Forging a path toward success

Forging a path toward success

By Melanie Kay-West

As we celebrated the Alexandria City High School Class of 2023 graduation in June, I asked the 898 graduates to consider the impact they will make as they move forward in their lives. I posed the same question to them that I also face as the first Black woman to serve as superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools. What impact will I leave on the school division?

Since taking on the role of interim superintendent in September 2022, and now as ACPS superintendent, I devote my efforts to living true to the 2025 Strategic Plan and its mission to provide an equitable edu- cation for all of our students.

Our recent graduates come from a student body whose families hail from more than 119 countries and speak 124 languages. Our graduates represent this diversity and are taking various paths after earning their high school degrees.

Among the Class of 2023, 419 seniors graduated with an Advanced Studies Diploma. More than 600 ACHS graduates plan to attend college and 16 others report that they will serve in the U.S. military. Through the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria alone, 208 ACHS students were awarded scholarships totaling $627,000.

Ten ACHS students received Akerson Family Foundation scholarships established to increase access to higher education for first-generation students. Four students received a Project Discovery scholarship through this college and career readiness program that aims to assist first-generation college students and those with financial need to access opportunities in higher education.

Twenty Titan athletes signed letters of intent to compete in collegiate athletics, receiving scholarships to play at the next level. Providing opportunities for all ACPS students to succeed opens the door to the myriad of possibilities that our graduates can pursue.

Taking on my new role as superintendent, I look back on the paths I’ve taken to prepare me for what lies ahead. I have experienced the joys of being with students in the classroom as I began my career as a special education teacher. I have served in leadership roles as an assistant principal and principal, further experiencing how a school division best functions when the focus is on how to ensure all students are provided the opportunities they need to succeed.

I have led school division human resource departments, most recently at ACPS, and have gained a clear understanding of how staff wellness and growth are critical in supporting the vision to inspire students and address barriers to learning. I have also had the opportunity to lead strategic reorganizations of budget and staffing which are integral in being able to carry out the mission of a school division.

I now intend to use my diverse background in education to lead our school division with a vision of Equity for All, positioning ACPS as a national leader in redefining PreK-12 education. In the academic year that lies ahead, we will continue to work together to advance our students’ academic success and social-emotional well-being.

As all schools around the nation address post-pandemic learning needs, ACPS’ commitment to being an inclusive school division will help ensure that all students are provided the supports to help them succeed. Social, emotional and academic learning recovery will continue to be integrated into the classroom experience as a way to help students manage stress that may impact a student’s ability to learn. Our leadership team will continue to make sure that schools and staff are supported to maintain our commitment to providing high-quality instruction so that all students can reach their full potential and graduate with a degree that allows them to pursue their life’s aspirations.

In partnership with our families and the entire ACPS community, we can ensure our students are supported and ready to learn every day. Together, we can make a meaningful impact on achieving ACPS’ core goals of being a welcoming, empowering, equity focused, innovative and results-driven school division.

It is my wish for the Class of 2023 that they will take these core values that defined their education in ACPS and continue on their journey to make the impact they seek in their future endeavors.

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.