Column: Keeping a Promise

Column: Keeping a Promise

The mission of Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is to provide the environment, resources, and commitment to ensure that each and every student succeeds — academically, emotionally, physically, and socially. To achieve our mission, the priority of the administration and staff is to keep our students safe in an environment conducive to learning.

The Alexandria City School Board and I made a commitment to the families of Alexandria last year that we would review our policy on volunteers and our processes for allowing volunteers into our schools. I am proud to report to you that ACPS has enhanced security for students by implementing a new electronic system to check visitors against the national sex offender registry and conduct background checks for volunteers. Our visitor and volunteer screening system was upgraded with KeepnTrack in mid-March. KeepnTrack is a school security solution used by school systems across the country. ACPS staff thoroughly researched, discussed, and tested the system before deciding to implement it.

As our community partners and individual volunteers continue to devote their valuable time and experience to helping students, they must all now undergo annual criminal background checks in order to receive badges to allow them into the school buildings. This is an additional layer of protection for our students. I hope that this proactive measure will be embraced by our partners and volunteers and seen by our parents as an enhancement of our efforts to keep our students safe and focused on learning. We want our community to be verified with pride when it comes to the safety of our children.

April is National Volunteer Month, and I applaud the more than 350 members of our community who have already completed the new background check procedures and are ready to begin (or continue) working with students to increase achievement and enhance their learning experience. We need volunteers to help with tutoring, mentoring, and program implementation. Often a community volunteer in our schools provides that extra spark or adult connection with a student that can make a difference, inspire a change in behavior, or provide a missing or new element that changes a student’s life.

Our volunteers find immense reward in helping students, and their time and attention can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children. I encourage each of you to connect with a student in our community and discover the rewards and the joy of working with young people to contribute to and create a healthy community.

Sadly, local and national news stories frequently inform us of incidents that threaten the safety of our children. We will take every measure available to us to screen and check employees, visitors, and volunteers before allowing them to be involved with our precious students.

As we work to educate staff, students, and the community on improving ways to keep our children safe within our schools, I invite you to learn more about safeguarding our students from predators whether online, in schools, or in our neighborhoods. If you want more information about the use of KeepnTrack in our schools, please contact the ACPS Office of Family and Community Engagement at 703-824-6676.

We promise to never stop enhancing our efforts to provide a safe haven for students in our schools.

By Dr. Morton Sherman

Superintendent of Schools