I’ve recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Rosa Atkins, a finalist of the American Association of School (AASA) Women in School Leadership Award. She emphasized the importance of community, and how a strong commitment by each and every member of a school district plays a large role in creating positive outcomes for students. For all her accolades and recognitions, Dr. Atkins has remained humbled; stressing that her success is based on a cohesive interaction with staff, teachers and parents of Charlottesville City Schools. There is strength in numbers, and by figuratively holding hands and marching forward, Dr. Atkins believes districts can bring effective change to positively impact education for young people.
The opposite holds true when examining motivation. Dr. Atkins believes effective mentorship is best achieved through one-on-one attention. It is Atkins’ mission to personally meet the passionate educators in her district to give them not only individual mentorship but let them know that they have the care and support of their superintendent. Even an one-hour sit down to listen to a teacher can lead to exceptional growth and outcome. The goal is not simply to help one teacher, but rather the interlocking network of teachers, administrators and students. It’s a working example of the power of association. According to Atkins the ultimate role of a superintendent should be as an advocate that supports the ideas of an educator and encourages their sense of leadership.
“Technology in itself is not the solution. Technology helps us mirror what is happening in society.”– Dr. Rosa S. Atkins
When it comes to technology – or lack of it – Dr. Atkins doesn’t see it as the panacea for what ills district growth. Technology is pervasive in our society, and because of that, it is imperative schools remain relevant to the technological proclivity of students. What’s most important, according to Atkins, is that students are prepared for post-secondary life, including entrance into the workforce. Businesses require a level of technological knowhow, and it is important that school districts provide early environments that use relevant technology.
Dr. Atkins is honored to be recognized as a League of Innovative Schools district. No longer are schools acting as silos, working only within the confines of the educational community. Atkins’ district now looks outside to businesses, specifically research partners, that give her district the technological tools to use without an excessive outlay of funding. Dr. Atkins points to one of the League’s initiatives – E-rate reimbursement– as a positive change for districts as a whole. In the past, hardware procurement would be obtained without the proper infrastructure to utilize it. Now, thanks in part to the league’s push on Capitol Hill, there are initiatives that will make changes to the overall bandwidth strength of districts throughout the U.S.
About Dr. Rosa S. Atkins
Dr. Rosa Atkins is Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, a division of more than 4,000 economically, ethnically, and racially diverse students in nine schools. During Dr. Atkins’ tenure, Charlottesville City Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions in the state with a graduation completion index of 89% and one of the best Advanced Placement programs in the area. In 2011, she was named Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, as well as Virginia State University Alumnus of the Year for Professional Education.
In 2015-16, she served as President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. Under her leadership, Charlottesville schools have been marked by innovation and collaboration. The creation of advanced manufacturing and engineering labs at Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School – as well as new curricula and engineering pathways – have been made possible by a partnership with area businesses, school divisions, and the University of Virginia. Because of this commitment to innovation, Dr. Atkins was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 Future Ready Superintendents in 2014 and was invited to the American Association of School Administrators’ Digital Consortium at the White House.
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