Suffolk Public Schools and 21st CentEd partner for student STEM education

Published 7:24 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Suffolk Public Schools is entering into a new partnership with 21st CentEd to bring an educational program that provides comprehensive education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — referred to as STEM.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon made the announcement during the Thursday, Feb. 9 School Board meeting, saying this new program will work with students in kindergarten through 12th grades to prepare them for the future and its automatic-based world. 

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity in our partnership with 21st CentEd STEM Century,” Gordon said. “We are looking to not only improve science SOL scores to increase our total number of STEM activities and resources, [but] to provide additional community partnerships and internships for our students that will lead to economic and workforce development.”

Email newsletter signup

21st CentEd Founder and Chief Executive Officer Marlon Lindsay’s presentation focused on today’s technology-based society and how current jobs will either disappear or change due to robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual technology. The presentation featured a YouTube video titled “The Future of Work: Will Our Children Be Prepared?” which displayed robotics, automatic-driving vehicles, Amazon drone deliveries and various other jobs being automated.

“We are at, what I like to describe as an inflection point in human development, and that’s a big statement,” said Lindsay. “But it’s a true statement, because the world that we’re living in today is a world that we’re not prepared to live in.” 

Eventually, he said school districts and their communities are going to feel pressure from parents from both the community and industry to say “Hey, send me some students who are ready to do this work that we have at our disposal.” Students aren’t just going to be left out, they are going to be absolutely left behind.

“We have an issue, whether it’s here in Suffolk or across the United States. We don’t have enough teachers, let alone STEM teachers, to make sure all of our students — and when I say all, I mean 100 percent of our students are ready for the rest of the 21st Century,” Lindsay said. “So we need a new way, and a part of that issue is a lack of comprehensive planning.”

Lindsay provided data on the gap in skills, showing that there are currently 695,000 computer science jobs that are unable to be filled and that by 2028, there will be 2.78 million data science and analytics jobs that will need workers. The presentation showed data that Virginia has 31,622 available computing jobs with only 2,679 computer science graduates ready for the jobs. Lindsay spoke on the issue of how 21st century children are being taught by 20th century adults who use 19th century techniques.  

“The solution is we need a comprehensive STEM solution which means all kids are in STEM early, often, and everywhere,” Lindsay said.

He ended his presentation with another YouTube video titled “ACES International — Summer of STEM” that focused on students learning robotics technology from a PE teacher.  

“In the rest of the 21st century, particularly the STEM teacher shortage and the teacher shortage in general, all our teachers kind of have to go back to the way things were,” Lindsay said. “All of our teachers are teaching everything. This integrative approach to education is what we need, and is what you’re doing here in Suffolk.”

He said his organization is excited about working with Suffolk schools and they’re excited about the partnership. 

“I will say this — only two and a half percent of the school districts across the country are doing this work,” he said. “That’s the education innovation cycle. Two and a half percent and 13 and a half percent. You are in it, so congratulations, we’re excited to be working with you.”

Board Chairman Tyron D. Riddick of the Suffolk Borough shared his excitement for the project.

“I am extremely grateful because I love STEM, I love CTE, I love being able to push our students forward in the right direction,” Riddick expressed.

Board member and Dawn Marie Brittingham, Ed.D., of Holy Neck Borough also said the project is important.

“I’m really excited about this program because I have recently been having conversations about that crossover between getting kids ready for college, but equipping them to step out into the workforce,” said Brittingham. “And this right here will equip them with that. It will give them the ability to come out of high school with a very marketable skill and if they choose to go into college at that point, they can but if not, they can step right into the workforce and start becoming contributing members of our society.”