History of the Piedmont Governor’s School

During the school session of 1999-2000, individuals from Danville City, Henry County, and Pittsylvania County began the process of securing a feasibility study grant from the Virginia General Assembly. The purpose of the grant was to fund a study for a possible Academic-Year Governor’s School.

Henry County Schools, not having access to such a school, was interested in the possibility of either joining the current Governor’s School with Danville City and Pittsylvania County or cooperating in the development of a new school. Martinsville City and Patrick County were invited to participate in the study since neither division had access to an Academic-Year Governor’s School.

Though Danville City and Pittsylvania County school divisions were already a part of the Governor’s School for Global Economics and Technology serving Southside Virginia, the association with the three school divisions without such a school seemed advantageous. A new school would mean that Danville City and Pittsylvania County would be affiliated with the school divisions in Superintendents’ Regional Study Group VI. The new concept would mean a smaller community of learners with more contact among students. Such a school would be more manageable covering smaller geographical distances and requiring fewer sites.

The General Assembly appropriated a $50,000 one-year grant in FY 2001 to the five school divisions for the purpose of studying the feasibility of developing a Governor’s School for the area. The five superintendents organized as the Executive Committee for study. Once a consultant had been named and the charge and parameters agreed upon, the committee invited various members of the region to serve on its planning committee.

Although the General assembly did not appropriate second-year funding for the continuation of the study, the five school divisions were committed to the concept of developing a proposal for an Academic-Year Governor’s School for the area. The Executive Committee believed that the proposal developed by the Executive Planning Committee met the needs of academically gifted, highly motivated, and high achieving students in the area to an extent not previously possible in the regular curriculum.

The Executive Planning Committee representing Danville City, Henry County, Martinsville City, Patrick County, and Pittsylvania County developed a proposed regional Academic-Year Governor’s School. The charge set forth to this committee by the Executive Committee, composed of the five superintendents of these school divisions, was to develop a school that would increase academic opportunities to serve academically gifted, highly motivated, and high achieving students at the secondary level. The Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology proposal reflected the interests and desires of the region to be served and was based on the findings of surveys, research, and current literature.

Various members of the planning committee conducted on-site visits to Governor’s Schools in Virginia with a similar focus of mathematics, science, and technology. The purpose of the visits was to observe the administrative make-up, the curriculum, the student selection process, the establishment and maintenance of the community of learners, the primary method of delivery of instruction, and the use of technology.

Five subcommittees (Governance/Operations, Curriculum, Instructional Delivery (technology), Outreach, and Student and Educational Support Services) were established from the general planning committee. The chairs of each subcommittee met to discuss the parameters set by the Executive Committee to insure that each group addressed issues with similar goals in mind. Those parameters included:

a community of learners to be maintained through a multi-site half-day program with students being in their home schools half day:
a community of learners to be maintained through periodic centralized sessions:
the primary delivery of instruction to be site-based and include state-of-the-art technology (including, but not limited to, video conferencing and distance learning);
the program curriculum emphasis to be determined through survey;
and that a dual enrollment program commensurate with the needs of academically gifted and highly motivated learners be preserved.

The two sites that best suited the needs of the Piedmont Governor’s School, both in terms of distance and cost factors, were Patrick Henry Community College and Danville Community College. Both sites were contacted and agreed to a partnership with the proposed Academic-Year Governor’s School. Patrick Henry Community College and the New College Institute provide space for Henry County, Martinsville City, and Patrick County students. The space available allows the use of existing computer labs and science labs at the college. Space provided includes classrooms and office space for the staff including the director and secretary. Ample auditorium facilities will be available whenever needed to bring students and staff from both sites together.

The Institute for Advanced Learning & Research houses the site for Danville City and Pittsylvania County students. The space available allows use of existing classrooms and science labs at the college. The Governor’s School has provided the equipment for the computer lab at the IALR site, with the IALR providing the space for the lab. Office space is also available for the staff.

The school’s population is comprised of eleventh and twelfth grade academically gifted, high motivated, and high achieving students who have qualified through the selection process as a result of vigorous recruiting at each home high school. All school divisions have agreed to support the minimum of 135 students.