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Bertie High School becomes ‘umbrella’

WINDSOR – In an interview discussing changes to Bertie County Schools, Dr. Chip Zullinger talked about the offerings for high school students.

Those entering ninth grade in 2008-09 will have three options. They can attend the traditional Bertie High School, the Early College High School which will stress agricultural science, or the Bertie County School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“I think we need to start thinking of Bertie High School in a different way,” Dr. Zullinger said. “I think now the school becomes an umbrella under which we operate.”

The superintendent said he didn’t want the STEM School or the Agri-Science School to be seen as completely independent of Bertie High.

“We don’t want to lose the pride that we all have in Bertie High School,” he said. “The school is rich in tradition and we want all of our high school students to share in that tradition, no matter which school they attend.”

One key way of doing that is to put all of the students together for extracurricular activities, including athletics and clubs.

“All of our extracurricular activities are under Bertie High School,” he said. “That is where all of the students will come back together.”

‘All’ includes the alternative students, who will be taught through a partnership between the Bertie County Schools and two local independent providers. They are Uplift Comprehensive Services and Reclamation Family Services.

“If the alternative students meet the requirements, we will allow them to participate in the extracurricular activities as well,” he said. “I believe some athletes will remain in school that may not have before we entered the alternative partnerships.”

All of the options are a way of changing to meet the diverse needs of students, Dr. Zullinger said.

“If you look at Bertie County 20 or 30 years ago, when you turned on the television you could get three stations,” he said. “Now, when you turn it on, you have 150 choices.

“I think our society has responded to choices and options,” he continued. “Some of the evolution of what schools are becoming is a change of market.”

Dr. Zullinger said the reasons for the change were simple.

“There is no better reason to change than to see kids who no longer want to go to school,” he said.

Bertie Schools Finance Officer Pearline Bunch, who also participated in the interview, added, “Children are facing different challenges now as well.”

What is STEM?

The Bertie School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics began as part of the North Carolina New Schools’ Project and is focused on students who are interested in pursuing careers in those areas.

Principal G. Fisher Mitchell stressed that school personnel believe every student who enters STEM will go on to a four-year college.

STEM is located in the 300-building on the campus of the traditional Bertie High School and will have approximately 112 students during the 2008-09 academic year.

It began in 2007-08 with 60 students.

What is the Agri-Science School?

Bertie County’s Agri-Science School will open next month and is part of the Early College High School initiative. It will welcome students who are interested in pursuing degrees in agricultural sciences.

The school will be housed at the former Southwestern Middle School on Governor’s Road near Windsor along with the Ninth Grade Academy and the Shaw Teacher Academy.

Students who attend the Agri-Science School will earn a high school diploma in four years as well as two years of transferable college credit or an associate degree.

The school, which will be open to as many as 75 incoming freshmen, will follow a traditional college schedule but will require at least one summer term to allow students to graduate in four years.

All of those changes are part of a change in focus, according to Dr. Zullinger and Bunch.

“If I had to say what the difference is, it is a change in programs,” Bunch said. “We have always tried to support children, but now we are doing so with new and innovative programs.”

Dr. Zullinger said he has purposely worked to move dollars which were being spent in administration to the classroom.

“We’re trying to concentrate district dollars in the classroom,” he said. “We are leaving some administrative posts unfilled because when we came here, we started trying to get the administration in line with what the state says we should have.”

Dr. Zullinger said the district was saving roughly $100,000 because of the cut in administrative positions (all of which have come through retirement or transfer).

“Those entire savings have been redirected to the classroom,” he said.