Summit lineup of presenters is set

Oct. 25, 2013 @ 04:24 PM

Community stakeholders will try to establish measurable goals and objectives for Vance County Schools at an education summit planned for mid-November.

While the participants are slated to discuss the future of Vance County education, the agenda for the summit will depend largely on the content of the presentations given by those involved.

Each stakeholder who was invited to speak will have 10 minutes, and those specifically working in education will have 30 minutes.

Vance County Commissioners Chairman Tommy Hester and Commissioner Archie Taylor, Jr. came together to plan the summit with the objective of bringing together various community leaders to support the school system and improve education in the county.

Hester and Taylor set the agenda for the summit following a visit to Iredell County and Mooresville City Schools, which improved its high school graduation rate over seven years from only 64 percent to 93.4 percent.

“One of the things we were impressed with is the focus on students. They have a real high energy approach to focus on students,” said John Barnes, the president of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce who also visited. “Not to say we don’t have that in Vance County, but that was one of the things they kept coming back to, the focus on students.”

Vance County Public School Foundation Chairman George Fowler said he hopes the summit will foster more interest in the foundation, which serves students by supporting teachers.

The foundation sponsors monetary awards for the teacher and principal of the year. It also awards mini-grants to teachers who find innovative ways to teach lessons.

But he said the foundation could do more to help teachers, such as assisting teachers with student loans and providing scholarships to those going back to school, if there was greater community support.

“Our goal is to find quality teachers and keep them here,” he said.

Eric Sanchez, school leader of Henderson Collegiate, said the summit can serve as an opportunity for collaboration.

“We should get away from old paradigms of insulating ourselves and create an open forum and dialogue,” he said.

Sanchez’s presentation will offer some successful strategies his school uses to measure student development.

His measurement method is a holistic approach that takes into account daily student performance, like homework and attendance, as well as observational data and test scores.

He said teachers track student behaviors as they relate to character values emphasized at his school. While his charter school has done well in certain areas, he said there are other areas, such as science, technology, engineering and math education, where his school is seeking to improve.

“I love the idea of uniting the community around a common goal, which is helping our children,” he said.

April Scott, interim director of the Vance County Boys & Girls Club, said she will likely focus her presentation on the tutoring and homework help offered to kids at the club because those services are a way to improve a child’s education.

She said the club provides wrap-around services for children who are behind in certain subjects and do not necessarily feel comfortable asking for help in class.

“We find they feel more comfortable asking mentors at the Boys & Girls Club for help when they don’t understand something,” she said. “It helps bridge the gap between what they retain in school and where they need to be.”

The club also emphasizes reading with DEAR, or Drop Everything And Read.

“I hope we come out with at least a plan we are committed to that can increase graduation rates in Vance County and close the gap in reading,” Scott said. “I’d like us to strategize ways to reach more children and offer what we do to more kids in the community. Transportation is an issue for some, but we need to overcome that to provide services that are desperately needed.”

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Education presenters:

Ronald Gregory, superintendent of Vance County Schools

Eric Sanchez, school leader of Henderson Collegiate

Sean Connolly, principal of Vance Charter

Stelfanie Williams, president of Vance-Granville Community College

April Scott, interim director of Vance County Boys and Girls Club

Community presenters:

Pete O’Geary, mayor of Henderson

Jerry Ayscue, manager of Vance County

Diane Cox, executive director of Kerr-Tar Council of Regional Governments

Stuart Litvin, director of Henderson-Vance Economic Development Commission

John Barnes, president of Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce

George Fowler, chairman of Vance County Education Foundation