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From the Desk of ACS Superintendent: Burleson Reflects on Previous Semester

Dear Friends and Supporters of the Avery County Schools:

As we return to school for the second semester, I would like to say thank you for the important role you play each day in helping our school system foster student success. There is evidence of your support and service in many areas and we want you to know that we greatly appreciate what everyone in our community offers to our schools. Your interest and involvement in the Avery County Schools is truly a lasting gift and one that not only benefits our students and teachers, but the entire community.

Supt. Burleson
Supt. Burleson

As I reflect upon the fall semester, many special highlights come to mind. The following are just a few of those events:

The Avery County Schools had the 3rd highest graduation rate in the state.  (For 3 out of the past 4 years, Avery County has been in the top 5 in the state in graduation rates [4th, 1st, and 3rd]).

The Avery County Schools received a $750,000 grant to enhance our STEM program in all schools.

The Avery County Schools’ Career and Technical Education Program (CTE) added new classes in both our engineering and biomedical sciences at the high school, added robotics at middle school, hired 2 new teachers and are thrilled with the progression of our Culinary program. The school system began recruiting for our TSA robotics team thanks to a generous donation from TVA and hosted our first CTE Showcase and welcomed visitors from regional business, industry and post secondary organizations.

STEM-students from every school in the district participated in Hour of Code Activities to encourage interest in Computer Programming. Many schools are developing maker spaces thanks to the work of Nancy Carver, media specialists and various grants.

A record number of our students participated in our local and regional science fair with twenty-six moving on to state competition.

A system of common assessments has been implemented to strengthen instruction in grades 3-12

Maker Spaces have been created in all of our schools.

We have implemented the HillRap reading program in all elementary and middle schools along with the FUSION program at Avery High School.

Our NC PreK classrooms are working with Appalachian State University to implement the Insights program. Teachers are learning more about how to help children and parents prepare for the social emotions demands of school.

The Avery County Schools Child Nutrition Program received a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant for Freedom Trail and Newland Elementary Schools. We have also started a trial universal free breakfast program at Freedom Trail Elementary and Cranberry Middle Schools.

The Avery High Marching Band completed one of its most successful seasons ever.

The Avery High JROTC School supported the “Trees for Troops” program and the cadets finished fifth out of four hundred schools in the Brigade Marksmanship Invitational.

The Avery High Construction Classes supported Habitat for Humanity, assisting in the construction of new homes for our community.

The Avery High FFA attended the national convention and had a former student, Abigail Griffith, named as an American Scholar.

Our students collected an unprecedented amount of food and toys for needy families.

We had one of the largest groups ever inducted into the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society at Avery High School.

The Avery High Key Club had one of its most successful years ever with members providing more hours of community service than ever before.

Each of our schools inducted a record number of students into the Beta Club.

The Avery STEM Academy was recognized as one of the top 500 high schools in the nation by Newsweek.

The Avery STEM Academy was also recognized by NCDPI for having a 100% Graduation rate.

Avery High School was recognized by NCDPI for having a graduation rate above 95%.

Avery Middle School has Implemented PBIS along with holding a school wide Heritage Day. They have also created Olympic themed TAG completions and implanted challenging enrichment opportunities based on student interest.

Banner Elk Elementary School will have 4 Odyssey of the mind teams representing the school and the Banner Elk Kiwanis.  The teams are made up of 4th and 5th graders along with a team of 6th graders.  Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) will begin again in February after a very successful program during first semester. This old time string music program will be open to adults and students from all schools.  Project Lead The Way Robotics was taught in the 4th and 5th grade Science classes and the Learn to Ski and Snowboard program with Sugar Mountain is set to begin.

The Blue Ridge Academy received the NC Works Governor’s Award of Distinction – Innovative Partnership.

Cranberry Middle School celebrated 93.1% growth in the state testing program, as well as being in the top 10 schools in our 185 school region. Cranberry Middle continues to focus on being a STEM middle school and was awarded a $7,000 arts council grant.

Crossnore Elementary School was named a national Title One Rewards School. The school also obtained two grants that helped purchase bicycle kits to be put together by members of their bike club.

Freedom Trail Elementary held two events in honor of its 20th Anniversary:

The first Big Rig Gig as its “fall festival.”

A balloon release in honor of individuals who have supported the school on November 20.

Freedom Trail also has its Outdoor Classroom well underway.

Riverside Elementary helped establish an active Girl Scout Troop that led a toy drive for children during Christmas. Riverside hosted the Over the Mountain group, provided a breakfast for their members and participated in their Revolutionary War program in a partnership with Unimin. Instead of buying and exchanging presents for Christmas, our PreK students decided to raise money for others less fortunate. They sold donuts during morning drop off to be able to provide for others. Through that and other donations, they were able to raise $450 dollars that will help provide life-changing items to people in other areas of the world through Compassion International. It was a great lesson about serving others for our young students and we appreciate the response of our school and community in this effort.

These areas of student participation and success can only be credited to our staff members, our parents, and the members of our community.

With continued teamwork and a dedicated ACS staff, we will exceed the level of past accomplishments and experience even greater growth and accomplishments in 2016. Quality public schools are vital to the economic development of our county. Therefore, our school system is dedicated to preparing our children for successful, productive citizenry.

There are many opportunities for this semester, and one of the most exciting is continuing to offer to any family that has a three or four year old that is not currently enrolled in a Pre-K program SCOTTIE (Supporting Children’s Opportunities through Technology, Innovation, and Education), a mobile pre-kindergarten classroom that is housed in a renovated North Carolina school bus. SCOTTIE, a state-endorsed program, will continue to travel to ten designated locations in the county and offer an abbreviated schedule of educational activities for children enrolled. Currently we have 92 students enrolled on SCOTTIE. This program is designed to allow parents and their children to have early childhood educational opportunity near their homes. Children who are accepted into the program will be met with a highly qualified, birth-kindergarten teacher and credentialed assistant. Wrap-around services will be offered as well as opportunity for parental participation. We believe that a successful start to the school-age program must be an expectation for all children in order to ensure a 100% graduation rate Avery County.   We also believe that early exposure to literacy and other educational skills will foster students’ success as they journey through their educational pathway. Interested parents may contact my office, Angela Vitale, EC/Pre-K Director or Renee Banner, Administrative Assistant at 733-6006 to register a child or for more information.

Lastly, I would like to mention one more exciting partnership with our local Williams YMCA. ACS along with the YMCA is offering a Snow Camp to families that may need childcare on days when school is not in session due to inclement weather. Snow Camp, staffed by YMCA professionals, will be hosted at the YMCA for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and will operate from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Daily activities will consist of craft time, games, sports, indoor/outdoor activities, swimming and tutoring. Transportation to the YMCA and a bag lunch must by provided by parents. Students will need to bring outside clothes, homework, bathing suit and towel to be used. The cost is as follows:

$15 per day (with $10 pre registration fee)

$20 daily drop in rate

For information contact Jenn Roark at 828-737-5500 or www.ymcaavery.org.

I want to thank each individual in our school system that works so diligently each day to provide the best possible education to our students. My gratitude is extended to each parent who has provided support to his/her child and our schools. It is imperative that we continue to work together as a community to reduce the number of students dropping out of school and to continue to emphasize the importance of education. It is also of great importance to meet the needs of each student that is in our school system. We are very blessed to live in a community that conscientiously assumes its responsibility to educate children and to provide the necessary resources for their success.

Again, thank you for all you do for education. It is our mission to ensure that no child is left behind and with your continued support for public education more students will graduate from high school with direction, confidence and skills for the next stage of their lives.

May you have a joyous and prosperous 2016 and a successful “Spring” semester!


David Burleson


Avery County Schools