DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Education included a presentation on lockdown drills and school security measures in its first regular meeting of the new year. The presentation was made by Sheriff Graham Atkinson.
“We wanted to make sure people would respond correctly in an emergency situation,” explained Atkinson to the board as he recounted how the board had agreed to allow his department to go unannounced to schools and conduct lockdown drills.
“I don’t know of another place in the state or country for that matter that a board of education have given a sheriff’s office the discretion to conduct unannounced drills. We just walk into the building in a low key manner, inform the first person we meet we are there to lock down their school and please lock the school down.”
Atkinson said one part of the process is the school providing officials with a critical incident box which contains necessary materials covering information that would be essential in cases of natural disasters, fire or a shooting. The teams participating in the lockdown then check the classrooms and search the building for where a threat could hide. Afterwards the lockdown team meets with school officials and evaluates how well the school did and how it can improve.
“The most important steps in the process went well,” summarized Atkinson. “We always make a point of thanking the children for participating and explaining what is going on. If we have a critical incident we cannot guarantee 100 percent no injuries or causalities, but we are as prepared as any school system in America is with the resources available to us.”
Atkinson said even though his resources are limited, he has encouraged his deputies to frequently stop by and stay closer to school campuses since the slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He said he also has officers who serve civil papers stopping by schools. Local schools also have Student Resource Officers on duty.
He said he and his team were surprised how well students were hidden in some of the large classrooms. He said on many drills it only took his team about 12 minutes to clear a school.
Board Chairman Earlie Coe told the group school leadership team members have been talking with Atkinson on ways to make the schools even safer and any physical improvements, such as shades for windows, could be submitted as a request to the county board of commissioners.
Six Surry County middle school students honored with state recognition in the 2011-2012 Talent Search as representing some of the brightest seventh-grade students from 16 states were honored by the board. The students all finished in the top 25 percent of the Talent Search pool. Students honored included Jaskson Gates, Cheyanne Parker and Cortni Snow from Central Middle, Rebecca Bowes and Hannah Madel from Gentry Middle and Pilot Mountain Middle student Jonathan Tarn.
Presenter Sonia Dickerson explained the competition is based on Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores. She said the SAT is designed for above average high school students in the 11th and 12th grades. It measures knowledge and skills rarely taught at the middle school level.
“To be recognized by the Duke University Talent Identification Program, students must have learned a great deal at home, by independent study or by special instruction.” She said 29 students from Central, Gentry, Meadowview and Pilot Mountain middle schools participated in the SAT administration last January with these six earning qualifying scored to attend the state’s recognition ceremony at Wake Forest University in June 2012.
Six county teachers also were honored by the board for achieving National Board Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Dickerson said the certification program is voluntary and is based on rigorous standards which evaluate teaching through performance-based assessments. She said the NBPTS mission is to advance the quality of teaching and learning.
“The ultimate result is improved performance and achievement for North Carolina’s students,” said Dickerson. ” We are proud of these teachers for their willingness to go above and beyond. Not only are they part of an elite group in the state but also in Surry County.” Dickerson said the county has 110 teachers who have earned this certification. Thirteen others who were board certified have retired from the system.
Patty Holcomb and Sarah Wild were honored for attaining certification. Others congratulated for this honor included biology teacher Jon Carpenter, social studies teacher Jonathan Amos, special education teacher Matthew Shelton and English teacher Brandon Cook.
The board recognized Cedar Ridge Elementary Principal Alison York and her school for receiving the 2012-2013 Signature School Award. The honor was given to the school in December by the Piedmont Triad Education Consortium. The school serves about 400 students in grades Pre-K through fifth.
Dickerson pointed out that students in the school are equipped with 21st century learning tools including laptops, a learning management system and SMART technology. She said all students at the school begin instruction in a second language through Rosetta Stone software with students also focusing on arts with quality music and visual arts instruction.
“The consortium recognized Cedar Ridge Elementary School for their work to grow students academically and for their determination to give children the personal skills to become good citizens in the 21st century,” said Dickerson. She noted fifth-grade science proficiency was again over 90 percent at the school with attendance at 96.1 percent for last year. She said students in fifth grade math and reading met the state’s High Growth status.
Flat Rock Elementary teacher Paula Norman was recognized as Surry County Teacher of Excellence for Exceptional Children. Norman is the trainer and assistance technician, school improvement chairperson and also mentored a second year teacher. Previously, Norman had been recognized as a Teacher of Excellence at a state awards ceremony in November.
“Mrs. Norman has a true dedication and love for the students at Flat Rock,” said Dickerson. “She has developed a strong, positive rapport with the students in her classes and is truly an advocate for her students and parents.”
The board also approved the donation of a 10-by-12-foot metal storage building to Surry Central High School’s softball team. The building will be used for storing equipment.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.