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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City schools seek Labor Day waiver
STEM initiative compels schools to seek early start

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Martinsville School Board on Monday heard a report about an application the school division recently submitted to the Virginia Department of Education requesting a waiver to open before Labor Day.

Both the Martinsville and Henry County school divisions are seeking waivers on the basis of having a unique program, requiring them to open before Labor Day.

The program is called the Martinsville-Henry County STEM Pipeline Initiative, according to the city schools’ application. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The application gives a battery of statistics about high poverty, high unemployment, comparatively low wages/salaries, comparatively low percentages of people earning degrees, and losses of thousands of jobs since the 1990s, among other socio-economic data.

The application talks about the city schools’ collaborative efforts to turn around the economy through education, working with the county schools, the Harvest Foundation, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., Patrick Henry Community College, New College Institute, the Governor’s School, Virginia State University and James Madison University.

Goals, as part of the initiative, say MCPS will provide:

• informational and motivational programs and activities from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade (PK-12) that will result in 100 percent of Martinsville High School students entering post-secondary education;

• dual-enrollment courses through Accelerated College Education (ACE), Academy of Engineering and Technology (AET), robotics, Career Connections (C2) and Advanced Placement (AP) to support the educational needs for STEM-H (H stands for health) fields as identified;

• advanced math and science programming to support the educational needs for STEM-H fields as identified;

• career pathway programs that result in 100 percent of CTE (career and technical education) completers earning industry certifications on the ACT Work Keys assessment;

• SEMAA (the NASA Science, Engineering, Math and Aerospace Academy) programming at PK-12 that will result in an increase in student performance in math and science.

• SEMAA/robotics programming at PK-12 that will result in an increase of students pursuing STEM-H career pathways.

• FIRST Robotics programming in grades 4-12 to increase students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills thus improving math and science performance.

Another goal is MCPS will develop and expand programming with NCI and PHCC to increase the number of students completing career pathways and earning industry credentials in STEM-H fields.

To meet the goals, MCPS has taken a three-pronged approach: continue programming that has been in place (such as dual enrollment and SEMAA); expansion of STEM-H programming (dual enrollment, career and technical education and SEMAA); and development of innovative programming (the Academy of Engineering and Technology, or AET; FIRST Robotics; internships), the application says.

According to the application and schools Superintendent Pam Heath, if the division is not allowed to open before Labor Day, its students will miss out on opportunities available through the partnering colleges.

Several letters of support were included with the application, including one from state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill.

Heath said the Virginia State Board of Education is scheduled to consider the waiver request on first reading at its March meeting but probably would not take action until its April meeting, which could pose problems for the school division in developing a 2014-15 calendar, among other things.

In other business:

• Heath said the school division has missed seven days due to weather and lost 11 hours due to late openings or early dismissals. Three of the days will be made up Feb. 17, April 21 and May 23, she said.

• Heath and Angilee Downing, assistant superintendent for instruction, gave an update on the school division’s application for federal funding for a lead turn-around partner for Albert Harris Elementary School. Albert Harris, which was identified by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as one of 37 low-performing 2013-14 Priority schools in the state, will go through a three-year process to make improvements, starting next year.

Heath said her understanding is the school division’s application for federal funding to hire a lead turn-around partner was rated the best of any received by VDOE, which administers the school improvement grant program. The school division selected Cambridge Education as the lead turnaround partner, Downing said. She noted that about 300 surveys were received from parents, and there were other factors in the selection.

• Travis Clemons, executive director for administrative services, said the recent gala for the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment fund raised more than $27,000 and there was about $4,000 from end-of year donations, so the “gross” for both was more than $30,000.

• The school board agreed to reschedule its April meeting for 6 p.m. April 7 in city council chambers at the Municipal Building. The purpose is for the school board to approve the superintendent’s fiscal year 2014-15 proposed budget and forward it to city council, which will meet April 8.

• The school board recognized Martinsville Middle School American Mathematics Contest 8 school winners: first place — Demaya Bradley; second place — tie between Sarah Ashburn and David Wells; third place — tie between William Jarrett, Chad Monday (not present) and John Phillips.

• The school board recognized Jose Romero, a fifth-grader at Patrick Henry Elementary School, who placed second in the Martin Luther King Jr. T-shirt design contest and was awarded $75.

• There was a recognition of school board and clerk appreciation month. Gifts and certificates were presented.

• The school board appointed Ashley Rivers as secretary/bookkeeper at the middle school and Juanita Johnson as a paraprofessional at Albert Harris Elementary.


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