As the 2014-2015 school year begins and we get busy with the important job of empowering, educating, and serving our 3170 students, I’d like to pause to say thank you! Thank you to all of our teachers who have accepted the honor of working with children and making a difference to so many. Thank you to everyone in our district who keeps our students safe, feeds them, transports them, cares for them, and provides for them. In a time when it feels like so much could discourage you, you have kept a positive attitude and a servant heart as you have accepted the responsibility of positively impacting so many lives and futures.
We have so much to be proud of in Newton-Conover. We must not assume everyone knows of the amazing accomplishments of our district. We must know our story and share it. We embrace choice and competition. We need to ensure that our community and our stakeholders know the full story.
Our dropout rate is 5th lowest in the state. Our graduation rate is the highest it has ever been in the history of our district. Our 203 High School graduates last year earned over $8,200,000 in scholarships. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s $8.2 million. US News and World Report rated Newton-Conover High School the 13th best high school in the state out of close to 600 schools. This includes private schools and charter schools. The Washington Post rated Discovery High School as one of the 30 most rigorously challenging high schools in the state. We had two more athletic state championships last year- one in Men’s Golf and another in Wrestling. Those are the 8th and 9th state athletic championships earned by the district since 2007. NCCS was awarded the National School Public Relations Association: Award of Excellence for Publications and Electronic Media Award for our Compass www.nccscurriculum.org Our Finance Department was one of 13 in the state to be awarded three fiscal management awards at the state level.
This year we are opening a new South Newton Elementary. The staff at South will also be rolling out Steven Covey’s The Leader in Me program with students and staff. We have two blended learning classroom pilots starting at North Newton and Shuford. Discovery High School will be moving into their new campus in the newly renovated Thornton Education Center. This site will also house our Pre-K programs and Community Schools.
You have all demonstrated your dedication and commitment to students in so many ways. North Carolina conducts Teacher Working Conditions Surveys every 2 years and compiles those results to inform the state and each district about the perceptions of working conditions. Newton-Conover had 100% participation by teachers in our district. Additionally, our district’s results showed that Newton-Conover teachers had the 10th highest overall working conditions ratings for the district in the entire state (out of 116 districts).
As everyone is aware, there have been significant staffing and budget cuts from the legislature. As a district, however, we’ve committed to maintaining our support and providing resources to help schools succeed. We’ve added new positions without eliminating positions at six of our seven schools. Some schools received additional teachers, others received additional teacher assistants, but no school had reductions in personnel from last school year. We’ve made funding adjustments to maintain our support of schools through personnel, training, and resources. We hope you see the fruits of these investments. We’ve also been busy installing safety upgrades at each school including cameras, secondary entrances, and buzzer systems.
This coming year we have big challenges ahead of us. There is uncertainty at the state level with the adopted curriculum, potential budget cuts are again on the horizon, tenure has been eliminated for teachers, textbook allotments have been essentially extinguished, and support staff at DPI has been reduced by 10%.
We accept the challenges ahead of us. We must model for our students perseverance, problem solving, and communication as a means to overcome these obstacles. WE are Newton-Conover. We must prepare them for a global workforce that is ever-changing. This means that problem solving, creativity, perseverance, communication, endurance, self-efficacy, adaptation, collaboration, critical thinking, curiosity, persistence, social-belonging, purpose, goal setting, and inquiry are essential.
As you move into this exciting school year, I’d like each of you to ponder these 10 questions:
- In what ways do we need to serve that we currently aren’t?
- How do we prepare students Pre-K through 12th grade to be College and Career Ready?
- What should our graduates know and be able to do?
- How are we purposefully teaching the essential skills necessary for a global workforce?
- Technology can be a valuable tool for learning. How are we integrating its use?
- How do we battle complacency and continue to grow?
- What is our innovation agenda, and how do we leverage resources through collaboration to achieve that agenda?
- Personalization is a must for our students. Schools must move from bundled experiences to unbundled pathways including different sites, online, internships, specialized opportunities and differentiated experiences. How can we be adaptive and provide individual pathways?
- How do we continue to grow and maintain quality staff?
- What has our community shared that they want from our schools? (choice in opportunities, safe, STEM programs, strong arts, strong academics, strong teachers, enriching extra-curricular opportunities, well-rounded students, employable graduates, improved quality of life, competitive, strong soft skills as well as content knowledge, respectful, responsible)
This school year holds so much promise. We have the right people leading, serving, teaching and empowering. We have students who are capable of tremendous things. We have support from within, from our board of education and from our community. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? WE are Newton-Conover!
Have a wonderful year everyone!
David Stegall, Ed.D
Newton-Conover City Schools