Core Beliefs: Schools Look to the Past and Future
Two New Schools Dedicated
The Moore County school system dedicated two brand new schools Aug. 27. Students and teachers from West Pine Elementary School and Crain's Creek Middle School helped the Board of Education and the community celebrate.
Whenever a new school is opened, it is a time for celebration. A week ago, thanks to the generosity of the taxpayers of Moore County, ribbons were cut on two new facilities - Crain's Creek Middle School and West Pine Elementary.
The simultaneous openings provided a unique opportunity not only to showcase the state-of-the art facilities, but also to share with the public some of the core beliefs of the Moore County school system.
As chairman of the Board of Education, I was pleased to appoint a committee of two board members to work closely with Superintendent Susan Purser and the administration to plan a celebration that would be more than a cutting of cloth ribbons. The occasion would be a statement of values about some of the things that we think are important in the education of our children.
To unite the two festivities into a whole, a theme was developed that reflects not only what we expect to happen at Crain's Creek and West Pine Elementary, but also what we know is happening on a daily basis in the rest of our schools around the county.
"Looking to the Future While Learning From the Past" was the focus of what turned out to be a wonderful day of celebration as we shared with the community some of the things that make Moore County a great place to live and educate children.
Not Just Spectators
First of all, we feel that students should be participants, not spectators, in their education.
A decision was made early on to hold the ceremonies after the school year had begun, so that students could not only be present, but also participate.
"You are the reason we are here," County Commissioners' Chairman Tim Lea said at West Pine Elementary to the children. We wanted the children to share - and help create - the excitement of the day.
Students learn best and learn more when they are doing, not just watching. At both schools, students opened the ceremonies by leading the Pledge of Allegiance and sharing an inspiration.
The school system realizes that the number of job opportunities in the manufacturing and agricultural sector is decreasing. It is one of our goals to help students prepare for the future by giving them skills at speaking in public, and organizing presentations, in order to help them obtain jobs in the service economy.
At both schools, the children were engaged in what was happening. When various speakers would ask the students a question, a multitude of hands eagerly shot up.
Technology is an important aspect of helping students be engaged participants in their education. We are doing our best, as finances allow, to provide them with 21st century tools. We board members realize we are "digital immigrants" and our students are "digital natives," but we are striving to give our teachers the Smart Boards and other equipment which our students deserve.
Technology costs money, and we can't do it all or as fast as we like. But our graduates need to enter the workplace or college totally comfortable with current technology.
Learning From the Past
We believe strongly that students should learn history, paticularly their own.
At the same time that we want them to be abreast of 21st century skills, we want children to learn about, and learn from, the past. They should learn not only the great works of literature and the advancements of math, science, art and other subjects, but also about their own past.
One of the many strengths of Moore County is its rich diversity and history. It is important for students to know who they are and where they came from, whether it be from families whose ancestors turned pottery at the time of the Revolution or families newly arrived in the county and bringing with them their own special talents.
At the Crain's Creek ceremony, board member Dr. Lorna Clack shared with the entire student body the story of the Highland Scots coming up the Cape Fear River with all their possessions on flatboats and settling along the banks of Crain's Creek in the area between Vass and Cameron.
Students stood enthralled as Dr. Clack told them about the first school in Moore County, started in 1767 on the Schoolhouse branch of Crain's Creek. The students now know that the proper way to spell the creek is "Crain's," not "Cranes," as is sometimes seen.
Bringing a sense of personal, living history to the occasion was the presence of members of the Vass Women's Club, who enjoyed the day immensely. As a bonus, the students were introduced to Joanne McCrae McMillan, who was born in Vass on her grandparents' farm, the property on which the new school is located.
Board member Bruce Cunningham, with the help of the Vass Women's Club, told the students how the first students at Crain's Creek School got water to drink from a hand-operated pitcher pump. When the students didn't know how to start the water flowing, a member of the club told them how to prime a pump to make it work. That is the kind of learning from people with personal experience that we encourage.
The high point of the day at Crain's Creek came when students Audrey Simpson, Kinsey Gautier and Audrey Van Arsdale sang an Appalachian mountain song called "Water From Another Time," written by John McCutcheon. The chorus of the song summarized the spirit of the day:
It don't take much, but you gotta have some,
The old ways help the new ways come.
Just leave a little extra for the next in line,
They're gonna need a little water from another time.
We believe that students should have an environmental conscience.
They should learn the importance of being good stewards of the earth. The emphasis at West Pine Elementary was to talk about the importance of energy conservation, car-pooling, and reducing oil and gas consumption. Mr. Cunningham gave the students food for thought when he predicted that when they are grandparents they will be driving their grandchildren around in cars that burn no petroleum products.
The West Pine Elementary school has many "green" features to acquaint the students firsthand with what buildings of the future will look like. Upon entering the main lobby, one sees a -skylight letting in plenty of natural light, making the building feel warm and inviting.
Another exciting feature will be seen in the outdoor areas of the new school. Moore County Schools collaborated with the Natural Learning Initiative at the N.C. State University College of Design to plan an outdoor area consisting of a peach orchard, fruit trees, nature path and well-planned exercise areas.
Instead of a fenced-in water runoff holding area, the school has a series of small bioretention ponds which will become natural wetlands where children can see things like cattails, Venus flytraps and other aquatic vegetation. Our students need to learn the importance of maintaining natural wetlands to provide for a sustainable environment.
The West Pine outdoor improvements will benefit the rest of our elementary and primary schools countywide, as the plans call for the gradual enhancement of the outdoor areas at each of the schools. West Pine Elementary will become a model for all. Outdoor play is essential as we address issues of health, childhood obesity and juvenile onset diabetes.
More Than Test Scores
We emphasize that students are individuals, each with his or her own gifts and talents.
In the era of AYPs, ABCs , NCLB and other educational acronyms, there is a -temptation by some school systems to view test scores as a measure of success. While the Moore County school system views testing as a beneficial tool to assist teachers in tailoring their instruction to student needs, and to help the administration gauge our progress, we do not use test scores as the sole measure of success.
One of the drawbacks to standardized testing is that we don't have standardized students. They all bring with them their own unique talents and life stories.
The board has adopted as a part of its vision statement that we embrace diversity. However, unlike some systems, Moore County Schools' view of diversity extends beyond racial and economic demographics to include such things as learning styles, personalities, interests, cultural background and all the other things, too numerous to mention, that make up the sum total of a student.
Our principals and teachers do an outstanding job working with students on an individual basis to make sure all are learning and growing.
The ribbon cuttings at both schools were glorious occasions, full of enthusiasm, singing and participation by young and old. Everyone should feel proud of these two new facilities. But Crain's Creek and West Pine Elementary are more than two new buildings. They are places of learning which have been joined with the other schools across Moore County.
These two new schools will give the same care and nurturing to our students that our all our citizens and students have come to enjoy and which help make Moore County a wonderful place to live.
Dale Frye is chairman of the Moore County Board of Education.
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