Governor McDonnell, on behalf of the Goochland School Board and the Board of Supervisors and our Community, we want to thank you for being here to share your message with us this afternoon. I am so impressed with the number of teachers, students, and community members that have come today and I cannot begin to tell you how much your support of our schools means to our school division. We are an innovative school division and your presence here today affirms our efforts to build a model rural school division with world-class schools are beginning to reach outside of our county lines. We also believe Goochland is primed for greater economic development and we know our schools are the key to building a stronger economy in Goochland and in the Richmond-metro region.
We would like to commend you on your proposal to implement the K-12 Red Tape Reduction Act. Furthermore, the additional staffing flexibility you have proposed will free up funding for small rural schools to target specific needs, especially those we see in our own school division. We know our students. Any move to bring more local control regarding what is best for our students should be looked upon favorably. The flexibility you have proposed will provide Goochland an easier path towards implementing new innovative initiatives that may not be permitted in the current state regulations. We realize that greater flexibility will lead to greater accountability, but we are confident we can demonstrate that making allowances for innovation will also lead to more opportunities and higher achievement.
We also appreciate your efforts to bring the focus back to literacy in the early grades. The educational research is clear on the importance of reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade. Your proposal to give struggling schools the flexibility to focus on reading and reduce the number of SOL tests given to students is a very strong step in the right direction. We share the belief that social studies and science are extremely important and must remain a focus, but we would like to see these tests removed permanently from the 3rd grade in all schools. We realize that Goochland’s schools are high-performing and will not qualify for this funding and flexibility this year, but we view your proposal today as a move towards offering this flexibility to all schools in the near future. Furthermore, reading specialists are absolutely essential at the elementary level and we are supportive of your decision to provide funding for these vital positions and hope they become a permanent fixture in the Standards of Quality with funding for all schools in the future.
We also believe that Algebra Readiness is a key component in improving graduation rates and college success. For this reason, Goochland implemented an initiative to have all 8th grade students complete Algebra and even with the new and more rigorous SOLs, 92% of our 8th graders met the mark. We hope that your Algebra Readiness initiative will give us the support needed to reach those last few students and we thank you for making this a focus.
Lastly, one of our school board members, John Lumpkins spoke last month in support of your proposal to increase the teacher probationary period and fix the grievance process and we continue to support your efforts to reform teacher contract legislation while protecting the due process rights of our teachers.
Thank you again for coming to Goochland, we have a small gift for you to help you remember your time at one of the best schools in the world.