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Students impact Hopewell's move to year-round schools

Spotlight on SOE’s Ed.D. in Leadership students

From left: Dr. Stephanie Poe, principal at Hopewell High School, and Dr. Kirk Eggleston, principal at Colonial Trail Elementary School in Henrico County. [View Image]From left: Dr. Stephanie Poe, principal at Hopewell High School, and Dr. Kirk
Eggleston, principal at Colonial Trail Elementary School in Henrico County.

The impact that our Ed.D. in Leadership students have extends far beyond the classroom. A recent example of this involves a paper written by two May 2019 graduates of the program, which helped inform Hopewell City Public Schools' decision to move to year-round schooling in May.

The paper, co-authored by Dr. Stephanie Poe and Dr. Kirk Eggleston, began as an assignment in their Ed.D. in Leadership cohort. They were both already interested in the topic of year-round schools. Poe – principal at Hopewell High School – was especially interested since a 2015 study by a group of Hopewell teachers recommended a year-round calendar as a good way to improve student outcomes in the district.

They agreed to pursue the topic for their paper, in part because they believed that their work could have an immediate impact since Hopewell school administrators were already considering the option.

“It’s one of the things I loved most about the VCU School of Education’s Ed.D. in Leadership program. Everything we worked on throughout the program was immediately applicable to a real-life situation,” said Poe.

From their research, it became clear that the results were more positive for students when a year-round calendar was implemented system-wide, and when attention was paid to the breaks between sessions, known as “intersessions.”

“It’s one of the things I loved most about [the] Ed.D. in Leadership program. Everything we worked on ... was immediately applicable to a real-life situation.”

“We learned that year-round schools can be very successful, but what really makes a difference is using the intersessions for enrichment and remediation, and for helping kids to get ahead so they’re ready for the next session,” said Poe.

Eggleston added that creative ideas such as using social-emotional learning opportunities and internships during the intersessions were very popular with students and teachers alike.

When Poe and Eggleston provided their research and data to Hopewell administrators, it clearly indicated that when year-round schools were implemented across an entire district like Hopewell, the benefits to elementary, middle and high school students were significant.

Based in part on that research, the Hopewell School Board voted on May 9 to move to a year-round calendar in 2020, the first district in the commonwealth to do so.

Poe and Eggleston found the experience gratifying, and believe it will allow the district to hit the ground running.

“It was really rewarding to have some kind of influence,” said Eggleston, adding that Poe’s position as principal in the division was key.

“The educators in our school system as a whole believe it’s the right thing to do for our kids,” Poe said. “We’ve got some creative things planned for the intersessions.”

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