Superintendent’s event gives city students a seat at the community table

by | Mar 27, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education

A Slushie snafu very nearly led to a meltdown.

When Delia Clayton-Fulcher visited the McDonald’s drive-thru on Plank Road last year, she could see that the fast-food worker handling her order was flustered.

“He was so overwhelmed and so upset,” recalled Clayton-Fulcher, who serves as a Student Support Specialist for Fredericksburg City Schools. “The first thing I said to him, was, ‘It’s going to be OK.’”

What she didn’t know at the time was that the employee, Hamayoon Afzali, was a student at James Monroe High School who was also working full-time in the evenings as a store manager.

“The first thing we want to do for our students who work on the panel is apologize,” Clayton-Fulcher said during Tuesday’s Superintendent’s Community Roundtable. “We apologize that you have to work long hours and come to school, and we expect so much out of you.”

Afzali, a 20-year-old Afghan immigrant, was one of eight JM seniors who participated in a student panel during the event, which was held at the Walker-Grant Center. Other presentations reflected the roundtable’s theme of Diversity and Inclusion: Empowering our Students to Enhance Academic Excellence.

Deputy Superintendent Matthew Eberhardt, who served as a moderator, asked the panel three questions, including, “What could the city’s schools have done to better to set them up for success as students?”

“I would love to see [schools] spotlight more African American students — not just with athletics but more based off their education,” senior Lauren Jackson said. “Because there are a lot of bright African American students, including in this room.”

Christian Wilson, who serves as the drum major at JM, recalled that when a marching band alumni died earlier this year, school administrators came to the band room to offer support and opportunities to talk.

While Wilson said he appreciated the proactive approach, “I feel as though there are some [students] who don’t know there are trusted people they can talk to,” he said. “I feel like we could we could try to advertise that a bit more.”

A question from an audience member asked the panelists to reflect on their experiences during a COVID-19-dominated 2020-21 school year, when they were freshmen starting their high school careers remotely.

“It was pretty rough on me, but I also think it was pretty rough on the school system,” senior Francesca Hein said. “I think they did what they could. But that was three years ago, and we’re all still here today.”

Fredericksburg City Schools Education Foundation President Xavier Richardson discussed the organization’s fundraising efforts, including a partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to expand childhood literacy from birth to age 5.

Referring to the fact that several prominent JM alumni like to wear the school’s orange and black colors around town, “Let’s tell them to rock some green,” Richardson said with a chuckle.

Following the conclusion of the student panel, each table attempted to order strategies from largest to smallest impact on student performance.

The list of terms, based on research from educator John Hattie, included strategies like collective teacher efficacy and classroom discussion that have been shown to cross the 0.4 average effect size threshold that Hattie refers to as the “hinge point.” Some traditional approaches, such as homework and retention (holding students back) were shown to have lower — or even negative impacts.

The roundtable culminated with a “share out” of ideas for how the greater Fredericksburg Community can “empower students in reaching their full potential.” Many of the resulting bullet points concerned Career Technical Education (CTE), and how it can become a better deal for students, including the potential for paid positions.

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