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West Middle principal to lead Learn and Earn at RCCC

By Paris Goodnight
Salisbury Post
West Rowan Middle School Principal Cindy Misenheimer has been named the first principal for the Rowan County Early College, which will allow up to 100 ninth graders to start earning college credit at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Parents and students are invited to an open house Monday, one session starting at 6 p.m., at RCCC’s building 200 in room 251, and another session starting at 7 p.m.
Starting in August, high school students can work toward a high school diploma and two years of tuition-free college credit through the program. Students take all their classes at RCCC’s Salisbury campus.
“I am very excited about this opportunity to serve as principal of the new Rowan County Early College,” Misenheimer said in an e-mail released by the school system.
“I believe there are students who will excel academically in this program who may not have excelled in the traditional school setting.”
Misenheimer came to the Rowan-Salisbury School system in 2005 after serving as principal of South Stanly Middle School from 2002-05. She will hold both principal positions until a permanent replacement is named at West Middle.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System received a planning grant from the state for the 2007-2008 school year and worked with RCCC to plan for the program that will operate on the community college campus. This joint project of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and the N.C. New Schools Project started in 2004 in response to the workforce development needs of the state.
Gov. Mike Easley initiated a “Learn and Earn Early College High School” program as a way to provide students with college-prep courses that will lead to two years of university transfer credit or an associate degree within five years along with a high school diploma.
The program is designed for:
– First generation college students.
– Students who would not have considered college as an option.
– Students who were hampered by the expense of college.
– Students who are looking for an alternative to traditional high school.
To be selected, students must display an eagerness to accept rigorous coursework, an enthusiasm for new and different approaches to learning and the ability to form and grow productive relationships with teachers, other students and the community.
Approximately 42 early college high schools already are in operation. Plans are to have up to 100, with at least one in each of the state’s school systems.
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Davidson Early College High School (at Davidson County Community College) and the Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership in Iredell County (at Mitchell Community College) are among the closest ones in nearby counties and they have operated since the 2005-06 school year.
The N.C. Governor’s Education Cabinet and the Public School Forum are backed by an $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rita Foil, public information officer, said the school system is funding four teachers, one clerical position and the technical/computer needs for the school.
The Gates Foundation is funding three positions: a guidance/career counselor, a liaison between the school entities and a state coach position.
The state is paying for the principal’s position. RCCC is providing classroom facilities and office space.
Foil said officials are hoping at least 60 students sign up to attend, but 100 will be the maximum. With ninth-graders starting each year, enrollment could reach 400 students by the time the first class reaches its senior year.
Applications are available at each middle school and at the central office locations.  Applications are due to school guidance counselors by March 20.
Students and parents will be interviewed in April, and students will receive letters of acceptance in May.
Students can take part in organizations at RCCC, but activities associated with traditional high school, such as band, chorus and sports, will not be included.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said in the release, “We are very excited to have this opportunity to work in collaboration with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to provide our students the chance to complete high school with skills that will help them achieve success in their lives. In most cases, these students will be the first generation in their families to have an education beyond high school.”   
For more information, contact Kelly Feimster at 704-639-3013 or visit www.newschoolsproject.org.
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Lee Early College has been going on in Sanford at Central Carolina Community College for almost two years, according to a recent profile that appeared in the Post. The school nearly doubled in size in the 2007-08 school year from 73 to 156.
It offers both core high school and college classes free of charge as part of Gov. Mike Easley’s Learn and Earn Early College High School educational initiative.
Students graduate in five years with both a diploma and an associate’s degree, with all credits transferable if they choose to enroll at a four-year institution as a junior post-graduation.
Funding comes primarily from a $1.5 million grant from the state that lasts through 2011, with additional money from various sources, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
School leaders there report being pleased with the effort so far, according to a report in the Sanford Herald newspaper.
Contact Paris Goodnight at 704-797-4255 or pgoodnight@ salisburypost.com.

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