MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – With the beginning of the academic year just days away, Mount Vernon School officials are hopeful that district-wide changes can help turn around a district that has struggled more than most in recent years.
It has been a radical year for the district, which overhauled its administrative leadership “in order to increase accountability;” introduced and reintroduced several innovative programs to help students achieve academic and professional excellence.
Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Hamilton , entering his second year at the helm, believes that the district can continue to grow and thrive as changes continue to take hold.
“I see Mount Vernon as a diamond in the rough,” he said. “It would seem that we have everything we need to transform our district, we were just missing an articulated vision of how to get there. I am confident that vision has been articulated by our Board of Trustees and my administration is creating the appropriate pathways to achieving that goal.”
In an effort to improve graduation rates and generate lifelong learners, the district is piloting a full-day pre-kindergarten program that begins in the fall. They are also going to stress literacy and comprehension by encouraging students to read independently at home through a literature challenge. It’s estimated that through the challenge, nearly 1,500 elementary students will read a minimum of 10 books as part of the program.
“Independent reading increases students’ fluency and vocabulary acquisition,” Gayle White-Wallace, the standards administrator for pre-K, ELA, Literacy and Social Studies at the elementary level, said. “Students who have the opportunity to self-select reading materials have shown an increased interest and desire to read as part of their daily routine, creating an authentic love for reading.”
Additionally, the district is going to re-establish their Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which provides education in trades such as automotive technology, cosmetology, graphic arts and media production. This year, other crafts, such as barbering, nurse certification and culinary arts will also be available for interested students.
“Career and Technical Education isn’t just for students who don’t want to go to college, it’s a viable way for anyone to make money as part of their journey to being anything that they want to be,” CTE Administrator Sherry Ward said. “It provides young people with skills needed to find gainful employment, which is quintessential to improving the outcomes of families and communities.”
Despite struggling for several years that have seen students in the district achieve some of the lowest scores in the state on standardized testing, Hamilton remains confident that his administration can turn things around.
“Everywhere you look around Mount Vernon, there is excitement about the numerous opportunities we have to change our schools and provide our students with the very best education,” he said. “The students of Mount Vernon are some of the most talented and resourceful students I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and they deserve to be treated the same way.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.