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House to keep learning
In new role at Harvest
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DeWitt House, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Henry County Public Schools, officially retires from school work June 30. As of Monday, however, he will begin working for the Harvest Foundation, the agency has said. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A lifelong learner, DeWitt House is excited to continue his education with his new role as a program officer for The Harvest Foundation.

House, who retired from Henry County Public Schools on Friday, will begin his new career Monday, according to Harvest Foundation President Allyson Rothrock.

“There’s a lot for me to learn in the nonprofit sector,” House said. “As an educator, I’m always looking to learn new things, so this will be an opportunity for me to grow professionally and to build on what I’ve already established in my career.”

House said that as a program officer, his focus likely will be on Harvest’s education initiatives, although he said he’s happy to help the organization in any capacity.

While working as assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Henry County Public Schools, House said he worked with Harvest from the grant recipient side. Harvest, he said, provides support and sets goals for grant recipients, and also helps them evaluate their progress on grant initiatives.

As a result, he said, he still will work with educators in his new role, just from the other side of the equation.

Rothrock said she is thrilled to have someone with House’s expertise join The Harvest Foundation.

“The board of The Harvest Foundation has always been critically committed to education and the possibilities it brings to citizens of Martinsville and Henry County,” Rothrock said. “DeWitt House has been part of that connection between Harvest and the school system, making sure outcomes were what we hoped they would be. He’s passionate about professional development.”

House is a good fit not just because of his experience, she said, but because of “his passion for the work and how he sees it can change lives.”

Rothrock said she believes House’s creativity and ideas will be a boon to the Harvest Foundation.

“He challenges my thinking, and that’s what I always want,” she said. “He’s a fabulous colleague.”

When it comes to his ideas on education, House said, he would like to see a greater focus on student growth and development in the field of education, rather than a focus on standardized test scores.

However, he said, just because he thinks too much weight is being placed on standardized testing does not mean that he’s not in favor of accountability.

“I’ll be the first one to tell you, as a school system in general, you have to be accountable for what takes place in your classrooms and in your school divisions,” House said. “I just think we’ve over-emphasized the importance of standardized testing to the point that ... maybe we’re doing more damage than we are good.”

House said standardized testing can be a thorny issue in the education sector, because many educators who speak against it are accused of desiring less accountability in their classrooms. In House’s opinion, that’s a fallacy.

“I don’t know any teacher or any principal that gets up every morning and goes to work and says, ‘Well, I’m going to do a bad job today,’” House said. “I just don’t believe those people exist. I think they get up every morning and go in to do the best job they can.”

Before he was approached about the position at Harvest, House said, he had never considered a career at a nonprofit or a career outside of education. When the opportunity to work at Harvest presented itself, however, he was glad to accept.

“I guess throughout my career, I’ve been blessed,” House said. “Timing has always been really good for me, the jobs that I’ve taken and had an opportunity to pursue ... it’s been the right move at the right time.”

House said he has had the opportunity to fill leadership roles in his previous jobs, “but you can only lead if you have people who are willing to follow ... I’ve been blessed to have good people on my staff everywhere I’ve been. I’m thankful for that, and I know I’m joining an organization that has excellent people in it as well. You don’t accomplish anything by yourself.”

Harvest always has been deeply invested in education, House said, and he is excited to join the team.

“They’re completely invested, because I think they understand that the investment in education is an investment in this community,” he said. “When you look at economic development and (a) comeback in the Martinsville area, it’s going to be driven by having a high-quality workforce. Harvest is right in terms of focusing its resources on education and the education community because it is a vital link to economic development, and it ties it all together.”


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