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October 30
Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, Oh My!

greekWho would not want to be Zeus or Aphrodite for a day?  How about Poseidon or Athena?

Making this choice alone was a Herculean task for Jessica Esposito’s Blackburn 4th graders.  Many felt caught between a rock and a hard place like Scylla and Charybdis because they could not choose which character to become for their personalized learning project.

The students loved project-based learning as they read and researched Greek Mythology characters.  They also focused on where and why coined terms or phrases came from in Greek Mythology. 

Esposito collaborated with Linda McCray, Instructional Technology facilitator and Cheri Hudson, media coordinator in order to complete the final phase of the project.  First, they walked the students through a step-by-step process of personalizing learning with mobile devices such as iPads, MacBooks, and their own devices.  They could use these for research, script writing and creating their performances.

Next, Esposito, McCray, and Hudson shared different ways of using a green screen to create video with Macbooks and iPads. The students learned how to edit clips and incorporate Discovery Education movies and images as backgrounds.  Parent volunteers helped students practice their performances and create costumes.

The students learned how to upload the final their products to Edmodo, an educational collaborative workspace.  Finally, they learned how to use Google Forms as a way to assess through reflection. 

Esposito said, “Students rose to the challenge of truly becoming a character from Greek Mythology and excelled at project-based learning.”

The link below is to the class SMORE that features pictures of the students as they work on the project.


October 30
Claremont Encourages Reading With “Take a Break with a New Book”

Take a Break with  A New Booka

Sign up sheets are available at the school and should be returned by November 4th.

October 29
Bandys Choral Students Tapped For Honors Chorus

chorusFour students from Bandys High School were recently selected to participate in the North Carolina High School Honors Chorus. Jackie M., Stephanie P., Regan S. and Caleb W. will travel to Winston-Salem in November to represent Catawba County as part of the NC Music Educators Convention. These students are members of the Bandys Mixed Choir and Concert Choir under the direction of Allison Keisler.

The NCMEA Honor Choir provides an opportunity for the top high school singers across the state to come together and work with a nationally acclaimed choral conductor. This is the “highest honor” in North Carolina for high school choral students. This year’s choir is 180 voices strong ranging from 85 different high schools.

These students were selected through an intense audition process which included performing a prepared piece as well as sight singing a line of music. They spent the first month of school preparing for this audition outside of their regular class time. Only about ten percent of students who participate in the audition are selected for this prestigious choir.

This year's chorus will be conducted by Dr. Rosephanye Powell, the professor of voice at Auburn University. The concert will be held at the Stevens Center for Performing Arts in downtown Winston-Salem on November 9th at 3:00pm.

October 29
At SSE, Chrome May Be A Sterling Addition

unpacking1What happens when 15 Chromebooks are housed permanently in every second-through-sixth grade classroom? At St. Stephens Elementary (SSE), the expectation is that teaching and learning will be transformed.

The initiative began last spring when SSE Principal Donna Heavner contacted Dr. Judith Ray, then chief technology officer for Catawba County Schools (CCS). SSE would receive a significant increase in Title I funds for the 2014-2015 school year and Heavner wanted to expand her students’ access to technology. She talked with Ray about the possibility of setting up two new computer labs in the school. They discussed the year-long time frame that would most likely be involved in getting these fixed labs set up

Ray had an alternative proposal. The CCS Technology Department had been investigating the possibilities of using Chromebooks in the district. Chromebooks are cloud-based internet devices that are much cheaper than conventional laptops and desktops. Discussions in the Technology Department had largely centered on piloting Chromebooks at the middle and high schools but the SSE situation presented a different opportunity.

“Have you ever thought about Chromebooks?” Ray asked Heavner? And, thus a multi-month dialog ensued as Heavner worked with the Department on exploring the Chromebook option and making sure it was the best one for SSE. Students would have to learn how to store digital content in Google Drive because Chromebooks do not have hard drives for storage. But since the district was already planning to introduce Google Drive to teachers and students this year, there were already strategies in place to take care of this.

Another question was if the devices would meet the needs of teachers and students in terms of applications, research, productivity, and creativity. Teachers from the targeted grade levels were given a set of Chromebooks to test drive so they could use them with teaching units already in place and to explore new activities. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive.

“I wanted to be sure that teachers were committed to using these tools if we purchased them,” said Heavner. “Having the computers right there in the classroom means teachers won’t waste time travelling back and forth to the computer lab and only being able to sign up for the lab for limited amounts of time. Students will now have almost instantaneous access to information.”

To help teachers develop effective strategies for blending technology and instruction, the Technology Department worked with Heavner in scheduling ongoing professional development.  She wanted to ensure that the training was focused on curriculum rather than on the computers themselves.  Donna Rudisill, the instructional technology facilitator who serves SSE, outlined some of the online tools with which teachers worked.

  • Edmodo – a collaborative space where teachers post assignments, create assessments, assign research and share files with students
  • Destiny eBooks – electronic books that are a part of the school’s media center catalog and can be checked out by students
  • QR Codes – 3-D barcodes that teachers create and students scan to directly access sources of information
  • BrainPop – animated instructional content that supports individual, team, and whole-class learning
  • Discovery Board Builder – a component of the district’s subscription to Discovery Education that allows students to merge their own research, writing, and content creation with existing Discovery Education resources to create virtual boards about unlimited topics.

By the time Heavner crunched and re-crunched her budget numbers and consulted with CCS Federal Programs Director Leslie Barnette, SSE was able to purchase 550 Chromebooks. A project originally planned for third-through-sixth-grade classrooms, was able to be expanded to second grade as well.

Barnette mentioned that Title I funds are invaluable in CCS.  “These are federal funds that are allocated to schools with high free/reduced lunch percentages,” she said.  “They are aimed at boosting resources in schools that have limited access to other sources of funding.”

Principal Donna Heavner and Assistant Principal Robert Turner accepting a shipment
Unloading computers from the delivery truck

While the computers were ordered this summer, it was October before they were all delivered to the school. An “unpacking party” was held on Wednesday, October 22nd, involving students, school staff, and the Technology Department. Teams of fifth and sixth graders removed all Chromebooks from their boxes and broke down the cardboard for recycling. Staff labeled the devices and entered them into inventory. System engineers got them set up for use.

Another consideration in getting ready for the Chromebooks was making sure the SSE wireless infrastructure was upgraded to handle this number of computers. Chief Technology Officer Marty Sharpe allocated additional wireless access points that were hung during the summer to make sure that all students in second-sixth classrooms would be able to simultaneously connect.

Finally, a decision had to be made as to how to store the devices. Since each second-sixth classroom would have its own computers, mobile carts would be unnecessary. The Technology Department purchased locking cabinets to place in each classroom.

Heavner can now answer the students’ question: “When are we getting our new computers?” With the teachers receiving another round of professional development on October 30th, her plan is to take the computers to the classrooms on October 31st. “When students return to school on November 3rd, the computers will be in the classroom cabinets, fully charged and ready to use,” Heavner said. “I am so excited I can hardly stand it!”

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Federal Programs Director Leslie Barnette and Principal Donna Heavner help students unpack

Heavner begin interviewed by WHKY’s Hal Rowe
October 29
Title I PAC Holds Fall Meeting

More than 70 parents, students, and CCS staff members recently attended the Title I Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meeting.  The purpose of the meeting was to provide parents with updates on federal programs, give them input on parent involvement policies and compacts, and to help parents learn ways they can help their child achieve in school. 

Mark Story, CCS Career-Technical Education director, gave a presentation for parents on the career and technical opportunities available through Catawba County Schools. 

Kristie Brown, LEGO Educational consultant, led adults and children through a hands-on lesson involving LEGOs’ “Learn to Learn” kit.  This interactive kit was fun for the students and taught parents questioning techniques that help build their child’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Leslie Barnette, Federal Programs director, and Dana Greene, ESL coordinator, conducted the meeting.  The Title I PAC will meet again in the spring.  For more information contact Leslie Barnette at 828-464-8333.

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blocks Kelly
October 26
CCS Teachers, Principals, and Schools Recognized as Catawba Valley’s “Best” and “Finest”

BestofEach year the Hickory Daily Record (HDR) provides an opportunity for readers to vote for the “best” and “favorite” teachers, principals, and schools in the Catawba Valley.  Catawba County Schools received several recognitions in the 2014 survey.

Best Elementary School, Clyde Campbell

Best Elementary School Teacher, Brian Smith, formerly at Lyle Creek

Best Elementary School Principal, Donna J. Heavner at St. Stephens Elementary

Best Middle School, Mill Creek

Best Middle School Principal, Maria Ballard, Mill Creek

Best High School, St. Stephens

Best High School Teacher, Jean Bailey at St. Stephens

Best Overall School, St. Stephens High School

Finest Elementary School Teacher, Rachel Williams, Sherrills Ford

Finest Elementary School Principal, Dyanne Sherrill, Mt. View

Finest High School Principal, Jeff Taylor, St. Stephens High

Finest Middle School, Arndt Middle

The “Best” and “Finest” recognitions were published in the Friday, October 24th edition of the HDR.

October 26
Catawba County Library Needs Your Input

CountyLibraryWhat Catawba County Library resources do you need and use? How can the Library increase its value to you and others? Library personnel want to know how they can best serve our community and are engaging in a strategic planning processes to provide guidance over the coming years.

Please help CCLS effectively plan for the future by offering your input in a survey designed to let you outline your needs. Your responses will remain confidential and anonymous although some statements may be used in future reports that analyze results. Thank you.

To participate in the survey click the following link:

October 23
Claremont Elementary Observes Walk to School Day

On Wednesday, October 8th Claremont Elementary School students, parents and staff participated in the International Walk to School Day.  Started by Safe Kids and FedEx in 2000, this program strives to bring attention to pedestrian safety. 

Participants met at St. Marks Church in downtown Claremont and walked together to the school.  The Catawba Valley Medical Center outreach staff supported the walk by recruiting the Claremont Police Department to help as crossing guards and assist with pedestrian safety.  The day concluded with teachers modeling appropriate attire for walking along streets and sidewalks, such as brightly colored shirts, pants and reflective gear.

Walk to school day

October 23
SSHS’s Hoke is Second Hometown Hero for CCS

HokeThe second Catawba County Schools Hometown Hero has been named and he is Stephen Hoke, visual arts teacher at St. Stephens High School.  Hoke is shown at left, receiving his award from Bob Dill, representative of the Charles Monet Law Firm that sponsors the award.

Hoke earned the award by being the teacher with the most votes from Catawba County in the law firm’s “Vote for Your Favorite Teacher” outreach program.  He received a $250 Visa gift card to buy supplies for his classroom and he was awarded a pizza party to share with his students.

October 22
Folk Artist Visits Balls Creek

Duke Energy Foundation recently provided a grant that enabled folk artist Theresa Gloster and Ginny Zeller, education director from the Hickory Museum of Art, to visit art classes at Balls Creek Elementary.

Gloster, a local North Carolina Folk artist from Lenoir, shared her artwork and also worked with students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The students created a painting based on a personal experience or idea. These paintings were then displayed at the Lake Norman Folk Art Festival.

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