Iredell-Statesville Schools principals at the district’s low-performing schools on Monday told the Board of Education that they are doing everything they can to reach every child.

They also shared some of the daily struggles that the schools face.

Third Creek Middle Principal Mark Shinkaruk explained that staffing is the No. 1 issue at his school.

He shared a few statistics:

• 44 percent of TCM teachers are noncertified;
• 62 percent of his teachers are beginning teachers (in their first four years or earlier of teaching); and
• 16 percent of his teachers are substitutes or teacher assistants that lead the classroom.

The socio-economic backgrounds of TCM students present challenges.

“It’s one thing to talk about poverty. At Third Creek Middle, it’s not just poverty, but it’s trauma. Trauma comes with poverty,” Shinkaruk said.

Some TCM students have experienced “extreme trauma” in their homes.

N.B. Mills Elementary Principal Jonathan Nicastro said that his school struggles with staffing, community involvement, lack of career goals for students and the fact that kindergartners are well behind when they start school.

“We’d love it we can find mentors to come and mentor with our students — especially successful people who have come from our community and provide opportunities for our students to get out and see careers,” Nicastro said.

TCM has had a revolving door with their fifth-grade teachers, which Nicastro said helped explain why students in that grade did not see the gains in standardized testing.

Statesville High School Principal Chad Parker told the board that test scores cannot be improved overnight.

SHS students continue to show improvements in their overall composite testing scores compared to what the state is projecting; however, many students are “multiple grades behind,” Parker said.

International Baccalaureate Coordinator Jill Hartle said that many of the students at Statesville High School assumed that they weren’t good enough to be a part of the IB program when she arrived there.

That narrative, she said, has to change because many of the students who attend Cloverleaf Elementary, IB World School, feed into Statesville High.

Hartle spoke about the Chick-fil-A leadership program and how the school has made efforts to bring parents on campus to talk about school grades and other resources in the community.

“We do have amazing kids at Statesville High School, who are doing amazing things,” she said.

Kelly Cooper, I-SS executive director of Secondary Education, said, “One day makes or breaks a school,” but test scores don’t tell the whole story of what happens behind the walls.

School officials pointed out that many students struggled with virtual learning during the pandemic. That was reflected in the next year of test scores.

Low-performing schools in North Carolina are defined by the N.C. General Assembly and are based on the School Performance Grade and growth.

Low-performing schools are those that receive a school performance grade of D or F and a school growth score of “met expected growth” or “not met expected growth.”

Statesville High School received a letter grade of D for the 2021-2022 year. Third Creek Middle School received a letter grade of F for the 2021-2022 year as did N.B. Mills Elementary School.

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