DOBSON — The Surry County Schools Board of Education meeting Monday at Central Middle School was dominated by talk of educational partnerships and the impact of schools on students.
The board expressed appreciation of the support of Dr. Mack McCary and Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace of the North Carolina New Schools Project for their support of county schools. In the fall of 2004, county school Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson pursued a planning grant for a new high school programming concept.
This planning grant was for a collaborative high school program in conjunction with Mount Airy City Schools and Elkin City Schools which became the foundation for what was to become Surry Early College High School of Design and the partnership between county schools and the new schools project.
The new schools project began in 2003 by the office of the governor and the North Carolina Education Cabinet with initial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal was to develop and support innovative secondary schools which seek to graduate all students ready for college, careers and life.
The project’s Dr. Tony Habit directed the opening of the Surry Early College in August of 2006 with only ninth grade. School Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Terri Mosley said the local early college has grown to become one of the largest early college programs in the state.
“Throughout the existence of the program, support, principal and teacher coaching and innovative practices have been provided and encouraged by the New Schools Project,” said Mosley. She said the school has been recognized for a 100 percent graduation rate for students remaining in the program with 114 graduating with high school diplomas and college credit hours with 58 students receiving one or more associate degrees from Surry Community College.
Early College senior Tyler Hill spoke to the board about what the school meant to him.
“I’m honored to be here,” said Hill. “This is an emotional speech for me. I was ecstatic about getting a chance to go and make friends at the early college. I didn’t have that many friends in middle school.”
Hill told the board about how he let new found social connections and video games distract him from studying. He explained how his grades suffered and the impact of getting a notice he and his mother would have to attend a hearing about him being expelled from the school.
“I remember telling them at the meeting that I didn’t deserve to be at the school,” recounted Hill, who also spoke of how school officials as well as Hinson gave him a semester to turn himself around. He said the following semester he made straight As.
“After that semester, I was a different person,” said Hill as he choked back tears. “I want to thank them (the officials who gave him one more chance) for turning my life around.”
Early College Principal Celia Hodges told the board Hill, who had earned only two class credits before the hearing about dismissal, now has 47 credits.
“That next semester was huge for Tyler,” said Hodges. “It was a lot of work. He changed his life. Not giving up on students is a motto we have (at the early college). He is now on track for an associate’s degree.”
Early College student Jamie Hernandez told the board attending high school and earning college credits made her the first in her family to do so.
“This has made my parents very proud,” said Hernandez. “A month ago my classes in public speaking helped me get my first job at Chick-fil-A. Thank you for the opportunity and just giving me the help. Thank you for supporting us.”
Mosley explained the new schools project is partnering with rural school districts to implement early college high school strategies into traditional high schools. North Surry High School was one such school included in this program. Surry Central High School also has been selected to participate in a regional Science Technology Engineer Math school project.
“You could not have a more moving explanation of what we’re trying to do than what these students have told us tonight,” said McCary. “These students have demonstrated how much it meant to them. I think it’s remarkable that you (the board) are looking at some of these smaller initiatives to broaden them to more students. You have been our partner from the beginning. Your willingness to take calculated, not foolish risks is so important. We are thrilled to be partners with you.”
The Early College also was recognized by the board for being one of 28 schools in the state having a 100 percent graduation rate. Hodges, Surry Community College liaison Melissa Atkinson and teacher Andrew Chilton were present to receive the award from State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson.
In other business, the board voted to send to the department of education a statement detailing the adverse impact proposed growth by Millennium Charter Academy to expand its grades to include high school for the 2013-2014 school year.
If the academy receives a “yes” from the state board in February 2013, the school would open the ninth grade in the fall of 2014 and would add an additional grade each year afterwards for the remaining three years. In its first year, the school hopes to take on around 40 to 60 students and two to four staff members plus a college counselor. Higher than anticipated enrollment numbers would require more staff.
The proposed expansion would be funded from the academy’s own operational budget or through a combination of private and government sources other than county funds.
Board Chairman Earlie Coe, who also serves on the state board, explained the proposal could eventually draw as many as 200 students from the district and an impact statement was needed to “draw a line in the sand.”
“I just want to let it be known from the beginning that stating what kind of students you want from the beginning is contrary to the public schools,” commented Vice Chairman Brian Gates.
“How would it sound to Surry County as a board if we were to say is all we are concerned in serving is those that are college bound,” added Hinson.
The board appeared to be reacting to published reports in which MCA Headmaster Kirby McCrary had indicated one expectation of the high school would be all students apply for college.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.