It is hard to believe, but the official first day of school for traditional calendar students is fast approaching. I am excited about this year because it will be my first full year with New Hanover County Schools. Last year, I saw many great things going on. There are some great teachers, principals and support personnel in our schools and they worked hard to help us have a successful year. That hard work has paid off. When state testing data was released, we had seven schools that earned the state’s highest recognition: Honor School of Excellence. These schools include: Codington Elementary, Eaton Elementary, Holly Tree Elementary, Ogden Elementary, Parsley Elementary, Wrightsville Beach Elementary, and Isaac Bear Early College High School. Ten New Hanover County schools were identified as Schools of Distinction: Anderson Elementary, Bellamy Elementary, College Park Elementary, Murray Middle School, Myrtle Grove Middle School, Noble Middle School, Roland-Grise Middle School, Trask Middle School, Ashley High School, and Laney High School. Most of our other schools were distinguished as Schools of Progress and no schools were deemed as low performing.
Despite tougher federal standards, 12 schools made Adequate Yearly Progress meeting 100% of their target goals: Carolina Beach, Bellamy, Eaton, Holly Tree, Isaac Bear Early College, New Hanover, Ogden, Roland-Grise, Codington, Parsley, Wilmington Early College, and Wrightsville Beach. Five schools met 90% or higher of their target goals – Bradley Creek, Trask, Murrayville, Myrtle Grove, and Wrightsboro. Seven schools met 80% or higher of their target goals – Murray, College Park, Anderson, Laney, Blair, Williams, and Noble. Eight schools met 70% or higher of their target goals – Ashley, Castle Hayne, Virgo, Alderman, Hoggard, Pine Valley, Williston, and Winter Park. All other traditional schools in the district met 50% or more of their target goals.
Our graduation rate increased this year by three percent and the rate for African American and Hispanic students grew even higher. Our teachers and students received numerous regional, state and national recognitions.
New Strategic Plan
At the July Board of Education meeting, the Board adopted a bold new strategic plan to guide the district into the future. That strategic plan calls for increased academic improvement, more technology, and more business partnerships. We also adopted the motto, Reach, Equip, Achieve for the district. This means that we must work to reach all children, no matter what their circumstances are. We must equip them with the skills needed to succeed in life after school. We must also equip our schools with the resources necessary to do the job. If we do this, then I have no doubt that our students can achieve at an even higher level.
The New School Year
The 2011-12 year should be an exciting year with some unique challenges to face. Among these challenges are the budget reductions, the new Common Core Curriculum and some new faces in our schools. Due to several reductions in our budget, we will be dealing with an almost 5% reduction of funds. This reduction would have been much worse except for the good stewardship of our Finance Department and Board. Their efforts helped mitigate some of these reductions. There will be fewer people in our buildings again this year. Over the last three years, we have endured the loss of over 500 positions. With fewer people and fewer resources, this will make sustaining the academic growth of the last several years very difficult. I do believe though that we have both the talent and the resolve to make good things happen for our students. With fewer financial resources, we must rely on the best tools we have – which are our teachers and principals.
The state and the district are also embarking on the rollout of the new Common Core and Essential Standards. This major overhaul of the state’s curriculum will be the central part of our professional development this year. The Instructional Team, led by Mrs. Dale Pelsey-Becton, will be leading this effort along with our principals. They will also be piloting a new grading initiative.
There will be some new principals this year as well. Eight schools have new leaders in place and a number of schools have new assistant principals. You can read about these and other changes on our website: http://www.nhcs.net/index.htm. Most of these changes came about due to retirements or budget considerations. I expect that these new leaders will help us take the next step towards excellence.
With the budget issues and the other challenges we face, I still expect that we will continue to improve. I expect our student performance to increase across the board, with lowest performing schools in particular. While we outperform the other urban districts in the state, I want us to be able to compete with any district in the state and the nation. I want our graduation rate to continue to increase. I expect to be better than the state average. I also expect that gap between sub-groups to continue to close.
If we are going achieve our motto of Reach, Equip, Achieve, we will have to work together and remember that at our core, we are about changing lives. We do this through our teaching and by building positive relationships with our students. I showed a short video to our principals at our August retreat and I am including the link here:
I want to thank you for a great 2010-11 year and I expect an even better 2011-12 year!