Doing School Better

Innovation ECPS News: September / October 2017

Innovation a Top Priority for New Superintendent

Dr. Valerie Bridges, who began her tenure as Superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools in July, has seen firsthand the impact of innovation on student achievement. As a principal in Guilford County and Wake County, her schools met high growth standards as a result of the her "outside the box" leadership style. She has demonstrated this in Edgecombe, as well; as the leader of the Curriculum and Instruction team for the past several years, Dr. Bridges has consistently challenged her colleagues to focus on outcomes over process and to be creative problem-solvers.


As Superintendent, Dr. Bridges has pledged her continued support for Innovation ECPS and the exciting efforts that you will read about below: the "North side Innovation Zone" Restart schools, Opportunity Culture, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity and ongoing district visioning, and deepening ECPS's commitment to educate the whole child. In addition, she is already bringing new ideas to the district to ensure all fourteen ECPS schools "exceed growth" in the 2017-2018 school year. As Dr. Bridges tells her staff, "If we lead with our head, heart, and hands, we will transform lives." Edgecombe County Public Schools is fortunate to have Dr. Bridges at the helm!

I-Zone Officially Launches!

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When students at Coker-Wimberly Elementary School, Phillips Middle School, and North Edgecombe High School returned to campus this year, they were given a new charge: to become the architects of their own lives. These three schools are undergoing a transformation, with the ultimate goal of, "helping kids realize their life purpose so that when they reach a crossroads in their lives, they will know where they want to go and who they want to be," as North Edgecombe High School (NEHS) principal Donnell Cannon says.


Dubbed the "North side Innovation Zone," educators in these schools have spent the summer learning about cutting-edge practices in K-12 education and dedicating themselves to implementing these strategies in ways that are culturally-responsive and equity-focused. From project-based learning, to the No-Nonsense Nurturer approach to relationship-building, to data-driven instruction, students on the North side will be challenged and supported as they strive to be their best selves. "We have amazing students and a fantastic staff," says Coker-Wimberly principal Katie Row. "I have no doubt that this is going to be a successful year in the I-Zone." Stay tuned for updates on the Innovation Zone throughout the year, and contact Erin Swanson, Director of Innovation, if you want to support these efforts as a volunteer, donor, or future staff member!

The NC Public School Forum and Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) have joined forces to improve outcomes for children who have experienced childhood trauma, and to find ways to prevent childhood exposure to trauma in the early years.


This August, experts from the NC Public School Forum and "Resilience Team" members from Stocks Elementary School and Pattillo Middle School in Tarboro met to kick off their work as part of the new NC Resilience and Learning Project. Through this project, Resilience Team members at both schools will learn how Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, impact children, and explore ways that they can create trauma-sensitive learning environments for their scholars. These committed educators will provide leadership in their schools, and ultimately throughout the district, to implement trauma-sensitive strategies and help students build resilience -- resulting in higher academic achievement and happier lives. After the initial training, Pattillo Middle School principal Lauren Lampron expressed her excitement about this work: "This is phenomenal and makes so much sense. I want to train our entire staff tomorrow!"


School-aged students aren't the only ones who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences; in fact, many children are exposed to trauma at a much earlier age. The NC Public School Forum's Seth Saeugling and Vichi Jagannathan, Teach For America alumni who taught in northeastern North Carolina, have returned to the region to co-develop pilots of new programs and services that support children and their families, ages prenatal to four, who are most vulnerable to trauma. They have convened a design team comprised of ECPS staff members and leaders from other Edgecombe County organizations, including Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, the Health Department, and local churches, that will meet regularly to explore the current research around trauma / ACEs; learn from families who may have experienced trauma; and co-build new interventions and programs.


Both projects are a part of Edgecombe County Public Schools' comprehensive mental health initiative, which is led by Dr. Reida Roberts, Director of Exceptional Children's Services.

Schools on the Move

Carver Elementary: New Year, New Approaches

The students, staff, and families at Carver Elementary School in Pinetops, NC, (population: 1300) are demonstrating that big things can happen in small towns. This year, Carver students will be taught by "specialists" starting in the first grade. Educators who have demonstrated excellent results in specific subjects -- reading, writing, math, science, or social studies -- will be teaching the content they know best. This type of departmentalization, which is common at the secondary level, is being piloted at both Carver Elementary and Coker-Wimberly Elementary to ensure students build the basic skills and the critical thinking skills they'll need for success in middle school, high school, and life.


At Carver, this specialization is being extended to a place where you may least expect it -- the playground! Carver Elementary and Bulluck Elementary are partnering with PlayWorks, an organization that provides a "recess coach" to conduct daily activities that promote both physical fitness and social-emotional learning. Playworks also collaborates with schools to train upper-elementary students as "junior coaches" who will lead their younger peers in recess games.


Speaking of health and wellness, the Pinetops community has worked throughout the spring and summer to cultivate a thriving community garden. The garden is a collaboration between several area churches, the Conetoe Family Life Center, Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, educators, and numerous residents throughout the community. Volunteers have held cooking classes and donated many pounds of food to local families. Want to learn more about the exciting efforts underway at Carver and in Pinetops? Contact Carver Elementary School principal Shannon Castillo!

Caring for the Whole Child at Bulluck Elementary

ECPS educators received a clear message from the community from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity -- providing an excellent education means educating the "whole child." Reaching the Wounded Student and Seven ways to Transform the Lives of Wounded Students, both by Joe Hendershott, empower and encourage educators to give hope to all students and direct them on a path to academic and life success.


This year, teachers and administrators at Bulluck Elementary School will read both texts and utilize Google Classroom to submit answers to discussion questions, participate in reflective journaling, and complete powerful exercises, in an effort to better meet the needs of ALL students -- even those who feel like they have no likelihood of a successful future.


Neighboring educators and schools are welcome to join in these compelling and transformative discussions. Please contact principal Hillary Boutwell if you are interested.

Quick Notes

  • The Blue Ribbon Commission on Educational Equity (BRC), a group of educators, community activists, parents, students, faith-based leaders, and business leaders, will continue to gather throughout the coming school year to provide guidance as the community seeks to develop a clear and compelling answer to the question, "What is the future we imagine for our ECPS scholars and graduates?" BRC members met in August to synthesize feedback gathered at a number of community forums held during the 2016-2017 school year, and to plan additional community engagement opportunities for the 2017-2018 school year. Please check the ECPS website and these newsletters to learn about the stakeholder-informed vision for student success that is taking shape in Edgecombe County, and for the calendar of Town Hall meetings, school visits, and other forums where you can share your input into this vision!

  • Edgecombe County Public Schools is the fortunate recipient of several grants to further our innovation efforts this school year! The Barnhill Family Foundation has committed to funding a continued partnership between ECPS and The Hill Center, with a special focus on literacy training for staff members at Coker-Wimberly Elementary School in the Innovation Zone. In addition, NC lawmakers, the NC State Board of Education, and the NC Department of Public Instruction have awarded ECPS one of six grants to fully fund the proposed pilot for Teacher Compensation Models and Advanced Teaching Roles. This support will enable ECPS to expand Opportunity Culture strategic staffing models throughout the district. Read the News and Observer's coverage here. Finally, Transcend and the NewSchools Venture Fund are supporting a team of ECPS leaders to participate in The Collaborative, a group of ten schools / school districts from across the country who will meet throughout the school year to re-imagine learning. ECPS is so grateful for these amazing partners!

  • Excitement is building in our former media centers at ECPS middle schools as we begin phasing-in the Learning Commons framework. New leaders, known as Digital Learning Coaches, are facilitating learning in the Learning Commons this year. They are working with scholars and teachers to provide technology- and literacy-rich activities and resources. The Digital Learning Coaches and the ECPS Technology Department recently crafted a vision for the Learning Commons: The learning commons will be an instructional hub for students, teachers, and parents that advances learning, literacy, and future ready skills. In pursuit of that vision, we will:

    • Provide a safe and nurturing collaborative space for all patrons

    • Support innovative technology and ideas

    • Facilitate ongoing collaboration with staff and community members

    • Promote reading and access to various resources

    • Foster growth through learning opportunities

    Check out the progress of the Learning Commons as they grow!
    #ecpslearningcommons #amplifyecps

About Innovation ECPS

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Our mission at Innovation ECPS is to create the conditions for our students to become transformational leaders - now and in the future. We seek out cutting-edge solutions to our greatest challenges, pilot promising ideas, and scale strategies that work. Click "Follow" and subscribe to this newsletter to learn more!