The 2011-2012 school year ended with the last day of classes June 8, closing out a year that brought some significant changes to the district. But the most important event of the year might have been the lack of change in academic focus. As Interim Superintendent Hugh E. Hattabaugh promised – in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes -- at the start of the year, CMS did not “drift, nor lie at anchor” in 2011-2012. Instead, the district kept a steady focus on academic achievement.
The year began with a bang: In September, CMS won the Broad Prize, the largest such prize in urban education. The Broad Prize recognizes districts for overall academic achievement coupled with closing achievement gaps. The prestigious prize packs some tangible benefits, with winners receiving more than half a million dollars in scholarship money for the class of 2012.
National recognitions for district academic progress continued to come in throughout the year.
CMS fourth-graders outperformed their peers in math in other urban districts, and ranked in the top three for reading. Eighth-graders ranked first in reading, and in the top three in math. The NAEP tests, given in all 50 states and in about three dozen urban districts, are often called the nation’s report card.
CMS magnet schools were recognized at the annual national conference for magnet schools. Three magnets were recognized as schools of distinction. Ten were named schools of excellence. And two won individual honors that recognized them as the best in the country, and carried a cash prize.
Collinswood Language Academy received a global award for its Spanish dual-language immersion program when it was named an International Spanish Academy School of the Year by the Spanish Ministry of Education. The award is given to schools that demonstrate excellence in language education; only seven schools among the 500 dual-language academies in the U.S. received the honor.
Two CMS schools took first place in the 2012 Odyssey of the Mind World Competition. Community House Middle and Beverly Woods Elementary won top honors at the Ames, Iowa competition. It was the second year in a row that Beverly Woods placed first.
CMS schools also soared at the state Science Olympiad Tournament. Piedmont Middle took top honors, and Jay M. Robinson Middle placed second. J.M. Alexander Middle placed fourth. CMS high schools also performed well: Ardrey Kell earned a seventh-place finish, Myers Park placed eighth, Providence was 12th and North Meck was 18th.
The graduating class of 2012 had more than 8,100 members. Final scholarship numbers will come in later this summer, but 28 received Broad scholarships. Nine CMS seniors were National Merit Scholars.
As CMS prepares for incoming superintendent Heath Morrison, who begins his new job July 2, the district is also celebrating a year of academic achievement and success. Congratulations, class of 2012!
Some scenes from around the district on the last day of school:
Parents and family members packed Highland Creek Elementary to celebrate the promotion of the first class that began at the school as kindergarteners.
Principal Stephen Esposito noted that Highland Creek’s preliminary test information shows that the school achieved high growth and the soon-to-be sixth-graders had the highest end-of-grade composite scores in the school’s history.
These students aren’t just prepared for sixth grade, Esposito told the audience. “They’re ready for sixth grade and a half.”
Greenway Park Elementary School also celebrated its fifth-graders moving on to middle school, but they weren't the only students celebrating the year's accomplishments. Alice Jordan's first-grade class had parents galore on hand to watch their sons and daughters earn Accelerated Reader recognitions, honor roll designations and attendance awards. They weren't the only ones, as grades K-4 had similar classroom ceremonies all across campus.
Miss Jordan's class then joined the rest of the first grade in performing as part of the musical portion of the fifth-grade promotion ceremony. At that ceremony, students like Jennifer Lopez Hernandez and Samadj Smith received their awards for extraordinary effort and academic success. Five students at Greenway Park were recipients of the Presidential Fitness Gold Award, with ten taking home the Silver prize.
At Ridge Road Middle, Principal Jametta Tanner surprised seventh grader James Hoover during morning announcements with a letter and certificate from President Barack Obama. James received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which honors outstanding young people for their community service. James works regularly with Ridge Road’s media, including the school announcements. He also organized a health fair for the school with participation from community organizations and Chick-Fil-A.
At Endhaven Elementary, first-grade teacher Sara Aspillaga explained why she hasn’t started packing up her classroom yet. “This has been their home for 10 months. I just wanted it to still feel like home at the end of the school year – we’re still doing a little bit of teaching on the very last day.”
Her students were reflecting on some of what they’d learned this year, which ranged from PowerPoints to rocks.
“This year, I learned how to do a PowerPoint. You can read, write and show pictures better with a PowerPoint,” said David Rios.
“My teacher has made this an exciting year. I learned how rocks are identified. To identify, you can rub them on a piece of tile to see if it makes a streak,” said Elizabeth “Biffy” Skeels.
Students were equally reflective on the year at Ardrey Kell.
“This year was definitely a change from middle school,” said ninth-grader Danielle Davis. “Next year though, I expect to do a lot of cool things that the sophomores get to do. Sophomores get to do more and have lots of fun.”
Tenth-grader Rachel Spaurling was buffing up her attendance record, coming to school during a make-up exam day. “I am aiming for perfect attendance. I haven’t missed a day my ninth or tenth grade years. I finally feel relief though that I made it through.”
Eleventh-grader Amber Conrad was ready to rest. “I’m glad I’m done with my really hard classes from this year.,” she said. “This is my first year taking AP courses and it was a struggle. I am looking forward to the break.”
More than 200 volunteers from Deloitte worked at Harding High and Reedy Creek Elementary today. The volunteer projects included building furniture for an outdoor classroom, painting picnic tables, cleaning trailer areas and planting flowers. The volunteer mission is part of Deloitte’s Impact Day, an annual celebration of their long-term commitment to community involvement.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to CMS for the summer and, for our graduating seniors, to embark on their next life journey. East Mecklenburg High School's empty halls and classrooms were a testament to these goodbyes; well...almost empty. After all of the students had left, diligent teachers and administrators stayed behind. Some, like Nurse Thompson, were wrapping up their years by packing away textbooks and classroom supplies. Others, like Madame Smith, sat alone in their classrooms, preparing curricula for the 2012-2013 school year. It's the end of a tremendous school year, to be sure, but CMS continues to work to make sure that the beginning of the next is just as tremendous!