Two city school initiatives expanding

By Jeff Linville -

Two initiatives for Mount Airy City Schools are growing and thriving, according to updates from school officials.

Dr. Kim Morrison, chief academic and innovations officer, and Penny Willard, MAPSS grant coordinator, gave an update at the last school board meeting on the MAPSS project — Math and Problem-based/Project-based Learning for Student Success.

Last year, MACS announced that it was one of five school systems in the state to receive money from a $1.6 million grant. The other four were Alamance-Burlington Schools, Davidson County, Lexington City and Randolph County. Also, the city schools are partnered with Piedmont Triad Education Consortium (PTEC), Wake Forest University and University of Texas-Dallas.

Willard said she recently completed an annual progress report on the implementation and evaluation of the program, as well as a budget. She said the grant allowed teachers to take part in many professional development sessions, and MAPSS still came in about $19,000 under budget for the year.

From the five school districts, 71 teachers have received an average of 81.6 hours of continuing education and will finish the school year with about 100 hours. When she was a teacher, Willard said she never got close to 100 hours of personal development. Teachers were begging for this kind of opportunity.

The teachers appreciate the chance to get better at their jobs, and more want to take part next year, so don’t expect to come in under budget again, she warned the school board.

In fact, the five districts in the grant are looking to expand to other areas next year. Willard said school officials are asking for an expansion of MAPSS to include five more systems.

Dr. Greg Little, school superintendent, said Asheboro and Yadkin districts were disappointed not to make the first year of funding and want to be included.

Willard said Surry, Stokes and Thomasville districts have been asked to join for next year.

These school systems make sense because they border one or more of the existing MAPSS members, Willard explained. This would allow some regional work sessions to take place.

Right now, if Mount Airy teachers want to collaborate with another MAPSS member, the teachers might have to drive about 60 miles to Lexington. If Surry and Stokes were involved, Mount Airy could meet with those teachers at a closer location like Pilot Mountain.

Willard and Morrison will keep the board updated on the status of MAPSS funding for next year.


MACS announced expanded opportunities for high school students through collaboration with Surry Community College.

According to the school system, there are currently 18,000 vacant jobs in this state due to computer programming jobs here expanding at twice the national average.

An example of that is Mount Airy High’s partnership with N.C. State University and Richard Childress Racing.

Five high school students are interning with RCR now, with eight slots in the program for the whole school year.

The RCR team works to solve problems related to current racing obstacles. This gives teens a chance to apply the principals they have been learning related to STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

The internships have worked out well for both sides so that the goal is to triple the slots to 25 over the next two years, according to MACS.

And of course, further studies in coding and programming would help students participate on a deeper level with the RCR teams.

Last week, representatives of MACS and SCC met to discuss ways to improve opportunities with STEAM.

Mount Airy students now will have a chance to graduate high school with a certificate in Digital Media Technology through SCC.

STEAM teacher Shelia Chase said the two sides “have been collaborating to build upon their partnership with Richard Childress Racing Corporation. Part of the partnership is a pathway in Digital Media Technology which encompasses courses in 3D modeling and computer programming.

“According to the U.S. News and World Report, jobs related to computer systems, software and web development are in the top 20 list of best jobs of 2016.”

“This extension of our partnership with Surry Community College will build even more opportunities for our students,” said Morrison. “Students will be able to take courses during their high school experience that will translate into college credit. We are excited about allowing our K-12 STEAM initiative to continue to flourish and grow through this partnership.”

Counselors and teachers will work together to identify students with interest in digital media, computer programming, advanced manufacturing and engineering.

Rather than travel to Dobson to attend class, the students will take courses at their own school to receive college credit. Those interested in learning more should speak to a school counselor.

On Tuesday, Mount Airy Middle School held a meeting for eighth-graders and their parents to learn about this initiative.

“Surry Community College is excited to build upon our successful partnership with Mount Airy City Schools in effort to promote educational opportunities for our students,” said Dr. David Shockley, SCC president.

“As we continue to expand our shared course offerings in engineering, advanced manufacturing and digital media, our students will have greater opportunities to accelerate their educational and career pathways while saving families thousands of dollars through tuition-waived College and Career Promise Pathways.”

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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