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County schools chief: Outreach is goal
Anthony D. Jackson is shown in his office last week.
Monday, July 13, 2009
By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer
New Henry County Schools Superintendent Anthony D. Jackson is making community outreach his first priority.
Jackson, who began the post July 1, hopes area residents will introduce themselves and share their thoughts at two "Meet the Superintendent" sessions Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The "meet and greet" events were "one of the first things I wanted on the calendar - to meet with parents, students and the community, because we are partners," Jackson said.
"The goal is to reach out to the community and personally introduce myself to them and have them introduce themselves to me," he said. He added that he wants the public "to understand this is a partnership. I'm coming to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the community."�
The sessions, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bassett High School and 7 p.m. Wednesday at Magna Vista High School, will be informal and are open to anyone, not just students' parents, Jackson said.
In a message posted on the schools' Web site, Jackson said one focus for the coming year is "improving internal and external communication." He said he plans to take "regular opportunities to get out in the schools" and visit departments outside the administration building, meeting with faculty, staff, parent-teacher groups and committees.
"I want to pop in and see what's going on. It will not be unusual for me just to show up," he said.
He also plans to "look at opportunities to have dialogues with students ... so decisions being made reflect the input of all the stakeholders."�
Ultimately, Jackson said, it will be up to him to make certain decisions, and not everyone may agree with him all the time. However, he said he does not want to make decisions without "listening to those individuals who will be impacted."�
According to his contract, Jackson is being paid a $125,000 salary as superintendent, with an additional $5,000 added to his base salary once he finishes his doctorate. He also will receive a $700 monthly car allowance and a $10,000 annual payment into an annuity or deferred compensation plan.
Jackson comes to Henry County from Spotsylvania County Schools, where he most recently worked as executive director of K-12 curriculum and instruction and director of secondary education.
He has said part of what motivated him to apply to the Henry County Schools was how the division "continued to perform" through economic challenges, and he praised the division's "strong tradition of rigor and excellence."�
A week and a half into the job, Jackson said, "My impressions are still the same. We have an excellent school division with tremendous potential."�
The challenge, he added, "will be to take the things the division has done well over the years" and build on them.
Jackson said his goals are to "increase student achievement to levels we've never seen, have safe and well-run schools, open lines of communication ... and build strong relationships," both within the division and with the community members.
In his career in public education, Jackson has held many different roles.
"I've been a teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels, an instructional assistant, a library aide, assistant principal, principal ... and central office administrator," he said.
He said his diverse work experiences have "helped me understand what our staff goes through on a daily basis."�
"I think it helps me understand the depth and breadth of our challenge. I can be very sensitive to the rank and file of the school division because I know what it's like," Jackson said.
For example, he added, "While I'm not in the classroom anymore, I still remember having to teach very large classes," working on classroom management skills and other challenges.
And as a former principal, "I have sensitivity to the many hats you have to wear" in that position, he added.
A native of Washington, D.C., Jackson got his start as a music teacher in North Carolina after earning his bachelor's degree in music from East Carolina University.
"I decided I was going to pursue my love of music," he said. At the time, he said, he did not foresee where his career would lead.
"I had no idea I would end up as an administrator," Jackson said, but "I had a lot of good people who saw a lot in me and encouraged me" to pursue leadership roles.
Jackson has a master's degree in educational leadership from N.C. Central University and is a doctoral candidate through the online Walden University, also in educational leadership. He is working to finish his dissertation, which looks at "induction and mentoring of new principals," he said.
After his first school board meeting as superintendent last week, Jackson said he "thought it went well."�
"I'm really pleased our board works hard to be thoughtful and represent the constituency well," he said. "The board did what they needed to do to make sure we were meeting those objectives."�
Jackson said he believes in "strong communication" to prepare for meetings.
"My goal is to make sure the staff is clear on what we're doing, and the board is well-informed, so we can do what is best for the children and employees," he said. "Ultimately, everybody wins."�
Jackson, 44, has found a house in Henry County and said he is working on getting unpacked. His wife, Lori, works at Wachovia, and they have two college-age children: Philip, a rising sophomore at Old Dominion University, and Camille, who will start at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in the fall.