Larry Grove: More student opportunities, staff incentives

Election chart

The Rappahannock News’ guide to the Nov. 5 elections for Rappahannock County offices (all of them uncontested), and the 18th District General Assembly seat, will appear in next Thursday’s (Oct. 24) edition.

While the elections heat up in Big Washington, the ones in this Washington remain as uncontentious as ever. Despite the fact that four county seats are up for election — two each on the supervisors and school board — none of them are contested this year.

The soon-to-be new Stonewall-Hawthorne school board representative is Woodville resident Larry Grove, who said he decided to run once he heard that current Stonewall board member Paul Brown had decided not to seek a second term. “I was very happy with Paul and thought he did a great job,” said Grove. “He had a very steady hand . . . When I heard he wasn’t running for reelection, I thought, ‘Why not?’ ”

Grove, who has spent 34 years in the education field, beginning as a physical education teacher and culminating in two principal posts in Arlington County Public Schools, already has a long list of ideas he hopes to pitch to the board for approval.

“All kids deserve a high-quality education,” Grove said emphatically. “I have a number of thoughts and ideas that might help improve [the school system].”

The soon-to-be Stonewall-Hawthorne school board representative Larry Grove has lot of ideas he’d like to see implemented by the county school board. Photo by Matt Wingfield.
The soon-to-be Stonewall-Hawthorne school board representative Larry Grove has lot of ideas he’d like to see implemented by the county school board. Photo by Matt Wingfield.

The first step in any improvement, Grove said, comes down to the teachers, who he believes “have one of the hardest jobs in the world. They’re on stage the whole time.” Grove would like to see all Rappahannock County Public Schools’ teachers continue their professional development and improve their skills, even after already earning the job.

“We can’t be better without the best teachers,” Grove said, who added that he’d like to see a new salary scale created to reward teachers who try to better themselves. Specifically, though the county’s scale currently sees a pay bump between teachers with a bachelor and master’s degree, there is nothing in between. Grove said he’d like to see another level established that sees a pay increase for teachers who are working toward their master’s degree — a “bachelor’s plus 15” or even “a master’s plus 15.”

“I’d like to see them given a financial incentive to continue their education.”

Grove said he’d like to provide students with the opportunity to practice “high-stakes testing,” referring to the PSAT and other similar exams. Grove said he’d like to see RCPS pay for kids in eighth through 11th grade to take the PSAT, increasing their familiarity with it, potentially increasing their scores and easing their test-day anxiety. “There’s no competition without practice,” Grove mused, recalling his days as a wrestling coach.

Grove would also like to see the school system challenge its brighter students at all grade levels. Although struggling students may need increased instruction, Grove said he doesn’t want to see RCPS expend all its energy at the expense of challenging gifted students.

“I believe we should offer preschool for all 4-year-olds,” Grove said. “We sometimes have children entering kindergarten who don’t know their letters and numbers.”

Perhaps the biggest change Grove would like to see considered is an adoption of alternate-day scheduling, as opposed to the school system’s current block scheduling. Grove said the alternate-day scheduling would “allow tests [like the Advanced Placement tests] to be taken at the right time,” which could improve students’ scores.

Block scheduling, Grove said, means student instruction in some AP areas only lasts from September to December, though the tests themselves are always given in May. Grove said he’d also like to see the credits required for graduation increased — along with offering more classes for the students to take.

“If you want to do it right, you have to spend the money,” Grove said, suggesting more classes in the service learning vein, such as a mentor program or providing students opportunities to volunteer at law firms or other organizations.

Grove also suggested moving school board meetings back to 7 or 7:30 p.m. to allow more parents an opportunity to attend, and streaming the meetings online. “We could even get the students to set it up, maybe offer them a credit or something for it.”

Lastly, Grove said he’d like to explore the possibility of resuming (low-cost) adult education courses. “It could be computer skills, welding — whatever people want to learn . . . That building is free from 6 to 11 p.m. anyway.”

Grove has lived in Rappahannock County since 2004, and currently maintains a small farm in Woodville, with his wife Kathy, the former Wakefield Country Day School head who also recently served as RCPS interim president, and now is board chair of Headwaters, the private foundation that helps fund education and mentoring programs in Rappahannock’s public schools.

“I’ve never run for office before in my life,” he laughed. However, Grove’s been involved in education his entire life, and said he’s known what he wanted to do since he was 14. “I had an eighth-grade teacher I just really admired . . . I’d like to think everybody has had one inspiring teacher.”

One advantage Rappahannock has, and one reason for Grove’s ambitious plans, is that it already enjoys that “own little world” feeling Grove said he always tried to cultivate in Arlington. “I would always try and instill an atmosphere of, ‘This is the way we do it at X’ or ‘This is the X way.’ And Rappahannock already has that.

“Here it’s much simpler; there’s no big bureaucracy . . . We’re like a full-service gas station, one of those old-timey ones where the attendant would pump your gas, clean your windshield. Small school systems have to function that way.”

Elections — county, state and nationwide — are Nov. 5.