Thornton defends staff retreat

Published 5:24 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2019

By Frederic Lee 

Staff writer

“Leadership” was the theme of a $25,854 Isle of Wight County Schools administration retreat, which, according to staff, took place June 18-20 at the Tides Inn in Irvington. 

Forty-nine Isle of Wight County schools staff attended the retreat, which included two overnight stays and three days of meals, according to Isle of Wight County Schools Spokesperson Lynn Briggs. 

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Staff members on the retreat included building principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches and central office administrators, including finance, human resources, technology, support services, operations, communications and instruction department heads, plus central office coordinators, said Briggs. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“It is an intensive three-day retreat as we are conducting work to map out the areas of focus and actions for the new school year,” said Briggs in an email dated June 17, adding, “Schools work with their teams and (central office) admin on goals and strategies, as well as activities to hone leadership skills.” 

Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton addressed the retreat at the June 13 School Board meeting,to dispel “misinformation” about its cost and vouch for the trip’s importance.

Thornton said that emails and Facebook messages had been sent to Isle of Wight County Schools officials that overestimated the trip’s cost. “The topic was about the administrative retreat … (The sender) threw cost estimates out there saying that we were spending $350 per day per employee at the retreat, and the actual fact is we’re spending $175.88 per employee per day,” he said.. 

The cost per person for the entire three-day trip was $527.64, according to Briggs.

On who’d sent the messages, Thornton didn’t identify him or her but said that accurate financial information is regularly published by schools officials, and that “when you don’t do the research and just send out misinformation, you don’t really want to know the facts. Perhaps these individuals have personal motives for the sake of just attacking individuals, and that’s sad.”

On the benefits of the retreat, Thornton said, “We start … on our retreat, planning the entire next school year” adding that it takes extensive planning to create successful school programs, and that getting away from the daily routine and environment lends a fresh mind to staff that can help them to “get a lot done.”  

“You can’t accomplish these types of things without extensive planning and work,” said Thornton, adding, “If you don’t take time to plan, you’re not going to make a significant impact in any organization, and all the good organizations understand this.” 

Isle of Wight County School Board Chairperson Vicky Hulick said that the board didn’t attend the June 18-20 retreat, and Thornton said that the School Board has a retreat of their own, organized by the Virginia School Board Association.  

At the retreat, teams representing each school in the district presented a school improvement plan, with an emphasis on boosting “deeper learning” and critical thinking in their curriculums, said Briggs.  

“Deeper learning,” as the term’s used in IWCS, means going beyond the surface of a topic to understand it fully, and can also be called authentic learning, said Briggs.    {/mprestriction}