One of my priorities as mayor will be to help return Norfolk Public Schools to its status of world-class excellence that our school system enjoyed just a few years ago.
That’s why I’m looking forward to working with our new superintendent, Dr. Melinda Boone, who has come back to Norfolk after heading the schools system in Worcester, Massachusetts, for several years. Dr. Boone, who comes from a family of educators, worked here from 2001 to 2009 and knows the challenges we face ― and also the opportunities. With her background, she appears to be in step to give our Norfolk system the stability and dedicated leadership that’s so needed right now.
I’ve met Dr. Boone, so I also want to say that I’m already impressed with how she plans to handle her job. She has a roll-up-our-sleeves attitude and a commitment to work cooperatively with school officials and community leaders. She likes to call herself the “chief teaching officer.”
As a lifelong learner, and as someone who has done some teaching on the college level, I love hearing that an administrator is so passionate about education.
I also care deeply for Norfolk Public Schools. I had so many great experiences coming up in our system, so I want to help make sure that future generations get an education as valuable as the one I had the opportunity to receive.
Having excellent schools is essential to many of our city’s goals. That includes attracting, retaining and building middle-class families, and recruiting businesses that can provide good-paying jobs for our residents. Norfolk schools not only must be safe, nurturing places for children, but they need to exceed as launching pads from which our children and teachers can soar to greater heights.
We also must keep in mind that not all students will go on to college. Yet, they, too, can soar with our help. We must do more to help non-college-bound students develop skills in good-paying fields that do not require college degrees. These jobs range from those in emerging, technical fields, such as cybersecurity, to those in traditional industries, such as shipyards.
Just a few days ago, Bill Crow, president of the Virginia Ship Repair Association, was quoted in The Virginian-Pilot as saying: “We need to do an outreach to the student population” as part of an industry wide effort to attract more skilled-trades talent to work in his business sector. The news story pointed out that “finding qualified workers can be tough. … As the workforce ages, the competition among shipyards to find new employees grows.”
What we do to improve our schools now will pay big dividends later ―for students and their families but also for our city and beyond. As Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said, we are “building a new Virginia economy.”
I believe that our new schools superintendent, Dr. Melinda Boone, knows how important our schools will be in shaping the future of the city of Norfolk and the commonwealth of Virginia. I look forward to working with her.