Raising the Age for Students, Raising the Bar for School Systems

This week, our traditional students returned to school and most were excited to be back in the classroom. Unfortunately, there is a group of students who are simply waiting for their 16th birthday. This is the minimum legal age for students to drop out of school. While serving as Superintendent in Catawba County, North Carolina, we began to have discussions around the dropout age. I was pleased to see that the conversations continued after I left, and the two neighboring city systems – Hickory City Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools– agreed to pilot raising the dropout age from 16-years-old to 18-years-old. This change seems only logical, 16-year-old students are not ready to make that kind of life-changing decision. This is also being recognized by the state in other areas. The justice system appears to be moving to increase the age of when a person can be charged as an adult. Why shouldn’t schools move in this direction too?

To reiterate my point that a 16-year-old student is not ready to make that kind of life-altering decision, one MIT study found one-fourth of potential dropouts remain in school because of compulsory attendance laws. The same study also found that the overall enrollment rate among 16-year-olds is lower in states that allow students to dropout at 16. Research shows that those who stay in school earn at least 10% more on average.

Raising the dropout age will not solve all problems and is not a panacea. Raising the dropout age will require schools to address the issues that led to students dropping out. These issues include boredom, frustration and their academic struggles. School systems will need to create programs for these students. Here in New Hanover County Schools, we have implemented programs such as the Career Academy at the Mosley Performance Learning Center and the JC Roe Center to help address these and other concerns.

I believe the benefits of staying in school outweigh any potential cost. I urge our local leaders to support increasing the graduation age. I would welcome NHCS joining the current pilot and increase the dropout age from 16 to 18.

Dropout facts (Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy)

• Dropouts are less likely to have a job and those who do, earn less, on average, than high school graduates.
• Dropouts are more likely to depend on public assistance.
• Dropouts, especially young men, are more likely to be incarcerated.
• Dropouts are less likely to marry and are more likely to become single parents.
• Dropouts are less likely to be actively engaged in civic activities, including voting in local and national elections and volunteering for civic organizations.

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A New Year, A New Plan

Within just a few weeks, the 2016-2017 school year will be in full swing. To help set the direction for the upcoming year, the New Hanover County Board of Education has adopted a new strategic plan – Vision 2016-2020. This plan was created with input from a wide range of stakeholder groups that included parents, employees, students, local leaders and members of the community. The strategic plan will guide New Hanover County Schools into the foreseeable future – 2016 through 2020. A new mission statement is a part of the plan, and it clearly sets the tone heading forward with the idea of providing superior education and skills preparation. The NHCS Mission Statement is:

The mission of New Hanover County Schools, in collaboration with our parents and the community, is to strive to provide children with an opportunity for a superior education in a safe and positive learning environment where they are prepared with the skills to succeed.

After the mission statement, Vision 2016-2020 centers around five major themes:

HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION
ENVIRONMENT
PARTNERSHIPS
TALENT DEVELOPMENT
LIFELONG LEARNING

I want to explore each of these in more details.

The first area – HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION – focuses on our ability to continue to deliver high-quality education to all students in NHCS. The major points here include:

Continue to outperform both regional and comparable districts within the state on state accountability measures.
• Consistently meet or exceed academic growth at all of our schools.
• No schools identified as low-performing under the state accountability models.
• Increase the number of learning opportunities for students through the integration of flexible learning spaces, technology and inquiry-based problem learning and non-traditional learning.

The second major area is ENVIRONMENT and our ability to provide and maintain safe, respectful and secure learning environments where citizenship is valued. The major points here include:

Maintain security at campuses (hallways, stairwells, buses, cafeterias, mobile classrooms, common gathering areas for students outside, etc.).
• Provide students with greater intervention and crisis support, including additional alternatives to suspensions, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS), In-School Suspensions (ISS) and the JC Roe Center for long-term suspensions.
• Ensure that schools develop and maintain a culture of mutual respect that allows students to learn and employees to work to their optimal capacity.

The next major area is PARTNERSHIPS. The goal here is to strengthen family, community and business partnerships through mutual collaboration and communication. The major points are:

Increase effective community communication through the use of annual Community Forums to present “State of the NHCS” report.
• Host parent and community-centered informational meetings on each of the topics addressed in this goal to share, educate, and gather input, strengths, areas of improvement, updates, funding, etc.
• Continue to solicit public opinion, feedback, and district information through forums, the district website and social media regarding initiatives, programs and student opportunities.
• Create/expand Partners Program to increase expertise, trust and shared responsibility for student success.
• Advocate for public school resources at the State General Assembly.

The next major goal centers on TALENT DEVELOPMENT. We must recruit and retain highly-qualified employees that implement and support district goals to ensure academic excellence for all students. The major points here are:

Recruit highly-skilled employees from diverse backgrounds that can provide rigor, relevance, and engaging learning experiences for all students.
• Provide teachers and administrators with a system of highly-effective, competency-based professional development.
• Ensure that support staff positions are allocated to adequately support the social, emotional and academic needs of students.

The final goal centers on LIFELONG LEARNING. Our goal is to improve access to high-quality and relevant Career-Technical Education courses, which prepare students for lifelong learning and employment through the development of adaptable skills and knowledge. The major points are:

Expand pathways to graduation by increasing pathway options for students that integrate coursework, work-based learning experiences and hands-on experiences, so that students develop competencies, skills and attitudes for success beyond high school.
• Increase engagement and partnerships with local industries that extend beyond traditional partnerships to ensure continued relevance of Career-Technical Education courses.
• Ensure that learning is rigorous and focused on college and career-ready expectations, and students are afforded the opportunity to work collaboratively on tasks that are relevant and application based.

The goals of this plan are ambitious, but given the incredible talent here in NHCS, I have no doubt that we can and will achieve these goals. So, as we head into the 2016-2017 school year, I am excited to see all of our students return and launch the new strategic plan - Vision 2016 – 2020 - to ensure their success.

The full plan can be seen here: http://www.nhcs.net/board/StrategicPlan.pdf.

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NHCS Year-Round Schools Expand & Open on July 19th

For several New Hanover County Schools students, they will return to the classroom in just a few weeks on Tuesday, July 19th as part of their schools’ year-round calendar. For the 2016-17 school year, three more of the district’s schools – Snipes Academy, Freeman School of Engineering and D.C. Virgo Prep Academy will join Codington, Eaton and Sunset Park elementary schools as year-round schools.

The decision to add these schools to the year-round calendar is primarily academic. Studies show eliminating the long summer break can prevent the “summer slide” – the decline of academic skills over an extended break. The year-round schedule also allows for more intensive remediation efforts during the intersession. During this past school year, Sunset Park Elementary had a very successful intersession program that occurred during the school’s three-week breaks throughout the school year. Instead of offering after-school remediation when students are tired and time is limited, the intersessions enabled the school to offer half-day, small group remediation for students.

The following video provides an excellent overview of the summer loss that some students may experience:

The addition of D.C. Virgo Prep Academy to the year-round calendar gives the district its first year-round middle school. This will help parents who have students in a year-round elementary school and middle school aged children. They can now be on the same schedule. It also provides an option for those parents who would like for their children to continue on the year-round schedule during middle school.

Virgo has enrollment space available. If any middle school student has interest in attending Virgo, there is still time to enroll, and transportation is provided for all students. To learn more about Virgo, log onto http://www.nhcs.net/virgo/ or contact the school principal, Sabrina Hill-Black, at 910-251-6150. To obtain an enrollment application, log onto http://www.nhcs.net/forms/EnrollmentPrint/TransferFormVirgo1617.pdf

So, a reminder to all NHCS year-round students and parents, the 2016-17 school year will begin in just a few short weeks. Remember, your start date is Tuesday, July 19th.

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NHCS Summer Library Programs Offer Big Fun While Taking Aim At The “Summer Slide!”

by Jennifer LaGarde, Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist and Lead School Library Media Coordinator

Research has shown 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,” (or a regression of reading ability over the summer months).1 The US Department of Education recommends the following tips for helping 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.

New Hanover County Schools will host summer library programs at eleven sites this summer (beginning Monday, June 27, 2016 and ending on Thursday, August 4, 2016) to help parents engage their NHCS students in these types of reading activities.

ANY NHCS student will be allowed to participate in any program and checkout/return materials at any of the participating locations. In addition to checking out reading materials, each location will host a variety of activities including:

● coding and robotics
● reading with canine service animals
● Lego MakerSpaces
● exploring the wizarding ways of Harry Potter by playing a game of Table Quidditch
● 3-D Printing
● NHCPL Book Talks with “Miss Margaret”
● Lots, lots more!

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

1 “Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers” United We Serve. The White House. n.d. Web.

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The Kids Making It Woodworking Program Helps NHCS Students to Succeed

By Jimmy W. Pierce, Executive Director, KMI

This month’s blog post comes to us from Jimmy Pierce, executive director of the Kids Making It Program located downtown on Castle Street. KMI will host their annual breakfast on June 21, 2016, 7:30 a.m. at the Coastline Convention Center. NHCS leaders will be there to support the program not just because it’s a great program, but also as a way of saying thanks for the tremendous results they have had with our students. Jimmy’s article details just a few of the successful outcomes they have produced. We wish them continued success and as a district, we value our community partnership with KMI.

The Kids Making It Woodworking Program began as a volunteer effort in 1994, became a full-time program in 2000, and has served over 3,500 youth throughout the years, 99% of whom have been New Hanover County Schools’ students.

KMI now serves 500 local youth every year, from age seven through early adulthood in three programs:  Introductory Woodworking Classes for pre-teens, in which kids learn basic hand-tool skills and build a project to keep; Vocational and Entrepreneurial Classes where teens learn to operate traditional cabinet shop machinery, build a variety of projects, and are allowed to sell their products in the KMI gift shop, earning 100% of the profits on all their sales; and the KMI Apprenticeship Program, through which graduates who need jobs are offered paid on-the-job training positions, making custom products for the public, using both traditional, computer driven and digital technology machinery. In the fall, KMI will begin their new Skilled Trades program for older teens, introducing the basics of electrical, plumbing, masonry, construction carpentry, and HVAC.

Connecting vocational skills and income to work early in a child’s life has a way of helping to lay the foundation for success.  KMI tracks the results of their teenagers in the program, and has had a zero dropout rate for many years.  Their recidivism and ‘getting in trouble’ rate is < 2%.

KMI counts success one student at a time, and has far more success stories than we have room for here.  But here are a few:

  • Tyrell “Pop” Brockington started at KMI when he was 14, was hired as a youth apprentice at 15, took shop and after graduation from Hoggard became a full-time KMI instructor.  He turns 30 this year, and now works in a professional cabinet shop.
  • Thomas was in a gang and suspended from middle school when he first came to KMI.  After a few months, he quit the gang, got back in school, and used all of the money from his first profits check to buy his own tools and start his own woodworking business.  Other students now have their own woodworking businesses too – one of whom could be receiving a disability check but who has decided with his family not to, as he now can make it on his own.
  • Tevin and Yvonne had a tough childhood and were at New Hanover High School when they first came to KMI at 15 & 14.  Tevin is now putting himself through school at NC A&T University, and wants to become an architect, and Yvonne is putting herself through Fayetteville State to become a social worker.
  • Enrique just graduated from NHHS and will attend NC State University to become an architect in the fall.
  • Jessica started at KMI at 14, graduating from NHHS. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Paris, and inspired by her experience at KMI, Jessica is now working to start her own non-profit teaching cooking and baking to at-risk kids.

www.kidsmakingit.org; 617 Castle Street, Wilmington, 28401; (910) 763 – 6001

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Life in the Classroom- A Beginning Teacher’s Perspective

Written by Cortlyn Young, a second-year Social Studies Teacher at Ashley High School

To be a teacher is to be motivating, inspiring, dedicated, caring, positive, patient, entertaining, and so much more. If I have learned anything in my short career as a teacher, it’s that teaching is a tough job. While it is easy to describe what a teacher should be, or to list off the attributes a teacher should possess, it is much more difficult to actually be that person. However, if I as a teacher don’t give 100% effort on a daily basis to attempt to be all of these things, I wouldn’t be doing myself or more importantly, my students any favors.

Throughout my first two years of teaching, I have laughed, cried, found my first grey hair, pulled some hair out, and have quite literally bitten my tongue. Every day that I walk into school, I know it will be a new adventure with my students. That adventure could be amazing, or it could be one that I never wish to repeat. Despite this, I can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. What other job could I have fun every single day?! I can’t think of one. However, I’m not one of those teachers who dreamt of becoming a teacher since they were young. In fact, as a high school student, I swore I would NEVER be a teacher. It wasn’t until I had an amazing, inspiring, dedicated, caring, positive, patient, and entertaining teacher myself that I thought, “wow, I’d love to impact a kid like that one day.” I am a native of Wilmington and attended Laney High School. My sophomore and senior years, I took AP History courses with Mr. Holden. Before taking his classes, I was not a huge fan of history by any means, but I wanted to get as many AP credits as I could. Little did I know that by the time I left Mr. Holden’s class and Laney, I would love history and want to become a high school Social Studies teacher myself…and 4 years later, I was. While taking his class, it was evident that Mr. Holden was a great teacher. It seemed as though he was always excited to be teaching us, and he always had a way of making us laugh and learn simultaneously. To say he met his calling in life would be an understatement. However, as a teacher myself now, when I look back at how Mr. Holden conducted himself and how he made us as students feel, I realize that he was even better than we knew at the time. I realize now that he wasn’t just coming into work and talking about historical events each day; he was completing the multitude of tasks that all teachers complete on a daily basis while being one of the most positive teachers (and individuals) that I have run into throughout my whole life.

Teaching is exhausting. When teachers say, “there’s no tired like teacher tired,” they aren’t kidding! Between teaching, meetings, pep talks, counseling sessions, planning, and grading, it seems like there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what you need to do. I learned very quickly that if I was going to be successful at my job, I have to stay positive and make sure that my students know I care about them as well as their knowledge of American history. As a high school teacher, I do have to deal with moody teenagers every once in a while, but I have learned that they need the same nurturing environment as any child, because despite the fact that 95% of them are bigger than me, they are still kids who need to know that there is someone in their life who cares for them. I am aware that I may be the only smiling face that a student sees in a given day, and it’s my job to do just that. Have I failed? Numerous times. But I pray that with every student that passes through my course, I make some sort of an impact on them. There have been multiple days when I have driven home in tears, because of the devastating situations in which some of my students live, or because of the tragic background that they have. This is what drives me to become the best that I can be as a teacher. Of course I want my students to do well in my class and on their final exams; I want my classroom to be orderly and respectful; but most importantly, I want my students to know I love them and want them to be positive contributors to the society in which we live. It’s the little notes, gifts, and comments of appreciation that can really make my day as a teacher. I’ve had days where I have really wanted to throw in the towel because of various frustrations, but without fail, there is always a student who happens to say something that completely changes my outlook on my job as a teacher and can make me feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. They do these things unknowingly, and they have no idea just how large of an impact that it makes on a teacher.

Challenges will always be present in education. Pay will always seem low, politics will always be present, students will always act up, but receiving a large salary, getting praise, or dealing with perfect students is not why I became a teacher. I became a teacher, because I wanted to positively impact someone’s life, while teaching him or her a little about history… just as it was done for me. I can only hope that throughout my career I am able to do this for at least one person. While being taught how to be a teacher in college, I wasn’t able to comprehend all that teaching really encompassed. It’s hard and exhausting. Nothing can truly prepare you for all of the work and time that you are going to put into your job, but there’s also no preparation for how rewarding you will find your job as a teacher to be. This reward comes from having funny, obnoxious, exhausting, broken, smart, bright, struggling, beautiful messes of students walk into your class and teach you something new every day. I can’t wait to meet all of the brilliant minds that I will encounter throughout my career as a teacher. I’m only two years in and I feel like I’ve been incredibly privileged to know some of the young people that I have met.

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Teacher Appreciation Month – Remember, Honor & Give Thanks


May is Teacher Appreciation Month and we will celebrate by turning over this blog to teachers. Throughout the month, we will hear from a new teacher and a veteran teacher about their experiences in teaching. Before they take center stage, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank several teachers who had a huge impact on my life. I was the son of two high school dropouts, who expected me to go straight to work after high school. Several teachers saw something else and pushed me to excel; their strong example led me to college and into education.

The first educator was my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Perham. She was a no-nonsense teacher who expected the best from her students. I remember each day she would post a question that you had to find the answer to before class started. She kept track with a chart of how many questions that you got right. There was intense competition to see who could get the most right. She was also creative and engaged students every day. She did not care what your background was; she wanted every student to learn. What I learned in fifth-grade carried me into high school and beyond. Another thing that I remember was that Mrs. Perham was always professional and set an example for all others to follow. She never put down a student or embarrassed someone in front of other students. She was the kind of teacher that you did not want to disappoint.

The second teacher was Mr. Gribbon, who taught history at my high school. He loved the subject, and that was obvious from his teaching. He also loved his school and literally wrote the history of the place. He would stand on his desk to make his point, and he had a running feud with the library that was comical. Every student who took his class learned something and was engaged. I took every class that I could from him. He took my interest in history and turned it into a love that still stays with me today. I credit him with my decision to become a history teacher.

I know that everyone out there has a teacher that has touched and inspired them. During Teacher Appreciation Month, I urge you to reach out and thank the teachers that have made a positive impact in your life. I touched based with Mrs. Perham when I first became a Superintendent, and she was still teaching. Evidentially, she wasn’t as old as my fifth-grade mind thought that she was. Mr. Gribbon passed away several years ago, and the outpouring of love from the community was worthy of a head of state extending his condolences.

Take a moment this month and thank a teacher. I still hear from my former students. I am proud of the adults that they have become, and they give their old history teacher – Mr. Markley – thanks for helping them along the way.

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#EdCampBeach: The Ultimate UNconfererence Experience for NHCS Educators

By Jennifer LaGarde, Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist and Lead School Library Media Coordinator

On April 30th, Castle Hayne Elementary will host New Hanover County Schools’ very first EdCamp: #EdCampBeach.

What’s an EdCamp? EdCamps are free, non-commercial, “unconferences” that are open to all educators who want to learn and share with other professionals. Unlike traditional conferences, which have schedules set far in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp sessions are collaboratively determined on the day of the event, and anyone who attends has the opportunity to be a presenter. There are no PowerPoints, no vendors and no formal presentations at an EdCamp, just organic conversations born out of the sincere desire to make teaching and learning better for our students. (Check out this video for a closer look at the EdCamp experience!)

The first EdCamp was held in 2010 in Philadelphia. In 2011, the EdCamp Foundation was formed to help educators organize and hold their own “unconference” events. Since that time, hundreds of EdCamps have been held around the world. And on April 30th, NHCS educators will have the opportunity to experience this unique and powerful learning opportunity right in their own backyard! With over 100 educators from all across North Carolina already registered, #EdCampBeach will provide NHCS teachers and administrators with the chance to network and learn from their colleagues across the state.

Who can attend #EdCampBeach? You! Like all Edcamps, #EdCampBeach is open to all educators and future educators. If you’re motivated to create outstanding learning experiences for your students and you’re ready to learn and share with others who want to do the same thing, then this event is for you! Registration is free! Just visit the #EdCampBeach website to reserve your spot today!

Why should you attend #EdCampBeach? Unlike traditional conferences that are made up almost entirely of lecture style “sit and get” sessions, EdCamps are participatory events in which the learning is hands on, driven by authentic problems and powered by learner choice and self-efficacy. Simply put, there’s nothing quite like an EdCamp, and #EdCampBeach provides NHCS educators with the chance to experience this one of a kind, professional development right here in Southeast NC. Plus, certificates that can be submitted for CEUs will be issued on site for certified NC educators.

Time and location:
Saturday, April 30, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EDT)
Castle Hayne Elementary School – 3925 Roger Haynes Drive, Castle Hayne, NC 28429

More information about #EdCampBeach:
Visit: bit.ly/edcampbeach
Follow @edcampbeach (or the #EdCampBeach hashtag) on Twitter.
Join the EdCampBeach Facebook Page

Still have more questions? Feel free to contact one of the #EdCampBeach Organizers:
Cyndy Bliss: Principal, Castle Hayne Elementary School
David Glenn: STEAM Coordinator, Castle Hayne Elementary School
Bev Ladd: Teacher, Pine Valley Elementary School
Jennifer LaGarde: Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist/Lead School Library Media Coordinator, New Hanover County Schools
Jeannie Timken: Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist, New Hanover County Schools

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Every Child Needs a Champion

By Katie Snyder, Social Studies Teacher – Hoggard High School
2015-16 NHCS Teacher of the Year & Regional Teacher of the Year

New Hanover County Schools recently held its 5th Annual Legislative Luncheon. Regional Teacher of the Year – Katie Snyder – shared her inspiring speech, “Every Child Needs a Champion.”  Ms. Snyder not only addresses the need for every child to have a champion, but for teachers to have a champion too.

“Every child needs a champion” You may have heard this quote before from Rita Pierson on a popular and inspiring Ted Talks for education.

I cannot agree more with this statement… every child does need a champion to ensure he / she are successful in school.

New Hanover County Schools has approximately 26,000 students in need of a champion every day.

I strongly believe that for every child to have a champion, every teacher needs a champion too which is why I have spent the past five years of my career mentoring new and pre-service teachers and how I came to discover what I would talk about today… my core message as I continue my teacher of the year journey: we must recruit and retain high quality teachers… to ensure that every child in our district and in the state has a champion at the front of his / her classroom every day…. We must be the champion for our teachers.

So, how do we do this?

1. Recruiting the best teachers
2. Retention / mentoring
3. Change the narrative about public education

You may have heard that North Carolina is facing a teacher shortage problem like many states around the nation, but this really is occurring and several other districts around the state feel this worse than we do, but this reality is heading for us in New Hanover County very soon.

Enrollment in schools of education throughout the UNC system has decreased by 30 percent since 2010 – This is a reality I have personally recognized. For the past two years, I have taught the social studies methods course at UNCW for students in their pre-internship semester. The first year that I taught the course, there were 10 undergraduate students, last year there were 6 and this upcoming year, I have been told there are only 3 undergraduate students who want to be a high school history teacher!

Last year, the last class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows graduated. In 2011, the state legislature cut this scholarship opportunity which attracted top high school seniors into the teaching profession by covering their college tuition in exchange for teaching in the state for 4 years. The Teaching Fellows program produced about 500 high quality educators each year in our state and ones who stayed in education versus programs like Teach for America which encourage teachers to work for two years and then move on. The Teaching Fellows program has produced many effective teachers who make an impact in their own classroom and in the entire teaching profession. In fact, our current state teacher of the year, Mrs. Keana Triplett and several others before her were teaching fellows recipients.

Another thing that is deterring people from teaching is this new rating system for schools makes it difficult to attract teachers because no one wants to start their career or continue it in a school that has been labeled a D or F school.

Currently, 25% of the 100,000 teachers in North Carolina are in their first five years of teaching and other research suggests that 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years of teaching. So again this teacher shortage crisis is coming …
The #1 cited reason for leaving… lack of support!

To change the climate of public education in our state, YOU need to be the champion for teachers. YOU need to be the voice for our teachers because you have the power to really be heard.

Help us recruit and retain more teachers into the state by advocating on behalf of teachers.

NHCS recently created a scholarship similar to the teaching fellows to encourage high school seniors to go into the teaching profession. This is an incredible start and I hope you continue to offer this amazing opportunity in the future

In the high schools, we need to offer programs like Teacher Cadet and Future Teachers of America to attract students into the profession. I know these programs exist in some locations but not everyone because we don’t have enough teachers to offer this type of an elective.

Teacher pay is a problem as well… I know you saw that one coming… but it’s true! Since I have been teaching for the past 8 years, I have seen my pay increase once and that was hard. I remember a couple of years ago at the end of January calling my dad and crying because I have less that $1 in my bank account and was still days away from pay day and I did not know what I was going to do. This is a reality many of our own teachers face both new teachers and veterans. Now, the state has increased the starting salary to $35,000 to make us more competitive with other states but they did nothing for veterans. Even though our neighboring states of South Carolina and Virginia have average salaries that are below the national average, I could still move either state and see about a $10,000 pay increase… I can think of a lot of things I could use $10,000 for and I know many other teachers are thinking the same thing.

We must bring back master’s pay for teachers! Getting my master’s degree was a game changer for me in terms of being a better classroom teacher and a teacher leader in my school and now the entire district. That additional 10% goes a long way for teachers who have earned it and every teacher with a master’s degree deserves it. Bringing back master’s pay will attract people into the profession, encourage lifelong learning among educators, and restore our value as professionals.

If you get the chance to vote for any increase in teacher pay or to bring back masters pay, please do it! Otherwise, our teachers will continue to leave the state in search of a decent living wage.

Once teachers are in the teaching profession, we must support them. New Hanover County Schools has an excellent new teacher support program in which I am currently conducting a program evaluation of the program in the four traditional high schools as part of my doctorate dissertation. When I am finished with my evaluation, I will share the results with HR in an effort to improve the existing programs and encourage the implementation of similar programs within other schools in the district, in the southeast region, and hopefully, if we’re lucky.. If I’m lucky… throughout the entire state of North Carolina. Teachers who receive effective mentoring during their first three years are more likely to remain in the teaching profession and become high quality educators that impact student achievement… and to be a champion for each of their students.

Mentoring is beneficial for our county’s bottom line too… I know it may not seem like it because you are funding the entire program, but it is cheaper than the alternative. In fact, nationwide, districts spend $7.3 billion on recruiting new teachers and retraining teachers to fill vacancies!

Mentoring our new teachers is equally beneficial for our veteran teachers who serve as mentors in every building in the district. Mentors often increase their own overall effectiveness by working with new teachers and reflecting on their own teaching practice. Mentors gain experience as a teacher leader and many remain in the teaching profession because of this new connection made and the increase in collaboration.

Teachers, both new and veterans, need meaningful professional development. With the dismantling of the professional development department, many teachers are not exposed to new instructional strategies and are not given the opportunity to learn about them. The 21st century is a rapidly changing era and teachers must stay abreast of the latest methods to engage and educate our children. The students are bored… but the teachers do not have the means to improve within reasonable hours. Yes the half days with professional development in the afternoon are great, but they also fall at a time when we need to get grades finalized for report cards or interim reports and this trumps any meaningful PD in our minds. Maybe we could advocate for more local flexibility with the calendar so that each district can create a system that works best for its families instead of the state mandate for when we can start and end the school year.

Please keep supporting our teachers by funding these new teacher support programs and professional development programs.

The most important thing that we can all to in order to be a champion for teachers is to help change the negative image the public has about teachers. On countless occasions, when asked what I do for a living, I have been met with blank, horrified stares accompanied by … “why do you teach high school?” “Isn’t that difficult to control a class?” “How do you survive on a teacher’s salary?”… People question why I would got into a such a profession that so clearly doesn’t take care of its own. Bright high school and college students are practically scared away from the profession before they even start because of these negative attitudes.

Just on Tuesday of this week, I was having a conversation with one of my amazing former students… an African American female who is bilingual and brilliant and doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. I told her that she would make an amazing teacher… her response: “What? NO! Teachers work way too hard and don’t make anything!”

These negative attitudes about teachers are getting to our teachers and many of them buy-in to the negative narrative. Anyone who is familiar with growth-mindset understands the importance of growing children’s minds through positive words, activities, and interactions. This is the same for teachers. There are a lot of negative undertones in teaching… we are working “in the trenches”… New teacher books are called “survival guides.” These words build the narrative that teaching as a profession isn’t worth it.

Well I know and you know it is worth it because we must go into the classroom every day to be the champion our students need us to be. If we want more champions in the classroom, we must change this narrative about public education.

Together, we all can elevate, not denigrate, the teaching profession. Choose your words about education carefully because future teachers are listening and your words may impact their decision to become a teacher or not.

We must be a champion for our teachers and reverse these stereotypes by advocating on behalf of our teachers.

Treat teachers like the professionals we are… we devoted at least four years of college to this field and are constantly developing our own craft. Trust us. We want what is best for our children. We want to be their champion.

The next time I introduce myself to someone and tell them that I am a high school teacher, I want them to smile and I want their response to be a positive one…

Please be the champion for our teachers. Advocate for our teachers. For every decision and vote you get to make, please remember our teachers.

Make conscious decisions to recruit the best teachers to NHCS starting early on in high school, continue to fund and support induction programs which have a positive impact on new teachers and veterans, and help me as I try to change the narrative about public education in our state. Teachers do have a difficult job, but they are doing it every day!

YOU need to be the champion for our teachers so that our teachers can continue to be the champion for our children. Because in order to be successful in school and for the rest of their lives… every child needs a champion. Thank you.

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Arts Education in NHCS: Best Foot Forward and So Much More

by Valita Quattlebaum, APR, NHCS Chief Communications Officer


With Best Foot Forward close to a week away, there’s always excitement in the district during this time of year. We have 20 acts from schools ranging from Pre-K to high schools prepared to perform and delight the audience at the 27th annual event on Friday, March 11, 2016.

Although Best Foot Forward is probably the district’s most well-known Arts Education production, there are many facts that you may not know about the arts in New Hanover County Schools and the tremendous impact they make on the lives of our students each day. Recently, the district sent students to Kenan Auditorium to see a performance by the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem, an American professional ballet company. Students were able to see a live ballet performance and participate in a workshop that offered them the opportunity to perform with the dancers. As one starry-eyed Snipes Academy student stated, “I will never forget this time!”

Thanks to the leadership of Arts Education Supervisor Tim McCoy and the support of our community, Arts Education in NHCS continues to be outstanding. Below are a few aspects that make our programs unique:

Kennedy Center Partnership – Professional Development for Art Teachers:
NHCS, in partnership with the Office of the Arts at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is one of only ten teams to join with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as Partners in Education. This is the second time the NHCS Arts Department has been selected to partner with the Kennedy Center. In April 2016, the Kennedy Center will host the 14th Partners in Education Institute. The four-day intensive program for arts organizations and school districts will expand professional development programs for teachers. The Kennedy Center selected ten teams of arts organizations and school systems from across the nation to participate in the Partners in Education Institute, April 27-30, 2016.

Other Community Partnerships:
The district partners with numerous cultural centers and venues in the area to enhance arts education for students. Field trips, performances, and interactive workshops are some of the ways these partnerships support our students and take learning to a higher level. Some of our local arts education partnerships include:

• Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center
• Cameron Arts Museum
• Thalian Hall
• DREAMS
• Kids Making It
• Children’s Art Museum
• Cape Fear Chordmen
• “Music and Arts” music store and many other parent boosters and businesses.

Summer Enrichment Camps:
Our Summer Arts Enrichment Camps continue to grow and provide excellent opportunities for the students of New Hanover County and the surrounding areas. We offer camps in Music, Art, Drama, Technology and AIG.

Minnie Evans Arts Center:
The Minnie Evans Arts Center is a state-of-the-art facility which features a 955 seat proscenium theater with working catwalks, fly system, and full stage removable acoustic shell.

Built in 2001 by New Hanover County Schools, it is the host to most of the school systems All-County performing arts events. The arts center is also used by several of the schools within the NHCS system for concerts, theater arts productions, and other activities.

Calendar of Arts Events:
There is always something going on in the arts in our district. Each school presents plays and concerts. Also, district-wide arts events happen throughout the year. Parents and the general community are always welcome to come out to support our students. To view the NHCS Arts Calendar, click here.

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