ACPS alum charged with improving middle schools

ACPS alum charged with improving middle schools

A familiar face is joining the ranks of Alexandria City Public Schools administration. Come January, T.C. Williams graduate Gregory Hutchings will start as director of middle schools.

With a starting salary of $118,000, the newly created position will serve as an instructional leader for the citys six middle school principals, similar to the role-played by existing directors at the elementary and secondary levels.

When we look at the middle schools, we need to provide that same boots on the ground support for curriculum instruction where somebody is focusing on implementation of programs, someone who is energetic and involved and an expert in middle schools, said Superintendent Morton Sherman. Some of our lowest achieving issues and results have been at the middle schools.

Hutchings will head operations at the five subs-schools comprising George Washington and Francis Hammond, and middle school operations at Jefferson-Houston K-8 school.

With the citys sole high school undergoing a much-discussed transformation, raising academic achievement at the middle schools now is critical to T.C.s success down the road, the superintendent said. Hutchings will support teachers while ensuring theres a connection between the curriculum and classroom instruction, he said. 

The success of T.C. Williams is also dependent on the success of the middle and elementary schools and right now were seeing achievement scores that are not where we would like them to be, Sherman said. If you think of the curriculum as the car, then the driver is the teacher. The teacher makes that difference; you can have a great car and a miserable driver and crack it up.

That Hutchings is a graduate of the school system is an added bonus. He knows what its like to sit behind a desk in Alexandria, Sherman said. 

Hutchings came to the districts attention during their search for a new high school principal, said Sandy Hudnall, ACPS spokeswoman. If they hadnt lured current principal Suzanne Maxey to T.C., Hutchings likely would have had the job, she said.

While Hutchings is happy to return, his primary focus is on improving test scores and meeting Adequate Yearly Progress standards at each of the citys middle schools. Seven elementary schools met the federal benchmarks this year, but none of the middle schools met the mandated goals. 

[Making AYP] is going to be one major goal as well as making sure all of our students needs are being met, from all of the different subgroups, like our African American, special education or [English as a second language] students, Hutchings said. Every child has an opportunity to receive the best education as possible.

Hutchings also wants to add a community service component to the middle school curriculum, effectively requiring students to tackle volunteer jobs as part of their education. Selfless students become selfless adults, rather than the alternative, he said. 

And then there is crafting a more rigorous curriculum for the citys middle school students. The staffing is there; they just need to focus on upping their game, Hutchings said. 

Working with teachers, working with the principals, having conversations about assessments and curriculum and instruction is going to be very important, he said. Its a collaborative approach.

After cutting his teeth as a teacher in the Prince William County school division, Hutchings became an assistant principal in Richmond before taking another assistant principal post in Nashville, Tenn.

The highlight of his return to Alexandria? Giving back to the city that got him started, he said. 

I feel like I got a good education and met some people along the way who pushed me, Hutchings said. I have a lot to give back.