Teachers and staff prepare for new school year in the city of Roanoke

Despite challenges, school leaders say positive progress continues

August 13, 2012|Joe Dashiell | Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. — Students won't return until next week, but the school year has started for the teachers and staff of Roanoke City Schools. Monday morning, they kicked off the year with optimism, even as leaders acknowledged the challenges the school district continues to face.
The start of a new school year is a chance to reconnect.  Kim Rakes is a 17- year- veteran who is moving from Monterey Elementary to Lincoln Terrace Elementary.   "Wre always sad to see the summer leave," Rakes told WDBJ7, "because that's our own schedule, whatever we want to do, but it's always fun to see the kids' smiling faces when they come back."

Jess Truax teaches at the Roanoke Technical Education Center. "Also working with my colleagues and getting to see my fellow teachers and the staff members and stuff again," truax told us, "sharing what happened over the summer, and the challenges ahead of us this year."


Tiffany Gardner is looking forward to getting back in the classroom at Lincoln Terrace Elementary. "This is my second year here, my second year teaching, and last year was a tough year," Gardner said. "I had a lot of new things to handle and I'm looking forward to coming in with experience and looking forward to seeing my kids again."

Next week, more than 900 teachers will welcome 13- thousand students back to Roanoke city classrooms.

Urban school districts like Roanoke have a unique set of challenges, from the percentage of students who live in poverty, to the rising number whose native language is something other than English, but in many of the areas in which the district has had problems, including a lagging graduation rate, leaders say the city schools continue their upward climb.

During the annual convocation at the Roanoke Civic Center, school leaders acknowledged problems including the loss of too many experienced teachers, and the continuing impact of state budget cuts. But as School Superintendent Rita Bishop begins her 6th year at the helm of Roanoke city schools, she says the district is moving in the right direction.

"Every place where I think we've got a pothole," Bishop told us in an interview, "I know exactly what to do, and I've got the team in place."

And if the new school year brings additional challenges, the teachers we talked with say "bring it on."

Jeff May teaches at Westside Elementary School. "So we not only welcome them," May said, "but we want them, because we want to exceed expectations and we want to push our kids into history. "

We won't have to wait long for a report card on Roanoke's performance.
The Virginia Department of Education is expected to release Standards of Learning test results on Tuesday.

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