On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Lynchburg City Schools (LCS) community members convened in the E. C. Glass High School auditorium. They spent the evening celebrating the accomplishments of 2023; dreaming about the future of education in Lynchburg; and enjoying special performances by LCS elementary strings students, E. C. Glass jazz ensemble students, Dunbar Middle School theatre students, and Heritage High School strings students.
For many, the first-ever State of LCS event represented a chance to consider two questions: How did we accelerate excellence and innovation in 2023? And how can we innovate in the years to come?
Excellence By Design
Deputy Superintendents Reid Wodicka and Amy Pugh took the stage to unveil a new strategic plan for the future of LCS that will emphasize career readiness and holistic student development like never before.
“Lynchburg has a phenomenal legacy of public education…To continue that legacy and tradition of excellence, we cannot rest on the laurels of the past accomplishments we’ve had,” said Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Strategic Planning Reid Wodicka. “As a community, we have to join together…so that we can thrive and create this organization into the world-class educational institution that we know that it can be.”
The new strategy will take a more integrated approach to K-12 planning to ensure developmentally appropriate consistency in student and staff expectations and support from elementary through high school. Programmatic offerings through all grades will be aligned with growing career sectors to support college and career preparation.
This focus on future careers will shape the experiences offered to students from Pre-K all the way through elementary, middle, and high school, progressively preparing them for technical and academic excellence. Schools will be grouped into Innovation Networks, which will each contain elementary, middle, and high schools that will concentrate on different career fields. Each will offer specialized classes in a variety of subjects, from engineering to entrepreneurship.
Future student experiences will be designed around four core principles: encouraging students to prioritize research and data-driven thinking; promoting hands-on, relevant education through service learning and leadership opportunities in the community; integrating arts and athletics into students’ everyday lives from elementary through high school; and encouraging students to embrace economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
“We are going to strive to make a name for ourselves as a city that places education on the top of its list, and one that develops graduates who are head and shoulders above their peers across the country. They’ll go on to challenge the boundaries of human innovation, whether that’s in a science lab, on a stage, in a workshop, or beyond the stars,” Wodicka said.
2023 Brings New Programs, Milestones
E. C. Glass teacher Aaron Reid moderated a panel discussion which included LCS Chief Academic and Student Services Officer Derrick Brown, LCS Teacher of the Year and Dunbar Middle School theatre teacher Albert Carter, Linkhorne Middle School principal Kathy Dills, and E. C. Glass student and School Board representative Lucy White. The group reflected on new programs and milestones the division saw in 2023.
Panelists discussed the new Linkhorne Middle School Rosette Academy, which helps sixth graders transition from elementary to middle school while developing important academic and social-emotional skills. Separated into teams and operating on an altered block schedule, the program combines a small-school atmosphere with learning strategies informed by student feedback.
“They’re gaining friendships that they would not normally have been,” Dr. Dills said, reflecting on the program’s inaugural year. “We’ve also seen a pretty significant decrease in our discipline because they have somebody to talk to…and our achievement is going up because they’re smaller classrooms.”
They also discussed LCS Restore, a holistic program empowering students to succeed academically and emotionally through restorative practices. In the 2022-23 school year, LCS launched the Restorative Suspension Center, an alternative to traditional short-term suspension that helps secondary students keep up academically when suspended instead of missing school. For longer-term support, the Elementary and Secondary Restorative Academies help students develop the social and emotional skills necessary for success before transitioning to their base schools over a 6-9-week intensive period.
“I do truly believe that all behavior is communication. When students are behaving a certain way, they’re trying to tell us something. Sometimes, they’re trying to communicate a need. Sometimes, they’re trying to communicate a trauma,” Dr. Brown said. “And it’s up to us as adults to really dive into that and provide students with the opportunity to heal from those things…and give them some replacement behaviors and skills so that they can be successful.”
Additionally, Carter and White reflected on the important skills and life lessons students can learn from arts and athletics, benefiting their academic careers and personal development. Panelists agreed that arts and athletics are critical components of a quality education.
“I’m part of a lot of after-school activities, and I think honestly, that’s what I love so much about E. C. Glass. There are so many ways to get involved,” White said. “It makes you a well-rounded person. You have all these experiences that you can look back on and draw from and bring into your life.”
The Path Forward
Over the next 18 months, LCS will collaborate with community members, businesses, families, and teachers to fundamentally redesign the division’s approach to programming with a plan to implement changes starting in the 2025-26 school year. More information will be shared in the coming weeks about how to get involved.
“These (students) are our bakers and our bankers….They’re going to be our artificial intelligence programmers and our future educators. And as we look at them and understand our commitment to them—as we honor legacy and encourage innovation—we owe it to our children to become involved,” said LCS Superintendent Crystal Edwards.