CHAPEL HILL — Northside Elementary, opening Monday, is a three-story brick building with rooftop gardens, separate playgrounds for each grade level, and interactive white boards.
But on a tour Thursday, Principal Cheryl Carnahan said it’s not the building’s eco-friendly and technological features that excites her, it’s the culture teachers and other staff will create in the school.
Their motto is “Thinking, learning and growing with purpose, persistence and pride.”
“We’re really looking at changing the style of teaching so that the students are the problem-solvers, the students are really wrestling with a topic and innovating different ways to do things,” Carnahan said.
Before coming to Northside, Carnahan was the principal of Estes Hills Elementary School, where she also was assistant principal.
Before that, she was the director of professional and organization development for the Howard County Public School System in Ellicott City, Md.
She said she plans to implement the same principles at Northside she instilled at Estes Hills.
“I feel that school is a place for everybody to learn,” Carnahan said. “Which means from all of the adults as well as all the students who are learning and growing and getting smarter every day.”
Superintendent Tom Forcella said his goal when hiring for the school was promoting growth.
“We really feel that we can (achieve) high-level student achievement for all kids regardless of race, ethnicity; it doesn’t matter,” Forcella said. “All kids can achieve at higher levels. If you believe that in the fabric of your being, then it can happen.”
The Northside school site dates back to 1916, when it housed the Orange County Training School, a Rosenwald school. Rosenwald schools were the name given to thousands of schools that were built primarily for the education of African Americans. It became Lincoln High and later Northside School before closing in 1966 after the desegregation of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Assistant Principal Coretta Sharpless remembers growing up in the Northside neighborhood and hearing the stories her mom and aunt would tell when she was a kid.
There was a sense of pride, strength and community when her mother attended, she said.
“I hope that we continue to help students remember that this foundation is built on pride and strength,” Sharpless said. “There’s a lot of love, a lot of commitment and there is a sense of unity and family.”
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