There are a number of issues important to Jefferson County Schools, as we work together to meet the challenges and opportunities of 21st century teaching and learning. Together, I believe, we are up to the challenge, with a focus on excellence in teaching and learning.
Many of the challenges now facing Jefferson County Schools have been long in the making. For example, the need for new schools has been evident for quite some time now. The older schools in the county are showing their age, with increasing maintenance costs, outdated design, and, yes, even the lack of the power supply needed to support 21st century classrooms. For quite some time now, there has been a recognition of a change in how students engage in learning, how they process information in the Digital Age. Yet, the curriculum and instruction management model of Jefferson County Schools remains a throwback to an earlier time. As well, professional development for teachers, the frontline of 21st century education, remains stalled in a bygone era of one-size-fits-all at a time when personal learning networks are empowering teachers to create relevant and individualized professional development opportunities. A future focus is needed to address these issues and future challenges.
As is underscored in the ongoing redistricting debate, there is a primary focus on how many students can you fit in a school. There are guidelines and targets, but it comes down to a mathematical equation of number of students in Jefferson County divided by existing building square footage. Absent in the debate is a recognition that a classroom filled with students sitting elbow-to-elbow in neat little rows is not a classroom supporting 21st century teaching and learning. A student-centric learning experience, enhanced by communication, collaboration, and technology is undermined in a classroom designed or arranged by necessity to accommodate bodies, rather than strengthen the capabilities of teaching and learning in the 21st century. As a member of the Jefferson County School Board, I will draw on my classroom teaching and technology integration experience to lend a voice and direction to the building of new schools and the retrofitting of existing schools to deliver on the promise of excellence in teaching and learning for Jefferson County Schools moving forward.
Nearly two decades into the 21st century, Jefferson County Schools does not have a bona fide computer science curriculum. That needs to change. Computer science has moved from an outlier to a fundamental skill in the 21st century. College and career readiness demands it. There isn’t a job or educational pathway that doesn’t require knowledge and skills in computer science. Whether a student is on track to go to college or in a career technical vocational program, computer science should be a component of the curriculum. There are individual teachers in Jefferson County Schools that have been doing wonderful things to promote computer science skills in their classrooms, but what has been sorely missing for some time is meaningful leadership, direction, and support for computer science teaching and learning from the Board of Education. There is already a blueprint for implementing a computer science curriculum outlined in West Virginia Board of Education policy that defines content standards for Technology and Computer Science for all grade levels and includes specific computer science courses that should be offered.