At the end of October and beginning of November, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. reached out to hear your opinions about what is working and what still needs work in our school division.
The Listening and Learning Tour was part of Dr. Hutchings’ 100-Day Entry Plan and provided an opportunity for families, community members and staff to share ideas and build relationships that will continue to move us forward as a school division.
During the tour, participants were asked to respond to three questions:
- What is working well in our schools?
- What are your hopes for our schools?
- What advice do you have for an instructional-focused superintendent?
Here’s a summary of what Dr. Hutchings heard:
What is working well in our schools?
You told the superintendent that diversity and inclusion are strengths of ACPS and the fact that our students speak 119 different languages and originate from 114 different countries is a gift and adds value to the classroom.
You also shared with the superintendent that we have very dedicated, caring teachers and staff who are responsive to parents. In fact, communication between parents and schools was seen as a plus. Our leadership is seen as supportive, our principals empowered and our staff as having opportunities to grow professionally. Our improved relationship with the city and the involvement of community partners are also seen as strengths.
You shared that you like having access to technology, tutoring and after school programs that reinforce and enrich student learning — such as Saturday school, summer school, extended learning writing center — and special programs like CETA (Changing Education Through the Arts) with the Kennedy Center.
The International Academy, career and technical training programs, and services like the Teen Wellness Center at T.C. Williams High School, the WOW (Wellness on Wheels) Bus and meal support are also valued, while supervision by teachers during lunches and after school are seen as helping to keep our kids safe and as deterrents to bullying. Parents also like communication in their own languages and being able to connect directly with their school in multiple different ways.
What are your hopes for our schools?
You told the superintendent that you want school capacity issues resolved, transportation to be honed to reduce crowding and ensure safe routes to and from school and our facilities to be comfortable, safe and dry. More integrated environmental sustainability was also called for by a group of students who came out to advocate for environmental resources at both Listen and Learn sessions.
In our schools, Dr. Hutchings heard a desire for broader vocational training and programs, more learning pathways for students including work in the community as part of workforce readiness, programming that creates more options for non-college bound students, and a higher graduation rate.
There was also a desire for less focus on standardized testing, support for dual language programs through high school, a parent resource center at every school, improvements to the general education curriculum and more opportunities for hands-on learning. More robust after school programs and increased equity along with a restorative practices coordinator were also called for.
The superintendent also heard a call for improvements to the teacher recruitment and retraining processes.
What advice do you have for an instructional-focused superintendent?
He heard that you want a superintendent who will be here for a while, take his shoes off and get comfortable in Alexandria. You also want a leader who will ensure equity across all schools so that each school gets what it needs to be successful, ensure diversity is embraced as part of our division’s culture, and that the diversity of our students is reflected in our staff.
You want a superintendent who is transparent and values trust, and one who is accessible to school leadership, and is in the classrooms and schools and is known by staff, students and across the City. Parents advised our superintendent to visit classrooms unannounced and know what is going on in every school and to focus on top priorities, such as creating healthy school environments, free of mold, asbestos and leaks.
Our superintendent was advised to put less emphasis on state test scores as benchmarks and start standardized test preparations earlier, to provide career enrichment through more guest speakers and alumni, to focus on skills needed in the 21st century and beyond and incorporate more experiential and social-emotional learning.
Whatever your opinion, Dr. Hutchings was truly grateful you took the time to come out and share your thoughts. Your opinions will be incorporated into his report to the community on January 30, 2019. Mark your calendars now!
It’s not too late to share your thoughts.
The feedback received through this process will be used to help inform conversations, relationships and efforts as Dr. Hutchings continues to work through his 100-Day Entry Plan.
Learn more about the work Dr. Hutchings has been engaged in during his first 100 days.