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County School Board formulating strategic priorities for 2017-2019
Patrick McLaughlin, Sept. 14 2017
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Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Patrick McLaughlin, strategic planning officer for Albemarle County Public Schools, shared a draft strategic priority with the county School Board on Thursday.
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Josh Mandell | Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 10:04 p.m.

The Albemarle County School Board on Thursday provided feedback on a draft statement of purpose to guide the county school division through the end of its Horizon 2020 strategic planning cycle.

Strategic planning officer Patrick McLaughlin and other division staff drafted the following strategic priority for 2017-2019:

“All students will pursue their personal interests in a culture of high expectations for all so that student success is no longer predictable by student race or any other cultural, economic or social factor.”

School Board member Stephen Koleszar recommended splitting the statement into three separate priorities. “I think that whole paragraph gets very muddy,” he said. “You want your priorities to be very clear.”

Chairwoman Kate Acuff took issue with wording in McLaughlin’s presentation, which said the division should ensure students can identify and develop their passions “while in school.”

She said it was unclear if this goal extended to preschool or summer programs.

McLaughlin said the proposed strategic priority dovetails with two major initiatives already in progress — Equity and Access and High School 2022.

Equity and Access aims to help schools better serve at-risk students and remove barriers to learning caused by adverse circumstances. The $1.3 million program is the only new initiative in this year’s budget.

Most of the funding for Equity and Access supports a pilot of Social, Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD) teams at Agnor-Hurt, Cale, Greer and Woodbrook elementary schools. The teams include school counselors, translators, social workers and other professionals to support students affected by childhood trauma, family disruption and poverty.

High School 2022 is a county initiative to redesign the high school experience, to make it more personalized and engaging for students. The school division is considering options for new assessments, flexible scheduling and opportunities for students to explore their interests and passions for course credit.

McLaughlin proposed a variety of metrics to gauge the division’s progress towards the new strategic goal. “These will likely change as we dig deeper into the priority, but we wanted to give some first-shot ideas,” he said.

McLaughlin said the division should aim to increase the number of teachers earning micro-credentials through Equity and Access professional development programs, and those achieving certification in Culturally Responsive Teaching.

Culturally Responsive Teaching encourages educators to reflect on how their cultural heritage influences their instruction, and find ways to make their teaching culturally relevant to diverse groups of students.

McLaughlin said the School Board also should set benchmarks for giving families access to broadband internet through the school division’s Albemarle All Access program. Over 12 miles of fiber optic cable have been installed throughout the county to support the broadband rollout.

McLaughlin said the school division also should give more students opportunities to participate in work-based learning.

After an adopting an initial set of 11 priorities in 2013, the School Board narrowed its focus to four priorities for 2015-2017: Helping students achieve lifelong learning competencies; creating new college credit and career pathways; increasing the efficacy of instructional staff; and achieving a fully-funded budget to support learning space modernization, online learning and other initiatives.

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