A Message from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.:
Last week, I shared my vision for ACPS with the Alexandria community. The event marked the end of my first 100 days since starting in the role of superintendent of schools, and the start of creating a collaborative plan to steer ACPS to become the best it has ever been.
It is perhaps fitting that, thanks to last week’s snow, the event took place within Black History Month — a time when we look at the value that diversity adds to our community and assess how far we have come in terms of equity and inclusion. If we are to see success for all our students, equity simply has to be at the core of everything we do.
But it is not simple to achieve equity in a school division like ours, which, like so many others, has not developed and grown on equitable principles and practices from the early days. The work of equity needs to permeate every aspect of our work starting from the ground up, by assessing the learning environments at our schools and ensuring all children have the opportunity to explore and play on safe and creative playgrounds. This also means creating a standard of excellence — the ACPS way — that will set high expectations around standards across all of our schools, no matter the age of the facility or building.
The work of equity also means providing all students with the socio-emotional supports they need, and supporting them through programs such as Restorative Practices and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). These programs help them stay connected to their peers and build positive relationships as well as encourage them to want to stay in school. We want to see all our students in a classroom where they are able to grow academically and be engaged in their learning.
Going forward, we need to establish processes and systems that foster equitable opportunities for all our students to learn. ACPS is extremely fortunate and unique to have students from 114 different countries who speak 119 different languages, as well as broad socio-economic diversity. Unfortunately, the way that some of our specialized programs and learning pathways are implemented means that we have vestiges of modern-day segregation of students based on their learning abilities and/or life circumstances in our schools. We want to make sure that all our students have access to a rigorous and challenging curriculum — that students who do not have parental advocates are still engaged in the same learning experiences as those who do, and that we are not over-identifying students for specialized instruction due to the color of their skin. We also want to be delivering high-level instruction in an equitable way across the entire school division and provide the necessary supports to grow our teachers to meet those expectations.
All of this work is inspired by our goal to have engaged and inspired learners. We want our students to have the opportunities they need to grow into fully-rounded global citizens who will be the next leaders of their generation, and are engaged and competent decision-makers who graduate with 21st century skills no matter what they do next in their lives after T.C. Williams High School.
To meet these goals, ACPS needs to set standards of excellence for all employees, students and families. These standards of excellence are based on five themes: community collaboration, transparency, alignment, systems and processes and, most important, equity. In implementing these standards, we will be able to make ACPS the best it has ever been. This does not mean returning to past ways nor maintaining the status quo. It means developing a refined way to ensuring all students learn in ACPS and looking at every action, process and decision through the lens of equity. In a year where we have been looking at history and how ACPS came to be what it is, we also need to look forward to what it will be in the near future.
This cannot be done alone. It will take collaboration between ACPS staff, students, community leaders, parents, and our business and higher education partners. Sharing the journey with ACPS, we need City Council and School Board members, leaders of community organizations, teachers from when I was a student in ACPS, as well as current ACPS staff, and students and their families who represent the diversity of our city as well as its commitment to the education of the next generation.
It will take a community to make ACPS the best place to teach, work and learn. But once we get there, the entire community will reap the rewards and the city of Alexandria will be the beacon to live, work, learn and play.
Read about the superintendent’s first 100 days.
Watch the video from the event, A Conversation with the Superintendent: Shaping the Future of Alexandria City Public Schools.
Join the superintendent at an upcoming Superintendent Chat.