Dear Students, Parents and Employees:
Welcome to a brand new year in Gaston County Schools!
Bright and early on Monday, August 29, the yellow buses will roll, the school bells will ring, and more than 32,000 students in pre-kindergarten through high school will return to class for the 2016-2017 academic year.
The beginning of school is an exciting time not only for our students and parents, but also for the district’s 3,700 employees, which include approximately 1,900 classroom teachers at our 54 neighborhood schools. This year, we are welcoming more than 100 new teachers to the district, including some 50 teachers who are beginning their career in the education profession. We also have 14 schools with new principals.
Gaston County has the ninth largest public school district in the state, and we are fully accredited as a quality school system by AdvancED and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. All schools have a comprehensive instructional program with opportunities for every student at every ability level. The district offers Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses, Career and Technical Education programs, the Career and College Promise partnership with Gaston College, services for exceptional children, and many other academic and student support programs.
This year, Gaston County Schools has plenty of reasons to celebrate. Seniors in the Class of 2016 were awarded more than $53 million in scholarships to attend the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation, and two students received appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Our graduation rate is at an all-time high, the dropout rate remains lower than the state average, and when compared to the largest school districts in the state, we have the best school safety record.
Another significant point of pride for Gaston County Schools is our very own Bobbie Cavnar of South Point High School, who is the 2016-2017 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. This is the third time that we’ve had the State Teacher of the Year in Gaston County. An accomplished educator, Mr. Cavnar will spend the year serving as an ambassador and advocate for public schools across the state.
Last year, the Board of Education developed a plan for new school options in Gaston County. The plan called for an elementary magnet program, new elementary and middle schools, and a renewed focus on Career and Technical Education.
Hawks Nest STEAM Academy, our community’s first magnet school for elementary-age children, opens in August and will offer a comprehensive academic program with a distinct emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. Additionally, a new Career Academy at Hunter Huss High School will provide students with more career exploration and job training opportunities.
This summer’s groundbreaking ceremonies for an elementary school in Gastonia and a middle school in Stanley were especially exciting. Construction is underway, and we expect the two new schools to be ready during the 2017-2018 year.
The summer months always are a busy time for school staffs and central office personnel, and this summer was no exception. To prepare for the new academic year, school buildings were cleaned thoroughly, buses were inspected, new employees were hired, teachers and other employees participated in professional development, and repairs and improvements were made at many schools.
Our successful summer programs offered engaging academic opportunities for students across the county. The summer reading camp for students in grades 1-3 provided individual and small-group instruction to improve reading and comprehension skills, and our math and writing camps as well as the summer enrichment program focused on learning in a fun and creative environment.
Without question, there are many reasons to be proud of Gaston County Schools. Our students continue to excel in every arena: in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the performing arts, and through extracurricular activities. Our employees are highly qualified professionals who care deeply about the success of children, and the tremendous support from our parents, volunteers, and community partners makes our schools even better.
With the new year getting underway, we invite parents to learn more about our schools by visiting the district website, www.gaston.k12.nc.us, and your child’s school website. We also encourage parents to download the Gaston County Schools mobile app, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and watch Time Warner Cable Channel 21, our educational television station, for the latest school news and information.
Everyone in our school family is looking forward to the 2016-2017 academic year with enthusiasm and optimism. The Board of Education joins me in extending best wishes to all students, parents and employees for a productive school year filled with many excellent opportunities. Working together, we will continue to inspire success and a lifetime of learning in Gaston County Schools.
W. Jeffrey Booker serves as Superintendent of Gaston County Schools and is the 2016-2017 Southwest Region Superintendent of the Year.