Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright spoke to over 450 business and community leaders and elected officials from Hampton Roads at the Chamber’s Portsmouth State of the City luncheon on April 4, at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center. Portsmouth First College Scholars Michael Bowry of Woodrow Wilson High School and Chelsea Anderson of Churchland High School introduced Mayor Wright, who then delivered a comprehensive address on education.
Mayor Wright opened his remarks by briefly addressing the toll issue. He continues to be the lone opposition to the planned toll implementation. “It is essential that our citizens, and citizens of our sister cities, have the ability to navigate freely without tolls, to any of the other Hampton Roads cities,” declared the mayor. “It is imperative that regionalism flourish and not diminish because of the impediments that tolls present to all of the citizens of Hampton Roads.”
The heart of the mayor’s speech was on academic excellence in Portsmouth. “In shaping our future, our children must come first,” the mayor said. “Schools are the lifeblood of our communities, and education is a lifelong process.” Mayor Wright commented on the many successes public education in Portsmouth has experienced in the past year. Specifically, he mentioned the Starbase program, which is an airplane and rocket program for fifth graders, and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pathways Program which serves students in grades four through twelve in the fields of Biotechnology, Geographical Information Systems and Modeling Simulation. “In part due to STEM, since 2007, all of our schools have received full accreditation based on the Virginia Science Standards of Learning,” Mayor Wright said.
Mayor Wright also touched on some of the obstacles the Portsmouth Public School System has faced. “While we applaud our schools and students for becoming accredited, our work is far from finished,” he said. “Our truancy rate, while declining, is still too high.” The mayor encouraged the audience and the city of Portsmouth to take more active roles in children’s education. “To give our children the education they deserve, parents MUST get off the sidelines and get into the game,” declared the mayor. “The most important door to a child’s education is the front door of the home.”
While Mayor Wright was enthusiastic about the public schools in Portsmouth, he was equally as excited about the accomplishments of Tidewater Community College. “Tidewater Community College is the largest provider of higher education and workforce development services in Hampton Roads, enrolling nearly 40,000 students annually—the second largest undergraduate student body in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said the mayor. Mayor Wright took this opportunity to honor former Tidewater Community College President Deborah DiCroce for her 14 years of service with a proclamation. “We, in the City of Portsmouth, are thankful that Dr. Deborah DiCroce had the foresight to retain Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth,” said the mayor.
The mayor ended his speech by encouraging the continued pursuit of academic excellence. “At the end of the day, we could build new medical marts, and we can build new convention centers and hotels, but if we do not take care of the fundamental part of our city, which is educating our young people, then all these things are for naught,” he said.
The Chamber thanks series sponsors: TowneBank (Presenting), Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Platinum), Cox Communications (Media) Farm Fresh, Inc., and Optima Health (Silver).