GCS Asks Community to Raise Schools Up in 2012

Guilford County Schools (GCS) asked nearly 1,000 community members to raise up public schools this year during the annual State of Our Schools address. Students, teachers and parents joined Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green in issuing the call to action to lend a hand and encourage schools to reach their goals.

In the midst of budget and other challenges faced by the district, GCS is still making progress toward its 2012 strategic plan goals. Students like Jerome Mack, a senior at High Point Central High, shared stories of how the district has helped them succeed in the midst of personal challenges. Jerome dropped out of school the day before his 16th birthday. With the help and encouragement of school counselor Leslie Keller, he is on track to graduate on time with a 3.0 grade point average. His next step is joining the Marines.

Tina Lugor, an immigrant from Sudan and senior at Dudley High, shared how service has impacted her education. She came to the United States 10 years ago as a second-grader without knowing the alphabet, but she found her place in the community and chose to participate in service because she says she was motivated from within. Timothy Reeves Jr., a Grimsley High senior, chose to serve simply to encourage others to do the same. Timothy is speech-delayed and wheelchair-bound, yet he serves five community organizations. Tina and Timothy asked the community to join them in finding a way to serve schools.

Along with personal stories, Green provided an update on the district's academic goals and several major initiatives in the strategic plan. He reported that GCS showed progress on 18 out of 23 academic goals in 2011 and met several 2012 goals early, such as surpassing the expected number of Honor Schools of Excellence and Schools of Distinction and having zero Low-Performing Schools. He also highlighted the district's graduation rate of 83.1 percent and the $121 million in scholarships earned by the Class of 2011 but also noted that the district needs to continue improving in areas such as the achievement gap and the Advanced Placement exam passage rate.

"We have made admirable progress, but we have much work left to do in order to meet our 2012 goals," said Green. "We are presented with challenges every day, but it does not stop us from teaching our students that a few obstacles do not excuse them from achieving excellence. I am grateful to our educators for their commitment to our children and I am pleased that our students are proving they can do anything, be anything and overcome anything. They are our future and they are creating a more positive path toward that future through our character development and service-learning initiative."

Beginning with the Class of 2012, seniors will have the opportunity to receive a Service-Learning Diploma and will be recognized by wearing a special cord with their graduation gown. Seniors from the Class of 2012 will earn the diploma by recording 175 documented hours of service-learning in schools and the community.

In 2011, GCS rewarded 440 students who had 50 hours of service with the Service-Learning Exemplary Award. Overall, the Class of 2011 gave more than 33,000 hours of service to the community.

GCS also announced the total number of books read during the superintendent's Two Million Books challenge. Students exceeded their goal for the second time and read 2,616,138 books during the year. In 2010, students beat the original goal of one million books by reading 1.9 million books. Three teachers who are also authors - Austin Carty, former "Survivor" contestant and Northern High teacher, Elizabeth Stratford from Mendenhall Middle and Mary Flinn from Jesse Wharton Elementary - were joined by the Literacy Club from Reedy Fork Elementary to reveal the amazing total.

The district also reviewed the success of Guilford Parent Academy in helping parents create a stronger connection to their child's education. Since its launch last year, Parent Academy has served more than 5,000 parents through workshops, classes and family events. The program also provides a way for businesses to support students and parents. In 2011, Polo Ralph Lauren partnered with Parent Academy to offer Lunch and Learn sessions for employees. Lincoln Financial will also offer sessions in the workplace starting this year.

Also on Thursday, GCS released its annual report for 2011. The report is paperless for the third time and is available on the GCS website.

GCS has made notable progress on the strategic plan despite diminishing funding resources. Since the plan was introduced in 2009, GCS has launched 81 of 98 strategies in eight areas. Of these strategies, 46 have been completed, 31 are on track, five are delayed, 14 are on hold due to budget constraints and two are on hold for reasons unrelated to budget. GCS will report the final results after the 2011-12 school year to close out the current plan and will use those results to develop the district's second plan.

State of Our Schools was sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, High Point Regional Health System, RF Micro Devices, Wells Fargo, Samet Corporation, Horace Mann, North State Communications and Businesses for Excellence in Education.