Advocacy for Alamance
June 7, 2017
Advocacy for Alamance. One by one they came to voice support for increased investment in the future of our community; students and parents, teachers, leaders, business owners and senior citizens. From taxpayers, in unison, in every area of our county, we heard, “Support our community’s Vision; support the Alamance-Burlington Schools Strategic Plan.”
Thank you to all citizens passionate about the urgent need to invest in our county’s future after years of neglect for writing letters, making phone calls, attending public meetings and speaking in support of increased appropriations now for our community’s greatest asset, the 22,800 students in our public schools. Your voices are multiplying and intensifying, getting stronger and louder; your message is gaining momentum in Alamance, “Support public education; support our community’s future.” You are doing your part.
Thank you to my professional colleagues. I am proud to serve with you in our community as together we know we are building a better tomorrow for our children and our citizens. We have a long list of successes to share as Alamance-Burlington Schools continues to create outstanding educational opportunities to match each student’s interests and needs. Our well-documented plans and progress toward the goals in our community’s Vision for Public Education in Alamance County have been nothing short of remarkable over the last five years. We are doing our part.
Now our commitment as educators must be to continue our advocacy. We must persist in our refusal to agree with other’s complacency that Alamance as average is acceptable. From our unique vantage point in every classroom, we enjoy the privilege and recognize the sacred trust of looking directly into each student’s eyes. Every day, reflected in those eyes, we see extraordinary, not average. In those eyes we see our community’s great potential. It is our duty to persist in sharing our message that ensuring each child’s success will secure our county’s long term progress. We must persist with our passion, our calling, for cementing the foundation for our community’s future. We must not falter in reminding others of the message that today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders; worthy of increased community investment now. We must persist in doing our part.
With our educators’ expertise and continued focus on children first, with our citizens’ growing advocacy and outspoken support, it is my hope that our elected officials will listen to our community’s compelling call for improvement and find the political will to connect those valuable assets with commensurate financial investment; do their part. It takes courage to look our community’s children directly in the eye. Our doors are open.
“We believe that educating Alamance County children will prepare good citizens, a talented workforce and strong leaders. By developing critical thinking and leadership skills in our children, we can create a dynamic, creative and diverse workforce in order to allow Alamance County to be competitive in an evolving and constantly changing global economy. Education improves the quality of life for our citizens by enabling financial independence, promoting individual health, sharing our cultural talents and heritage, encouraging commonly held values, and instilling an appreciation for our community - its past, present and future. We believe that Alamance County, bolstered by an excellent public school system that helps its students reach their greatest potential, can become one of the most desired destinations for new business and industry, and the most desired place to live, work and raise a family. 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 believe that Alamance County deserves our investment in public education.”
-excerpt, A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County, adopted 2013
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
Expressing Appreciation for Teachers
May 12, 2017
A handshake. A hug. Heartfelt words in a handwritten note. Simple gestures can demonstrate personal appreciation for teachers who change the world, one student at a time. Each May we are reminded of how important education experts are to our community and to our civilization when we pause to reflect on their influence during National Teacher Appreciation Week. Have you shared your appreciation for educators that have made a difference in your life?
We are extremely fortunate to live in and work for a community that shows its appreciation for our education professionals in a big way. Alamance County is filled with businesses, organizations and citizens who actively advocate for our schools and our teachers, which, in my opinion, is a very tangible form of appreciation for our vocation.
Each year, the Alamance Chamber hosts the Excellence in Education Awards program which celebrates the value of teachers and the important role that education plays in our county. The Chamber’s dedicated all-volunteer Teacher of the Year committee spends countless hours over the winter reviewing portfolios and interviewing teachers to select the Alamance-Burlington Schools Teacher of the Year.
During the first week of May, each school’s teacher of the year is honored, including charter and private schools and Alamance Community College, at an elegant celebration that seems to grow larger every year, thanks to extraordinary commitment from local businesses and citizens dedicated to showing their gratitude to those with the most important profession in the world.
Congratulations to our educators who earned this year’s highest honor for their school and for our community. You make us proud!
|2017 ABSS Teacher of the Year|
|Freebird McKinney||Williams High School|
|2017 ABSS Finalists for Teacher of the Year|
|Deanna Beckham||Eastern High School|
|Casey Collins||Eastlawn Elementary School|
|Sarah McCain||Southern High School|
|Amanda Mitchell||North Graham Elementary School|
|David Price||Graham High School|
|2017 ABSS Semi Finalists for Teacher of the Year|
|Heather Beg||Ray Street Academy|
|Caitlin Campbell||South Mebane Elementary School|
|Inmaculada Hill||Cummings High School|
|Jess Cheap||Sylvan Elementary School|
|Rodric Livingston||Andrews Elementary School|
|Kim Macomson||Smith Elementary School|
|2017 ABSS Teachers of the Year|
|Tomi Balogun||Grove Park Elementary|
|Sarah Banko||Woodlawn Middle School|
|Sandra Bays||Elon Elementary School|
|Christine Bertson||Pleasant Grove Elementary School|
|Sabrina Chatman||Graham Middle School|
|Christine Chun||Newlin Elementary School|
|Nicole Coward||E M Holt Elementary School|
|Mary Beth Dowler||Western High School|
|Jennifer Fisher||Alamance-Burlington Early/Middle College|
|Lelia Geiger||Altamahaw Ossipee Elementary School|
|Carolina Guarda||Turrentine Middle School|
|Chastity Hill||Hillcrest Elementary School|
|Brittany Jackson||Audrey Garrett Elementary School|
|Candi Long||South Graham Elementary School|
|Ashley Murphy||Haw River Elementary School|
|Sarah Parrish||Highland Elementary School|
|Meagan Scott||E.M. Yoder Elementary School|
|Tracy Shelton||Hawfields Middle School|
|Beth Warren||Alexander Wilson Elementary School|
|Melinda Woodard||Broadview Middle School|
|Brad Wroblewski||Western Alamance Middle School|
|Kimberly Zangotsis||B. Everett Jordan Elementary School|
View a great video from the 2017 Excellence in Education Awards event sponsored by the Alamance Chamber.
Thank you to our entire staff of professionals for all that you do to support success for children in our community. Never forget that you are making tomorrow’s memories for the children in your classrooms today.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
April 21, 2017
Alamance County is home to successful global industry pioneers with progressive leadership evident everywhere in business, faith-based organizations and non-profits. It is the birthplace of an internationally-known university and a nationally-recognized community college. Alamance County is becoming a community for forward-thinking entrepreneurs willing to wager their futures on self-built ideas. What’s the common denominator for success? It’s the combination of courage, conviction and commitment by experts to examine issues and opportunities with a global perspective to craft a better outcome. It’s bold leadership.
In 2012, Alamance County launched a local movement to bring a global perspective to K-12 public education for its children. It was a commitment like no other I’ve observed in more than 40 years in my profession. Recognizing that all students must be fully equipped with skills to compete in tomorrow’s global economy and that schools need strong support and investment to achieve that goal, community and business leaders worked together to construct a vision for individual success for every child. Utilizing their proven professional skills and civic devotion in crafting the pledge, these bold trailblazers also reiterated the important corresponding benefits for all citizens in supporting world-class educational opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders:
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. –A Vision for Public Education in Alamance County, adopted June 2013
With broad-based support from the community, in 2014, Alamance-Burlington Schools assembled a robust, well-crafted strategic plan framework to ensure that the community’s vision would be fulfilled, putting in steps and checkpoints for a five to ten year plan. Over the past two years, our county commissioners have shown bold leadership in supporting the landmark vision and strategic plan roadmap. The specific course of action charted by our education professionals already is demonstrating proven success. While it is still early in the process, there has been a high rate of return on our community’s investment to date; evidence that the vision is fueling advanced achievement for students.
To attain audacious civic goals leaders must carefully examine local issues then look outside their own organizations and communities to understand best practices, review competitors’ strategies and find the best solutions that likely won’t mean business as usual. It takes courage and commitment to stay the course rather than stalling progress or abandoning a community-crafted plan designed to assure future economic benefits for all citizens. Looking beyond today to plan for tomorrow’s benefits requires bold leadership.
In 1933, during the worst economic conditions for North Carolina and this nation, our General Assembly passed the School Machinery Act that dramatically changed the system of funding public schools in our state. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, courageous leaders looked for a better solution to level the playing field for all students, then, without hesitation, set the plan in motion. The daring funding formula crafted during those desperate days has remained unequalled over the last seven decades of our state’s history. Since the Great Recession of 2008, North Carolina’s General Assembly has not matched the bold leadership and courage displayed in 1933, nor have our schools recovered to pre-recession investment levels. Failure to be bold has left us behind.
Currently, in Alamance County, both our tax rate and our tax base are lower than our neighbors to the east and west. Typically, tax rates are low when the base is high as is common in coastal and mountain vacation communities with elevated property values. If we continue to be successful in attracting new business and industry to our community, our tax base will increase with their added investment and the tax rate can go down. The higher the tax base, the more a single penny on the tax rate will generate. For example, today, the same one penny on the tax rate generates $4.8 million in Guilford and only $1.3 million in Alamance. Those pennies support, among other community services, school facility needs, teacher supplements and specialized education programs for students. I happen to believe our children deserve no less than what the children in our neighboring counties receive. Determining how to level the playing field will require bold leadership.
There are no investments made in any community that yield a higher long-term return than assets applied to teaching its children. Improving our education system will attract and retain business and industry, fueling growth and expansion of our economic base. Investing in public education is the most important economic development strategy our community can employ. As responsible civic-minded citizens, we must continue to invest in our collective home to ensure a bright future for all.
I am extremely proud of our school system, our students, our teachers and all of our employees who do remarkable work for the young people we serve. Additionally, I am delighted with the spirit of support we enjoy from our entire community. Our business leaders, friends in the faith-based and nonprofit fields, higher education partners, and our Alamance Chamber are all demonstrating bold leadership as we strive to make our collective vision a reality. We need support from all of our stakeholders; our community cannot be satisfied with the status quo.
Looking beyond today requires bold leadership and demands that we combine our courage, conviction and commitment to construct a better tomorrow for our children. The common denominator is us.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
One Vision; One School District
March 23, 2017
City schools. County schools. Our schools. In 1996, Alamance County Schools and Burlington City Schools joined together, creating Alamance-Burlington Schools. It was a bold move backed by this community’s courageous leaders. The visionary merger of two school systems made sound civic sense. A small yet strategic hyphen in the name was sited to symbolize the new, shared school district, forever linking two separate histories.
Since 1996, community changes have included expansions of city limits, population shifts and enrollment growth, but school attendance boundaries, those imaginary lines, leftovers from two separate school systems, stood steadfast. On the map, Alamance County Schools and Burlington City Schools never merged.
Recognizing the need to address outdated attendance patterns that made perfect sense long ago with separate school districts, after months of public input and multiple plan revisions, the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education approved a long-range comprehensive high school redistricting strategy in February 2017.
Decades overdue, the bold new blueprint erases outdated attendance patterns and establishes restructured high school boundaries reasonable for today, robust enough for our community’s future needs and relevant to The Vision Plan for Public Education in Alamance County created by this community in 2013.
Courageous leadership approved a redesigned school plan that solidifies our district’s commitment to excellent educational experiences for every child. With expanded specialized program offerings planned for two choice schools at Graham and Cummings, the district re-design will provide enhanced opportunities for all students. The addition of a new high school will relieve long overcrowded schools and manage well-documented population growth coming to our county.
Such a well-crafted plan to advance our community’s Vision for public education deserves a fresh start. With a nod to the bold moves of the past, but squarely focused on our future, it is time to rebrand our school system to represent our entire county, erasing imaginary boundaries and looking ahead as one cohesive community. I favor Alamance Public Schools; no hyphen needed to represent our collective Vision for world class education for every child.
Please share your thoughts and suggestions about rebranding our community’s schools.
Bill Harrison, Ed. D.
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.