*The following letter is from Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott on the start of school for the 2015-16 year*
I want to welcome all of our students, families, school personnel, and community partners to the 2015-16 school year, and I want to thank all of you for the many ways in which you help make this school system a wonderful place for students to grow and learn. The start of a new school year is always an extremely busy and exciting time in our schools, and it’s one that I truly look forward to each August.
We enter this school year with great strengths in our schools. We have an exceptional number of outstanding teachers and we continue to attract high quality applicants. We enjoy strong support from parents, local businesses, our county commissioners, the Watauga Education Foundation, and civic clubs, along with valuable partnerships with Caldwell Community College and ASU. Our Board of Education works well together, as do the administrative leaders in our system. The range of opportunities available to our high school students is unexcelled by any high school in NC (and probably in the region) and will be further strengthened this year with the addition of Watauga Innovation Academy on the Watauga High campus. We continue to expand our use of instructional technology (including 1:1 laptops in grades 8-12, similar devices in other grades, and 3-D printing), project based learning, and “Maker Movement” approaches to instruction.
These strengths are reflected in the accomplishments of our students, accomplishments in which we take great pride. As a whole, our students significantly outperform their statewide peers on nearly every measure available. Several of our high school students are selected for Governor’s School each year and SAT scores for WCS are the second highest out of the state’s 115 school districts. Our students win regional and state honors in math and science, in Battle of the Books, in the arts, and in a host of career and technical education competitions. And in all of these settings, we can also be proud of how these young people represent us in their behavior and character.
There are notable challenges as well. At the state level, teacher pay in NC still ranks in the bottom 10 states in the country and recruitment is becoming more difficult for certain positions. We also face additional needs in maintaining school buildings and in funding for school supplies and instructional materials, and we would love to expand our course offerings in the middle school grades and expand pre-kindergarten services.
Our circumstances include both great strengths and notable challenges, but I would not trade the talents and resources of the Watauga County Schools and this community for those of any of the 114 other districts in NC. If we all work together to focus on providing great teaching and learning in our schools, we can offer life changing education for our students. Let’s not settle for anything less.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @scottelliott_nc for updates and good news about the exciting things happening in Watauga County Schools.