College president appointed to governor’s ‘unprecedented’ council

By Josette Keelor

Cheryl Thompson-Stacy isn’t entirely sure what her role on the new Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success will be, but she agreed when the governor’s office asked for her help.

As president of Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Thompson-Stacy said she imagines her role will have something to do with higher education.

“I’m just making assumptions now,” she said in a recent phone interview, “… but I would assume it would be dealing with providing educational opportunities for not only young children but carrying them through their K [through] 12 experience and getting them into higher institutions, and then also ensuring their success on each educational step along the way.”

“I’m very excited,” she said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe established the council on Aug. 11 when he signed Executive Order 22, according to a news release from governor’s office, sent to the community college.

Thompson-Stacy will join other educators, community leaders and legislators from around the commonwealth to perform comprehensive assessments on education in Virginia and identify major health and educational gaps for children up to age 8, said Holly Coy, policy director for the lieutenant governor’s office.

She said as council chair, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam plans to guide the council in assessing the quality of preschool education, childcare and some data and technology concerns.

The council, which has its first meeting on Oct. 6, will meet over the next several months before presenting its findings to McAuliffe next summer, and Coy said the governor could seek to renew the council after its year is up, if further research is necessary.

Describing Thompson-Stacy as an advocate for educational programs related to the council’s goals, Coy said, “She came highly recommended as a community college representative.”

The other 21 council members appointed so far will include Debra Ferguson, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; Dr. Marissa Levine, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health; Steve Staples, Virginia Superintendent for Public Instruction; and Margaret Schultze, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services.

In bringing together individuals from around Virginia, the cross-agency council will combine unique perspectives on different elements to prepare children for success, said Brian Coy, press secretary for the governor.

“This is a really unprecedented effort in Virginia,” he said.

“The council is a part of a broader effort on the governor’s part to put a real focus on the way that this commonwealth approaches childhood development, workforce development, educational achievement,” he said. “I would say that’s what’s new about this — to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can for Virginia children.”

Thompson-Stacy said she expects to make recommendations on lessening the achievement gap for less fortunate students.

“We want all children to have a successful start in life, which will position them for a successful life,” she said.

“I’m just really excited about the work that we’re going to undertake,” she said. “… I’m very honored to be asked to be a part of this initiative.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com