Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, said today that both the county and city public school divisions can be a regional and perhaps national model for ensuring that “racism and discrimination will find no home in our school communities.”
The Superintendent told the Albemarle County School Board that he had accepted an offer from his city counterpart, Dr. Rosa Atkins, for the two divisions and their boards to work together on the development of supporting practices that constitute such a model.
“Now especially is the time for our divisions and boards to be more unified in our efforts to always be more respectful and caring for all,” Dr. Haas said. “I look forward to our joint efforts that I know will deliver lasting benefits to our communities,” he added.
In his statement, Dr. Haas noted the existence of opportunity gaps in the education available to all students. “The price to our community of such ever-expanding gaps that leave promises unfulfilled is a high one,” he said.
The school division’s focus on closing such gaps was a central theme of the its 2017 budget, which included a pilot program for urban ring elementary schools designed to address the social, emotional and academic needs of students. Now in its second year, the program’s benefits are designed to eventually expand to schools throughout the county.
This year’s budget continues that commitment.
Among more established programs, Dr. Haas noted, is the division’s culturally responsive teaching program, the first of its kind in Virginia, which is documenting gains in the professional development of teachers and the academic performance of students. The division’s national award winning M-Cubed Program, which has expanded the participation of African American middle school students in advanced math programs, and its partnership with the African American Teaching Fellows have made Albemarle County Public Schools the leader in hiring teachers from the program.
“For the most part, our students of color, specifically African American and Latino students, are not as successful as I believe they can be in our schools,” Dr. Haas said. “They are not enrolled in our advanced classes or participating in enrichment opportunities at the same level as their white peers,” he elaborated.
“This is not a problem unique to our county; this is an American problem that we can solve locally. While conditions in our nation are improving for people who have been marginalized throughout our nation’s history, discrimination still is deeply ingrained in American culture,” Dr. Haas continued.
He noted the work Albemarle County students are doing in researching and developing proposals for an anti-racism policy requested by the School Board.
“I am confident,” Dr. Haas said, “that our anti-racism policy together with the invaluable work we will do with Charlottesville City Public Schools will result in relationships within our divisions, and hopefully across our communities, that are based on respect for one another; the celebration of what each of us can contribute to the common good; the principles of fairness, equity and safety for all; and a unity of purpose that empowers all of us to be what we ought to be.”