July 1, 2017 will mark the beginning of my third year as superintendent of Danville Public Schools. I am very happy to have the opportunity to serve in this role, and I continue to believe we are moving in the right direction to improve learning for our school community.
As I reflect on the past year, the good news from my perspective is that we have stability in our organization from a leadership perspective. Our stability simply means we have several sustainable initiatives underway that are designed to help us improve learning across all schools and classrooms. Those initiatives are tied most directly to enhancing the quality of classroom instruction and providing meaningful professional development to support teachers, principals, instructional leaders, and staff. For example, in June we provided training with principals and key leaders on Trauma Sensitive Schools with Susan Craig, a noted expert in the field. This training is just one example of the investments designed to enhance the skills of our educators as professionals.
As a reflective leader, I believe that teaching is by far one of the most challenging yet rewarding professions on the planet. It certainly has become more difficult than ever not only in Danville but nationally. The demographic shifts in families and the highly politicized and public debate about schooling in our country have resulted in increased scrutiny of teachers and educators at every level of public education. It is remarkable that anyone in public education has the courage to show up every day investing their talent, skills, and hope in our most important citizens – children. Even more remarkable is the fact that the majority of families in the US send their children to public schools with nearly ninety percent of all students in the US attending public schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016 proportion of US students).
In communities like Danville, with its legacy of robust industrial manufacturing, public education more than a decade ago was perhaps not as critical as it is today because job opportunities were very abundant despite an individual’s level of education. In our globally competitive world today, education is more important than ever because without it the likelihood of career success is extremely difficult. Today, a community’s investment in education is critical to its economic vitality and workforce development.
In Danville, we are in a period of transformation regarding the value of education and its relationship to economic growth. We have seen increased investments in Danville Public School as a result of an enhanced partnership and greater collaboration between the Danville School Board and City Council. The leadership of our city manager, Ken Larking, and his recognition of the value of public education as a critical need for economic development have resulted in increased investments in public education over the past two years. Stated plainly, there is no investment more important to Danville’s future than an investment in its youth.
In summary, DPS has gone through some very difficult times in the past several years which have largely contributed to the many of the challenges we face today. This instability was largely due to frequent changes in leadership at every level coupled with the massive reduction of resources. As a result of these factors, most of our progress over the past two years has been qualitative rather than quantitative. Organizationally, we are implementing the practices and protocols to improve our student performance but student performance results will be incremental at best over the next few years.