Schools superintendent speaks at chamber Eggs and Issues event

Clayton Wilcox says he wants to increase students' access to technology, improve graduation rate

July 14, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • New Washington County Public Schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox a record crowd for a chamber Eggs and Issues event breakfast meeting Thursday morning.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Clayton Wilcox, the new superintendent of Washington County Public Schools, shared his sense of humor along with some ideas Thursday morning during a presentation hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking to a record crowd for a chamber Eggs and Issues event — approximately 140 people were registered for it at the Academy Theatre in downtown Hagerstown — Wilcox showed a video of workers constructing an airplane while it was in flight.

"In many ways I think that's absolutely what we have to do," Wilcox said of the video's concept. "We have a great school system. ... We have to make these changes while we're moving. It has to be seamless to kids and to teachers.

"It's very important for me to say to you that I don't believe in change by revolution."

But Wilcox, 55, said past success could be one of the things that could hold the school system back because the conventional wisdom is not to fix something that isn't broken.

The school system needs to face "some stark truths," Wilcox said. Although the system is improving, it might not be improving fast enough.

Washington County needs to keep pace with more rapidly improving school districts in Maryland and the nation, he said.

He spoke of addressing achievement gaps between children with social and economic disadvantages and children with economic advantages.

And pointing to the system's 92.5 percent graduation rate, Wilcox said more than 100 students a year don't graduate.

"I'm not going to rest until every young person who begins in this school system has the opportunity to graduate," Wilcox said.

More than once Wilcox talked about improving students' access to technology, both devices and software.

He said he'd like to explore the possibility of having a teacher who is really good in a specific area — such as helping children read — work with more students and not just one class.

"Many of you have had a child who's gone through the school system, and you know of a teacher who is absolutely fantastic at teaching kids to read," but your child is in a different class, Wilcox said.

"I think there are ways for smart school systems to say that every kid can have an experience with the best teacher we have of the discipline of the day," he said.

Wilcox said a goal is to visit every school before the school year starts so he can get a sense of where the schools are in proximity to the communities they serve.

He said his first Washington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday went well, "but there are opportunities for us as a board and administrative team to define the work, the way of work, that will govern our relationship for at least the next four years and, hopefully, many years after that."

Wilcox said he also wanted to hear business and community leaders' aspirations for the school system, saying he hopes leaders call to set up meetings with him, and they, in turn, accept his calls.

"What's going on with the graduates that you've hired from our school system? Are they, in fact, the graduates that you need to make your businesses and industries flourish and prosper? ... I'm hopeful that you, as business leaders and community leaders, will have that conversation with me fairly quickly," Wilcox said.

Wilcox said he was willing to meet with business people, neighborhood groups, and PTAs.

The event was sponsored by Meritus Health.

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