To the Editor:
It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and on August 22 students will be coming back to school. I do hope our students have had some time to spend with their families, enjoyed their summer vacation, and are excited about coming back to school to experience another year of learning.
This year we are anticipating over 2,000 students in our school system. Over the last five years our student numbers have remained fairly steady, even with the economic downturn we have experienced. I want to take this time to thank our entire community for their support of our school system and each student we serve. When we recruit teachers to our school system, we share with them the support we receive from parents, businesses, and community. We are also grateful for the active participation of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce in our recruitment and retention of teachers. We just finished our New Employee Orientation where we shared with them the philosophy of the Avery County Schools, provided them suggestions on how to become a master teacher, and gave them an opportunity to prepare their classrooms for their students. We are very excited about our new employees and believe that they will help us continue making a positive difference in the lives of students.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our entire community for providing support and encouragement for our third annual Back to School Bash held on Saturday, August 13th at Avery High School. It is a true blessing to live in a community that cares so much for its children. Saturday emphasized clearly how much Avery County values our young people and how much they support our school system. No one could possibly place a value on what this event meant in the lives of these students, both monetarily and emotionally. From the churches that donated money, supplies, and materials, to the community organizations that showed up to distribute materials, I want to say thank you. Over seven hundred of our Avery County Schools’ students along with family members came out for a day of fun, excitement, information, and great fellowship.
I encourage each student to set as goals this year to make this the best year they have ever had, to work hard, and to get involved in their schools. I also appreciate the way our students represent our school system and encourage them to continue to take the lessons they have learned at home, in the faith community, and at school to be good citizens in our community. It is always encouraging to hear the positive stories of how Avery County Schools’ graduates make a difference in our community and in the lives of others.
Without the help of many professionals, we would not be ready to start school this year. Our maintenance and custodial staffs have worked very hard this summer getting buildings ready for students. Our teachers are putting in long days preparing the classrooms. Our teacher assistants and school clerical workers are working hard to have everything ready as students enter that first day. Many of our child nutrition employees have worked throughout the summer providing meals for the summer feeding program and will continue to serve nutritious meals during the school year. Our transportation department has been active this summer in getting our buses ready to go, looking at bus routes, and making them as efficient as possible. Throughout the summer, the after school program has provided quality daycare programs for students at our schools. Consequently, we are very proud of the work that has been accomplished this summer and are excited about the 2016/2017 school year.
Several programs have been implemented in recent years that will be expanded. We have the SCOTTIE Pre-K mobile bus, that goes to where the children are. This mobile classroom provides valuable instruction to students at ten different sites throughout our community. As our county grows and the need for more direct service to students increases, we hope to expand this service. Presently, we have six Pre-K programs in our elementary schools. Since we know the desire of our community is for or school system to provide more opportunities for students before the age of four, we look to continue the positive pre-school programs currently in place.
Many of our families are receiving and will continue to receive services from our student services staff. The Blue Ridge Academy will also continue to serve the needs of many of our students. We hope to expand that program even more. For students who attend the Blue Ridge Academy, a goal will be to provide each student an internship during the school year. In addition, the GOAL (alternatives to suspension) program will be under the direction of Mr. Jay Smith this year. The GOAL program provides students who are suspended from school an opportunity to volunteer at local community agencies where they perform community service and are able to keep up with their class work. This program is now a model for a state plan approved by the General Assembly. This program’s success is based on the willingness of our community agencies to support our students and our school system. We appreciate their efforts on behalf of Avery County’s young people.
As we prepare for this school year, we must review our performance last year and use that information to improve our school system. Based on preliminary test results, our school system performed well on the end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. We will receive no official word from the Department of Public Instruction on the results until later this year, but we are encouraged by the results thus far.
The North Carolina State Board of Education has recently changed who may participate in middle school athletics. At this time, sixth graders are now allowed to participate in all middle school sports except for football. All sixth graders in Avery County may participate in middle school athletics starting this fall.
My hope and prayer is that this school year will be the best ever for our school system and for each student we serve. If we, as a school system, can help you, we want to hear from you. Our Central Office has an open door policy, and we encourage you to visit with us at your convenience. If you are unable to stop by our office, please feel free to call me. I would love to discuss your concerns regarding our school system. I am always open to suggestions on how we can better serve our community. Thank you for your support of our school system and our children. I am honored to serve as your school superintendent.
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