With so much attention on the impact on the Forge community, BTW wanted to get a little perspective from the other schools this initiative will affect. We asked Cherice Taylor to share her thoughts on what this redistricting effort means to North Nation. Cherice, a very smart and involved lady I have been privileged to know through the RTMS PTO, consented to answer some questions about her thoughts on this issue.
1) Cherice, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Cherice Taylor and I am a mother, wife, PTO member, Substitute Teacher, Advisory Committee member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Psi Psi Omega charter member, former bilingual teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District, BA Spanish, UCLA, MA Education Administration California State University Dominguez Hills, Park Ridge Community citizen. I have four boys. Our eldest son graduated from NSHS in 2016 as an Early College Scholar, AP Scholar and currently is in his first year at UVA. He took 9 AP classes at NSHS and did not do APPX or CGS, although he could have been in CGS. I have 3 boys at RTMS. Two are rising 9th graders going to North Nation and will be impacted by the fuller classes and probably limited choices due to the great number of students coming to NSHS. I also have a 6th grader. We've lived in Stafford County for 15 years.
2) Why do you think that there has been a negative response from some Forge parents regarding a potential move to North specifically?
I think the school rankings, which are based on SOL scores, and the percentage of free and reduced lunch are a couple of the issues. Developers being able to mislead home buyers is another issue. On a surface level, when one researches SCPS schools, Colonial Forge High School is ranked #1 for our county, based on SOL scores, parent and student surveys, etc. on various sites like Greatschools.org, Niche Rankings, US News rankings, etc. When you broaden the search, you will find that what colleges look at from applicants, SAT and ACT scores, percentage of AP exams taken and passed and college readiness, all five high schools are about the same. When it comes to college readiness, I believe, all of our high schools are below average and that most of our students are not ready for college. So, if all of the schools are about the same, then I'm not really sure what the issue is.
What I do know is that citizens in our community refer to North Stafford as the 'ghetto school'. (Ed: BTW denounces this type of slander. It is a purposeless, stereotypical statement clearly meant to be an insult bandied by ignorant people who haven't taken any time educate themselves.) My children have heard that from their friends at their middle school. I've heard it for years, but never had it presented directly to me until my children heard it directly from what their friends' parents said. Again, that has nothing to do with academic statistics, so, it appears that there are some other social issues at play.
3) What do you think are some of the great things about North that people outside of it's community don't know?
North Stafford High School has the Commonwealth Governor's School, two of the STAT programs, Engineering and Biomedical, APPX, DE classes, lots of Career and Technical classes, opportunities for EMT and CNA certifications, tons of Honors and AP classes if you aren't in a specialized program and many other vocational opportunities. Also, think that just like we go and look at houses, if people took the time to go and meet with the Admin's and get a tour of what's available, they'd be pleasantly surprised.
Our North Nation Administrators, teachers and staff, PTO, coaches and students are awesome and I just hope that some of the venom that is being said about The Worlds' Greatest High School, North Stafford, does not come to our school along with the 275 students who will be lucky and happily surprised at the greatness that exists there.
4) What are some issues that need to be addressed to help with North's image? Who do you think should address these image issues, the North Admin's, SCPS, the School Board? How should they be addressed?
NSHS has a PR problem for sure. It's not new and shiny like the newer high schools. It's old. Old doesn't equate to bad. The BOS and School Board have to work together to make sure that there is parity in funding. A new library is great, but enhancing the athletic facilities and bathrooms so that North can hosts big Invitationals like CF and MV do is a benefit to the entire community. I think the School Board should speak to the Principal and staff and students at NSHS to see what is on their bucket list.
5) What is the perception of this redistricting initiative in the North community?
I can't speak to this because many of the residents don't even realize the impact that redistricting will have on our community. I think it is because it has been called the Colonial Forge Redistricting and many of the big events have been held at Colonial Forge. The small print mentioned NSHS and MVHS, but overall it's just been about Forge. I think if one of the sessions had been at NSHS, then people would be more engaged, but honestly, I don't think many people will realize the impact until their kids can't get a class because it's full.
6) Parting thoughts?
When we moved here NSHS and PRES were ranked 8 and 9 on Great Schools, a site many parents use to determine when buying or renting in an area. I say that to share that it seems as though the cry for parity in opportunities and facilities has somehow missed some of our schools while other newer schools have been given priority for enhancement. We all represent SCPS and when all of our students have equity and access, then all our our property values will go up and stay up. Let's make SCPS the GEM of Virginia and not be satisfied that our #1 school is #30 or #31 in the state. Why can't all of our SCPS high schools be in the top 10 in the state? They can! What can we do as a community to make that happen?
Thanks again to Cherice for answering our questions. Your write up makes me even more likely to send my youngest to the CGS program so that she can be a part of your great community! If you have a unique perspective that you would like to share with BTW, please email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.