CH School Board set to get new member
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Jul 11, 2014, 09:22
Dr. Krishan Agrawal
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — For Dr. Krishan Agrawal, a Virginia State University professor of 45 years with a Ph.D. in mathematics and computer science, running for the Colonial Heights School Board is a matter of giving back to the community he has lived in for more than four decades.
Due to his academic background at both the university and partnering with surrounding schools, Agrawal believes that embedding himself within the city’s school system will be an apt niche for fulfilling this reciprocity.
With School Board member Cindy Shortlidge not running again in the fall, Agrawal will be unopposed on the ballot.
Following in the footsteps of former governor Bob McDonnell, Delegate Kirk Cox and many other political proponents for increased education in Virginia, Agrawal is a firm supporter of enhancing the presence of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health (STEM-H) education in the school system.
Agrawal said that the STEM-H fields all function to improve the quality of life, and that the global job market will always have openings for occupations that advance society, with mathematics at the forefront.
“Math is a platform for any discipline because this is where critical thinking and problem solving skills come from. Any research in any area you see is math-based, so math is the driving force for the civilization,” Agrawal said.
In 2013, STEM jobs accounted for more than 25 percent of the U.S. professional labor force, with computer and math-related jobs being responsible for 98.7 percent of occupational growth in STEM fields from 2003 to 2013, according to a report from the Department of Professional Employees.
The report also states that “professionals in STEM occupations typically have higher average salaries than other workers.”
With this economic demand for STEM-H jobs in mind, Agrawal is determined to raise the number of Colonial Heights students who graduate and move on to pursue jobs in these areas.
“They may be doing an excellent job, but what my understanding is that the number of students from their graduating class going into the STEM-H area is low. ... I want to increase that number,” Agrawal said, nonetheless applauding the school system and the overall graduation rate for the high school.
According to the Colonial Heights Public Schools website, Colonial Heights High School had a Graduation Completion Index score of 95.5.
To efficiently bolster STEM-H success within the school system, Agrawal knows that he must first gain the support of the School Board, superintendent and teachers, and that it will be a gradual process built upon passion and dedication.
“It’s not a one night thing. It’s not a one man show,” Agrawal said, emphasizing his desire to work as part of a team to make this become a reality.
Agrawal has already made several strides to submerge himself into the school system and help promote a higher and more sustainable education for students.
In 2009, he started the Author Visitation Program, which allows for students to interact with scientists and mathematicians by inviting them to host a discussion in the community.
This program has been successful in Chesterfield County since 1993, where it is available for all students, but currently it is provided just for students in the gifted program in Colonial Heights, something which Agrawal looks to expand upon.
This year, on Oct. 2, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society who wrote “Is That A Fact?”, will be coming to VSU to speak with Colonial Heights students.
Agrawal has also partnered with Colonial Heights Public Schools officials to submit a proposal to the State Board of Education to improve STEM-H education at both the high school and middle school levels, as well as acted as a tutor and mentor for many pre-college students over the last 11 years.
Agrawal said that he is also interested in boosting dual enrollment opportunities through the high school, in addition to a proposal for a new internship program, worth college credits, that would allow high school students to get first-hand in-field mentoring by willing professors who live in the community who could help inform and develop the student’s mind to prepare for them for some specific field.
Although Agrawal is brimming with new ideas to bring to the table, he understands that there must be collaborative movement and that they cannot be achieved without effort.
“There has to be desire. There has to be passion. It won’t come only on the basis of incentive,” Agrawal said.
Born in India, Agrawal moved to Canada in 1966 at the age of 24 to finish his Ph.D. at the University of Windsor.
In 1969, he accepted a job offer from VSU, where he moved with his wife, Gita who was pregnant at the time, to start a family in Colonial Heights.
They have two children including a daughter, Anupama, and a son, Anant.