By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
At a press conference Tuesday, Frederick County Public Schools superintendent David T. Sovine discussed highlights from his first year in the position and outlined ideas on the school divisions future.
In his first 90 days as superintendent, Sovine held around 100 individual and small group interviews as he worked to familiarize himself with the school division.
"From a leadership standpoint, student need comes first," he said. "From there, we can improve and grow."
Sovine said the county works each school year to produce students who will earn a diploma, and also extend their learning beyond high school to become productive citizens. This spring, over 900 students graduated from the division's three high schools, nearly half of them with advanced studies diplomas, he said. Over $3.5 million in scholarship funds were awarded to the county's students.
There was a 22 percent increase from last year in the number of students who earned industry certificates, Sovine said. Last year, the county was ranked seventh in the state out of 134 school divisions for their number of students receiving the certificates. This year's rankings haven't yet been released.
The industry certificates tie in with the county schools' partnerships with local business leaders like Valley Health and the Village of Orchard Ridge. Sovine said the partnerships will provide students with more opportunities in the workforce while they're still in school.
"This is about challenging and engaging students," he said.
Although the school division has faced budget cuts in the past year, Sovine said he's pleased with what has been accomplished.
Sovine also applauded the number of students in the county who competed in state, national and international competitions, whether it be science fairs, Future Farmers of America or performing arts.
Several plans are underway in the district, including the creation of a fourth high school, replacing the existing Frederick County Middle School and adding 19 classrooms to four elementary schools. Sovine pointed out that the additional classrooms would cost about $6 million, as opposed to a $20 million cost associated with building an all new elementary school.
Sovine said he plans to focus heavily on students' reading progress across the county.
"We're providing teachers with ongoing professional learning so they can get students excited about reading," he said. "We want kids up to speed and reading with their grade level."
A major change to the county would be the implementation of all day kindergarten. Sovine said that while there are many steps in the process, if all goes through the change is slated to take place in the fall of 2014.
Sovine also commented on the recent death of Amber Lucchiani, a sixth grade teacher at Aylor Middle School. Luchianni was killed in a car accident last week.
"The staff is still coping," he said. "She was a special teacher, and the impact of her loss is significant. This is truly a challenging time."
Sovine said that plans are in place to continue providing support to grieving students and staff through the beginning of the school year.
Overall, Sovine said it is his priority to be visible in the schools during his second year as superintendent. Above all, nothing is more important than being in tune with student need and catering to that, he said.