I Am the Bridge

Last week, NHCS hosted the 7th Annual Legislative Luncheon. NHCS Teacher of Year – Angela Hewett – Art Teacher at Ashley High School – was one of the presenters. Her inspirational speech, I Am the Bridge, brought a standing ovation and is posted below as this week’s blog.

I AM the BRIDGE by Angela Hewett

I never sought to be “teacher of the year” and I still haven’t reconciled that title with the way I perceive myself. This has been a year of personal reflection and professional stretching. I have over-analyzed my motives, all of my methods, and even my mission as a teacher. But I have also expanded my scope of awareness and sphere of influence. Sometimes, I’ve been uncomfortable with the attention, but I assure you, the entire time, I have been committed to the experience. Hidden behind the public appeal of the billboards, gifts, press, and even the Prius, I silently accepted this as an honor, a season to grow, and an opportunity to make a difference beyond my classroom.

My focus and reward as a teacher have always been my students’ successes. I am hyper-aware of my role and responsibility in the moments I share with them. I’m grateful for the waves of stories I hold dear in my memory that tell of my impact in student lives and their impact in mine. If you and I were sippin’ a coffee right now, it would be those stories that I would share. We would laugh…at some point, I would probably cry…and you would quickly get a sense of my love for teenagers and my passion for growing them as adults and artists. But in this setting, this one opportunity I’ve been given to address all of you, I feel compelled to share some of the needs in our schools, in honest reflection, and to encourage you in your uniquely significant role to help address those needs.

I’ve evolved in many ways throughout my career, but I’ve consistently been an observer, a sponge, and (maybe even) an over-thinker in regards to our system and I continually come back to the image and the metaphor of a bridge. Each of my 13 years in teaching has been filled with exciting opportunities, but each has had its share of discouraging and overwhelming challenges as well. Today, I will highlight one divide, one disconnect, and one opportunity in our system that persist despite our good intentions and our collective efforts. I believe giving sincere attention to these challenges will propel us forward and I believe that we are the ones to do it. I believe that each of us in this room is a bridge.

The public schools of New Hanover County are not an extension of our community. They are not a mere part. They are evidence of the value our community places on education and they are the primary indicator of our future. In our public schools, we teach, guide, and nurture students from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. We can’t forget that we have direct influence for nearly 15 years of each student’s life!  My work, my decisions, my relationships, and even my spirit are all grounded in this simple truth. No matter your professional position, I’m sure you can say the same. So it is firmly planted in this common ground that I confidently address three areas we can bridge together.

We can bridge the divide of inequity through awareness and accessibility.

A need of any people group, a need of any school, even a need of one family is fundamentally a need for our entire community. We know the issues of the family become the issues of our schools. We also know unaddressed issues of today become the critical issues of tomorrow. Only when their most primary and urgent needs are met, can students learn and thrive. No individual entity or singular attempt can identify and solve the challenges and the inequities that exist in our society.

Our school personnel are relationally positioned to detect, monitor, and address needs and concerns. Our school buildings are physically positioned, all throughout our city, to make us a prime location for incorporating essential information that creates an effective avenue connecting families to solutions. I’d love to see us capitalize on our existing local resources as we strategically combine our focused efforts with a shared mission. I encourage us to remember that many families are not aware of available services within our county or transportation and financial hardships prevent them from accessing them. We can build a stronger bridge for families to connect to appropriate agencies, organizations, ministries, and services. Our success in this area will rely on alert and empathetic teachers, informed support staff, and the sustained commitment across our district to strengthen existing partnerships and to forge new ones.

As leaders, we can bridge the disconnect between policy and progress.

Experiencing professional recognition as NHCS Teacher of the Year while simultaneously walking in career uncertainty resulted in a season of inner conflict. House Bill 13 unearthed a divisive sentiment across our state and created fear in teachers, like me, that countless jobs would be cut. To satisfy a new class size formula for K-3, this policy could have forced districts to forego vital programs, created subsequent class-size increases, and required millions of dollars toward physical space. These consequences could have negated decades of growth in our state and given families legitimate reasons to seek alternatives for their child’s education. Improvement in one area of our system, at the expense of others, is not true progress.

I am using HB 13 as one example from this current school year to make this timeless point: policy must match reality in North Carolina schools. Otherwise, it is financial loss and it is opportunity loss. Policies should not cultivate a mindset in our leaders to react and survive. Policies should promote a mindset to innovate and thrive. Instead of battling erroneous and counterproductive policies, irreplaceable time and energy should be spent dreaming about possibilities for the years ahead of us. Political leaders, educational leadership, and teachers should be navigating new ideas, refining practices, and innovating harmoniously to the benefit of our public school system and, ultimately, our students.

Those of us in this room must be the bridge between policy and real progress in our schools by being and echoing the voices of teachers and school leadership who are devoted to success in every corner of our system.

This leads to my final challenge: We must extend a bridge beyond status quo.

New Hanover County Schools has a legacy of academic and athletic achievement because of its devoted personnel and public support. I’m so proud of our commitment to Beginning Teachers, Exceptional Children, and the Arts. Early college and dual-enrollment options, Sea-Tech, and Career Readiness Academy at Mosley all offer non-traditional avenues of success for students. Our Pre-K sites elevate our youngest to opportunity and J.C. Roe Center transitions our students through difficult times. Between the arts performances, clubs, competitions, and athletics, our district is active and engaged, day and night, year after year! We have a profound presence in our community and we are a persistent symbol of hope.

However, serious needs still exist in our schools. We need quality teachers, capable bus drivers, more administrators and more support staff to manage the growing responsibilities of our schools. We need applicable professional development, relevant assessment for students and transformative assessment for teachers. We need increased wages and incentives to attract and retain the best personnel in all positions because our students deserve our very best. We need sufficient technology that promotes future-ready learning and systemic efficiency. We need instructional innovation, more negative behavior prevention measures, and more crisis interventions. We need to better guide and prepare each student for a personal-best future beyond graduation. We also need the physical space to grow and the assurance we are safe.

The obvious solution is far from easy, but it is simple. We need funding! We have to move forward now with soul-deep conviction that our students, our teachers, and our communities deserve even better. We have to show now the fiscal proof that we collectively believe education is worthy of our lavish investment. We have to build a bridge together now that provides a pioneer education for the generations to come.

I’ve considered for weeks how to advance lasting change from this one brief speech. I just want it to matter. I recognize the points I’ve made take time and require involvement. So through support of Dr. Markley and Crystal Buie, I give you a pin. The statement “I am the bridge” encircles an image resembling the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. For Wilmington to thrive, bridges are essential; they are not optional. For our students, so are you! I hope you’ll ponder all the implications of this bridge metaphor. And I hope you’ll choose to wear this pin as a visual declaration of our collective commitment to bridge the divide of inequity, tie policy to progress, and extend our current status to a vanguard one. I hope you’ll wear it to spark conversation and ideas, evoke continued thought toward growth and solutions, and refresh our minds and hearts with the reminder that we are serving our community together in this crucial time in public education.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Message from Superintendent Markley – School Safety is Everyone’s Business

Dear Parents:

This has been a challenging week for us all in light of the recent events that have happened – both nationally and locally.  I’d like to take a moment to reiterate that ensuring safety in our schools is our top priority. The district experienced several threats this week, and upon investigation, they were found to have no credibility; however, please understand that communicating a threat to a school is a felony, and there will be serious consequences for anyone who does this.

We ask for patience from parents as law enforcement investigates these cases, and please understand that we are legally mandated to maintain the confidentiality of minors, particularly during an investigation.  We take each threat seriously, and each threat is thoroughly investigated.

We are doing everything possible to keep our schools safe, and we continually look for ways to improve. You can help by encouraging your student to alert a parent, teacher, counselor, principal or other trusted adult regarding any suspicious activities, threats or disturbing information.  “If you see something, say something.”

This weekend, please take a moment to speak with your child about the consequences of communicating a threat of violence against a school. What may seem like a harmless prank can result in the student facing criminal charges and school disciplinary actions. We don’t want any of our students to be this situation.

Thank you for choosing New Hanover County Schools for your student and we appreciate your support.


Dr. Tim Markley

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

New Hanover County Health Department in Conjunction with NHCS Provides School Nurses

by Dr. Rick Holliday, Deputy Superintendent

The New Hanover County Health Department works with our school system to provide school nurses in our schools, and they are an integral part to the academic success of our students. New Hanover County Schools is pleased to have a positive working relationship with the health department and their school health team.

The role of the school nurse is to maximize in-class time; therefore, improving student achievement. They accomplish this by reducing the incidence of health related absenteeism; eliminating or minimizing health problems, which may impair learning; assisting students and families to create independence in managing their health problems; and connecting families with school and community resources.  School nurses educate students and staff, treat sick and injured students, and assist students in managing chronic illness at school. Their role also included disease prevention through various screenings, assist families to obtain care for students and help to control the spread of communicable diseases.

During this formidable flu season, the school nurses have been educating students and staff on the prevention and control of the flu in NHCS.  They provide education to the school staff on sanitation practices for classrooms, desks, doorknobs, shared equipment, etc.  The school nurses have continued to promote the flu vaccine as the best prevention method.  They also recommend the following proven measures to prevent the spread of the flu:

  • If flu-like symptoms appear in your child (cough, fever, body aches) keep your child home and consult your medical provider.
  • If your child is out with fever do not allow them to return to school until they are fever free for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medicines.
  • Cover cough and wash hands thoroughly.
  • High-risk people (existing medical conditions, pregnancy, immunocompromised) are urged to seek medical attention.

When students are in school and exhibit symptoms, our school nurses have certain protocols in place during this flu season such as:

  • Children with fever 100.0 or greater are sent home.
  • Children with cough and flu-like symptoms (body aches, fever) are masked and sent home.
  • Currently any student coughing, even without fever, is masked in the health room and urged to go home (unless nursing judgment can strongly support otherwise).
  • Follow-up calls are made to parents to monitor students’ illnesses and advise when students may return.

Our school nurses are currently monitoring absenteeism related to flu-like illnesses and report higher than normal rates to their supervisor.  The nursing supervisor is in constant communication with the N.C. Communicable Disease Branch to report trends and to receive the latest recommendations for control measures.   Any additional measures are initiated as needed.

Our school nurses consistently provide education and information via weekly “health minutes” via school broadcasts, web pages, and newsletters and within the classroom.  We are thankful for the opportunity to have the wealth of information and service that our school nurses provide to us.  The bottom line is to keep students healthy and IN school so that they actively learn and succeed!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Digital Security: Keeping NHCS Safe

by Dawn Brinson, NHCS Chief Technology Officer

One of New Hanover County Schools’ main priorities is keeping students safe while at school.  Safety is not limited to just physical safety, but also digital safety. As you may have heard on the news, there have been some major security breaches at well known businesses and public entities, including school systems in North Carolina. We thought we would take the time to inform you of the measures that NHCS take to keep our students and staff digitally safe.

A robust enterprise filtering system is in place to protect students against malicious content – whether intentional or inadvertent. A team has been assembled consisting of security and instructional specialists to set baselines for the categories that we are filtering, which are based on age appropriate content. We have infrastructure in place to automatically update and patch NHCS devices to address the latest identified security threats.


Ransomware attacks have also been  in the news over the past few months. There are security measures that we have taken to decrease the likelihood of a ransomware attack; unfortunately, end users’ behaviors cannot be controlled.

One of the most common ways that ransomware attacks are carried out is via phishing emails. As of March 2016 according to PhishMe.com, 93% of all phishing emails contained ransomware attacks. These emails will have attachments that look legitimate and may or may not be from someone you know. It’s important to not open unsolicited attachments from emails unless you are 100% certain of their authenticity. It is reasonable to reply or call the person to verify the validity of the attachment if you know them. If you do not know the person that should be a big red flag.

Knowing that the majority of ransomware comes in via email, we do heavy spam filtering. We currently scan all email for spam internally and externally that passes through our system at an aggressive level. While this is often successful in identifying the spam and categorizing it as so, it is still important that the end user be diligent and question each email. No spam filtering is 100% effective.

Ransomware, malware, and viruses are a constant threat to NHCS users and assets. We currently have deployed multiple levels of security such as district-wide Firewalls, IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), Web Filtering and Antivirus. Unlike traditional viruses that are designed to infect machines and cause significant harm and data loss, Ransomware is designed to lock the user out of their data/equipment until they pay a ransom to unlock the data. They are not out to explicitly destroy data, they want you to pay the ransom, so the data is kept intact. One of the ways that the system protects important data is to back it up regularly. This allows us the ability to restore data that may have been encrypted by a ransomware attack.

In an effort to stop ransomware from overwriting files on our servers, we do block certain file extensions from being written to server drive space. If a user is compromised with ransomware,  this will provide us with some protection from the user encrypting files on the shared server space with other users.

Education, Tips, and Strategies

While we make best efforts to protect students via hardware and software, we also have a Digital Citizenship course that is implemented in sixth grade. Additionally,  each teacher is responsible for teaching students about internet safety.

We would not be doing our duty if we didn’t share some strategies that can be done at home to keep you and your child’s data safe. The easiest thing that users can do is in regards to passwords:

  1. Don’t write them down;

  2. Use a different password for each site; and,

  3. Passwords need to be complex.

Businesses have made it very convenient to stay connected by providing public wi-fi.  Do not use this wi-fi to do transactions with banks, credit cards, as well as medical records. It is easy for someone to gain access to your account information through public wi-fi networks.

How Parents Can Help

Parents are encouraged to have discussions with their children about what is appropriate technology behavior/usage and what isn’t and why. This should include not sharing personal information. Children need to be taught how to analyze search results for what is true and what is just someone’s opinion. They need to know that just because it came up in a Google search doesn’t make it true. Monitor children’s use, consider implementing parental controls such as software-based web filtering, or using your wireless router’s built-in parental controls if available.

Understanding where your data is stored is very important as well. When you are signing yourself or your child up on websites, there is a good chance that the servers that house the data do not reside in the USA. There are websites that are hosted in countries that have no laws governing the use of your data or who it can be shared with; often it is just stolen and sold off to the highest bidder. Doing some research to determine where the company is located can save you from sharing data with nefarious companies that may be out to steal your data. Identity theft should be on everyone’s mind. Sharing information like birth dates and addresses with websites that do not need that information for the service they are providing is a big red flag. Publicly sharing personal identifiable information like phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, etc., can be used to build a profile on you that can be used to create other accounts or impersonate you.

Technology is everywhere, and because of that we now reside in a digital age.  The measures we take to protect our students is of the utmost importance.  We hope that the information stated above will provide insight and generate conversations to help use technology in a responsible manner.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Be in the Moment

by Julie Askew, Director of Special Education & Related Services

During the holidays, we are excited about festivities and always in a rush to fulfill our elaborate plans for family gatherings and gift-giving.  There is a buzz of energy, engaging all of our senses – the colors of the bright Christmas lights and “ugly sweaters,” the sounds of the holiday tunes, the touch of warm gloves when there is a crisp nip in the air, the smell of a fresh tree, and the taste of freshly baked treats to share with family and friends.

As we rush to plan the perfect Christmas, we often find ourselves stressed out and wishing for more time to relax.  We want to enjoy the best of everything this season has to offer, but often we realize we haven’t paused long enough to embrace what matters most – spending precious moments with loved ones and making lasting memories.

As we approach this busy time of year, let us be reminded that sometimes the most precious gift we can offer is our undivided attention, especially to our children.  I was reminded of this recently in a visit to one of our elementary classrooms with children in the Special Education program.  Our students work hard to defy the odds, whether it be mobility issues, medical conditions, or learning differently, the struggles are real. However, the students strive to overcome their frustrations with tenacity.

The season can be especially overwhelming for students who have special needs.  Even the simplest transition from the classroom to recess can present obstacles to overcome. Teachers work diligently with students to help them conquer their physical and developmental challenges.  These learners continue to practice communication skills, socializing with others.  As most children bravely tackle the playground, others cautiously practice their steps.  It is in that moment that something endearing happens, as I watch classmates coaching and cheering their friends along.

A moment like this could pass on any given day, but it triggers a sentimental tug at the heartstrings to witness such kindness from so many children. I am reminded of the lessons in compassion to be learned from our children who experience significant disabilities.  As I pause to take in the moment, I was invited to join in the fun.  We laughed and played chase together.  We walked the playground holding hands and talked without a care in the world.  I took joy in being in the moment.

What a gift it was to be reminded of the value of precious moments.  I will cherish this memory with our students, and it had a profound affect on me; but you never fully know the impact your presence has on others. It is my wish and hope for all of you to take time to create these moments with your loved ones.  These are not just moments captured, but they can be spread and shared to all around us.  Our students remind us that we all have an opportunity to give the most valuable gift we have to offer – our time and attention.  So go ahead, put on your ugly sweater, and let’s find the time for joy and peace in living in the moment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Working without a Safety Net

by Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley

As a superintendent, some of the most frequent questions I hear are:  “Why doesn’t my child bring home a text book?” and “How can they learn without a book?” The answers to these questions are two-parted – one part is  financial, and the other a shift towards digital teaching and learning. Both paths have brought challenges and opportunities to our classrooms here in New Hanover County Schools.  The end result is that we have had to quickly adapt and change what is happening in our schools.

The financial problem has its roots in the recent recession, from which we are still working to make a rebound from. In order to cut costs, the State had to reduce the amount of funding that went to textbook adoption and replacement. That funding has not been restored to pre-recession levels and remains about 50% below what was funded in 2008. This has limited the ability of districts to buy new or even replacement textbooks for schools. Instead of a textbook for every child, schools now struggle to keep even class sets available for use. Limited resources have required districts to shift funds to other options and materials.

The second and larger factor in the transition away from physical textbooks is the shift to digital teaching and learning. In 2013, the State mandated a shift to digital resources instead of paper textbooks, which served as a precursor to the adoption of Digital Learning Competencies for the Classroom Teachers. This can take several forms to include complete digital textbooks such as the Discovery Ed Digital Science textbook that we use here in North Carolina. Another way is to collect various online resources for teachers to use for  classroom instruction preparation.

Digital textbooks can be an amazing resource with in-depth materials and interactive pages that cannot be found in a traditional textbook. The downside though, can be the cost for annual subscriptions and updates. Another potential downside is the hardware requirement. Laptops, iPads, Chromebooks and other devices are expensive to buy and maintain. North Carolina does not have a dedicated revenue stream for technology purposes. Here in NHCS, we have thousands of devices with a limited staff to maintain them.

North Carolina, like many other states, has made a commitment to adopting a “digital-age education system that fully harnesses the power of modern technologies” with the goal of ensuring that students in our system are prepared for a “rapidly changing, interconnected, technology-driven world.” As a part of this commitment, North Carolina is focused on providing access to high-quality, openly-licensed educational resources (OERs). The shift to aggregating OERs is one that has the potential to truly transform what we are doing. It does require a new level of preparation and planning on the part of educators. For decades, a textbook offered teachers, especially new teachers, a rough outline to follow when prepping lessons and materials for classes; however, textbooks were often not aligned to State curriculum standards and lacked sufficient rigor. North Carolina is working to create a digital platform – #GoOpen – that provides access to a wide variety of resources aligned to the current State standards. This shift has not only changed what we teach, but how and where we teach, along with how we access resources to support student learning. This process will take time and has caused frustration for many teachers who spend their time finding other resources from sites that are often not aligned to North Carolina Standards and lack the rigor that our students need.

Can this approach really work? The data clearly shows that it can. The chart below shows the growth of students in Chemistry classes in NHCS (based on student results for the NC Final Exam). The scores have increased each year and continue to be well above the State average. There are similar results for other subjects as well.

This shift to online resources does raise another concern – the ability for everyone to have access to the content. For many of our socio-economically disadvantaged students, there is a new digital divide. Those who can easily access information at home and those who cannot. This transition cannot happen until the State fully funds technology and digital resources for all students. And, the transition should not be seen as an effort to replace paper books in the classroom. There is still a tremendous learning benefit from books, and we should encourage students to read in both digital and print formats.

So, to that parent who wonders where the student’s textbook is, I say it is still out there, but it is in a form that you may not recognize.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Building a Foundation

by Shannon Smiles, Director – NHCS Early Childhood Education

By the time some children reach kindergarten, they are already far behind their peers in skills and measures of school readiness. These educational gaps tend to be much more difficult and costly to close as children advance through elementary, middle, and high school. This realization has led many states to try to get it right from the start by expanding their financial investments in Pre-Kindergarten services, with a goal to better prepare young children for school success. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, Pre-K has emerged as an important strategy to promote school readiness and close achievement gaps in elementary school and beyond.

Just​ ​as​ ​there​ ​are​ ​achievement​ ​gaps​ ​in​ ​school​ ​performance,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​school readiness​ ​gaps​ ​that​ ​separate​ ​disadvantaged​ ​children​ ​from​ ​their​ ​more​ ​affluent​ ​peers. There​ ​are​ ​only​ ​2000​ ​days​ ​from​ ​the​ ​time​ ​a​ ​​child​ ​is​ ​born​ ​to​ ​when​ ​that​ ​child​ ​begins kindergarten.​ ​​ ​The​ ​brain​ ​is​ ​the​ ​only​ ​organ​ ​that​ ​is​ ​not​ ​developed​ ​at​ ​birth; critical​ ​brain development​ ​happens​ ​in​ ​the​ ​first​ ​5​ ​years​ ​of​ ​life.​ ​ As​ ​early​ ​as​ ​18​ ​months,​ ​low-income​ ​children​ ​begin​ ​to​ ​fall​ ​behind​ ​in​ ​vocabulary development​ ​and​ ​other​ ​factors critical for school success, such as general health, social and emotional competency, and problem-solving skills.  By​ ​age​ ​5,​ ​a​ ​typical​ ​middle-class​ ​child​ ​recognizes​ ​22​ ​letters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​alphabet,​ ​compared​ ​to 9​ ​for​ ​a​ ​child​ ​from​ ​a​ ​low-income​ ​family.

The benefit-cost analysis of investments in early childhood range from ratios of 2.5 to 1 to possibly 13 to 1 through​ ​increased personal​ ​achievement​ ​and​ ​social​ ​productivity.  Every​ ​dollar​ ​invested​ ​in​ ​early​ ​education​ ​produces​ ​a​ ​10%​ ​return​ ​through​ ​increased personal​ ​achievement​ ​and​ ​social​ ​productivity.  It​ ​is​ ​not​ ​surprising then​ that​ ​North Carolina ​and​ ​New Hanover County  school leaders are​ passionate on​ ​expanding​ ​Pre-K​ ​as​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to ensure​ ​more​​ ​children​ ​are​ ​ready​ ​for​ ​kindergarten​ ​and​ ​the​ ​challenges​ ​beyond.

New​ ​Hanover​ ​County​ ​Schools​ ​is​ ​the​ ​grantee​ ​for​ ​the ​federally​ ​funded​ ​program,​ ​Head​ ​Start, and​ ​serves​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Contract​ ​Administrator​ ​for​ ​ ​NC Pre-K ​state​ ​funding.  NHCS ​provides​ ​services​ ​at​ ​7​ ​locations​ ​in which several​ ​classrooms​ ​are​ ​embedded​ ​in​ ​the elementary​ ​schools​ ​and​ has two ​Pre-K​ ​Centers – Howe Pre-K and D.B. Johnson Pre-K.  As contractor for the NC Pre-K Program, NHCS subcontracts with 9 private sites to provide high-quality Pre-K services to future NHCS kindergartners.  New Hanover County Schools serves a total of 857 children in public and private settings.

Under the leadership of Dr. Markley, Board of Education Members and County Officials, New Hanover County Schools has recently begun a ​partnership​ ​with​ ​our​ ​County ​to​ ​serve​ ​45​ ​additional​ ​3​ ​year​ ​olds​ at CRA​ ​@​ ​Mosley Pre-K​ ​Center.​  What is new is that the county is providing additional funding, over and above federal and state funding, for these classrooms.  These children are identified as being at high risk and have not been served previously outside the home.

This team effort gives us a chance to start early intervention at the age of 3. Typically, these young children would remain on a waitlist for the year and would not be served until they turned 4 years old.  New Hanover County becomes a leader in the state by approving this funding and pursuing this agenda of school readiness for this underserved population.

NHCS Early Childhood Education Program offers a high-quality early learning environment with a state approved curriculum, formative assessment, and vertical alignment so that we impact the gap of school readiness skills.  Our curriculum is aligned with the NC Foundations of Early Learning and Development, North Carolina’s Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA), and Common Core Standards.  Formative assessment implemented through the same technology platform as the KEA focuses on the whole child.  In addition to what the curriculum offers for social-emotional learning, we use Conscious Discipline and Second Step to help our students stay in their executive brain state-the optimal state for problem solving and learning.

Through ongoing professional development, teachers have learned about seven powers and seven skills of self regulation and communication skills that help them as teachers.  By implementing the powers and skills together, we learn to stay in control of ourselves and in charge of children in a manner that models the same skills we seek to teach, such as resolving conflicts, preventing bullying, and developing pro-social behaviors.

A huge shout out to all for helping us make it happen for young learners in New Hanover County Schools!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off


by Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley and                                                                               member of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area Board of Directors

United Way of the Cape Fear LogoAs New Hanover County Schools prepares to kick off the annual United Way campaign in the month of November, we reflect on places around the country in need.  This year, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, California and other areas have been ravaged by hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters. We have witnessed some of our youngest supporters organizing donation drives to help others during their time of need.  We are so proud of the kindness and leadership students demonstrated during these difficult times.

However, we need not look further than our own backyards to find children and families in need each and every day, which is why supporting the United Way of the Cape Fear area is so important to our community.  The United Way works with organizations to provide educational, health and financial stability programs that make positive impacts…right here in our community.   Serving on the United Way Board of Directors, I can attest that each day, students and families from our schools benefit from the resources that are provided through donations to the United Way. As educators, you may have witnessed this impact through various United Way partners such as Nourish NC, which provides food through the Backpack Buddies program to help ensure students have access to healthy food over the weekends.

NHCS is consistently one of the Top 10 campaign supporters for United Way in the Cape Fear region.  The secret to our success is simple: Every Gift Makes an Impact.  From “fun”-raisers to donations to monthly payroll deductions, regardless of how the money is raised, every dollar counts.

That sentiment is echoed by United Way’s #15can, which outlines how a $15 donation can help:

  • Feed a hungry child every weekend and during a school break.

  • Repair an unsafe home.

  • Provide therapy sessions for a child abuse victim.

  • Support at-risk students achieve graduation.

  • Provide medical and dental visits for the uninsured.

United Wsy of the Cape Fear AreaLast year, the NHCS campaign exceeded $37,000.  Each school and department has a campaign coordinator.  We challenge you to get creative and make it fun.  Our most successful programs include raffles, casual dress days, or food sales such as chili cook-off contests.  Work with your principal or director to create a fun campaign idea.  Not only does it help a worthy cause, but it builds morale and encourages teamwork within our schools and departments.                                                                        This year, our goal is $40,000. Let’s “Make It Happen” for this worthy cause.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Proud to be a Principal by Dr. Lauren Kefalonitis

Dr. Lauren Kefalonitis In honor of National Principals Month, New Hanover County Schools’ Principal of the Year, Dr. Lauren Kefalonitis, has prepared this week’s blog. Dr. Kefalonitis is principal of Bradley Creek Elementary School.

As a school leader, our top commitment is to improve student learning.  However, a positive school culture can enhance the learning environment by encouraging greater collaboration, effort, and productivity.

Maya Angelou said, “People don’t remember what you said but how you made them feel.” I believe this speaks to the importance of a school’s culture for both students and staff.  Bradley Creek Elementary School is a diverse learning community that welcomes students from various backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.  Creating a positive, student-centered learning environment that not only fosters academic excellence but also promotes cultural acceptance, which is at the center of our core values.  Establishing such core values and revisiting them frequently has allowed them to become a fabric within the make-up of our school.

As we celebrate National Principals Month, I reflect on the hard work and dedication of New Hanover County Schools administrators.  Regardless of where their schools are located within New Hanover County, each principal is confronted by their own set of challenges.  Although from afar, the chairs, desks, and books may look similar, each school’s culture is unique.  Each principal works to build relationships, understand their community, and construct the most positive student-centered culture.

Unfortunately, all too often, students throughout NHCS, as well as our country, are exposed to community trauma. In recent days, school culture has become a foundation of support for numerous students for this reason.  Although each circumstance is very different, the need for a consistent, loving, and welcoming environment is always the same.  Students and their families are confronted with situations that are much more than sounds bites or a series of new stories; these incidents produce tangible worry and concern.  Principals work to create a school community that wraps their arms around those who may be frightened or troubled by providing a loving and nurturing environment for all children.  We work to not “toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world” but rather educate “children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless” (L.R. Knost).  All school stakeholders, including families from all backgrounds, come together to offer assistance when needed and to support the school community.

Just as Bradley Creek has its own distinctive culture, so does each of the fellow 45 schools in our district.  Whether it is through home visits, family nights, or community events, principals throughout NHCS work to provide families a safe, positive, inquiry-rich environment that is often present after the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  I am incredibly proud to work beside and learn from each of these amazing individuals. I am honored to call them my peers, mentors, and friends.  Together, we create environments where students are excited to enter, parents feel welcomed, and teachers feel eager to conquer the day.

Principals of New Hanover County Schools

New Hanover County Schools Principals

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Nourish NC – Makes It Happen by Dr. Tim Markley

This past week, I had the privilege to speak at the annual Nourish NC gala. It was great event that raised support and awareness for a more than worthy cause – childhood hunger. The information that was presented during the gala is worth sharing with the entire education community. So, I have decided to post it here as part of my Superintendent’s Blog. The facts are staggering and to some may be surprising, but regardless of how advanced our society has become, children – right here in New Hanover County and across the country – struggle with hunger each and every day.

“Make It Happen”

I am pleased and honored to address the important role that the Nourish NC is playing to help reduce hunger through its backpack initiative. When Steve reached out to me to speak tonight, he asked that I share some words of wisdom. I am not sure I fit the bill as a wise man, but I can share some data about childhood hunger and how it impacts us daily here in New Hanover County.

The problem of childhood hunger cannot be underrated. There are currently 15.7 million children living in poverty. That is more than 1 in 4 children. Overall, over 16 million struggle with hunger. These children live without food in insecure households and struggle with hunger throughout the year.

Over 20 million school-age children get a free or reduced-price lunch on an average day. There are another 10 million children, who are eligible for school breakfast, who do not receive it. Children who struggle with hunger are at greater risk for health problems. They are sick more often, recover more slowly and are more like to be absent from school. They experience more headaches, colds and infections.

Children who are hungry are more susceptible to obesity and its harmful effects, which will last well into adulthood.  Children ages 0 to 3 do not learn as much and as fast as children who are well nourished; they also develop at a slower rate.

Here in New Hanover County, 41% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch – more than 11,000 children. Along with this, we have over 900 students who are identified as homeless. In some of our schools, as many as 25% of students will change schools during the year because they cannot afford housing. This type of stress can only exacerbate the effects of hunger.

School children who face hunger are more likely to be retained and repeat a grade. These students have significantly higher levels of behavioral, emotional and academic problems. They also tend to be more aggressive and anxious. High poverty schools have a higher rate of students who are identified as special education.  Teens who do not get enough to eat are more likely to be suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with others. This is just a short list of problems that students face when they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

It is no surprise that when I look a school grades issued by the State that they are more of a reflection of the community’s poverty than of academic potential. When you are worried about where your next meal is coming from, you are less likely to worry about homework assignments or about paying attention in school. That does not mean you don’t want to learn or aren’t learning, it just means you have another obstacle to overcome.

Every year, New Hanover County Schools selects a theme to help bring focus to the school year. This year, we choose the theme of MAKE IT HAPPEN. This comes from a quote by Laney Alum Michael Jordan who once said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”

Nourish NC is one of those organizations that does more than wish it would happen. It is an organization that MAKES IT HAPPEN. They are working to alleviate these terrible hunger statistics. They serve students in 38 schools and reach nearly a 1,000 students each week and during holiday and summer breaks. In their nine year history, they have continued to expand their outreach and now serve students in after school programs and in numerous community-based programs.

The Nourish NC operation is pretty amazing. Last November, all of our school principals visited the Nourish NC warehouse as part of the district’s United Way campaign kickoff. The principals had the opportunity to see in person the difference the organization makes in the lives of our children.  They packed food that would go home that evening with students in their schools. Our counselors can attest to the impact of Nourish NC and the support it provides for our students. The simple act of handing out backpack meals makes it happen for students in our schools.

I hope you will join Nourish NC tonight in MAKING IT HAPPEN for children in New Hanover County.

Here is a link to Nourish NC - https://nourishnc.org/ – so that you can learn more about the program!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off