Q & A with Appoquinimink School District superintendent Matthew Burrows
Matthew Burrows became the superintendent of the Appoquinimink School District in 2011. As one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state, Appoquinimink now serves more than 9,300 students. The district has built eight new schools since 2000 and enlarged five other buildings.
Middletown Life caught up with Burrows to discuss some of the educational initiatives that the district is offering, as well as some recent good news.
Q: All the schools in the Appoquinimink School District made Adequate Yearly Progress. How were the schools able to accomplish this impressive feat?
A: We have talented teachers and administrators who work very hard for the students in our district, and a supportive community that believes in our vision for students.
Q: What are some of the school district's curriculum initiatives or programs that you are proud of?
A: First and foremost, I want to mention our implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last year, we became Delaware’s first school district to implement the new national standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states and will go into effect across most of the country in the 2013-14 school year.
It required a real team effort to pioneer an undertaking of this size. We adopted new math and reading standards for grades K-12 — an effort that represented hundreds of hours of work on the part of our teachers and instructional leaders.
In typical Appoquinimink fashion, faculty embraced the challenge and made it a success. Last year, we achieved some of our highest standardized test scores ever. Teachers spent the summer months reviewing last year’s work in order to revise and strengthen instruction for the 2012-13 school year. As a result, we are looking for continued strong growth in the year ahead.
Another area of pride is our world languages initiative. Our district offers a total of six different strategically important languages (Chinese, French, Spanish, Japanese, American Sign Language, Italian), with exposure beginning in the fourth grade.
Finally, I’m pleased to share that we are Delaware’s only school district to be named to the Advanced Placement (AP) Honor Roll for 2012. I consider the accomplishment especially satisfying as it demonstrates that when you clear the path for traditionally under-served populations, you clear the path for everyone.
Q: The school district has a Facebook page at facebook.com/AppoSchoolDistrict. How has that worked for the district?
A: We’re always looking for new and better ways to share and receive information from our parents and the public. Our Facebook page, launched this summer, has been well received. The list of subscribers is growing daily, and followers are helping us get the word out about important academic activities, student celebrations and news that tends to be overlooked by the traditional media outlets. We’re posting updates two to three times a week now. I encourage everyone to follow us on Facebook!
Q: What is the biggest challenge in your occupation?
A: I would have to say my biggest challenge is time. There are so many great things happening in our schools and community that there just isn’t enough time to get to everything I’d like to attend.
Q: What about your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?
A: Nothing compares to watching a graduation ceremony. When students process across the stage to receive their diploma and handshake, it fills me with a sense of pride knowing how hard our Appoquinimink School District family has worked to provide a world class education and open the doors to new challenges and new opportunities for these children.
Q: What is your favorite spot in Middletown?
A: I would have to say inside our schools. I love to interact with young people. That’s why I chose a career in education. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing a child engaged in learning.
Q: What three dinner guests, living or dead, would you invite to dine with you?
A: I’m a U.S. history buff and baseball fanatic. So, my dream team for dinner would include Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mike Schmidt.
Q: What food is always in your refrigerator?
A: With two young children at home, and a crazy schedule at work, my wife makes sure we always have plenty of milk, eggs and ketchup on hand so I can whip up something nutritious quickly. And I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so there’s usually a container of baked goods hiding in the cupboard.