The school division’s strategic plan, Learning for All, includes among its four values an increased commitment this year to working with families and community partners in sharing responsibility for student success.
“When we embolden the ACPS community members and the ties that bind them to one another, there is little we can’t achieve together for the benefit of our students,” the division says in describing why affirming and empowering communities this year is among its three goals for the 2022-23 school year. Examples of how the division will achieve this goal include “removing barriers for participation in programs, implementing social-emotional curriculum, and identifying community partners to help increase adult education enrollment.”
To help lead the division’s community outreach, the Office of Community Engagement recently announced the appointments of Dr. Eric Irizarry as its new Director of Equity, Family, School and Community Relations, and Ms. Ayanna Mitchell as its new Director of Equity Education.
Irizarry, who most recently served as principal of Charlottesville High School (CHS), will be supporting Albemarle County schools as they increase their efforts to build effective relationships with family and community partners. This includes joining with principals in using culturally responsive teaching strategies to build strong connections with families; developing relationships with community partners; collaborating with schools on improvement plans; and innovating outreach to families and residents that increases opportunities for feedback, particularly in historically underserved communities.
As principal at CHS, Irizarry made trust within and outside the school a priority, implementing data-driven initiatives to close opportunity gaps and to create a culturally responsive learning environment for students. During Irizarry’s time as principal, the school earned recognition for the academic performance of its students and their on-time graduation rates.
“For over 18 years, I have been committed to the public education system, working to develop young minds and, in turn, empowering communities,” Irizarry said. “I am so passionate about this work, because it enables us to better address the diverse challenges faced by families in our school division. And strengthening these relationships requires better paths of communication to and from those we serve,” he said.
Mitchell, who was an elementary teacher in Manassas Park from 2005-2016 and then a school administrator in ACPS from 2016 until 2019, has served as an Equity Specialist since 2019. She will now lead the division’s team of equity education specialists in promoting equity of educational opportunities for all students. Her role will include the oversight of initiatives that promote a culturally responsive school and community culture by celebrating and benefitting from a school community inclusive of race, ethnicity, language, gender, cultural values, and family belief systems.
There are currently 96 countries of origin and 73 home languages represented among the division’s students. Among Mitchell’s responsibilities will be the administration of the division’s culturally responsive teaching credentialing. All newly-hired licensed staff members will earn a Culturally Responsive Teaching micro-credential or credential within their first three years in ACPS or, in the case of teachers under contract as of the 2020-21 school year, by 2026.
“We know prioritizing equity among all members of a school community leads to improved outcomes, and I feel fortunate to grow my leadership in a school division that supports and promotes this evidence-based work,” Mitchell said.
Both Irizarry and Mitchell are part of the Office of Community Engagement, led by Dr. Daphne Keiser. Keiser was recently appointed Assistant Superintendent for School Community Engagement.
Pictured: Eric Irizarry (left) and Ayanna Mitchell (right)
CONTACT: Helen Dunn, Deputy Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer