Danville Public Schools and Noblis: A Public/Private Partnership

How a program called The Passport Project is guiding students to greater success

All too often we hear that public education in Virginia is failing to meet its mission, and often, that failure is attributed to a lack of funding. Danville Public Schools (DPS) have had their share of challenges. City leadership and the local business community agree—their public schools must improve to ensure students are prepared for the technology-driven world of today and become the skilled workforce needed in their community. As a member of Danville’s business community since 2011, Noblis is proud to be a partner in this important goal.

In July of 2015, a partnership between Dr. Stan Jones, Superintendent of DPS, and Noblis CEO, Amr ElSawy, was created to fulfill a mandate by the Virginia Department of Education (VA DoE) stating that every child must complete a personal Academic and Career Plan by the fall of their eighth-grade year. Noblis worked throughout the year with administrators, principals and teachers to develop the program and the Passport Project was born, an Academic and Career Plan that is meaningful, engaging and measurable. Its mission? To support every student in Danville to obtain a post-educational opportunity or accomplishment.

The curriculum for the Passport project is based on the eight goals outlined by the VA DoE, but the program takes it a step further by creating opportunities for students to engage with their career of interest by earning “stamps” through the completion of a sequence of benchmark activities throughout the year. The pilot program was implemented in 2017 and focused on sixth graders at two Middle Schools. This year the program has been expanded to include the sixth and seventh grade. All 900 students are actively completing their academic and career plan during the school year.

The program is also being used as an opportunity to engage students with technology. Through an award from the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF), Noblis and an investment by DPS, funding was established to bring Chromebooks into the classroom for the completion and tracking of each student’s personal Academic and Career Plan. In this way, the program has served as a catalyst for both students and teachers to gain greater fluency with technology and to digitize the classroom. Now, all sixth and seventh grade teachers have integrated Google Classroom as a regular part of their curriculum and each student has established a digital career portfolio that they will continue to develop through the twelfth grade.

To ensure a more hands-on learning approach several community partnerships were created, including, but not limited to, Averett University’s Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness; the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research; Danville Community College (DCC); Danville Parks & Recreation; and American National Bank & Trust Co. Through these partnerships, regular field trips have been established to expose students to post-secondary educational experiences as well as civic-engagement opportunities. Some of these include first-generation talks at Averett University, hands-on learning at DCC, and a re-enactment of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

About the Noblis CAHPC
In 2011, Noblis and the City of Danville negotiated a performance agreement for Noblis to locate its Center for Applied High Performance Computing (CAHPC) in a renovated tobacco processing building that dated from just after the Civil War. Noblis brought to Danville a Cray supercomputer, and both the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and what was then known as the Governor’s Opportunity Fund assisted Noblis, in collaboration with Cray, to make this uniquely powerful computer installation a reality. Noblis has since built a significant presence of technical expertise in Danville, and is showing what true civic responsibility from a private sector business can mean. Learn more.