Craven County Schools is looking to make connections with community and business leaders, and to that end, hosted a group of about 30 from the Havelock area last week at Havelock Middle School.
"This is about connecting with all of our partners," said Lane Mills, superintendent of Craven County Schools. "It’s critical that we work together as partners, and you are all our partners."
During the meeting called Connections, Mills highlighted some of the successes of the school system and where the system wants to go.
He mentioned a $2.4 million Department of Defense grant that would allow the system to create labs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, known among educators through the popular abbreviation STEM. While high school algebra labs will be set up at Early College East in Havelock and Havelock High School, Mills said the funds would allow more expansion of STEM into elementary schools.
"That’s a big impact for our elementary schools," he said.
Mills said the focus on STEM programs would lead to better futures for students once they leave school, regardless of their career path.
"What we’re talking about is future-proofing your kids," he said. "Everyone has to be a critical thinker, a problem solver, an innovator. Those are life skills kids need every day for the future. I know I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t have those skills."
Mills mentioned that the schools of today are changing.
"The schools don’t look like what we are used to," he said. "But, it’s what we need to do for our schools and our students. We want to have your input, and we want to have your collaboration."
Those attending the meeting toured the Early College East classrooms on the Havelock Middle School campus. Students gave a presentation on the Holocaust and also displayed small roller coasters they constructed. Each coaster had a theme that allowed the students to learn about history while putting their math and engineering skills to the test. Those attending the meeting took turns dropping marbles on the coasters, which featured channels that took the marbles on a series of loops, twists and turns until reaching the bottom.
The Early College was short a few students, six to be exact, who were in Germany at a trade show displaying their underwater remote-controlled rover that won a national engineering competition in February.
The attendees also toured the Havelock Middle School STEM lab and watched as students worked on everything from bridge designs to miniature pinewood derby cars.
"This is amazing," said Pat Smith, a former Havelock Middle School assistant principal who retired in 2007 before the lab was built. "It’s a big change. It’s amazing what they are doing."
After the tour, Annette Brown, assistant superintendent for instruction, discussed the Common Core State Standards, saying that the new standards were not federally mandated but came from a joint effort of governors and state school officers.
She said in English and language arts, students would have to understand more difficult and complex text. Math students would learn why a process or algorithm works before they memorize or use the process.
"The new assessments are going to be a whole lot more challenging than anything you or I ever faced," she said.
Chris Bailey, director of career and technical education for Craven County Schools, discussed work ready communities and the national career readiness certificate. Students earn bronze, silver, gold or platinum levels that they can present to potential employers.
"They’re walking out of high school and they’re ready to work," Bailey said. "It helps employers know that they have a qualified applicant that has a certain level of skills. It’s a portable credential that means we have put our stamp of approval on that student and believe the student can be a good and valuable employee for your business."
Mills said he wanted today’s leaders to know what tomorrow’s leaders are doing in school.
"We want you to see what’s happening," he told the group. "It’s not a secret. It goes on every day."