8/28/13 First Day of School: Poised for learning

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First Day of School: Poised for learning
Smiling faces, building relationships
By KAREN CARTER Enterprise Editor The Mebane Enterprise 8/28/13  
Reprinted with permission.

E. M. Yoder Elementary School assistant principal Kevin Thoma (left) greets students as they get off the bus: (L to R) Amarjai Bynum, Mekhi Moses, and Arellano-Patino.  
Stephen Mills/Mebane Enterprise

E. M. Yoder Elementary School assistant principal Kevin Thoma (left) greets students as they get off the bus: (L to R) Amarjai Bynum, Mekhi Moses, and Arellano-Patino.

Superintendent Dr. Lillie Cox of the Alamance-Burlington School System said the first day of school on Monday in the traditional calendar happened with a “smooth start” and everything was “positive” and “orderly”.

Earlier on Friday, the staff and teachers had met at Williams High School for a convocation where students offered compelling testimonies about their favorite teachers. It was all a part of hearing about implementing the school system’s Vision Plan.

After a year-long process in conjunction with a broad array of committed citizens and in partnership with the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce, the Alamance-Burlington School District completed a vision plan and will be developing strategic plans to implement it.

School administrators and Board of Education members visited the local schools in the district on Monday and board member Steve Van Pelt said, “A seven-year-old told me he had a good day and that was all I needed to hear.”

Van Pelt also noted at Monday evening’s school board meeting that offenses in the school system were down 33 percent this past year.

Board member Pam Thompson said it “filled her heart” to know that teachers were concentrated on teaching and students on learning.

“Smiling faces among teachers and students,” said Dr. Cox and she noted that everyone in the schools were “developing relationships,” “learning new skills,” “forming team leadership classes,” on the first day of school.

After the first day of school, the school board met that evening and heard a number of “good news” reports. The graduation rates for last year’s high schools were the highest ever with nearly 80 percent graduation rate.

Steve Achey, Director of Accountability, Research, and Evaluation, for the Alamance-Burlington Schools presented the report.

Eastern Alamance High School had a three-percent growth rate, graduating its Class of 2013 at 83.7 percent.

Since 2009, Eastern has had a 6.9 percent growth rate in its graduation rate.

The school district also saw improvements in closing the gaps, said Achey. African-Americans graduated at 73.8 percent, a 10.4 percent gain in the last four years.

Among Hispanics, the graduation rates showed an 11 percent gain, from 56.6 percent to 67.6 percent. More males are graduating than in 2009; in 2013, the graduation rate for males was 73.6 percent, compared to 63.9 percent in 2009.

Among all students and demographics, the graduation rates improved
from 4.3 percent in 2009 to 7.2 percent in 2013.

Alamance-Burlington Schools experienced the biggest jump in its
scholarship program, said Robyn Hadley, Executive Director of the “What’s
After High School?” program, when she made her presentation to the local board of education.

The Class of 2013 had $12.5 million in merit scholarships, academic and athletic ($11 million in academic). The Class of 2012 had $9.2 million, also a record breaker, but the Class of 2013 increased the scholarship amount 25 percent.

The scholarship money is a huge increase since 2009, said Hadley, when students in the district only received $5.4 million.

Hadley said the economy may be attributing to families looking for more “free” money before going to loans, but she said it also fit with the district’s ongoing work to get students ready for the three Es: Enlistment, Enrollment, or Employment after high school.