Grissom credits community for success

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said the Rowan-Salisbury School System has a lot to celebrate thanks to the community support it receives.
“We don’t run the school system by ourselves. We have to have our partners,” she said. “It takes all of us working together to raise the bar so that we can reach every single child each and every school day.”
Grissom shared the district’s progress with community members, business leaders and volunteers Tuesday during the fifth annual Report to the Community Breakfast, acknowledging the resources provided by local partners to make that progress possible.
High Rock Community Church received the Partners for Student Success Award for providing school supplies to every student at both Morgan and Overton elementary schools.
Children received a backpack stocked with hand sanitizer, tissues, paper, pencils and more at the start of the year.
Debbie File, the church’s children’s ministry director, said the idea to equip students with school supplies came about during a meeting earlier this year.
“We were trying to decide what to do in order to give something back to the community, and we decided that this was the way to touch the most people,” she said. “With the way the economy is right now, people are struggling, and we knew that there were people in our own church who didn’t know what they were going to do.”
Morgan Principal Susan Sigmon said the partnership with High Rock was a welcome surprise.
“Sometimes kids come to school with nothing but the clothes on their back,” she said. “This is a gift that just keeps on giving.”
Rowan Regional Medical Center received the Superintendent’s Award for its commitment to education.
The hospital has teamed up with Food Lion to address child obesity through the Fit for Motion program.
It also pays for a certified athletic trainer at each of the district’s traditional high schools.
Grissom said every time she gets together with Rowan Regional President Dari Caldwell, she is brainstorming more ways to help the schools.
Caldwell said she understands the importance of having a thriving school district.
“The school system educates the majority of our future work force,” she said. “If we have a strong school system, it strengthens everything else in Rowan County, so it’s a natural partnership for us.”
Grissom also recognized Rowan Partners for Education, Rowan County United Way, Communities in Schools, YMCA of Rowan County and the Blanche & Julian Robertson Family Foundation for the resources they provide.
Academic success
The district had 23 schools that met ABC accountability standards this year, down from 31 the previous year.
“That is really tough to do as the standards get higher and higher and the funding gets lowers and lower,” Grissom said.
The school system had a graduation rate of 76.9 percent this year, which Grissom reported was the district high since the state began reporting the rates.
Grissom said the district is working to ensure more students graduate with diplomas by expanding programs like night school, which allows students who have fallen behind to recover credits or those who need to work during the day a more flexible schedule.
Night school began at Carson and West Rowan high schools in March. North Rowan, South Rowan and Salisbury high schools will be adding the program soon.
“We certainly don’t want to lose any of our students,” Grissom said.
Technology update
Grissom said since 2008 the district has received more than $11 million in grant funding.
“That’s $11 million in our county that we would not have had to help our students,” she said.
Much of that money has been used to support technology initiatives.
All 35 of the district’s schools now have at least one 21st century classroom equipped with computers, interactive whiteboards, iPods and more. That’s up from 25 schools last year and just six three years ago when the project began.
The 21st century learning program received national attention earlier this year when it was named an Apple Exemplary Program, a designation that recognizes exemplary examples of the use of Apple products in teaching and learning.
The district was one of 40 in the nation to receive the honor.
“Our school district is a leader in technology,” Grissom said. “There are so many learning opportunities to look at in the 21st century and beyond.”
The school system also now has seven wireless busses, which allow students to have interactive field trips with iPods or simply do homework on the way to athletic events.
North Rowan High School had the first wireless bus before adding three more in January.
Jean Kennedy, vice-chairwoman of the school board, encouraged those who attended the breakfast to help the district keep its momentum.
“Don’t forget it takes all of us,” she said. “We need to keep our focus and provide the best education possible for all of our students.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.