11/02/12 — Spring Creek, Norwayne Middle dial $50K prizes

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Spring Creek, Norwayne Middle dial $50K prizes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 2, 2012 1:46 PM

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Spring Creek Elementary students and staff celebrate the news Thursday after learning they won $50,000 in the U.S. Cellular "Calling All Communities" contest.

Teachers and staff at Spring Creek Elementary School were summoned down to the media center shortly before noon Thursday and told an announcement would be made about the outcome of the recent U.S. Cellular "Calling All Communities" campaign.

The contest awarded $150,000 to the school with the most online votes, with $50,000 given to each of the next 17 highest vote-getters.

Spring Creek had leapt into first place early in the competition, which kicked off in mid-September. The school stayed there for two weeks before dropping into second position, where it remained for the remainder of the contest.

Even so, as the staff faced the large screen in the library, they were optimistic their efforts may have put them back on top.

"It's going to be a surprise for everybody," said Gail Richards, principal.

"We're all excited," said Robin DeVeaux, a third-grade teacher. "Do you know the stress we were all under getting people to make those calls?"

As the clock struck noon, the president and CEO of U.S. Cellular, Mary Dillon, appeared on the screen to reveal which schools would divide up the $1 million prize to be used however they chose.

Two Wayne County Public Schools made the list of $50,000 recipients -- Spring Creek Elementary and Norwayne Middle.

A few sighs were heard around the room as the realization sunk in that Spring Creek had not captured the top prize.

But that quickly faded as representatives from U.S. Cellular appeared with balloons and a large banner to make the announcement official.

"Congratulations to Spring Creek for all the hard work," said Dee Taylor, U.S. Cellular's director of sales for eastern North Carolina. "I know you guys were really hoping for that $150,000, but what you have to remember is that you stayed in second place for a long time -- against such big areas as Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma. Think about what you guys accomplished.

"We're so proud to have two schools in Goldsboro to get $50,000."

The local schools were also the only ones from North Carolina to make the list of winners.

This is the fourth year for the contest, Ms. Taylor said, and the participation keeps growing. More than 180,000 votes were cast during the latest campaign, with 1,368 schools vying for the prize as each week the top 18 were reshuffled as new schools made the list.

For the third year in a row, a school from a Knoxville, Tenn., suburb was awarded the $150,000. Seymour Middle School received the most votes this year. In 2011, Seymour Primary School was recipient of that distinction and the year before, Seymour High School won $100,000.

"We're up to (giving away) $850,000, just in the state of North Carolina," Ms. Taylor said. "This state is passionate about education, and we are, too."

"We're so proud," Ms. Richards said as she lined up a few staff members for photos.

"We were No. 1 for three weeks but we were No. 2 throughout," said Jeanette Walters, an English-as-a-second-language teacher. "We held our own."

"Not only have we become closer as a school but as a community," said Nicole Barrett, elementary curriculum specialist.

The school will use the winnings for technology.

Also celebrating was Norwayne Middle, where principal Mario Re said plans are to split the money with Fremont STARS Elementary School.

"Fremont did a lot to help with this. We teamed up with them," Re said, explaining that parent volunteers from both schools had worked together last year and this one. "Shelley Radford, our parent volunteer coordinator, led the charge from the Norwayne side.

"We're going to split it with (Fremont) and then we're going to use our money for technology and to update as we're moving into the new school next month. It coincides very well because we're going to be able to update technology due to this money, so it'll be a big help."

Two other local schools had also made it to the Top 100 list -- School Street and Northwest Elementary.

Wayne County has been a consistent contender in the contest since it began. In 2009, Brogden Primary School received $100,000, followed the next year by Wayne Country Day School being awarded $100,000. Last year, four local schools claimed $50,000 each -- Fremont STARS, North Drive and Tommy's Road elementary schools and Wayne Christian School.