More than 350 students, parents, teachers, and staff attended a special presentation recently detailing how Martinsville City Public Schools transformed its culture to have all its schools accredited in just one year.

The presentation, titled “Transforming a High Poverty School Division: Our Students Don’t Have Time to Wait,” was held Jan. 23 at Martinsville High School and included demonstrations from several student groups.

The changes instituted, explained Dr. Zeb Talley, Martinsville City Public Schools superintendent, included shifting the mindset within each school to a recognition that success is possible no matter the circumstances students face. Faculty and staff, he said, “refused to love students to failure” by not accepting excuses and not allowing external factors to hinder student progress.

Joining Talley in the presentation was Angilee Downing, assistant superintendent for instruction, and principals at the system’s four schools: Aji Dixon at Martinsville High School, Cynthia Tarpley at Martinsville Middle School, Renee Brown at Albert Harris Elementary School, and Cameron Cooper at Patrick Henry Elementary School.

The evening also highlighted Martinsville City Public Schools robotics, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), art and music programs with student demonstrations from: Clearview Robotics: Tiny Coders, Patrick Henry Elementary School Robotics: Coding Kids, Patrick Henry Elementary School Robotics: Rain Shapers, Albert Harris Elementary School Robotics: Claws of Destiny, Martinsville Middle School Robotics: Magical Unicorns and Absolute Zero, Martinsville High School Robotics: Madawgs and Bionic Bulldogs, Martinsville High School Jazz band, Patrick Henry and Albert Harris Elementary Schools Choir, AVID, Odyssey of the Mind, K-12 Art Exhibit.

In addition to faculty and staff, the event was attended by Martinsville School Board members; Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson, members of the community, and representatives from Danville City Public Schools. This presentation was first given in Nov. 2019 at the Virginia School Boards Association annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia.