Columns Opinion Your Views — 05 June 2014
Filling in the Blanks: Only you can help our schools and our children succeed

By Karen Graf
(File Photo)

The community always has been an important component in public education. With businesses, nonprofits and neighbors chipping in, we can help shepherd our city and the children in our schools toward success and opportunity.

In May, Superintendent Alvin Crawley and I spoke before the Alexandria Council of Human Service Organizations and discussed his vision for Alexandria City Public Schools and its partners. He described the characteristics of high performing districts, which include robust summer school offerings, teaching foreign languages at the elementary school level, strong intervention support, rigorous instruction, pre-kindergarten services and much more. The challenge of leading a diverse community like our school district is that there is a tendency to create a multitude of offerings, which end up scattering the focus.

Creating a uniform message for staff, students and the community helps cement our goals and focus support. Our resources — and energy — must be spent solely on improving the education of our children. We are striving for excellence as a school district, but we cannot do it alone.

And that is why meeting with representatives from organizations that help people across Alexandria was so important. It was humbling to see so many people who have committed their time and energy to helping others.

Thankfully, they seemed to grasp our superintendent’s vision for addressing our students’ needs, and were excited by it. They inspired me to carry on in my work to transform the district into an organization that serves not only our students, but our community.

But, as I said earlier, we can’t do it alone. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to become involved in supporting our schools and students.

For example, one of my passions is fostering early literacy. There are community organizations that have volunteers in our schools helping students learn how to read. There are other organizations collecting books to line free bookshelves at our recreation centers and schools.

Putting books in the hands of kids is quite simple in a community with resources like Alexandria. And it is important for children who may not have books at home or access to a local library simply to have the opportunity to choose books. The goal is to turn the emerging reader into an independent reader and then into a lifelong explorer of books in many different subjects.

You can start by writing us and we will happily refer you to a community partner that needs your help. If you represent a company that wants to find a way to connect to the school system, the superintendent is creating a business advisory council.

We want to strengthen our relationships with the business community and enable them to support the school division in influential ways. To learn more, visit: www.acps.k12.va.us/superintendent/bac/

Please write the superintendent and school board anytime and share your thoughts at board@acps.k12.va.us.
- The writer is the chairwoman of the Alexandria School Board.

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