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Community educators speak at Newcomb panel

Sullivan, local school leaders discuss plans for Charlottesville's educational future

<p>University President Teresa Sullivan.</p>

University President Teresa Sullivan.

A panel of University and local school leaders convened Monday to discuss the future of education in Charlottesville.

The panel consisted of University President Teresa Sullivan, Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins, Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Pam Moran and Piedmont Virginia Community College President Frank Friedman.

The event was organized by Student Council and lasted for about an hour, with topics ranging from personal experiences in the field of education to a shared vision of the future.

Second-year College student Zaakir Tameez, who was in charge of coordinating the event, tried to ensure that the focus was being kept on the panelists.

“What we’re trying to do is get the focus as much on the panelists as possible, not on Student Council, not on the moderator, but really talk about the future of education, keeping that the focus of the whole conversation,” Tameez said.

The panel spoke first of their most powerful experiences as students. While Sullivan and Friedman focused on memories from their time as undergraduates, the two superintendents recalled events from elementary school that continue to shape their time as educators today.

The panelists also spoke of creating an education community which would provide equal opportunities for every student as well as making sure that the material taught was up to date with today’s changing society.

“This panel focused on how important education is for a community. That’s something we sometimes lose sight of,” Sullivan said. “People talk about the internet and online learning and so on as if the local community no longer gets value. But it does have value, and I think this panel underscored what that value is.”

At the end of the discussion, the panel took audience questions. Shaun Moshasha, Charlottesville Open Bio Labs founder and University graduate, asked how schools can continue to stay relevant when the pace of technology development is much faster than what a bureaucracy can keep up with.

Atkins responded and spoke of getting people to understand that students are more than a test. She said she wants to go deeper with curriculum and allow it to come from places other than just the government.

Sullivan also said the University has freedom in regards to regulations on curriculum, and professors can engage students with the material they wish.

Moshasha found the panel to be a positive experience.

“One of the biggest reasons I came today was to see the high school, the community college and the university, these three strong players all come together and work together, collaborating,” Moshasha said. “To see them all work together and thinking the same way and being in the same vicinity … is very heartening, it's a step in the right direction.”

A question was asked regarding guaranteed admissions to four-year universities through community colleges and transfer students, and Sullivan said the University is developing new ways to make transfer students feel more welcome in the community on and around Grounds.

Sullivan said she was extremely pleased with the turnout and the success of the event.

“It was wonderful to have this audience,” Sullivan said. “I’ve known our two superintendents and president Friedman for a while. It’s great to have them all here together and great to have such a crowd of the student body.”