Our Take: Changes at RCPS are Needed to Help Those Who Need it Most

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Roanoke City Schools have been battling for the past few years to make a comeback: closing unneeded schools, shuffling attendance zones, changing superintendents, trying to convince doubters that an over-age academy would work.

The recent pay raises for central administration staff, while teachers got nothing, was a minor PR disaster.

The first-ever graduation last week of students from Forest Park Academy – some are in their 20’s – featured smiles, hugs and tears from students, teachers and staffers. Less than a dozen dropped out and more than 100 did, or will, graduate by the end of the summer. Others wait to get in. The overage academy, in its first year, seems like a winner.

The sorry saga at William Fleming over who didn’t take Standards of Learning exams threw a bit of a cloud over last week’s commencement ceremony, in large part because Fleming’s principal and four other school administrators did not attend their own school’s graduation. Reportedly, they helped certain students avoid having to take SOL tests that could have brought down the school’s overall score and left it unaccredited.

If there is blame to assign, those at fault should be punished. But then changes need to be made by putting systems in place that won’t allow school staff to shuffle kids out of  classes that require SOL testing without permission from central administration. Officials also need to look again at the No Child Left Behind mandates that cut funding to schools that don’t meet Standards of Learning benchmarks.

As School Board chair David Carson has said, it’s backwards – the schools that need help (more teachers, tutors, remedial programs etc.) should not be the ones subject to funding losses.

Here’s hoping the powers that be learn from the present unseemly situation and make the appropriate changes that won’t allow it to occur again in the future.