- In the Spotlight
Dr. Newsome's columns from TheWOW!Factor, the employee newsletter:
From the December Issue
Charles Dickens probably didn’t have us in mind when he penned in 1859 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But his words aptly describe modernday Chesterfield County Public Schools. Our school division, the largest in Virginia to have all of its schools fully accredited, now faces one of the worst financial crises in decades.
According to the most recent projections, Chesterfield County Public Schools stands to see a $40 million revenue shortfall in FY 2010, and the forecast seems to be getting worse by the day. If the numbers hold true, next year’s operating budget will be smaller than it was three years ago — even though we have nearly 1,000 more students and four additional schools.
School divisions across the commonwealth are moving toward unchartered territory as we face draconian cuts. Fairfax County Public Schools plans to close a $220 million funding gap by cutting more than 1,000 positions, while Loudoun County Public Schools will consider a 15 percent budget cut.
We face tough choices ahead. In reality, all expenditures are on the table. Some decisions already have been made. We still must eliminate another $20-plus million to balance the FY 2010 budget. In a people-intensive business with 80-plus percent of the budget devoted to salaries, we are forced to take a hard look at staffing models and efficiencies.
Though state and national expectations continue to grow and budgets continue to dwindle, we will maintain our focus and commitment to children. The vitality of our community rests on the shoulders of a strong public education system. So in the spirit of the holidays, let’s also remember that this truly is among the “best of times.” Our school division made adequate yearly progress for the third straight year, our students continue to outperform state averages on standardized tests, and our staff members continue to earn state and national recognition. Our children did not create this financial crisis, and we must work with citizens and elected officials to ensure that we provide the best education possible. We will overcome our challenges, much like the Pilgrims did almost 400 years ago.
From the March Issue
There are fewer than 60 days remaining in the 2008-09 school year. Let’s make every day count! Budget deliberations and the effect of possible cuts dominated recent discussions. But the work of educating our students has not stopped. Thank you for continuing to put children first.
The national downturn in the economy is certainly a concern. Nonetheless, I am confident that our strong spirit and moral compass will help us persevere. We remain focused on the goals in the Design for Excellence that light the path to our vision. As pointed out in a needs assessment before the creation of our strategic plan: “The Chesterfield community has historically expected its schools to be centers of community life and to produce well-rounded citizens as well as effective and productive workers.” To that end, we must continue our efforts in creative and innovative thinking, curriculum and professional development alignment, effective teaching, efficient operations and personal and professional growth.
A recent School Board presentation by the Instruction Department highlighted the significant divisionwide improvement in student achievement at all levels while significantly narrowing achievement gaps in all subgroups identified by No Child Left Behind. I encourage you to maintain your focus on the targets outlined in our Design for Excellence — it’s making a difference for our children.
From the October Issue
During the past two years that I have served as superintendent of
Chesterfield County Public Schools, we have worked as a team to chart an ambitious agenda to prepare our students for the 21st century. We are beginning to see evidence of our success; the 2008-09 school year started with promising reports of academic progress.
Chesterfield County Public Schools recently became the largest school division in Virginia to have all schools fully accredited under Virginia’s Standards of Learning. It is also the third straight year that the division has made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Education released statistics that show the percentage of Chesterfield high school students graduating on time exceeded the state average. As you saw in the back-toschool video, our alumni illustrate our success and are representing our community throughout the world. Chesterfield County Public Schools graduates are making a difference in almost every profession.
While we have made great progress, our work continues. As state competency standards continue to increase, schools across the state will find it more difficult to exceed federal AYP benchmarks. We will face this challenge with a continued focus on rigor, relevance and relations in our classrooms, schools and community. We must and we will remain focused on the five goals of our Design for Excellence
strategic plan. Our focus on continuous improvement is central to our shared vision of every school as a thriving, dynamic and inspiring educational environment that produces self-directed learners with 21st-century skills.