State of the Schools Report

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Dr. James T. Roberts, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools, presents his State of the Schools report.

By MJ KNOBLOCK

Dr. James T. Roberts, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools, delivered a Chesapeake State of the Schools address during a recent breakfast meeting. The event was presented by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and held at the Chesapeake Conference Center in Greenbrier.

The superintendent addressed a business-oriented group of about 100 merchants, citizens, parents, teachers, administrators and school board members as he discussed the accomplishments, challenges and goals of Chesapeake Public Schools.

The event took place the day before the Chesapeake City School Board passed a proposed operating budget of $387.5 million. As a result, much of Roberts’ address revolved around the concept of doing more with less.

He began on a positive note, highlighting the background of Chesapeake Public Schools, which is the seventh-largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia. With 38,600 students attending 45 schools, two educational centers and various specialized academies, Chesapeake is second in size in Hampton Roads schools only to neighboring Virginia Beach. Chesapeake has the largest transportation system in the state, covering 4 million miles per year with its fleet of 460 school buses.

“In administering our budget, we are keenly aware of the trust the citizens of Chesapeake place in us to spend our educational dollars wisely,” said Roberts.

He noted that the city spends less on administrative costs and less per pupil than the Virginia state averages and receives clean audits every year. Meanwhile, the on-time high school graduation rate of Chesapeake students is currently 91.2 percent, which is above the state average of 88 percent. The school division’s drop-out rate was measured at 4.4 percent, which is lower than the Virginia average of 6.5 percent.

“Achieving the highest level of performance is the standard in Chesapeake,” said Roberts. “Each year our students and staff bring distinction to themselves and to our school system.”

The superintendent highlighted some statistics regarding students and schools during the past year. They included the mention of stellar student achievement in a number of areas:

  • 15 students with perfect SAT scores;
  • 3 students with perfect PSAT scores;
  • 14 National Merit Scholarship Program honor students; and,
  • 2 National Merit finalists.

Other notable achievements by students were mentioned in music, athletics, career and technical education.

Educators in Chesapeake Public Schools were also recognized for individual achievements in the 2012 to 2013 school year:

  • Kathy Galford, Greenbrier Middle School, Virginia Teacher of the Year;
  • Cheryl Greiling, Southwestern Elementary School,Virginia State Reading Association Teacher of the Year; and,
  • Carolyn F. Bernard, principal at Grassfield High School, 2013 AdvancED Virginia Excellence in Education Award.

Roberts, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary education and a doctorate degree in urban services from Old Dominion University, has more than 40 years of service in education in Hampton Roads. Starting out as a social studies teacher at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, the superintendent has held a variety of roles to help him gain a well-rounded view of the needs and necessities of public education.

During the State of the Schools address, Roberts explained in detail the six goals that the school system has for the upcoming year and into the future.

They are:

  • Increase in pupil achievement through consecutive years of accreditation and specialized programs;
  • Using financial management and human resources to attract and retain quality teachers and personnel in the school system;
  • Upkeep and improvements to school facilities, from athletic fields to capital projects, despite shortfalls created by the loss of funds from the Virginia Lottery program;
  • Improving school safety through the enforcement of student enrollment policies notwithstanding the lack of funding, including the presence of 80 non-state-funded school safety officers;
  • Improving the technology in Chesapeake schools, from the strengthening of network security and alternative methods for delivery of instruction to the development and implementation of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies for students; and,
  • Increasing community involvement through various programs, including improvement of the school division’s website.

Roberts stated that he hopes that Chesapeake will  be “the school system of choice” for parents and students. This could prove challenging, however, as the state ranks 38th in school funding and 31st in average teacher salary.

“Very simply, regardless of the situation, we must consciously choose positive attitudes, demonstrate professionalism and serve as models of excellence around us,” he said.

Bonita Harris, a Chesapeake School Board member and media communications manager of presenting sponsor Dominion Virginia Power, introduced Roberts as the keynote speaker.

The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce presented the Chesapeake State of the Schools address for an audience comprised of merchants, parents, teachers, administrators and school board members.

Dr. James T. Roberts, superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools, recently summed up his take on the schools system during a breakfast meeting presentation.

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