Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: Students must come first

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Dr. Gregory Hutchings (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)
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This spring, Alexandria City Public Schools administrators will begin to look at our priorities for the next five years. Our current strategic plan was adopted four years ago and in 2020 the school board will be asked to adopt a new five-year strategic plan.

No doubt there will be much discussion during this process about our educational priorities and what we want to accomplish between 2020 and 2025. We will be reaching out to the community to hear about your priorities and involve you. Developing a successful strategic plan takes community involvement, as our schools are your schools, too.

We are certain of one thing: students are the heart of everything we do. They are our number one priority. It is students we are educating, nurturing and growing into responsible young adults – and inspiring to become global citizens and the future generation of world leaders. They are the reason ACPS exists and they are the purpose of our work.

Our mission in ACPS is to see every student succeed, and there is no doubt we have made progress in this mission. But it is equally clear that much more progress is needed, and that it will take the efforts of an entire community pulling together to provide all students a high-quality education in ACPS.

It is our responsibility as educators to ensure our students are engaged in lessons each day in our classrooms, have a safe learning environment that allows them to explore new opportunities, interact with friendly adults who genuinely care about our students’ well-being, attend schools that are well-maintained and welcoming, receive educational resources to enhance their learning experiences and can engage in multiple pathways to obtain a T.C. Williams diploma.

It is also our responsibility to ensure they experience a community that believes in them regardless of their family circumstances, race, socioeconomic background, gender, ZIP code, learning ability or first spoken language.

These students will be leading the world tomorrow.

As adults, it is important that we continue to lead by example. Our young people are watching us each day for guidance and modeling of good citizenship.

As we begin to recruit new ACPS employees for the next school year, it is our duty to our young people to recruit staff who demonstrate VIP: vision, integrity and passion. Our students deserve teachers, support staff and administrators who believe that every child has a right to be engaged in a high-quality education every single day they enter our schools.

We have one shot at educating the next generation and at helping them develop the skills they need to navigate the world. We must not take this responsibility as educators lightly. In ACPS, we unapologetically require a standard of excellence for all employees, students and families to ensure that our mission comes to fruition.

Our families trust us each day with their children. That is a huge responsibility that we should not take lightly. To ensure success, we must meet every child where they are, not necessarily where we want them to be. Keeping our eye on the prize is doing everything within our power to encourage, educate, em- power and advocate for our young people in ACPS.

Success is the only option in ACPS. No matter what other priorities we have going forward, our young people will always be the center of our work, decision making and mission.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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