EMU Students Contend in Business Competition

The EMU team tied for fourth place in the annual Goodman & Company accounting competition (l. to r.): Ron Stoltzfus, Eric Yoder, Heidi Boese, Brittany Snyder and Jason Ropp with Gary Thomson of Goodman & Company. Photo by Kristin R. Kitchens

HARRISONBURG – They came, they collaborated, they crunched the numbers and were rewarded for their efforts in a grueling regional business competition sponsored by Goodman & Company, a major Virginia accounting firm.

A team of Eastern Mennonite University senior accounting majors tied for fourth place in the final round of competition with a team from the University of Virginia in the ninth annual Goodman & Company Accounting Challenge. Continue reading “EMU Students Contend in Business Competition” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

EMU A Door To Better Things For Two German Alumni

Carl Wesselhoeft, EMU class of 1955

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Both of them were born in eastern Germany, both fled their homes in the aftermath of the second World War, and both – through a series of coincidences – arrived in North America as laborers on Mennonite farms before attending Eastern Mennonite College (now University) in the 1950s.

The second weekend in October, 2010, Carl Wesselhoeft, EMU class of 1955, and Werner Will, class of 1960, returned to Virginia to celebrate their 55th and 50th class reunions during homecoming at Eastern Mennonite University. Though they only lived briefly in Harrisonburg, both men said they gained much-needed opportunity and purpose at EMU. Continue reading “EMU A Door To Better Things For Two German Alumni” »

This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.

In Support of the 10-Point Grading Scale

Switching to the 10-point system will not lower the bar for Rockingham Co. students because their teachers will likely change the manner in which they grade slightly enough to make the change less abrupt than some perceive it to be. This idea of the bar being lowered appears more like simple pessimism to overall change.

The change will balance out for several reasons. First, most teachers will likely raise their standard grading procedures to meet the change of scale, thus keeping the standards the same and only changing there numerical representation in order to make them consistent with colleges, universities and the majority of the nation?s public schools. Second, the teachers who do not change their grading procedures at all will be balanced by those who do. The amount of potential detriment here is extremely low and in no way substantiates a refusal to join the majority of public schools already using the 10-point scale.

Universities say they look at grading scales and are able to distinguish between the different grading systems, but it is unnecessary and simply redundant to ask them to spend extra time trying to approximate equivalencies between student grades per grading system. As a parent and former public schools teacher, I simply cannot assume that the institution of higher education that my children wish to attend will distinguish them from other children who come from schools using the 10-point scale.

I have heard institutions such as UVA claim to make the distinction between grade point scales when looking at GPA scores, but I have yet to hear how exactly they do that. Perhaps they use some formula for students to equalize all the GPA scores before assessing the scores as a whole. Even if this is not the method, they obviously are claiming to do something of the sort out of fairness. Therefore, out of fairness they will in the end render the distinction between grading scales useless, unnecessary and simply irrelevant.

The counter argument here is that students will work harder for an A in the current system because they will need a score of 94% in order to get it. The problem with this consideration is that it ignores other potential changes within the system that will balance out the admittedly abrupt change of going from the current system to the 10-point system. Overall it seems teachers would readjust their grade giving procedures making it require nearly the same effort to get an A in a 10-point system as it is to get an A in the current system.

All assignments are not numerically equitable. A math test translates to numerical grading practices easily, whereas an essay does not. Even if the teacher uses a rubric to grade student writing, they will at some level ask themselves ?Is this an A, B, C, D or failing paper?? Oftentimes this will be the starting point and from there the teacher will approach a numerical grade based on the merit of the particular paper among others receiving the same letter grade. In this circumstance I see very little potential for negative change from going to the 10-point scale.

There is no doubt that the change would require effort and there may be a period of getting used to the 10-point scale, but it would be worth it in the end. I have yet to hear the school systems that have switched from our current grading scale to the 10-point scale discontented with the change they decided to make for the sake of simplicity and fairness. So the question I pose to parents, teachers, administrators and school boards working in the current grading scale is this: In a national system such as the public schools, which rely on standards and the consistency of standards, why would we refuse to use what has become he standard grading system of US Public Schools?

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Sachedina to Focus on Furthering Relations Between Children of Abraham

Image from http://www.jcu.edu/religion/nursi/Images/Sachedina.jpg

Professor Aziz Sachedina teaches at University of Virginia and will speak at Eastern Mennonite University on October 4th.

From 4-5:30pm on Monday, October 4, Professor Aziz Sachedina from the Religious Studies Department at UVA will be presenting, “Disenchantment” with “interfaith dialogue” for furthering better relations among the Children of Abraham.  The presentation will be at Strite Auditorium and will be followed by discussion.

In recent years Aziz Sachedina has had significant high level teaching roles and encounters in Iran. He is considered one of the foremost scholars on Shi’ite Islam in the world and he is at the progressive front for conflict transformation, medical ethics and human rights within the Islamic tradition. He is very interested in how the peacebuilding and conflict transformation education and training process has developed at EMU.  

The event is co-sponsored by Eastern Mennonite Universty’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and Abraham’s Tent.

EMU Grad Pushes Gov. McDonnell On DREAM Act

Updated with Video

Governor McDonnell nodded as Isabel Castillo told him how she’d come to the United States at age 6, earned a 4.0 GPA in high school and graduated magna cum laude from Eastern Mennonite University in 2009.

Then, her voice cracking with emotion as she spoke at a town hall meeting the governor hosted at JMU, Castillo surprised the crowd of several hundred into momentary silence when she said, “But I’m undocumented.” Continue reading “EMU Grad Pushes Gov. McDonnell On DREAM Act” »

President Rose Emails All Students About Plan to Transform JMU Alcohol Culture

Various student sources at JMU report having received an email sent to the entire student population today by President Rose outlining a continued and expanded commitment to ensure students’ health and safety by limiting the abuse of alcohol by some students.  The email outlines changes in enforcement, parental notification, and educational programming.  The email is reprinted in its entirety below:

August 18, 2010

Dear new and returning students,

I hope your summer has been both relaxing and meaningful. We look forward to welcoming you to JMU and to the new academic year!

While our mission is to prepare you to be educated and enlightened citizens, our primary concern is always your personal health and safety. Last spring semester ended with some lingering issues surrounding negative alcohol-related events off campus. As your President and on behalf of the university community, I remain very concerned about the abuse and underage use of alcohol by some of our students. Such behavior results in negative consequences for the individual and it also threatens the personal health, safety and community respect of the entire student body. The purpose of this letter is to notify you of actions that we will be taking to change the negative alcohol culture that has been associated with James Madison University specifically, and higher education generally.  Continue reading “President Rose Emails All Students About Plan to Transform JMU Alcohol Culture” »

Fall Semester Looms Ahead at EMU

HARRISONBURG – Warning: dates on the Eastern Mennonite University activities calendar are closer than they appear.

But there they are, hard to ignore – Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 18-19, the annual faculty-staff conference, signaling the start of summer activities winding down and preparations gearing up for the start of the new academic year. Fall semester classes at EMU will begin 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31. Continue reading “Fall Semester Looms Ahead at EMU” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Interfaith Peace Camp Starts at EMU

Today, over 40 children are beginning a week-long day camp at Eastern Mennonite University designed to build friendships and understanding between children of different Abrahamic faith traditions.

Interfaith Peace Camp, offered to rising 1st through 6th graders, is planned and staffed by an interfaith team of community members with the desire to provide low-cost, high-quality learning experiences for campers.   Continue reading “Interfaith Peace Camp Starts at EMU” »

Interview: Dr. Kizner, New Harrisonburg Schools Superintendent

Dr. Kizner, new superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

“I’ll never accept as a reason that a child cannot succeed and excel,” says Dr. Scott Kizner, Harrisonburg’s newly appointed Superintendent of schools. The city school board unanimously approved today Kizner’s four-year contract to start on July 1, 2010 with an annual salary of $141,000. (See full press release)

Dr. Kizner , currently in his sixth year as Superintendent of the Martinsville (VA) City Public Schools (MCPS), was one of three finalists for the Harrisonburg position from among 20 candidates from Virginia and other states, according to city school board documents. In taking the Harrisonburg position, Kizner will also be taking an annual salary cut from  $143,000+ contract awarded by Martinsville in 2008. Martinsville has an annual budget of around $22 million compared to Harrisonburg’s almost $56 million for ‘09-’10. Westerly (RI) Public Schools, where Kizner also served as Superintendent for six years, has a budget of about $50 million.

Kizner is familiar with difficult budget decisions as Martinsville has Virginia’s highest unemployment rate at over 21% and a student population that has decreased to its current level of almost 2500. Martinsville did meet its federal AYP requirements (Adequate Yearly Progress) and, in a recent independent efficiency review contracted by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, it was concluded that Martinsville was “a highly efficient and effective school division.”

In his first interview after his appointment, Kizner noted his “excitement and desire to get to know the school system and people of Harrisonburg” as his first item of business. Kizner is no stranger to Harrisonburg, though. The New York native earned his Master of Arts degree from James Madison University and currently has a daughter attending JMU. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with JMU and the other area institutions on everything from early childhood through high school,” said Kizner.

Among his Martinsville tenure highlights, Kizner said he is proud of a program that works with parents (68% of students live in single parent home, according to MCPS)across the school system  in an effort to have all students apply for college, whether they plan to attend or not. “From my work in special education,” said Kizner, “I know you have to start with every child’s strengths and then work hard to raise their standards.” Martinsville requires that all students complete 40 hours of service learning/community service prior to graduation.

Kizner also noted his support for the arts, remarking that during tough budget decisions he has “never touched his arts budgets.”  “Arts are the reason that some kids wake up to go to school. For some kids who may be struggling, this is how they best express themselves.”  An arts-mentoring program in MCPS is set to receive recognition from Virginia Tech, according to Kizner.

Kizner plans to move to Harrisonburg with his family in the beginning of July. At the time of this posting, a Martinsville School Board member had not yet returned a request for comment.

New Superintendent Chosen for Harrisonburg City Schools

The Harrisonburg City School Board has issued a press release announcing the next Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Scott Kizner.

PRESS RELEASE: Dr. Scott Kizner appointed to succeed Ford as Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

April 28, 2010 – 11:30 A.M.

Dr. Kizner, new superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

Harrisonburg, VA – The Harrisonburg City School Board announced the appointment of Dr. Scott R. Kizner as its new Superintendent of schools at a special meeting today. The board voted unanimously to approve a four-year contract effective July 1, 2010 with an annual salary of $141,000. Kizner will begin his new duties following the retirement of Dr. Donald Ford whose 13-year tenure as division Superintendent will end on June 30, 2010.

Dr. Kizner’s selection came after a three-month search that included more than 20 candidates from Virginia and other states. The board enlisted the assistance of the Virginia School Board Association for the search and interview process that began in January with a community survey and public hearing to receive feedback on desirable traits and qualifications for the new superintendent.

Commenting on the overall search, Board member Kerri Wilson said, “the process we used in selecting our new Superintendent was extensive and thorough, drawing a large number of highly qualified educators from across the country. As a result, the school board had the opportunity to select the best candidate to lead the Harrisonburg City Public Schools.”

Immediate-past chairman Tom Mendez said, “Dr. Ford has established a tradition of excellence in our schools that is envied and well-respected throughout the state. I am very pleased that we’ve found an experienced leader to carry on and enhance the great work that has been accomplished in our division.”

Dr. Kizner is currently serving in his sixth year as the Superintendent of the Martinsville City Public Schools following a six-year term as Superintendent of the Westerly, RI Public Schools. Prior to becoming a superintendent, his educational experiences included teaching children with disabilities, being a school psychologist, directing special education programs, and serving as assistant superintendent of instruction in the Northern Shenandoah region of Virginia. Throughout his career, Kizner has served on many state and national boards including the Governor’s School Readiness Task Force and the Virginia Early Childhood Advisory Council. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baruch College, a Master of Arts degree from James Madison University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Virginia Tech. He also completed post-doctoral requirements in educational leadership at the University of Virginia.

During the special meeting, board members took the time to welcome the new superintendent, giving their own personal reasons why they selected Kizner for the position.

Board member Greg Coffman stated, “My principal criteria for our new superintendent were an innovative leader and an educator whose first concern is the success of our youth, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background. In my mind, Dr. Kizner met these qualifications magnificently.”

Board Chairperson Sallie Strickler echoed Mr. Coffman’s sentiments and stated, “Dr. Kizner’s track record shows that he supports collaboration, both horizontally and vertically, to ensure that the entire school division is working toward the same goal of helping every student achieve. I have been impressed by how actively involved Dr. Kizner is in all aspects of the schools.”

Vice Chairman Nick Swayne expressed his reasons for support adding, “Dr. Kizner has demonstrated exceptional strength in establishing strong ties to a diverse community. By building relationships and pulling community resources together, he has raised student performance and created learning opportunities for all children.”

Board member Tim Lacey cited Kizner’s commitment to education and his high expectations as key reasons for supporting him. “During his tenures as superintendent, he has led both school systems to being recognized as high-performing school districts. I’m excited to see what he can do here in Harrisonburg,” Lacey said.

On his selection by the board, Kizner said, “I am excited and honored to be the next Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools. This is a great school system and I look forward to building on its many strengths and successes. My family and I welcome the opportunity to become part of the Harrisonburg community.”

Scott and his wife, Lori, a school counselor and certified school administrator, have a 24-year old daughter in law school, a 20-year old daughter at James Madison University who is studying to become a teacher, and a daughter that will be enrolled as a junior at Harrisonburg High School in the fall.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. Strickler announced that the board will host events in the coming months to introduce Dr. Kizner to school employees and the community. “We look forward to welcoming Scott and his family back to Harrisonburg,” Strickler added.

***

The Harrisonburg City Public Schools have a very diverse student population with approximately 4,400 students, 800 employees and a $55 million annual budget. The division has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and one high school. All schools are fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.