Mark Emblidge spent four years as president of the Virginia State Board of Education and eight total years on the board under Governors Mark R. Warner and Timothy Kaine. Yet, when asked what aspect of his work he believes to have been most influential on education in the Commonwealth, his thoughts turned instead to a more current venture.
“About 15 years ago I approached current Senator Mark Warner and former Governor George Allen to help me start the Virginia office for a national organization called Communities in Schools,” explains Emblidge. “As a result of the support we eventually received from Governors McDonnell and McAuliffe and the Virginia General Assembly we have been able to significantly expand the CIS model of integrated student services across Virginia in the past four years.”
Emblidge, who serves as CIS director, says the organization currently serves over 30,000 Virginia students who are at risk of dropping out of school. “Last year 92% of our students were promoted to the next grade and 91% of our seniors graduated from high school,” he adds.
His work through CIS is about changing an untenable reality for too many students. High student dropout rates were an issue he had to face squarely during his eight years on the Richmond City school board (1994-2002).
“It depressed me to visit my daughter’s public schools and know that a significant number of children in their classes would never make it through middle school much less high school,” Emblidge says.
CIS takes a whole-community approach to keeping children in school, and its success is largely due to the combined support of parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, community and business leaders, local and state policy makers, and governors.
“Our success has been validated by a series of national third party studies that confirm that when CIS is implemented with fidelity our children improve their school attendance, improve their behavior, improve their academic outcomes, and graduate from high school,” Emblidge says.
Emblidge is also the founding director of the Virginia Literacy Foundation. He was appointed to the Virginia Library Board in December 2009 by outgoing Governor Timothy M. Kaine.
“At this stage in my career I like the freedom to work on a wide range of education issues with some of the most talented education research, and public policy folks in the country.”
The Curry School’s Role
“Because of my experience with programs like CIS and my service on the Richmond City School Board I arrived at Curry fully aware of and embracing the pressure on urban and rural schools to ‘leave no child behind,’” Emblidge says. “Curry helped to open my eyes to the fact that it wasn’t just communities in poverty who expected more from their schools but every community in the country was putting pressure on their schools to step up the quality of the education for their students as well.
“I saw firsthand Curry’s commitment to make sure that it prepared every one of its students to respond to this demand, regardless of whether they we going to be working in a rural, urban or middle class community.”
In addition to his work with CIS, Emblidge works with the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta, Georgia. (SREB works with 16 southern states, including Virginia, to improve public education from pre-K through Ph.D.
“Last year I worked with Kentucky’s Governor Steve Beshear on a SREB early childhood commission,” he says. This winter he is working with the Curry School on a SREB commission made up of legislators and education leaders from across the south to find ways to strengthen teacher preparation programs.
“At this stage in my career I like the freedom to work on a wide range of education issues with some of the most talented education research, and public policy folks in the country,” he adds.
Emblidge received the Distinguished Service to the Commonwealth Award from the Curry School in 2008. In addition to his many other roles, he is a Professor of Practice in the Curry School’s Leadership, Foundations and Policy Department.