Promise made; promise kept

Published 8:38 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

ROXOBEL – It’s called College and Career Promise and as far as Bertie County Schools are concerned, it’s a promise kept.

The county began a welding program, conducted during the last period of the day (1:30-4:30) in one of the shops at the Bertie County Schools’ Central Services Complex, located at the site of the old Bertie High School on US 13 South in Windsor.   There are currently seven high school juniors and seniors in the class, which began this past August.

Monday night at the monthly meeting of the county’s Board of Commissioners, Bertie Schools Superintendent Elaine White reviewed the program for the board and those who attended the meet.

“It’ll only take me (a few) minutes to talk about welding,” the Superintendent stated, “so I wanted to also use this time to talk about some of the things that are going on in Bertie County schools.”

With School Board vice-chair Emma Johnson and fellow board member Barry McGlone also present, White presented the schools’ 2014-15 Annual Report, a copy of which she said will be sent out to every Bertie County citizen early next month.

“Not just those who have children, but also all of our county businesses,” White said.

The report highlighted the accomplishments of the schools over the past year; while admitting enrollment has decreased by nearly a hundred students (2,434 as of Sept. 15, down from 2,525 in ’14-15).   Through the Community Eligibility Provision every student receives free lunch with some 2,252 served daily last year.  The schools’ vision involves engaged students, qualified personnel, involved parents, and a supportive community necessary to turn out graduates that are college, career, and life-ready.

“This encompasses all of our stakeholders,” White said, “and we want all of our stakeholders to be involved in education in Bertie County.  We’re going to step up our standards for each of our schools.”

White touted the new school bus garage, located near the old facility on County Farm Road in Windsor, which was completed as a renovation following the purchase of the old Bertie Builders’ Discount warehouse and store.

The testing data for the county was highly favorable with all schools coming up one letter-grade following state testing. The schools are led by Bertie STEM and Early College at Grade-B and while White says the Grade-D for the elementary schools was disappointing, two schools in 13-14 had been Grade-F.

“We have set a goal this year that we will not have a school that is below a Grade-C,” White said. “I’ve met with our principals and they are on board to make this happen.”

The superintendent emphasized that the number of schools alumni that have returned as staffers has increased.  She also said the 2014-15 Principal and Teacher of the Year will be feted at a special reception for nominees and the winner on Oct. 1 with the presentation made by the Windsor-Bertie Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re making an attempt to bring back our graduates, and therefore, those who have an investment in our county,” White praised, “so we’re very proud of our teachers.”

The partnerships the schools have developed with the business community were also touted, with contributors as varied as Avoca Farms and NC State University to the Shriner’s Temple of Rocky Mount.

The Cadet programs: Emergency Medical Technicians and soon-to-begin Public Safety and Criminal Justice are just a few of the partnership programs helping students toward both college credit and careers.

The county schools’ Career Technical Education (CTE) program which is located at, and serves, Bertie High School has a career center for the three high schools; and is offering “soft skills” management and classes to aid in career management, preparation for finding a job and the work ethics that will assist in helping one keep a job.

White closed expounding on the Welding program offered through Martin Community College (MCC).

“It took quite an effort to get it off the ground,” White said, “but I was working with some people who really wanted to get this done.”

Jarvis Parker, pastor of Soul Saving Station in Ahoskie, came over from Hertford County Public Schools and heads the program.  Originally hired by the college, Parker has extensive experience, including training, in the craft of welding.  He also does instruction with the college’s adult program which begins at the shop after school.

White said while Parker is an MCC staffer, the college could not assist the students with their textbooks, which are $110 each, purchased from Amazon 10 Books.  The county schools’ CTE program has provided small equipment like torches and gloves; the Maintenance Department upgraded the shop.  MCC also provided furniture (students’ tables and chairs).

Since Bertie schools are rotating grants with MCC, the two groups split things like used welding machines, teacher furniture, used computer and printer, and the shuttle service from the new high school across the street to the shops.

However, White indicated there are still some expenses associated with the welding program that haven’t yet been met, but both school groups are working to fill the gaps.

White says they submitted a grant proposal to Nucor, and while it was denied since the company does not hire welders, Nucor did suggest the schools submit a proposal to several of the company’s contractors, and they have supplied metal slates for the students to practice with.

“I do ask if there’s any way the Commissioners can do anything to help make this a success for our schools, we would certainly appreciate it,” White concluded.

The superintendent said while she welcomed passage of the new state budget as far as funding for schools, she said there is trepidation.  Some positions are not filled, awaiting word on the budget; and there are some flexibility limits expected on how the state education budget money for public schools can be used.

“I’m very nervous about the money this year,” she said resolutely. “But we’ll pinch it and make it go as far as we can make it go.”