Amy Rhyne (second from left) presents a plaque and flowers to Superintendent Jason Gardner, Elementary Education Director Jemma Conley, and Board Chair Greg Whitfield.


Before getting into their agenda on Tuesday night, the Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education received a surprise from NCDPI Office of Early Learning Director Amy Rhyne.

The district received the Champion for Change Award for the Southwest Region for its exemplary leadership in the Science of Reading.

Rhyne praised the district for its use of data and strategies to impact student reading proficiency. The staff completed intensive Letters training, held frequent professional learning community meetings to share information, and revised curriculum to integrate the Science of Reading strategies.

MGSD students are at or above state average in seven of 10 areas and are seeing improved student outcomes.

MGSD Superintendent Jason Gardner said the honor was a testament to teachers, who rolled up their sleeves sleeves and did the work without complaint because they knew the program was best for their students.


The board unanimously passed the 2024-25 school calendar. The calendar is available for download HERE


CFO Angie Davis told the board that as part of the device refresh, MGSD asked for proposals to buy approximately 5,900 2017 Apple MacBook Air devices. This process ensured getting maximum value for currently owned devices, device collection, and guaranteed payment timelines.

Sixteen vendors submitted proposals, with AGi Repair receiving the highest total points as determined by the vetting rubric. AGi will pay a minimum of $950,000 for the devices, which will be reallocated to cover costs of the recently approved device refresh.

Chief Operations Officer Scott Smith said high school teachers and students will receive new laptops first due to a February 28 testing date. The IT staff will then work down the grade levels to staffs and then students throughout the rest of the semester.

The board approved the contract unanimously.


The board also approved two hours of conflict of interest training, now required by the state, for all school employees involved in making or administering contracts.

Davis said the biennial training includes position-specific education on conflicts of interest and ethical standards of conduct. The N.C. Association of School Administration is offering free training videos that meet the legislative requirement at no cost to member districts.

The board approved NCASA as the provider of conflict of interest training for MGSD school and district leaders.


♦ Davis also asked the board to approve Anderson, Smith & Wike PLLC to conduct the next financial audit beginning in the spring of 2024 with pre-audit compliance work and then continuing over the summer to finalize a report due to the board in the fall.

The board approved the measure 5-0.

♦ Assistant Superintendent Michael Royal presented three band field trips to competitions, which have no cost to the 40 students, to Catawba Ridge High School in Fort Mill on February 3, Indian Land High School in Lancaster on March 23, and Dorman High School in Roebuck on April 13. All were approved.


Student of the Month

Student of the Month Preston Flagler leads the Pledge of the Allegiance.

East Mooresville Intermediate School fifth-grader Preston Flagler, nominated by Terrie Tidwell, was chosen January Student of the Month. In her nomination, Tidwell said Flagler “is so kind and thoughtful. He is always willing to help in any way.”

“He is a member of the EMIS SOAR team where he helps to lead the EMIS community service initiative by passing out food bags weekly, collecting and organizing toys for our toy drive, and sorting and packing food for our food drive.”

“He is also a great student by following classroom and school-wide expectations and consistently completing all assignments and morning work. Preston exemplifies the EMIS motto of “Be the One.”

Artists of the Month

Board member Monica Bender, instructor Michelle Corbett, and Superintendent Jason Gardner pose with the EMIS Fifth Grade Art Club.

East Mooresville Intermediate School’s Fifth Grade Art Club was nominated as Artist of the Month by Michelle Corbett.

Members include Madison Currie, Mia Theodorakatos, Emily Nicholson, Miles Intihar, Maurice Rickett, Alyssa Schiavo, Ethan Hoffman, Destiny Tucker, Ella Wanner, Peyton Sadowski, Avary London, Londyn Huggins, Alex Massey, Madelyn Morrison, Destinee Nsabwa, and Catherine Harriger.

“These students were chosen to represent the amazing creative energy in the Fifth Grade Art Club at EMIS,” Corbett said in her nomination. “Each of the students brings a special gift and talent to the art room each and every time they arrive. They possess an incredible creative flair and a desire to do their very best work.”

“They have their own sense of style yet work beautifully together to make sure that their work complements as well as contrasts the art work of others. They are quick to jump in and help when there are tasks to be done in the art room,” she added. “Most important of all, they are all-around good friends, good students, and amazing people! I am honored to have the opportunity to work with them and be their art teacher.”

ABCD Award

Board member Monica Bender, ABCD Award winner Terri Garrett, and Superintendent Jason Gardner.

Terri Garrett, front office receptionist at East Mooresville Intermediate School, was nominated by the EMIS administrative team for the “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” honor because she helps create an atmosphere that is welcoming to all to create a sense of community.

“Mrs. Garrett is often the first face that people see when they enter EMIS. She is always smiling and welcoming. She gives EMIS the family feel that we strive for. She gets to know our students and families and talks to them about how they are doing.”

“Mrs. Garrett is the best at what she does and we could not be more thankful to have her at EMIS.”

Theatre Educator Award

Board member Monica Bender, MHS Theatre teacher Ronnie Higdon, and Superintendent Jason Gardner.

Mooresville High School drama teacher Ron Higdon was recently honored as the 2023 North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) K-12 Theatre Educator Award Winner, recognizing his “demonstrated excellence in the classroom, superior production achievement, as well as his service as a leader with his peers.”

NCTC Executive Director Angie Hays said Higdon is “an outstanding teacher and director who works tirelessly with his students, instilling in them a love of theater and an exceptional work ethic. Since 2014, his productions have advanced to the state high school play festival on three separate occasions.”

The board congratulated Higdon for his hard work and dedication as he continues to ensure that the Mooresville High School Theatre program continues its tradition of excellence.


Superintendent Gardner honored the board as part of School Board Appreciation month. “Our school board members commit their time, energy, and expertise to make informed decisions that benefit every student under their care.”

“They tirelessly work to create an environment that fosters learning, growth, and success for all students and staff. While that is important, It’s not just the decisions they make, but the passion and advocacy they demonstrate that sets our MGSD school board members apart.”

“They champion the cause of education, fighting for resources, policies, and programs that empower our educators and provide students with the tools they need to succeed. In doing so, they contribute significantly to the growth and prosperity of our community as a whole.”

“Mr. Whitfield, Ms. Pennell, Ms. Bender, Mr. Brawley, and Dr. Marsh – thank you for your leadership, sacrifices, and unwavering commitment to the success of our students.”

Mooresville High Principal Samone Graham presented board members with handmade mugs and personalized art work from Art I and II students.

“Thank you for all you do for Mooresville Graded School District. We love you,” she said.


EMIS Principal Tracy Pratt-Dixon, math teacher Sarah White, and language arts teacher Kirsten Snyder presented the instructional highlight on utilizing data folders in the classroom.

White said the data folders help teachers, students, and parents track academic progress, builds students’ confidence, creates more engagement and participation, and allows students to see their strengths and weaknesses.

The folders help students develop ownership of their learning and work and strive to work harder, do better, set personal goals, and reflect on their progress.

The data folders also support social emotional learning (SEL) lessons, enhance parent conferences and communication, and align with the “Real Life” math standard.

The folders contain student reflection sheets on each assessment, student-created charts and graphs of student progress each month, copies of diagnostic results, parent notifications, and any certificates earned.

Several students shared their thoughts on using the folders, with all four expressing their hope the folders continue next year in middle school.

Sammy said the folders help him keep track of his scores and see where he is as he looks for growth. His math scores have progressed from 488 to 541 so far this year.

Aubrey said the folder helps her see if she is doing well and pushes to do better. She has raised her scores from 472 to 492. When she didn’t work out her math problems on paper during the first diagnostic, she learned in her reflection that she needed to work out the problems and found doing so made solving the problems easier on later assessments.

Zoe said the folders allow her to set goals based on her results, reflect on her results, and make changes. The folders make her want to work harder. She also believes it is Important for her parents to see how she is doing throughout the year. Her ELA scores have improved from 425 to 550 since the beginning of year.

Eden said the folders help her organize her work and to practice and try harder. Her scores have improved from 410 to 520 this year.

White said the folders support SEL efforts, with students encouraging and clapping for each other. She believes the folders help build community and kindness.

After the presentation, the students presented gift bags from EMIS to board members for Board Appreciation Month.


Chief communications Officer Tanae McLean introduced a series of updates on the implementation of the district’s Strategic Plan (

“Over the course of the past six months, MGSD district and school leaders have worked to begin implementation of our strategic plan,” she said.

“As a reminder, the design of the new strategic plan involved gathering input from a variety of stakeholders throughout the process. As a part of our mid-year update, each priority area lead will share additional information about progress made on strategies to be implemented in year one as well as planning progress on future strategies for 2024-25.”

McLean reminded board members that strategies may shift over time as they implement this “living” plan.

Maximize Opportunity and Achievement

Associate Superintendent Michael Royal said the Maximize Opportunity and Achievement group was focusing on students’ individual strengths, interests, needs, and culture allows them to reach their full potential, including exposure to various career pathways and opportunities to develop life skills prepares students for their future.

His implementation committee has 19 members, and the group plans to add parent and student representation.

In their year one implementation, the group is working to develop a consistent process that provides all students with a core curriculum. At the secondary and elementary level, staff have been revising course guides to add activities, rigor, and ensure alignment with state standards and use of research-based curriculum.

The group also revamped the walk-through observation tool administrators use to ensure they are looking for implementation of strategic plan goals.

The committee has also refined data-driven decision-making and data analysis processes. Data meetings are held at each school and grade level to promote discussion, monitor student progress, and adjust as needed. They are also working to refine professional learning community (PLC) processes.

Also in year one, the committee has ensured that all K-8 students have access to in-school club opportunities so all can participate in a club of their choice that peaks their interests.

The committee is also working to expand opportunities for high school students to explore their post graduation plans and engage in internships, apprenticeships, and CTE courses.

Credit for Demonstrated Mastery (CDM) opportunities can also earn students course credits. Royal said this year MGSD has 53 students in internships (up from 14 in 2021-22) and two students taking courses online through the N.C. School of Math and Science.

The group divided into five subcommittees to prepare for future implementation goals.

One group is researching and implementing a “high dosage” tutoring model. They are visiting other systems’ programs and have a tutoring program in place in fourth and fifth grade math and reading for “bubble” students.

Another subcommittee is exploring grading practices that allow students to take ownership of the learning process, such as the EMIS data tracker folders. They are looking at standards based grading, competency based education, and a variety of best practices for grading.

Another group is working to ensure that the NC “Portrait of a Graduate” durable skills are embedded into instruction K-12. Students must learn to collaborate and develop interpersonal and “soft” skills needed in the business and professional world.

A fourth subcommittee is creating a process where every student designs a career development plan in middle school that is refined throughout high school. Students are using Major Clarity to develop their plans, which adds in data from Power School and assessments to help determine students interests, skills, and abilities.

The last subcommittee is exploring new and innovative school models to be implemented in MGSD, including early college, International Baccalaureate, freshman academy, STEM, High Reliability Schools, and expanding dual immersion to the middle school level.

Safe, Happy and Healthy Environments

In his update, Smith said that learning and productivity flourish in an environment that is safe, happy and healthy where all feel safe to express themselves in an inclusive and respectful environment. A climate of happiness increases meaningful engagement and provides support for physical and mental health.

The 15-member Safe, Happy and Healthy Environments committee has been focusing on school physical safety, student safety protocols and procedures, as well as student behavioral needs.

They have looked at increased monitoring of student and staff safety, reviewed protocols, updated policies to reflect the parent bill of rights, instituted threat assessment protocol updates from NCDPI, and added metal detectors.

The school system is also collaborating with the Mooresville Police Department to acquire a weapons detection K-9 and is looking at adding more adding cameras and walkie talkies.

They are also developing a district problem-solving advisory team and are ensuring that every school has a behavior problem-solving team. The district threat assessment teams are reviewing intervention plans and giving feedback to administrators. Teams at school level are implementing interventions and also gathering attendance, SEL, and mental health data.

The committee is also developing a yearly plan to create and foster a positive culture and climate at each school and department. Each school has plan to promote a positive school environment and administers surveys to monitor school climate.

Chief Student Services Officer Sandy Albert presented the committee’s year one planning focuses, including examining and reviewing school physical safety plans and enhancing them as needed.

Director of School Safety Mark Reddick has conducted an informal needs assessment at each school and did a physical inspection of each during winter break. He is meeting with administrators at each school to go over his findings.

The committee is also recommending an audit by an outside safety expert to get fresh eyes on the system’s safety plans, equipment, and procedures.

The committee is also in the process of developing a comprehensive approach to alternative K-12 learning. A subcommittee is looking exploring other schools’ approaches, trainings, and talking with DPI staff.

The committee is also looking at ways to ensure clever and consistent expectations for student discipline across all schools, implementing a consistent, research-based social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum K-12 and exploring innovative partnerships to offer additional mental and physical health support for students and staff.

Grow, Recruit and Retain

Davis told the board that the success of a school district rests in the quality of its staff. A commitment to recruiting, growing, and retaining the best and brightest staff in both teaching and non-instructional areas ensures excellence in every aspect of the school district.

This year, the Grow, Retain and Recruit Committee evaluated market rates to strengthen competitive pay structures for employees. Pay scales are on website to ensure equity of pay, integrity and empowerment.

The pay study changes cost the district $2 million in benefits and raises this year, which Davis said were “well-invested into staff.”

Chief Human Resource Officer April Kuhn said the committee is also developing a comprehensive staff recruiting plan that includes innovative and research-based practices to attract talent.

Kuhn said they have posted a full-time recruiter position for teachers and other staff and are consulting with the NC Research Practices Network to improve recruiting techniques, especially at the high school level and in special education.

The committee is also working on plans to enhance leadership development opportunities across the district, with an executive focus to build and retain leaders with training and other opportunities.

Creating an inclusive onboarding system to immerse employees in the Mooresville Graded School District culture is also a priority, as is ensuring leaders have the skills needed to establish a culture of inclusive practices and belonging for all employees.

Others goals for years three and four of the five-year strategic plan include enhancing and establishing a culture of support for the education professionals leading students, enhancing partnerships with community organizations to support staff wellness and employee experiences, and creating innovative and accessible career development pathways.

Board member Debbie Marsh asked Kuhn to look into a consistent process for exit interviews and to develop an objective and anonymous way to gather information from resigning employees so problem situations can be corrected.

Culture of Relationships

McLean noted that a successful district values inclusivity, effective communication, positive relationships, and is the heart of the community. Staff, students, and families want to be involved in schools where they are known, cared for, valued, and empowered. The community needs to feel connected to the work of the district.

In year one, the Culture of Relationships committee refined the advisory committee process for parents and teachers and added a student advisory committee.

The teacher advisory committee selection was updated to be the Teacher of the Year, Beginning Teacher of the Year, and the School Improvement Team Chair from each school, as well as the EC and CTE Teachers of the Year.

The Student Advisory Committee is made up of the class president and one other student from each class level. The Parent Advisory Committee includes reps from each school, either recommended by the principal or self-nominated. They explore two areas of the Strategic Plan at each meeting and provide feedback.

McLean said they were getting good feedback from different groups, which all have unique and differing perspectives.

The district has had three of the four planned community engagement events, and the invitation for the fourth event went out this week. Community and partnerships in in the first three events included a hot dog cookout/STEAM event with the Mooresville Fire Department for 450 community members, the Longest Table event with the United Way of Iredell county for 900, and the Winter Wonderland STEAM event with Mooresville Parks and Recreation at the Selma Burke Center for 300.

Each school is also holding at least two community engagement events per year.

They also are offering training and resources to staff and families to help them develop strong relationships that support the success and well-being of all students.

Planning for future years includes developing a uniform communication framework, creating a community outreach advisory group that will develop a framework for identifying strategic alliances with the district, and developing a comprehensive volunteer program to encourage community engagement.

McLean is also creating a Volunteer Handbook, with opportunities in various areas, rules, processes, and background check procedures, and developing volunteer training online and a process to track volunteer hours for a possible August 2024 rollout.

The committee will also develop a uniform approach to student mentoring, including a matching process and a way to get frequent feedback from the mentor, mentee and family.

Board member Kerry Pennell noted that older kids also connect well with younger kids, so developing incentives to mentor younger kids might be helpful.

McLean said the final task is to develop a plan for targeted community outreach initiatives to traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations.