7/26/18 New principal embraces Haw River Elementary
New principal embraces Haw River Elementary
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 7/26/17
Reprinted with permission.
Jessica Williams / Times News
Curry Bryan comes to Haw River Elementary School after 20 years with the Alamance-Burlington School System, 14 of which were teaching social studies at Williams High School.
HAW RIVER — Curry Bryan calls the students at Haw River Elementary School his “babies.”
Though it’s his first year as principal of the school, he spent 2017–2018 getting to know them as assistant principal, and has 20 years of experience with the Alamance-Burlington School System — 14 of which he spent as a social studies teacher at Williams High School.
Those years prepared him to lead Haw River Elementary, a Title I school fighting to improve performance.
From 2015 to 2017, Haw River received D’s and F’s from the state, but Bryan says you wouldn’t be able to tell by walking through the doors.
“Here is what I have said, and that I will say to anybody,” he began. “There is nothing about Haw River Elementary that says ‘F school.’ There is nothing failing about our staff, our students, our families. If you look at our growth numbers, we’re growing. It’s not going to be one of those things where we can turn it around overnight, but I think we’re moving in a positive direction.”
Last year, Haw River became one of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s restart schools, meaning the state is allowing flexibility with scheduling, funding and personnel in an effort to improve test scores, which constitute 80 percent of the annual performance grade.
Former principal Jennifer Reed used that flexibility to add school days, reduce class sizes, create academic coaching positions, and turn Tuesdays after school into “club days,” when teachers volunteer to host clubs broken up by grade level.
This year, clubs will be held during school hours on third Fridays to allow more employees to participate throughout the day.
It’s also the pilot year for Leader in Me, a schoolwide leadership program funded by $60,000 from an anonymous member of the United Way of Alamance County’s Women United chapter.
“Everybody’s really thrilled,” Bryan said, “because I think not only does it benefit the kids, it’s going to benefit the adults, it’s going to benefit the families, it’s going to benefit the Haw River community in general.”
The Leader in Me program, which has had success at Newlin, Highland, South Mebane and Andrews elementary schools, aims to instill a sense of responsibility and ownership in students by assigning them leadership roles
But programming alone won’t boost test scores.
“It doesn’t matter what school you’re at: At the end of the day it comes down to good teaching and learning,” Bryan said.
Part of that is hiring committed personnel who will get to know each student and care about them as if they are their own.
So, as the first day of school wound down Monday, July 23, Bryan stood in the car line, asking each of his “babies” how the first day went before sending them home with their parents.
“Having been at the high school, the middle school and the elementary level, there’s one thing that’s consistent with all of [them], and that is the promise that the first day of school brings,” Bryan said. “It’s like that with seniors in high school, and it’s like that with kindergartners who walk through the school door for the first time, and it’s our challenge as educators to sustain that enthusiasm and sustain that passion throughout the school year, and year after year after year. We want these children engaged, we want them in school, and we want them to be successful.”