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October 2016

posted Oct 18, 2016, 10:11 AM by F. Lester

The Salem School Board recognized Jennifer Dean for earning a scholarship from Education First that enabled her to travel to Finland and The Netherlands this past summer. She was able to explore Education as a Human Right along with other educators from around the world. Dean serves as Supervisor of Instructional Technology and Accountability for the Salem School Division.

Jim Young
Jim Young, the longtime supporter of educational endeavors in the City of Salem, was honored at the October 11 school board meeting for his service to both the Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association and the School Division. Young is responsible for the development and implementation of a number of programs through his work on the division’s student health advisory committee.


The Salem Educational Foundation used the October School Board meeting as the perfect platform to award the 2016-17 Cox-Hurley-Rowe Professional Development Scholarships to some of our educators.

This year’s winners are Title I teacher Kelly Rowland and reading specialist Kristen Wilkes from East Salem Elementary, Kindergarten teacher Lisa Valentine from G. W. Carver Elementary, Second Grade teacher Summer Custer from South Salem Elementary and Kindergarten teacher Tarri Gauck from West Salem Elementary.

The Cox-Hurley-Rowe Professional Development Scholarship was endowed by the family of Richard H. Fisher during the 2015-16 school year in memory of three South Salem teachers – Jori Cox, Betsy Hurley, and Linda Rowe. The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize one teacher from each of Salem’s four elementary schools annually with a $250 scholarship for their professional development or for classroom use to support the implementation of innovative instructional strategies.

Jori Cox graduated from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, then from Roanoke College in Salem. She began her teaching career in 1983 at Andrew Lewis Middle School as a mathematics teacher. In 1987 Jori transferred to West Salem Elementary School where she taught for 10 years. In 1997 Jori joined the teaching staff at South Salem where she remained until her illness prevented her from teaching. During her time at South Salem Jori also earned her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Virginia.

Betsy Hurley graduated from Salem High School, then from Roanoke College in Salem. She began her teaching career at South Salem Elementary School in 1989. Betsy served as a teacher at South Salem for 22 ½ years until her illness forces her to retire from her beloved students and her career as a teacher.

Linda Rowe graduated from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, then from Radford University in Radford. She returned to Radford during her teaching career and earned her master’s degree in reading. Linda began teaching at South Salem Elementary School in 1983 and remained there for her entire career. She taught both kindergarten and second grade before becoming a reading specialist at the school. Linda earned her National Board Certification, was recognized by the Virginia State Reading Association as their Teacher of the Year, and was Salem’s 2006 Teacher of the Year. Linda retired due to her illness in the fall of 2014.

August 2016

posted Aug 15, 2016, 6:44 AM by F. Lester

Karen Adams and Chair David Preston

The Salem City School Administration and School Board expressed their heartfelt appreciation to Karen Adams from the Salem Ecumenical Ministries Board and Tonya Pickett from the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension for their continued support of the Summer Breakfast program for students participating in the Division’s summer programs. 

Adams and Pickett worked with local business partners and Summer School Principals Jamie Garst and Wes Thomas to coordinate the effort. Donations and volunteers to make the program happen came from all corners of the Salem Community and beyond. Thanks to all who made this valuable initiative a huge success!

(L to R) Karen Adams and School Board Chair David Preston

July 2016

posted Jul 18, 2016, 1:45 PM by F. Lester

The board members formally recognized Jack Beedle, a 2016 Salem High School Graduate, at their July Board meeting on Tuesday. Beedle was selected to participate in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program and he will leave for his 10 month adventure in Germany this August. He is the first SHS student to take part in this program.
Jack Beedle with SCS Board Chair

June 2016

posted Jul 8, 2016, 12:11 PM by F. Lester

Art students

The Salem School Board recognized and congratulated three outstanding art students in the School Division at Tuesday night’s meeting. Salem High School’s Darrien Laffel and Andrew Lewis’ Meredith Hicks each had award winning first place entries in the Virginia School Board Association Spring Regional Forum Art Contest and were praised along with the Division’s Elementary representative, Abigail Pham, of South Salem.

Laffel’s work “Mother Nature” won first place honors in the high school division and Hicks won first place in the Middle School Division for “Paris in the Fall”. Their works will be framed and displayed on a rotating basis in the offices of the Virginia School Board Association, the State Secretary of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Laffel also was recognized for her first place entry and Outstanding Interpretation Award in the Virginia PTA Reflections Art Contest. 
Art teachers Mike Gibson, Sarah Meadows and Robin Richardson also were on hand to support their high achieving students.

May 2016

posted Jul 8, 2016, 12:07 PM by F. Lester

ALMS..A School to Watch
The School Board congratulated Dr. Forest Jones and the faculty and staff of Andrew Lewis Middle School for being selected to the “Virginia Schools to Watch” program by The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. A School to Watch is a high-performing, student-focused, middle grades school where four domains of characteristics are evident:

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE - All students are challenged to use their minds well. 
DEVELOPMENTAL RESPONSIVENESS - Unique needs of young adolescents guide the planning and implementation of all school processes.
SOCIAL EQUITY -Every student is provided with high-quality teachers, resources, and supports in a democratic and fair setting.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES - Established practices and methods are used to accomplish goals and ensure a healthy school climate.

Melissa Cook
The Salem School Board recognized and congratulated Melissa Cook for being selected as the Air Force Assiciation's Aerospace Teacher of the Year for Salem by the Roanoke Chapter of the AFA.
Mrs. Cook teaches math at ALMS and was presented her honor by School Board Chairman, David Preston and ALMS Principal, Forest Jones.
As the result of her selection as the AFA’s Aerospace Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Cook received a stipend of $100 from the Air Force Association, and a free one year membership to the Air Force Association.

Forensics Champions 2016
The best talkers in all of Salem and the state, for that matter, were recognized by the Salem School Board tonight. The SHS Forensics team that has won a staggering 11 straight state titles was honored with Resolution 235 that passed unanimously.
Here a link to the resolution.$file/Resolution%20%23%20235-Forensics.pdf

Skills USA Winners
The Salem City School Board expressed its gratitude for the manner in which Shawn McNeal and Ben Kennedy represented Salem High School and the City of Salem by winning first place honors in Automotive Maintenance and Extemporaneous Speaking respectively at the Virginia Skills USA Leadership Conference and Skills Championships. The competition was held in Fredericksburg in April. Shawn is pictured with Salem Division Teacher of the Year Derek Wray. (Kennedy was unable to attend the recognition to a prior commitment)

April 2016

posted Apr 18, 2016, 11:34 AM by F. Lester   [ updated Jun 6, 2016, 5:19 AM ]

The Salem Educational Foundation awarded the inaugural Cox-Hurley-Rowe Professional Development/Education Scholarship to two South Salem teachers at tonight’s school board meeting. Reading specialist Melanie Smith and Music Teacher Susan Bowles were named the first recipients of this prestigious honor that is named in the memory of three beloved South Salem educators who passed away way too early - Jori Cox, Betsy Hurley, and Linda Rowe.

All three of these honorees were loved and highly respected by their students, colleagues, and community. Each embodied a spirit of continuous learning and growth. It is very fitting to recognize three exemplary teachers by providing funds to go toward professional development or classroom use to other teachers in Salem who carry on their work and embody the same principles of loving, inspiring, and engaging children in their learning.

Each teacher received a $250 scholarship to use for her personal professional development or classroom use. In addition, family members representing each of the teacher for whom the award is named were in attendance.

SEF Recognition

The Salem School Board and School Division administration recognized and congratulated Connie Ramsey and Angela Schuyler-Meadows for receiving the National Board Certification for School Nurses. Connie is a school nurse at West Salem Elementary School while Angela is a school nurse at East Salem Elementary School.

National Certification in School Nursing represents a national standard in preparation, knowledge, and practice. Certification increases consumer confidence and indicates professional growth. In order to qualify for certification, you must be a licensed registered nurse, submit an academic transcript verifying a bachelor's degree or higher in nursing or related-field, meet clinical practice requirements of a minimum of 1,000 hours, complete an online application, and pass a certification exam.


Andrew Lewis Middle School student Christian Crawley was honored for representing the school division at the State Geography Bee.

In addition, Salem High School students, Jacob Beedle and Madolyn Legg, were recognized for their First Place finishes at the recent Governor’s School Project Forum competition. Beedle won first place for his work entitled "Comparison of DNA from Multiple Monocultures of L. digitatum" in the category of Chemistry/Cellular and Molecular Biology. Legg captured first place for her work called "Application of a Pick and Place Robot in Conjunction with a Touchscreen Interface." Her category was Robotics and Intelligent Machines.

Two others students who were not present at the meeting also excelled at the Project Forum. Nicholas Hood placed second in Materials Science and Trevor Buzzard finished third in Environmental Engineering.


March 2016

posted Apr 18, 2016, 10:55 AM by F. Lester   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 11:05 AM ]

The 2016 Teacher of the Year in the Salem School Division is a veteran teacher with over a decade of classroom experiences, a published author and a master mechanic who can fix your car’s transmission in a flash.

“I never expected anything like this and it is truly amazing that I would receive this type of recognition,” says Derek Wray, an Automotive Technology Instructor at Salem High School and the 2016 Teacher of the Year in Salem. “I just hope this honor brings recognition to the program, because the more credibility we receive in the community, the more the kids will benefit.”

The humble Chairman of Salem High School’s Trades and Industrial Career and Technical Education Department is responsible for more than 400 students each year who learn the all-important trade skills of auto body, auto service and welding.

“For years there was a dividing line between students who participated in career and technical programs and students who were pursuing a more academic educational program, but in the last five years that has changed dramatically,” he says. “I’m now seeing kids who want to be here for the right reasons, plus our administrators in Salem have really made this a priority.”

“Derek's leadership has transformed this department and, as a result, students have multiple National Certification opportunities, and Salem's trades and industrial classrooms closely match the environments that students will face as they explore career opportunities in these industries,” says Curtis Hicks, Salem’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

Wray graduated from the Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas in 1996 where he earned his Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology. He began his teaching career at Roanoke County’s Arnold R. Burton Center for Arts and Technology in 2004 and joined the staff at Salem High School in 2006. Between graduation and the start of his teaching career, Wray accumulated a decade’s worth of valuable hands-on experiences diagnosing and repairing vehicles at the Shelor, Pinkerton and Berglund dealerships in the area.

“Being able to assist these students makes me feel better than turning wrenches and simply fixing someone’s car,” he says. “I like the feeling of giving back and helping kids, and teaching fulfills the need that I have to a higher calling.”

Wray has a number of industry certifications, he wrote a book in 2010 and to this day contributes online automotive articles for, and not surprisingly, he makes up for his lack of traditional classroom training by rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.

“I think I often have to work harder because I don’t have the formal training,” he says. “I am always evolving, changing and trying to find the most productive way of getting the information to the kids. We really try to focus on life skills and instill a work ethic in them because I want them to understand that this is a job and the more they apply themselves the more knowledge they can take with them.”

Wray says he is extremely proud of the relationships and partnerships that the department has been able to cultivate with individuals, businesses and organizations in the region. Many of these have directly paid dividends with students getting advanced training and high paying jobs right out of high school.

“Getting jobs for students who want to do this for living is incredibly satisfying,” says Wray. “Many people are now realizing that having a skill is an extremely valuable way to go,” he says. “Whether it is cars or any kind of trade, it’s paying good money.”

In 2015, the Salem High School Automotive Program was listed in the Top 20 in the Nation by “Tomorrow's Technician” magazine. Salem was one of only three high schools to make the list alongside community colleges and post-secondary technical schools.

“Derek is a quiet and humble leader who sets an example for his students by his dedication, team work and character,” says Scott Habeeb, Salem High School Principal. “He never seeks accolades, but his impact on students, his colleagues, and our community is worthy of them.”

Wray and his wife, Paige, reside in Roanoke County with their four children.

“I sincerely appreciate this and it is truly unbelievable,” says Wray. “I try to put forth a relentless effort for these kids and I appreciate the administrators picking up on the countless hours we put in to make success happen for the students.”

All six teachers were honored by the School Board during a special reception earlier this evening.

The other Teachers of the Year representing the five remaining Salem schools are: 
Adam Simpson - Andrew Lewis Middle School 
Kelly Rowland - East Salem Elementary 
Shelley Littleton - G.W. Carver 
Courtney Stinnette - South Salem Elementary 
Traci Basham – West Salem Elementary


Teachers of the Year 2016

The talented Pride of Salem Band Director, who also performed onstage with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Percy Sledge, will become the new Assistant Principal at Carver next year, pending approval at tonight's School Board Meeting. Here's the full story.…/0B2D-OL0D4OAMc3I4ZzdXQ2ZrR…/view…

Simran Kaur Gill, a seventh grader at Andrew Lewis Middle School, was recognized at the School Board for being selected as the Region 2 winner in the Virginia Municipal League's “If I were Mayor” essay contest.

The essays describe what the student would do as if he or she was The Mayor to make cities and towns great places to live. Only eight Virginia regional winners were selected from more than 1,000 entries statewide.

Simran is pictured with Salem School Board Chairman David Preston.


The School Board recognized Maya Makked, the Salem City Schools 2015-2016 Spelling Bee Champion at tonight’s meeting. The Andrew Lewis seventh grader won the title last month after more than 20 rounds of spelling competition.

She will represent the Salem City School Division in the Roanoke Times Spelling Bee this Saturday. Adeline Velasquez, a fifth grader at West Salem was the Division Runner-up.

The board recognized the winners and alternates from each competing school in the division.


February 2016

posted Apr 18, 2016, 10:52 AM by F. Lester   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 11:35 AM ]

The Salem School Board formally honored the Salem High School Auto Service Program and its instructor, Derek Wray, at tonight's meeting. The program was recently named one of the Top 20 Auto Service Programs in the nation by "Tomorrow’s Tech" magazine. This School of the Year recognition program was created by the magazine to find the best technical training school in the United States. The program is open to high schools or post-secondary schools that have a subscription to Tomorrow’s Tech.

Wray was honored along with the other key components of his success. Jay Hillison, Senior Tools and Equipment Manager with Advance Auto Parts, and James Reynolds, Service Manager with Rick Woodson Honda were also on hand to receive accolades for their contributions and support of the SHS Automotive Programs.

Hillison is responsible for working with his industry connections and convincing them to donate over $10,000 worth of tools and equipment for our SHS Automotive program. Reynolds helped with our NATEF automotive industry certification accreditation process and has generously given Mr. Wray full access to the Honda America technician training, both the online courses and the live classes in Richmond. This training is reserved for Honda dealership technicians only, but Reynolds has made an exception so that our students can learn the most modern technology from an up-to-date factory trained automotive instructor.

(L to R) Jay Hillison, Wray's son, Derek Wray, School Board Chairman David Preston and Rick Woddson Honda's James Reynolds.


The Salem School Board formally honored West Salem fifth grade teacher, Natalie DiFusco-Funk, at tonight's board meeting. The 2015 Division teacher of the year in Salem also was named the top teacher in the region and the best teacher in the Commonwealth in recent months.

The board honored Natalie by formally and unanimously passing Resolution 234.

In addition, Steve Sengstack, the Program Director for Apple Federal Credit Union, was on hand to surprise Natalie with her teacher of the year ring.

January 2016

posted Apr 18, 2016, 10:50 AM by F. Lester   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 11:35 AM ]

The Salem School Board honored the city's newly crowned state championship football team at tonight's school board meeting. The board unanimously passed Resolution 233 that applauds the unbeaten 4A champs for their excellence on and off the field. Head Coach Stephen Magenbauer accepted the accolades on behalf of the team. Here's a link to the complete resolution…/A63HPW497DB8/$file/Resolution%20…

December 2015

posted Apr 18, 2016, 10:49 AM by F. Lester

Last week, Salem City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Alan Seibert, was named the state's Curriculum Leader of the Year. Tonight, the board members formally congratulated him for receiving the award in Williamsburg. Here's a link to the complete story…/0B2D-OL0D4OAMOFpNTENJN2VGV…/view…
Alan Seibert

Students from Salem's four elementary schools shared a meal with Central Office staff and School Board members tonight during a work session. The students and adults enjoyed pizza and salad and shared a number of constructive ideas during their dinner conversations. The students were asked to speak freely about what they like about their schools and what they see as areas ripe for improvement.

Everything from school lunches to grading scales was discussed and presented to the entire group at the end of the evening.


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