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Setting schools on a new C.O.M.P.A.S.S.

SoVaNow.com / March 22, 2017
Mecklenburg County Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols is asking the School Board to consider new mission and vision statements — and a new motto — as the county division moves forward with curriculum changes and implementation of a 21st century learning environment.

The proposed MCPS motto, developed by a committee of school employees, is “C.O.M.P.A.S.S — Committed to Our Mission: Preparing All Students for Success.”

The proposed mission statement calls on the “Mecklenburg County Public School Division, in partnership with family and community, to provide all students with a quality education within a safe environment supporting the development of intellectual growth, effective communication, wellness, and lifelong learning in a rapidly-changing society.”

The vision statement calls on Mecklenburg County Public Schools to provide a 21st century learning environment which fosters career literacy, academic enhancement, social-emotional growth and community engagement that prepares students who contribute to the global society.

The proposals, which were presented to trustees at their regular monthly meeting on Monday night, will be voted on at the April meeting of the School Board.

The business portion of the meeting included the approval by trustees of a draft budget for the new 2017-18 fiscal year that begins July 1. The school budget proposal will now go to the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors for consideration.

The nearly $52 million request includes a five-percent salary increase for school employees and an additional 10 percent in spending on school maintenance.

The operational categorical expenses are $33.2 million in instruction, $1.9 million for administration, $4.1 million for pupil transportation, $3.5 million for operations and maintenance, $2.6 million for technology, and another $6.3 million for school lunches, debt service and federally-funded programs.

The draft budget is nearly $6 million more than the school division received last year, and it does not include any funding for improvements to secondary (high school and middle school) facilities. It proposes a local taxpayer contribution of just under $20 million.

Nichols noted that this budget comes in response to the Board of Supervisors’ earlier request for an education plan that addressed salary needs, new buildings and maintenance of existing facilities. There’s “considerable work in the budget as to teacher salaries and maintaining elementary schools, and a five-year plan moving forward,” said Nichols.

“There are items in the budget that come from each of the schools. This budget is not my budget, it is not just the School Board budget, but [it] reflects needs of administrators and directors for the coming year,” said Nichols.

These needs include money to pay for several unfunded mandates, such as new accountability standards involving discipline and federal government expectations for English-as-second language students. “It is a large budget request,” said Nichols. “But it is our job to let the county and public know what our needs are to educate the student. It’s the Board of Supervisors’ job to fund as they see fit, but it is always our job to let them know what our needs are,” Nichols said.

In other business, Nichols proposed a new program for the middle schools called “I Am Enough.” Explaining the concept, Nichols said, “It is a three-day supplement to our middle school physical education program that has to do with character development and sexual integrity for sixth-eighth graders. Persons who are trained with the program will provide the instruction.”

Ahead of Monday night’s meeting, Nichols said he asked the middle school principals and Joan Hite, director of secondary education, to review the program. “We feel like it is a positive opportunity for middle school students to recognize their right to avoid bullying and peer pressure. It is used in schools around the country and we feel it would be beneficial for students here,” said the superintendent.

On a separate note, Nichols said he had a recent opportunity to meet with representatives at Microsoft who “are so concerned about development of computer science and advanced technologies in the schools that they have put together a program which focuses on computer programs in high schools.”

There is an application process for participating in the Microsoft program, which is due April 1. Nichols called the program a “great opportunity for partnership with Microsoft and it is reflective again of high demand for students to be prepared for careers in computer science and technologies.” He added that the partnership could lead to MCPS offering an AP (advanced placement) computer science class for students looking to study computer science in college.

Currently, Microsoft is seeking volunteers to work with teachers at MCPS in this program. Nichols said it is another way to tap into the knowledge of area retirees, such as the mentors who work with students involved in First Robotics at Bluestone High School.

Glenn Edwards sought and received approval for the school division to move forward on an Energy Performance Contract with Trane, the HVAC consultants hired by the county to install upgrades to the three oldest elementary schools — Chase City, Clarksville and La Crosse — as long as the budget impact is revenue neutral.

Also, Christian Stanley Leja of Bluestone High School and Ryan James Keesee of Park View High School were each named the Senior of the Month at their respective schools.

Bluestone Middle School’s forensics team won several awards at a recent competition. The Destination Imaging team, also from Bluestone Middle School, will be advancing to state competition.

Russ Messier, a mentor with the Bluestone High School First Robotics team, was chosen as a candidate for the Woodie Flowers Award at a recent First Robotics regional competition. The Woodie Flowers Award celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. Dr. William Murphy founded this award in 1996 to recognize mentors who lead, inspire and empower using excellent communication skills.

Scott Worner, CEO of the Mecklenburg County YMCA, thanked trustees for their ongoing support of the local YMCA and presented them with a ceremonial check for the $1,168.50 that people donated to county schools in lieu of paying a joiner’s fee to become a member of the YMCA. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, the Mecklenburg County YMCA waived its initial fee for anyone agreeing to make a contribution to one or more of the county’s schools in an amount equal to or greater than the joiner fee.

The funds were given to each of the schools as directed by individual donors: $581.50 was donated to Clarksville Elementary, $226 went to Chase City Elementary, $164 went to Bluestone Middle School, $162 to Bluestone High School, $20 to La Crosse Elementary, $10 to South Hill Elementary, and $5 to Park View High School.

Worner said that because the Mecklenburg County YMCA is small, it relies on partnerships, volunteers, and collaborations to achieve its goals — youth development, social responsibility and healthy living. He commended the schools for being part of the YMCA’s success.

Park View High School Principal Darnell Carter received approval for members of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America club to take an overnight field trip to Reston to compete in the Virginia FBLA competition. Sixteen students qualified to compete this year, which Carter said is the most ever from the school.

Both Carter and Bluestone Principal Pauline Keeton also received approval for students with their schools’ Beta Clubs to attend the national convention in Orlando, Fla., June 28 – July 2.

Transportation Director Bill Mayhew was authorized to sell surplus items of scrap metal from the bus garage. He said the money will be used to purchase tools for the bus shop.

School Board members were invited to a lunch with Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, to discuss Blueprint Virginia 2025, which outlines the importance of career education in preparing students for 21st century jobs.

The lunch is planned for April 18 at Brian’s Steak House in South Hill.

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