The 2014-15 school year has officially come to a close for Richmond Public Schools (RPS). More than 1,200 of our students received diplomas at graduation ceremonies all across Richmond. The newest group of RPS alumni will now transition to the next phase of their lives as they pursue their chosen paths as members of the workforce, as military personnel or as students at post-secondary educational institutions. While the Class of 2015 is moving on from our school district, RPS must prepare to educate its next class of students and future alums.
This past year has been one of growth and progress for our school district. As I reflect on the 2014-15 school year, I am reminded of this quote: “When a builder builds he clears the ground for his new foundations. Then he sees that the basic structure will support the whole.” For RPS to continue in its efforts to build a better school district, we must first ensure that our foundation can support the work we want to do.
A large part of that new foundation is people. I want to acknowledge the students, parents, families, teachers, staff and community stakeholders for their hard work, sacrifices and support throughout this past year. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and I want to thank you for being part of the foundational work RPS is doing.
RPS’ new foundation is also built on a new vision for how we get things done. The members of the cabinet and leadership teams throughout RPS believe strongly in the strategic direction we’ve set for our school district. I’m proud to say that the 2014-15 school year provided evidence of positive results all across our district through a wide range of accomplishments that deserve acknowledgement and recognition.
Bedden visits with Armstrong High School students Le’andrea Maisonet (left) and Brandon R. Smith (right)
- RPS developed and published its Academic Improvement Plan (AIP) with performance metrics based upon a research model focused on producing college and career ready students.
- For the first time, the district hosted PSAT/SAT Day, offering high school students the opportunity to take the exam during the school day.
- RPS also expanded student access to advanced academic programs such as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes.
- RPS students improved their performance across a wide variety of metrics, including:
- The number of students who participated in Dual Enrollment Programs (+236 students).
- The average point increase in SAT score (+24 points).
- The number of students who received CTE (Career & Technical Educational) seals upon graduation (+77 students).
- The percentage point increase in the number of students who matriculated to post-secondary institutions (+8%).
- The district saw significant increases in the number of schools showing improvement in SOL (Standards of Learning) Pass Rates for English/Reading (+15), Math (+19) and Science (+12).
- Four (4) of eight (8) RPS high schools ranked in the top third of schools nationwide by US News & World Report.
- Binford Middle received approval to offer the area’s first (and only the second in Virginia) Integrated Arts/College Board SpringBoard Middle School Program using digital devices beginning next school year.
- The boys’ basketball team at George Wythe won the state championship, the second consecutive year an RPS high school captured the title.
- Teams also won Conference 26 championships in indoor track (boys and girls) and girls’ basketball.
Facilities and Maintenance
- Huguenot High School, the first high school built in Richmond in over 40 years, opened its doors. The new facility features a 1,000-seat auditorium; a 2,500-seat, three-court gymnasium; and a 2,500-seat football stadium that its students will be proud to attend for years to come.
- The school district also completed the most comprehensive facilities needs assessment in the past 15 years, which cataloged the need for maintenance, modernization, rezoning and new schools.
- Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, all RPS students were eligible to receive a breakfast and lunch meal daily free of charge under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program.
- RPS approved uniform school-day schedules for elementary, middle and high schools throughout the school district, which will begin during the upcoming 2015-16 school year.
- Middle and high schools adjusted start times to better align with research surrounding best practices in education.
- RPS initiated the modernization of its bus fleet by introducing a $7 million plan to purchase 60 regular education and 18 special education buses. This will result in decreased fuel and maintenance expenses as well as improved operational efficiency for the district’s pupil transportation department.
Community and Corporate Partnerships
- Cigna increased its annual investment to $20,000 to sponsor the expansion of the “Blessings in a Backpack” program so 400 elementary students may receive easy-to-prepare food for weekends during the school year.
- Over 200 volunteers came together to build a new KaBOOM! playground at Redd Elementary in a single day.
- Students at John Marshall and Community High Schools took VCU’s Health Sciences Career Exploration course, a three-credit, college-level course that prepares high school students for college and health sciences careers through classroom instruction, experiential learning and a pairing program with VCU undergraduate students. The Health Sciences Career Exploration program is funded through a $120,000 grant from DuPont.
- The RPS Education Foundation and partners provided 44 scholarships worth over $62,000 to RPS students.
- Through its College Opportunity Fund, Altria presented $800,000 in scholarships to a cohort of 20 RPS Class of 2015 graduates. The company also committed to extend its scholarship program by up to $800,000 for another cohort next year.
Engagement and Outreach
- RPS established the FACE office (Family and Community Engagement) in an effort to provide increased levels of customer service to the families we serve each day.
- The district also created the “Leadership by Listening” engagement plan to foster open communication between RPS leaders and community stakeholders. As part of this engagement plan, the district launched several school and community surveys, including the Community Perspectives survey and a student survey.
As we proceed into the 2015-16 school year, I look forward to building on the positive results and strides we’ve made in the past year. I truly believe we are building something special here at Richmond Public Schools.
RPS graduates are the future of this growing city. I ask you to join me in reaffirming your commitment to helping us build a school district that our students, staff and community can be proud of and feel confident in now and for years to come. What we are building here in Richmond will take time but our labor will not be in vain.
Thank you for you continued support and commitment to Richmond Public Schools.
Dana T. Bedden, Ed.D.