Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: Academic return on investment

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Dr. Gregory Hutchings (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)
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One of the key roles of any superintendent is to ensure school division funding is sufficient to implement the initiatives needed to achieve its goals.

Over the past few years, the city and ACPS have partnered to meet the needs of the entire city, alongside the desperate need to modernize our aging facilities and ensure we hire the best staff. Funding a school division requires consensus-building with
those who ultimately control the dollars.

However, an aspect that has been missing – or has been on the sidelines of our budget practices – is ensuring return on investment, like a business would. In the field of education, this is an academic return on investment.

Academic return on investment puts students at the heart of the budget process and asks how money is serving the student directly.

With students at the heart of the budget process, our focus turns to textbooks, safe and comfortable facilities, exemplary teachers and caring staff. Academic ROI also makes us look at where we are not serving students well, and whether we need to reallocate funding to schools that are not supported well enough.

To ensure we follow through on our budget priorities – and in turn deliver an A-ROI –ACPS has reviewed its internal processes and this year is aligning the school board, budget and superintendent priorities to ensure they work in tandem. This will improve efficient delivery of budget priorities and help us better measure outcomes.

ACPS has six focus areas for the 2019-20 school year based on the board’s FY2020 budget priorities. These are: educational equity, reviewing the budget process, The High School Project, a smooth transition of Douglas MacArthur Elementary students and staff into temporary swing space while we modernize the school building, developing the ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan and ensuring we are implementing recommendations from the departmental audits we have conducted since 2015.

The work around educational equity will include division-wide equity training for school staff, administrators and the school board, increased focus on social, emotional and academic learning and the distribution of division-wide instructional resources.

Educational equity will also be the focus of ACPS 2025, which is currently being developed by a strategic planning committee made up of 60 staff and community members.

ACPS will focus on The High School Project and establish an industry advisory board to give programming guidance to ensure it is aligned with the needs of the workforce. It will use an educational design team to assist in designing research-based programming, get input from a panel of national education experts and continue developing the sites needed for the Connected High School Network, including Minnie Howard.

The swing space for Douglas MacArthur Elementary School will be known as Douglas MacArthur at Taney Avenue, and site safety will be paramount. Staggered start and dismissal times, as well as a reversible one-way drop-off lane and increased bus usage should ensure arrival and departure safety during the two-years Patrick Henry and MacArthur share the same site.

Monitoring the implementation of various audits – not just the 2015 Facilities Audit, but the 2016 Talented and Gifted Audit, the 2018 Human Resources Audit and the 2018 Students with Disabilities Audit – will help ensure we see an A-ROI.

Our goals are to ensure our organizational structure is aligned with strategic planning goals, that we deliver fiscally responsible operating and capital improvement program budgets and that we continue to work closely with the city to deliver desired outcomes. We deeply appreciate the on-going support from and collaboration with the city and we want to see this continue and grow this year and for years to come.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

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