Making excellence the norm

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 06:57 PM

Bill Harrison, chairman of the state board of education, formally presented the 2012 N.C. Innovator in Digital Learning Award to Granville County school officials in a ceremony at the Granville County Expo & Convention Center in Oxford on Wednesday.

After extending greetings from Gov. Bev Perdue, Harrison explained what the award means to the local school district and to the state. North Carolina has pockets of excellence, as exemplified by Granville County Schools, he said.

“The challenge is to make these pockets of excellence the norm,” Harrison said. “We can hold these up as models.”

Referring to Granville County’s accomplishments with its use of technology, Harrison said, “What you have done has benefits for students here, but also for the state of North Carolina.

“Technology can enable us to do a lot of things, but it depends on what teachers do with the technology. I can’t emphasize enough the student-teacher relationship. We don’t learn by sitting and listening. I could stand here and talk for 20 minutes and I’d lose a lot of you. In fact,” he added with a smile, “I may have already lost some of you.”
Harrison said over the past few years the high school graduation rate has improved to 80.4 percent.

“But we’re concerned about the other 19.6 percent,” Harrison said. “The governor believes very strongly we must make it happen for all kids.”

Harrison praised the Granville County teachers and staff.

“It’s not easy making this kind of transition,” he said, citing the tendency of the older generation to feel that what worked for them will work for the present generation of students. But this is a different set of students and these are different times, he noted.

Leonard Peace, Sr., chairman of the Granville board of education, responded by expressing his gratitude to Gov. Perdue for her efforts on behalf of education over the years.

In acknowledging the award, he said, “We’re excited about the transformation taking place in our schools. We are proud of our hardworking teachers. We encourage you to keep on eye on Granville County Schools as we move forward.”

Superintendent Tim Farley said, “None of this could have happened without the ‘who,’” which he went on to explain includes the board of education, county commissioners, business community, parents, students and teachers.

“Teachers are definitely the ‘who,’” he said. He complimented them on changing the ways they do things.

“And they have done it with aplomb,” he added.

Students drop out because they are not engaged in learning, Farley said. The digital renaissance gives teachers more tools, but the teacher-student relationship is still an essential ingredient in the learning process.

After showing a brief video clip that provided an overview of the district’s technology programs, Vanessa Wrenn, director of instructional technology, said, “That was just a snippet of what goes on. Although we work with them every day, we were amazed at what the students are doing. Technology allows us to reach our goals faster while engaging our students.”

Tony Cozart, representing the Granville board of commissioners, commented on the close working relationship between the county commissioners and the board of education and added, “I’m proud to be part of a community that truly supports education.”

The Innovator in Digital Learning Award was based on both the district’s investment in digital infrastructure and its application of the new technology to instruction. Granville County Schools was one of 10 North Carolina schools and districts to receive the award. In December, the recipients were honored by the state board of education at reception at the governor’s mansion.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.