By Dr. Gregory Hutchings
Sixty days can either seem like a long time or like no time at all. In some ways, my first sixty days have gone by incredibly fast. But in other ways, they have already given me real insight into the refinement needed to take our school division to the next level in order for every student to be successful in school and in life. This is an opportunity to make ACPS the best it has ever been.
First, we must continue to embrace our diversity. The fact that ACPS has students from 118 different countries who speak 120 different languages is a true gift and one that gives our students the invaluable experience of being part of a global community within their own school division. This firsthand experience with cultural, socioeconomic and racial diversity will well equip our graduates to be culturally competent and prepared to assimilate into our global society. Our students continue to come back time and time again after they graduate and tell us how well their experiences at T.C. Williams High School prepared them for the world.
Our diversity is also a reminder that success does not look the same for every student, and that what one student may take for granted is a huge success for another. We must not allow for any student’s current life, family or financial circumstance determine his or her future. Whether a child needs additional support for academics, socio-economics or social and emotional needs, in ACPS we must meet the child where they are and assist them with receiving what they need to become globally minded citizens. Our young people are counting on us to strive for excellence and give 100 percent each day to meet their needs.
At the first of three meetings with my superintendent’s transition team – the group of staff and community members who are helping to guide me during my first 100 days in my new role as superintendent of schools — discussion focused on employee retention, metrics, collaboration, effective communication and prioritization of goals. But all of the topics kept coming back to one thing – ensuring student success.
In order for students to succeed, we need to ensure consistency with the instructional practices in our classrooms through our ACPS curriculum. Through our school improvement planning process, our central office administration will work collaboratively with our schools to remove barriers that may be preventing ACPS from maximizing our students’ success, as well as provide the necessary supports to attain our ACPS 2020 goals. Furthermore, we must maintain continuity with teacher and leadership roles throughout the school division, including the role of superintendent of schools.
One recurring theme is the need and desire to increase collaboration with the city. We know that attracting families and businesses is key to the city’s economic success, and that good schools help ensure that a city thrives. The recent opening of the Ferdinand T. Day School is an exemplar of what a successful and innovative collaboration can look like when done well. Since day one, I have been working closely with the city manager to ensure lines of communication between the city and ACPS will always continue to be open. By establishing strong relationships through which the city and ACPS share our success and opportunities, we can work together toward success for all students.
As we move forward, we’ll continue to share our ACPS story and the story of our students’ success, especially with the broader community. While our community is made up of many people who do not have school-aged children or children in ACPS, it’s important that we show our entire community why your support for public education in Alexandria will be the key to our city’s success.
We are an ambitious school division that has set attainable goals through our ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan, which outlines a vast array of initiatives established by members of the school division and community. This plan, which serves as our guide toward student success, contains several hundred key performance indicators we are trying to meet every day. With many pressing needs, focusing and prioritizing will be important for ACPS as we forge ahead.
Even after only sixty days in this role, one thing is very clear to me – that our community, staff and students are deeply committed to the same goal – and that is seeing every student succeed.
The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.