Let me extend to you a warm welcome. South Mecklenburg High School is a great place to be, and the 2015-2016 school year, our 56th year serving students in southern Mecklenburg County, promises to be our best year yet!
The North Carolina State Board of Education has outlined a mission and set of expectations that serve as a framework for our plans, and directly relate to some of the initiatives described. "Every public school student will graduate from high school globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and will be prepared for life in the 21st Century". In order for this to occur, our mandate is that:
· NC public schools will produce globally competitive students.
· NC public schools will be led by 21st century professionals.
· NC public school students will be healthy and responsible.
· Leadership will guide innovation in NC public schools.
· NC public schools will be governed and supported by 21st Century systems.
It will be our seventh year as a CMS World Languages Magnet, serving as a continuation school for Smith Language Academy and Collingswood receiving language students from across the south part of the district. In addition to study in Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese, some students elect to study Latin via the NC Virtual Public School. Due to the skills our faculty members bring to the program, we look forward this year to adding club/activity related opportunities for students to explore interest in partnerships with our community to find applications for students to use language skills in job-related settings as we build internship and related opportunities into the program offerings for students who have mastery level skills. We see our language program as one way to ensure that our students are better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Within this program, students at all levels will be given the opportunity to explore global awareness and will have the opportunity for a high level of language mastery with applications to higher education and the workplace.
This year we begin the third year of our IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Art) Academy with the third class of freshmen moving to their sophomore year and an incoming group of freshmen joining the group. Students take most core classes in a cohort of students and teachers tied to the academy, and will take two required "elective" classes in preparation for the work before them. They will be trained in development and use of critical thinking, project management skills, and in a formal creative design process called design thinking. Sophomores will begin to take part in a series of classes in a specialization of their choice, in which they will apply skills and develop them more deeply. Students will also apply these skills in core classes, participate in project based learning tied to various initiatives that will further develop their skill sets. They will continue to move through a four year sequence, reinforcing initial skills and applying them in career directions selected by the students. The academy has been developed with the support of a community advisory board, and is now under the direction of Ms. Barbara Wasserman. We look forward to it providing more opportunities for students to learn and apply 21st century skills.
Exciting things continue to be happening in our math/science/technology building, located on the north side of campus along Park Road. It houses many of our math and science classes, along with CTE programs in technology and medical sciences. These include Project Lead the Way courses in engineering and biomedical science, through which students can earn AP weighted and college credit, now that we are an accredited Project Lead the Way school. Labs house all science classes and provide students with the opportunity to engage in learning through experiments, demonstrations, and technology. Each science lab is equipped with a Promethean (interactive) Board connected to the internet, television feed, and a DVD player. Teachers continue training in their use. Math classes are augmented with technology through the use of LCD projection (and some Promethean Boards) which enables teachers to use software to enhance student learning. This will support teachers in their effort to make math and science more relevant and meaningful to students. CTE classes use facilities designed for Project Lead the Way where those classes are taught. A total of six computer labs are available for students use in this facility in both accessing and demonstrating new knowledge and skills. Together with increasing access and versatility in applied technology through additional labs, laptop carts, and additional interactive Promethean Boards in core and elective areas augment instruction and engage students at a higher level this year. In addition , we are excited to add classroom sets of Chromebooks that will be available to freshmen in classes that serve them, enabling teachers to more clearly differentiate and target students' needs and interests and engage them with the use of technology.
At South Mecklenburg, we recognize that leadership is a shared responsibility. To that end, we share opportunities to assume leadership within our faculty and staff in the effort to achieve all of our goals. Teachers and staff have a significant voice, as do our students and their parents, and all have important influence in the decisions we make. As principal, I strive to provide direction, to hold us on course, and to facilitate a truly collaborative process that involves the entire school community in shaping our future. We are organized around units called professional learning communities, and this year instructional leadership is provided to all through an ILT (Instructional Leadership Team) who will spearhead our efforts to enhance literacy skill development in all content areas, and their efforts to help students stretch and grow. In 2014-15, our growth index (school impact) score was third highest among NC high schools and fourth highest statewide across all levels, indicative of the success of these efforts to date. They join other organizational units which include committees and sub-committees, departments, content teams, and other task-oriented units in which professionals collaborate to use data in defining and solving challenges related to student learning. Teachers are encouraged and supported in being innovative in their approaches, and accountable to generate and use data to monitor the effectiveness of practices in light of our goal: student learning. These efforts are further supported by our use of the DPI and CMS-generated data sources, offering access to a wide variety of data points on individual students as well as classes throughout the school year. We also continue to work on the development and use of ongoing, formative data to direct our efforts in meeting student needs.
We are increasingly sensitive about the need to make connections among disciplines and vertically, from one level to the next, and the need to provide a foundation of common basic skills that are taught and reinforced in all content areas. Continued attention to the curricular and instructional changes will result in continued and additional attention to literacy and mathematical skills, directed by facilitators in both areas, with application across disciplines and building capacity and reflective of increased rigor will be apparent in our classrooms. Teachers who teach students at each grade level will use this framework to build foundational skills which set the stage for continued development in these areas.
At our school, we strive to maintain balance among the various components of a very effective high school. We value the importance of the teaching and learning that occurs in our classrooms every day, focused on growth for each and every student. We strive to provide meaningful activities to ensure that all of our students are engaged so that they can be successful learners, and we implement best practices of instruction to do so. While working to close the achievement gaps among groups of students, and support learners who struggle, we also provide encouragement to students who can stretch themselves beyond what they have done in the past. We work hard to be sure that our courses are both rigorous and relevant, to ensure that each and every student, regardless of academic performance, is challenged to grow toward the full potential their best efforts can attain, with our ongoing support and encouragement. The graduating class of 2015 demonstrated the impact of these efforts with a cohort graduation rate of 92.3% and brought in over $10.5 million in scholarship offers.
Building upon a tradition of positive and respectful relationships, we strive to improve our ability to establish and maintain a climate in which each individual is valued, and celebration of our diversity as a school community is central to our culture. As a school we seek to provide the support and encouragement that each student needs to achieve his or her potential. We model positive interaction among adults at school and between school personnel and members of the larger school community and promote development of a Culture of Caring through district initiatives that complement our own efforts.
In a sense, the beginning of every school year represents a rebirth of sorts. As we open the 2015-2016 school year, we will effect a new beginning, with more than 2950 students, and many staff members who are new to us, in large part to complement our continued growth. Building on our past success, and utilizing new opportunities to grow in ways that will enhance the South Meck experience for all, we will continue to re-set our compass, examine and recommit to our core values, to work together to be sure that we provide the best possible high school experience for each and every student at our school, and build on the new influences our school can utilize to make this the best year South Mecklenburg High School has ever seen.
As a Sabre, each student can count on being valued as an individual with unique talents, skills, aspirations and needs. While every good high school provides quality instruction to support academic growth, at South Meck we do not settle for being a "good" high school. We believe that our students deserve a GREAT high school, one that attends to all the factors that make the high school years rich and productive for each and every student, and help to stretch each student to realize goals and dreams that may seem out of reach. Count on us to go the extra mile to provide an extra measure of service for our students, and for our community. We encourage all in our school community to have a great school year – the best ever, with our collective efforts to ensure success for each and for all! We pledge to serve every student, every day, for a better tomorrow.
Dr. Maureen Furr, Principal
South Mecklenburg High School