Working Together for School Safety: Students First

Working Together for School Safety: Students First

In designing for school safety, our focus is on “students first.”  For every educational project, we begin by asking ourselves how to design a place where students want to be.  A welcoming environment encourages open communication and relationship building, factors which may help us identify and prevent potential issues long before we reach a crisis point. Schools are successful because of the people who make education special: students, teachers, guidance counselors, administration, custodial staff, and families.  As designers, we are called to protect this educational community through safe buildings. We can also implement design strategies to discourage security events from happening and to minimize impacts if they do.

School safety begins with a clearly defined security plan, and architecture firms can provide significant expertise in developing and implementing this plan. School boards all face the issue of how to create and implement viable security plans for their specific districts, and one size does not fit all. Security needs vary greatly based on the size of the district, relationship with local law enforcement, location in urban or suburban areas, and many other factors. A clear security plan must include coordinated strategies in which the architecture, technology, and operations all work together.  Each of these strategies builds on one another and must be diligently planned and integrated.

In terms of architectural design, LS3P’s experience with the US Department of Defense Educational Activity has taught our firm the importance of strategies such as efficient floor plan layouts, clear sightlines, sustainable building strategies, durability, and 21st Century learning principles. Our DoDEA designs also underscore that it is possible to merge inviting, student-friendly spaces for contemporary learning environments with the highest standards of security. This same level of focus on security and cutting-edge technology can, and should, be implemented among all school districts.

Input from all stakeholders is critical; early engagement and buy-in from administrators, law enforcement, security consultants, and representatives from various constituent groups lead to more effective solutions. LS3P frequently leads teams with experienced security, technology, and telecom consultants who can provide innovative and cost-effective design options.  Our policy is to engage security experts who are professional designers and/or engineers rather than product vendors who may have a vested interest in selling a certain brand. Together, we can implement up-to-the-minute best practices and new product ideas, technology, hardware, communication systems, and research; most importantly, though, we need to hear from educators and school boards on how your knowledge and experiences can help us to design safer schools that best support your student population.

Through a collaborative approach driven by the needs of each school community, we can create clear and effective communication plans, emergency plans, and security plans which work in tandem with architectural designs.  Together, these designs can inspire safe, engaging, student-focused learning environments.

Article contributed by Ginny Magrath, AIA, LS3P

Ramona PowersWorking Together for School Safety: Students First
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Murphy Wins Statewide Award for Excellence in Education Law

Murphy Wins Statewide Award for Excellence in Education Law

NCSBA Assistant Legal Counsel Janine Murphy won the Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award on April 12 from the North Carolina Bar Association’s Education Law Section.

Allison Schafer, NCSBA legal counsel and director of policy, presented Murphy with the award at the section’s annual meeting held at the NC Bar Center in Cary.

“She is a great resource to everyone across the state — superintendents, board members, school attorneys, and to us in the association,” said Schafer, who received the award in 2008.

The Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award honors individuals for their exceptional leadership in education law and is the namesake of a previous recipient who was known in the school law community both locally and nationally.

NCSBA staff and Murphy’s family congratulate her as she receives the Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award. Pictured from left: Rachel Vachon, Chad Anderson, Debbie Shinbara, Cynthia Moore, Chelsea Sutton, Jim Murphy, Janine Murphy, John Murphy, Allison Schafer, and Nancy Black.

“We all remember Ann Majestic for her outstanding dedication to public education in North Carolina, so it was a great honor for me to receive this award,” said Murphy.

At NCSBA, Murphy plays a pivotal role in managing policy services and developing legal training, among many other duties. Prior to joining the association in 2007, she had a 22-year stint with the Principals’ Executive Program at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, which provided executive training to public school administrators.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to contribute to public education in North Carolina by working with school board members and school administrators for the past 30 years,” Murphy said.

Chelsea SuttonMurphy Wins Statewide Award for Excellence in Education Law
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Old Buildings & Good Old Buildings: Adaptive Reuse Strategies Give Old Buildings New Life

Old Buildings & Good Old Buildings: Adaptive Reuse Strategies Give Old Buildings New Life

It can seem natural to equate “new” with “better.” This common misnomer often causes facility leaders to perceive technology and mechanical systems upgrades as overwhelming challenges, discouraging them from adapting older existing structures into potential schools or reusing aging schools.

While it is true that some old buildings suffer conditions/parameters that would not warrant renovation, many do not. Such buildings can provide collaborative educational environments within the framework of historical preservation. To be successful, the design team must retain the integrity of the original structure while seamlessly integrating new spatial elements and mechanical and other systems to transform an old facility into a place for collaborative, 21st Century STEM education.

Older buildings constructed between 1910 and 1960 are often characterized as more imperfect than new construction; however, the quality of their materials and underlying structure are often far superior to modern building materials and methods. Given the rising costs of both materials and labor and the decreasing pool of skilled craftsmen, existing structures can provide a very credible alternative for new schools. Additionally, they can provide a construction scheduling head start because the facility is on an existing foundation already under-roof.

Tips and strategies

  • Plan for the features to be restored, but be open to compromise in renovation scope.
  • When addressing a minimal budget, focus on limiting the project scope through efficient design. It’s better to reduce the scope of the project than limit future flexibility or compromise the quality of construction.
  • Assign a generous contingency fund up front, and plan to use it. With proper planning, the use of an existing structure will more than compensate for any potential challenges.
  • Set a reasonable timeline for the project. Work ahead with your design team to identify scenarios that might be discovered and their potential solutions.

A case in point, the Caldwell County Schools just began reconstruction of their Granite Falls Middle School. Initially constructed in 1935, with additions in 1948 and 1996, the new design plan restores the original 1935 school to create an 825-student middle school (a projected savings of $2.5 million over new construction), all the while saving a community icon, including a much beloved 270-year-old white oak tree. Through adaptive building reuse, an old facility has the opportunity to become a learning tool itself — its past essence, demonstrating old-style craftsmanship and detailing, and imparting awareness and appreciation for all of the various types of structures that make up the community fabric.

Adaptive reuse projects involve redevelopment of deteriorating non-school building resources within a community. For example, in Reading, Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s Medical Center vacated its 140-year-old hospital and its six-block campus in the city. The local school district converted the abandoned hospital facility into a high school for almost $30 million less than new construction.

With careful planning, revamping old facilities can make an old building into a good old “new” building. Restoration can make the old even better, instilling students with the importance of repurposing and revitalization while cost-effectively educating and preparing them for 21st Century success.

Written by NCSBA Diamond Affiliate Member Vern L. McKissick III, AIA, LEED AP, a principal at McKissick Associates Architects in Winston-Salem. Reach him at

Ramona PowersOld Buildings & Good Old Buildings: Adaptive Reuse Strategies Give Old Buildings New Life
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2019 Magna Awards Winner: Chatham County

2019 Magna Awards Winner: Chatham County

Chatham County Schools Wins First Place in National Award

The NSBA Magna Awards have been recognizing school board and school district excellence for more than 20 years. This is the second year that the Magna Awards have focused on equity, or more specifically, removing barriers for underserved students. honor districts across the country for programs that break down barriers for underserved students. A panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from 200 submissions.

“It takes commitment to start an equity program and fortitude to sustain it,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO. “I congratulate the 2019 Magna Award winning districts for performing the hard and sometimes unpopular work to ensure all of their students are supported and provided with the tools and opportunities needed to succeed.”

This year’s three grand prize winners and 15 first place winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students. Winners were recognized at a special presentation at NSBA’s 2019 annual conference.

Closing Gaps for EL Students: Dual Language Program
Chatham County Schools, Pittsboro, North Carolina

Dual language programs provide a well-researched approach for promoting biliteracy, bilingualism, and biculturalism for students.  A fundamental goal of such programs is to prepare students for the future with abilities to listen, speak, read, and write in two languages, as well as to develop an appreciation of different cultures.  Chatham County’s Dual Language program began at one elementary school in 2005.  The principal at the time saw the program as a way to meet the needs of a growing population of English learners.  The program, which has been strengthened over time, seeks to help close achievement gaps and further ensure improved academic outcomes for all students.  The district now has five Dual Language schools (two elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school).  The initial program expanded to the feeder middle school in 2011 and to the high school in 2014.  An additional elementary school program was established in 2012 with that school’s feeder middle school program opening this year.  Without the support of the school board, the district would have not been able to continue developing the program into one of the few comprehensive (K-12) programs in the country.

Removing Barriers: Chatham’s population is diverse with the following demographics: White, 50.8 percent; Hispanic, 31.3 percent; African-American, 11.4 percent; multiracial, 4.8 percent; Asian, 1.4 percent.  The Dual Language program is based on research that has shown high rates of academic success in English and native language for English learners.  Several studies document substantial benefits of extended primary language instruction for these students.  Equally important is the evidence that world language immersion programs demonstrate that native English-speaking students achieve superior scores on measures of second language proficiency while performing scholastically at a level equal to or higher than their peers who have received all of their elementary school education in English.

Evidence of success:  Over the past five years, the district has seen a number of academic gains for students in general and for Dual Language students in particular.  Those outcomes have been regardless of race, language, or school.  For example, all but one of the Dual Language schools have either met or exceeded the state’s growth.  The one outlier met growth for four of the last five years.  In addition, both Dual Language elementary schools have improved their school performance grade/state accountability measure.  One school was removed from the list of schools designated as low-performing.  The district also has continued to see an increase in the number of schools meeting their language progress goals.


Closing Gaps for EL Students, American School Board Journal, Volume 206 no. 2, April 2019, p. 2,31

Chadae Lewis2019 Magna Awards Winner: Chatham County
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Guilford County Board Recognized for Outstanding Support of the Arts

Guilford County Board Recognized for Outstanding Support of the Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts awarded the Guilford County Schools Board of Education with the 30th annual Kennedy Center and National School Boards Association (NSBA) Award. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was presented at the NSBA Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The Guilford County school board was chosen from nominees around the country for its support of high-quality arts education.

On hand to receive the award were Guilford County Board Chair Alan Duncan, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras, and Director of Fine Arts Dr. Nathan Street. “We are pleased to recognize the Guilford County Schools Board of Education for its dedication to providing a quality arts education for all students,” said Mario R. Rossero, Senior Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center. “Through our work in schools across the country, we see that learning in and through the arts is a crucial component of every child’s educational journey.”

Board Chair Alan Duncan receives the award.

Arts education continues to be the centerpiece of a comprehensive, holistic education for all students in Guilford County Schools. The board has shown a strong commitment to the arts by allocating a significant percentage of the district budget to the arts despite economic setbacks, executing extensive impact evaluation work, and dedicating significant resources toward the expansion of professional development opportunities for teachers. Additional commitments include ensuring all third-, fourth-, and seventh-grade students experience the symphony for free each year, and ensuring all fifth-grade students experience the opera. Additionally, the district provides artists-in-residence to fourth-grade classrooms to teach history through art. Through these efforts, the district has seen an increase of arts enrollment from 70 % in 2008 to 82.1% in 2017.

The district is committed to a wide variety of arts partnerships and, with significant input from all stakeholders, has developed an Arts Master Plan that will continue the path for a strong commitment for the arts in the district, with goals regarding policy; professional development; community engagement; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and data-driven decision making. The Guilford County Schools Board of Education intends to use its award to continue funding and enhancing arts education opportunities districtwide.

Each year, a national review panel selects the recipient school board from a pool of nominees from across the country. School boards selected for this national honor must demonstrate support for four of the five core disciplines in arts education programs: visual arts, music, theater, dance, and media arts. Instruction and programming must be available for all students throughout the district. The ways in which the school board develops collaborative partnerships with the cultural resources available in the community are also important considerations in reviewing nominations.


Ramona PowersGuilford County Board Recognized for Outstanding Support of the Arts
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Rowan-Salisbury Recognized in Digital School Districts Survey Award

Rowan-Salisbury Recognized in Digital School Districts Survey Award

Congratulations to the Rowan-Salisbury School District for recognition as a 2017-18 Digital School Districts Survey award winner. Now in its 14th year, the Digital School Districts Survey Awards recognize the commendable use of technology by school boards and districts and is jointly sponsored by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Center of Digital Education. Recipients received their awards during the NSBA annual conference.

“This survey data has proven to be beneficial in districts throughout the country,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director for the Center for Digital Education. “We look forward to sharing our results in the Digital School Districts report and having this survey become the benchmark for which districts measure their digital transformation.” “School boards are embracing technology initiatives that help them govern more effectively and empower their districts to operate more efficiently,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and chief executive officer for the National School Boards Association. “The variety of districts recognized by this survey in both size and urbanicity serve as examples for others who want to introduce innovative approaches within their communities.”

A complete list of school districts honored can be found here.

Ramona PowersRowan-Salisbury Recognized in Digital School Districts Survey Award
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GCS Chief of Staff Wins Top Honor

GCS Chief of Staff Wins Top Honor

Nora Carr, chief of staff for Guilford County Schools, has been awarded the Barry Gaskins Outstanding Service Award by the North Carolina School Public Relations Association (NCSPRA). The award is named in memory of Pitt County Schools’ first public information officer and is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by NCSPRA. Carr received the recognition during NCSPRA’s Blue Ribbon Awards Brunch in Greensboro.

Left to right: Chris Fuller, NCSPRA Executive Director; Todd Hagans, NCSPRA President; Nora Carr, GCS Chief of Staff and Gaskins Award recipient; Cyndi Shah-Khan, Union Academy and Patricia Hollingsworth, NCSPRA Vice-President

Highly regarded for her experience in strategic planning, communications, and organizational development, Carr has dedicated most of her communications career to school public relations. Her expertise was requested following the deadly shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and in 2013 to assist in Moore, Ok., after devastating tornadoes hit the area. Carr led communications and media relations efforts after both tragedies.

She has won more than 200 state, local and national awards for communications excellence. In 2008, she was accepted into the Public Relations Society of America College of Fellows, an honor bestowed only on the nation’s leading public relations professionals. She also served as president of the National School Public Relations Association.

“I am proud of the work we do as public relations professionals,” Carr said. “We are driven because our kids are worth fighting for, public education is worth fighting for and our democracy is worth fighting for. Our educators are heroes and if we don’t tell our stories, who will?”

Visit for more information.

Ramona PowersGCS Chief of Staff Wins Top Honor
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Student Video Contests

Student Video Contests

NCSBA recognized the winners of the middle school and high school video contests. Students were asked to create 45- to 60-second videos around the theme, What’s Super about Public Schools? Recognition was given during the NCSBA Annual Conference for Board Member Development held in Greensboro November 13-15.

This year was NCSBA’s third middle school video contest and had 19 entries. First place went to the team from Rochelle Middle School, Lenoir County for RMS Public School Rap. Second place went to Contentnea-Savannah School and third place to Woodington Middle School, also in Lenoir County. Each group received a certificate and a Visa gift card for the class to be presented during an upcoming local school board meeting.

The high school video contest teams placing first, second, and third attended the awards ceremony. Each group knew they had placed, but the order was not revealed until the ceremony presentation.

The submission from Nash Central High School, Nash-Rocky Mount Schools won the first-place trophy and a $3,000 cash prize for their school. The second-place winners were from Southern Nash High School, Nash-Rocky Mount Schools; they received a trophy and $2,000 cash prize for their school. In third place was the video from West Columbus High School, Columbus County, winning a trophy and $1,000 cash prize for their school. In addition, judges identified 10 additional videos to receive honorable mention.

Ramona PowersStudent Video Contests
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2017 Elementary Poster Contest

2017 Elementary Poster Contest

NCSBA recognized the winners of the 2017 elementary school poster contest. Students were asked to create posters around the theme, What’s Super about Public Schools? Recognition was given during the NCSBA Annual Conference for Board Member Development held in Greensboro November 13-15.

De’Asia Smith, a second grader from Scotland Neck Elementary, Halifax County, took first place for the K-2 grade category of the student poster contest. Suzanne Williford, a fourth grader from Hobbton Elementary, Sampson County, won first place for the Grades 3-5 category. Second place went to Raye Tilghman, a second grader from  Contentnea-Savannah School, Lenoir County and Isaiah Bromell, a fourth grader from Evergreen Elementary, Columbus County. Third place went to Samantha Williams, a second grader from Elm City Elementary, Wilson County and Candace Johnson, a fifth grader from Contentnea-Savannah School, Lenoir County. Each student received a certificate and gift to be presented during an upcoming local school board meeting.

Ramona Powers2017 Elementary Poster Contest
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Warren County Board Member Wins Prestigious Award

Warren County Board Member Wins Prestigious Award

Roberta Scott of the Warren County Board of Education is the 2017 recipient of the Raleigh Dingman Award for Outstanding Boardsmanship. To receive this esteemed award, which is given annually by the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), a board member must be peer-nominated by their local school board.

“This board member has enjoyed a rich career in educational service, including serving as a public school teacher, reading/English teacher for U.S. military personnel, adult high school program coordinator for the community college, and a school board member,” said NCSBA Executive Director Ed Dunlap during the announcement. Scott has devoted more than 50 years to the field of education. She is a dedicated advocate for providing a quality, equitable education to all students and has worked tirelessly for students both locally and across the state as an NCSBA past president.

The Raleigh Dingman Award is the highest honor bestowed on a North Carolina school board member. The award is named in honor of Dr. Raleigh Dingman, the Association’s first full-time executive director, and was first presented at the 1981 annual conference. In 2002 legislation was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly that provides for the Raleigh Dingman Award winner to serve as an ex officio advisor to the state board of education and to attend meetings and participate in deliberations of the state board. Scott will serve in this capacity.

In recognition of their outstanding service as board of education members, the following board members were selected for the honorary All-State School Board. These individuals have made significant contributions to their school systems during their tenure and were peer-nominated for the Raleigh Dingman Award or the School Board Leadership Award, which was won by Chris Wilson, Camden County. All-State Board Members are: Eltha Booth, Beaufort County; Shearra Miller, Cleveland County; Christian Overton, Camden County; Dr. George Truman, Anson County; Barbara Yates-Lockamy, Columbus County; and Bob Wyatt, Rockingham County.


Ramona PowersWarren County Board Member Wins Prestigious Award
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