‘Committed to improvement’
Published 8:57 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Whitney: Schools are in a good state
Anticipating the announcement later in the day of school accreditation results that had trended in a generally positive direction for Suffolk, city officials celebrated the many positive things happening in schools during a special event Tuesday morning.
A fundraising effort of the Suffolk Education Foundation, the 2015 State of the Schools event was an opportunity for School Superintendent Deran R. Whitney and others to turn the focus almost entirely on the school system’s high points for the morning.
“As I reflect back over the last five years as your superintendent, I can’t help but think of the progress and challenges, but most importantly, our commitment to continuous improvement,” Whitney said.
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“I say to you, as we consider the state of our schools, it is good! We’re in a good state in Suffolk Public Schools.”
Among the pieces of evidence Whitney laid out to support his assertion were the then-preliminary results of the Virginia Board of Education’s accreditation analysis.
Suffolk has 11 schools with full accreditation, according to the commonwealth’s latest ratings. That compares to only nine last year.
Even among Suffolk public schools that were not fully accredited, Whitney noted, many of them are rated as improving under a new scale put in place by the Board of Education.
He also pointed to the fact that combined Standards of Learning scores had increased in 12 of 14 different areas between 2014 and 2015, including a 17-percent gain in high school math scores.
“I am convinced that this took place because our teachers were focused on ensuring that the written, taught and tested curriculum is tightly aligned,” he added.
Acknowledging that not all potential problems in school are academic in nature, Whitney noted that bus transportation and food services are two areas surveys have shown are of particular concern to parents.
“Our transportation department recently went through an independent, comprehensive review, and I am pleased to say we have a new, very capable director,” he said. “Fewer students are arriving late. We have employed more drivers and will continue to consider best start and dismissal times for our students.”
Regarding student meals, Whitney said he would work with the Student Advisory Council to try to choose school meal entrees that would be appealing to students.
Following the speech and a brief video that featured students, teachers, faculty and staff talking about how their schools are important in their lives, scores of visitors adjourned from one ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn Riverfront and into an adjoining room, where teams of students and teachers had set up various learning stations to show some of the unusual and unorthodox ways students are learning everything from spelling to robotics.
“It’s a good time to be educated in Suffolk,” School Board Chairman Michael Debranski told the crowd.