Superintendent McComas Shares Vision for Building Better Schools
Published 9:30 am Friday, March 11, 2022
Superintendent Molly McComas spoke about her approach to leading the Clark County Public School System during a recent meeting with the Winchester Human Resources Association.
A math teacher and administrator with 23 years of experience, McComas shared how her background shaped her approach to educational leadership.
“Biggest platform I hope to bring and show Clark County is that greatness does start with relationships,” she said.
McComas said she always dreamed of being an AP Calculus teacher, so during the first phase of her career, she taught a rainbow of math classes.
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“I wanted to make my experience for students authentic in the classroom, so we tried a lot of project based learning at any level so we could connect better,” she said. “Students would ask, ‘why do I need this? When am I ever going to use it?’ So I tried to always have an answer for that question for my students and I think they appreciated that from their teacher. We started having relationships in our classrooms which were more like colleagues and supervisors, not like students and teachers. That’s what allowed them to be more successful than they would’ve been.”
From that experience, McComas stressed that the core foundation of her vision begins with relationships.
“As Superintendent, I want to carry that to Clark County so we can see how essential — if we’re going to be successful — how we need partnerships,” she said. “We need to have relationships with our workforce leaders, with our colleges, post secondary and BCTC and beyond, with one another, with other school districts such as Montgomery and Madison. We are better when we are all together. When we try to do everything in silos either within a district or as a district, you really kind of cut your knees off; you’re not maximizing your fullest potential.”
McComas talked about how the school system needs to adopt an approach aimed at helping all students who have various abilities and potential career paths to succeed.
“There is one question that we get wrong right off the bat with public schools,” she said. “We ask our kids, where are you going to college? What are you going to do when you go to college? That’s the wrong question — that’s shutting too many kids down, closing doors and devaluing the opportunities that are available for them when they graduate high school.”
McComas said her son earned a degree from a community college and now earns a good living in the energy sector. Her daughter seeks to sell real estate someday, so she wanted to go to college. Toward that career path, McComas’ daughter earned 56 hours of college credit in high school before she ever stepped foot at Georgetown College. Worth noting, McComas’ husband, who earned a community college degree, is a machinist, welder and supervisor in the energy sector.
McComas said she took these experiences to the school system’s leadership team about how different people seek different career paths, so the school system should be prepared to assist students as they reach for the future.
“How are you making sure that students are ready to start taking on opportunities while they are in middle school and while they are in high school so that they can be better prepared when they graduate, whether it is to go to college, the military, a community college like BCTC or apprenticeships … So we really limit ourselves when we say, ‘What do you want to do when you go to college?’
“We are really speaking to a small minority of students who want to go, be successful and finish. Those are some of the metrics we really need to start looking at more closely and have a good, honest, vulnerable conversations inside the schools so that we are not pushing every student to think that they have to go to college. We want to push all types of programs and opportunities.”
During McComas’ speech, she said public schools’ enrollment has been affected by the pandemic. Though CCPS boasts enrollment of around 5,000 students, an additional 613 students have been homeschooled — 250 more than what the district usually experienced pre-pandemic.
“I’m on a personal mission to make sure we can recruit those kids back into the school system and maybe more who were just not happy with the public school system — we want them to be welcome back in our schools,” she said.
Toward that end, McComas pledged to get students and their families more engaged in the school system.
Reflecting back on time spent as a math teacher and administrator, McComas said, “We had too many students that had bad experiences in school. When they become parents, guess what? Because they had bad experiences in school, they are always going to be on the defense when they come to you. We’ve really got to work on those parent engagements.”
McComas said the school system needs to do a better job attracting students who attend private schools. McComas stressed that while public and private schools can be partners in their mission to provide the best education for children, when parents decide where to send their kids, “we want to make sure we are a candidate of choice too.”
Toward that end, McComas said, the public school system needs to adopt an approach that starts in preschool and kindergarten.
“We need to be looking forward to what the job market will look like when they graduate,” she said.
And after they graduate, perhaps they will consider working for CCPS, which offers many job opportunities.
“We want kids to come back and work for us — one of the biggest employers in Clark County,” she said.
McComas said an all-inclusive approach that makes everyone a stakeholder will improve the quality of education in Clark County.
“When we talk about community-family engagement, I’m talking about the teachers who get nervous when they have to pick up the phone to call a parent because something happened in the class that day or the student is not performing where they need to be performing. We need to watch that data on a regular basis so that we can be more engaged with families on an authentic and intimate level. That’s also an approach that is transitioning across districts where we have got to rethink that family and community engagement.”