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Editorial: Innovation visible in Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Completing a challenging task often requires new, innovative methods of problem solving. For the Rowan-Salisbury School’s that task is educating children.

In 2014, the school system repurposed roughly $12 million to facilitate the purchase of thousands of laptops and iPads. At the time, Superintendent Lynn Moody said the school system would be among the first of its kind to take such action. She faced tough questions from county commissioners but expressed confidence it was the right direction.

“I’m not going to tell you that we’ll be perfect in everything we do in this rollout,” Moody told commissioners at the time. “We probably won’t.  We’ll probably hit some stumbling blocks along the way, but I absolutely am convinced it’s in the right direction, and we have to start doing that work.”

More than a year later, the state released school performance grades. Rowan-Salisbury Schools didn’t fare well. At every level, the system’s rankings were worse when compared to the prior year.

It was an implementation dip, Moody said.

“Many teachers became first-year teachers all over again with the way instruction was being delivered to students in our classrooms,” Moody told the Salisbury Post at the time.

The Rowan-Salisbury school system had just adopted a new solution to a challenging task — educating children.

In 2016, grades showed an improvement. The school system shook off its low-performing label. It also received an award from the N.C. School Boards Association for its one-to-one initiative.

In March of this year, county commissioners again considered a multimillion-dollar lease for laptops and iPads. County Commissioner Craig Pierce, doubting whether the school system adequately researched financials behind the lease, created a public spectacle when he demonstrated his opposition. Whether Pierce wanted to make a political point to his supporters or intended to ask real questions, it was a markedly different reaction than in 2014.

As they should, new methods of problem solving attract tough questions. Sometimes, those methods attract adamant opposition, too.

Last week, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ commitment to technology and innovative teaching methods attracted noteworthy support when the state’s superintendent of public instruction came to town.

“I say that we have to break out of this mindset of what the classroom has looked like for the past 100 years,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, a former teacher.

In the Rowan-Salisbury school system, learning certainly doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago, certainly not 100.

Teachers have eliminated desks from classrooms. From their earliest years, students become computer literate — a neccesity for many daily tasks in the 21st century. In February, Isenberg Elementary School teacher Anthony Johnson went skydiving with the intention of using data for a classroom lesson. How’s that for innovation?

No longer do students sit at a desk, read from textbooks, watch as a teacher scribbles on a chalkboard and complete worksheets.

Educating children in the 21st century is a difficult task, and Rowan-Salisbury Schools necessarily has adopted new, innovative methods of teaching.

Superintendent Mark Johnson said it best.

“I’m here in Rowan-Salisbury because I’ve heard great things,” he said. “And, I’ve seen great things.”

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