Dr. Anthony Jackson, superintendent of Vance County Schools, was on Tuesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss what is currently happening in the local school system, including an update on the middle and high school consolidation process.
According to Jackson, the school system is now in the beginning stages of rewriting the district’s strategic plan for the next five academic years. The plan will have input from community stakeholders including parents, teachers, students, the Vance County Board of Education and local leaders.
The new plan is sure to include strategies for increasing student access to the latest technology, a goal that is currently being met with the recently opened “Vance Virtual Labs” or “V2” laboratories housed at Vance County Middle School and Vance County High School.
The laboratories, located in the schools’ media centers, feature approximately 24 digital learning stations for students to engage in interactive three-dimensional instruction using special computer software applications in subject areas including science, health and geography.
Jackson said teachers are participating in on-going lab training sessions; full implementation is expected in the next few months.
The current 2018-2019 school year marks the first year of a consolidation process that saw Eaton Johnson and Henderson middle schools combine to form Vance County Middle School and Northern Vance and Southern Vance high schools combine to form Vance County High School.
“We told the community that it was going to be a three-year process; the hardest phase is year one,” said Jackson. “Now that we are in the buildings, we are trying to figure out all the little quirks and small things that we need to do to make our programs work fully.”
While the first year of the process has presented some challenges, Jackson said he has been pleasantly surprised at just how smoothly things have progressed.
“We’ve had very few bumps in the road as we’ve pulled these things together. Our students deserve a good, supportive school in their community and I believe we’ve created two.”
Students winning a video competition, athletic teams performing well and outstanding teacher recognition – all at the state level – are tangible outcomes that point to the success of the consolidation, according to Jackson.
Areas that will play prominently into the second and third year of the consolidation process include maintaining facilities, focusing on additional safety measures, increasing student access to programming and addressing capital needs such as parking lot maintenance.
In addressing the talk of the “savings” created by the consolidation, Jackson clarified that money formerly used for heating, cooling and providing energy to areas not in use will now be better spent in programming and learning opportunities for students.
Jackson reported that the school system has already seen an estimated $40,000 – $50,000 savings in utility costs from the former Eaton Johnson and Henderson middle schools, and expects to see even more savings when the school system completely vacates those premises.
When asked about the future use of the buildings, including reports of the County’s interest in purchasing the Eaton Johnson building to house the Department of Social Services, Jackson said he was not currently at liberty to discuss such plans.
“I will say there is tremendous support to make sure the facilities are used to benefit the community.”
While a declining number of students attending Vance County public schools led, in part, to the consolidation decision, Jackson said enrollment numbers are now leveling out.
Explaining that the school system receives federal, state and local funding based on the number of pupils each year, Jackson said that a portion of that per-pupil amount goes with students when they attend a charter school.
“It’s always a moving target. If we gain kids, we get money; if we lose kids, we lose money.”
In this regard, Jackson said it is in the school system’s benefit to find ways to attract parents and families to select Vance County Schools as their educational partner.
“We are working to develop programs that parents want and a school system that we can be proud of. When parents make that choice, we want to be considered in the conversation.”
To hear the interview with Dr. Jackson in its entirety, please click here.
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