Column: Laying the Foundation for the Future

Column: Laying the Foundation for the Future

Commentary–ACPS 2020 State-of-the-Schools



Autumn is traditionally a time for reflection. As the leaves drift to the ground, we look back at what we have achieved over the course of the year. While in Alexandria City Public Schools we have made commendable academic strides, and our students continue to excel in and outside the classroom, there is still much work to do in our march towards becoming a high performing school division. Thus, autumn is a time for looking forward and planning our direction for the coming years as evidenced by our new five-year strategic plan, 10-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) FY2017-2026, and 2015 Redistricting efforts.

This month, we launched the ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan, which will serve as a roadmap that guides us to becoming a high-performing school division characterized by excellence, perseverance and relationships. The plan has six distinct but interrelated goals that focus on: academic excellence and educational equity; family and community engagement; hiring and retaining exemplary staff; optimal facilities and learning environments; staff and student health and wellness; and effective and efficient operations. Together, these goals form the cornerstone of our mission statement: Every Student Succeeds. These three simple, but powerful words, reflect our commitment that every child, regardless of their background or where they come from, has access to a fine education in optimal learning environments and equal access to program opportunities.

With an approved plan comes the work of making it a living document by ensuring that everyone in our ACPS community, from staff to families to the wider Alexandria community, understands how they can play their part to see every student succeed. The late Nelson Mandela said, “Action without vision is only passing time. Vision without action is merely day dreaming. But vision with action can change the world.”

For school staff our strategic plan means delivering a rich, relevant and rigorous instructional program daily that reflects individual student’s needs, strengths, talents and goals. It also means developing trusting relationships with students and their parents. These relationships are critical in and outside of the school house. We invite our community members to join in this effort through mentoring, volunteering in classes, tutoring, and providing internships that connect students to real world work experiences.

This autumn the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget focuses on the modernization of schools, by creating additional student capacity to accommodate growing enrollment and by planning school facilities appropriate for the future. Alongside building a new Patrick Henry School, which was approved in a previous CIP, the updated CIP proposes retrofitting leased space to create a new elementary school location in the West End in time for the start of the 2017-18 school year. Space will also be found to expand comprehensive pre-K services in Alexandria in collaboration with various partners, with the goal of promoting learning opportunities for young children. The CIP also includes planning work for modernizing the T.C. Williams’ Minnie Howard campus in 2017, and designing a new building for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School beginning in 2019. Throughout our planning, our focus is all about looking forward.

Finally, autumn is also the time when we formally began the redistricting process, one of several approaches needed to address our projected annual 3.6 percent growth in enrollment over the next five years. The recent action taken by the Alexandria City School Board to extend the redistricting decision timeline will allow for better alignment with the FY 2017-2026 CIP, and extend community engagement opportunities. This decision essentially moved the timeline for implementing division-level redistricting to the 2017-18 school year.

Autumn is about being thankful and acknowledging the good things that we have as a community. In Alexandria, we have a School Board that is supportive and excited by our future, with new School Board members joining our team very soon. We have a staff that is highly invested in bringing our ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan to life across all six goals, a stronger facilities modernization plan, and the engagement and support of our community. Most importantly, I am thankful to have the opportunity, as your superintendent, to interact with so many awesome students in our school division each day.

Together, we have exciting times ahead of us.