Isle of Wight school division hosts community discussion on future

Published 11:04 am Friday, March 17, 2017

Isle of Wight County Schools held a community meeting in Windsor Elementary School on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the future of the school division. The meeting was held in the school’s library, where school administrators presented attendees with questions on how they felt the public school system had changed over the decades.

Administrators facilitated the discussion in the form of a map, which compared the paths to employment that students of yesteryear had available to them versus the realities of today, titled “Lifespan: preparing children for the journey of a lifetime.” The map was divided into three segments, the home, work and where there are jobs.

At each segment, attendees were presented with cards containing statistics and then asked their opinions on what students needed to be successful at each level today. Some of the statistics included that in 1970 the average household income in the U.S. was $10,000, whereas today, it is $53,000; and that in 1970 the average cost of a new house was $23,450 versus $377,800 today. The percentage of all prime-age jobs requiring at lest some college also rose from 20 percent in 1970 to 59 percent today.

Isle of Wight County resident Tommy Griffin said he believed part of the disconnect between the current public school system and the demands of today’s economy was that students no longer receive hands-on experience.

“We had a variety of things exposed to us in the agricultural department [when I was in school]; you were exposed to welding and animal science,” he said.

Shannon Turner, who has two children in Isle of Wight’s school system, one in fourth grade at Windsor Elementary and one in eighth grade at Georgie D. Tyler Middle School, said she felt that communication skills were another area of instruction in which many public school systems were lacking.

“If you’ve watched even little kids, they don’t know how to talk to each other; they’ll grab their phones,” she said.

Nell Cyr, who is a great-aunt to two first graders at Windsor Elementary, echoed Griffin’s comments regarding the necessity of students having experience.

“It’s so sad when a student goes through this, goes to college and gets a degree and is told [during a job interview], ‘You have nothing to bring to the table, you have no experience,’” Cyr said. “It’s very disheartening and they’re working at Busch Gardens or something.”

Griffin added that another problem he felt that public school divisions faced today was the amount of paperwork teachers are required to file.

“Today’s teacher has to have lots of time for paperwork because of all of the requirements of No Child Left Behind, special needs, all of these have so much paperwork … they don’t have time for anything else,” he said.

He added that he was also concerned about the possibility of for-profit charter schools taking over in school divisions that cannot meet their budgets. However, Assistant Superintendent Heather Tuck, who was moderating the discussion, said that there was a difference between for-profit schools and charter schools such as the Governor’s Schools in Virginia, which are still public schools with government funding, but more specialized in their curriculum, such as the Governor’s School for the Arts.

IWCS will hold another community meeting to further discuss the future on April 19, 6 p.m. at Smithfield Middle School. Tuck concluded by encouraging everyone to attend Thursday’s Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors meeting, at which the proposed $10M expansion of Smithfield and Windsor high schools will likely be discussed.

“If this activity doesn’t teach you that we need to do something different for our kids, I don’t know what else [will,]” she said.