Purser Outlines Accomplishments, Challenges Facing School System
Enrollment in the Moore County school system continues to grow, especially among Hispanics, according to Superintendent Susan Purser.
She was the keynote speaker last week for the Moore County Chamber of Commerce's "State of the Schools" luncheon at National Golf Club.
"Proud is not a big enough word to describe how I feel to be your superintendent," Purser told the crowd.
Enrollment growth is among the challenges facing the school system, she said.
About 12,300 students are enrolled in the school system this year. Purser expects that number to grow by another 1,000 students by 2016.
The fastest-growing demographic is Hispanics, which increased by 3 percent in just a few years. Purser called that "a pretty significant number."
In terms of services, the school system is the largest provider of meals in the county, serving 9,000 breakfasts and lunches each day and close to 1.7 million each year. The school system's transportation service is one of the few services that covers all 700 square miles in Moore County.
"And they do it in a very safe fashion," Purser said. "It's an amazing feat considering we have such a rural community."
In terms of state testing, Purser said the school system meets or exceeds the state average in most categories. She said that end-of-course exams have become much more difficult recently, adding that eighth-grade content is now showing up on fourth-grade exams. Purser said it takes time to adjust to the new standards.
"Each time you get a new benchmark, it takes awhile to get over that benchmark again," she said.
Purser said the school system is also working to increase the number of high school students taking the SAT. She said not only is it important for college admission, but also it is a criteria for many scholarships. She wants Moore County students to be fully aware of those opportunities.
"The main thing I want our children to know is the full range of opportunities available to them," she said.
Students appear to be taking advantage. The class of 2008 earned more than $2.8 million in scholarship money. The National Merit program recognized 11 Moore county students, while the Advanced Placement (AP) program recognized 56 students. Four students received military academy appointments, while one was awarded the prestigious Park Scholarship from N.C. State University.
Individual schools have received recognition as well, Purser said. North Moore High School was named a bronze medalist in U.S. News and World Report's "best high schools report." Pinecrest High School was named among the top 1,200 high schools in the nation by Newsweek. West Pine Middle was named one of three "N.C. Schools to Watch."
Additionally, the school system's extracurricular and athletic programs continue to excel.
The school system is also in the midst of a facilities master plan, which calls for constructing a new elementary school and new middle school, as well as making additions and improvement to 17 existing schools. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new middle school in Vass was held Friday morning.
Purser said the biggest challenge facing the school system is meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Purser said the program judges schools unfairly and forces "curricular reductionism" and excessive test preparation.
"It is driving us to do things that aren't the best for our children," she said.
In the end, Purser said the goal should be to inspire excellence as opposed to meeting minimum compliance.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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