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Board Plans Review at Retreat

School Board explores specific ways to improve education.

The School Board will spend Thursday and Friday at a retreat to set goals for the next six years.

The Division Planning Council presented the board last week with a list of new goals it developed in anticipation of the gathering. The council reviewed the 2003 School Board's list before adding objectives of its own.

The goals include improvements in the English as a Second Language, advanced placement and gifted, reading and technology programs.

The Virginia Board of Education requires each School Board to adopt a six-year plan biennially with involvement from the staff and community.

"My first impression is that they've given a lot of thought to what they've suggested," said John Andrews, the board's chairman. "There are a lot of good ideas and recommendations."

Peter Hughes, director of Curriculum and Instruction and a member of the council, said the council's recommendations were meant to keep up with the existing needs. "Education is not a static business and our population is growing quickly," he said.

"We were trying to filter existing programs while looking at where we are going."

Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent of instruction and the council's facilitator, said the recommendations are consistent with what the School Board has been discussing during the past four months.

THE DIVISION PLANNING Council expanded student achievement goals to include increasing services and resources for students who speak little or no English.

Another new goal was to provide more programs to meet the needs of advanced learners and gifted students and to increase the number of students in advanced placement classes.

The council recommended expending efforts to improve students' reading and comprehension skills. Council member Herb Bryan, a parent and co-chairman of the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee, said minority students' reading levels have climbed considerably, but there is still room for improvement. "The key is to teach kids at an early age. That unlocks the door to knowledge," he said. "Reading resources are a key component to improving student performance."

The council also set the goal of continuing a full-day kindergarten for identified students.

UNDER CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT, the council proposed revising career and technical education course offerings with a focus on enhancing the Monroe Technology Center programs. It supported development of a bio-medical academy at Dominion High School.

The council also recommended that the School Board explore future academies. Lynne Avdellas, a Leesburg parent who has served on the council four years, was an advocate of this goal. "I feel we do a lot for science and math," she said. "This would give to the other kids, like those who are strong in the humanities and art."

Under growth and resource parity, the council favored expanding student access to available technologies within the schools. Ackerman said Loudoun has a pilot project that utilizes a mobile lab with up to 20 computers that can be brought into classrooms. "The thrust of this one has to deal with integrating the existing technologies into the students' daily instructional programs," she said.

Bob Ohneiser, who represents Broad Run on the School Board, said he will offer additional goals at the retreat. Among them are proposals to decrease the time and distance students spend on buses, equalize resources among the county schools, reduce homework assignments and use computer technology to enhance communication between the school and parents and improve student performance.