Beginning a New School Year
August 25, 2011

Thanks for giving me something to think about…

Except for our year-round schools and some western school districts, school started for most students today. I remember my first day of school as a student and as a first year teacher. Mrs. Forgie, my first grade teacher, introduced me to the joys of math, reading and recess. A decade and a half later, I had just turned 21 and was eager to begin my first day of teaching at Northside High School in Roanoke, Va. Mr. Brill, an English teacher, stopped me as I was about to enter the teacher workroom. "Young lady," he said, "Students are not allowed in this workroom."

When I had the privilege of addressing Alamance-Burlington teachers at an opening school convocation last week, I shared that memory. Mark Payne, a teacher in the school system later told me that he had Mr. Brill as an English teacher. Of all his courses in high school and in college, earning an A in Mr. Brill's class was most important to hi

m, he said.

The 2011-12 school year is important to our students and teachers. While we have fewer resources, I have seen enthusiasm and positive anticipation from the teachers and administrators in the places where I have visited in the past two weeks – Gates, Hertford, Franklin, Alamance-Burlington and Alexander school districts. Meeting with teachers, administrators and local board members has given me something to think about.

Each school system has many bright spots that need to be celebrated.

  • Gates County's graduation rate is 82 percent, up from 69 percent in 2005-06. Its end-of-course high school performance has reached 77.7 percent, up nearly 30 points in a few short years.
  • Franklin County just opened beautiful Franklinton High School with hundreds of people attending the ribbon- cutting ceremony. Each classroom is equipped with the latest technology.
  • Alamance-Burlington Schools is home to North Carolina's Teacher of the Year Tyronna Hooker, a teacher who has an excellent chance of being the National Teacher of the Year. It also was impressive to see Alamance-Burlington School Board members shake hands with each teacher as she or he entered the convocation event.
  • Alexander County through careful planning has been able to avoid layoffs even though they have lost positions. If you are in Taylorsville, you should visit the neighborhood where Alexander Central High School students have built some beautiful homes with one home now for sale. This all-brick home is equipped with the latest technology and is a great deal for someone.

My thanks to the superintendents of these districts: Dr. Zenobia Smallwood, Gates County; Dr. John Fahey, Hertford County; Dr. Eddie Ingram, Franklin County; Dr. Lillie Cox, Alamance-Burlington; and Mr. Jack Hoke, Alexander County.

As State Superintendent, I am impressed by the dedication and focus of each of these individuals, and I am encouraged that our students are in good hands as we begin another school year. I hope that we can continue our strong focus on high student achievement, high graduation rates, and career and college readiness for our graduating students.




June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent