HCPS community forum generates ideas

Published 10:21 am Monday, November 17, 2008

AHOSKIE – We can’t do it alone.

That’s why the Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) gathered with other educators, community leaders and business leaders recently for a community forum.

“It takes a village to raise a child. This ancient proverb teaches eternal truth,” said HCPS Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debbie Harris-Rollins. “But in these lean and mean days, community isn’t always what it is supposed to be. Hertford County is such a place, however, as evidenced by the gathering and shared dialogue.”

The discussion focused on addressing three areas of impact and concern for the school district and indeed for the community as a whole. Those areas included high student achievement, teen pregnancy and gang activity.

“Participants walked away from the forum with clear and specific goals and a plan to move from ‘knowing’ about the problems to ‘doing’ something about them,” Dr. Harris-Rollins said.

While the school system is making progress and showing improvement in state and federal testing, it still lags behind much of the state, something Dr. Harris-Rollins said is unacceptable.

The assistant superintendent said she was pleased with the preliminary information from the Adequate Yearly Progress figures and felt the school district was being lead by strong instructional leaders.

The group also addressed the areas of teen pregnancy and gang activity and discussed how they might work better together to achieve success in battling those problems.

Community Relations Officer Ronald Gatling said the forum was helpful and that participants were able to gather good information from their discussions.

He said the group agreed to try to increase public awareness of gang activity as their main strategy in that area. As for teen pregnancy, those numbers have decreased in Hertford County, meaning the health department and school system strategies are working, according to those in attendance.

The community forum did have business participants, but at least two of those representing the business community expressed a desire to see a greater presence from that group. Shawn Beasley, Executive Director of Strong Ones, Inc., voiced that concern and Jerry Castelloe, Interim Executive Director of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce echoed the thoughts. Castelloe also initiated dialogue about how area businesses might collaborate.

The school district was pleased with the forum and has already made plans to conduct another session. It will be held on March 27, 2009 at a time and location to be announced at a later date.

“I felt good about the forum,” Gatling said. “I think it was a good opportunity to come together and that’s what we need to do in Hertford County. We’re all serving the same families and that means we all need to come together as a village.”