On November 30, the Chamber hosted nearly 50 business and civic leaders in the gymnasium at Simonsdale Elementary in Portsmouth to hear about the city’s public education system and get a first-hand look at the region’s newest state-of-the-art school. Simonsdale Principal Darlene Bright explained that the new school is a LEED-certified green building and highlighted the advantages of having an environmentally responsible facility. The school contains 32 classrooms, a library, computer lab, science lab, music room, art room, gymnasium, auditorium, and four resource rooms. Interactive Smart Boards are located throughout the school, as well as a video conference unit. Bright said, “We are working hard to get our children ready for the workforce.”
Portsmouth Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. David Stuckwisch, spoke to the crowd about the accomplishments of the school system. He explained that graduation rates are continue to increase and said, “We get better every year in terms of student achievement. Dr. Stuckwisch briefed the group on the First College Program for high school seniors who can attend classes at Tidewater Community College. In its seventh year, the program has 150-200 students participating. The school system has a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM Pathways) program in elementary schools and is now expanding it to middle school students. The Early Up Program, in every Portsmouth elementary school, identifies students in Kindergarten who are struggling with reading, and provides them with assistance. Dr. Stuckwisch said, “You have to solve reading problems early in elementary school, not in high school.” Regarding the budget, he said, “We are experiencing funding reductions like we have not seen since the Great Depression. We’ve cut $25 million from the budget and will probably cut $10 million next year.” Dr. Stuckwisch closed by saying, “The state of our school system is sound, respectable, and continues to get better.”
After hearing from Dr. Stuckwisch, attendees broke up into smaller groups and toured the elementary school to view all that the state-of-the-art facility has to offer Kindergarten–sixth graders in the Simonsdale area of Portsmouth.
The Chamber thanks the following sponsors: Kerma Medical Products (Presenting); Dominion Virginia Power (Gold); Cox Communications (Media); and The George Washington University Hampton Roads Center (Silver).