GREENSBORO - The 370 Cone Elementary students who walked into their first day of classes Monday will begin new learning methods that could help Cone rise above its current rank as the lowest-performing school in both the district and the region.
The Junior League of Greensboro said the first day of school marks a pivotal point in its efforts to put resources and talent into Cone. The organization has partnered with the school and said with its proposals, it hopes to better the lives of Cone students and their families.
Junior League of Greensboro president Julie Copeland told News 2 she is thrilled that the organization will help enrich school learning and better both the education experience students receive and the knowledge they retain. She said the efforts to provide resources to Cone are ongoing and will continue for the next two to three years.
"We are very excited to be here, especially on the first day of school. Over the last two years, our League has engaged a sense of dialogue, discussion which ultimately led to a vote. We've conducted extensive research, too, to pursue a new impact area--which is education," Copeland said.
"From there, we selected Cone. We believe the challenges they face--we can make a huge difference in," Copeland said. She said the League will pursue for Cone avenues of enrichment, literacy and parent involvement.
Cone Elementary is a Title I school in which 96 percent of Cone students receive free and reduced-price lunches. Less than 50 percent of students tested with proficiency in reading, math, science and English last year.
The northern regional superintendent for Guilford County Schools, Randy Shaver, told News 2 he expects the next batch of test scores to show improvement, because of both the Junior League's efforts and the new leadership of principal Chris Weikart.
Shaver said, "We know that the kids who perform the least are those who live in poverty. We are focusing on that, and we are starting with cultural change. That's why we're so thrilled to have this partnership with the Junior League of Greensboro, and it's just wonderful."
Weikart said a large part of carrying out the improvement initiative is student morale. He said at the school's open house last week, students' eyes "lit up" when they got a glimpse of the new paint and books in the school library.
"First, it's going to be instilling a sense of pride in the school from the students' perspective," Weikart said. He said when he saw the students' reaction to the library, he told them," There is more to come."
The goal of increasing academic achievement at Cone will be fueled largely by enrichment programs, like "Kids in the Kitchen"--a hands-on math course--and "Raising a Reader," which aligns with the district-wide "Roadmap to Reading" initiative.
Weikart said Cone learned late last August that it had been selected by the Junior League to receive its pledge of assistance. The school applied and made a presentation to the organization earlier that summer, and a year-long programming process has been in place since the group chose Cone.
More than a dozen Junior League of Greensboro members joined Copeland, Weikart, Cone teachers and GCS superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green Monday to welcome students back to school.