BY KARISSA MILLER
Statesville High School students and staff held a community partnership day Thursday as part of a larger initiative to bring the community and school back together.
“We want to re-establish how Statesville High used to be. We want to verbally change the perception because we do serve a great community and we have great kids,” said Principal Chad Parker.
The event started with a meet and greet in the library with a light breakfast and opening remarks from Parker, Superintendent Jeff James and Assistant Principal Bernadette Thomas.
The superintendent shared his experiences with helping change the perception of some of the district’s schools in his earlier years and efforts to turn around their test scores.
“It can be done. It’s not rocket science, but it requires your input, and we cannot do it by ourselves,” James told a small group.
The superintendent also briefly touched on some important aspects of school culture, including cultivating a positive attitude and making sure that some topics stay within the school setting.
“The worst thing we could do is be at our church and talk badly about our school,” he said.
According to Thomas, the purpose of the day is for community members to come and tour the building, visit classrooms, talk to students, join students during lunch and experience an authentic school day.
“It has been a difficult school year bringing students back to school after Covid, and other issues. We realize that we’re not in this alone,” Thomas said.
Several schools across the country and the surrounding areas are experiencing some of the same issues, she continued, with lack of motivation from students, declining academic success and inconsistency in staff, which can result in discipline issues.
“We truly want our students to become successful productive citizens and it takes a village. So we have decided to reach out to all possible organizations to help accomplish this goal,” Thomas said.
In January, school leaders plan to invite the community to a meeting to discuss opportunities to volunteer their time and skills.
Achievement as a path to improving school culture
With 63 percent of students at Statesville eligible for free and reduced lunch, proficiency levels were higher than anticipated on last spring’s testing:
26 percent of students passed the English II End of Course exam (less than 10 percent were projected to pass); and
20 percent of students passed the Biology End of Course exam (5 percent projected to pass)
“Even with the challenges we have faced with Covid and high school readiness, our teachers are making a difference,” Parker said.
Statesville has a diverse population:
• 47 percent African American
• 26 percent Hispanic,
• 16 percent white,
• 2 percent Asian and
• 6 percent two or more races.
Parker said he sees some of the community members at football games, but would like to see them inside the classroom.
Statesville High is also an AVID school and a North Carolina Restart School. AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is for students in the middle who need extra effort to be successful in high school, according to teacher Carlotta Chambers Ramen.
In addition, SHS is an International Baccalaureate candidate school for the Middle Years Program. IB classes will be an option for all students.
At around 8:10 a.m., students were walking to their classrooms inside the freshman academy.
“Typically, this is the freshman hall, but there are other grade levels on this hall,” explained school counselor Michaell Ratchford.
Teachers are standing outside greeting their students.
“Good morning! Hoods down,” one teacher says, reminding students of the dress code.
As a tour group progresses down the hallway, two of the teachers greet visitors and explain that they are filling in for a teacher. Earlier that morning, school officials said that there were 16 substitutes.
Stepping inside teacher Jovita Webb-Monroe’s classroom, visitors watch as the teacher wastes no time getting down to business.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. You have two error analysis exercises to complete,” she explains.
Webb-Monroe gives the students a few minutes to complete the math problems.
Rather than just arriving at the right answer using slope-intercept, students must use logic and reasoning to explain how they arrived at the incorrect answer.
Webb-Monroe walks up to the front of the classroom to go over the warm up exercises. “Who remembers the first thing I told you about completing an error analysis?” She asks.
“You have to solve the problem,” one student says. The teacher nods yes.
After the class reviews the correct answer, she has students go over the class declaration together and challenges them to continue to move forward in life, not backwards.
She then uses one to two minutes to have students share a good motivational moment for the day. The students are quiet, listening and focused. Her teaching techniques are not only engaging students, but they appear to keep them engaged and interested in what’s next.
Throughout the tour, visitors observe students in numerous classrooms who are engaged in learning either through group activities or individualized instruction.
Senior Omarion Bowman, who people describe as outgoing and smart, is an early graduate. He will attend North Carolina Central University starting in January.
“I’m going to get my Bachelors and then Masters — hopefully,” he said. “That is the plan.”
“Don’t say hopefully. That is the plan,” community member Todd Scott tells Bowman.
Bowman said he’s proud of his school for holding a community day event, which he thinks can help change the negative view of Statesville High.
“We need more days like this. We need more professionals to come in and talk to students,” he said. “Let them know it’s okay to be smart and get your education. People really give us the perception that we’re bad, but we’re not.”