09/03/04 — Duplin educators rethinking public policy

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Duplin educators rethinking public policy

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 3, 2004 2:23 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County educators, parents and students are gathering together to rethink public education.

"We're confronted daily by accountability requirements from the state and federal governments," said Duplin Superintendent Tommy Ben-son. "We also know there's more to education than passing a test."

A group of teachers, principals, parents and students started meeting a year ago to talk about it, and STAR, which stands for Students and Teachers Achieving Results, was born.

In August, the group cried out for help from the community. And about 200 people showed up at a forum held at James Kenan High School in Warsaw.

On Thursday afternoon, more help came. About 40 people from various county and state departments and agencies met with the county Star initiative representatives in the Kenan Auditorium.

They all pinned tags on a map of a child's school career, from kindergarten to after college. The tags indicated which time in a child's life that particular agency or department would come into contact with the child and at what point in the child's career the school system would affect what they do in their job.

Benson said that when people involved in the STAR began listing the things they wanted graduates to be able to do, the same four things emerged: lifelong learning, health, a readiness to enter the work force or higher education, and responsible citizenship.

The same four goals were repeated when STAR met with the principals and the students. "These four goals are not just the goals of the school system," said Benson. "They're probably the goals of every agency represented here today."

On Thursday, the departments and the agencies came. They were from Cooperative Extension, the Health Department, James Sprunt Community College, Social Services, the Sheriff's Office, the shelter for battered women and children.

Someone came from Outward Bound School in Asheville. A table full of women came from Vocational Rehab. Someone came from the Center for Leadership Development in Chapel Hill, and Debra Henzey from the Civic Education Consortium returned from the School of Government in Chapel Hill. Deborah Gibbons came from California to talk about Internet-based community mapping.

When STAR began meeting, Dora Jernigan, principal at James Kenan High School, said she realized the principals had not been communicating. They found out that the children develop differently. Their needs are different from one grade level to the next.

Vince Andrews, student body president at Wallace Rose Hill High School, said that when the 22 students from the different districts started meeting, they picked out what they didn't like and how they would change it. Then they realized if you change one thing, something else changes. They also discovered that they were bonding. "A lot of students would be more involved if they knew people like you were here today, wanting to get involved."

Sylvia Draughn, a parent of three Duplin County students, said she started out curious and ended up committed. She said there was finger-pointing in the beginning, but later, understanding was reached.

"STAR is an opportunity for us to come together," Ms. Draughn said.