HAMPTON, Va. — Author's Note: The video above is from August 4, 2021.
Hampton City Schools leaders have a new strategic plan for 2021-2026. School board members discussed new priorities Tuesday, including targets for graduation and dropout rates and a focus on career planning for students.
School board members said boosting literacy rates and moving to more balanced assessments with fewer multiple choice questions are top priorities in the school division’s new 5-year strategic plan.
"It’s a solid plan, a comprehensive plan, all the boxes are checked, and we appreciate that," said Board Chair Ann Cherry to HCS Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Smith.
From 2015 to 2020, the Hampton City Schools’ graduation rate increased from 88.2% to 96.2%, with the dropout rate falling from 5.1% to 1.2%.
"At the end of the day, we want you to be college, career and life ready, to see something beyond high school," said Smith. "On time graduation certainly doesn’t start in 9th grade, it starts with pre-K through 12."
The new plan lists key initiatives, such as personalized career plans for students and boosting the dual enrollment program with Thomas Nelson Community College.
Staff and teacher training will focus on supporting students with disabilities.
"We’re starting from a point coming out of a pandemic so it’s not pretty right now, but what we want to do is make sure in five years we can hold our heads high and say what we wanted to do five years ago, we did it and did it well," said Cherry.
Another main goal listed in the Hampton City Schools strategic plan is to retain teachers and staff – reducing the percentage of employees who leave each year.
School leaders will closely track literacy assessments and board members want to maintain full school accreditation.
Hampton City Schools improved its State Board of Education school accreditation rates from 40% to 100% of its schools accredited without conditions over the last five years.
In addition to teacher and student achievement, the state loosened accreditation standards during that period to reward schools that were making progress.
The first day of school is in two weeks. Everyone must wear a mask within Hampton City Schools, and division leaders are encouraging COVID vaccinations for anyone 12 and older.
In response to a question from 13News Now, Cherry said if the Department of Education mandates COVID-19 vaccinations in the future, the board will support it.
"We’re going to always err on the side of safety, whatever the mandates are if the mandates come, we will follow those mandates," Cherry said.