…A Great Place to Learn and Work. It’s not just our motto. It’s our way of life. Discover why we think so in this Member Spotlight.
What’s an interesting fact about your business most people don’t know?
Our division was committed to the advancement of technology in the classroom and beyond before it was popular. There is one innovative program, however, that received the Governor’s endorsement that didn’t rely on an Internet connection. Instead, this unique program focused on the connection between our students and our community.
Our Graduate of Merit program, a great school and community partnership recognizing outstanding young people, received acknowledgement from the Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia with the presentation of the 2000 Horizon Award. Since the inception of the program in 2000, 2,522 students have earned the distinction of graduating as a Graduate of Merit. In 2021, Pittsylvania County Schools (PCS) awarded Graduate of Merit medallions to 83 students. PCS is pleased that it is graduating young adults committed to maintaining good character, to participating in community service and to seeking personal and professional development. It brings hope that good corporate citizens will continue to live and work in our community.
In 2001, PCS received a second endorsement for its innovation from the Governor’s office. The division was honored with the Gold Award for K-12 Education at the Third Annual Governor’s Technology Awards at the Commonwealth of Virginia Information Technology Symposium (COVITS). This award has been compared to winning an “Oscar” from the Academy Awards and fueled the PCS drive to overcome connectivity challenges that a rural community, approximately the size of Rhode Island, faced.
What positive impact have you witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic?There were many lessons learned inside and outside of the classroom from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday the 13th, the educational world was turned upside down, when Governor Ralph Northam closed schools for what we would later learn would be the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This started an almost 18-month roller coaster ride of virtual and hybrid learning for Pittsylvania County’s over 8,000 students, staff, and administration. What could have been a day that launched unprecedented bad luck, these orders inspired students and staff to dig deeper and to try harder.
Pittsylvania County Schools prides itself on excellence in the classroom. As the pandemic tore down our traditional classroom walls, our division responded by rebuilding virtual ones. Our staff and students were challenged to work and learn in ways never before possible.
Specifically, our division juggled four-day in-person learning, two-day hybrid learning, and fully-remote learning for various student populations. Our teaching staff discontinued the traditional method of “chalk and talk” and instead embraced new platforms to provide instruction. All educators became highly-skilled in providing virtual instruction and in-person instruction both synchronously and asynchronously, which is not for the faint of heart.
Having children at home during the day provided scheduling challenges, not just for teachers, but also for parents. “Food for thought” became a literal need as providing breakfast and lunch at home were obstacles that families had to overcome. Assisted by government funds, our school nutrition staff weekly provided curbside meals for parents to take home and assist with these costs.
Hindsight is 2020, and school year 2020 provided us the most. We are pleased to share that our success is due to the fact that our citizens kept their faith in our leaders, our families, our students and our staff to overcome this adversity.
As we open the 2021-2022 school year, we are able to take the lessons learned from teaching and learning in a pandemic and create more robust and personalized digital learning environments for our students, even as we are able to welcome all students back to a full-time, 5-day learning schedule. We are implementing digital learning platforms into all classrooms and incorporating a blended learning pedagogy into all curriculum levels to ensure we are preparing our students to be productive digital citizens in both higher education and in the workforce.
What would you like to share about your business or organization with our members?
Since 2003, Pittsylvania County Schools has been fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education 8 times. This represents 10 elementary schools, four middle schools and four high schools. PCS has also been recognized as having Blue Ribbon Schools at Mount Airy Elementary, Twin Springs Elementary and most recently at Union Hall Elementary.
Why did you become involved in the SPTC?
Education plays a critical role in more than just the lives of our students. Great schools provide a rich environment for economic growth. Pittsylvania County embraces the SPTC mission of being an advocate and voice in stressing the importance of the need for the region to invest in technology.
How does being a member of the SPTC help you?
Being a member of the SPTC allows our school division to have a first-hand view of what technological skills the industry, and specifically our area, are looking for so that we can ensure that we are building the workers for tomorrow and creating a workforce pipeline that will continue to help our area grow in the field of technology.
PCS is honored that the SPTC has awarded the division with the following awards:
- 2000: Leadership in Education Award
- 2002: Leadership in Telecommunications Infrastructure Award
- 2006: Leadership in Government
What challenges are you facing that the SPTC may be able to assist with?
We continue to face the challenge of lack of broadband access across the county for our students to access instruction from home. As we continue to incorporate technology and blended learning into our classroom curriculum, having broadband access and availability across our county is of paramount importance.
Name one thing tech-related that you have learned in the last month?
Over the last month and the last year, Pittsylvania County Schools has learned how quickly we are able to come together virtually to not only provide virtual instruction, but also to collaborate with staff to ensure student and division-level success. With a school division that is the largest land size county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, much time in the past was lost in traveling site to site for collaborative meetings. We have quickly learned that through virtual meeting platforms, we are able to meet and provide training in an efficient and effective way.
The SPTC Board of Directors are excited to share the good news that’s happening with all of our members. For more information on Pittsylvania County Schools, visit www.pcs.k12.va.us.
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