By Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs
Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
Before a crowd of new and returning VCU School of Education students, faculty and staff at the school’s fall convocation Friday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney encouraged them to play a key role in the city’s efforts to improve Richmond Public Schools and unlock upward mobility for all the city’s children.
“At the end of the day, we want to develop the capabilities of all our children,” Stoney said. “It is my hope that the VCU School of Education will join us in building one Richmond — and that is to ensure that no matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin, what neighborhood you may live in, that you can live out your given talents right here in the city of Richmond.”
“VCU,” he added, “it is my hope that you will be by our side as we continue to improve the lives of our children and create positive outcomes for them."
Stoney was one of several speakers at the convocation, which is meant to inspire School of Education students and faculty to use their unique skills and interests to make the world a better place, starting with Richmond and Virginia.
Stoney described his administration’s efforts to improve schools — primarily through the City of Richmond/Richmond Public Schools Education Compact — greatly reduce the amount of child poverty in the city, and ensure that the city and state government are doing everything possible to support the needs of children and families.
“The entire community must come together to support the needs of children inside and outside the classroom.”
“The entire community must come together to support the needs of children inside and outside the classroom,” he said. “That work starts with the city agencies that report to me doing everything we can to work with Richmond Public Schools. We have to stop blaming teachers for the woes of schools and start making the investments that give our teachers and children the chance to be successful.”
Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, Ph.D., also addressed the group, saying that she had been left reeling by the violence and hatred seen over the weekend in Charlottesville, and that it reminded her of the importance of teachers and education in shaping people’s lives and characters.
“The commonwealth will be dealing with the aftermath of Saturday for a long, long time. But through this tragedy, I have renewed faith in the transformational power of education,” she said. “There is no job that literally touches the lives of every American and shapes the way we view the world more than that of an educator. And now, more than ever, we really need you.”
Trent praised the School of Education as one of the best in the country, and specifically highlighted the Richmond Teacher Residency program, an intensive, school-based teacher preparation program that integrates a research-supported approach to effective urban teaching with real-world classroom placement under the mentorship of an exemplary Richmond Public Schools teacher.
The program, she said, provides the hands-on experience necessary to be effective in urban schools on day one. “But beyond that, you teach your students to take ownership of the success of each and every student that enters their classroom,” she said. “And the success of this program is beyond extraordinary. Your graduates are the brightest.”
“Hands down, period, you have the best program in the country and we are very, very fortunate to have you in the city of Richmond,” she said.
Trent said the auditorium was filled with future teachers who will inspire students’ success and help children understand that they can overcome any limit.
“Our society has entrusted with you our greatest treasure, our children,” she said. “You in large part will determine the adults that they become. And you, in large part, can change the course of history.”
Also speaking at the event were be School of Education alumna Danielle Greene, a social studies teacher at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School, and Teri Morton Johnson, a doctoral student in the School of Education’s curriculum, culture and change track. Greene and Johnson discussed how the School of Education is helping them impact the community and the education system.
Andrew P. Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education, encouraged the crowd to “think deeply and introspectively about how you can change the world, beginning right here at VCU and in the Richmond area.”
“The challenges impacting our children, families, communities and schools are not average and they won't be fixed with average thinking nor average efforts. We have to be boldly aspirational and extraordinary in our intentions, in our words, in outcomes and in our impact,” he said. “We must run to the fire like first responders with a sense of urgency to help children, to help their families and to help their lives.”
Daire had each person in the audience write down on index cards one way in which they intend to change the world.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “For those of you who are about to rock this year, we salute you.”
Below: SOE Convocation 2017 Video on YouTube (TRT: 54:55)