Redistricting Update, January 2017
January 19, 2017
Providing an exceptional education for every child in Alamance County is our own citizens’ directive as expressed in A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County, adopted by the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education in 2013.
“We believe that all Alamance County children, regardless of circumstances, must have equal opportunity to realize their full potential and to prepare themselves to successfully face the challenges of the future and be productive members of society. For this to happen, we must invest in safe learning environments, and a challenging, dynamic, analytical, practical and flexible system of education.”
The Vision is a powerful document created by community stakeholders, business leaders and educators. I urge you to read it and understand how it serves as the foundation for the district’s road map, the ABSS Strategic Plan, adopted in 2014, and our current conversations about high school redistricting.
After 20 years of being joined in name only, long-range plans are now underway to fully unify our district, improve school equity and consistency, and invest in facilities so that all schools are equipped to offer world-class educational experiences for every child in every corner of our county. This community has progressed a great deal since 1996 when Burlington City Schools and Alamance County Schools merged, but substantial long-term investments and commitment to change to benefit children in our schools are both critical for ensuring that Alamance County will achieve the Vision.
“We believe that the children of Alamance County, when educated by exceptional teachers, using the best methods, in great facilities with commensurate support and expectations from families, community leaders, and the community at-large, can achieve exceptional post high school successes.”
-A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County, 2013
The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education will be voting on the proposed high school redistricting plan on Monday, January 23 at the regularly-scheduled January Board of Education meeting that will begin at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the upstairs auditorium at the district’s administrative offices located at 1712 Vaughn Road, Burlington.
Main Points of the ABSS High School Redistricting Proposal*
*Maps showing the redistricting boundaries are available for viewing at the district’s central office lobby (1712 Vaughn Road) and in each high school lobby
Updating facilities to world-class educational standards, balancing changing demographics and providing equity in programs and support for every school while managing increased enrollment growth are challenges that can be met with strong community support and belief that every child must succeed in order for Alamance County to prosper. We hope that you will support increased investment in our schools and in our plans to offer world-class educational experiences for every child in our community.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
December 14, 2016
As the holidays approach I always find myself in a reflective mood. Since the Thanksgiving break, I have visited a number of schools to have lunch and conversation with students, interacted with our faculties at afternoon meetings, and dropped by countless classrooms. All of these interactions have reminded me how grateful I am to serve a school district that is staffed by dedicated professionals working with incredible young people.
I talk and write about this community’s Vision Plan for Public Education and our ABSS Strategic Plan on a regular basis. In addition, I frequently reference the exceptional progress we have made toward making the Vision a reality. Our Board of Education has stayed the course; our County Commissioners have supported our efforts; and the business and faith communities continue to play critical roles in our district accomplishments. We have much more work ahead, but the Vision continues to be our community’s conversation centerpiece around helping every child achieve his or her personal best. Recently, the entire community celebrated the official launch of the Alamance Achieves initiative, a national framework for achieving collective community success. At the kick-off event, the energy in the room was electric. When a diverse group of people comes together to work toward a common goal, phenomenal outcomes are the result. The window of opportunity is wide open in Alamance County and we must seize the moment to ensure every child’s success.
Larry Coble, my friend, mentor, and past director of the Piedmont Triad Education Consortium, recently shared that, when governing bodies cannot measure what is important in public schools, they make that which they can measure important. Thus, North Carolina’s high stakes accountability model for schools was born. It is critical to point out, however, that so much goes on in our schools each and every day that cannot be measured. Our teachers, principals, assistant principals, teacher assistants, custodians, bus drivers, school counselors, social workers, nurses, central office staff and child nutrition experts make connections with nearly 23,000 children every single day. While the impact is not easily measured, every employee plays a major role in the well-being and success of our students. I appreciate each one of my professional colleagues for their individual abilities to reach and teach children.
I do not dismiss or discount our state’s accountability model. It does tell a story that can help us improve; but clearly, not the whole story. I am proud that, due to the hard work of all of our school-based and central support staff, every area we measure is on a positive trajectory. Our improvement in student growth has exceeded my high expectations, and we continue to record strong gains in proficiency. While our graduation rate took a slight dip last year, over the previous 5-year period, the trend has remained positive. Our collective goal is for ABSS to be the place where children want to come to learn, much more than just a place where they have to come. When students want to be in school, everything else falls into place.
Additionally, I want ABSS to be the organization where every education professional wants to work. We have made a concerted effort to provide outstanding support for our personnel and career-enhancing professional development opportunities. Both are strong indicators of employee satisfaction. The 2016 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey results showed significant improvement in both areas with our teacher attrition rate dropping by nearly 4 percent. For the first time anyone can remember, our district-wide attrition rate fell below the state average. That is yet another important statistic on a positive trajectory that can be measured.
Moving into the holidays, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve more than 3,000 dedicated ABSS colleagues and a committed community. I hope each one of you has a wonderful holiday making memories with treasured family and friends. Thank you for all you do.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
September 22, 2016
Our community’s Vision for Public Education and the Alamance-Burlington Schools Strategic Plan continue to drive our efforts to offer world class educational opportunities for every student. This will mark our third year of working together on the Strategic Plan to make the Vision a reality for our community. I am excited about our progress to date and our emphasis on the foundational elements of our professional development focus for ABSS educators we call the Core 4:
The Core 4 elements are critical for our students, schools and community success. We have more work ahead, but most importantly, we have a strong plan in place for sustaining our trend of continued academic growth and constantly challenging all students with rigorous coursework at every level. Watch a short video about our district’s professional development emphasis for our educators and how the framework is aligned to our ABSS Strategic Plan.
I anticipate that our third year together will demonstrate great success as we continue to keep our attention on the “right stuff”.
With a strong focus on each child and not on once-a-year summary results of test scores, we are pleased that our educational initiatives are resulting in considerable gains for individual students and schools. Our district accountability results for more than 22,500 students in 2015-2016, measured by the State of North Carolina, demonstrated substantial forward progress over the prior year in our collective efforts to help each child reach his or her personal academic best. Thanks to the commitment and dedication of our educators:
Our work to challenge and grow our high learners and support our students who may be struggling to master a particular standard is crucial to our community’s vitality. Ensuring that each student experiences the excitement of achieving personal success is our goal. Collectively we are building our community’s future work force and its leaders of tomorrow with support from local businesses and higher education partners. The investment that our teacher-leaders make each day to help more than 22,700 students achieve academic success is our community’s strongest economic asset and our commitment to Alamance County’s Vision for Public Education.
“We believe that education is the foundation for individual success, and that education should provide the knowledge, experiences and skills for future careers, further educational opportunities and continued and constructive participation in our democratic society.”
– A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County, 2013
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
Investments for Impressive Results
August 11, 2016
The results are in, and once again, our students have achieved extraordinary outcomes at the highest levels. Class of 2016 graduates from every ABSS high school with well-rounded resumes` and records of their rigorous coursework were rewarded for their investments of time, effort, and dedication to scholarly pursuits and community service. One hundred and five of the nation’s colleges and universities in 21 states and the District of Columbia were impressed by ABSS students’ remarkable results and invested heavily in our Class of 2016. Our graduates earned a sweet $16 million in nearly 600 merit-based scholarship awards for outstanding academic, artistic and athletic abilities. Sixteen million dollars is an impressive investment in Alamance County’s homegrown asset, the young leaders of our community.
Our ABSS seniors earned acceptance letters from more than 200 colleges and universities in 36 states across the nation, the District of Columbia, and Great Britain. It is evident that prestigious post-secondary institutions near and far recognize the value of our ABSS students. Columbia. Princeton. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The United States Naval Academy. Duke. Vanderbilt. University of Southern California. Davidson. Institutions like these, with some of the nation’s lowest admission rates, accepting only a fraction of applications annually, were among the schools offering our graduates coveted slots in their incoming freshmen classes. From the East Coast to the West; from the Great Lakes to the Gulf; and from nearly 70 institutions of higher education in North Carolina, our senior scholars were selected for admission in competition with the nation’s highest-achieving students. These outside investors have taken notice that our graduates are well-prepared to perform at the next level.
There’s more impressive investment news about ABSS graduates. During the 2015-16 school year, students enrolled in our expanding array of rigorous career and technical education classes demonstrated the requisite knowledge and skill proficiency necessary to earn nearly 2,500 national professional credentials certifying students’ preparedness for corporate careers in global and local labor markets. In high demand and preferred for the adult workforce at many of today’s companies, industry-recognized credentials earned by our students are long term investments that increase the net worth of each graduate’s resume` and enhance their marketability to prospective employers. National credentials can be costly for adult employees to obtain while our students in ABSS earn them for free. Investing time and effort into securing these industry-recognized credentials pays dividends for students whether they elect to enter a related career field or enroll in a higher level of education upon graduation. Our students’ investment in earning thousands of professional certifications can be calculated as one of our community’s economic strengths.
Class of 2016, you are Alamance County’s most important asset; your dreams are our community’s dreams. We offer our heartiest congratulations for your outstanding successes along with our sincere best wishes for continued extraordinary achievement. Your results generated strong investments for Alamance County and your accomplishments will serve as the gold standard for the ABSS Class of 2017. Easy to calculate but challenging to replicate; you’ve set the bar high. Your accomplishments will continue to encourage future outside investment in our community; a job well done.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
Proposed High School Redistricting Plan Update
May 26, 2016
Here’s how the process has evolved and where we are to date:
September 2012-April 2013
A group of community citizens, business leaders and educators met monthly to discuss and create A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County which the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education adopted in April 2013.
July 2013-June 2014
Alamance-Burlington Schools and the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education developed a long-range strategic plan to guide the district which was adopted in June 2014. The 3 strategic priorities developed for the plan include:
The 6 goals developed to meet the 3 strategic priorities include:
Goal 1: Exemplary Classroom Teaching and Instructional Leadership
Goal 2: Master Plan for Specialized Programs
Goal 3: Written Five-Year Facilities Plan
Goal 4: World-Class Teacher Working Conditions
Goal 5: Compensation for Building-Level Employees
Goal 6: Classroom and School Supports
In late 2014, our Alamance-Burlington Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners created a Joint Capital Improvements/Fiscal Task Force to evaluate our school system’s needs and the county’s resources (Goal 3: Written Five-Year Facilities Plan). The task force is made up of two members of each board, the superintendent, county manager, four staff members from both county government and ABSS, and four people from the general public, two appointed by each board.
After meeting on a monthly basis for nearly a year, receiving information regarding school capacity from ABSS, considering growth projections presented by the County Planner and visiting all schools; the Task Force reached a number of conclusions. They determined that our over-capacity issues at the high school level could not be solved by a minor reassignment of students. In addition, there were serious capacity issues at Newlin, Grove Park and South Mebane elementary schools. Finally, there were significant deferred maintenance issues that needed immediate attention.
In the spring of 2015, the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education approved a plan to eliminate former satellite attendance zones left over from a federal desegregation court order with Burlington City Schools in the 1970s and a plan designed to relieve severe overcrowding at Newlin Elementary. Realizing that overcrowding issues at South Mebane and Grove Park elementary schools and at the high schools were much more complex, the Board of Education directed our staff to develop a plan to go into effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
In August of 2015 I shared with the Board that we had been working on a plan that would be presented to the Board in October with plans for final approval in February, 2016. I also shared that this would be an evolutionary plan with multiple revisions. The introductory plan presented in October, 2015 included a new high school between Eastern and Southern high schools, a new elementary school in the eastern part of the county and reassignment of elementary students to eliminate the remaining satellite zones. This map was developed as a starting point for conversation.
After a number of revisions, many in response to feedback we received at public forums, a plan was presented to the Board in February, 2016. The February plan addressed the elementary issues, including a new K-5 school in the fast-growing eastern area (Mebane), but not the high schools. I shared with the Board that I was uncomfortable with the high school plan proposed in October and would go back to the drawing board with a goal of making a recommendation in December, 2016.
Before the March Board of Education meeting, we began looking at Alamance County as one unified school district and what it might look like if we divided the county into 4 quadrants or four comprehensive high schools. This was the first time that we began to discuss what a truly merged school system should look like rather than continuing to operate as separate Alamance County and Burlington City school districts as we have since the merger in 1996. However, having four comprehensive high schools would not provide enough capacity to meet the current demand for seats much less address any growth over the next several years.
The proposed plan presented to the Board in March consisted of five comprehensive high schools: Eastern, Western, Southern, Williams with a new school to be located in the eastern area of the county; and converting Cummings and Graham to choice specialty schools. We have been working on developing a grades 6-12 arts school at Cummings and a grades 9-12 Skilled Trades school, with other related programs at Graham such as the new Fire Academy that will begin in August 2016. Since there are no attendance zones for Cummings and Graham with this proposed plan, students from across the county can chose to attend either of these specialty schools related to their individual interests. Finally, a major reassignment plan is beginning to take shape.
The high school redistricting plan has been through multiple iterations to date, and it continues to be a work in progress at this time. The Board of Education held 2 public hearings in May: one at Cummings and the second one at Graham to receive public comments and answer questions about the process and about the proposed attendance maps. Additional public hearings are being planned, one at each of the remaining high schools, that will be held in September, after the 2016-2017 school year gets underway. We are still on target to present a final proposal to the Board of Education to ask for their approval by December 2016.
During the public forums and in separate conversations with many community members, parents and staff members, we have listened to a broad range of opinions and received thoughtful questions about the process, about the concept of choice specialty schools, about the reasons for altering attendance boundaries, and about the need for an additional high school. I feel that by listening and being responsive to feedback, we have made adjustments to the proposal that are getting us closer to what will be the final version to present to the Board of Education for approval. We aren’t there yet, but I feel we are not far away from where we need to be.
Maps of the current high school proposal are available for view at the district office lobby at 1712 Vaughn Road and at each high school. In addition, maps are posted on the ABSS website. We will continue to respond to questions or concerns and we will provide as much information as it is available while the proposal is still in draft form and at the broad outline stage. As we move closer to finalizing the broad outline concept, more specific detailed information, including cost projections and timelines, will be developed and shared. We have accomplished a great deal of work to get to this stage in the proposal, but we have far more tasks ahead of us. We ask for your patience as the process continues to unfold and as plans take shape over the next several months.
Several thoughtful questions we have received to date with responses provided:
1. What is the cost of the proposed changes? Will a school bond be used to pay for it?
We believe the total project cost will be in the neighborhood of $150,000,000. It will be dependent on a Bond, but, in addition, we plan to explore a Public Private Partnership route of financing. That method has been fairly popular recently, but only for a few schools in NC to my knowledge.
2. What portion of the cost is associated is with the new school vs. money that is going to be put into the existing facilities? All of our schools need attention and perhaps better benefit could be achieved by improving the existing facilities to a higher level rather than building a new school. What are the exact improvement that will go to the exiting 5 schools and 2 magnet schools?
The new elementary school is estimated at $20 - 25 million and the new high school approximately $50 million. We anticipate the additions at Western, Eastern and Southern will run approximately $2 million each. The rest would be for upgrading cafeterias and media centers at Western, Eastern and Southern as well as upgrades at most of our schools. The firm with which we ultimately contract will help us determine our priorities outside of the items mentioned above. We do have our schools on a painting schedule where we paint 5 schools a year. This can help us catch up on that schedule.
In addition, the Board is considering a Request for Proposal for a performance contracting agreement to upgrade the lighting in just about all of our schools as well as replacing HVAC units in many schools. The performance contract would require no additional revenue.
3. Why was the new school selected to be in the exact area that it is being put? There are many growing areas in the county.
We debated the new school between Eastern and Southern or Southern and Western. We determined the growth was more immediate in the Eastern zone and believe the addition will suffice at Western.
4. What are the key identifiers that help with a child’s ability to learn? Does diversity help build better schools?
The number one correlate to student success is the educational attainment of the parents. However, all students, regardless of background can achieve high levels of academic success, if they have equitable access to appropriate resources. One of the 3 main goal priorities for the Alamance-Burlington Schools Strategic Plan is School Equity and Consistency.
Alamance County, like most communities, has pockets of poverty. Over time as demographics have changed in our county, Graham and Cummings are now located in such communities that have developed mainly in the center of our county. While each school has many academically talented students, these 2 schools also have many students with high needs. This plan will result in all students having equitable access to opportunities for classes that will enable them to maximize their potential, such as a broader array of Honors and Advanced Placement offerings.
5. Will the district address elementary and middle school attendance zones in addition to the high school proposal?
Once we finalize our high school zones, we will begin looking in earnest at our elementary and middle zones and hope to develop improved feeder patterns. We attempted to start at the elementary level, but determined we needed to begin by addressing the high schools because of the urgent need to address severe overcrowding issues across the district.
6. When will the redistricting plan go into effect?
It is estimated that it will take 3 to 5 years from the time a plan is approved before students would be reassigned since the new high school would need to be completed and ready for students.
Please feel free to share your questions and concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
May 2, 2016
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the United States Congress in 1953 to designate a day for recognizing the contributions of teachers and the impact each one has on the future of our nation. In 1980, the first Tuesday in May became known as National Teacher Appreciation Day with the first week of May proclaimed as National Teacher Appreciation Week. Our nation continues to officially celebrate the legacy of teachers this time each year, by presidential proclamation while parents, students and communities witness teachers’ contributions forever.
Locally, the Alamance Chamber and its partner businesses host a fabulous Excellence in Education Awards event annually to honor and celebrate Alamance County teachers selected by their peers as each school’s Teacher of the Year. It is fitting that this year’s Alamance-Burlington Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Excellence in Education Awards event on National Teacher Appreciation Day, Tuesday, May 3. What a wonderful venue to witness the powerful display of our community’s strong support for our educators as business leaders, citizens and professionals gather to show appreciation for the often-unseen work that teachers perform every day for each child. Every school winner is proud to represent his or her professional colleagues and the families they serve. I look forward to the privilege and pleasure of honoring each nominee, semi-finalist, finalist and our Alamance-Burlington Schools Teacher of the Year, and for the opportunity to thank each one for a job well done.
The Alamance Chamber and Excellence in Education Awards event partners continue to show tremendous commitment to The Vision Plan for Public Education in Alamance County that was adopted in June 2014 and embraced by our community. These business leaders recognize the valuable and vital contribution that each teacher makes to our county and on behalf of every student in our schools. Our community stands behind the carefully-considered belief statements outlined in the Vision document:
“We believe that investing in public education is an investment that provides a foundation for the economic success of Alamance County and the improvement of the quality of life for all its residents.
We will treat the business of educating our students with the utmost respect, and we will be known for our uncompromising commitment to rigor and excellence in our every endeavor.
We will be recognized as a preferred place to live, raise families and build businesses, specifically because of the quality of our public education system.
Our school system will be preferred by high quality teachers as a result of our respect for and trust in them, our community and professional support, and competitive compensation.”
-A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County
Adopted June 2014
Our teachers are committed to ensuring each child’s success and are heavily invested in the future of our community. Educators are involved every day in ensuring Alamance County’s success by inspiring children to reach higher, try harder, and, in turn, achieve more than each student thought possible. Our professionals are steadfastly engaged in building our collective future and strengthening our entire community. Teachers deserve our community’s commitment, accolades, and most importantly, appreciation, for their roles in developing and sustaining a strong and vibrant Alamance County.
Please take a moment to express a heartfelt thank you to teachers that inspired you, pushed you, and recognized your abilities and talents long before you did. Show your appreciation for their contributions to your success by encouraging children in your circle of influence to reach higher, try harder, and achieve more than they think is possible; leave a teacher’s legacy.
Congratulations to our 2016 Alamance-Burlington Schools Teachers of the Year:
Ms. Maria Gordillo-Davis, Audrey W. Garrett Elementary School
Mr. Jordan Hohm, Broadview Middle School
Mr. Jason Slagle , Graham Middle School
Ms. Sarah Farrell, Sylvan Elementary School
Mr. Sean Patrick Quinn, Western Alamance High School
Ms. Heather Collins, Ray Street Academy
Ms. Jennifer Keefe, E.M. Yoder Elementary School
Ms. Morgan Kernodle, Turrentine Middle School
Mr. Randy Faulkner, Southern Alamance High School
Ms. Arielle Hogarth, Eastern Alamance High School
Ms. Windy Lampson, Graham High School
Ms. Mallory Hinzman, Eastlawn Elementary School
Ms. Melissa Blum, Highland Elementary School
Ms. Ashley Irene Brazie, Southern Alamance Middle School
Ms. Jennifer Russell, R. Homer Andrews Elementary School
Ms. Paola Contreras, Elon Elementary School
Ms. Nicole Smith, North Graham Elementary School
Ms. Mary Margaret Harris, Walter M. Williams High School
Ms. Paige DuPree Ysteboe, Western Middle School
Ms. Karon S. Parker, E.M. Holt Elementary School
Ms. Mary Strickland, Hillcrest Elementary School
Ms. Angelia Dawn Randleman, Woodlawn Middle School
Ms. Charity Hawkins, South Mebane Elementary School
Ms. Christine Landess, B.Everett Jordan Elementary School
Ms. Melissa Barnhouse, Marvin B. Smith Elementary School
Ms. Alicia D. Mebane, Grove Park Elementary School
Ms. Tara L. McKenna, Haw River Elementary School
Ms. Amy Burgess, South Graham Elementary School
Ms. Christina McLaughlin, Altamahaw-Ossipee Elementary School
Ms. Christina Gross, Hawfields Middle School
Mr. Brooks Cornatzer, Hugh M. Cummings High School
Mr. Shawn Shoptaw, Career and Technical Education Center
Ms. Nicole Valenti, Harvey R. Newlin Elementary School
Ms. Barbara J. Kimber, Pleasant Grove Elementary School
Ms. Natalie Pickett, Alexander Wilson Elementary School
Mr. John Trammell, Alamance-Burlington Early/Middle College
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
Community Engagement and Investment
March 7, 2016
Better than any individual or industry, public schools are an accurate indicator of a community’s well-being. A community doing whatever it takes to invest in its children’s education, to equip every child to meet tomorrow’s challenges, is committed to ensuring future success for all residents.
Schools open to all children mirror their communities in times of economic vitality and in lean financial circumstances. Our public schools serve all neighborhoods and represent every corner of the county. In 2013, our citizens stated a collective commitment to all children by creating the Vision for Public Education in Alamance County. The powerful sentiments expressed in this bold 100-page document continue to impress me each time I read it: “We envision a public school system that is a national model for its curriculum and community engagement to empower all Alamance County students with equal opportunity for civic engagement, a meaningful quality of life and skills for economic success—for themselves and our community.” Alamance County’s vision was carefully crafted by citizen leaders with a long range view.
Before my arrival, Alamance-Burlington Schools developed a dynamic strategic plan to construct a model educational environment to suit every student’s needs and interests to turn this community’s vision into action. Phase I of the strategic plan launched this year has received outstanding support from parents, community leaders and elected officials. We invested resources in nationally-recognized rigorous specialized programs for arts, global studies and foreign language; opened an early college at Alamance Community College; expanded top-level engineering and computer programming courses at the Career and Technical Education Center; added courses with the North Carolina School of Math and Science and increased online course opportunities with our Virtual Academy. We also invested local dollars provided by our county commissioners to become more competitive with neighboring school system with an increase in teacher supplements to keep talented professionals in our county’s classrooms.
We have much more work ahead, but we are off to a great beginning. Our momentum is being multiplied by landmark initiatives fueled by business and civic leaders looking for long term success, united by the common purpose of ensuring future success for all residents.
With support from the Impact Alamance Foundation, our district is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to build an innovative leadership academy for classroom educators modeled after the Chamber’s highly-successful Leadership Alamance program. Fifty teachers representing all 36 schools meet monthly to visit local businesses and non-profit organizations to visualize career opportunities for students, witness how agencies provide services for a stronger community, and understand the key role educators play in our local economy.
Successful area businesses are investing substantial corporate resources to launch the Career Accelerator Program (CAP), a 4-year apprenticeship program for high school students, in conjunction with Alamance Community College and our school district. The fourth program of its kind in North Carolina offers high school students an opportunity to become part of the highly-skilled workforce in local advanced manufacturing companies. The businesses will underwrite each student’s 2-year degree at ACC, a paid internship and a guaranteed career position upon graduation. These industry leaders are looking ahead and investing in the future workforce for Alamance County.
Recognizing the urgent need to invest in our community’s future fiscal vitality, our local business partners, community agencies and higher education peers continue to speak out in support of our schools in unprecedented fashion. These leaders are encouraging elected officials to share their long range view and invest in public education as a priority for economic development to benefit all residents.
In Alamance-Burlington Schools, we are reminded to stay focused on the long range view each time we look into the face of the future—excited kindergarten students entering as the graduating class of 2029 are fueling our momentum.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
February 8, 2016
On the outside, school buildings haven’t really changed much since I was a student. On the inside, classrooms still resemble what most of us recall from our memories of when we were students. Even the rhythm of the daily school routine hasn’t changed over multiple decades. But tools that teachers have available to help students learn are changing and evolving at an unbelievably rapid rate.
The biggest changes of the century have occurred outside of schools with advances in the field of technology and the Internet, in turn, causing the scope of each educator’s work to change dramatically. In every classroom, along with the pencils, paper, flash cards and crayons from my day, teachers and students now have the world at their fingertips with laptops, ipads, Smartboards, Skype and more. Tools that can help to engage today’s students in mastering the North Carolina Standard Course of Study are much more complex and challenge the traditional definition of “literate” as being able to read and write. These are the tools of the 21st century workplace.
We are preparing today’s graduates to be citizens in a global world; not only to read and write, but also to be creative thinkers, collaborators, problem solvers and to have competence with the technology tools of the 21st century. Giving experienced educators a hand in building on their traditional teaching strengths and on how to use today’s technology tools effectively to best serve our community’s future leaders are important goals in our district’s Strategic Plan. I am pleased to say that we are experiencing great progress in this area during the 2015-2016 school year.
To keep pace with rapid advances in the technology devices that students are exposed to outside of the school day, our district is investing in cutting-edge professional development for school administrators and classroom teachers to deepen our knowledge in how to use these technologies effectively in the classroom. We have partnered with The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at the North Carolina State University College of Education to advance our ability to redefine digital literacy for teachers and for students. We are embracing the use of technology tools as additional classroom resources; to supplement, not replace the traditional tools of the trade.
With our Friday Institute partners, our professionals are advancing their knowledge in how to combine subject content that students must master with each teacher’s professional “how to teach” experience and knowledge of a variety of technology tools available for classroom use that will enhance student learning. ABSS educators are learning how to utilize a framework model known as “TPACK” in order to combine content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technical knowledge in the classroom: TPACK: Technical, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge.
The valuable insights gained from our collaboration with Friday Institute educators are guiding our district efforts to increase student motivation, make subject content more accessible, and personalize learning for every child. These monthly professional development sessions are thought-provoking and challenging all of us to redefine what it means to prepare every student for success and for the ability to be able to adapt to the constantly-changing global environment of their future.
Tools from my school experience were limited to paper, pencils and textbooks. The sky is the limit for 21st century students unless educators fail to recognize the redefinition of literacy-based skills caused by rapid advancement in digital technologies, and fail to embrace change in our profession. ABSS educators are embracing change and we are challenging ourselves to ensure that every child will be digitally literate and future-ready.
For more information on The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at the North Carolina State University School of Education, visit: http://www.fi.ncsu.edu/
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
January 7, 2016
Making resolutions and developing strategies to stay true to them are always topics of conversation at this time of year. Resolutions are filled with hope, optimism and promise, but the best intentions vanish quickly if great ideas are not sustained with concrete plans of action to achieve success.
Four years ago, a broad array of our community’s citizens began work on developing the concept of A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County. I encourage you to spend time reading the inspirational text, a foundation document formulated by our citizens for our community’s future. It is a powerful statement carefully crafted by thoughtful and intentional residents after months of discussion, debate and deliberation. While written specifically for Alamance County, our Vision outlines a concrete commitment to children that should be a landmark in every community around the globe. It is a world-class resolution.
We envision a public school system that is a national model for its curriculum and community engagement to empower all Alamance County students with equal opportunity for civic engagement, a meaningful quality of life and skills for economic success—for themselves and for our community.
-A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County -Adopted June 2013
Our job in Alamance-Burlington Schools is to ensure that this great idea is sustained with concrete plans of action to help each child in every classroom achieve his or her personal best. Our district strategic plan, carefully developed with the Vision as a guide, was unanimously approved by our Board of Education in June 2014. The six broad goals outlined in the plan are our concrete plan of action; the roadmap that will help us achieve our community’s resolution.
I am pleased and encouraged with the progress we have made to date in implementing the first phase of the strategic plan during the 2015-2016 school year. This plan will continue to be our North Star to guide the direction of our work for the next 5 years, 10 years, and beyond. Clearly aligned with our community’s Vision, the 6 goals of the strategic plan are defining our work and our resource allocations. We have much work ahead of us, but we are off to a great start. Please take a minute to view a quick mid-year Strategic Plan Update. The active engagement from our community partners and citizens, our Board of Education, county commissioners and other elected officials has been both amazing and affirming. With this high level of support, we are definitely on the right road to realizing our community’s resolution.
As we begin the work to develop our plans and the district’s budget for the 2016-2017 school year, our focus will be targeted on the work and resources needed to advance to the next stage of success, particularly in 2 of the 6 important goal areas: Goal 2: Specialized Programs and Goal 5: Compensation for Building Level Employees. This year, with strong support from our county commissioners, our district was able to complete the first phase of expanding our broad array of specialized programs to meet the interests and needs of more students and provide an increased salary supplement to help us retain our most experienced educators and principals. We have much more work to do, but the roadmap is in place with the destination clearly marked.
A great idea combined with concrete plans of action and strong support from all partners is creating the solution for success toward achieving our community’s resolution. Please join us for this exciting journey.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
October 20, 2015
Leading a school is not for the faint of heart; it requires courage, dedication and commitment as well as a strong command of effective educational pedagogy and practices with skilled leadership ability. Not only are school leaders entrusted with the safety and well-being of each child every day, we are responsible for ensuring that each child has the educational resources available to achieve his or her personal best and that every educational leader in the building is empowered to reach high expectations. I believe that this field, the most challenging and most rewarding career there is, is a calling.
On October 13, I had the pleasure of announcing Dr. Joe Ferrell, principal of Walter M. Williams High School, as the 2015-2016 Alamance-Burlington Principal of the Year. When I shared news about his award over the school’s intercom system, a resounding cheer echoed through the halls. Beloved and respected by students and staff at Williams, Dr. Ferrell will now advance in regional competition in the 2016 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year program that is sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, in conjunction with its corporate partner.
Representing the high caliber of dedicated educational leaders in our district, Dr. Ferrell’s highly successful career story is sure to resonate with judges in the next phases of competition. He was nominated for our local honor by several school colleagues who outlined their principal’s outstanding rapport with students, faculty and parents, his unfailing commitment to excellence for all students and for his focus on using data to make informed decisions about the best teaching strategies for continuous improvements focused on student success. Keeping the proud traditions and history of Williams High alive that are so embedded in the community’s culture was also noted as a strength and unifying force under Dr. Ferrell’s leadership since he arrived as principal in 2011.
Critical to every principal’s success is having highly capable colleagues to assist in carrying out the school’s educational mission. We are pleased to have Mr. Matt Haley, assistant principal at Hawfields Middle School since 2008, representing his professional colleagues as the 2015-2016 Alamance-Burlington Schools Assistant Principal of the Year. Mr. Haley’s colleagues nominated him for the districtwide honor because of his strong collaboration skills, support for the entire Hawfields community and his involvement in championing new technology initiatives to benefit students and teachers. As a dedicated coach and career educator, Mr. Haley has touched the lives of hundreds of children and families in his school’s community, sharing his skills, knowledge and passion for children’s success along the way.
Having other professionals take notice of your work is a tribute to your efforts and much appreciated; just ask Dr. Ferrell and Mr. Haley. In Alamance-Burlington, we have gathered quite a bit of notice lately. Just in the last month, ABSS received three requests to showcase a variety of courageous school leadership practices in multiple schools across the district. Three outside organizations requested to visit our district to learn more about our leadership focus and various implementation strategies that our schools have underway.
After just a few weeks of school, executives from the VIF International Education group visited ABSS schools that offer language immersion to observe how our schools have implemented the global education piece that is new for our district this year. VIF representatives were so impressed with what they witnessed, they came back to attend an evening parent event at South Graham Elementary in September where students from every grade level provided showcase performances, songs and dances native to the country they are studying this year. After their visit to Elon Elementary, VIF executives recommended the school as a “must-see” global school site visit to the Houston Independent School District. A bus load of representatives from the Texas school district visited Elon on Friday October 9th to witness firsthand how the school and its leaders had transformed the K-5 school into a global learning experience for every student.
In addition, future principals from fourteen northeastern North Carolina school districts traveled to South Mebane Elementary on October 6th for a tour and panel discussion on developing a successful school culture and effective leadership principles. Principal Rebecca Royal and her staff hosted the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) interns and led a panel discussion to share their leadership expertise with soon-to-be school leaders and Dr. Kent Peterson in the program sponsored by North Carolina State University School of Education.
October is National Principals Appreciation Month. It is important to celebrate all principals who are the driving force behind-the-scenes at successful schools. They set the stage and clear obstacles out of the way to lead and empower educators at their schools to create change and set high standards for every student’s success. The efforts of our Alamance-Burlington school leaders and educators to innovate and approach challenges with carefully-crafted solutions are receiving notice from colleagues outside our district. I hope that you will take time to acknowledge our principals’ courageous leadership and thank them for their dedication and commitment to children and to our community.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.