Stand Up 4 NC Public Schools
Guilford County Wins "Say Yes to Education" Designation
Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 9:15:00 am
Guilford County students will be the first in the south to benefit from the Say Yes to Education campaign.
The news came during an event Thursday morning attended by local and national Say Yes representatives.
Guilford County Schools beat out about two dozen others competing to win the Say Yes designation. The program originates from a New York-based nonprofit that partners with communities to help more kids get into and pay for college.
The announcement means that, beginning in 2016, Guilford high school seniors will be able to take advantage of scholarships that bridge the gap between what they can pay and the actual cost of tuition at public universities statewide. Several private universities have also signed on.
As part of the Thursday announcement, officials also noted new investment in the Guilford Say Yes initiative.
Local leaders needed to raise $28 million in private donations to qualify for the program. They’ve raised more than $32 million so far, with the latest pledge for $500,000 coming from HondaJet.
Students Help Keep Waterways Clean
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 10:20:00 am
For many Sept. 11 was a day to remember the horrible attack on the United States and its freedoms through thanking firefighters, first responders, law enforcement and military members. For students at Elkin Middle School it was a day to show appreciation through acts of community service.
Part of the day for seventh-graders included going off campus and out in the area to help others – one of those groups spent Friday morning assisting the local Watershed NOW group in marking 11 storm drains on Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital’s property so people will know that anything going into those drains directly feeds into waterways without being filtered or treated.
The water drain marking efforts of Watershed NOW includes using yellow spray paint to put graphics next to the storm drains to get people’s attention.
With four options for community service projects to participate in Friday, teacher Taylor Erickson said the seventh-graders ranked their interest in the projects on a Google form and then they were divided up for the activities. Options included the Watershed NOW project; cleaning the trails with the Elkin Valley Trails Association; volunteering for the day as a teacher’s assistant at Elkin Elementary School; and the third option split students between cleaning fire trucks at Arlington Fire Department and working at The ARK and Tri-C Christian Crisis Ministries.
Eight-graders at the middle school also had Sept. 11 projects in which they participated around the school, including doing a car wash to benefit the school’s backpack program which provides food for low-income students on the weekends, mulching in an outdoor classroom being constructed and making quilts to be sold as a fundraiser.
Erickson, who is this year’s Elkin City Schools’ Teacher of the Year, explained last year the Watershed NOW group led a creek clean up for the Sept. 11 day projects. Charles and Erickson are friends, and the relationship between the school and the environmental awareness group grew from there.
“I’ve been interested in the question as a Presbyterian pastor of how we can move from the sacredness of our baptismal water to the sacredness of all water,” said Taylor, explaining how the Watershed NOW group was created. “I go to western North Carolina hiking and vacationing near the waterfalls there, and I fell in love with water.
“I believe in the sacredness of all water, and I don’t think we can take clean water for granted,” he said. “It is very dangerous to take clean water for granted, so we launched the community movement and preserving our water.”
Early College Gets High Marks
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 10:45:00 am
For the second year in a row, Robeson Early College High School has landed itself on Newsweek’s annual “Beating the Odds” list that recognizes schools that prepare at-risk students for college.
The school was the highest ranked North Carolina school on the list — an achievement noted Tuesday at the Public Schools of Robeson County’s monthly Board of Education meeting.
“They were 27th in the nation,” said Linda Emanuel, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “In a report from last year, they were 47th.”
According to newsweek.com, the “Beating the Odds” list recognizes schools that “do an excellent job of preparing their students for college while also overcoming the obstacles posed by students at an economic disadvantage.”
The school has a student poverty rate of 77.4 percent, the list says.
According to the list of 500 schools, Robeson Early College prepared 92.9 percent of students for success in college.
“I just give all the credit to the students and the staff because they are the ones that do all of the hard work,” said Sheila Gasque, principal of Robeson Early College High School. “I am privileged to be with them and I consider it an honor to be at Early College High School.”
Tommy Lowry, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, said that he and the school system “are very proud at what’s taking place there, from our students to our teachers to the administration.”
Craven County Schools Receives $1.5 Million Grant
Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 4:05:00 pm
Craven County Schools will receive a $1.5 million grant to invest in professional development for students of military families.
The grant will serve more than 3,000 K-12 military-associated students. It's part of a five-year program called "Strategies for Success."
The students come from 15 schools where the military-associated enrollment averages almost 35 percent. The school system serves students whose parents are assigned to Cherry Point
This is the third grant Craven County Schools have received from the Pentagon's Education Partnership Grant Program.
East Forsyth Math Teacher Meets President Obama
Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 4:20:00 pm
Julie Riggins, East Forsyth High School math teacher, was named a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2013, but it wasn’t until this summer that Riggins and the other 107 teachers in the award class were able to meet with the president.
“My best days are when I can help a student see there is math outside the classroom.”
Her success in the classroom led Riggins to the nomination for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest honor conferred by the national government on science and math teachers.
“She’s got that ability to make mathematics come alive for her students,” said Velvet Simington, K-12 mathematics program director for the district. “She’s very passionate about math. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she’s able to inspire her students to really strive for excellence.”
Simington nominated Riggins in 2013. The application process was rigorous. It required several pages of written responses on topics like leadership and instructional strategy.
Riggins also had to record a 45-minute video of her in the classroom. She chose a lesson that showed her students engaged and working together to find an equation that would pass through a series of provided points. They worked in groups and each group approached the problem a little differently, which is a sign of a good lesson, Riggins said.
“Unfortunately, I can’t do a really great lesson like that every day, but I think every math teacher has a few of those lessons throughout the year, that spark students’ interest and allow for some discovery learning,” she said.
Riggins’ application impressed. When it came time to select the two teachers who would represent North Carolina — one in science and one in math — Riggins made the cut.
With the award, which is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, winners receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a trip for two to Washington, D.C.
During that trip Riggins received the award’s final perk: a certificate signed by President Barack Obama and a handshake from the man himself.
“He was very sincere,” Riggins said. “He really made us feel like we had a very important job, to educate our students to get them ready to be able to have a job.”
5 NC Students Receive National Scholarship Award
Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 4:10:00 pm
Five North Carolina students received a national honor Friday in the form of college scholarships.
Gov. Pat McCrory recognized the students and addressed them as they received Buick Achievers Scholarships.
The students each get $25,000 for school each year up to four years. Those in a qualified five-year engineering program are eligible for an additional year.
“I want to congratulate these students for their hard work and commitment to learning,” McCrory said.
Lauren Chesnet, of Mount Airy, North Carolina, will continue her education at Appalachian State University this fall, majoring in industrial design.
Haley Sink, of Thomasville, North Carolina, plans to attend Duke University this fall and will major in economics.
Stewart Martin, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will attend University of North Carolina at Charlotte this fall and plans to major in mechanical engineering.
Jason Brown, of Collinsville, North Carolina, will continue his education at Virginia Commonwealth University this fall. Brown is a chemical engineering major.
Cristian Munoz, of Charlotte, North Carolina, will continue at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the fall. Munoz is majoring in mechanical engineering.
Sink is the first in her family to attend college.
“This scholarship is absolutely amazing. It means coming out of school without any debt, to really pursue my dreams and know that there’s people behind me 100 percent,” Sink said.
The scholarships are awarded to 50 students across the county pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math related to the automotive industry.
Camp Invention a Success at MAMS
Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 10:40:00 am
For the second year in a row Mount Airy City Schools offered Camp Invention as part of its science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) program.
Camp Invention, a 25-year-old program which began in Akron, Ohio, is a curriculum-based program which focuses on the development of “creative, inventive-thinking skills,” according to the city school system.
“At Camp Invention, there is no right or wrong answer. Many of the projects focus on process. Children learn through trial and error,” said Shelia Chase, STEAM instructor at Mount Airy High School. She was in charge of overseeing the staff and program at Camp Invention.
All totaled, the Mount Airy summer program hosted 34 participants attended this week, along with the director, two instructors, four leadership interns, two counselors-in-training, a camp parent and a parent volunteer. The program’s goal is to keep the student-to-adult ratio no higher than 8-to-1.
During the camp children rotated through a schedule that included four modules each day and incorporated a variety of hands-on activities ranging from creating an invention from a discarded household appliance to brainstorming their way home from a strange planet.
This week children used gears and gadgets from dissected machines and other materials to create prototypes of inventions that they believed will help improve the world.
There is not a lot of emphasis placed on inventing a working device in five days; rather, emphasis is placed on fostering inventive-thinking and creative problem-solving skills through immersion that will serve children throughout their lives, according to Chase.
“Of course, there are children who leave the program with a working invention. Recent inventions include insect catchers, ball-throwing robots, arm extenders made out of PVC pipes and other innovations,” she said.
Each leadership intern is assigned to one group of children and up to two counselors-in-training for the week.
“The leadership interns mentored their CITs, set a tone of excitement and team spirit for the week; facilitated activities as needed, helped all participants engage in the experience, supported participants in problem solving and assisted in providing a safe environment,” said Chase.
Teachers Return from China with New Ideas
Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 2:50:00 pm
Eight Guilford County Schools teachers and staff members spent part of their summer in China, gaining new cultural experiences and new ideas for their classrooms.
The teachers each applied for and were accepted into the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Study Abroad program through UNC-Greensboro. The teachers participated in university courses as well as cultural experiences in China in an effort to design curriculum activities in collaboration with Chinese teachers.
“We’re planning to hold a Chinese New Year Festival in our ACES programs,” says Crystal Slade, an ACES program coordinator and one of the educators who went to China. “We’re working with UNCG to bring in some Chinese students to teach our kids Chinese phrases and read Chinese folktales that are similar to stories they’re already familiar with in order to compare the two.”
Slade says she’s also working on other projects to include throughout the year that will expose students to a new culture. They’ll read the book “A School Like Mine,” which looks at different schools around the world, and ACES students will make their own posters about their schools. She’ll share pictures and her experiences from her summer and plans to create a pen-pal partnership with some of the teachers she met overseas.
“In this global economy, it’s important for our students to be exposed to the various cultures around the world,” says Charlos Banks, executive director of student services and character development. “That’s why our ACES programs are working to expand on topics covered in class and give them a greater understanding of the world around them.”
Educator Provides Opportunity to Disadvantaged Students
Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 9:05:00 am
Ever since she was a little girl, Helen Devlin has wanted to teach others.
Devlin, originally from Philadelphia, said she would play teacher in her neighborhood with the other children, who would serve as her students.
“From the time I was real little, I decided,” Devlin said. “I’m very nurturing, I guess, and that’s part of it.”
She taught various subjects in Catholic Schools in Philadelphia for seven years before meeting her husband, when she began moving around to follow his career. In 2000, she ended up in Hickory and began substitute teaching before getting a full-time job at Hickory High School.
Today, Devlin is the director of the S.T.A.Y., or Sustained Training All Year program at Hickory High. The federally-funded program offers extra help to low-income students with barriers. Barriers are identified as anything that may present a challenge to students’ success—such as being at a low level in math or reading, being a parent or pregnant while in school, or living in a group home.
“I tell them I become their mentor, their school mom, and their drill sergeant,” Devlin says, who is no stranger to what she calls the “bad cop routine.”
S.T.A.Y. works year round to keep up with the grades, attendance, college applications and personal issues of around 20 high school students.
“My husband says I raise other people’s children,” Devlin said, shrugging with the hint of a smile.
During the school year, S.T.A. Y. meets twice a week to discuss student success in the classroom and outside of it. But during the summer, Devlin’s schedule gets even crazier—with trips to colleges, lessons on how to ride public transportation and even taking students shopping for food and work clothing.
“If they do all the work, then during the summer, we get them jobs,” she said.
There are 14 job sites that the program partners with throughout the community, including Lowes Foods, Goodwill, Lenoir-Rhyne University and the school district’s own administration building.
Students are paid through the S.T.A.Y. grant and transported to their job sites with help from Devlin and public buses, as many don’t have cars, she says.
“A lot of these kids are coming from homes that—you wonder how they’ve gotten this far, because of situations in the home,” Devlin said. “We all have ‘stuff,’ but some of these kids have more ‘stuff’ than normal.”
For many, the job is the first time they have made money on their own, as well as an opportunity to learn job skills and create connections that will help them network post-graduation.
The employment program lasts five weeks during the summer. Some temporary employers even offer students full time jobs after the program ends if they prove their work ethic, Devlin said.
“I can lead them, but at some point they have to take the initiative,” Devlin said. “We’re trying to prepare them for college and the workforce. At some point, they leave us and (enter) the real world.”
Devlin has been invited to weddings, baby showers, birthdays—and more recently, a baby naming ceremony. But for her, the real rewards lie in watching students grow.
“Those are the ones that like me,” she said, laughing. “Some are challenges… some of the high maintenance ones will come and see me and say, ‘you told us this stuff when we were here and now we’re out in the real world and we can see it.’ There’s good days and bad days, but sometimes you just need one good day.”
S.T.A.Y. also does community service projects, such as planting a community garden across from the school and cooking and preparing a meal for the Salvation Army once a year, which she says is no small feat.
“We work hard,” Devlin said. “They’re exhausted when they’re done, and they’ll go, ‘that was really cool. That was really neat.’ Because here’s people who have nothing, and we’re doing something really neat.”
Delvin recalled one year when a student was serving a meal at Salvation Army and her father came through the line, needing a meal himself, which struck a nerve for the student and reminded Devlin the importance of helping others.
In addition to her efforts with S.T.A.Y., Devlin is highly involved with the Kiwanis Club of Hickory. She was its first female president in 2005 and now serves on the board as well as advising the Circle K and Key Clubs at the college and high school levels, respectively.
“I’m very community-oriented,” she said. “We all need to give back to our community.”
Devlin also takes extra time to collect everything from prom dresses to food for students.
She is in charge of the school’s “Prom Closet,” which community members and businesses donate new and used prom dresses, tuxedos, shoes and more for students who may not be able to afford prom otherwise.
She also keeps a food pantry for students to make sure they don’t go hungry and a clothing closet for students who may be out of uniform or unable to afford the school’s required khakis, blue or black pants and collared shirts.
On July 24, Devlin donated her hair to Locks of Love for the seventh time, despite her reservations about donating her now gray hair.
“It takes me two years to grow it,” Devlin said. “I said, ‘Gray-haired ladies need wigs too.’”
Devlin refers to her fellow staff members at Hickory High School as her “extended family,” saying she couldn’t do all she does without the help of so many others.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘what do you teach at Hickory High?’ and my answer is, we all teach at Hickory High,” Devlin said. “Whether you’re the janitors, the cafeteria ladies, the bus drivers, the teachers the counselors, the office staff—in one way or another, we’re a family and we all teach. You don’t have to be in a classroom to teach.”
To give back to her fellow educators, she has organized pot-lucks and a chili cook-off in the media center. She even hosts a red hat group called Red Hot Tornadoes that she calls her “girl’s night out” for faculty and staff.
“Once I get a project, I run with it,” she said.
Hickory City Schools spokesperson Beverly Snowden said she is an awe of Devlin’s constant energy and motivation to help others.
“She’s tough—but with a loving heart,” Snowden said. “Mrs. Devlin knows their hardships and she does everything in her power to help her students through tough times.”
Snowden said Devlin is a personal inspiration to her—someone she treasures and looks up to.
“Giving is her way of life,” Snowden said. “Helen Devlin doesn’t hesitate to brainstorm methods that will open doors for her students or direct them to a greater path. She is a blessing to so many young people in our community.”
Schools Recognized for Healthier Environments
Friday, July 31, 2015 at 12:15:00 pm
Some New Hanover County Schools were recently recognized with awards for creating and sustaining a healthy and safe environment for students.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program is a national initiative founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation. The alliance's aim is to help schools improve physical education, health education and nutrition by providing a school health index in which staff can self-access their school’s policies and programs for promoting health and safety.
According to the program’s website, the guide is then used to develop an action plan on improving those policies and programs and is currently used at nearly 29,000 schools around the country -- 788 in North Carolina. Resources offered by the alliance include national experts and online and printable guides to help take steps to develop healthier environments for kids to learn and grow -- including creative ways to get them to eat their fruits and vegetables.
To earn a national award at the bronze, silver or gold levels, schools must meet best practice criteria established by the program’s expert panel in all of the program’s six modules: school safety; health education; physical education; nutrition services; health promotion for staff; and family and community involvement.
In New Hanover County, 11 schools currently participate in the program, and three schools were recognized at the most recent county Board of Education regular meeting for achieving national level status.