School Board engages community at public meeting

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Roughly 100 folks filled the Fulghum Center last Tuesday night when the Chesterfield County School Board hosted community members for a public engagement session on “Design for Excellence 2020” – a document that, if espoused by the Board, may very well steer the direction of our county’s school system for the rest of the decade. Marking an end to the previous decade’s project “Design for Excellence,” this document suggests new vision and mission statements and providing a plan to make it all happen.

After an introduction by School Board Chair Dianne E. Pettitt, of the Clover Hill District, the document’s mission was shared with the public: “Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), through its partnerships with students, families and citizens, emphasizes and supports high levels of achievement through a global education for all with options and opportunities to meet individual students’ diverse needs and interests.”

“So this mission statement,” said Lin Corbin-Howerton, leader of the mission and vision team, “I think, attempts to capture the very, very best of what we do now for all students and what we provide that allows individual students to pursue what they’re good at.”

Objectives presented in the plan advocate academic achievement, 21st learning and technology, global and local citizenship, and the same core values highly-praised in CCPS.  

“The vision, then, what we want to become,” said Corbin-Howerton, “is providing an engaging and relevant education – engaging meaning critical, obviously – to the individualstudent success and all student success … that prepares every student to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.”

After innovation team co-chairs addressed a crowd of teachers, school principals, and School Board members, among other community citizens, the room split into numerous groups to review and discuss suggested changes in the plan.

One person from each table then spoke aloud on behalf their group, most comments addressing the terminology and specificity of goals used in the plan.

For computer engineer Michael Vasiloff, an issue lies in how the county would implement the goals. “I totally agree with what the goals are, I’m more concerned with the approach. … If these are attainable goals of Chesterfield County, students should really have an enriched education to meet these goals” – one that provides them with a certain focus so they can more easily choose a direction after school, he said.

Wendy Gonzalez, assistant principal of Chesterfield Community High School, felt the language stated in the plan needed to be less esoteric, especially in Goal 2, which states: “All students will demonstrate the 21st-century learning and technology skills and knowledge that will prepare them for success in school, postsecondary education, work and life in a global society.”

“We feel like it should be well-defined for the public, not just teachers,” she said.  “…As educators we understand our own wording. It’s important for people to understand what is being conveyed.”

The next course of action falls at the School Board’s quarterly work session May 20. When they meet May 24, they will vote on adopting the mission/vision statements they have familiarized themselves with since the beginning of spring. Finally, on June 28, the last of the plan will be voted on by the School Board.

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