Teacher Leadership & School Choice in the Southwest

The Department of Public Instruction’s District Visits and Voices team visited Kannapolis City Schools and Gaston County Schools in the southwest district in mid-October.

The Department of Public Instruction’s District Visits and Voices team visited Kannapolis City Schools and Gaston County Schools in the southwest district in mid-October. Throughout the visit, the focus was centered on leadership and teacher recruitment and retention.

Beginning the day at Kannapolis City Schools, N.C. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and her team met with Superintendent Kevin Garay and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Chris Triolo and key district leaders. Spending the morning at Fred L. Wilson Elementary, a dual language elementary school, the DVV team witnessed the beginning teacher support and teacher leadership through investment in professional development. Through a grow-your-own teacher leadership model, Kannapolis City provides levels of support to beginning through veteran teachers. The district is invested in professional development by establishing support systems for teachers, having a clear framework for curriculum design, and creating stability through learning teams which consist of grade level teams, professional learning opportunities and multiple levels of leadership and support. Kannapolis City builds a strong culture of collaboration and support by investing in new teachers through monthly meetings and check-ins to ensure longevity and sustainability within the district. Teachers are given autonomy, trust and support to thrive and grow within the district.

Truitt and her team continued the day at Gaston County Schools, where they met with Superintendent Dr. Jeff Booker, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Melissa Balknight, senior staff and school board members. Despite Gaston County being one of the larger districts in the state, the county’s leadership fosters a small-district feel through its personal approach to education as it was originally built around neighborhood schools. Gaston County took a unique approach to school choice by creating academies at the elementary, middle and high school level. Embedded within the schools are six academy programs: career, collegiate prep, health sciences, leadership, public service, and technology and industrial engineering academies. Truitt’s staff visited Pleasant Ridge Elementary and Cramerton Middle School and witnessed highly engaged teachers and students captivated by project-based learning. The leadership of Gaston County supported its teachers in every possible way to foster student success and to grow teachers into the leaders they were meant to be.

Now what? Through the District Visits and Voices team, Truitt and her team witnessed promising practices that reflect the spirit of the human capital pipeline in a scalable way in Kannapolis City Schools. Additionally, Gaston County highlights school choice and builds a culture of collaboration for teachers and students to become leaders. Through school choice, students grow in awareness of post-secondary opportunities to ensure they remain engaged citizens in North Carolina.

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