By Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr.
It’s been just over a month since I returned to Alexandria, and I have to say, it is good to be back home. The Alexandria community has been so welcoming. From our teachers to our administrators and staff, our students and families, community members, business owners and partner organizations — I have felt truly welcomed by all.
As an Alexandria native who was educated in Alexandria City Public Schools and graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1995, I’m delighted to be back in my hometown with my wife and our two children, who are now ACPS students.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time visiting our schools. I’ve been meeting with principals to ensure our schools are ready for a strong start to the school year. I’ve spent time with students who are engaged in summer learning opportunities to hear first hand about their vision for the future and what they need from ACPS to help them get there. I’ve celebrated the first cohort of students enrolled in the newly endorsed Governor’s Health Sciences Academy at T.C. Williams as they completed their summer bridge program.
I’ve taken a hard-hat tour of the new Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School, which will be opening its doors to welcome students for the first time on Sept. 4. And, I’ve been meeting with school board members, city officials, community and business leaders and partner organizations to discuss how we can best collaborate to ensure that every student succeeds.
And that’s just the start. My first 100 school days are focused on a transition plan (www.acps.k12.va.us/100dayplan) that is shaped around the ACPS 2020 Every Student Succeeds Strategic Plan (www.acps.k12.va.us/acps2020). Working with school and ACPS central office leaders, and in collaboration with my transition team of community and school stakeholders, I’ll be assessing our progress toward the goals laid out in the ACPS 2020 plan and laying the groundwork for the actions we’ll be taking in year four of the plan.
Using our school division’s metrics, I’ll be analyzing data around student achievement to assess our greatest assets and where we need to grow. Through collaboration with our principals and teacher leaders, I’ll review school education plans with a focus on closing achievement gaps, ensuring equity for all students and working toward full accreditation for all of our schools.
This week, we are beginning the process of looking at the future of the high school. We know we keep growing – which is something we need to urgently address – but it’s also an opportunity to explore what we want our high school experience to be for the next generation of global leaders. What skills do we want our students to have when they graduate in five, 10 or even 20 years’ time? What careers and skill sets will be in demand? What skills and attributes will colleges, employers and others be looking for in high school graduates? We want you to be involved in this visioning process. Come out to the meetings, take the surveys and get engaged in the process. We want to hear from you.
A successful school division takes collaboration as well as commitment, and I look forward to working with all of you to create a dynamic future for our young people in ACPS. In the coming weeks, you’ll see me at community meetings, walking neighborhoods, engaging in “listening and learning” sessions, attending back-to-school nights and school events and more. Make sure you stop me so I can say hello.
The writer is Superintendent of Schools for Alexandria City Public Schools.