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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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 - – so that you can learn more about the program!

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NHCS Cares: Showing Support for Victims of Hurricane Harvey

by Tufanna Thomas and Valita Quattlebaum

Eaton Hurrican Harvey Donation Photo.jpg

Eaton Elementary students displaying money raised from their Coin War.

Most of us have never seen anything like Hurricane Harvey. After the monster hurricane’s devastation, thousands of people across Texas and along the Gulf coast have been displaced and many have lost everything. Now, there is another massive storm, Hurricane Irma, that has ravaged several Caribbean islands and parts of Florida. New Hanover County Schools is doing its part to demonstrate the compassion we feel for the people, especially the students, staff and faculty of the Houston area schools.   Schools and departments in NHCS have answered the call for help and have been actively coordinating charitable efforts. Here are some examples from across the district:

  • Anderson and Bradley Creek elementary schools are partnering to adopt Monahan Elementary School in Houston. Anderson recently held a Hats for Houston day, to raise funds for the school, with plans to have a loose change drive in the coming weeks. Central Office staff contributed to the Hats for Houston drive as well. Bradley Creek is sponsoring a school-wide spirit week to raise funds. All monies raised will be sent to support Monahan. Students can participate by giving $1 a day or $5 for the week.

Hats for Harvey - Anderson.jpg

Anderson Elementary School students and staff participating in Hats for Houston Day.
Hats for Harvey - District Staff.jpg
Central Office staff participating in Hats for Houston Day.
  • Rachel’s Challenge has helped Noble Middle School connect with Arnold Middle School in Cypress, Texas. As a school community, Noble will collect items and send them to Arnold Middle School immediately and throughout the year to show compassion and support.

  • SEA-Tech High School is working with Gallena Park CTE Early College High School and their principal, Dr. Jeff Hutchinson, to provide for individual student needs after final assessments. Initial estimates include 1/3 of the student body has been displaced to shelters and neighboring cities. Four staff members have suffered total losses.

  • Williston Middle School is holding a homeroom donation challenge to raise funds for Hurricane Victims.

  • Ogden Elementary School has school spirit week, the week of September 11th and students, who participate donate $1.00.  All proceeds go to the American Red Cross for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

  • College Park Elementary School is supporting the families in Texas through their Outstanding Wise Leadership Clubs. The Leadership Club is called “Paint Business!” It was started with a mission heart to support those that are suffering as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The goal is to empower the students in the club to be giving, mindful of others, and also create a spirit of entrepreneurship in students. Also, participation in the club allows students to feel the joy that stems from serving others. It is College Park’s hope that their beautiful paintings will produce income to give to Hurricane Harvey victims. The first product is hand-made signs!  The club is working with its partners from Samaritan’s Purse to sell their paintings. All proceeds will go to the families affected by Hurricane Harvey.

  • Myrtle Grove Middle School’s FCA held a donation drive for victims of Hurricane Harvey September 5-8.  All money will be donated to the American Red Cross and Houston Food Banks.

  • Carolina Beach Elementary students in Mrs. Abel’s class, along with CBES staff, donated supplies for Hurricane Harvey relief. Parents sent in items as well.

  • Wrightsboro Elementary School has multiple charitable projects occurring: second grade students in Mrs. Valle-Greene’s classroom listened to a news article about Hurricane Harvey, then brainstormed ideas as to how people like them could help those affected. They came up with ideas such as sending firefighters and Coast Guard members from our area to help with the rescues and having yard sales to raise money to donate to victims of the hurricane. In class, they wrote cards to the children of Houston. The cards will be sent to Lemm Elementary, where students are being relocated to a nearby high school while the school is repaired.  Third grade students in Ms. April Lee’s classroom have adopted a third grade classroom from a school in Houston. Ms. Lee’s classroom is collecting supplies and by the teacher’s request from Houston, sending many encouraging notes to her students.

  • Eaton Elementary School, for the week of September 5th-11th, had a COIN WAR to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. All money raised will be donated directly to the Houston Independent School District, to help the schools and students start the year off in a positive way! Each grade level at Eaton competed against the other grade levels to raise the most money! Grade levels also made curriculum connections in lower and upper grades by having the students practice sorting, grouping, and counting coins/money!! In just the first two days, close to $1,000 was raised! It’s the perfect way for Eaton Elementary  to continue their #BeKind school mission!

  • Lake Forest Academy is partnering with Ashford Elementary School in Houston, Texas.  They have collected donations of school supplies and will be creating a “Helping Hands” banner to welcome the students at Ashford Elementary when they return to school.

  • Murrayville Elementary School students are picking up the call for help. After the recent devastation from Hurricane Harvey, the students in 5th Grade wanted to help others. Teacher Elizabeth Budd heard of the ‘Adopt a Classroom’ initiative put on an educational blogger ‘Sun, Sand and Second Grade’ and thought it would be the perfect fit. The initiative matches teachers around the country with teachers in Texas, who lost their classrooms in the recent destruction from Hurricane Harvey. Teachers then work with students to collect materials and supplies needed to get that classroom back up and running. Supplies will be shipped out as soon as the schools are assessed and are ready to begin classes again. The students are looking forward to connecting with their peers in Texas and writing them letters of encouragement to show their support.

  • Ashley High School Athletic Department saw Coach Sampson’s (Men’s Basketball Coach at University of Houston) tweet, reaching out to universities, colleges, and high school athletic teams to donate clothing. All teams participated and supported Houston by collecting clothes, and Ashley staff delivered boxes of clothes to the post office to be shipped to Texas.

  • Isaac Bear Early College High School students and staff will donate contents to “Flood Buckets” until Thursday, October 5, 2017.  This school wide effort is under the leadership of the Interact Club to help the hurricane victims who were affected adversely by Hurricane Harvey.  Isaac Bear will come together and join in the efforts with other people across the nation to help those in need.  Each homeroom will collect, organize, and pack items in a 5-gallon bucket with resealable lids, and whichever homeroom has packed the most buckets will receive a reward of their choice. The School hopes that addressing this crisis where people were affected adversely will bring everyone closer together and make a stronger community.

  • Trask Middle School is having a “Coin War” to raise funds for victims of Harvey.  Funds for Harvey will be donated to the Texas Diaper Bank.

Red Cross Donation Information:

To donate by phone or to get assistance with your donation, please contact 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).

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Make It Happen! by Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent

On August 28th over 26,000 students will begin the 2017-2018 school year here in New Hanover County Schools. This annual ritual never ceases to amaze me, because public education is the true melting pot of our Country. Public education is the great equalizer that allow students from any background to be successful. Public education is an unwritten contract between citizens and parents that we will educate every child that comes through our doors. Regardless of the needs, we welcome ALL New Hanover County students.

Some of these students are easy to teach and eager to learn, while many others may be more challenging and need greater help, encouragement and support. As public schools, we welcome all of these students and promise to educate them to reach their full potential.

This requires the support of the entire community and New Hanover County has always risen to the challenge. Our community has never turned down a school bond, and our elected officials have always ensured that our students have more than just the basic resources. For that, we say THANK YOU, and we promise we will put those resources to the best possible use.

My passion for public education was shaped by my own experiences; both of my parents were high school dropouts. Despite this, they both understood that as the world was changing, an education was critical to being successful. Along with my parents, there were some incredible teachers who made a difference in my life. Those teachers instilled a love of learning that is still within me today. For a child like me, whose parents never visited my schools, this made a huge impact in my life. This still happens in our schools every day…teachers making positive, life-changing connections with our students. Encouraging words and supportive actions can be found in our classrooms.

Michael JordanThis year, we adopted the theme – “Make It Happen” because that is what public education is all about – make it happen for students. The phrase comes from one of New Hanover County’s most famous public school graduates, Michael Jordan.

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen,” Michael Jordan – Laney High School Class of 1981.

Here in NHCS, teachers do MAKE a difference in the lives of students. They MAKE IT HAPPEN for students every day!

Welcome back and have a great school year!

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New School Year Offers New and Improved Facilities

By Leanne Lawrence, NHCS Director of Facility Planning & Construction

New pencils?  Check.

New backpack?  Check.

New elementary school? Check!

Parents, while you’ve been busy checking off your list of back-to-school items, New Hanover County Schools has been busy checking off our own list!  The last few months have been exciting as our contractors put the finishing touches on new buildings and additions.  We can’t wait for you to see what has been prepared for your students!

Porters Neck Elementary School is the newest addition to the New Hanover County Schools family of facilities. We’re proud to open the doors to receive students from Blair Elementary School who will call Porters Neck home for the next three years while Blair receives an “extreme school makeover”.  Demolition of the existing Blair Elementary will begin later this month, with construction of the new building starting right on its heels.

Porters Neck Elementary SchoolSide entrance

Blair students will be greeted by their new principal, Rebecca Higgins-Opgrand, as she guides them through spaces filled with vibrant color and ample natural light.  Sails suspended in the entryway, or the “gallery” as we like to call it, seek to inspire students to harness the power of education, just as seagoing vessels channel the energy of the wind.

Main entrance hallway

Media Center Entrance

Principal Maria Madison and her outstanding Wise Leaders from “The Park” – College Park Elementary School – will be receiving their own school makeover.

College Park Sign at Sidbury Road

Demolition for College Park Elementary School is also scheduled to begin this month, with construction to be completed in the summer of 2019.  Similar to Blair, the new College Park Elementary School will be constructed on its current site, once demolition of the existing building is complete.  While the existing school is being removed and the new one constructed, students and staff of The Park will be safely nested at their temporary school site located at 5301 Sidbury Road.  They’ll resume classes at their new campus in the fall of 2019.

The hearts of Laney and Hoggard high school students will swell with pride at the sight of their new gymnasiums.  With seating capacities of 1,600 at both facilities, fans will enjoy watching their favorite teams compete in these state-of-the art venues. In addition, athletes will enjoy the use of the new locker rooms and support spaces, including a renovated weight training room at Laney and new fitness classroom at Hoggard.

New Gym at Laney - FloorNew Gym at Laney - Bleachers

New Gym at Hoggard - Floor

New Media Center at Laney - ExteriorThe new media center at Laney is certain to inspire students to create, collaborate, and exceed expectations.  Totaling 11,100 square feet, the space is comprised of individual and group study areas, as well as a café/ lounge seating area.  With WiFi points throughout, students can access the technology they need to facilitate their educational endeavors.

The Break in Hoggard's CafeteriaAt Hoggard, the cafeteria has been expanded to serve the growing student population. Individual kiosks are stationed around the cafeteria offering options for breakfast and lunch against the backdrop of designs influenced and inspired by the ocean, the natural habitat of the modern Viking.

NHHS LogoNew Hanover High School, we didn’t forget about you! We’re pleased to share that Brogden Hall now has air conditioning. In addition, as part of the 2014 Bond Referendum, the George West building received renovations to approximately 41,200 square feet of classroom space, including the band room, shop classes, science classrooms, as well as the ROTC building.  We’re also in the process of completing improvements to the cafeteria serving line.

NHCS Northern Transportation DivisionNumerous other repairs and renovations occurred throughout the district, such as roof replacements at Carolina Beach and Pine Valley Elementary Schools and heating and air conditioning improvements at Johnson Pre-K, Bradley Creek Elementary, and Veterans Park. We’ve also added a new Northern Transportation Division, near the temporary site for College Park Elementary School at Sidbury Road.  From this new facility, school buses will serve students living in the northern region of the county.

These behind-the-scenes upgrades rarely make the headlines, but they do make the educational experience better for all.  They also help improve the energy efficiency of the facilities and overall district operations.

NHCS LogoIn the midst of all of these facility changes and improvements, we hope that the warm smiles and friendly hellos from NHCS staff members shine the brightest as we welcome students to begin the 2017-18 school year. WELCOME BACK!

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Virtual Learning Reality

By Sarah Gubitz, NHCS Online Learning Supervisor

Online learning is one of the most recent trends in both public and private education. Deciding if virtual learning is the best fit for your student can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.  New Hanover County Schools has utilized online learning for over 10 years, and the growth of this learning platform is phenomenal.  Here are some quick statistics about virtual learning in our district:

  • The number of online enrollments has grown from 640 in 2011 to 3,500 in 2017.
  • The pass rate for students taking courses for first time credit is 93%.
  • Over 150 courses are offered including honors, Advanced Placement (AP), multiple world languages, and a variety of electives that may not be offered in a traditional face-to-face format.
  • NHCS middle school students earned high school credits for 658 online courses in 2017.

In addition to offering a variety of courses, online learning allows the district to offer more personalized learning opportunities to our students.  We now offer multiple, innovative opportunities that allow for options other than the traditional school day.   High schools now offer flexible scheduling with early morning courses or online learning that can be done off-site, if the student demonstrates success and responsibility.  Students, with principal approval, can opt for a half day or full day of online learning to meet their needs and work toward earning their diplomas.  This is especially important to students that are highly involved in activities outside of school that may require travel or more flexibility in their schedules.  NHCS recently graduated its first student that never stepped foot onto a school campus for traditional instruction, taking the majority of her courses as online courses throughout her high school experience.

Because of the unique needs of students in our district, NHCS began its e-Academy in 2016-2017 as a way to partner with homeschool families and students.  The school allows for students to access courses that they would otherwise have to pay for themselves.  One 2017 e-Academy graduate accessed Advanced Placement (AP) courses that she desired to take, which enable her to have a flexible schedule so she could continue her volunteer work at a local hospital.  She plans to attend UNC-Chapel Hill as an Honors student in the fall.  Learn more about this student, Kari, here.

Dual enrollment is also an option for homeschool families.  Students can enroll for two or more courses at the high school each semester and take electives that may be difficult to find elsewhere.  Dual enrollment student, Sariah, did just that so she could access ROTC during her senior year; she plans to join the military.  Sariah’s schedule included ROTC, an online course, and her homeschool courses.  The flexibility of her schedule allowed her to continue pursuing her modeling interests and making her related appointments during the traditional school day. Sariah’s story is linked here.

NHCS is expanding dual enrollment options to include middle school opportunities for homeschool families for the fall of 2017.  Homeschool families can partner with NHCS to access a minimum of two courses a semester (online or traditional) at no cost.   Dual enrollment students will also be able to take End-of-Grade tests that allow for homeschool families to benchmark and gauge academic progress as an added benefit.

Personalizing your secondary school experience through online education doesn’t stop here.   We have students that have gone, or are planning to go abroad, for enrichment or family reasons for a semester or a year. NHCS Online Learning has been able to continue to provide a rigorous and personalized class schedule through our online opportunities for these students.  These students benefit by being able to keep the pace with their peers and not lose a year or semester of school progress.

While there is no replacement for the classroom teacher and the high-quality education that is provided in NHCS classrooms, there is an innovative and alternative approach that can be explored depending on the individual needs of our students.  It is also likely that today’s students will take one or more online classes at the post high school level as well. According to the 2015 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, 28% of students take at least one online class while in college.

As the needs of our students continue to grow and expand, NHCS will continue to evolve its virtual program.  To learn more about online learning, dual enrollment, or the e-Academy, please contact NHCS Online Learning Supervisor Sarah Gubitz at

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