Strategic plan forum held in Cumberland

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cumberland County Public Schools is preparing for the future in a big way. On last Wednesday, a strategic plan forum was held to stimulate conversation concerning the future direction of education within the county’s school division.

A panel of four experts in the fields of workforce development, technology, facilities and learning spaces and education spoke and offered feedback on preparing 21st century students.

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As a student-led panel, sophomore Holly Tillet was the moderator for the evening. “We are in the process of developing a six-year strategic plan that promotes preparing our students to be successful lifelong learners, workers and citizens,” Tillet said.

Panelists included Debra Crowder, executive director of the Area 8 Workforce Development Board; Paula Leach, director of the Longwood Institute for Teaching Through Technology and Innovative Practices; Roger Richardson, principal architect with BCWH and Ira Sokol, assistant director of education technology at Albemarle County Public Schools.

Throughout the forum, Tillet focused on assessing the current and future trends within the areas of workforce, education, learning environment and technology. “In Southside Virginia, I think we know that we have a higher rate of unemployment than most of the rest of the state and the nation, but our employment rate has been decreasing lately,” Crowder said. “We have a surplus of low-skilled workers for entry-level jobs.” Sokol explained that the original design of the American education system was made for a much different world than the current one. “It was designed to fail people out,” said Sokol.

In order to create lifelong learning, Richardson said that school buildings needed to be places of inspiration. “We will see more and more collaborative environments,” Richardson said. “When you think about your environment for work, that’s the reality of what the learning environment is really going to be because you’re going to have to learn to work together. …”

Additionally, the panelists provided advice for Cumberland’s strategic plan. Leach commented that rethinking what schools look like and the role of technology should be factored into the learning process. “Accessibility at home is huge,” said Leach. Ultimately, “[students] should have fun going to school,” Richardson said. “You should have fun going to work, and if you can’t do those two things, figure out another way to do it.”

Collectively, the panel members suggested that the division will need to develop innovative, passionate, inspired, free and persistent students in order to enhance their success.

“I appreciate the expert panelists sharing their valuable insight into current and future trends as is relates to education,” Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin stated. “The information shared during the panel discussion will assist in developing our six-year strategic plan. It was wonderful to see such a quality event hosted by Cumberland County Public Schools and led by our students who moderated the discussion. …”