In Norfolk, newest teachers face tougher tasks


When newly minted teacher David Squires applied for a job with Norfolk, the division hired him for one of its worst-performing, highest-poverty schools, Lafayette-Winona Middle School.

Squires noticed another distinction after he got there. "At Lafayette, there seemed to be a lot of brand-new teachers in the two years I was there," he said.

Virginia's Teacher Equity Plan says students who are poor or members of minority groups shouldn't be taught by inexperienced teachers more than other children are, but that's exactly what happens at many of Norfolk's schools.

While the division has struggled to lift student scores and raise school accreditation ratings, it has assigned high proportions of inexperienced teachers to some of the least successful schools, including Lafayette-Winona, which has been denied accreditation by the state.

In 2009-10, for example, 28 percent of Lafayette-Winona teachers had two years' experience or less in teaching, according to a nationwide survey by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Lindenwood Elementary was tops in the division, with 41 percent of its teaching staff inexperienced; the school has not been fully accredited for at least the past four years.

The federal department collected school-by-school data to examine whether states or localities discriminated by age, race or gender. ProPublica, a public-interest journalism nonprofit, released the database.

The data show that Norfolk's most successful schools had the lowest percentage of inexperienced teachers, including 3 percent at Larchmont Elementary and 5 percent at Calcott Elementary.

The schools with low rates of inexperience often had lower rates of student poverty and lower enrollment of black children.

Statewide, in 2010-11, teachers with three years' experience or less accounted for about 23 percent of teachers at high-poverty schools, but 16 percent of teachers at low-poverty schools.

Similarly, inexperienced teachers represented about 23 percent of teachers in high-minority schools, compared with 15 percent in low-minority schools, the state Department of Education reported.

In Norfolk, principals interview candidates for vacancies at their respective schools, but the division's human resources department ultimately decides where teachers are assigned, said Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers.

Norfolk has not been monitoring where inexperienced teachers are assigned but will start to gather that data, Linda Sevigny, the division's deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, said in December.

"We are at the very beginning of looking at that because it is something the federal government is looking at," she said.

Putting inexperienced teachers in the lowest-performing schools doesn't make sense, said Karin Chenoweth, a researcher at The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization. Chenoweth was invited to speak in Norfolk last month about how districts elsewhere have turned around low-achieving schools.

Traditionally, "the higher-status teachers kind of take the kids they want, not always but often, and then the newbies get stuck with the kids nobody wants, which just perpetuates the dysfunction," she said. "It just leads to the lowest-performing kids never getting out of that category."

Chenoweth said the reverse should be true.

"The highest-performing kids, the most motivated kids, they just need good teachers. They don't need great teachers in the same way that if we only have a few great teachers, the lowest-performing kids need them," she said.

Yet Norfolk has provided "weak and insufficient incentives" for teachers to work in low-performing schools, according to a 2012 review of the division by the nonprofit Council of the Great City Schools.

"Teachers taking the incentives sometimes worked in the low-performing school only for a year and then would return to their original schools," the review stated.

The review also said Norfolk has a "significant number" of new teachers, who often have a greater need for written guidance to understand the division's standards. New teachers also need a deeper understanding of what to look for in student work and how to customize instruction to meet individual students' needs, "including for those students who are struggling," the report said.

At Lafayette-Winona, teachers fresh out of college struggled in particular with student discipline, said Squires, a former journalist who entered teaching via Old Dominion University's education career-switcher program.

"I saw more trouble with brand-new, wet-behind-the-ears people who never had a real job in their life," said Squires, who left Norfolk to live closer to ailing relatives in North Carolina. "That first year is going to be hell."

Inexperienced teachers might be less equipped than veteran educators to deal with classroom management, Calhoun said.

"When you're taking teaching courses, that's not hit on," Calhoun said. "The first time you walk into a classroom and tell a child to sit and they say no, what do you do then?" He said low-performing schools typically have a higher incidence of student misbehavior.

Squires, who last taught in Norfolk in 2010-11, said inexperienced teachers should be broken in by being assigned first to schools with fewer disciplinary problems and struggling students.

Angel Barnhill, president of the Lafayette-Winona Middle School PTA, said inexperienced teachers might bring fresh idealism to the classroom, while seasoned teachers bring tried-and-true methods of instruction and mentoring for new hires.

But both groups should be spread evenly across the division, she said. "I think it should be more of a balance."

Barrett Hicks of Tidewater Connection, a Campostella-area advocacy group, agreed.

"The best of the best, no question, should be going to those schools where the greatest need is," he said. "There should at least be a balance, and not heavily weighed where new teachers go to minority communities. It's unfair to the teachers, and unquestionably for the student."

The division already has the power to transfer teachers from one school to another, even if the teachers haven't volunteered to move. According to School Board policy, the superintendent can reassign any employee to any school or facility as long as the change doesn't affect the worker's salary for that school year.

The division's power to transfer staff was highlighted in the fall, when the administration reassigned two Taylor Elementary teachers to different schools to reach the required teacher/pupil ratio at those locations.

At Taylor, which is fully accredited, black students are in the minority compared with whites, and lower-income students represent about a third of total enrollment. In comparison, the division overall is 65 percent lower-income and about 62 percent black.

Additionally, just 9 percent of teachers at Taylor were inexperienced as of 2009-10.

The involuntary transfers, which occurred several weeks after the school year began, were strongly denounced by several Taylor school parents.

Why? One reason was that it was the first time any Taylor teacher had been involuntarily transferred, Superintendent Samuel King told the board at its retreat this month.

"This was a school that was protected in the past" from involuntary teacher transfers, King said,.

That statement was no surprise to Calhoun, who said the division's unwritten practice has been to shield its most successful and prestigious schools from involuntary teacher transfers.

The ideal, he said, would be for each school to have a more equitable mix of inexperienced and seasoned teachers so that experienced staff could mentor the newer educators.

But, "to institute it, you're going to step on some toes and they're going to holler," he said of teachers and parents.

Board member Rodney Jordan agreed that "a child's zip code should not be the primary determinant of how many experienced teachers he or she encounters."

But Jordan said reducing concentrations of poverty in schools and improving education may be a better strategy than reassigning teachers within the division. He said research shows that high-poverty schools have more difficulty attracting experienced teachers.

"We need to grow the pie of mixed-income schools with learning environments attractive to parents, students, and teachers," he said. "The issue is not as simple as, do we take away from Taylor to give to Campostella. To me, it is: What are the formulae or conditions we need in order to have a successful district for all students?"

King said last week that some inexperienced hires prove to be excellent teachers, just as some long-time teachers might not necessarily be top educators.

Nonetheless, he said, the disparate levels of inexperienced teachers in individual schools "is something we know we have to watch, something we have to monitor."

King said his goal is to hire teaching applicants whose background - as a student teacher or even in another profession - demonstrates a good fit with the conditions found in schools with staff vacancies.

Holding job fairs for specific, hard-to-staff schools is one option the division is considering. Recruiting at colleges known for exposing student teachers to a mix of school environments is another.

"Let's say we have an opening in a school that has 60 percent poverty - what kind of experience did you have in pre-service" or student teaching, in comparable schools, King said.

Recruitment and screening like this is crucial, he said.

"If you don't do that and just send candidates out and don't look at what the needs are in the school, you're going to have problems."

Steven G. Vegh, 757-446-2417, steven.vegh@pilotonline.com

Posted to: Education News Norfolk

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How is it fair that a higher

How is it fair that a higher performing school should be punished and have teachers involuntarily removed after school has begun? Why does the lower performing school have a smaller student/teacher ratio? If we are being equitable, than all schools should have the same class size. Unfortunately, the "strong families" that Norfolk is trying to retain may not put up with this and may move to other districts or private schools if they haven't done so already. Norfolk needs to figure out a better way to address this.

Poppycock. A child's first teacher is the parent

"Virginia's Teacher Equity Plan says students who are poor or members of minority groups shouldn't be taught by inexperienced teachers more than other children are"

I am SOOOO sick of the whining about poor minority students! To listen to the whining from liberals one would think there has never been a group of poor people in this United States ! These "poor" children aren't anywhere as bad as the truly poor children who grew up during the Depression and went to school on a breakfast of coffee and did NOT receive a free lunch at school. You don't fail or succeed in school because of what your parents have or don't have in terms of dollars. Poverty doesn't mean a free pass for not being an involved parent in your child's education

It seems the ones who claim

It seems the ones who claim about whiners are the real whiners themselves. Of course the best way to address a problem is to tell the world you're SOOOOO sick of hearing about it.

Well, one thing can be derived from your statements

with absolute certainty.

You have never been poor a day in your life. Your comments demonstrate with absolute clarity that you don't have a clue what life is like for a child raised in poverty or the various familial dysfunctions that many of these children are often exposed to through no fault of their own

Your comments are the comments of a privileged bully.

And by the way. A lot of children during the depression didn't get to go to school at all. They had to work to help support their families. Luckily through years of social struggle and gain by unions and other progressive groups we have eliminated most child labor and have free public education.

If being a liberal means helping kids to succeed, then liberal is a badge of honor.

Your comment is so full of

Your comment is so full of inaccuracies,it's a shame the Pilot limits the number of characters. For one thing,there were laws back in the 20's and 30s that required children to go to school and the majority did. To go on welfare back then was an embarrassment for parents. Parents farmed their children out to work AFTER school rather than be shamed by taking welfare. Poverty made those people the "Greatest Generation" because they struggled to make do with what they had and instilled a work ethic in their children to get an education. Even the article mentions how children come to school who won't respect authority ! Quit trying to take parents out of the equation when it comes to education.

Why are you so caught up in

Why are you so caught up in the 1920s and 30s, the Great Depression. Back then, poor children DIDN'T go to school at all. They had to find work, if any was available. And the article is not talking about welfare anyway, it's about the quality of teachers. Maybe you should tone done your contempt for poor and minority children and focus on the what the article is discussing.

"Why are you so caught up in

"Why are you so caught up in the 1920s and 30s, the Great Depression. Back then, poor children DIDN'T go to school at all. They had to find work, if any was available." You're kidding right? My parents families were both poor and they worked AFTER school. My mother and her siblings were STILL in elementary school when they did housework AFTER school for the neighbors and babysat for meals. I have heard it from both of my parents and other people in their generation that being poor made them want to better themselves and that meant getting an education even if it meant working after they GRADUATED high school and went to night school. No welfare back then.Just a work ethic that came from doing without.

Yes, exactly!

My parents were poor during the Great Depression and they managed to take advantage of the taxpayer-funded schools that were avaiable to them. The did this because good behavior was *expected* of them, they respected other people's property, and because they saw the value of an education. So did thier immigrant parents, who instilled in them a respcet for education. Contrary to what many on this board seem to think, poverty-stricken people had equal access to education and did take advantage of it and use it to its full potential.

I hate to burst your bubble,

I hate to burst your bubble, but that may be true for white kids in the 1930s, but not for black kids. Yeah, I mentioned race. So what.


Talk about rewriting history.

Unemployment insurance and social security came out of the mass populist workers and farmers movements of the 30's.

But you are correct. Conservative elements were against these things. Even the AFL was at first. Saying workers were too proud to accept any handouts.

But the continuing harsh economic reality of no jobs and crushing poverty brought the realization that working hard and being a dutiful citizen does not always equate to success and that collectively we had to do something.

Of course people should be accountable for their actions and need personal responsibility, but when that alone is not enough, there is no shame in taking help from or giving help to others. And the children are blameless.

Noble sentiments on deaf

Noble sentiments on deaf ears. This is about her hatred of minorities and her desire to maintain a permanent serfdom. She stands with the Dominionists and, like all the rest of them, is an enemy of public education, minorities and the majority of the American people. Make no mistake, when they talk about the culture wars they mean it. They are at war with America.


Well, I did grow up poor and the commentor you took to task is correct. Being a liberal means you are looking for a way to pull smart successful students and adults down to the lowest level. I'm not a liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, just an old independent American that made it the hard way, worked hard and expected nothing from anyone.

KMA HBO LOL I love your name

KMA HBO LOL I love your name ! It isn't difficult to guess what those letters stand for judging by your last line about working hard and expecting nothing from anyone. It's going to take another Great Depression in this country to turn around some of these young folks who think they can't make it on their own without the government providing for them. I guess we can title that "The Great Wake Up Call".

Disrespect for the office of the presidency is un-funny

I am neither liberal or conservative (although I lean liberal, on most topics); I have supported both sides' causes. However, you are correct again. It will take a Great Depression to make people realize how rich they really are, how lucky they are to have access to taxpaper education, and how lazy they have become with everything they need at thier disposal. NOtice I said everything they need, not everything they want. I teach at the college level here in Tidewater, and the disengagement of "students" who are accustomed to having everything handed to them on a silver paltter is beyond belief. If they had nothing, they would realize that their educational resources are of great value, and they would start acting like they were valuabl

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Comment removed for rules violation. Reason: Off topic

Bunk! I agree 100% with Edithesinger...

...and I grew up in such poverty it would make your hair curl. There is no good reason for poverty to equal dysfunctional, misbehaving, or criminal, except for poor parenting skills. When I was growing up we had zero access to poverty-support programs and so we often went hungry, clothed in hand-me-downs, etc... In this era of support for the poor (food stamps, housing and heating allowance, free breakfast and lunch at school), there is *no* reason for a child to be hungry. My children were affected by the teacher re-assignment at Taylor; Taylor now has much higher class sizes than any other school in Norfolk, along with Larchment. That's not treating children equally, either, so don't try to pass it off as sucn.

Of course. What was I thinking. Poor people have it made.

And those ten year olds. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Thanks for showing me the error of my ways.

Provided NPS provides equal access to resources....

...Then it is the job of the parents and students to use those resources wisely. 10 Years old is plenty old to handle homework independently and carry yourself civilly in class, bootstraps provided. And you're welcome.

America also used to be the

America also used to be the land of opportunity back then. In this day and age your success in life is directly related to your parent income 99% percent of the time.
So if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.
Romney wanted to remove the estate tax.
Well this should prove it ......repeal of the estate tax would be a real boon to the USA. We could increase that 47% to 90% so that the silver spoon would no longer just be a figure of speech but a fact. We would then have a locked in caste system instead of almost locked in, and exactly the opposite from what the founding fathers wanted.

No longer would insignificant things such as motivation, education, ability, matter in improving ones cha

I agree with your tax sentiments 100%

The tax code needs to be re-worked to support working families and make the wealthy pay equal taxes on earned *and* unearned income. But that does not negate the necessity for hard work, civil behavior, responsible parenting, and taking full advantage of the taxpaper provided education in front of you (the global you, not you personally). I am not anywhere near as old as I sound and am of a recent generation, and I am better off than my parents, and they are better off than their parents. It takes incremental steps to climb out of poverty, and that climb is quickly derailed by irresponsible behavior when you are poor and have nothing to catch you. So...do yoruself a favor and skip the irresponsible behavior.

Being poor does not mean

Being poor does not mean that you are irresponsible, being poor does not mean that you take advantage of the system. Those are stereotypes that are perpetuated by ignorance and used to control the masses. Our economy is incredibly unstable and you should pray it does not affect more directly. That stereotypical view of those you feel are beneath will become a slap in the face. Don't judge others until you have walked in their shoes. You do not sound as if you are of an older generation, you wouldn't depend on stereotypes to argue your position.

Being poor does not mean

Being poor does not mean that you are irresponsible, being poor does not mean that you take advantage of the system. Those are stereotypes that are perpetuated by ignorance and used to control the masses. Our economy is incredibly unstable and you should pray it does not affect more directly. That stereotypical view of those you feel are beneath will become a slap in the face. Don't judge others until you have walked in their shoes. You do not sound as if you are of an older generation, you wouldn't depend on stereotypes to argue your position.

Being poor does not mean

Being poor does not mean that you are irresponsible, being poor does not mean that you take advantage of the system. Those are stereotypes that are perpetuated by ignorance and used to control the masses. Our economy is incredibly unstable and you should pray it does not affect more directly. That stereotypical view of those you feel are beneath will become a slap in the face. Don't judge others until you have walked in their shoes. You do not sound as if you are of an older generation, you wouldn't depend on stereotypes to argue your position.

Absolutely, I agree with you on one thing...

Irresponsible behavior shows up across all income levels. But when you are poor, you do not have the luxery of repeated irresponsible mistakes because you have no personal safety net. I know this because I was deperately poor until I was 25-30; as I mentioned above, childhood poverty so bad is was appalling. I see members of my family who made crappy, irresponsible choices throughout young adulthood, and guess what? They're still living in poverty. You *can* pull yourself out of poverty, but it takes a little luck, hard work, taking advantage of opportunities put in front of you , and a lot of responsiblity.

Virginia is an "At Will" state.

And teachers aren't allowed to collectively bargain contracts.

So fair doesn't fit anywhere into the equation.

The employer can pretty much do as he pleases in absence of a union contract.

See that "Right to Work" for less law provides absolutely no rights.

Unless you are talking about the fact that you have the right to work for less pay. You have the right to work where your employer tells you to work, whether you like it or not. You have the right to work for as many hours as your employer chooses for you to work and if you don't like it you have the right to work some place else.

This is SMART???

I categorically reject the stupid statement made by Ms. Chenoweth that "The highest-performing kids, the most motivated kids, they just need good teachers ... the lowest-performing kids need them (the quality teachers)," This is just pure "liberal-think" bunk. Raise the lowest up and do not penalize the smart students by not giving them a quality, challenging learning environment. Students need to be challenged constantly to succeed if we are going to produce the next quality leaders in the future. Dumbing down the public schools will not achieve this and will hasten the flight out of Norfolk of high tax paying citizens or of the quality students leaving for private schools.

This is typical of NPS

Cater to the lowest common denominator in the classroom an effort to get underperforming students who don't give a darn up to some "floor" known as the SOLs. Meanwhile, the gifted and higher-acheiving students (who are actually going to produce something for society) are left with teachers who cannot push tehm to thier limts. No wonder America is no longer competitive on teh world stage.

This is Smart???

Until we as a society get a hold of youth pregnancies and try to curb "babies having babies" this problem is only going to get worse - especially in the lower income groups where society as a whole pays - literally, for this continuing problem. Pres. Obama as "THE Black president" needs to confront this situation, as he should do, and address minority groups where the the teen pregnancies have risen to epidemic proportions, straining the "entitlement" support system. A governmental department or white President would be denounced as racist for even bringing this matter up. Two parent homes, parental authority and discipline, and personal responsibility need to be promoted. We have lost the concept of shame in this nation.

No Kiddin'

Poor people are poor not because they do not have access to resources, but because they make stupid choices that haunt them and their children for life. Being an effective parent is a 2-person job. A single parent cannot suppoort themselves and thier family, give their children the academic attention necessary to succeed, and participate in civic life. For some reaosn, the poor seem to buy into the idea that it is OK to have a child out of wedlock; that there will be no adverse consequences to those actions. That is really obtuse.

I'm glad your an expert on

I'm glad your an expert on all of these poor children's struggles.
Your really going to make the claim that only poor people have children out of wedlock? I grew up well off and can not tell you how many young ladies in my neighborhood had children of their own before they graduated High School. The only difference was that their parents had money which bought these young ladies "time", allowing them to mature and and become productive members of society.
If anyone of them didn't have their parent's resources they would probably be voting Democratic instead of Republican.

I'm no expert

But I can interpret data. Poverty and single-parenthood go hand-in-hand; it's as simple and as black and white as that. The wealthy can support and insulate their children from stupid decisions for a time, and they do. But the overwhelming majority of those single, stupid, wealthy children cannot indepedently support themselves as single parents. I'm surprised anyone would even suggest that they can, given the plethora of data demonsrating otherwise.

try "single-income"

How about "poverty/single income" instead of "poverty/single-parent" Have you tried to survive lately on a single-income. The middle class, carries the tax burden for everyone (rich not paying their share - poor not paying anything). Once upon a time a family could survive with only dad working and mom w/the kids. Now dad is at home w/the kids (because he was laid off, downsized, or company closed) and mom is working fulltime trying to make ends meet. Try keeping a family of 4 afloat on a teachers' salary (or any single middle class salary). The middle class is being squeezed out and everyone posting on here is considered middle class (even if you won't admit it). Like it or not we are all one step away from poverty in this country.

No, I meant single-parent, not single-income

Poverty is as much one of time as of money. This is because a single parent doesn't have the time to do a 2-parent job, such as monitoring homework, taking thier children to (free or low-cost) museums, and monitoring thier child's after-school activities. Often, they cannot even make time for a parent-teacher conference. 2 Parents can split these tasks, a single one can't, which is what makes single-parenthood so damaging to kids and our educational system. I know plenty of one-income/2-parent families that are strong because they have *time*, if not money.

Really, you're right on one thing...

Wealthy parents can insulate thier offspring for a bit, and poverty-stricken parents cannot. All the more reason for the poor to be diligent and and not get into traps they have hope of ever getting out of. This is actually the major difference between the poverty of my generation and the poverty of this generation. But the data are abundantly clear that the poor have far more out of wedlock children than the welathy (despite the fact that they are in less of a position to handle the financial stress), and that his traps them in poverty. (for scholarly refereneces on these claims, see the bibliography section of "Coming Apart", it's all there in black and white).

Excuse me.....

The 800lb. gorilla in the room is "Charter Schools" which no one wants to address.


If I was a parent of a minority child and my kid was not doing good in school I'd get a job so he wouldn't be a minority child or move out of Norfolk.Maybe move to another state.Better jobs and schools.Oh that's what happen to Norfolk years ago when we had white flight.Now Norfolk schools have mostly minority and we have thugs running the halls.Police in the schools and now Saturday football games.

Teachers in low performing schools

Don't blame the teacher.
Don't blame the school.
Blame the (parent}, whom is probably less educated than their kids.
Do you really think the kids are getting any help with their home work.
Why are we providing free meals in school.
What did mamma do with the food stamps.

force won't work!

Why would a teacher in a "better" school want to leave for a more difficult assignment with higher stress and a tougher work environment? If you force teachers to leave a school, what most likely will happen is that they will go to other cities to teach. The same thing happened when you forced children to attend schools outside their own neighborhoods....families just moved to other cities. Until we really start digging deep and being HONEST about why public schools in urban settings are failing, they won't get better. You CANNOT continuously hold schools totally responsible for raising children...parental responsibility and accountability has to be part of the equation!

Thank you! And thank

Thank you! And thank goodness the Pilot allows common sense comments such as yours on their never ending stream of stories blaming Norfolk's schools for all societal dysfunction in the city.

So since the public schools

So since the public schools can't fix everything, they shouldn't try to do anything? That's your insight? We should just shut them down and open church schools in our soon to be established Church of Virginia?

I agree, and that's where

I agree, and that's where the thumbs down are coming from. Those who believe only the well-off and privliged should have access to the best public education. And that's for those who even believe in public education in the first place. Because many more don't.

Please think about removing that chip

Please give some thought to removing that chip from your shoulder, panther, and let's all work on solutions that include and start with self-help and individual motivation and responsibility. As you probably know, Bobby Seale was one of the original proponents of "first take charge of yourself" --- much louder, and long before Bill Cosby, Ed D.

Never said to do nothing!

We should never stop looking for ways to make education better. The 1st step is ensuring accountability at the school level. That includes "smart" spending! For instance, why would a Principal use allocated money in a low-performing school to buy all the teachers IPads? Wouldn't the money be better spent hiring a part-time teacher to help with reading or math skills? It seems we keep rehashing the same old stuff and trying to find blame. There are some who continuously point fingers & use class and race warfare. Why is this necessary? Somehow, if you are no longer poor or aren't the right color skin, you are against everyone else who is struggling? How to make education important in the minds of ALL is an ongoing issue!

Here's what NPS should do...

Distribute the resources equally so that schools like Taylor and Larchmont (with large class sizes of 25) get equal teacher assignments so that their student-teacher loads can come down to the level of poorer schools like Lindenwood (with class sizes in the upper teens). Then site back and allow the families of those students to succeed on their own efforts and merits. Public eudcation started to slip into the toliet the minute we started holding everyone but the students and their families accountable for academic success.


mizzmom hit the nail on the head with her last sentence. An entire school-full of superior teachers can do nothing with students who don't have familial support and encouragement. A child who is motivated to learn and has a home life that stresses education can thrive, regardless of the quality/experience of the teachers. All this "shell-game" shuffling of teachers from one school to another is folly in my opinion.

One problem

is that most of the "education" they receive at home is about how to game the system so they don't have to work. Did you know that illiteracy is a disability? Why help row the boat if you dan kick back and ride for free?

It seems somewhat immoral

It seems somewhat immoral the poorest students receive the least experienced teachers. The game seems to be always rigged if you're not from a privlidged background. It shouldn't be that way.

I'm not clear why you feel

I'm not clear why you feel this is immoral, or that the game is rigged if you're not from a privileged background. If NPS was hiring teachers that were not certified for their poorest schools, that might warrant your indignation. But just as the last graduate in each medical school class wears the title doctor, each licensed teacher should be qualified to teach their subject. Some of the teachers I've met with the most experience had the poorest classroom management skills. I don't think the "game" is rigged toward the privileged as much as it is toward the responsible. Most teachers gravitate toward the schools where students, teachers, admin and parents take responsibility for their actions. I don't want to raise someone else's kid.


This article fails to address the real problem with some children in inner city school districts. It doesn't matter how many experienced teachers you put in these poor performing schools, it doesn't matter how much money you spend per pupil, to some extent you will always have an achievement gap. I'm so sick and tired of having years worth of meetings, dialogue, community outreach and discussion groups to address this matter with limited or now results. It's called genetics! IQ is hereditary. Poverty is multi-generational in certain settings. Your not gonna change it overnight or in 20 years. Nature and nurture go hand in hand.

This is a tough issue. The

This is a tough issue. The most experienced teachers obviously don't want to teach at out poorest performing schools; I'd have to think that is common to most districts. I wonder why? And is experience really a critical factor? And the next question could be, don't our best students deserve our best, most experienced teachers? Or is the goal to equalize the accomplishments of all students? I note that the artical didn't really equate experienced teachers with best teachers, but that implication was there. In fact, the two don't necessarily equate.

I've often wondered why school systems don't assign their best teachers to the most needy schools. The easy answer is that the teachers won't do it; they don't want to be in that environment.

teachers can vote with their feet, too

Forget the absence of collective bargaining in VA --- teachers are employees like all the rest of us, and still get the final vote on their own futures by choosing to remain, or relocating to something better. That's especially true for the younger, less encumbered teachers right out of college --- few of the best and most idealistic of that group need to, or will, put up with school conditions that they feel are counterproductive to educating the kids. The best are driven to teach, not be social workers --- and in our area, sooner or later a lot of that group ends up knocking on the door at VBCPS.

Sad, but true. Great teachers have neither the time nor energy required to replace lousy parents. And the best of them simply won't.

And the incentive would be?

So what would the incentive be for a Norfolk teacher in a high-performing school to move to a low-performing school?

About 50% premium pay might do it. It could take more.

This Smart???

I categorically reject the stupid statement made by Ms. Chenoweth that "The highest-performing kids, the most motivated kids, they just need good teachers. They don't need great teachers in the same way that if we only have a few great teachers, the lowest-performing kids need them," This is just pure "liberal-think" bunk. Raise the lowest up and do not penalize the smart students by not giving them a quality, challenging learning environment. Students need to be challenged constantly to succeed if we are going to produce the next quality leaders in the future. Dumbing down the public schools will not achieve this and will hasten the flight out of Norfolk of high tax paying citizens or of the quality students leaving for private schools.

There is nothing new in

There is nothing new in that. White flight started over 40 years ago.

Not on subject

It had to do with an entirely different problem back then.

Not really, it's all

Not really, it's all connected. Only the language has changed.

Black and white flight

Part of what has changed is that many blacks now have resources to move their families to a place where children can achieve potential. Although the "right" has been there for years, the reality is that neighborhoods are often racially mixed now as those of similar socio-economic status become neighbors regardless of skin tone.

Odd Statement for a education researcher....

I was shocked at this statement, also. What it sounded like to me was something someone would say who has never taught school, or whose last teaching job was 25 years ago and is now a high $$ consultant passing themselves off as an "expert."

This is not new

Norfolk has known about the disparity in teacher assignments for many years. For the admnistration to treat this as a new problem is disingenuous since this particular disparity was readily apparent in past years and ignored by human resources and others in the front office. The quality of teaching and learning in the classroom is the most important variable in student achievement. Consistntly assigning new and inexperienced teachers to underperforming schools makes no sense. At least this problem is now out in the public domain. Maybe the district will take action to help ensure equity within the system.

Many of us saw this coming

Many of us saw this coming when Norfolk decided to resegregrate the elementary schools back in the 1980s. Thanks to the anti-busing crowd.


So true. In retrospect, busing probably had the best chance of any single solution I can think of to help correct the underlying problems. But, of course, it's not just Norfolk that passed on that opportunity.


Because bussing stopped, schools have gotten worse? I think NOT! How about working on communities working together to fix situations? How about trying to understand the root issues of why kids aren't learning in schools? I hear it said that the "poorer" schools have to make do with less. NOT TRUE! They get MORE. That is fine with me, but is it helping? This is definitely not an easy fix, but placing blame on people who believe that working hard to move into safe neighborhood so their children can attend the school in that neighborhood is wrong thinking!

Teachers are graded

Teachers are graded primarily based on the performance of their students on accountability tests. Experienced teachers know better than to put themselves in situations where they might be at risk of being judged failures.

Forcing experienced teachers into low performing schools isn't the answer - the most highly qualified will just leave for greener VB or Chesapeake pastures, exacerbating the problem.

The punishment mindset is what needs to change. The administration would be able to easily motivate some of the best teachers to move to low performing schools if these teachers didn't have to fear being made scapegoats for low performers.

Teachers are important, but by no means the only factor in academic success.

RE: involuntary transfers should be common practice

Schools with higher performance levels in Norfolk aren't being "punished" by the practice of involuntary transfers. In any other business, people go where they are needed, not where they choose to go. Teachers in Norfolk have taught in poor performing schools to start, and left as soon as they could do so. In my career there, I noticed that teachers pick and choose not only their location, but the level of effort they expend on certain groups of students. Inexperienced teachers leave students with an incomplete education, and this is a major reason why many students do not perform as well as their "better off" peers. There is a stark contrast between schools such as Lindenwood and Larchmont, and every student deserves a decent education.

Actually, they are being

Actually, they are being punished if it causes the class size to increase at the higher performing school. It is my understanding that schools with a certain percentage of kids who receive free/reduced lunch are allowed a smaller student/teacher ratio. Has this actually helped? Larger classes cause further stress and strain on any teacher, no matter how experienced. Why should the "good parents" have to take up even more slack? We need to address poverty, parents, behavior, a whole myriad of things in our lower schools. But If I am a parent at a higher performing NPS, this makes me wary.

I don't think so

The problem is NOT dollars, even though that is government's first knee-jerk reaction to any problem.

Private schools and small Christian schools do a better job and produce a better product (literate students) at a FRACTION of the cost of public schools.

Private schools deal with

Private schools deal with motivated parents who are vested in the form of tuition payments, and who generally are from a higher income demographic, and who are aiming their children toward college. Many public schools don't have that luxury. They deal with students from households with no college background, and some parents who never graduated high school themselves. It's a different animal.

So you are saying rosethornil is correct and

The problem is NOT money. What I hear you saying the problem is:

1. Unmotivated parents

2. Parents who are not preparing (aiming) their children for college

It sounds to me that you are saying that the reason these children are under performing is directly related to the level and quality of parental involvement.

Welcome to the movement friend.

I am saying that money is

I am saying that money is not the only issue, but funding can certainly be an issue. Have you been in some of these public schools lately? Even Larchmont, which is an outstanding school (largely due to the neighborhood it sits in) has a crumbling infrastructure. Parents can't solve that; it takes funding.

Essau, you're right...

Urban public schools now deal with a different demographic. We need to have an HONEST dialogue as to why parents a& students from "poorer" circumstances don't have the drive or motivation to succeed. What has happened since our parents & my generation went to school? So many of us grew up poor & we certainly didn't have all the added perks of computers & smart phones. Yet it was ingrained in us to succeed & make a better life for ourselves. We were told NOT to rely on others; that we were responsible for ourselves. Yet this country, with this amazing tool we call "public education," is FAILING! Money needs to be spent wisely and our society needs to rethink this nanny state we are creating, or we will continue to fail our kids!

The difference...

...between previous generations' poverty (myself and my parents) and this generation's poverty is that a poor person growing up now/recently is guaranteed a subsistence existence; they will have housing, they will not starve, they will have basic medical care, and they will be clothed. Just a few generations ago, that was not the case. So there is no incentive to make sure, by your own sweat, that your children eat and have housing. Some government agency will now hand you those things if you cannot provide them.

Everything the government

Everything the government does is inferior,
And far more costly than the private sector.
State run schools focus on propaganda,
Education is a secondary element of the agenda.

It's not necessarily true

It's not necessarily true that private schools educate at a fraction of the cost. Private schools are in a continuous state of fund-raising. Tuition is continually going up. Parents are continually asked to "step up to the plate" for building campaigns, scholarship programs, teacher salaries, and numerous programs. They purchase textbooks. It takes a committed parent to send their kids to private school. Also, take a look at the facilities, the playing fields. They are often outstanding. It takes a tremendous amount of money to run a private school, and staffs are continually working to increase their endowments. Catholic schools are subsidized, so that's why tuition is low by comparison. Private schools often are "doing more with more."


“takes a committed parent” ~ Esau.

You are correct. It takes a great commitment from the parents of the students at these schools. However, it also takes a great commitment from the parents of public school students.

My wife teaches at a “lower income school” (not in Norfolk). One of the greatest factors that she talks about is parent involvement. The students who have a stable home and involved parents inevitably perform better than those who do not.


The 800lb. gorilla in the room is "Charter Schools" which no one seems to want to address.

"Traditionally, "the

"Traditionally, "the higher-status teachers kind of take the kids they want"

Seniority is a factor of all professions,
Schools, not kids are the elements of their discretion.

Could be a bad move.

There are teachers who decide they want to work a certain school. Moving a "good" teacher to another school could demoralize the good teacher. Has Norfolk Schools identified why some schools have the turn over that gives them 40% with less than two years of experience? Has action been taken to improve the school or is the magic bullet hiring teachers and hoping they fix the problem?

I place a lot of responsibility on parents and teachers but in this case the administration has to define and correct the problem. Randomly moving teachers is probably not the answer.


I'm not going to comment on NPS other than to say that Portsmouth has the same same high level of minorities, same low level of socio-economics (probably even worse because Portsmouth has far fewer jobs) and their schools have been turned around over the last ten years. The last state reports were that Norfolk had 14 failing schools while Portsmouth had only 4 schools that failed to reach the standards. Maybe the Norfolk School Board and Central Administration need to meet with and learn from their cohorts in Portsmouth what worked and what policies and procedures changed. I do know the P-town Superintendent came up through the ranks, is a life long resident, and has a vested interest in his own city, he isn't looking for next big contract.

what is more important? A teacher gets to teach where

they want based on their tenure and seniority or the children within the school system? Where is the priority for the school board and school administration.

It looks like the children are 2nd class citizens and are being taught they are 2nd class citizens. They see it, the feel it, the get it. They achieve the goals set by the board and administration.

You reap what you sow. A lot of teachers, the board, and the administration need to really look at their priorities and determine are they in teaching for the children? If so, FIX THIS.

In other jurisdictions

In other jurisdictions teachers are given perks to live and teach in blighted school boundaries including interest free loans to buy homes and additional pay to dedicate them to the cause. You gave the wrong guy all the money when you gave Samuel King $240,00 when that money should have gone to the teacher(s) willing to commit to settle and teach in a blighted school boundary. You must both live and teach the cause within the blighted boundaries. Advanced white students can also receive extra credit by mentoring poor black students. College students can receive credit towards teaching residential by deploying skills in blighted school boundaries, too. You deploy many resources overseas so why not at home?

I agree with most of that, but...

advanced white, black and brown students need to be reaching their potential as well. Their job in school is NOT to teach other students but to BE students! While there might be some time for them to "help" other students, their ceiling should NOT BE LOWERED!!!!!!!!!

I think you need to adjust you glasses a little.

The generalzations of "advanced white" and "poor black" ignore the achievements of either and further the falacy that your racial background determines how you learn and not the environment you are in.

It's ironic how teachers

It's ironic how teachers will volunteer to go to third world countries to reach kids and teach them say in the summer but then refuse to go cross town to help their own during the regular school year. There so much to be done at home.

Yep. Dynamic academic

Yep. Dynamic academic leaders can motivate the best teachers to take on the challenges of teaching in a low performing school, but threatening teachers with punishment if they fail to achieve immediate success undercuts the motivation. That's the main flaw in the system that needs to be fixed.

Poor has nothing to do with learning

What a sham to say that people are poor cannot learn. I did not grow up in the 20's or 30's. I did attend school in the late 40'5/50's. I grew up in rural Va. Most of my classes were in one room with a coal stove and two different grades were taught. Discipline was the order of the day by teachers. 3rd grade faced one way and fourth grade the other. I took the same brown paper bag to school for lunch until it fell apart, even brought back the waxed paper the sandwich was wrapped in. Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every day and whatever fruit was in season. I lived in a two room house with my parents and brother and sister. But you had your chores to do everyday and then homework.

Poor strategy for improving learning....

This is an interesting follow-up to the story yesterday about Va changing state code to allow TFA recruits w/ 5 wks of summer training to teach in hard-to-staff schools.

But placing new tchrs in low-performing schools & involuntarily transferring a tchr is different.

Administrators look at placing new tchrs in low-performing schools/classes as an initiation. It happens everywhere as statistics show.

Involuntarily moving/placing experienced tchrs is done for many reasons. Administrators move tchrs just b/c they can (it's a power game & scares other tchrs to death). It is also used as a punishment.

Knee-jerk criticism blames tchrs for what ails public schools, but this shows it is systemic where the buck stops w/ the Superintendent.

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Norfolk Schools!!!

I look at Norfolk Public School System. Read the comments of where the blame is. But I look back at our system 12 years ago. The great things that Dr. Hermon Clark had going on at Bowling Park Elementary School. They believed it takes a village to raise a child. If the Parents is not included in the school. We have nothing going. Bowling Park were meeting the needs. With G.E.D classes for the Parents. Parent Educators for 0-3 year old babies. This were preparing them before school time. Where workers were going into the homes. The staff worked their until they retired or died. We need to look at a very successful school. Times have changed!! But it is worth a try.

Reform from within

There is also a rural county school district that changed not only their schools but the entire culture of the county. Franklin County (Rocky Mount) had high drop out rates, high teenage pregnancies rates, and bleak prospects for jobs and economic improvement. Their superintendent and their residents took action. Every single child in their school system has been affected by this unique approach. http://gereau.frco.k12.va.us/message.htm

This is not a magnet program, or a IB program -- EVERY student goes through this program regardless of race, gender, GPA, or socio-economics status...AND IT WORKS! Report card https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/report.do?division=33&schoolName=All

Trial and Error had its chance

Move students around (busing), move teachers, change school boards, change superintendents, change class schedules, times, curriculums, class ratios, etc. All that has been tried to solve this problem. Reducing and combining paragraphs 7/8 in this article yield, 'the most successful schools have the lowest rates of poverty.' The culture of poverty, specifically HIGH concentrations of it, trump anything that can be done to education. The peer dynamic, not just at school but the community and standards they are exposed to, would need to be changed. A city would need to alter the way it does urban planning/redevelopment over a generation to break up 'poverty concentration zones'. It won't make certain local Pols who benefit from it very happy.

Experience vs requirements

Seems to me when there is a difficult task, the most experienced person should be assigned to accomplish it. You wouldn't put a Cessna pilot into an F/A18 and immediately assign him/her to carrier duty. I would think the newest teachers would be assigned to work along side of experienced teachers until they prove capable of performing the more difficult tasks. Of course, that probably would take (GASP) MORE MONEY! But then, how much is the education of our children worth?

You would think, but alas,

You would think, but alas, not so. They got rid of teachers aides years ago too. I think aides, especially in Kindergarten and lower grades need to be reinstated. Have you seen what we are expecting our youngest kids to do these days? It is not day care as some have suggested. Kindergarteners are reading and doing math and computers etc. etc. Teachers aides could help out an overwhelemed K teacher so much and at the same time gain valuable class management experience. Win win.

These Teacher Aides Should Be Targeted At

College Students who are studying to be teachers and involved parents who want to volunteer. Teacher's Aides should not be paid positions. That money should be spent on Teacher's salaries, and security to ensure a safe and positive environment for students, and the staff.

What about the Pilot

How often does the Pilot highlight school districts that have made drastic improvements? Ever seen an article like that?

We all hear about Fairfax schools but none of us here know the who, what, where, when, and how of their success. If the paper has a civic duty to impart information, then why does this paper not do that? There are examples from around the state and even within Hampton Roads, but those examples are not reported, and details of success are not shared. The paper is motivated by what will drive controversy on these blogs and not by what information will best help localities make good decisions and implement real change. Controversy generates ad revenue; it does not generate solutions.

Most posts missing the point!

All this political nonsense! Liberal this and racist that, rich this and poor that. The fact is that teachers want to work where they feel comfortable, respected, and successful. Unfortunately, there are few schools or school systems in which this is the case. We are treated and paid like babysitters and expected to manage mountains of administrative tasks like CEO's and, oh yeah, teach. If schools, parents, and politians want teachers to volunteer to work in difficult, often hostile and dangerous situations, then pay us for it! Soldiers that work in combat zones get extra pay. Police officers that work with SWAT and Special Ops units get extra pay. Why not teachers?
Teachers are expected to work for the love of the kids, without complaint.

has this concern, which I truly believe is valid

been put to the board and administration? The hostile environment has to be addressed. The problem with most of the hostile work environment is to control it is outside of the board, teacher, administration on child to correct.

The real cause of the hostile environment is the parents who have no clue the real purpose of a teacher or the education system. Those parents that work with their child after school even after they have done an 8hr shift and made dinner, etc are acting like responsible parents. For those who think it is the teachers problem, you are failing society, your kids other kids, and yourself. You are the problem. Our failing education system, you are a MAJOR part of the problem. Probably the biggest part of the problem.

Hostile Environment: Influences from within.....

50% of all tchrs leave w/in the first 5 yrs. While everyone wants to blame it on low salaries (easier than addressing the real problems...and enables those "greedy" teachers to take the fall) the main reason most often cited for leaving the profession is...working conditions.

Working conditions include professional treatment...and treating teachers, new or experienced, like this is unprofessional! It is not a people (kids & adults) friendly environment.

Factor in the undisciplined student behavior, lack of support from some parents, lack of supplies & equipment, crumbling infrastructure, arbitrary transferring/assignment of tchrs...and there you have it...a "hostile environment." Most importantly...it does affect teaching & learning.


NPS has been a hostile work environment for awhile, and it's getting more toxic by the day.

Please follow the provided link to see the attendance zone for

Norfolk Middle Schools. What a diverse collection of neighborhoods.


explains alot about co-existing.

1st of all not all single

1st of all not all single parent homes start as a single parent home. Some relationships don't work out and unfortunately the children sometimes suffer. 2nd of all Parents SHOULD be held more responsible for what their children learn and how they conduct themsleves in school however with that said we also need MORE Teachers who care about the students because not all children have parents who can and will take the time to raise them and help them progress in school.There are flaws with some parents and some teachers but the children should not suffer we need to find a solution to the problem and try our best to fix it. All children should be given the same educational experience and class sizes no matter what school they attend.


Statistically two parent households are more advantageous for children. However, there are plenty of one-parent households that raise their children by setting standards, demanding accountability, and providing structure. My mother was a divorced single mother, and at nearly 50, I am still guided by my reluctance to disappoint her by not living up to the high standards she set. Leading by example was the single most important thing she did for us, and her example was to work hard and demand great things from yourself through determination, hard work, and perseverance. My mother was also from one of the poorest areas in this nation (Appalachia), so you will never convince me that being poor equals not being able to learn and succeed.

Much of the Problem

is pople don't want to accept personal responsiblity. That seem to be a lesson your mother taught you. Now pople have kids at 15 (or whenever) don't have a job to support themselves or their kids and want to BLAME someone else. They want welfare, food stamps, public housing anything but a job. Being poor is not a crime but doing this should be. Not all rich kids are smart not all poor kids are dumb. Many poor (or middle class) people work hard and do well in life, just get off their lazy butt and work at it, quit crying about how every one has it better and improve yourself.


This is a wrong-headed idea. It's been tried in other districts. What usually happens is that the "great" teachers suddenly become "bad" teachers when the kids' tests scores don't improve much, if at all. The schools continue to be low-performers.

On the other hand, there are many wonderful teachers at low-performing schools, but they are considered to be "bad" because of low test scores.The kids bring so many problems into the classroom, they don't perform well in school. The best teacher cannot compensate for a dysfunctional family environment; sometimes these so-called "bad" teachers provide the only safe, stable routine in the child's day.

Blame it on the teachers??

Are teachers really to blame for the ineffectiveness of education? Have you seen how unaccountable parents and students are for education. Students do not come to class prepared with supplies...notebook, pencils,and paper,but yet, they wear the latest Jordan's shoes,carry around their smartphones after schools, and display their Beats by Dre headphones around school.Teachers hold voluntary after school sessions to assist students with making up tests and tutorials.However, students abuse the opportunity to extend their social stamina and are not accountable for completing the missing work. Students are roaming the halls socializing with their peers..."Because they can,"as opposed to being accountable for their assignments.

This is like arguing over who get the best seat on the Titanic.

I'm not even sure why the Left Wing Pilot publishes these pieces. Everyone knows NPS is a mess. Does it really matter what teacher goes where?

They need to get in a room and redesign the standards and practices from scratch. Here are a few suggestions:

-An education is a privilege not a right. No Jr. High students over 16 or High school students over 19. If these folks can't get through traditional school, send them to adult education for their GREs.

-If some parents are so bad (I mean EXTREME situations), report them for neglect.

-Get teachers decent money and pay the NPS employees who actually work in schools first. They are "over administrated". There's allot of money hiding in those cubicles at City Hall Ave.

And She CLAIMS To Be Knowledgable On Education

"The highest-performing kids, the most motivated kids, they just need good teachers. They don't need great teachers in the same way that if we only have a few great teachers, the lowest-performing kids need them," she said.

Total Bunk. Obviously, she has no experience with highly motivated, gifted kids who are the highest performing kids, AS LONG AS, they have the best teachers. Teachers who recognize that gifted children are special needs students and have to be constantly engaged and challenged. Studies shows that America loses a signficant portion of its gifted, high performing children by the end of 7th grade.

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There is another factor at play here..

I worked in schools where the kids had little money or parental support, however I was successful with my students because I was allowed to control the dynamic within my own classroom. I could set a standard for behavior and engagement and be supported so I could make a difference for those children in that time and place. You discipline kids because you care and have high expectations for them. You communicate to parents that you don't accept poverty as an excuse for academic failure and tell them you will inform them of the child's progress and what they can do to support you in the classroom behavior wise. Having them read at night was enough. What i needed more was to send them to school ready to listen and respond to the teacher.


if a parent complained about the discipline- the teacher was backed up by the principal who told the parent, " the teacher cared about the child doing well and let you know because that is their job. Your job is to back us up at home so we can help this child to be successful". Next. It takes a village doesn't it?

Here's What I Think

The schools in NPS need help we all agree. Why not use a charter school model. Where parents have to put "x" amount volunteering in the school a semester. It would hold families accountable in thier child's education. Also, don't place all newbies in hard schools. Spread the wealth with the more experienced teachers. Also, staff with your teachers and parents to figure out better ways to work with the kids. For example my twins at a suffolk school has mentors. On top of building confidence at home we do it with more resources at school. Remember a good education is a right of all Americans!

Dole out kings $240,000 salary to the many poor parents

I agree. Dole out kings $240,000 salary to the many poor parents who may now afford to volunteer to be involved in their kids process. Attack poverty at its roots. It's less ridiculous than giving one person $240,000 salary to promote segregation.

The fact that the Pilot is

The fact that the Pilot is publishing these articles and the schools are having these discussions is impressive and a move in the right direction. Welcome to the 21st century, Norfolk!

Return the loot

Maybe Sam King the sup of schools needs to give back to the Norfolk School District a better portion of his $240,000 salary that was in essence stolen from the school district with the help of City Manager Marcus Jones so the parents who paid the tax revenue may be able to actually fund teachers and buildings and supplies.

King Pandering to keep his $240,000?

"Let's say we have an opening in a school that has 60 percent poverty - what kind of experience did you have in pre-service" or student teaching, in comparable schools, King said.

King and his $240,000 Salary just doesn’t get it. Apparently his pre-service rhetoric is a pretext in promoting separate but equal legal doctrine which in United States was constitutional law that justified systems of segregation.

Anything to protect his cool $240,000 Salary.

Take over the scope and create a high tech fully integrated campus to reduce poverty and further education.

Bring Norfolk to the 21st Century.

The sharpest students in the district can also mentor the laggards’.

Everyone comes from somewhere.

Can you say integration?

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