Carroll County Public Schools at its system-wide opening was challenged to an educational “carpe diem.” Perception, relationships and learning dominated the ceremony Friday in the Carroll County High School Auditorium.
“The years from 2008 to 2016 have been very lean years for public education in Virginia,” said School Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship. “Our School Board and our Board of Supervisors have demonstrated a huge commitment through funding and innovative budgeting. We continue to strive for excellence.”
Blankenship told participants “we are going to challenge you to reinvent public learning.” He told participants perception is reality and stressed “we must take care of our children” and also recognized the central office staff and the system’s employees for their support in his fifth year at the post.
He told participants seated in the audience tthat employees “in the trenches” earned his utmost respect and said “you guys are the real Carroll County Public Schools. You are the ones who literally teach every child every day.” Citing the success of summer learning camps, he noted effective teaching was about relationships and not necessarily what is taught.
“This isn’t about being warm and fuzzy without substance. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s about a bond formed even with high expectations,” Blankenship said. “We talk a lot about teaching. Let’s talk about learning this year. I’m in the presence of educational experts. You have the answers.” Borrowing from UCLA Coach John Wooden he said, “You have not taught if they have not learned.”
Blankenship noted the saying “if we don’t reinvent ourselves every now and then, someone will for us,” to a 20-year emphasis on high stakes testing scores in the Commonwealth. He said he felt this educational focus was like a pendulum and it is swinging back.
“It’s an opportunity for us step out of those boxes and reinvent public education. If not Carroll County Public Schools, Who?” said Blankenship. He told participants students he talked with in two informal dinners had overwhelmingly told him the relationships they formed with teachers counted most.
He quoted Poet Maya Angelou who wrote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” He concluded by having the participants chant “every teacher, every child, every day” and asking them to “dance like nobody’s watching” before they left the auditorium for workshops.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette set the tone for the opening ceremony by explaining how educators used problem-based learning to build relationships and energy in students in summer school.
“We decided to take a different approach to summer school this year. We decided to do camps,” said Burnette. He said the approach had less emphasis on remediation and letting students “get their hands dirty” with problem-based projects for a different learning experience.
Burnette said camps gave opportunities for critical thinking and team work to take ownership of learning. Summer camp students Josie Quesenberry and Ainsley Nottingham talked about the experience with Quesenberry drawing applause when she said she enjoyed having more fun and less of memorizing everything.
“You have our permission to step outside the box,” said Burnette. “My challenge to you is to see students struggling to learn as an opportunity and not a challenge.”
Board Chairman Brian Spencer, who has served five years on the board, told participants Carroll County celebrates education. He said comments earlier this summer by Supervisors had attacked the integrity of the board.
“We spoke to the issue but didn’t attack back,” Spencer said. He said he’d drawn inspiration from a production of “Big River” at the Andy Griffith Playhouse from the song “World’s Apart” and quoted from the song.
“I see the same stars through my window that you see through yours, But we’re worlds apart, worlds apart. And I see the same skies through brown eyes that you see through blue, But we’re worlds apart, worlds apart. It reminded me of our world today. ” said Spencer. “Remember. Our children are watching. Teach our children how to see the world through the eyes of others. Where are the next statesmen? They are in your classrooms.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.