'Total Team Effort' at Bull Run

'Total Team Effort' at Bull Run

To encourage team spirit inside the school and within the community, Bull Run Elementary is instituting a Total Team Effort. Called TTE, the object is to make a good school even better.

Under the leadership of Robin Jenks Vanderlip, president, and Michelle Urie, vice president, Bull Run has a strong PTA board, and its members are behind the new program. They want to build successful partnerships between parents, students and teachers for the good of the children.

"The message we want to get out is that we're a family school where parents are involved in their children's education," said Vanderlip. "But parents don't always know what they can do to get involved so, hopefully, this will make them aware that they have an open, welcome invitation to the school."

She has a fifth-grade son there, and Urie has a fourth-grade son and two, fifth-grade daughters at Bull Run. And the new program, said Urie, should help refresh the school spirit.

"The first couple years [after the school opened], the enthusiasm level was very high," she said. But then it waned a bit. "And last year was a bad year, in general, with the sniper and the bad weather, so we just want to perk things up a little."

THE FUN BEGINS, this Thursday, Aug. 28, with a picnic and open house. Then on Tuesday, Sept. 2, students will be greeted to their first day of school with T-shirts, banners and balloons.

"We're purchasing 1,100 T-shirts and giving them to teachers, administrators, students, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, etc.," said Vanderlip. "And we're urging them to wear them every Friday to show their school spirit and pride." The PTA is sponsoring and funding the free T-shirts.

"We want kids to want to be here, rather than at home in front of the TV or computer," said Vanderlip. "And we're doing it the first day of school because we want to set a positive tone, right from the kickoff."

And these are no ordinary T-shirts — they're inscribed with six goals. They remind the children of specific character traits and values that they can use every day in school and throughout their lives. These values parallel those in the noted Character Counts program, but are tailored to the school's needs.

The goals are: Appreciation, citizenship, leadership, respect, responsibility and success. And, said Vanderlip, parents, students and teachers must all work together so these goals may be achieved. For example, parents could volunteer in the school and make sure their children's T-shirts are washed and ready to wear on Fridays.

"We'll send home sign-up sheets of activities within the classroom and the school, as a whole," added Urie. "And we have two parent-liaisons — one who speaks Spanish and one who speaks Korean — to break through some of the cultural barriers to let parents know how they can get involved." (School volunteers and PTA members are always needed; call 703-227-1400).

BULL RUN ALSO has a separate, informational PTA meeting for Korean parents. "And we are very open to suggestions from parents about what they'd like to see us work toward and any improvements we could make," said Urie. "On the first day of school, every student will receive a packet with a letter about the TTE program, a T-shirt and pencil, plus the phone numbers of the PTA board members they can contact."

"We're also going to try to have a scholastic pep rally, each marking-term, to encourage everyone to do their best," said Vanderlip. The PTA will also present cultural-arts programs, throughout the school year, to not only entertain the students, but reinforce the TTE messages such as character building and teamwork. For example, the Pro Kids Show, in April, will use music, singing, comedy and puppets to teach the importance of respect, cooperation, responsibility, etc.

The school also urges parents to get involved in their children's education. Said Urie: "There isn't anybody that's a better advocate for your child than you." Communication between home and school is stressed, and Bull Run will also draw upon community resources to build an even stronger school.

Students will be encouraged to participate in making choices that will benefit them at home and in class. That way, said Vanderlip, "They're happier and more excited about learning." And parent involvement shows that education is to be valued.

The school will stress a different value, every six weeks, beginning with "responsibility" and a Sept. 12 pep rally in conjunction with the SGA. Principal Thom Clement is delighted about the whole thing. "I think the name is appropriate — total team, total school," he said. "We very much want parents to be involved in doing what's best for their children."

And, he said, it's good timing: "Now that we're entering into our fifth year, we're re-examining our priorities, and it perfectly complements what the PTA is doing."