Portsmouth Superintendent leads way as President of Urban Superintendents Association of America

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – With school safety issues looming, superintendents and administrators are finding it helpful to trust other school leaders.

This year, Portsmouth Superintendent Dr. Eli Bracey III chairs the National Coalition of City Superintendents.

Dr. Bracey said he is humbled by the opportunity to help put Portsmouth on the map as the newest president of the American Association of City Supervisors. He said it’s good to talk to other school leaders because they often see similar issues.

“It’s great because you can bounce ideas off of other leaders who have the same concerns as you, but see a different approach they take,” Dr. Bracey said.

The American Association of City Superintendents was founded in Texas in 1993. In 2023, the association will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

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“We’re just listening and comparing notes,” Dr. Eli Bracey III said. “It broadens your network as a professional.”

Dr. Bracey says some of the problems he’s seeing in his district are happening elsewhere in the country.

“You’ve heard of loneliness at the top, it’s good to have colleagues across the country that you can connect with, not just across the state,” Dr. Bracey said.

According to Dr. Bracey, the concerns they discussed included student engagement, the poverty index and how it affects students, school safety and security, and improving test scores after the pandemic.

“Many of us work with students who come from low-income homes in urban areas, and when they come to us, we try to retain them,” Dr. Bracey said. “They come to us, usually we’re trying to catch them before the pandemic, and then add the pandemic and now we’re worried about trying to get our students up to par again.”

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Dr. Bracey says it’s also important to collaborate on ways to recruit and retain teachers.

“Personally, in Portsmouth, our students come after us, so we need additional staff,” Dr. Bracey said. “When we have neighbors who have more resources than we do to attract the best and brightest teachers, we have to be competitive on salaries.”

This year, she wants to focus on ways to build healthy relationships between school board members and superintendents.

“I think it helps if we have the right relationships, because as superintendents we’re doing the best we can, but we have to make sure our board members understand that,” Dr. Bracey said.

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He said many superintendents are leaving their positions in the wake of the pandemic, and he says that has a lot to do with school boards.

“Focus on what a good Board should be and what we should be as superintendents, when we see a board that’s really trying to get into the superintendent’s lane, what we need to do to get past that,” Dr. Bracey said.

Finding solutions to common problems, all while working towards a common goal.

“We try to tackle meaningful topics that impact our students, who are the most important people to us in this business,” Dr. Bracey said.

The City Superintendent Summer Academy will be held this year in Williamsburg. It is scheduled from July 11 to July 16.


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