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Regional summit: Public education builds communities

The superintendents of the five South Hampton Roads public school divisions all had essentially the same message when they gathered on Friday, January 4, 2013 for a crowd of more than 300 people: Public education is essential for vibrant, healthy communities today and in the future.

The event was the Second-Annual Hampton Roads Regional Public Education Summit, hosted this year by the Norfolk Education Foundation and Norfolk Public Schools at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. The event's Gold Sponsor was Towne Bank.  

Keynote speakers were superintendents Dr. James T. Roberts of Chesapeake; Dr. Samuel T. King of Norfolk; Dr. David C. Stuckwisch of Portsmouth; Dr. Deran R. Whitney of Suffolk; and Dr. James G. Merrill of Virginia Beach. Barbara Hamm Lee of WHRO moderated the event. Dr. Kirk T. Houston, Sr., Norfolk School Board Chairman, provided a welcome. Rev. Edward K. Haywood, a Norfolk School Board member, provided the invocation, and Norview High School students provided the Color Guard and National Anthem.

Dr. Roberts spoke about the need for state legislators to make public education the number one funding priority in Virginia. Dr. King discussed Norfolk Public Schools' process for developing a five-year strategic plan, while addressing immediate priorities for 2012-2013. Dr. Stuckwisch addressed opportunities for high school students to earn dual-enrollment credit for college. Dr. Whitney spoke about school improvement, across many measures, as the most important business for educators. Dr. Merrill emphasized the need for transparency and communication in order to build trust and support.

After their presentations, the superintendents answered questions from the enthusiastic and engaged audience. The questions and answers emphasized the overall theme that those present at Friday's summit, and all citizens who care about their communities, must be ambassadors for public education support.

"We are working toward total advocacy for public education across our communities," Dr. King said.

The Chesapeake Public Schools Educational Foundation hosted last year's event. Other local school divisions will host future summits.

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