• The Power of Story

    Posted by William Benson on 9/19/2018

    Stories connect us. Storytelling is an art. There is science in storytelling. In fact, there is research that suggests if stories are told in a certain way, a strong emotional connection occurs. Students in Ms. Burgesses’ class at South Graham Elementary school have been learning about the key elements of stories – characters, problems, plot developments, and outcomes. Using a graphic organizer, students used a mentor text, A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon, to identify the key elements of a story. I had the pleasure of reading the text, after which Ms. Burgess led a group effort to identify the various elements. Next up, students will be writing their own stories – moving from knowledge and comprehension to synthesis and evaluation, a significant increase in cognitive demand.



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  • First Day of School: Phase two

    Posted by William Benson on 8/28/2018

    We welcomed our traditional school year students back yesterday. In visiting schools, it was clearly evident that that our teachers were exceptionally well prepared to welcome back students. Starting back to school can be an anxious time for students (and parents for that matter), regardless of age. One of the classes I visited was reading First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. In the story, Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn't want to go to school. She doesn't know anybody. She is certain it will be awful. However, she is quickly befriended by her principal, Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. Our teachers, staff, and building administrators did just that and so much more yesterday. Thanks for getting us off to a great start.



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  • Conduction, Convection, and Radiation, Oh My!

    Posted by William Benson on 8/20/2018

    Students in Barbara Willett’s class at Haw River Elementary School are learning about heat (energy) transfer. Butter melts on hot corn due to convection, right? Well, no – it does melt, but it melts due to conduction – direct contact. Students who conceptually understand the differences between conduction, convection, and radiation are able to apply their knowledge to new examples (or better yet, provide a new example), not just identify previously provided examples. Students in Mrs. Willett’s class can do that! Hey, fifth graders in Ms. Willett’s class – I need help understanding the difference between a regular oven and a convection oven!



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  • Big Words

    Posted by William Benson on 8/14/2018

    I had the pleasure of co-teaching an ELA lesson with Kim Griffis at Eastlawn Elementary School last week. The lesson focused on understanding the difference between literal and non-literal meaning of words and phrases in context, supported by appropriate evidence from the text. One of the things I really appreciate about Ms. Griffis’ preparation for the lesson is the identification of compelling questions. The lesson had three compelling questions:


    1. How can I ask and answer questions about the text by inferring and using evidence from the text?
    2. How can I determine the meaning of unknown words and phrases in a text using context clues and text evidence?
    3. How can I distinguish the difference between literal and nonliteral language?


    Note that the compelling questions are all how questions, requiring a level of cognitive demand in response beyond basic knowledge and comprehension – clearly moving students into application and analysis.


    Through small and large group work, students learned to use context clues and text evidence to determine the meaning on unknown words, including the ‘big words’ in Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.


    Many thanks to Ms. Griffis! It was a great lesson and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of it.




    Dr. Benson co-teaching

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  • National Night Out: Burlington

    Posted by William Benson on 8/9/2018

    I had the pleasure of participating in National Night Out this week at the invitation of Hardin Watkins, Burlington’s City Manager. National Night Out is held annually on the first Tuesday in August.  The event is comprised of citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials. Along with the traditional display of outdoor lights and front porch vigils, cities, towns and neighborhoods come together to celebrate with a variety of events and activities such as block parties and cookouts.


    I rode along with Police Chief Smythe and Assistant City Manager Rachel Kelly as we visited neighborhood celebrations throughout the city. A little rain may have dampened streets, but not spirits. A great time was had by all!Thanks to everyone who participated!!




    Dr. Benson and National Night Out

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  • Got Phases?

    Posted by William Benson on 8/8/2018

    The moon does and students in Hannah Demirdogen’s 4th grade class at North Graham Elementary School are learning all about them. I had the pleasure of helping out in Ms. Demirdogen’s class this week. Students in Ms. Demirdogen’s class are using interactive notebooks to deepen their conceptual understanding in science. Students write, draw, and reflect to develop a better understanding of what they are studying – in the case, the phases of the moon. Students also used moonsicles (styrofoam balls on small paint brushes) to simulate the phases of the moon by revolving the moonsicles around themselves while standing in a circle around a floor lamp – new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, last quarter, and waning crescent appeared before students’ eyes. Students then individually developed interpretive dances (North Graham is an arts infused school.) to represent the phases of the moon. Observing, writing, drawing, reflecting and modeling are all important aspects of great teaching and learning.  We are fortunate to have teachers like Ms. Demirdogen who call ABSS their professional home. Ms. Demirdogen was North Graham’s teacher of the year last year.




    P.S. And here’s a special shout out to all you scientific observers in Ms. D’s class, you did a great job so I am throwing stars your way!

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  • First Day of School: Phase I

    Posted by William Benson on 7/27/2018

    It was back to school this week, at least for our five year-round schools which include Eastlawn, Haw River, North Graham, South Graham, and Graham Middle. I had the opportunity to drop by Eastlawn, Graham Middle, and South Graham between meetings with elected officials and community and business leaders. We appear to be off to a smooth start. Students were engaged on Day 1 to include a marshmallow design challenge and an opportunity to think about classroom rules and consequences (I am happy to report that student consequences were more focused on corrective action than punishment.).


    Dr. Benson with elementary students


    We look forward to welcoming back all of our traditional schedule schools on August 27.



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  • Swearing-In Ceremony

    Posted by William Benson on 7/11/2018

    I was officially sworn-in as Superintendent of ABSS yesterday at noon by Judge Larry Brown, Jr. Accompanied by my wife, Barbara, who held the Bible given to me by my grandmother, and our youngest daughter, Leah, and her boyfriend (who I am pretty sure didn’t think he would be called to stand with us), I swore to faithfully discharge the duties of my office of Superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System.


    Dr. Benson being sworn-in by Judge Brown


    Thank you to all who attended. I was overwhelmed by the level of support from our school system and the greater community. In attendance were school and communities leaders to include school board members, commissioners, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, representatives from high education, community advocacy groups, teachers, principals, assistant principals, business leaders, community service providers, and more.


    I am looking forward to serving all.



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  • New Teachers

    Posted by William Benson on 7/9/2018

    Our five year-round schools are getting ready to start. I had the privilege of meeting new teachers heading to Haw River Elementary, North Graham Elementary and Graham Middle School.


    Finding great teachers (and holding on to them) in an ever shrinking applicant pool is a challenge for school systems across the country. It is important that we welcome new teachers not only to ABSS, but to our community as well. While we are a large school system, there is a palpable sense of community – something I have experienced since my arrival. In many ways, a sense of belonging is a basic human need. In our case, it is particularly important when it comes to seeing value in what we do – preparing our students for their futures – and that we make a difference, as individuals and a collective.


    So, in the spirit of developing a sense of belonging, I asked the group to share some things about themselves (that they were OK with sharing). Among the group, we have an ABSS graduate returning to teach 4th grade, someone who is obsessed with coffee, a pet goat owner, a theater lover, a ceramic artist, and a fan of mathematics (at least until the 5th grade).


    I am looking forward to welcoming all of our new teachers in the coming weeks.




    P.S. Thanks for choosing ABSS!

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  • Day 1

    Posted by William Benson on 7/2/2018


    Moved into my office today – books, binders, family pictures, and a favorite piece of student-produced artwork (There is a story to the piece that I will share later. Dan Pink writes about 6 essential senses in A Whole New Mind, one of which is story. I believe in the power of story.).


    Superintendent Benson moving into offce


    While I have much to learn and many people to meet in the coming weeks, I already know this about ABSS, we care deeply about our students, staff, and community.


    I look forward to learning more about ABSS successes and opportunities in the coming weeks as we prepare to welcome students back to school for the 2018-19 school year, including a new class of kindergarteners, the Class of 2031!




    P.S. My wife and I registered for our first local 5K – the 2018 OT Sports 5K Run/Walk for Autism which finishes across the Burlington Royals’ home plate, no less! And, in case you are wondering, we purchased a home – 2 weeks to close.

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