PECPS ‘listens’ to parents at forum

Published 6:58 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2016

“It’s about your vision. What are those things you want your children to be able to do,” said Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson as she opened the second Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) Listening Forum of the year.

Johnson, joined by members of the school board and a large number of parents, led a discussion about the vision and mission for PECPS. The Thursday meeting was the second scheduled by the school. Prospect District Representative Darin Thomas said there was a ”substantially greater turnout” at this meeting with two or three times more people than one on Nov. 7.

Attendees, both parents and community members, were split into groups and given large notepads to write their ideas on.

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“I think it was a great success since we had so many different groups of community members representing retirees, previous employees, teachers, parents, and concerned citizens, each with the goal of continued improvement of our schools for its students,” School Board Chair Sherry Honeycutt said.

Before the groups began discussing changes they would like to see, Johnson shared several numbers and statistics with them. She said PECPS has a rich history with demographics and test scores which have changed over the years.

“We have fabulous students. We have some wonderful teachers,” she said.

She emphasized certain phrases in the school system’s current vision and mission, noting, “It will change. It is going to change.”

She said “to achieve” is an important phrase, mentioning the importance of students reaching their full potential.

Johnson also shared the division’s current enrollment figures, which show the elementary school has 787 students, while the middle school and high school have 594 and 673, respectively. The pre-K and Early Childhood Special Education Programs have 98 students enrolled.

These numbers fluctuate throughout the year, Johnson said.

She said the population of students includes 54 percent African-American students, 36 White students and 5 percent students who self-identify as percent Hispanic, Asian or other.

The school system, Johnson explained, is considered 67 percent economically disadvantaged. She said this is how the state determines eligibility around poverty. She said the school received a $24 million budget, with 72 percent of those funds going to instruction-teacher salaries, books and supplies. She also mentioned SOL scores, saying they are “not where they should be,” but also mentioned a 91 percent graduation rate for the high school.

“Knowing what you know, knowing your child’s experience, what is your vision?” Johnson asked participants.

Groups were then given an initial 30 minutes to discuss instructional programing and capital improvements. Johnson said the process ensured “everybody is heard. This is about your voice.”

Groups came up with a large number of suggestions for the administration.

One group discussed adding Spanish instruction into elementary schools, as another asked for more foreign language classes in general.

There was concern about health care and vaccinations being taken care of in schools.

Some groups emphasized the importance of attention being given to diverse classrooms, including a prioritization of gifted students as well as the special education program.

Some groups also discussed the possibility of increasing hands-on experiences, as another asked for more field trips and other activities, such as talent shows.

There was discussion about STEM, as well as math specialists.

Some parents wanted to see the football stadium improved, as others asked for bathroom renovations.

Transportation safety and increased parental involvement were also discussed.

“Dr. Johnson and her team will compile and review the comments then forward them to the community and the board for further review and further action,” said Honeycutt. “It will be an ongoing process, as some of the comments I heard require quick fixes, while others are goal- and budget-related.”

There is still time for those interested in making additional constructive comments to voice them by emailing