From the Castle

Parent Newsletter for Thomas Dale High School-December 2018

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Greetings from the Castle!

Knight Families and Community Members,

Getting ALL of our students to graduate is not enough. We must aim for EACH, which is very different from ALL. EACH is different because of the meaning of personalization, individualization, and customization. EACH implies that we must take what is unique about every single student and use it to create a pathway to success. We must know who they are; where they come from; what their interest, passion, and genius are; what goals they set for themselves; and what they dream about for the future. Using what we know about EACH student will allow us to design opportunities and create experiences that give EACH student the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to make it happen.

I am interested in leading students to find their identity and purpose and to develop a deep-seated belief that anything is possible. I am also interested in not only leading our students to graduation, but to empower them to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be successful in whatever path they choose. I aim for our Knights to be life-ready AND future-ready.

We have to work backwards from this desired outcome and create:

  • a safe learning environment as part of a healthy and joyful school culture
  • collaborative processes that allow us to continuously improve
  • high-quality instruction
  • student voice and leadership
  • community engagement

The road that lies before us is not easy, nor is it clear. It will take hard work, teamwork, persistence, reflection, and an organization committed to making this vision a reality. I'm excited about the journey that lies ahead, and I am honored to travel it with you.


Don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @GoTDKnights, Facebook: Thomas Dale, and Instagram: @GoTDKnights. Our website is updated regularly for more information:

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From the Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA)

Please click HERE to view the PTSA Newsletter for November!


  • Genius Hour. The first two Genius Hour Days have been a hit! On November 26, our 2nd Genius Hour, we offered 85 sessions. On January 28, we are aiming for 100 sessions. Do you have a genius to share? Are you a professional who would like to share your skills with students and staff? Just email ME, and I will ensure we get you linked in.
  • Job Shadow Day. In March, we will host our first Job Shadow Day. The intent of this experience is to offer our Juniors an opportunity to "taste" the profession they think they want to dive into after they graduate, whether it is directly into the field or a major in college. Would you like to serve as a Job Shadow host? Do you own a business? Do you work for a company that would host our students? Just email ME, and I will ensure we get you linked in.
  • Volunteer Opportunities. Many hands make for light(er) work. Operating a school with 2,400 students and 220 adults creates a tremendous workload, and we need your help. Are you in a position to donate a bit of your time to assist with the heavy lifting required to operate a large, comprehensive high school? Just email ME, and I will ensure we get you linked in.
  • Community Partners Meeting. Want to be a part of our community school? HERE are the minutes from our last Community Partners Meeting. Our next meeting will be on December 11 at 1:00pm in the Main Campus Library. Join us!
  • Winter Sports Parent Meeting. Did you miss the Winter Sports Parent Meeting on November 19? Or, were you there and you just need access to the slides? Click HERE and you have the information! Please contact Steve Davies, our Director of Student Activities, with any questions.
  • Superhero Drive. Click HERE for a flyer with information you can use to help the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU!
  • Thomas Dale is proud to be a high-quality public educational setting and center of the Chester community. Because of the nature of our service and purpose, there are a few reminders about what is not permitted on school grounds at any time: weapons, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products of any kind (including vapor).

Teaching Empathy in a School Committed to Social-Emotional Learning

This year, Thomas Dale is hyper-focused on creating a safe and welcoming environment. Safety comes in several forms - physical, psychological, emotional, and social. Our work to build social and emotional capacity and strengthen mental health is important, necessary, timely, and quite difficult. Many of our efforts to improve our school culture and climate are meeting with success, and we intend to build on that momentum to make the way our school "feels" even better. Our intention is for the environment to be the foundation that strengthens the quality of learning experiences we create for our students to provide them with challenge appropriate for their readiness levels and their desired pathways.

One important aspect to our work is developing empathy in our students. There are two resources I want to share with you. I encourage you to engage in both and let it start a dialogue with your child, your child's teachers, your child's counselor, or me. Empathy is just one of the "outward" dispositions I intend for our school to focus on as we develop the thinkers, leaders, and workers of

Please view THIS SHORT VIDEO by Dr. Brene Brown.

Please read THIS SHORT ARTICLE by Dr. Lissa Pijanowski

Please enjoy and feel free to tell me what you think. Click HERE to email me.

More Enrichment and Support Available

This year, we've tried a new approach to Enrichment, and it has been so successful, that teachers AND students want more! To be able to provide more opportunities for students, it would require a change to the bell schedule. This change will include moving to Enrichment every day; ultimately, we will be better set to benefit all students. Our intention is to make this change when the second semester begins on January 28. Please understand this is not a decision I took lightly; with overwhelmingly affirming feedback, it has become inevitable, necessary, and a step in a better direction.

To prepare our school and to ensure we have it right, we will pilot a new bell schedule from December 10-14. Doing so will allow us to test the new schedule and have plenty of time to make adjustments based on feedback from teachers and students.

Please check out the pilot bell schedule for December 10-14 by clicking HERE.

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Community Engagement

Want to be a part of the Thomas Dale experience?

We need YOU! Volunteers, substitute teachers, job experience hosts, guest speakers...we are leaning on your leadership and helping hands to work ourselves towards a community school. Be a part of this excitement...don't just watch it pass you by!

  • Mondays (from 9:20-10am) be a mentor or teach a Genius Hour
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays (from 9:20-10am) be a tutor
  • Be a guest speaker for a class
  • Teacher Assistant
  • Office Associate Assistant
  • Chaperone a Field Trip or Dance
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Spirit Week and Pep Rally

We will have another spirit week from December 3-7!

  • Monday: Ugly Sweater

  • Tuesday: Dress like a Decoration

  • Wednesday: Holiday Movie Character Day

  • Thursday: Winter Holiday Appreciation Day

    • Dress representing your favorite winter holiday.

  • Friday: Holiday Colors (Student exchange with James River High School)

    • Freshmen: White

    • Sophomores: Blue

    • Juniors: Green

    • Seniors: Red

Friday's Pep Rally Adjusted Bell Schedule is HERE for your reference! Additionally, on Friday, we will host our first student exchange with another school in Chesterfield! Members from the James River High School SCA will visit our school and shadow members of our SCA! Later this year, our students will visit James River and shadow their students...what an awesome opportunity!

Winter Exams

Winter Exams begin on December 14 with the 2-Even block exam built into the bell schedule for that day. On December 17-19, students will take the rest of their exams on an early dismissal schedule. The Winter Exam Schedule is linked below.

Upcoming Events

Stay connected to OUR CALENDAR and mark yours!

December 3-7 - Spirit Week

December 4 - PTSA Meeting (6:00pm in the Main Large Auditorium)

December 6 - Winter Band Concert

December 7 - Pep Rally Adjusted Schedule (Click HERE for the schedule)

December 7 - Hoops for Hope at the Basketball Game vs. Matoaca

December 10-14 - Pilot the new bell schedule (Click HERE for the schedule)

December 12 - Coffee with the Principal (West Campus, Door 9)

December 12 - Sunset Snacks with the Principal (Main Campus, Door 1)

December 14 - 2E Exam

December 17-19 - Adjusted Dismissal for Winter Exams (Winter Exam Schedule)

December 18 - Superintendent's Meet and Greet (6:30-8pm at Thomas Dale)

December 19 - Next issue of From the Castle

December 20-January 1 - Winter Break (School is closed)

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