‘Preparing every student for success’
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 24, 2003
Special to the News-Herald
Incredibly, the time has come for the start of another school year. It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the 2002-03 version of this column. Much has happened since this time last year. One thing has not changed. The mission of Suffolk Public Schools remains to partner with the community we serve, to provide an effective educational experience for all children and to prepare every student to achieve success.
At its annual retreat, the Suffolk School Board reaffirmed the commitment to have all schools fully accredited by the end of the 2003-04 school year. During the 2002-03 school year, four more schools were added to the ranks of the fully accredited with many others only a few percentage points away. Dramatic improvements were realized in the performance of students at the high schools. This is particularly important because the Class of 2004 is the first to face the verified credits barrier to graduation. Students in this year’s graduating class must earn six verified credits, along with meeting other graduation criteria, in order to earn a diploma. Parents of juniors and seniors will receive personal and individual notification of status and remaining requirements.
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Growth challenges continue. This year, we fully expect to serve over 13,000 students.
Construction of the new 1,800-pupil King’s Fork High School is well under way. A quick drive down Route 10 reveals the progress being made on that massive structure. This is a school that has already won design awards for it innovative use of space and technology. This facility is one that is functional while aesthetically pleasing. It is flexible enough to serve this community for many years to come. Even as this building is being constructed, plans are being made to build other facilities to house Suffolk’s growing student population.
There have been numerous personnel changes. There are two new coordinators at the central office, three new principals and six new assistant principals. These persons bring many skills and abilities to their new positions. They promise to bring new perspectives and new energy to their jobs. They are all excited to be a part of one of the fastest growing school divisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The use of technology continues to be a valuable part of the success of Suffolk Public Schools. All schools and departments have been converted to a single operating platform – Windows. Leadership in the management of online testing and information management is still being demonstrated and a member of the technology department was recognized as a regional leader in the area of educational technology. The school division is committed to using technology to make all areas of operation more efficient, thereby, freeing teachers to teach and instructional leaders to lead instruction.
At this year’s annual administrative workshop, a full day was dedicated to learning skills that would aid in the further implementation of a classroom instructional model that was adopted last year. Principals, assistant principals and support staff honed the skills needed to help make teachers more effective, which will make students more successful. Further time was spent on improving data disaggregation skills and discussing a new school planning process.
The strong visionary leadership of the members of the School Board and the members of City Council is clearly evident in the building program of the school system. It is also clear in the support of the operating budget.
Of significance is the fact that Suffolk was able to provide an average five percent salary increase for teachers and an average four and one-half percent for all other employees while managing to hold down the cost of health insurance for nearly all employees. Our leaders realize that education is one of the most significant building blocks of the future. Resources dedicated to educating our youth are not spent, they are invested.
The challenges remain. The challenges of growth remain. State Standards of Accreditation are still there. Standards of Learning assessments are still here. The requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act continue to grow. Yet in the face of all of the challenges, it is a great time to be in Suffolk Public Schools. There is acceptance of the FACT that these challenges will be met. There is acceptance of the FACT that there are no excuses. There is acceptance of the FACT that success for all children is the only option. Yes, there are challenges. We are excited about those challenges and we are committed to Excellence, not Excuses.
Dr. Milton R. Liverman