I do believe that we have the best teachers, and they are all appreciated.

  • Chesnut launched the second series of Farm to School nutrition lessons during P.E. classes.  
  • Chesnut built a new running/walking path, almost entirely funded by a Georgia SHAPE grant.
  • Chesnut received a “Fuel Up to Play 60” grant from the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, and the Wellness Committee started working with Ms. Martin, the cafeteria manager, to increase consumption of whole foods, increase healthy choices and to increase participation in school breakfast and lunch.
  • Coach Dykema and our PTC Wellness Chair were invited to and participated in the SHAPE Healthy School Summit, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Public Health, where they shared their best practices and brought back many wonderful ideas for Chesnut.

  • We celebrated our 45th birthday, and standing before the City Council, we received a proclamation from the Mayor naming October 29, 2013 "Chesnut Charter Elementary School Day."   
  • Five students from Chesnut’s FIRST LEGO League Robotics team spoke before the City Council, stating the case for tornado sirens in Dunwoody.  
  • The students on our Technology and Robotics teams were very successful in the DeKalb County School District Technology Fair. In Robotics, our third and fourth grade participants won first and second place, and in Video Editing, our fourth and fifth grade participants won third place. 
  • Our students won third place in the 2014 Elementary Science Olympiad Tournament.
  • We saw the Atlanta Falcons select Chesnut as the "Rise Up Friday" School of the Week, and Freddie the Falcon and team cheerleaders visited us.  
  • We proudly shared our news and accomplishments with the community, and as a result, Chesnut received an increasing amount of positive local media coverage. 


All of the above reflect just some of Chestnut’s 2013-14 happenings.  The list can go on.

As I close out this letter, Mr. McFarlane and I want to wish congratulations to our fifth graders who, with their knowledge, spirit, and commitment to learning, move on to a new stage in their academic careers!  And, best well-wishes to Mr. Shiverick and Ms. Gerrard, as they too have chosen to move on to a new stage in their careers.  We will miss you all.

Finally, I would like to again thank you all for your support this year.  We are looking forward to the next school year.   In the meantime, we wish you a restful and enjoyable summer.

Veronica Williams
Chesnut Charter Elementary School

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