School Board — slow it down

Published 1:30 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Members balk at plan to alternate instruction

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Four of five Isle of Wight County School Board members expressed hesitation over implementing an alternating week schedule for career and technical training classes for the next school year.

School Board chairwoman Vicky Hulick and School Board member Julia Perkins specifically expressed their preference for “doing it right the first time” instead of rushing the alternating week schedule into place and possibly bungling it. 

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The issue was discussed at the Dec. 13 School Board meeting. 

The proposed schedule would be year-long instead of divided into semesters, with enrolled high schoolers alternating weekly between academic and CTE (career and technology education) courses. The schedule is designed to allow more in-school time for students to earn career-level certifications in culinary arts, welding, nursing and global logistics at Smithfield High School, and agriculture, building trades and cosmetology at Windsor High School. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The collective response came after Susan Goetz, Isle of Wight county schools executive director of curriculum and instruction, mentioned the possibility of a 2019 kickoff for the CTE alternating week schedule.  

If implemented, the alternating scheduled would be a first in Virginia. 

“I believe slow and steady wins the race,” said Hulick, adding, “There’s no rush. We need to do it right and do right by our guidance counselors, our teachers and our students.”

“I think we’d be making a mistake, quite honestly, to go into a program that potentially has the importance that this program has before we work out some of the potential kinks in it,” said Perkins. 

The Isle of Wight County schools in-house CTE curriculum is fairly new, with the first programs having initially rolled out last year. 

“I think it would be much better to move more slowly and to get it right to begin with than to go into it more rapidly and make big mistakes that we could’ve avoided,” Perkins said. 

School Board members Kirstin Cook and Jackie Carr disagreed with a 2019 rollout too, among their broader questions about the program.

“One of my concerns is that I know counselors start scheduling in February. By May, they’re wrapping it up, so that’s putting a lot on them to go back and reschedule,” said Cook.

“I see the need for longer blocks of time for these kids (but) I’m still a little bit concerned with the alternating week schedule starting in ninth grade,” said Cook, adding that while she believes CTE enrollment numbers will naturally rise over time, starting the alternating week schedule this September could scare some kids away due to the newness of the program already.

“Obviously CTE’s still in the infancy stage and I want to know: have we looked at the potential of other schedules?” said Carr. “I see the advantage of looking at other things that divisions in Virginia have done and is working for them, and looking at a variety… before we go into something as drastic as this is and the impact that it’s going to have on our budget,” she said. 

Michael Lombardo, county assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and administration, said that a student survey data pertaining CTE classes is currently being conducted and will be presented to the board at the next meeting. 

As it stands, first and second reads for the CTE alternating week schedule are on the calendar for February and March, respectively. 

School Board member Alvin Wilson was the only member to remain silent on the topic.  {/mprestriction}