The state of Dale District School
By John Erbach. Dale District School Board Member
After serving the Dale District on our School Board for a year now, I am humbled at the tremendous success of our County’s schools and the opportunities to build on those successes. Chesterfield County has one of the finest school systems in Virginia, and the schools in the Dale District are no exception. But, there are opportunities for growth and improvement. This School Board is not satisfied with Chesterfield’s Schools being among the best in the Commonwealth. Together with our new Superintendent, Dr. James Lane, my colleagues on the Board and I are committed to making our schools among the best in the nation. CCPS has its best days ahead of it, and this is especially true in the Dale District, where we have laid a solid foundation for our community’s future.
For the first time in decades, the School Board will build a new school building in the Dale District. Beulah Elementary, which opened in 1928, will get a new building at a location more centrally located in the school’s attendance zone. The design will give this community a structure we can be proud of, while demonstrating improved fiscal management of school construction. We expect Beulah Elementary to open at its new location in 2018.
Like Beulah, which has ably served generations of families, elementary schools throughout Dale are achieving great things. Special Olympics Virginia recognized Gates Elementary for demonstrating superior commitment to inclusion, acceptance, respect and dignity for all. Creative events like the Polar Plunge Reading Challenge encourage Hening Elementary students to read more, while Hopkins Elementary welcomes visitors monthly as a community distribution site for the Chesterfield Food Bank.
Time and again I hear from friends in the community that our teachers and staff make Chesterfield what it is. Falling Creek Elementary Principal Pam Johnson is a recent National Distinguished Principal; Jacobs Road Elementary’ s Jackie Slewmaker was named the 2016 Virginia Elementary School Counselor of the Year; and Salem Church Elementary’ s Meghan Tarabay was one of 63 teachers of the years elected to represent their respective school.
Along with my colleagues on the Board and Dr. Lane, I am proud of how our teachers and staff help our children learn and grow every day.
We are adding new resources and considering innovative programs to help Falling Creek Middle return to full accreditation. Even though student performance is trending upward, the school did not meet required “SOL” benchmarks. We have added dedicated instructional coaches, additional teachers and the use of a universal screener that allows us to measure quickly each student’s current skill levels to better target instruction and measure academic growth. We expect the school to be fully accredited in the next two years, and my colleagues and I are committed to making that happen.
Salem Middle students and families are now supported by the “Communities In Schools” program, and the school is now a proud partner of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. These programs provide positive support to students at Salem Middle.
Our high schools are leading the way in innovation. Meadowbrook High’s newest center, the Meadowbrook Academy for Digital Entrepreneurship (“MADE”), teaches students the skills necessary to build a 21st century start-up company in an environment like a modern business school. Students have competed in Shark Tank-like competitions, pitching their ideas and products to business leaders throughout the Richmond area while earning accolades usually reserved for college students. Now in its second year, the MADE Program continues to expand and has now opened an impressive maker space where students can bring innovative ideas to life.
Speaking of maker spaces, Bird HS has plans to open its maker space for public use in the near future. This will allow the entire community to see how Bird
High’s specialty center, the Governor’s Academy for Engineering, is educating the next generation of engineers. Students in the program explore a wide range of engineering fields while building an understanding of the core skills necessary to achieve an engineering career. On top of this, the school’s RoboHawks club has competed in world competitions and finished towards the top of their bracket in 2016.
Chesterfield’s schools succeed in preparing students for success, and we are going to build on these successes to bring our children to new heights. I am proud to serve the Dale District on the Chesterfield County School Board, and I look forward to what we can achieve in the years to come.