I am excited about the future of Isle of Wight County Public Schools and the future of our children. We have many dedicated individuals who are leading the way and setting the example as life-long learners. Administrators, teachers, and staff are innovatively thinking, brainstorming, and researching to provide a 21st century education to our children. This is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism they demonstrate each day.
The budget presented this year will focus on providing the funds necessary in each category in order to accomplish the School Board’s Strategic Goals. We must solidify the operational budget on the instructional side as well as providing a strong operational budget that will enable us to provide a positive learning environment for our students by proactively maintaining our facilities and support services.
The House and Senate joint budget included a two percent raise for all teachers this year. A compensation study will be conducted during the second year of the biennium budget. A strategic plan for employee compensation needs to be phased in over a period of time on a rotational basis in cooperation with the Board of Supervisors. This will best provide for employees and for school and county officials to plan together.
As we continue to learn with our students, we will be focusing on several new areas this year. The focus will shift from a single score on an SOL test to the skills necessary to be successful lifelong learners. These skills include collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Performance based learning and STEM will be the vehicle in which these skills will be taught on a regular basis.
We are researching a more rigorous reading curriculum in our elementary schools to ensure all children are reading on grade level by third grade. We will be implementing coding as a resource class for all elementary students. Coding is the second most used language in our country. Guidance counselors will no longer teach a resource class and will be utilized to mentor students and work with the reading initiative.
The secondary schools will focus on creating new learning environments in the media center and throughout the schools such as maker spaces, writing rooms, music studios, and areas to brainstorm and collaborate. These environments will provide the tools and space for students and teachers to use their creativity in solving problems and providing a benefit to the school community.
We will focus on Career and Technical Education. Conversations will continue with local businesses and industry to provide us the information as far as the technical and soft skills that students will need to be employable after high school. We will use this information to design CTE programs in which students will be ready for employment in local industry upon graduation. We are investigating design and manufacturing, HVAC, electrical, and welding opportunities. In addition to this, a Career Pathway curriculum will be developed for middle school students to expose them early on to possible careers and college.
Teachers will be exposed to deeper learning professional development in order to provide performance based learning opportunities for students. Students in turn will be able to apply the knowledge that they have learned in the classroom and solve real world problems in addition to being prepared for the new performance based assessments developed locally and at the state level.
We are requesting additional funding in this budget in the area of maintenance and transportation. Preventive maintenance schedules will be funded and implemented as well as painting in schools on a rotational basis. A line item fund to implement a rotational purchase of new furniture will keep the school division moving in a proactive manner in providing a positive learning environment for our students.
There is not a better way to invest in your community’s future than to support the school budget and provide an opportunity for students to achieve their goals.
Dr. James Thornton