New Hanover County Schools leaders were surprised Tuesday with the first statewide “Champion of Change” Award from the NC Department of Public Instruction for the district's extraordinary and comprehensive efforts to improve student literacy.
In addition to being the first Southeast NC recipient, NHCS is the first recipient across the state to receive the award. NCDPI officials said NHCS was chosen for leading the way in teacher training in the science of reading and showing huge improvements in test scores among students.
Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust said though he really doesn’t like surprises, he was happy to be part of this one.
“Once we sat down to make a plan to improve literacy in New Hanover County Schools, we were going for it,” he told NCDPI officials, district leaders, and Board of Ed members at the event. “And even though the road was rough at times, I was never going to allow it to break me or break my team.”
The award caps off a banner year for NHCS, after 90 percent of schools met or exceeded growth, 14 schools elevated their performance by a full letter grade, five schools came off the low-performing schools list, and Bellamy Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School.
Dr. Foust said it took a collaborative effort — from NCDPI offering support, to the Board backing new initiatives, to teachers undergoing rigorous new training — to get those kinds of results.
Maureen Hill, the district’s K-5 literacy curriculum specialist, was included in the recognition for leading implementation of new curriculum and science-based teaching methods.
“I’m so privileged to work with our staff and our teachers who are doing the work every day,” Hill said.
New Hanover County Schools’s strategic goal of getting 90 percent of students reading at or above grade level by third grade feels really ambitious, she said… but with the district’s exceptional teachers and community and family support, she believes they can do it.
“Literacy is a human right, it’s a civil right for our students,” Hill said. “We’re changing lives when we make students literate. Truly, that is our job, so that they can go out into the world and be whoever they want to be.”