Where do we go from here

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

MURFREESBORO – Where do we go from here?

After making giant strides over the past year, that’s the question facing those who have worked so hard to put the Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) system in the shape it is today. The answers, varied in nature, came from numerous sources here Thursday night at Riverview Elementary School.

There, HCPS hosted its second annual Educational Summit. The purpose of the event is for school administrators and teachers to gain valuable insight from the public and private sectors of the community in order for the system to accomplish its goal of motivating and accelerating academic growth for all students.

After noting that HCPS had made drastic improvements in its &uot;ABC’s of Education&uot; – a statewide system of judging schools based upon progress in the core subjects – as well as raising its retention rate among teachers, Claude Odom, who served as Moderator for the summit, passed praise along to those who have aided in the school system’s recent round of good fortunes.

&uot;You can feel the energy now present in the Board of Education, the system’s administrators, teachers, students and parents,&uot; said Odom. &uot;The secondary educational system here in Hertford County is now looking better. (HCPS Superintendent) Dennis Deloatch, his staff and the Board are to be commended for their efforts.&uot;

However, as it is within groups or organizations that have experienced growth, there’s always one burning question.

&uot;The school system is doing a good job, but where do we go from here,&uot; asked Odom.

That question became the topic of discussion among those, from all walks of life, in attendance.

Breaking out in eight groups, each assigned two panelists, the attendees held a 45-minute discussion period. The ideas sparked from those informal discussions were brought back to a general session and charted.

Listed among the ideas from Group One, where Clarence High served as the lead panelist, were obtaining additional funding for books, use the regional public library system as a source for obtaining used, non-fiction books, conduct additional book drives and encourage children to read in non-school related activities such as through their association with the Boy and Girl scouts as well as athletic activities (reading the rules in order to better understand the game).

Dr. Mary Wyatt, lead panelist for Group Two, charted the suggestions gleaned during their discussion – sharing educational information with the community, establishing a GED program at the middle school, open lines of communication with the faith-based community concerning tutoring programs and build upon the practice of using Roanoke-Chowan Community College and Chowan College students offering tutorial assistance to HCPS students.

Group Three, headed by Dr. Harold Mitchell, focused their discussion on how to make improvements at the high school. Among those ideas were to encourage greater parental involvement, despite the fact that older teens, seeking independence, seem to want to distance themselves from their parents. Also, the group thought it was extremely important to work with high school students, helping them to develop more self-respect that, in turn, would lead them to show more respect to others.

James Eure announced the ideas formulated from the discussion among Group Four attendees, a thought pattern that centered on how to make better use of the volunteers that give freely of their time in order to make the system better. Those ideas included a training module for the volunteers, putting a volunteer coordinator in place at each school, devising a list of volunteers and a schedule for them to follow and encouraging business owners to allow their employees to take time off from work in order to serve as school volunteers.

Group Five, where Nellie Fennell and Mollie Eubank served as the lead panelists, focused their attention on how the community can better assist public education in the county. Their list of suggestions included how community members could donate books to the school for use by families without books, allow community members to serve as mentors for the students, hosting a Saturday Academy to better educate the community on the needs of the school system, contact churches for sponsorship of after-school remediation programs and the offering of year-round tutorial programs.

Juan Vaughan charted the suggestions from Group Six. They included reducing class size, bring successful HCPS graduates back to speak to current students, emphasize the positives within the system through the use of the established media outlets within the county, the production of a school system generated newspaper and building a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

Group Seven, under the direction of Ken Wolfskill, listed the offering of foreign language and algebra at the elementary school level, providing additional supervision during after-school events and educating parents and students on the HCPS rules and regulations as their suggestions.

Lillie Bynum offered the thoughts of Group Eight during their discussion period. They included a standardization of expectations and allowing parents a more flexible schedule in order to visit with the teachers during report card pick-up times as their main topics.

&uot;As evident by these suggestions, we can see that our journey to offer a better education for our young people here in Hertford County is far from over,&uot; said Odom. &uot;There is much work that lies ahead. By keeping an open dialogue and keeping the community involved, we can keep thinking and focusing on our children and how we can best help them.&uot;

In his closing statement, Deloatch stressed that educators cannot alone face the increasing demands placed upon school systems to offer a better education.

&uot;We need these suggestions in order to allow us to move forward,&uot; he said. &uot;We will always seek your help and support.&uot;

But yet the burning question remained – where does HCPS go from here?

&uot;We start now by taking the information and suggestions gathered here tonight to our Board of Education, to our administrators, to our teachers and staff, volunteers and parents from where plans of action will be developed,&uot; stated Deloatch. &uot;From what I’ve seen through the use of these educational summits, when the community becomes involved in helping to better the educational process, not only do our children succeed, we all succeed.&uot;