GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford County Schools has received two grants to help improve school safety from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
The first grant for $275,000 focuses on school equipment. The project will provide an integrated district-wide system to manage and allow volunteers into school buildings.
The school district will be able to gather details about visits, put together a sign-in history for schools and allow GCS to account for all visitors quickly in an emergency. Also, the software will offer instant sex offender and banned visitor screenings.
“This technology gives us the ability to keep our schools and our students even more secure. School safety is a constant battle, but a system that allows you to better track who is in your schools and when – gives you an immediate upper hand. This isn’t just for the students though, because it will also allow us to keep the volunteers, who we count on every day, safer as well,” said Andrew Jaspers, GCS emergency management executive director.
The second grant, worth $46,880, focuses on working with community partner organizations to provide training for students, parents and school employees to better understand and support children experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma and other issues.
The grants will run through the end of the fiscal year. Implementation of both projects is ongoing.
HIGH POINT — William Penn High School Class of 1967 alumni arranged for two huge boulders to be delivered Wednesday at what is now Penn-Griffin School for the Arts.
“They wanted to enhance the campus by placing boulders at the entrance,” said Carlvena Foster, a Guilford County commissioner and William Penn graduate. “They’re going to leave it up to the school as to how the boulders will be decorated.”
Former N.C. State Sen. Larry Shaw, a 1967 alumni who chaired the class committee, had reached out to Foster who in turn contacted Samet Corp. because she knew of the company’s real estate development and construction services. Samet’s Johnny Sigers told Foster the company wanted to be part of the project.
“He immediately said yes because Samet is a great community partner and they had done spirit rocks before,” Foster said, adding these boulders are larger than most.
“Spirit rocks are a good thing for the schools, keeping everybody close together,” said Eric Foster, a field engineer for Samet who was at the school Wednesday morning.
Samet contacted Vulcan Materials Co., which agreed to donate the 14,000- and 15,000-pound boulders and assist with their placement.
“It represents all the struggle that we’ve gone through,” said James Roberts, who served as president of William Penn High School class of 1967.
Shaw referred to lions and other symbols of strength placed at entrances of public buildings.
“These are monuments in recognition to the Quakers who established William Penn around the turn of the century,” Shaw said.
Quakers established the High Point Normal & Industrial Institute for African-American students in 1891 and built the original high school building in 1910-11.
“The William Penn school had a very direct connection to our church,” said Joshua Brown, pastor of Springfield Friends Meeting. The schools’ roots reach back to a two-room wooden school Soloman Blair began in 1867.
“Soloman Blair was one of our members who was concerned about the education of former slaves and their children,” Brown said. “He started the small school that eventually grew and inspired people to create William Penn. Quakers and William Penn go way back. This is a nice opportunity to renew that.”
Brown said he was astonished when he learned Vulcan had pulled the boulders from a quarry located next door to the Kernersville home of the late James Davis, one of the oldest members of the Springfield congregation.
“He would have been terribly pleased to have seen these boulders moved here,” Brown said.
HIGH POINT — The High Point University Community Center was filled with hundreds of people early Monday morning, there to celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and hear four high school seniors deliver speeches for a scholarship competition.
The students were what the Rev. Frank Thomas of Mt. Zion Baptist Church called “extraordinary young people.”
“In (these contestants) we see our future,” said Angela Roach-Roberson, who delivered the event’s opening prayer. “We know that if we are to live together, we’re to do it as brothers and sisters.”
The speakers were competing for a potential $5,000 scholarship from the Ministers Conference of High Point and Vicinity, supported by ticket proceeds and sponsorships from High Point organizations.
The students used their platforms to speak about the plight of African-Americans during King’s time as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and in modern day.
“Many have said the country has come a long way, but for black people, life hasn’t been no crystal stair,” said Amani Baldwin, quoting Langston Hughes’s 1922 poem, “Mother to Son.”
“Despite the steps we have taken, there is still a lot left,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin, a senior at Weaver Academy for Performing and Visual Arts, pointed to segregated educational systems and gun violence as two of the things holding black communities back.
“The boards of the staircase have been torn up by the gun violence that runs rampant in our community,” she said.
Violence was a common theme across all four speeches, from issues of police brutality and racial profiling to gang violence.
Piedmont Classical High School senior Jowan Williams focused on hate being a leading cause of the violence.
“Look at what we’re doing to hurt each other,” Williams said. “Rapes, robberies, assaults, drive-bys.”
Qori Siler from Southern Guilford High School focused almost exclusively on violence, and she credited much of it to a division of society into black and white.
“Life as we know it has become divided,” Siler said. “How do we remain faithful and in belief when we still have people who put us down?”
JaQuez Boyd from Kearns Academy spoke more like a preacher than a teenager.
“Do you talk King or do you do King?” he asked the audience. “We walk around declaring that we stand for what Dr. King fought for, but when it’s time for us to do the things that King did, we oftentimes back down and become afraid.”
By the end of each speech, the speakers spoke of forgiveness, togetherness, cooperation and carrying on.
“We cannot become complacent in our current positions,” Baldwin said. “We must continue to climb that staircase despite the tacks and the splinters.”
Monday night, during a worship service at Williams Memorial CME Church, the contest winners were announced.
Boyd won first place and $5,000. Williams won second and $3,500 and Baldwin won third and $1,500.
At the service, the committee for the Commemoration of 400 Years of African-American History announced that they would additionally grant the fourth place winner, Siler, a $1,000 prize.
“We hear often about the state of our community and the state of our nation,” Thomas said to the crowd after each teen had spoken. “Some people feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But after hearing what I’ve heard today from these young people I believe that our future is bright.”
HIGH POINT — Welborn Middle School has earned a state innovation grant that could funnel up to $500,000 to the school over the next three years.
Welborn is one of four Guilford County schools and the only one in High Point to receive the award from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the school system announced Friday. The state grant promotes innovative approaches to learning.
Welborn will use the grant to emphasize school culture, climate and social-emotional learning to help with student achievement.
“An increased focus on wellness of students, staff and the community will allow the school to better address the issues that impact performance of students who are dramatically impacted by poverty,” according to Guilford County Schools.
The partner for the Welborn initiative is RTI International.
The four Guilford schools selected for the grants could receive up to $500,000 per year for the next three years to implement new projects. The other winners are Bessemer Elementary, Hairston Middle and Jackson Middle schools.
GUILFORD COUNTY — The Guilford County Schools on Wednesday announced the school system has earned a coveted national grant of $500,000 for an innovative program to teach students construction trade skills while they rehabilitate housing for people in need.
The school system is one of five grant winners nationwide among more than 200 applicants in a program overseen by the housing agency Fannie Mae. GCS earned the grant in the Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge that recognizes innovative approaches to address the nation’s affordable housing challenge.
The GCS program, “Safer Together Green Housing,” will create a model educational program to teach students employable skills in construction while increasing the quality and availability of affordable housing. The school district’s Careers and Technical Education construction program will partner with local agencies focused on affordable housing.
Fannie Mae leaders praised GCS for its innovation.
“The program’s hands-on educational components allow students to work directly with contractors and other technicians to rehabilitate local homes and develop valuable, in-demand skills in construction,” Fannie Mae said, adding that the program will train “a future workforce for well-paying jobs in construction.”
GUILFORD COUNTY —The Guilford County Board of Education received an update Tuesday night on a bottom-line scholastic goal — improving student performance and growth in academic achievement.
Guilford County Schools Chief Performance Officer Akisha Sarfo reported on the school district’s goal to increase the number of schools that exceed academic achievement growth by 50% by 2022.
The school system also wants to decrease the achievement gap between African-American and Latino students and their white counterparts by 7 percentage points by 2022.
Most schools, 74%, met or exceeded growth in 2019. Across grades three through eight, Guilford students exceeded growth in reading for the past three years.
In mathematics, students met or exceeded growth for the past three years.
Also, the school system recorded a larger percentage of teachers meeting professional growth standards than the state average.
Board member Winston McGregor asked the staff what resources are needed to continue to make progress. Superintendent Sharon Contreras responded that coaching and professional development of staff through mentoring would make a difference.
“There are an increasing number of teachers coming in from outside the field,” Contreras sasid.
In other business, the school board thanked its financial services staff for earning a professional recognition for the 25th consecutive year. The staff earned a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.
School board member Anita Sharpe thanked the staff on behalf of the board for its long run of accomplishment in handling the budget details of the school system.
The work our teachers do often means completing the hard things that will set us up for future success. Giving out a test. Pushing us to sharpen our minds. Administering consequence so we can learn and grow from our mistakes. But all good teachers know that in every classroom, along with the not-so-fun things, there has to be some laughter.
Meet Lucinda Johnson and Laura Blythe-Goodman, our Extraordinary Educators this week! These two teachers in our community have had their fair share of hectic school days, but they shared with us some of their favorite (and funniest!) moments teaching in High Point.
“Life is to be lived. Always do your best. Middle school doesn’t last forever, and in the big picture of life, it’s very small. The best is yet to come!”
Lucinda Johnson teaches eighth grade science at Penn Griffin School for the Arts. She was nominated by her principal, Howard Stimpson, who said Lucinda, “inspires high growth in students, mentors colleagues, and advocates for her profession.”
Lucinda calls Penn Griffin, “a group of great educators who are highly qualified to complete this task and exceed district expectations.” She describes her own teaching style much like her parenting style: firm, fair and loving. For her, education is all about relationships, and she cites the trust she builds with her students both in and outside of the classroom as the reward for her work. It’s also serves as her motivator.
“The hope that our partnership can lead to them being academically proficient and lifelong learners excites me,” Lucinda says of her students. “All students can learn! It is the task of each educator to connect and find ways to teach each student individually.”
But even in the midst of working hard to build relationships that foster academic growth, Lucinda isn’t afraid to laugh with her students. She recalls one particularly hurried morning.
“Trying to get all four of my sons out of the house and get to school on time is always a huge undertaking,” she says. After waking up late, spilling coffee, and finally dropping her sons off at daycare and school, she raced into the classroom.
“I started the students on the warmup for the day, and one of my students asked to speak to me privately,” Lucinda remembers. “I walked with her outside of the classroom, and she politely told me my dress was inside out and I had on mismatched shoes! …The student was so sweet to me. She didn’t want me to be embarrassed about it in front of the other kids. We went back into the room and laughed about it with the rest of the class!”
“I work hard to try to help my students understand that if they keep trying a new thing and don’t give up, they’re learning more than if they just kept doing something they already knew how to do. This is sometimes hard to understand, as it is more comfortable to be successful. I try to pass on the idea that trying hard at a new thing will help you learn, even when it feels frustrating.”
Winner of Teacher of the Year Award at her school, Shadybrook Elementary, Laura Blythe-Goodman teaches second grade. She was nominated by her principal, George Green. Laura sees her role as a teacher at Shadybrook as one that contributes to a larger community – from her classroom to her school to the city of High Point.
Inspired by her own teachers throughout school, including her third-grade teacher, her high school journalism teacher, and her grandmother who was a substitute teacher, Laura carries the lessons she learned into the way she leads her own classroom.
“My grandmother had grade levels she loved to teach (elementary and high school), and grade levels she would prefer not to teacher (middle school),” Laura recounts. “However, she was a substitute in a small town, so if she got a call to sub at the middle school for a day, she knew they had tried every other sub and had called her last. She always took the jobs.”
Like her grandmother, Laura tries to remember that eagerness to serve should be at a teacher’s heart – even in the hard and hectic days.
“I try to remember that although there might be things in life I like doing best, it is always important to pitch in to help wherever I am needed,” she says.
Looking back, Laura remembers the ways she led her classroom in her first year as a teacher, spending a short moment reading portions of a chapter book to her students. When the librarian later told Laura that students would come to the library eager to find the book and other in its series, she was encouraged by the love of reading she was fostering. This love of reading eventually led to a moment filled with laughter and learning in her classroom in later years.
At the end of one school year, Laura treated her classroom to a “book tasting” day to encourage growth towards independent reading.
“I decorated our room to look like a café, had soft music playing, and made menus of books the students could ‘taste,’ or read for a few minutes to see if they would like them,” she says. “I handed out the menus and took orders, and it was funny to me how much the students got into It. They pretended they were in a restaurant and even made up funny side orders to go along with the books!”
GUILFORD COUNTY — It’s a daunting number that will consume the coming year in local education: $2 billion.
That’s the amount Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras and other school system leaders are seeking to achieve a transformation of facilities and buildings where students learn.
Just before this past Thanksgiving Day, Contreras and school system leaders unveiled the audacious proposal to spend $2 billion over roughly 15 years to remake classroom settings in all county schools. The plan includes $320 million for High Point schools through upgrades and new facilities at High Point Central High School, T. Wingate Andrews High School, Southwest Guilford High School, and the middle and elementary feeder schools for the three high schools.
Overall, the plan would include safety and technology upgrades at all schools, construction of 22 new school buildings, renovation of 19 other schools and eliminating more than 500 mobile classrooms.
But the question that will shift to the forefront of discussion about the county schools in 2020 is how to raise the money.
Members of the Guilford County Board of Education and Guilford County Board of Commissioners began meeting late last year to deliberate over funding approaches. The next joint meeting of the school board and commissioners is scheduled for Jan. 21.
Advocates for the proposal, including leaders of Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce, want county leaders to present a bond referendum issue to voters in this fall’s election.
Speaking of the election, voters will pick four of nine school board members through the March 3 primary and Nov. 3 general election. Democrats who control the school board now by a 6-3 margin are assured of at least a 5-4 majority following the fall election based on which candidates filed last month for the school board contests.
While the $2 billion transformation proposal will gain front-and-center attention, the school board and commissioners still have to hash out the annual funding for the school system. The next fiscal year begins July 1, and deliberations over the annual county contribution to the school system budget should gear up later this winter.
The school board proposes a budget to the commissioners seeking county funding, and the commissioners have the final say on the matter.