Martin Millennium forges new path
By AMELIA HARPER
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
TARBORO -— Though Martin Millennium Academy is less than three years old, it is already gaining attention for its innovative approach to global education and its startling transformation from rough stone to the crown jewel of Edgecombe County Public Schools.
Though the concept of global education is not new to the state, Martin Millennium Academy is the only global-ready K-8 school in North Carolina. The school’s unified approach to global learning, Spanish immersion classrooms and focus on building leadership skills marks it as a unique educational model for a Title I school in a Tier One county.
“Martin Millennium Academy is on the cutting edge of education, which is rare in rural Eastern North Carolina,” said Joy Chafin, who has four daughters attending the school.
Chafin transferred four of her children, ages 7, 8, 10 and 12, to Martin Millennium in February 2015 and has not regretted the experience. Chafin’s two younger daughters are enrolled in Spanish immersion classrooms and Chafin said she has been impressed with what they have learned so far.
“We took our daughters to Spain and Morocco last summer and the two youngest were able to communicate in Spain, with Spanish-speaking people,” Chafin said.
However, Chafin said the Spanish-immersion element is just part of the Martin Millennium experience.
“Even without the Spanish-immersion classrooms, the school introduced global learning into all aspects of the school,” Chafin said. “I am thrilled they have offered such a program here in our part of the state.”
A tour through the halls of Martin Millennium Academy reveals how deeply the global strands are woven into the rich fabric of the school. Maps and scenes of foreign lands adorn many of the walls. Posters are written in at least two languages. The sounds of Spanish and Mandarin Chinese echo through the halls, as instructors from foreign climes offer students a taste of their culture.
Clocks in the atrium tick off the current time on five continents and in the town of Tarboro. Students travel down halls devoted to different destinations as they explore the whole world from one of the most-unlikely sites imaginable — for four years ago, this was the site of Martin Middle School, a failing school without a future.
Kevin Parker, principal of Martin Millennium Academy, said the school’s motto— “Where there is no road, we will make one!” — accurately reflects the journey the school has taken as it began its transformation.
“This school has been, in many ways, a re-branding of the public school system,” Parker said. “This new approach gives parents renewed confidence in what we are doing here. Edgecombe County Public Schools is an innovative school district and this school sort of opened the door to other innovations in the district.”
Parker said the conversion of the school to a K-8 global approach was an intentional decision designed to create students who are prepared for what the world has to offer.
“Martin Middle School was not meeting the needs of the community. Martin Millennium Academy was created to respond to those needs,” Parker said.
Parker gives all the credit for the transformation to Edgecombe County Public Schools Superintendent John Farrelly, whose innovation approach has earned him the attention of education leaders across the state.
“Mr. Farrelly said he wanted to transform the school so that kids could be prepared to be global leaders with a focus on diversity and tolerance,” Parker said. “This school is founded on the ideas of diversity and educational equity and the desire to provide students with leadership skills.”
To this end, the school encourages performances and public speaking opportunities as much as possible, Parker said. Students lead tours through the school and greet visitors to classrooms. Students are also afforded the opportunity to explore a host of interests through clubs and power lunches.
Martin Millennium Academy has not overcome all the obstacles that were thrust upon it. The school now has a D rating on the school report card, though it met growth last year. However, Parker said that preliminary tests results at the school indicate that students, especially those in Spanish immersion classrooms, are on track to perform better this year.
What is clear is that a middle school that was experiencing the flight of both students and teachers has now been transformed into a K-8 school of choice that has a waiting list for acceptance within its walls. A new road, it seems has been created after all.