Published: Feb 02, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 01, 2013 11:08 AM
Excitement is intensifying around the opening of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ newest school: Northside Elementary.
We like to think that a school should be the hub of its community, and this school, set to open in August, will surely be for several reasons.
Whereas, our schools are generally located around the perimeter of our district, this one is in the heart of Chapel Hill, across the street from the Hargraves Community Center and only a couple blocks from the UNC campus. The location is ideal for community partnerships. In fact, we are already working on a partnership with the UNC Department of Athletics that would involve the university’s student-athletes working regularly with Northside students, teaching them about fitness, wellness and character.
Interestingly, it is also being built on the same site as the former Northside School, which served our area’s African-American elementary students during segregation. I was very pleased when the Board of Education voted to name the new school Northside – a fitting tribute.
In a community where many of us are here as a result of relocation, it is very important that we both remember and celebrate the history of our region and the people instrumental in making it great. The Northside alumni have been very helpful in telling us the stories of the previous school, its students and teachers.
The school will indeed celebrate the past. In fact, inside the school, placards will be strategically placed teaching the students, and all who visit, about the history of this famous site. The capstone from the original building has been found and will be displayed as well.
Equally important to the history, is the future. Northside Elementary will certainly prepare children to embrace the future. The foundation of this innovative school will be a growth mindset. All children will be considered smart, with the potential and the expectation that they will think and learn and grow every day.
Our board and administration, including dynamic Northside Principal Cheryl Carnahan, are committed to instructional excellence. Every teacher at Northside will be charged with empowering students to become globally competitive learners.
But how will this happen? There is no single, magical strategy, but we are implementing two that, we believe, will determine the success of Northside Elementary.
First, research continually points to the quality of the classroom teacher as the single greatest indicator of student achievement. Therefore, we will identify and secure a high-quality staff that, as much as possible, resembles the diversity of the students attending the school. A rigorous and comprehensive hiring procedure is under way and we are excited about the talent that Ms. Carnahan has already recruited.
Second, the days of “close my door and let me teach” are long gone. This is a community school and will require community involvement at the highest level. We will invite our community to engage as “investors” in this school – committing, with a genuine and significant interest, to the success of our students. This involves holding us – district leadership, Board of Education, school staff, and especially me – accountable.
We have already enjoyed lengthy discussions with many community groups including Empowerment, Jackson Center, Ministerial Alliance, NAACP Education Committee, Hargraves Center and local churches. We have also met with many individual community leaders as well. There is tremendous momentum, and the support shown by our government, business, agency and education sectors has been, and continues to be, greatly appreciated.
We are in a time of unprecedented change in education. The opening of a new school, with new and innovative models on instruction and organization, offers an opportunity to truly challenge all learners. We believe that Northside Elementary will indeed eliminate the achievement gap while providing significant, measurable growth for all.Tom Forcella is the superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.