Many individuals are familiar with the story of the mystical Phoenix - a bird of fire that ends up burning itself only to be reborn from its ashes. Each time, a newer and stronger Phoenix emerges. This story is also the story of North Rowan High School.
Earlier today, our school board made the decision to continue to keep North Rowan High School open for the foreseeable future. That was great news for many in our community. For several years, North Rowan High has been struggling with enrollment and making progress under our current testing and accountability program. A lot of the lack of success could be tied to many factors including declining economic opportunities in our community resulting in less students. Additionally, there has been a variety of different leaders in the school over the past 10 years. Approximately two years ago, our current principal, Meredith Williams, was appointed to serve as principal. Mrs. Williams is a homegrown product of the North Rowan community. She graduated from our high school while earning the prestigious Morehead Scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill. I can attest that students earning this scholarship are often the strongest students in their classes and continue to do amazing things to improve the lives of their communities.
Mrs. Williams is quite humble and always refocuses the spotlight on others whether students or staff. Her humility is only matched by her vision and disruptive thinking. You may be wondering what disruptive thinking is. Some would define it as thinking outside the box. But to use that analogy would presume that Mrs. Williams was at some point inside the box and moved outside of its edges. In actually, she has never let her thinking be defined by a worn out box. Instead, she has transformed into a designer where new ways of being and doing things are imagined and implemented that disrupt the status quo and eliminates the mediocre. In actuality, it is her willingness to share Design Thinking and empower her staff that has resulted in our school creating learning experiences that matter and transform the lives of our students.
Under her leadership, the school has continued to made consistent academic growth. While we still have far to go, we are making growth and with our board of education deciding to leave North Rowan High School open, the hard work and tremendous progress that has occurred has been acknowledged. I applaud our board for their willingness to solicit community input. I know that this was not always a pleasant activity as many individuals in our community were very passionate about North Rowan High. However, it is encouraging to see how supportive our community was and the passion that many had for North Rowan High School. I know that this was not an easy decision for our board of education as our district is struggling with declining enrollment. We currently have over 5,000 open student seats. But sometimes, we have to make decisions that best serve students and our board showed this today. They recognized that the curriculum redesigns and the positive changes at North Rowan High School are making a difference. With their votes of support, our board is saying to our community and students that “we believe in you and want you to be successful.” Financially this will challenge our board to make tough choices but I am firmly convinced that this decision was made in the best interest of students and I send my gratitude to our board of education.
As we move forward, it is time for North Rowan High to be reborn. We need those strong supporters to continue to support our school, students, community, and board of education. We need individuals to join our PTA and Athletic Boosters. We need people in our community to serve as positive and encouraging role models for our students and let them know that they are valued and loved. We need to hold each other to high expectations and demand nothing less than our best from each other. We will continue to change the trajectory of our students. With each hurdle, we will continue to be reborn and create a world class education for our students that disrupts much of the traditional idea of school where we create winners and losers. Instead, we will transform into a model that others will want to emulate and become.
As we evolve, we must ensure that our community remains fully supportive of our school and students. We cannot have anything less than full support. We must also be prepared to support our leaders and build each other up. While we have passed this hurdle, let’s renew our focus on helping to ensure that each student at North Rowan High School has the maximum opportunities available to be successful.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.