Ed Davis, superintendent of Union County Public Schools, answered our questions via e-mail about the school year opening and other issues:
Q. What tips would you give parents as they prepare for this year?
The three suggestions I would make to parents as they prepare their student(s) for the start of another school year are: A) Be very positive with the students about the start of another school year and all the opportunities they will have to learn new things. B) Help students set goals for the year in terms of what they want to learn and improve upon. (C) Agree on a schedule that allows time for homework, study and reading on a daily basis.
Q. How much of a problem are the high gas prices causing for the school system?
Gas prices could end up being a big issue. The General Assembly did not allocate enough money to cover this at the state level. We have looked at some contingency plans to reduce our costs, but are hopeful that some of the changes we have made for this year, such as our new bell schedule, will help us to make more efficient use of the funds that we do have. We will monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed.
Q. Mecklenburg County has had some turmoil because of athletes attending improper schools solely to participate in a sport. How is Union County ensuring this does not happen?
Athletic eligibility is an issue for all school districts. We have reminded our coaches and athletic directors of the due diligence that they need to do to make sure that student athletes meet all eligibility requirements. This is a matter where we will continue to articulate our expectations so there is no mistake about the standards that need to be met in this important area.
Q. Union County Public Schools has shown strong performance on the state's academic performance tests (ABCs) and tests that show how well minority students are performing (Adequate Yearly Progress). How have you accomplished that amid the county's constant growth in population and diversity?
UCPS performs well on AYP and ABC standards primarily because of the outstanding people in our system. First, we have some really great students who value education and realize its importance. This value is instilled in them by their parents, and I cannot say enough about the wonderfully supportive and involved parents we have.
Teachers are a huge part of this success. They are dedicated and hard-working and really want to provide an outstanding educational experience to each of their students. We are truly blessed to have such great teachers. I am very disappointed that the General Assembly did not provide adequate funding this year for ABC Performance Bonus Pay. Teachers will only receive about two-thirds of what they have received in years past. This is particularly discouraging since so many of our schools performed so well (all but two met Expected Growth and approximately two-thirds met High Growth). What a shame that the efforts of these great teachers will not be rewarded on the level they deserve.
UCPS also does well because we have outstanding leadership at the school level. Our principals are visionary instructional leaders who understand their role in facilitating the teaching and learning process. In addition, we have strong leadership at the district level. My staff works hard to assist schools in accomplishing their mission of “Preparing All Students To Succeed.”
Finally, we have a Board of Education whose agenda is to provide a quality education for all students. When you have all of these individuals working so hard to accomplish the same goals, then success is a natural by-product.