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Henry County School Board member appointed to help determine how to reopen Virginia's public schools

Henry County School Board member appointed to help determine how to reopen Virginia's public schools

From the Martinsville-region COVID-19/coronavirus daily update from state, nation and world: June 2 series
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A Henry County school board member has been named to a group of education stakeholders charged with determining how public schools throughout the Commonwealth will reopen safely this fall.

Teddy Martin II represents the Reed Creek District and now finds himself participating in the COVID-19 Education Work Group created by Gov. Ralph Northam.

“The governor established this work group with the goal in mind to represent the entirety of Virginia’s educational systems,” Martin said. “The Secretary of Education requested a nominee to represent Virginia School Board Members from the VSBA [Virginia School Board Association] and I was one of those nominated because I serve as the Blue Ridge Regional Chairman.”

Martin said his background in human resources and employment with Patrick Henry Community College helped in him being selected.

According to a release, the group includes representatives from early childhood and K-12 including teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel and special education advocates.

“The group has currently been meeting biweekly on Friday afternoons on Zoom,” Martin said. “We have requested and heard presentations on budget status and forecasting from the Secretary of Finance, public health plans — including the current phases approach — from state Department of Health officials and models of reopening Virginia’s schools from other committees and experts.”

Martin said the group is tasked with bringing forth ideas, questions and topics on how to ensure Virginia’s education systems can produce the best outcomes in the safest way possible.

Ultimately the group will be responsible for making recommendations to Northam.

Martin said at a recent meeting it was decided the biweekly discussions would become weekly and Northam wanted the group’s recommendations on his desk by July.

“I am deeply grateful for Virginia’s educators, administrators, school nutrition workers, support staff, parents and students for the ways they have adapted to new learning environments over the past two months,” Northam said. “As we make decisions about the path forward, this panel will help ensure that we are best supporting rural students, English language learners, students of color and students with special needs.

“School closures have been necessary to protect health and safety, but lost class time has a disproportionate impact on Virginia’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged students.”

The group is comprised of 37 members throughout the state and former Henry County School Superintendent and current Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton is among them.

“I believe having representation for our community is important in making sure that our needs are heard at each level,” Martin said. “While we do share many of the same challenges across the state school boards, there are also unique issues more predominantly facing rural divisions, particularly broadband access and device availability.

“Henry County is doing better than many with this virtual learning transition due to the commitment to the 1:1 device initiative. Some districts are not as fortunate.”

The initiative endorsed in the Henry County school system allows each enrolled student to use an electronic device in order to access the internet, digital course materials and digital textbooks.

“Just as it is important to represent the different stakeholders, it is important that our area by represented,” Martin said. “I am honored to have been chosen and look forward to working further to advance Henry County and Virginia’s educational institutions forward in these challenging times.”

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

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