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 provide a strong operational budget for facilities and support services. This will enable us to provide a positive learning environment for our students by proactively maintaining our buildings and support resources.
We are planning to conduct a compensation study during the 2016-2017 school year. This aligns with the Governor’s 2016-2018 budget that initiates a raise in year two. Once the compensation study is complete, a strategic plan for employee compensation needs to be phased in over a period of time and 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 to keep our salaries competitive with other divisions.
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. Elementary guidance counselors currently used as part of the resource class rotation 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 their school and community.
We will also 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 professional development focused on deeper learning 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 both locally and at the state level.
We are requesting additional funding in this budget in the area of maintenance and transportation.
The funding will help us establish preventive maintenance schedules and a rotation for painting in all of our schools. A line item fund to implement a new rotational purchase of furniture that will keep the school division proactive in providing a positive learning environment for our students.
There is no better way to invest in your community’s future than to support the school budget and support giving students the opportunity to achieve their goals.
Dr. James Thornton