Learners in good school divisions have access to a high quality of basic educational services – they meet or exceed minimum standards. But, students in great school divisions don’t just perform at the highest levels on the basics. They also have access to programs that engage them well beyond the basics. Their accomplishments set them apart against peers in the region, state and nation. People who live here know that Albemarle County Public Schools is a great school division by any measure. Our young people benefit from excellent program value for the dollars invested in them by the community. Our young people return that investment with dividends. We know that strong public schools contribute to the strength of our community. Here’s evidence.
1)Families relocating to the area choose homes in Albemarle County. After all, Forbes Magazine has ranked us as one of the top 13 places in the nation to raise a family- and our schools are a major reason why. Parents find our schools provide a variety of options, from rural to suburban schools. Enrichment opportunities abound in our schools and the quality of our special education services are known throughout the state. We have specialty centers such as the new MESA academy for budding inventors and engineers, two charter schools that provide customized, small-school environments, and an Air Force JROTC program. High schoolers can take just about any AP or college course that’s offered- if not in-class then virtually, at Piedmont Virginia Community College, UVA or JMU. Our high school students perform at the highest of levels in the performing arts, academically, and athletically. We offer European and Asian world languages in our elementary, middle and high schools. And, our technology tools for teachers and learners are the envy of the nation-with our schools featured in state and national news for our tech learning innovations.
2)It’s also easy to see why our business community partners appreciate our school division. Expansion Magazine, four years ago, labeled us a gold level community for business relocation- a designation rarely given to districts across the country. Why? The number one reason is the quality of our public schools in Albemarle. Our schools are a great recruitment strategy to support the economic vitality of our community, now and into the future.
3) Our community is proud of our young people and sees maintaining the quality of our schools as its number one priority according to the most recent citizen survey conducted on behalf of the Board of Supervisors. Our volunteers and partners- senior citizens, parents, UVA, PVCC, and employees from businesses throughout our community- give us their best when it comes to helping our schools. Our Board of Supervisors has made collaboration with our School Board to support world class education a top priority in sustaining a high quality of life in our community.
Unfortunately, we are challenged, as are school districts (Fox News, Feb 14, 2010) across the United States, to sustain effort to deliver programs and services that are essential to building a vibrant and strong national workforce. We need to educate all young people to the highest level of success we can imagine to obtain the competitive edge necessary to perform well in the global economy. In the twenty-first century, this means more than the basic 3Rs of the last century. It means offering customized options that provide young people with a variety of challenging educational opportunities.
Instead, as a result of the current economic downturn, our School Board currently considers making the following changes to reduce school division expenditures for 2010-11:
- increasing class sizes,
- reducing and eliminating of extra-and co-curricular enrichment activities such as Destination Imagination, National History Day, and science fair,
- passing on charges to participate in a variety of programs including athletics,
- vaporizing 80% of the technology budget,
- reducing intervention programs including summer school and family support workers,
- putting students on longer bus rides,
- freezing salaries and furloughing all employees,
- eliminating assistant principals, principals, elementary art, music and PE specialists, and gifted resource teachers
- cutting learning resource funding more than half – no new science lab equipment, musical instruments, or text materials and,
- changing school schedules that will eliminate instructional staff.
They know, if these reductions and cuts come to pass, our school division will offer a different level of service a year from now.