7/21/11 Celebrating that old SCHOOL SPIRIT

Year-round schools gather for a midsummer party

Haw River Elementary teachers file into Williams High School Auditorium on Wednesday morning for the ABSS Year Round Schools Back to School Celebration. The county’s five year-round schools begin the new school year on Monday.

Sam Roberts / Times-News

Haw River Elementary teachers file into Williams High School Auditorium on Wednesday morning for the ABSS Year Round Schools Back to School Celebration. The county’s five year-round schools begin the new school year on Monday.

Celebrating that old SCHOOL SPIRIT
As summer rolls on, it’s back to class for county’s year-round institutions
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 7/21/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 School spirit blended with strategies for boosting student performance during a back-to-school rally five days before the 2011-12 year starts for some Alamance-Burlington students.

 Teachers and other employees in the system’s five yearround schools — Graham Middle School and Eastlawn, Haw River, North Graham and South Graham elementary schools — gathered Wednesday in the auditorium at Williams High School. During the rally’s most serious segment, new Superintendent Lillie Cox spoke about a heavy, carefully coordinated emphasis on classroom instruction.

 Cox began serving as superintendent at the start of July. From 2006 to 2009, she was the Alamance-Burlington system’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

 During visits to schools this month, Cox said, “listening has been my priority.” She has more visits to go, but is already pursuing goals for the system.

 “One of my first steps will be to create a strategic plan,” she said, describing it as a “huge undertaking” that won’t happen overnight.

 Cox said principals will be in classrooms every day and will be responsible for providing “timely feedback” to teachers. Central office employees will also have a frequent presence in schools. The system will emphasize putting effective practices in place in all classrooms.

 “What I need from you is to commit to challenge every student to meet high expectations,” she told teachers.

 Tyronna Hooker, the Graham Middle School teacher who is the local and state Teacher of the Year, spoke to teachers and described herself as “a little bit jealous” that she won’t be working with students during 2011-12. Hooker will be traveling and speaking in North Carolina, and sometimes outside the state,

 “For the last nine years, I’ve been defined by my kids,” Hooker said, encouraging teachers to invest in every student. “I won’t say that I’m not excited about this opportunity, but there’s nothing like being in a classroom.”

 Teachers and other staff members from Haw River Elementary won the Spirit Award after parading in dressed in beachwear. Some were adorned with leis, while others wore straw hats or carried inflatable rafts or floats. James Bowes, a teacher assistant at Haw River, walked in as though riding a float shaped like a shark. The Haw River group altered the lyrics of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” to sing “We wish you all could be at Haw River School.”

 The Graham Middle team emphasized its ties to the state Teacher of the Year with “Got Hooker — Graham Middle School does” T-shirts.

 The Eastlawn Elementary team had its own T-shirts, with an “iLeader” logo emphasizing a commitment to technology and 21st century skills.

 Teachers and staff from South Graham Elementary wore salmon-colored shirts and other cool summer colors while going with a “Dora the Explorer” theme. One teacher held a poster with Dora’s image and the words “Vamonos South Graham” — in English, “Let’s go, South Graham.”

 North Graham Elementary’s teachers and staff members wore red, a choice consistent with the school’s cardinal mascot. Fourth grade teacher Jessica Grant dressed the part more fully. She’d sprayed red dye on her hair and wore a beak and red cape that create the illusion of wings when she flapped her arms.