School Board celebrates full accreditation
Northumberland County’s school board did as much celebrating as anything else Monday night.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rebecca Gates announced that the division was one of just 36 out of 132 in Virginia that earned a “fully accredited” rating from the state school board. The rating was based on the system’s students’ performance on the Standards of Learning and other tests.
Gates had all the school personnel in the room come up front for group pictures under green and gold balloons strung across the wall behind the board members. Later, everyone shared in a celebratory cake.
Once the applause for that announcement had tapered off, Gates announced that the schools’ graduation rate has risen from 71 percent two years ago to 88.4 per cent now. The high over all rate is largely a function of the girls achieving a 97.8 graduation rate. The rates for other sub-groups range from 81.8 per cent to 89.5 per cent. The rate for black students, about which Supervisor James Long and others had great concerns, is up to 88.5 per cent, higher than the over all rate.
Before the board turned to adopting a list of regulations for the schools, Chairman Betty Christopher presented Queen Jordan with a resolution mounted on a plaque in which the board recognized and appreciated her late husband, John’s, many contributions to Northumberland County’s school in his capacity as vice-principal at the high school and other positions.
After the presentation to Jordan, the board listened to presentations from Jo Ann Haynie about the “Talent Extravaganza” put on annually in Lancaster County. Haynie noted that Northumberland’s dance team put on a great performance.
“I was so impressed with the dances,” Haynie said.
Martha Hicks and Patti Packett gave the board a presentation regarding the schools’ “I’m Determined” program to prepare eighth grade students with disabilities for high school. It has been expanded to preparing fifth graders for middle school, too. The program leads the students to understand their difficulties, not to be embarrassed about them and to have the confidence to tell their teachers about them and ask for whatever help they may need in succeeding in their studies. In a short video about the program, teachers noted that the program has been a great success for both the children and for them.
During the early public comment session Meredith Pierson told the board that she was there to do “the exact opposite” of what many speakers do. She wasn’t there to complain aboutr some aspect of the schools but to praise the teachers and staff at the elementary school.
Pierson said that she happened to be at the school when a disturbed person showed up about 10 days ago. While the person was being dealt with outside the school, Pierson said she noticed a number of teachers and staff people lined up between the person and the inside of the school. “The educators were using their persons as a barricade,” she said. “It’s very rare to witness the care and dedication these educators have for our children,” she said.
At Dr. Gates’ request, the Board agreed to start the budget process earlier this year. It agreed to a preliminary discussion Dec. 9.
Gates said she hoped everyone in the community will make their concerns known during as the budget is developed.
The budget will be tricky due to declining enrollments and consequent declining state funds. This year, the system has 42 fewer students than it had expected and that is costing it $67,000 in lost state funding, Gates said. Almost all the divisions in the Northern Neck are experiencing declining enrollment primarily due to the counties aging populations, Gates observed.
The next school board meeting will be Nov. 4 rather than the second Monday in November. The change is on account ofthe gubernatorial election the next day.