NHCS Storm Stories – Bringing School Families Together

In our next installment of NHCS Storm Stories, we learn how Hurricane Florence left her destructive mark on College Park Elementary, and how the school families of Castle Hayne Elementary and Holly Shelter Middle School welcomed College Park staff and students with open arms.

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NHCS Storm Stories Series Continues

As our community and the southeast region continue to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Florence, NHCS-TV has produced two more videos to include as part of the Superintendent’s Blog Storm Stories series.

These videos share the stories of a NHCS student and his family after their home was severely damaged by a large tree, and how a NHCS employee has taken in a fellow employee and family due to extensive damage to their home. Both of these stories are examples of the tremendous loss that so many have experienced due to Hurricane Florence. And, these stories are also excellent examples of the incredible community spirit to help those in need.

#buildingastrongfoundation #nhcsstrong

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NHCS Storm Stories

On September 14th and 15th, our county, our region, and our state experienced a weather situation unlike no other – Hurricane Florence. As you are aware, countless homes and businesses sustained severe damage and some were even destroyed. Roads have been washed away. And, sadly, lives have been lost. The impact of Hurricane Florence can be found far and wide, and the recovery efforts will last into the coming months, and for some, possibly years. A storm of this magnitude will leave a lasting imprint on us and our community.

All of us have a story about Hurricane Florence – how it has impacted our lives. To help capture these stories, throughout the month of October we will post NHCS Storm Stories – a video blog of NHCS employees and students sharing their stories about Hurricane Florence.

The first two videos are included below – Dr. Maggie Rollison – Principal of Trask Middle School shares her account of overseeing Trask as an evacuation shelter during the height of the storm – and Lauren Gray – a WECHS teacher – shares the loss of her family’s home to flooding and how they are rebuilding.

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It’s Never Firecrackers Here

by Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent

Every once in a while, we need a reminder about the importance of public education. Being a strong advocate for public education, I would not have necessarily thought that I needed a reminder, but I got a very strong reminder a few weeks ago while I was attending the Back to School Cookout in the Houston Moore community.  It was a nice, warm August afternoon for administrators and teachers from Alderman Elementary and Myrtle Grove Middle Schools to meet students and their families, who may not have had the opportunity to attend their schools’ upcoming Open Houses.

While there, school staff members witnessed a tragedy – a drive-by shooting – that unfortunately has become all too common in some of our public housing and high-poverty areas. Just two blocks away from the fun-filled picnic, a young man was fatally wounded during a drive-by shooting. One would not have imagined that such a sudden, violent crime would have occurred in the afternoon while the community had gathered to celebrate the new school year…but it did.

I would like to publicly commend the school administrators and teachers. They didn’t try to escape the picnic. They chose to stay with their students and understood that while they could have left the gathering for the security of their own homes, they knew that their students had no place else to go, so they kept the party going to support their students – making the best out of a difficult situation and surroundings.  The teachers at these schools and all of our schools are committed to making a difference in the lives of all students, regardless of where they come from or what their background is. We need to recognize that this type of tragedy can and does have a lasting impact on the students that come to our schools every day.

We also need to recognize that public education is the only way out for many of these students. We serve as a shelter of refuge, a foundation of strength, a morsel of hope for many students, who are surrounded by the darkness of their reality and the violent crimes that engulf their communities, their homes. They struggle with trauma and life circumstances that most of us will never experience. When they come to school, we need to understand the traumas that they are facing and how we can work with them to meet their needs – both educationally and socially.

What drove this home for me was the comment of one young student.  When speaking of the event to some of the people there I said, “At first, it sounded like firecrackers,” and this student looked at me and she said, “It’s never firecrackers here.” No student should have to grow up in that kind of environment. How can we expect students to learn and pay attention when they grow up scared or indifferent to the violence that they see around them every day?

I commend our staff who are willing to work with some of our most challenging students. They do this because they want to make a difference and understand that if these students are going to be successful, we all have to be part of the solution.  I believe the entire community has to be willing to be part of that solution. We need to provide safe areas for our students outside of school, where they can grow up and not experience violence as a daily occurrence.

As we begin this new school year, I come with a renewed sense of the importance of the work that we do. I also come with a renewed sense that the work we do makes a difference in the lives of our students and the well-being of our community. I urge everyone to get involved and help make the life of our children safer. Whether it’s being extra patient with a frustrated student, sharing a listening ear to hear their fears, or just a smile and a few kind words, the school day may be their only positive experience. The importance of public education is endless. Please join me this year – as you have for many – to continue to support our students, our future.

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New School Year, New Beginning

by Christen Howe, NHCS 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

Welcome back to a new school year!

One thing I love about the beginning of the school year is that everyone, including educators, is given a fresh start, a new opportunity to begin again and do better. To me this new beginning always inspires hope and possibility.

As you begin to set goals and make plans for the new year, I encourage you to remember the reason why we are here.

No matter what subject or grade you teach, what department in which you work, we are all here for kids. Our whole profession exists to serve children.

In order to create a strong foundation in the coming year, I invite you to join me in the three following endeavors:

One: Let’s build real relationships that matter with every student.

Learning is a deeply personal experience. As James Comer states, “No significant learning can occur without a relationship.”

So let’s make time to know our students as people, both in and out of the classroom. Let’s learn about their interests, strengths, hopes, and fears.

Let’s build relationships based on trust and respect. Let’s treat our students the way we want to be treated.

Let’s believe in each and every student and let them know that they matter. Every day.

Our little efforts and actions can make a big difference.  This year, let’s

  • Greet students at the door, say hello and goodbye every day.

  • Let’s seek student feedback – find out what’s going well and what we can do better.

  • Let’s take an afternoon to attend a student’s extra-curricular activity.

  • And let’s keep trying, even when it’s difficult.

Building a strong relationship with each and every child is not always easy, but it is so important. And this is the beauty and responsibility of what we do.

We work in a profession where we have the chance every day to change someone’s life with our words, our actions, and our belief in their ability.

We must not underestimate the power of our words and the potential impact of our efforts.  As teachers we must seek to connect with and find the strengths in every student, every day.

Two: Let’s build a life-long love of learning.

Learning is at the core of what we do every day in schools and it is important that we help our students understand that it is more than a score on a test or a grade at year’s end.

What if we create experiences that help our students see that learning matters? And not because they need to learn information for a test, but because it allows them access to ideas, opportunities, and the world around them.

Children are born full of wonder and a desire to learn and, as educator/innovator George Couros says, “If our students leave school less curious when they started, we have failed them.”

So let’s teach to inspire, ignite curiosity, and create wonder.

Let’s provide learning opportunities that invite students to see what’s possible and then empower them with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to make it happen.

Three: Let’s believe in ourselves and know, without a doubt, that what we do matters.

Every day is an opportunity to do something great for kids. A strong foundation for children and learning begins with us.

There are – and will continue to be – challenges in education, but let’s remember why we are here.  We are here for children and we make a difference. Every day.

Never doubt your sphere of influence or the capacity you have to affect change. We can’t allow the things that are out of our control interfere with all the things we can control.

As teachers we are at the heart of education; we have the collective capacity to be the change our students need.

So let’s work together to make it happen. Our kids deserve it.

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Building Brains for Success Through Play and Connection: NHCS Early Childhood Year in Review

by NHCS Early Childhood Education Department

During the 2017-2018 school year, the NHCS Early Childhood Education Program (NHCS ECE) served over 870 children ages 3 and 4 in 50 public and private school classrooms across the county. Preschool children are growing rapidly and their thirst for knowledge is almost unquenchable! Our preschool program uses the Creative Curriculum system which places emphasis on learning in Interest Centers and hands-on investigation of study topics. Young children learn best through intentional play based experiences. Nearly every interaction in a preschool classroom provides an opportunity for a developmental or content based learning objective. Now you know why we take naps :)

Preschool children use literacy and drawing skills to write about their emotions.

In addition to our state approved curriculum, we utilize the formative assessment called Teaching Strategies Gold (which is part of the Creative Curriculum system). This formative assessment process requires teachers to collect data points on 38 researched based objectives three times a year. The 38 objectives for development and learning are predictors of school success and are based on school readiness standards. We feel so proud about implementing this curriculum which is the most widely used preschool curriculum in the state.

This past year, we have strengthened our partnership with 10 private sites which serve NC Pre-K children. Our department has provided curriculum resources and professional development for every private site teacher and directors. This past year, private site teachers filled out the Kindergarten Transition Card in alignment with our public preschool classrooms. For 2018-2019, every single elementary school will have NHCS Preschool graduates!

We are exceptionally proud of our implementation of the social and emotional learning  program Conscious Discipline, which trains teachers how to view children’s behavior in a neuroscience informed way.  In our classrooms, teachers use strategies to teach prosocial skills and develop foundational executive skills with our preschoolers. In our classrooms, you will see Baby Doll Circle Time, Feelings Buddies, Safe Place, Brain Smart Start and Wish Well.

Preschool child practices active calming by using breathing techniques with her baby doll.

In NHCS preschool classrooms, we are building young brains through play and connection. We are reminded of a quote from Ghandi, “To reach real peace in the world, we will have to begin with the children.”  We believe we are investing in our society by collectively raising our children to have empathy and be problem solvers and we know our children will have lasting positive effects on the Wilmington community.

We are proud to showcase the data of our children throughout our Pre-K classrooms.

Our children have shown incredible growth this year as assessed in 6 domains of learning: 4 developmental domains of Social and Emotional, Language, Physical and Cognitive and 2 content domains: Math and Literacy. In each domain, our preschool children have shown growth: at the end of the 17-18 school year 87% of children were meeting or exceeding the widely held expectation for Social and Emotional domain learning, 82% of children were meeting or exceeding in Language, 94% were meeting or exceeding in Physical development, 87% of children were meeting or exceeding in Cognitive development, 81% were meeting or exceeding in Math, and 87% were meeting or exceeding the expectation for Literacy development.

Kudos to our youngest learners and the teachers who support them!

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2018-19 NHCS Principal of the Year – Krista Holland

Earlier this month, Anderson Elementary School Principal – Krista C. Holland – was selected as NHCS’ 2018-19 Principal of the Year. Mrs. Holland gave an inspiring acceptance speech during the district’s Educator of the Year Awards Banquet. Her inspirational speech can be viewed in the video clip below.

Congratulations to Mrs. Holland and all of the 2018-19 Teachers of the Year!
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Reduction in Juvenile Data through School Justice Partnership

by Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent

I was recently invited to a meeting about the Juvenile Reinvestment Act (Raise the Age). At this meeting, there was a review of juvenile data related to courts and criminal charges. The data showed an incredible drop in the number of charges and offenses. These reductions correspond to the enactment of our school justice partnership between New Hanover County Schools, the DA’s office, local law enforcement and the court system. The partnership was formalized in 2014, and now four years later, it continues to have a positive impact on what is happening with students in New Hanover County.

We have also seen a reduction in the number short-term suspensions since signing the partnership agreement. Short-term suspensions have gone from 4,618 to 4,014 – a reduction of over 600 in just four years.

In 2014, there were 300 school-based complaints to law enforcement, which accounted for 64% of all juvenile complaints. Now, over three years later the number is 151 – nearly a 50% reduction, and it accounts for only 38.2% of all juvenile complaints.

Data from the Department of Public Safety shows similar improvements. Highlights from the report include:

  • 24% reduction in the number admission to the Juvenile Detention Center since 2012 (District 5, New Hanover and Pender)
  • 54% reduction in school bases complaints since 2012 (District 5, New Hanover and Pender)
  • 46% decrease in overall juvenile complaints since 2012 (District 5, New Hanover and Pender)
  • Youth Development Center commitments have gone from 11 to 3 since 2012 (District 5, New Hanover and Pender)

There is still a long way to go with this partnership, but the data is moving in the right direction. The partnership is a great example of what can be accomplished when agencies come together to do what is right for students. My hope is to share this data again, and it shows even greater progress. So let me close by saying – THANK YOU to ALL of the partners who made these improvements possible!

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NHCS Summer Library Program 2018: Growing Readers & Learners Through Our School Libraries

by Jeannie Timken, NHCS Digital Teaching & Learning Specialist

Research shows that when students read over the summer, they come back to school better prepared for the challenges of a new school year. In fact, reading just five books during summer break can altogether prevent the “summer slide,” – a regression of reading ability that can occur over the summer months. The US Department of Education offers the following tips to help students maintain healthy reading lives over the summer:

  1. Let your child choose what they want to read – or be read to – for 30 minutes each day. Children are much more likely to engage in material that interests them rather than materials that are forced on them.

  2. Use language and reading opportunities throughout the day. Talk often with your child and point out reading materials wherever possible:  on menus, magazines and newspapers, signs, brochures, maps, guidebooks, smartphones, ipads, etc.

  3. Make daily reading a social event. Get the whole family to join in with their own books or take turns reading the same book aloud. Include telling stories as well.

  4. Connect reading to other summer events. If you take your child to the zoo, think about reading a book about animals before and afterward. This will place your child’s reading within a larger context.

  5. Make reading a lifestyle choice. Keep books all around the house to cultivate an atmosphere of reading, and set an example by reading yourself. Children need good models of reading books, magazines, or newspapers.

Once again, New Hanover County Schools will host summer library programs at FIVE sites across the district this summer to help parents engage their NHCS students in various types of reading as well as other creative and critical thinking activities. The NHCS Summer Library Program runs from Monday, June 25th through Wednesday, August 1st. This year, the following schools are opening their libraries on dates throughout that window.

  • Alderman Elementary
  • Anderson Elementary
  • Blair Elementary
  • Pine Valley Elementary
  • Trask Middle

Students at participating sites received a personal invitation that included the dates and times of when their school’s library will be open; however, ANY NHCS student is allowed to participate in any program and checkout/return materials at any of the other participating locations. NO registration is required. Simply check out the calendar to find out what sites are open and make plans to attend!  In addition to checking out reading materials, each location will host a variety of programs that include:

  • Coding and robotics

  • Reading with service animals

  • MakerSpace activities

  • Walking through an interactive Story Garden

  • Augmented & Virtual Reality experiences

  • ….and many other  digital & “unplugged” activities

Please visit the NHCS Summer Reading Program website for a complete schedule and calendar of events.  We look forward to seeing you this summer!

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Be the Best You for Your Students

by Adriana Poveromo, NHCS Rookie Teacher of the Year

“The dream begins with a teacher – who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” -Dan Rather

As we enter into the week of appreciating our educators across the country, the memories come flooding back into my mind as to why I became a teacher and what led me to where I am today. For me, it was my first grade teacher that ignited the passion for me to become a teacher. Ever since then, I have had this drive and fire inside of me to make an impact on the students that I have in my classroom.

Four years ago, my journey as a teacher began, and it was not an easy one. I was traveling an hour to and from work, and I was putting 400 miles a week on my little car. I was a first-year teacher teaching third grade, and I was the only teacher. How terrifying?! It was in that first year that I was able to discover what did and did not work for me as a teacher and how to form relationships with my students. It wasn’t until my second year of teaching that I found my way back into the County – NHCS – where I received my education for K-12.

The past four years of teaching have been some of the most rewarding and challenging for myself, but the rewarding memories far outweigh the challenging ones. I am thankful to NHCS for giving me the opportunity to come back and educate the future leaders of tomorrow. Throughout this last school year in the Beginning Teacher program, it has brought me the most memorable moments of my teaching career. I never would have imagined being in the position that I am today, and I just have to thank NHCS for believing in me as an educator and as a leader.

Teacher appreciation isn’t just one week out of the year…it is each and every second of the day. Teaching brings incomparable joy to each and every one of us, or we would not be in the positions that we are in today. We walk into a brand new opportunity each and every morning, no matter what happened the day before. Each day is a fresh new slate for us to make the most of what lies ahead of us and be the best “YOU” for your students.

My purpose and why is plain and simple…my students. It probably sounds cliché, but I try to instill my students the values and morals that I learned when I was a student sitting in their shoes 15 years ago. In brief, this is why we teach: to improve the transmission of learning, to honor the scholarship we have so dearly won, and to inspire our students’ compassion and ideas. In these challenging times for teaching and learning, we must persist to persevere.

I wish each and every teacher a Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, and if you haven’t heard it lately, I appreciate you and all of the hard work you put in to educating the future leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for your dedication to your students.

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