Superintendent’s Back-To-School Message

Dr. Yvonne Brandon Superintendent

Superintendent's Back-To-School Message

August 2011

Welcome to the 2011-2012 school year, a time for Richmond Public Schools to continue its mission of student achievement, responsible action and fiscal accountability.

As we look forward to another outstanding year, we should also take a moment to review last year's noteworthy accomplishments, including the district's historic achievement of having 100 percent of its schools fully accredited based on the state's Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. When you consider almost a decade ago just 19 percent of Richmond's schools earned full accreditation, the significance of this accomplishment cannot be overstated. Furthermore, the percentage of Richmond City schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) required by the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act exceeded the statewide average for the fourth consecutive year. In fact, more than 80 percent of our students mastered the AYP benchmark scores for English/reading and math.

While standardized test scores are the most prevalent tools to measure student achievement, there are certainly other ways to gauge success. For example, the on-time graduation rates for Franklin Military Academy, Thomas Jefferson, Richmond Community and Open high schools all exceeded the statewide average of 85.5 percent, with the district posting an overall increase of six percent. Our 2011 high school valedictorians posted a combined grade point average of 4.46, led by Thomas Jefferson graduate Kristen Simms, one of only eight Virginia students to receive the 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship. Richmond City students also won awards at the Technology Student Association (TSA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state conferences. And Ian Fraser, a seventh-grader at Lucille Brown Middle School, advanced to this year's Scripps National Spelling Bell after winning this year's regional contest.

Several Richmond City schools and educators earned individual honors last school year, including Brown Middle School science teacher LaTonya Waller's selection as Virginia's Teacher of the Year. Ms. Waller made history by being the first Richmond City teacher to win the award. Several schools were also recognized for excellence. Bellevue Elementary was named a Virginia Title I Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School while Mary Munford Elementary received the 2011 Governor's Award for Educational Excellence. Also, J.E. B. Stuart Elementary was one of only four schools in Virginia to receive a 2011 grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries, and two Richmond City middle schools, Albert Hill and Lucille Brown, placed among the top three in this year's Virginia Council on Economic Education (VCEE) Stock Market Game.

Other individual honorees included teachers Jeffrey Dean Hall, Emily Betts and Barry Gabay – all R.E.B. Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients. The awards included cash grants to fund postgraduate studies, professional development or world travel. At the district level, Richmond Community High School music teacher Gregory McCallum was named the city's 2011 Teacher of the Year.

This school year, we will continue our focus on middle school reform as we open Higher Achievement after-school programs at Boushall and Henderson middle schools. These centers, made possible through our partnership with Higher Achievement and a three-year, $1 million grant from Altria, will provide students with a structured, safe environment for homework assistance and other academic enrichment opportunities.

The 2011-2012 school year will also mark the first time that students in grades six through 12 will be enrolled in Franklin Military Academy as the expansion of that program comes to its fruition.

And finally, many of you have already received the district's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan: The Gateway to Infinite Possibilities. The plan was developed and based on input from more than 500 of your fellow citizens who participated in community summits and served on action teams. We thank all who took part in this community-led initiative. The goals set forth by this plan are aggressive, bold, critical and completely within our reach, if we will only extend ourselves to our full potential. By doing so, we will recognize the promise of our students and fully develop their potential to lead extraordinary, honorable, productive and personally rewarding lives, beginning with the 2011-2012 school year.

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