The City of Covington has been formally recognized by the Virginia Municipal League for its innovative efforts to better public education at a more efficient cost to taxpayers in the Alleghany Highlands.
The VML, a statewide organization that comprises 38 cities, 170 towns, and eight counties awarded Covington first place in the “Working with Youth” category of its 2023 Innovation Awards in Local Government. The statewide competition recognizes local governments for innovative problem-solving, excellence in management, citizen participation, and improved services to citizens.
Covington was recognized for its Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Consolidation Project. Covington Mayor Tom Sibold, City Manager Allen Dressler, and City Council members Raymond Hunter, Fred Forbes II and Lance Carson were presented with the Innovation Award by VML officials on Oct. 9. The VML held its annual conference in Norfolk Oct. 8-10.
“This is a huge state award recognition for the City of Covington and the Alleghany Highlands. We were complimented by many localities at the VML Conference for our work and dedication to the youth in the Highlands. We recognize that ‘our kids’ are the future of the Alleghany Highlands and we feel confident that our future will be bright,” Dressler said.
The creation of Alleghany Highlands Public Schools represents a major accomplishment for the City of Covington. After decades of discussions, Covington City Public Schools, Alleghany County Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged on July 1, 2022, to form Alleghany Highlands Public Schools. Judges in the VML Innovation Awards in Local Government cited the “impressive cooperative effort in a region that has had a difficult history of collaboration.”
The merger agreement includes joint funding of AHS by Covington and Alleghany County. The school division serves approximately 2,700 students. The consolidated school division is viewed as the cornerstone of increased regional cooperation in the Alleghany Highlands because it emphasizes the best interests of children and their education, while also playing a major role in economic development and workforce development.
AHPS represents only the third school consolidation to occur in Virginia since 1982. By combining local resources, officials in the Alleghany Highlands have found that they can offer more educational opportunities to students. The merger has provided a more effective use of taxpayer dollars. Examples of the numerous benefits include the expansion of career and technical education opportunities, better services to English language learners, enhancements to music programs, and improvements to athletic facilities.
In its first year of operations, the joint school division saved more than $450,000 in anticipated personnel costs without any involuntary layoffs. The savings show that the school division’s leaders work closely with the school board and other local leaders to be effective stewards of local dollars.
Covington’s VML recognition is another example of how the historic AHPS merger continues to garner statewide attention. Earlier this year, Alleghany County won the Virginia Association of Counties’ Best Achievement Award for its role in creating Alleghany Highlands Public Schools.
We are very excited to have our city leaders recognized for their significant cooperation. The City of Covington and Alleghany County are the new standard bearers for cooperation in the state and as a school board we are glad to be a part of it. Congratulations to the Covington City Council on a job well done!” said Jacob Wright, chair of the AHPS Board.
AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and Instagram at ahpublicschools. The division website is www.ahps.k12.va.us.
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