9/1/2022 5:25:00 PM Blink, blink - and just like that, it's already a new school year
by ANNETTE JOYCE
9112 W. Market Street, Colfax
Enrollment: 585 (as of mid-August)
Ashley Garcia, principal
"If you can dream it, you can do it!"
Colfax Elementary principal Ashley Garcia's excitement for the coming school year is contagious. With pandemic restrictions in the rear-view mirror, she said she and her staff are eager to make the learning environment more fun as they work to achieve excellence.
"Our theme this year is 'Dream Big, Vikings,' based on the Walt Disney quote, 'If you can dream it, you can do it,'" Garcia said. "The teachers are being motivated by a thought from the Disney movie favorite, 'Mary Poppins' - 'In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.' With that in mind, I feel like we're starting the year off strong."
Thanks to the PTO, sensory pathways have been installed in the hallways. Made up of large, colorful decals that have been secured to the floors, these pathways have different themes, such as outer space, circus and pirates. Students will walk, hop and twist their way through the short courses, offering them a chance to work off some energy before refocusing on their school work.
"There are so many different, fun ways that these can be used," Garcia said. "They're almost like a reward, giving students an incentive to line up quickly, get the wiggles out and even decompress after focusing on a particularly difficult assignment."
After successfully beginning the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program last year, Garcia is happy to report an expansion in that area with the creation of the school's MakerSpace, which is available to all students.
"This is a room for kids to be creative and innovative and features different areas where they can express themselves through the design and building process," she said.
Several new teachers have joined the elementary school's staff, including an art teacher, two kindergarten teachers, three third grade teachers, an adaptive teacher, and an EC teacher. Garcia said three assistant teachers and a new curriculum facilitator have also been added.
Northern Guilford Elementary
3801 N.C. 150, Greensboro
Enrollment: 635 (as of mid-August)
Robert Richmond, principal
Northern Guilford Elementary principal Robert Richmond said he and his staff are primarily focused on one thing this school year - "working as hard as possible to grow students and strengthen relationships between the school and our families.
"Our motto is 'Imagine Extraordinary,'" Richmond said. "This year we want to ensure our school is being extraordinary in all we do. We will be highlighting students as they are caught being extraordinary."
Returning students will find lots to be excited about this year. First, Richmond said they are hoping to bring back the Northern Post-Secondary Experiences, which was on pause during COVID. The program gives all students in grades 2-5 the opportunity to visit a different college or community college each year.
"Fifth grade will visit Wake Forest, fourth grade will visit NC A&T, third grade will visit GTCC, and second grade will visit UNCG," Richmond said. "If a student is with us in grades 2-5, that student will have had four different post-secondary visits."
As for what's new this school year, the art room patio is sporting seven new picnic tables that were purchased by the PTA.
"We will also create a new room for classes to use that contains brand new alternative seating for students, and we're in the process of redoing our NEST (Northern Engineering, Science, and Technology) classroom," Richmond added.
"We are very excited to have a stable administration and staff that have worked hard to garner great relationships with our community," Richmond said. "We thank the community and our amazing PTA for their support as we imagine extraordinary."
Oak Ridge Elementary
2050 Oak Ridge Road, Oak Ridge
Enrollment: 695 (as of mid-August)
Penny Loschin, principal
Principal Penny Loschin is excited about several new programs being introduced at Oak Ridge Elementary this year.
First, there's a new math program.
"Our school was selected to pilot a new math program, Illustrative Math," Loschin said. "This program brings collaborative learning opportunities for our students, along with problem-solving contexts."
Thanks to funding provided by the school's PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), the school is implementing LiveSchool, an easy, user-friendly platform for the staff to recognize positive student behavior as well as document negative behavior; through the program, students will earn points for good behavior and hard work and be able to participate in fun events. Loschin said parents will have real-time information through the use of the LiveSchool parent app.
To increase student safety, a new dismissal procedure is being introduced that involves the use of pre-assigned, printed car tags for parents and bookbag tags for bus riders and daycare riders.
"Our PTO also generously purchased this for the school," Loschin said.
Returning students will notice the school has had some physical updates, and more are planned throughout the school year.
"We are in the process of continuing to enhance the aesthetics of the school, which was started last year with a new media center makeover," Loschin said. "This summer, the front office received a makeover, various furniture both inside and outside has been painted, and we are currently waiting on inspirational quotes to be installed over door frames.
"Future plans include a possible mural in the cafeteria, additional outside learning classrooms and the addition of picnic tables and benches," she added.
2006 Pleasant Ridge Road, Greensboro
Enrollment: 674 (as of mid-August)
Michelle Sciandra, principal
"I am honored to begin my second year as principal of Pearce Elementary," said Michelle Sciandra, adding that's she's especially excited about plans for the coming year.
Students this year are being introduced to a new theme: "Be Intentional."
"Intentionality serves as the backbone of our instructional approach, building the professional capacity of teachers, decision making, relationship building and growing all Pearce Patriots to realize and maximize their true potential," Sciandra said.
"The wealth of knowledge in this building equates to over 900 years of experience and we are excited to have eight new staff members who have joined the best school in the universe," she continued. "This is a testament to our commitment to education."
Last year the school's PTA was able to purchase 18 Promethean Boards (interactive whiteboards) to maximize student learning through technology.
"Our Boosterthon fundraiser kickoff is during the month of September, when we hope to raise enough funds to outfit all of our classrooms with Promethean Boards," Sciandra said.
She added that after-school clubs that help build on students' interests, strengthen relationships, and challenge the students will be in full swing.
"It is truly a pleasure to be part of a community where parents, teachers and students support one another, strive to build positive relationships, and promote social-emotional and academic growth," the principal said.
"Our school has established a reputation for exceptional student achievement in and out of the classroom. I look forward to building on this success by honoring traditions, listening to stakeholder feedback and ensuring equitable learning practices."
8025 U.S. 158, Stokesdale
Enrollment: 485 (as of mid-August)
Allison Bennett, principal
In her second year as principal of Stokesdale Elementary, Allison Bennett eagerly welcomes students back to a more inviting environment.
The interiors of the three main school buildings, which were built in 1926, 1982 and 2006, have all been renewed with a fresh coat of paint. To add a bit of decoration and inspiration, teachers have selected a quote and placed it on the wall outside their classrooms. The halls also sport new monitors to keep everyone updated on school happenings including recognitions, lunch menus and events.
There are also some exterior improvements around the school. Vulcan Materials Company in Stokesdale recently donated about seven loads of crushed rock screening to cover the playground areas and give them a cleaner appearance. In addition, the school's PTO has purchased a new K-2 playground for younger students.
Bennett said four new teachers and an assistant teacher have joined the school staff. She also mentioned the school is continuing its partnership with Operation Xcel, a Stokesdale-based nonprofit that provides afterschool tutoring for referred students.
Two Curriculum Nights will be held this year to give parents the opportunity to meet with teachers and devise strategies for helping their children get the most from school.
"It's going to be a great year," Bennett affirmed. "Without COVID restrictions, it'll be nice to see the kids' smiling faces again and get the parents back in."
7501 Summerfield Road, Summerfield
Enrollment: 586 (as of mid-August)
Denise Ebbs, principal
Summerfield Elementary students are returning to an educational environment that focuses on "real-world learning."
"Students will take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations," said Denise Ebbs, who is starting her second year as the school's principal.
Along with this new focus, Ebbs is happy to report that "art, music, and PE will continue to be offered to develop students' creativity."
Ebbs said the school's PTA is working on a capital drive to raise money for new interactive projectors for each classroom, and the new technology will be instrumental in helping teachers more effectively work with their students.
"We are excited to begin school and look forward to seeing our students learn and achieve," Ebbs said.
4049 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro
Enrollment: 756 (as of mid-August)
Tracey Duhaime, principal
"Be safe, be respectful, be responsible"
Greensboro Academy, a public charter school operated by National Heritage Academies, is committed to educating the whole child through its vision of living out set core values.
Those core values are: "Behave with care, do the right thing always, make our school the best choice for parents and students, take ownership for the success of our students, and act with discipline to sustain our academic success and financial viability."
While this vision continues to be the school's primary directive, principal Tracey Duhaime is excited about a new initiative this year - the moral focus calendar of the month - which further builds upon the core values.
"Our moral focus calendar of the month includes a manner of the month, a food donation to Backpack Beginnings, and moral focus-driven intergrade level activities and partnerships," Duhaime said. "Everything that we do this school year is through the lens of building relationships with our students and families. From our core behavior system to our Boosterthon Fundraiser, we are working as a school to be safe, be respectful, and be responsible."
There will also be some fresh faces at Greensboro Academy, which welcomes four new teachers to its staff: Nora Bridge, fourth grade; Molly Hartness, sixth grade ELA; Tom Pizzaro, seventh grade math; and Aaron Duhaime, seventh/eighth grade science.
"By partnering with our parents and our community, we are confident this is going to be a great school year for everyone," Duhaime said.
3800 Oak Ridge Road, Summerfield
Enrollment: 727 (as of mid-August)
Michele Harris, principal
After serving two years as assistant principal, Michele Harris took over as Revolution Academy's principal last March and is excited as she begins her first full year in this position.
An educator for 27 years, Harris has K-8 teaching experience in North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas. She was also instrumental in helping start Revolution Academy, which is now in its third year.
Harris noted there are many new things happening at the school this year, foremost of which is the addition of the eighth grade. The school started in 2020 with K-6 grades and added seventh grade last year.
"This year we're a K-8 charter school and we're full with a waiting list," Harris said.
To help ensure students and staff remain safe, the school has added a safety team that consists of parent volunteers who are either retired or off-duty police officers, firefighters, EMS respondedrs or have served in the military.
"They're on campus every day looking for areas that might pose a danger," the principal said.
Eleven new staff members have joined Revolution's team, including eighth grade teachers, tutors, teacher assistants and a librarian.
"Our library is another big thing this year," Harris noted. "All the students and parents are excited about it."
The school had a room for a library last year, but it wasn't stocked with books. When students returned to school last week, they found librarian Carolyn Haines in the process of setting the library up and filling the shelves with books.
Revolution Academy has also expanded its sports program, which now includes softball and girls and boys soccer.
Summerfield Charter Academy
5303 U.S. 220 North, Summerfield
Enrollment: 770 (as of mid-August)
Rudy Swofford, principal
For Principal Rudy Swofford, the most exciting thing happening at Summerfield Charter Academy this year is being able to bring back activities that were cancelled because of the pandemic.
"We will have our SCA Parent Academy this year, which will offer trainings specifically for our parents around topics like school safety, online safety for students, and state assessments," Swofford said.
Also returning are moral focus days, in which Swofford said "everyone dresses alike (wears blue) and school administration leads special moral focus assemblies on that day."
To raise the level of students' enthusiasm, "Friday Fun" has been added to the monthly schedule.
On this day, "We will ask staff and scholars to come dressed along a theme such as 'career day' on the Friday before Labor Day," Swofford said. "We want the school experience to be fun and creative for our staff, scholars and families."
Swofford made sure that fun and creativity were part of the professional development staff members participated in prior to the new school year getting underway.
"We included fun activities aligning with our theme of GROW," he said.
As an example, the staff created planters which decorate the front of the building. There was also a chair dance contest that is being shared on the school's YouTube page. In addition, the group did paint by numbers, and a local artist and school board member walked the staff through creating a GROW theme painting.
Finally, The Flying Hatchet, a mobile axe throwing business, was brought in so staff members could enjoy a little hatchet throwing at school before the new year got underway.
"We are poised and ready for the school year and looking forward to maintaining our reputation as a student-centered caring community of academic excellence," Swofford said.
3600 Drawbridge Parkway, Greensboro
Enrollment: 765 (As of mid-August)
Thea McHam, principal
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much!"
As principal of Kernodle Middle, Thea McHam is happy to be kicking off the new school year with some new additions to her team of staff members.
First, Alex Wertz is the school's new assistant principal. Wertz has degrees from Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After working over a decade with Guilford County Schools - in most recent years as curriculum facilitator at Northwest Guilford High School - this will be his first year on the Cougar campus.
Kernodle also welcomes four new teachers: Katherine Bunnell (art); Nicole Rowley (EC); Katie Martin (band); and Pam George (math).
"All of these new teachers are eager to start the new year and start some new programs within their areas," McHam said.
The coming year also brings a new school motto: "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much!"
"We know it takes a village, and with the support of our community, students, parents and staff, we will make this the best school year ever," McHam said. "Our Open House was amazing, and we were all so excited to see our students and parents come out to meet the staff."
McHam noted the school also has a new PTA board.
"We are thrilled about the Boosterthon event they are sponsoring this school year to further engage our students and parents," she said. "It's the beginning of a phenomenal school year of working and engaging with our Kernodle family and we can't wait to begin the journey."
Northern Guilford Middle
616 Simpson-Calhoun Road, Greensboro
Enrollment: 792 (as of mid-August)
Kris Wheat, principal
"Expect Excellence Every Day!"
Kris Wheat brings an impressive range of experience to her position as the new principal of Northern Guilford Middle School (NGMS). After graduating from UNCG in 2001 with a degree in middle grades education, Wheat taught math at Jamestown Middle and Welborn Middle.
In 2012, she was selected as Guilford County Schools' Middle School Teacher of the Year.
Wheat completed her master's in educational leadership at High Point University in 2013, then served as assistant principal at Northwest Middle School. For the last seven years, she served as principal of Johnson Street Global Studies, a magnet school located in High Point.
Wheat said she looks forward to introducing students to what's new at NGMS this year.
"We are excited about our new MakerSpace, which will be located in our media center and is funded by our awesome PTSA," she said. "We're in the process of finalizing furniture purchases, technology upgrades, and hands-on manipulatives that will allow students to build and explore.
"Our instructional theme for this school year is '#NighthawksIgnite,' and we plan to be intentional about providing instructional practices that spark the interest and curiosity of all students and ignite their passion for learning," Wheat said.
"I am excited about beginning this journey as a Northern Nighthawk!" she added. "NGMS is an excellent school with staff dedicated to our motto, 'Expect Excellence Every Day!' I look forward to working with our staff, students, families, and communities to strengthen our Nighthawk Nation."
NW Guilford Middle
5300 Northwest School Road, Greensboro
Enrollment: 957 (as of mid-August)
Denise Francisco, principal
Northwest Guilford Middle's principal, Denise Francisco, wasn't available for comment last week, so assistant principal Greta Martin gave us the lowdown on some of the new things at the school this year.
First, Ben Davis has joined the Viking staff as the eighth grade assistant principal.
"I am so proud to be a member of the NWMS family," Davis said. "Education is my passion, but like many, I did not find my calling until later in life. I worked as a product engineer before teaching. I still love working on all things mechanical, but now I am able to bring my love of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), and education in general, to the classroom."
Six other new staff members have joined NWMS's team, including three elective teachers and three daytime tutors.
Martin said a "really new and cool" project is a school store being operated by the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) Club, under the direction of teacher Heather Johnson.
"I am sure our students will love being able to shop for school supplies and other fun items," Martin said. "Stash 101 is a virtual economy the CTE Department will use across all of its courses, and students will use their virtual dollars to purchase items from the school store."
Martin is happy to be a part of the Viking family, and said she looks forward to staff, students and parents working together to make great things happen this school year.
"We strive to provide a caring, nurturing and safe environment, one where we meet the social, emotional and academic needs of all students," she said. "I am excited about the collaboration between students and all stakeholders. It is exciting to work with a staff that plans and implements programs that are equitable and sustainable."
Northern Guilford High
7101 Spencer Dixon Road, Greensboro
Enrollment: 1,346 (as of mid-August)
Janiese McKenzie, principal
Principal Janiese McKenzie said she and her staff are committed to making the 2022-2023 school year Northern Guilford High School's best ever.
The school has a new assistant principal, Sharon Jacobs, and 22 new teachers and staff members who McKenzie said are all on board to create "a positive learning environment in every classroom."
Because the FLEX schedule has been so well received, students will again be able to attend club meetings and tutoring during the school day. McKenzie said the school is changing things up a bit by bringing back "our old Hawk's Nest (homeroom) once a week" during the FLEX time period.
McKenzie believes many students will be excited that Sports and Event Marketing is being added back to Northern's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program.
The school is set to install new "stand-up" benches donated by Gilbarco, and the Nighthawks men's soccer team gave them a dose of school spirit by painting them black and purple.
"We hope to bring pride back to our school by updating and refreshing areas around the campus," McKenzie said. "We would love the community's help with painting the exterior side of our main gym (this will require a lift), working on a drainage issue at the student crosswalk, and repairing our outdoor classroom."
Northwest Guilford High
5240 Northwest School Road, Greensboro
Enrollment: 2,015 (as of mid-August)
Ashley Proctor Young, principal
Students at Northwest Guilford High School, the largest school in the Guilford County Schools system, will be able to enjoy learning in newly renovated mobile classrooms that are nothing like the run-down, uncomfortable units that have occupied the school's campus for over 20 years.
Thanks to the school's PTSO and its successful Mobile Makeover project that was completed earlier this month, 23 mobile classrooms were refurbished, offering a healthier, more comfortable and up-to-date learning environment for both students and teachers.
"We are looking forward to another great school year, and we encourage parents to reach out to us with any questions," Ashley Proctor Young, the school's principal, said. "We are here to help!"