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Henderson Independent school officials tout technology

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — School officials are touting a technology overhaul at Henderson Independent High School as the major project funded by a federal School Improvement Grant.
“Upon final completion of the technology portion of the grant, Henderson will be competitive with any school in the state and even across the nation in terms of what we will be able to do in terms of technology,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Smith updated school board members on the use of the nearly $2.2. million grant during Monday’s meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. The grant, which is being distributed over a three-year span, was awarded to the school in July 2010 after it was identified in the bottom 5 percent of the state’s consistently lowest-achieving schools
The campus is now fully wireless and each teacher is equipped with a Macbook computer. The school has also purchased six laptop carts, equipping all of the school’s nearly 50 students with computers. Smith said most of the school’s in the district have two laptop carts.
Interactive electronic screens, documents cameras and LCD projectors are other additions to aid 21st century learning.
The school computer lab has been revamped with new Mac desktop computers so students can work on credit recovery through the Odyssey program.
And Smith said the school isn’t just getting a technology upgrade, the staff is learning how to use the new tools.
“A great amount of money has gone to provide Henderson with a full compendium of technology resources and it’s very important that teachers get the training they need,” she said.
The school’s new science lab is complete and stocked with $50,000 worth of new equipment. The lab will allow students to conduct experiments and dissections that they’ve missed out on in the past.
Smith said the school is in the process of turning the basement area into a mental health counseling suite.
“This will give students a private area to go for counseling and so forth,” Smith said. “The way the school is designed right now the office area and classrooms are very visible.”
The basement will also be the home of the new media center, which will be filled with about 2,000 books and periodicals in addition to ebooks.
Grant dollars are also funding a mental health counselor, behavior intervention specialist as well as physical education, math and career and technical education teachers.
Each staff member in the school is required to mentor at least two students and work with them for about 20 minutes every morning.
The building has also undergone a facelift. Both the interior and exterior of doors have been repainted and tile has replaced the carpet in several rooms.
Smith said the outside has also been spruced up with landscaping thanks to volunteers during the United Way Day of Caring.
“I think there is a great sense of pride in the building now,” Smith said.
School board Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said he’s pleased with how the grant funds are being allocated.
“I think that they are spending the grant money wisely and doing it in ways to impact the kids immediately” he said. “They are making positive physical changes to the building and have a winning attitude to go along with it.”
Emerson said the district is in the process of conducting interviews for the school’s next leader.
“We’ve had some good candidates,” he said.
Former principal Trisha Baptist resigned in August, a year after being hired to turn around the school. She has filed a lawsuit against the board, citing racial discrimination.


In other business
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education also:
• Received an update about the progress of Communities in Schools, a nonprofit dropout prevention organization that is in eight of the district’s 35 schools. The agency now has more than 180 volunteers. The program has a 100 percent success rate with students it served in 2010-11. And nearly 93 percent of the students showed an increase in attendance rates, 94 percent had improved behavior and 92 percent did better academically.
• The school board also unanimously approved a $10-per-hour rate increase by its attorneys at Tharrington-Smith of Raleigh. Partners will now receive $185 per hour, with associates and paralegals making $170 and $90. The firm has not increased its fees for the district since 2008 and cited growing expenses as the need for the rate hike now.

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