September 18, 2008

Roanoke’s Schools Are Moving Ahead

By Chris Craft

I applaud the past Roanoke City School Board for looking outside the box as far as the hiring of a new school superintendent last year. When it hired Rita Bishop, it did one of the greatest things it has done in years.

Bishop is a former Roanoker and Roanoke city school employee. She knows this city and our schools. I am actively part of our city schools as a volunteer and a member of Roanoke City School Central Council PTA. Considering where we came from, I think we're in a great place now.

I have never seen anyone as enthusiastic as Bishop. I was the first to call her in Pennsylvania and congratulate her, and I also attended the schools convocation last year. I was a skeptic when I heard her plans, but I, as well as the PTA, had her back. We believe in her.

Before the Bishop era, I noticed the following: low teacher and staff morale, low test scores, lack of communication between administration and teachers, lots of wasted money and an infrastructure that was crumbling. I have seen rat infestations, bad roofs, principals that didn't care, poor administration/parent communication, not to mention administration in some areas of the school system that was under par.

Bishop set goals for this school system and has greatly surpassed them all. Our school employees now get paid twice a month instead of once, which the employees love. She had Chief Deputy Assistant Superintendent Kurt Baker hired, and he has not stopped trying to make Roanoke city schools what they should and need to be.

She helped get teachers pay raises and changed school start times, which were silly and should have been changed years ago. She is opening the overaged academy to help raise the city's graduation rate, has raised staff morale, found money to start replacing our aged and dilapidated school buses, thanks to the help of Baker, and got a grant to place defibrillators in all the schools.

She has placed gifted programs at all of our middle schools, as promised. She will have foreign language classes at all our elementary schools, has traveled afar to attract great new teachers, has worked nonstop to keep teachers and attract new ones. She started a teacher mentoring program and hired a fine arts coordinator to oversee arts education and music to make sure our kids have everything they need to succeed.

She is a big supporter of PTA. She had security cameras and buzzers installed at all schools and is starting to install digital cameras on all of our school buses this year. She is always looking for grants to start new programs to help our kids succeed, and the greatest thing on her agenda is to get rid of all the trailers at our schools, which were a huge waste of money. In the future, she will be getting rid of unsafe campus-style elementary schools.

I am so proud to be a volunteer for such a wonderful school system with such a fine leader as Bishop. She has reached out to the community for support and opened her office every day for staff to come see her and discuss their concerns.

I know there will be a lot of hard decisions to come, but I have no doubt we have a great administration team that will take the bull by the horns. Thanks are due Bishop, Baker, School Board Chairman David Carson and our great school board for all the hard work they do for our children.

Chris Craft

Craft is a member of the Roanoke City Schools PTA and volunteers for the school system.

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