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Making progress / July 23, 2014

Dear Viewpoint,

Four years ago, Dr. James Thornton was given the task of increasing the on-time graduation rate, dual enrollment program, number of students graduating with an advanced studies diploma, and number of career and technical certificates. As presented at school board meetings, Dr. Thornton and his team have successfully completed all of these tasks with great success achieved by our students.

The Mecklenburg County School Board will be discussing the renegotiation of Dr. Thornton’s contract at the next scheduled school board meeting during closed meeting, as this is a personnel issue. A vote will be held during the action portion of the meeting. The board collectively believes he has done an impressive job. He and his staff have reached out to the division staff, parents, and the community to develop a five year strategic plan. He’s initiated 21st century skills such as innovation, problem solving, and thinking outside the box to meet the needs of our students.

Through the pilot Project Based Learning Program at both middle schools, students achieved higher scores on the SOLs and demonstrated proficiency in 21st century skills than through the traditional classroom. According to preliminary data from this year, the SOL scores have increased while we continue to expand and implement project based learning division wide.

Chase City Elementary and La Crosse Elementary School are both getting ready to expand project based learning with an emphasis on the arts. This integrated art curriculum will include piano and violin classes for all students K through 5. Clarksville and South Hill Elementary are researching the possibility of implementing project based learning with a focus on STEM for all students next fall. Middle and high schools will research to ensure a smooth transition of these initiatives started in our elementary schools. In an effort to develop these initiatives, it is important to provide consistency of leadership from our superintendent through a contract extension.

As we look to the future with SOLs, we are confident that all schools will once again be accredited. If we look back at history when the first SOLs started in 1995, the state allowed a three year transition before reporting accreditation in 1998. Mecklenburg took an additional 5 years after the 1998 school year to gain accreditation. With the more rigorous SOLs, we feel we can make full accreditation in the near future with a consistent message and vision from our leadership team.


Robert Puryear
Chairman, Mecklenburg County School Board

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