DOBSON — Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson’s tendering his retirement notice hasn’t slowed down the veteran educator and administrator’s zest for innovation.
“You get the most passionate about the things that mean the most to you,” explained Hinson as he reflected on some of the changes and programs he as seen in schools over the past few years. One of these is the Surry Early College School of Design.
Surry Early College, in its sixth year, maintains a strong focus on first-generation college-going students. The school has become so popular that it often has a waiting list. In the past, some 135 students applied for the 80 slots available slots. Some graduates apply the transfer credits toward a four-year degree while others take the two-year degree into a career. Either way, Hinson said, it’s not likely to be the end of their formal education.
“Students in the Early College can get a two-year degree (and a high school diploma) in four or five years at no cost to the family and that is huge opportunity and life changer for a child,” said Hinson. “Children in high school often do not think in terms of college. If we are able to put the interest of college in high school it eliminates a hurdle to higher education.”
Hinson said that the more education a society has the more prosperous it is.
“People with college degrees give back to the community,” said Hinson. “It enhances lifestyle and provides employees for business and industries. Everyone benefits from an early college. Business, community and even the Surry Community College. We have 300 students in community college.”
Hinson is also proud of the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and 1:1 Laptop initiatives in the Surry County Schools.
The Surry County Board of Education has formed a BYOD policy that’s among the first in the state to encourage students to interact with technology at school, he said. Hinson said they are “pushing the envelope” as a result of exposure through NCNSP.
“BYOD is ongoing and we are still tweaking it,” said Hinson. “Haiku (the educational information management software program) would not be possible without it. Learning must become a synergy that allows everyone to be connected. We look to expand and improve on this.”
He is also optimistic that increased use of personal computers by students will shift resources from the system to provide the equipment to further improvements in other areas. He said one challenge to be solved is allowing this while maintaining security for sites students may access.
Hinson has also been working with Davidson County Schools, the Piedmont Triad Partnership and the NC New Schools Project to develop a regional school-known as the Yadkin Valley Regional Career Academy-to expand high school innovation in his district. The academy has been housed in a brick-and-mortar facility in Yadkin County while the effort in Surry County could evolve into a virtual school concept and is set to start at Surry Central this year.
Other ongoing projects include STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) hands-on learning projects in county schools including a joint effort with Mount Airy City Schools to launch the “LEGO League” robotics team competition program.
Hinson said that the state’s movement towards some type of voucher system could also provide more challenges for public schools to meet. He said he feels some type of “blended” education is probably the next horizon educators will meet to teach students 21st Century skills.
“What drives me is providing experiences the contemporary 21st century child and family are after,” added Hinson. “Providing what makes learning fun, real and applicable to future needs.”
He foresees technology being used to provide students an opportunity to learn through virtual connection courses like physics and math or hands-on courses.
“The future could be a voucher to all parents from the state,” said Hinson. “It isn’t known right now how a voucher system would work. People will have choices in education like they’ve never had. The importance of this on schools is obvious, dollars could be syphoned off from the public schools.”
Ultimately though, Hinson is certain public schools will rise to the occasion.
“We will provide quality and excellence in education,” said Hinson. “We are for children, not just for profit. We will provide education in a way families want to acquire it, becoming less traditional. I believe blending of these approaches is crucial. Virtual alone is not the best way. The 21st century way is going to be a combination.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.