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From the Desk of Sup. David Burleson: Many Highlights from Fall 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 examples:

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

The Avery County Schools and the Avery County Commissioners worked together to refresh our one-to-one technology program for students.

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 forty-four moving on to state competition.

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

We have implemented the HillRap reading program in all elementary and middle schools along with the FUSION program at Avery High School. HillMath will be implemented at the beginning of the new year.

The Avery County Schools Child Nutrition Program continues to serve a nutritious breakfast and lunch at each of our schools.

The Avery High Marching Band completed one of its most successful seasons ever, achieving one of the highest scores ever at the ASU marching band contest.

The Avery High JROTC School supported the “Trees for Troops” program and the cadets competed in several state and national competitions.

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 record number of former students named American Scholars.

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 implemented PBIS along with holding a school wide Heritage Day. They have also created TAG competitions and implemente challenging enrichment opportunities based on student interest.

Banner Elk Elementary School had 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. The students also worked with Feeding Avery Families to pack food boxes for our community members.

Cranberry Middle School 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 Distinguished Title One Rewards School. The school also obtained grants that helped purchase bicycle kits to be put together by members of their bike club.

Freedom Trail Elementary School completed its Outdoor Classroom.

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 and participated in their Revolutionary War program in a partnership with Unimin. Riverside students sang Christmas carols of residents of the Bryan Center.

These areas of student participation and success can only be credited to our staff members, our parents, and 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 2017. 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 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 90 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 Lark Blanton 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 2017 and a successful “Spring” semester!


David Burleson


Avery County Schools