Learning Center students must monitor own progress

Housed within the old Odell Elementary School building is a school called the Performance Learning Center.

Not many people know what the center is. Some may think it is a theatrical school, because of the name. Some think it is a school for troublemakers who can't graduate high school.

The answer is neither. Yes, it is a nontraditional high school. And, yes, I am sure that, as is usual with teens, at times some sort of drama goes on among students.

But the center is not in any way "easier" than the other high schools in Cabarrus County. Actually it's quite the contrary: These teens are held more accountable than others for their actions and workload, as they are the ones who must monitor their own progress with the curriculum.

They also must achieve an 80percent passing rate, as opposed to the 70percent that traditional schools require.

Silvia Middleton explained the problems her children had in a traditional high school setting before finding out about the Performance Learning Center.

"They were not succeeding, and the school could not and would not provide some of what they needed, Middleton said. "They were under constant threat from students involved in the drug culture because they were more interested in doing the right thing than in being afraid. The class structure conflicted with their learning styles.

"Both are gifted, but (were) not performing to their potential because of the outside pressures."

After touring the center and meeting the staff, Middleton switched both her children there.

"At the PLC, each student is responsible for their own learning process, guided by caring teachers. My daughter began to enjoy school and perform well, which inspired us to have our son apply," she said.

"This semester he completed three courses before the end of February and is completing his final three courses this week. He has always completed at least two of his courses early each semester since enrolling there."

Sylvia Middleton then joined the school's PTSO board.

"Given my career in education and as a state employee, I had some understanding of the limitations of state budgets and the importance of unrestricted funds, when available," she said. So she and a group of dedicated parents organized school dances, yearbooks, proms and yard sales; they also bought school supplies and equipmentthat the tight school budget could not fund.

After three years of service Middleton and others on the board are ready to hand over the reins to the new PTSO officers.

The Cabarrus County Schools system is changing a lot this year. Beginning in August, the PLC will be at a new location. It will stay the same type of school but will be housed in the J.N. Fries Middle School building, off Old Charlotte Road in southwest Concord. J.N. Fries Middle will become a magnet school for international studies and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

For more information about the PLC and the changes in the Cabarrus County Schools, go to www.ccsweb.cabarrus.