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Norfolk Public Schools Interim Superintendent Michael Spencer issued a challenge on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 to local businesses, community agencies, civic organizations and volunteer-minded individuals to “adopt” a school and become a part of the division’s ongoing improvement efforts.
The announcement came as business and community leaders spanned out across Norfolk Public Schools for the second-annual Principal for a Day Event, hosted by the Norfolk Education Foundation to boost support for NPS. Guests were paired with each school principal to gain a sense of the challenges and opportunities schools face.
In Norfolk, some schools do not have sustained, effective partnerships with business and community organizations. Research has shown that successful school districts have solid community assistance such as volunteer tutoring programs, mentorships and reading buddies.
Norfolk Public Schools alone cannot guarantee success for its students, Mr. Spencer and community supporters said Wednesday. Many factors outside schools’ control, such as a student’s family and community, play a large role in a child’s ability to focus on academics. A recent study by Boston College’s City Connects program estimated that 67 percent of a student’s achievement is influenced by factors outside the schoolhouse.
To assist with the drive to recruit new school partners, Norfolk Public Schools and the Norfolk Education Foundation unveiled a new Web site on Wednesday, www.supportnps.org. The new program will be called the A+ Community Partners Program.
“It is our goal that every one of our schools and auxiliary facilities will have a productive community partnership that can be sustained into the next school year,” said Mr. Spencer.
Wednesday’s community challenge is an outgrowth of Norfolk Public Schools’ more than year-long work on its three Achievable Results:
1. To increase the number of students who graduate from high school on time.
2. To earn full accreditation for all schools.
3. To improve the climate of support for schools throughout the community.
Seven committees have been working on action steps toward those Achievable Results. The Parent and Community Engagement Committee, a 25-member group co-chaired by Elementary Executive Director Lillian Thomas and Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Mather, decided that one important action step was to invite the community to assist schools in the mission to educate each student to be a successful, productive contributor to society.
“No school division can ensure that students succeed without solid community support,” said Carol McCormack, President and CEO of the United Way of South Hampton Roads, which is participating on the Parent and Community Engagement Committee and has recently launched a partnership with P.B. Young Elementary.
The Norfolk Education Foundation has assisted greatly by providing ongoing financial support and public advocacy for NPS. The Foundation also sponsored the new www.supportnps.org partnerships Web site.
“It is the Foundation’s belief that when our local businesses, community agencies and civic organizations adopt our schools, everyone will benefit,” said Kim Georges, Chairwoman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Alana Balthazar, Principal of P.B. Young Elementary, where Mr. Spencer issued his challenge to the community, said positive partnerships such as those with Farmer’s Insurance and United Way have enriched her student’s academic lives.
“We hope that all of our Norfolk Public Schools will be the beneficiaries of such powerful community support and partnerships,” she said.