First Posted: 12/28/2009
DOBSON For the Surry County school system, 2009 was a year full of new things.
On May 14 and June 23, the school system held groundbreaking ceremonies for a new elementary school and a new middle school. Rockford Elementary School is about half-way completed on Rockford Road in Dobson. Pilot Mountain Middle School is also about half-way completed on Old Westfield Road in Pilot Mountain.
These schools have been a long time in the making and will help with population issues at several county schools which have students in mobile units.
The school system also rolled out laptops for all of its seventh grade students, meeting the deadline set by the Surry County Board of Education of having laptops out to them by Jan. 1.
Seventh grade teachers have undergone training on how to incorporate the use of the new technology into their lesson plans.
We were really nervous to begin with. Some of the teachers are really tech savvy, some are in the middle and some are not, said Tammy Taylor, seventh grade teacher at Meadowview Middle School. Its like starting as a first-year teacher because we have to rework the lessons we teach. Its a lot of work but its good. Weve found a balance of doing things with technology and with pencil and paper.
The laptops have kept students focused on the task at hand. They are able to be more involved in their own learning experiences and can go more in-depth with assignments. The laptops have even helped students who are slower writers or who struggle with spelling, meaning it typically takes them longer to complete an assignment.
The teachers have noticed a higher time on task. It has gotten them really focused on what theyre doing, said Taylor. (Those who are struggling are) right in line with everyone else. It puts them on an equal playing ground.
The students are excited about learning and look forward to using their laptops to complete assignments.
I like it because I type a little bit faster than I write. Class goes by a whole lot faster, said Corbin Soots, seventh grader at Meadowview Middle School. I was excited because it makes it a lot more fun. We have more responsibility and are more organized. Its a whole lot easier to just pull out a laptop. It saves class time, too, so we get more done in a day.
Teachers have found ways to incorporate the use of laptops in whatever subject they teach. In math, students can use the laptops to calculate inflation by searching for product prices in different years. In social studies, students can use Web sites such as the CIA World Facts Book to learn about different countries. In science, students can take advantage of virtual dissection programs.
The school system also hosted its first system-wide technology conference over the summer. Teachers enrolled in a number of courses according to their skill level when dealing with technology.
We have every reason to believe that will be a building block for many to come, said Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson. Its something we are very proud of.
The Rosetta Stone language learner software also was implemented in the middle schools after a successful year with third through fifth graders. The elementary students had to choose either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese while middle school students have been able to choose any of the languages the program offers.
That is one of the major areas we will continue to focus on in years to come, said Hinson.
This is not just a benefit for the students but for the teachers and teaching assistants. In the middle school, its all about exploration, said Pat Widdowson during the Surry County Schools summer Board of Education retreat of expanding the program into the middle school level.
Seniors also began presenting senior graduation projects this fall. After much debate, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction decided to postpone making these projects mandatory this year. However, Surry County Schools already had the framework in place when this decision was made and decided to go ahead with the projects as planned.
The state abandoned the process but we feel like its something worthwhile for the children. Were proud of the fact we maintained it and it has been successful, said Hinson.
The thing that Hinson believes is most important about 2009 is that despite the budget crunches sent down by the state, the school system was able to keep all of its employees on the payroll.
There was a great reduction in revenue and we were able to maintain everyones employment. We havent diminished our services, said Hinson.
The school system has now implemented the Positive Behavior Support model in all of its schools. The model is designed to create a standard for behavior throughout the schools so that students always know what is expected of them.
Thats had a great impact on all of our schools. It has an effect on the lives of the children when you can teach them how to behave, said Hinson.
All 17 schools made Adequate Yearly Progress according to the federal measures of progress. Surry County Schools was ranked sixth in the state by the John Locke Foundation in parent-friendly schools. Three of the school systems received bronze medal awards from the US News and World Report.
If we dont have parents with us in this effort, weve really missed something in the process, said Hinson of the results of the John Lock Foundation findings.
The school system also has won five state championships.
The county schools also raised $50,954.15 for the United Fund of Surry campaign, a great deal more than the $32,000 raised last year.
Contact Morgan Wall at [email protected] or 719-1929.