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Edgecombe schools look to innovate

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 31, 2017

For Edgecombe County Public Schools, 2017 has been a year of transition, innovation and recovery.

“This school year has been a combination of building a climate and culture of support as well as continuing a positive trajectory of improvement and innovation,” said Superintendent Dr. Valerie Bridges.

One of the first signs of this innovation came in January when then-Superintendent John Farrelly announced that the school district was teaming up with Public Impact to create an “Opportunity Culture,” which would allow excellent teachers to assume higher-paid positions of responsibility in mentoring other teachers and overseeing multiple classrooms. The implementation of this concept began in the school district at the beginning of this school year.

In February, the Edgecombe County Board of Education voted to approve a new Scholar Teachers track at the Edgecombe County Early College High School. The new program will prepare students for a career in teaching and help pay for the completion of their college degree if they return to Edgecombe County to teach. The program begin at the early college high school in August.

Also in February, Farrelly announced the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity. The group held several school-based meetings seeking input from the public in the spring and will continue its work in the future.

In March, Gov. Roy Cooper visited Princeville Elementary School and met with Farrelly to discuss funds needed to help the Princeville Elementary School students displaced by the flood. As a result of the meeting, Edgecombe County Public Schools received additional funding for transportation costs and other items needed for the school system to rebuild.

In June, Superintendent John Farrelly accepted a position as the head of Dare County Schools and announced his resignation from Edgecombe County Public Schools. Later that month, Edgecombe County Public Schools made history by electing the first black female superintendent, Bridges, to lead the school system. Bridges had served as associate superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools for more than four years before accepting the leadership position.

Also in June, the eyes of the nation were drawn to Edgecombe County Public Schools when Craig Harris, principal of SouthWest Edgecombe High School, was suspended with pay after he withheld a diploma for a weekend from a senior who read his own speech at graduation instead of the one written by the administration. Though the incident drew much negative publicity to the district at the time, Harris was later reinstated and moved to the position of principal of Tarboro High School.

In August, roughly 100 educators from Egdecombe County Public Schools gathered at North Edgecombe High School to celebrate creation of the new “I-Zone” in the north side of the school system. “I-zone” is the code name for the school district’s new “Innovation Zone,” which includes North Edgecombe High School and its feeder schools — Phillips Middle School and Coker-Wimberly Elementary School. 

Also in August, an Exceptional Children’s teacher at Tarboro High School, Rita Batt, was named Edgecombe County Public School’s 2017-18 Teacher of the Year. In October, Lois Glass, principal of Stocks Elementary School, was named the school district’s 2017-18 Principal of the Year.

Also in October, the Edgecombe County Board of Education, after months of research and debate, voted unanimously to rebuild Princeville Elementary School at it current location. Later, it was announced that the district administration is considering converting the school to a magnet-style STEAM school focusing on science, technology, engineering, art and math.

In November, it was announced that teachers at Patillo Middle School and Stocks Elementary School are working with the NC Resilience and Learning Project to help identify students who may have experienced one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and develop new strategies that may enable them to work more effectively with them.

Bridges said she is looking for more good results to come in the future.

“Edgecombe County Public Schools is poised for success, we believe that we have a staff with the skill, the will, and experience to advance our schools and students,” Bridges said.

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