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Rowan-Salisbury school board approves renewal plans at four sites

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Thursday approved four additional school renewal plans, making that a total of 17 throughout the district.

The new standards of operation are made possible through state legislation designating Rowan-Salisbury as a “renewal” district. The legislation gave charter-like flexibilities in terms of curriculum, funding, personnel, calendar and scheduling.

The four schools — Granite Quarry Elementary, Hurley Elementary, Shive Elementary and Corriher-Lipe Middle — share a common ideal: allowing students to explore their passions, strengths and possible careers.

Below are highlights of each plan:

Granite Quarry Elementary

At Granite Quarry Elementary, members of the teacher-led design team identified needs for social-emotional learning, as well as hands-on and personalized learning experiences for students.

According to the plan, social and emotional skills are the foundation of positive learning, promoting empathy, teamwork and other academic concepts that help students achieve success in school, career and life. To foster learning under renewal, the faculty will implement a schoolwide social-emotional curriculum called “Capturing Kids Hearts” for daily use, as well as implement de-escalation training, multitiered systems of support and positive behavioral interventions.

The curriculum, said Principal April Spry, was selected because of its flexibility, giving teachers the autonomy to structure their classrooms in ways that meet the needs of the students they’re serving.

“A kindergarten classroom will look drastically different than a fifth-grade classroom,” Spry said.

Promoting authentic and personalized learning, the school will offer increased opportunities for professional development and planning time for teachers, including go-and-see visits, personalized professional development programs, and additional opportunities for personal and collaborative planning. Through these measures, staff members will be able to see, understand and emulate teaching practices that engage students and improve learning, Spry said.

“As we’re reframing our model to be more integrated and hands-on, our teachers are going to need more than 90 minutes in a week to plan for that,” said Spry. “We’ve got to provide that for them.”

From there, the school will implement a variety of student interest clubs as well as biannual hands-on learning expeditions for all grades, with a goal of helping students learn the values of teamwork, responsibility, diversity and competition all while developing a sense of culture and community.

Hurley Elementary

Hurley Principal Ryan Disseler said that when he started as the top administrator two and a half years ago, the school lacked focus or any kind of intention.

He and other school planners have worked to make Hurley the first “green” school in Rowan County and surrounding areas, he said — a key facet in a renewal effort the school plan referred to as a “green learning experience.”

The green push brought with it a certain amount of responsibility, said Disseler, pointing to sustainability measures, recycling, gardening, solar energy and healthy eating.

But the effort will provide additional opportunities to increase parent and community engagement, something else Disseler said was nonexistent when he started at the school. School staff will use the focus on sustainability to provide parents and guardians opportunities to explore how they can support the school, community and the environment.

The school will also increase community engagement through a new learning experience committee, facilitating job shadowing for students meeting academic and behavioral expectations.

If requirements are met, students will be able to apply for job shadowing experiences that will “provide learning experiences that will drive them for a lifetime,” said Disseler.

The school will also consolidate three classroom teacher positions into three “learning initiator” positions, which will provide regular observation, feedback and support that Disseler said will be student-driven.

“Student-driven” means the shift is moving the school’s modality from reactionary, retroactive interventions as identified by the school to a proactive, preventative method in which staff members would provide student support within the classroom.

The additional support was one of many changes Disseler said are intended to increase teacher retention by 50% by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Shive Elementary

Renewal redesign plans at Shive will strive to create personalized learning experiences for young learners through the creation of “Shive Clubs.”

The clubs, composed of two to four pods, will be selected by the students according to their interests, creating what the plan calls a “rich learning experiences” that correlate to the personal passions of students. Principal Zebbie Bondurant said the current clubs include agriculture, athletics, engineering, performing arts, science, technology and world culture.

Next year, the school will introduce a kindergarten club, allowing the youngest learners to explore the media center, bus safety, playground safety and the school cafeteria.

The school will also implement “Morning Choice” work that focuses on the development of interpersonal skills and life skills training that also focus on interpersonal or soft skills, as Bondurant said many of students lack valuable life experiences on which to tie learning.

“There’s a misconception that because Shive is a new school that everything is wonderful, that students have everything here,” she said. “We don’t. We have a very high poverty rate.”

Also in an effort to increase personalization, the school will use life-enriching enhancement periods to provide additional planning time for instructors, allowing them to plan lessons that meet individual student needs, analyze data and more.

The school will also work to increase math testing performance through a new program called Freckle Math, a software that helps educators pinpoint student math gaps or areas where students need enrichment, extension or intervention.

Finally, the school will work to increase parent involvement and engagement through additional parent teacher association/Title 1 programs and outreach efforts through Connect-ED and social media.

Corriher-Lipe Middle

Looking toward a new school experience, educators in the teacher-led design team at Corriher-Lipe have developed what they call a school of exploration, providing opportunity for students to explore “all types of careers, passions and interests,” their plan states.

The school will do this by offering every student two additional exploratory classes throughout the year, adding to three new exploratory classes to aid in the effort: dance, emergency management and life skills, topics selected by student interest.

Educators will also work to increase student engagement and foster “high-quality student-teacher relationships throughout the building,” the plan says.

Efforts to increase engagement include a seven-block schedule for the additional exploratory sessions and “Futuristic Fridays” with a focus on career exploration.

“Our vision for our kids started with an emphasis on providing more opportunities to challenge and get students engaged,” said Principal Justin James. “We want them to learn what they want to do in life, what they don’t want to do, by … helping them find their passion and love for coming to school each day.”

By including real-world topics such as emergency management, James said the school is seeking to expose students to careers outside the standard four-year college path.

“We want them to see the vision of having a career right out of high school,” he said. “This gives kids more on that track the opportunity to see something different, another pathway toward earning an income and being successful in the real world.”

The school will also create smaller class sizes, allowing teachers to interact more directly with students on a daily basis through small group instruction.

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