KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Lenoir County Public Schools on Monday celebrated 12 of its elementary, middle and high schools that have been named an Apple Distinguished School, a recognition of innovative instruction and success in digital learning that has been bestowed on only a relative handful of schools in the nation and the world.
Honored were Banks, Moss Hill, Northeast, Northwest, Pink Hill and Southeast elementary schools, Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School, Frink and Woodington middle schools and Kinston, North Lenoir and Early College high schools.
The celebration, held at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Kinston High School, brought administrators and a large contingent of students from the 12 schools together with an array of LCPS administrators, local and state elected officials, N.C. Department of Public Instruction leaders and Apple representatives.
“If anyone needs proof that what we’re doing is working, that we’re headed in the right direction, the proof is in the true meaning of today,” LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams told the packed-house audience. “It’s in our classrooms, it’s on the faces of our students. This a big day that represents all of those great smaller days of success in the classroom.”
LCPS is in the ninth year of its digital learning initiative, an ambitious program that put iPads in the hands of all K-12 students and provided iPads and MacBooks to all teachers and administrators. A leader in digital learning, the district pioneered the concept of a one-to-one digital program in the region and was among the first in the state to commit to digital devices as a centerpiece of instruction.
A parade of speakers took the stage to praise LCPS and the 12 schools for achieving an honor shared by fewer than 900 schools around the world. They included:
Dr. Beth Metcalf, director of regional support services, Southeast Region, N.C. Department of Public Instruction: “This award speaks to what Lenoir County Public Schools does best – keeping students at the center of everything they do.”
State Rep. Chris Humphrey: “This prestigious designation is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our educators, the dedication of our students and the unwavering support of our community to foster innovation in education.”
State Sen. Jim Perry: “Those who are willing to embrace the concept of innovation, of doing something differently, those are our pioneers. The concept of being willing to embrace change can be difficult, but it is good. It’s going to be very impactful for our students. It helps us to achieve new goals.”
Dr. Rusty Hunt, president, Lenoir Community College: “I’m so impressed with all the technology LCPS has put in the hand of all students of Lenoir County. It is amazing and it certainly prepares you when you come to college.”
Bruce Hill, chair, Lenoir County Board of Education: “The journey to one-to-one technology for Lenoir County Public School students and staff began about 10 years ago. A lot of dedicated people have worked
tirelessly during this time to accomplish this goal. Thank you to the Lenoir County Board of Education, the Lenoir County Public School system superintendent and administration and staff and especially to the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners for making this adventure a possibility and reality.”
As the student sections cheered and waved pompoms in their school colors, representatives – students and administrators – from each of the 12 schools came on stage to receive their Apple Distinguished School certificate and pose for a photo with the hard-to-earn banner.
Earlier, students from three representative schools explained some of the ways Apple devices have made their lessons more interesting and their learning more fun, whether the assignment involved using the Garage Band app to create a song in Math I class about the rules of exponents or using a green screen to create a video about weather forecasting and the impact of hurricanes or using Apple devices and apps to create a weekly podcast designed to keep students and the community informed about happenings at school.
EB Frink Middle School student Kathryn Murphy, during her school’s presentation, made the point in personal terms: “As a middle schooler in this district, we have had an iPad since we started in kindergarten. After eight years of our Apple one-to-one iPad program, we can’t imagine school without an iPad.”
Demonstrated proficiency with technology in the classroom, LCPS’s experience with digital learning and its commitment to teacher support figured into schools’ successful bid for Apple Distinguished School recognition, in which they used videos and an extensive written application to explain the scope of their digital learning program, the educational advantages it offers and its impact in the school and community.
An indication of LCPS’s commitment to digital instruction is its corps of Digital Learning Specialists – a dedicated position at each school – and the district-level Digital Learning Instructional Coordinator who leads them.
“At the core of our achievement is the understanding that digital learning is fundamentally about teaching, not just the tools at our disposal,” Melissa Lynch, the district’s digital learning instructional coordinator, told the audience.
“A distinctive feature of our digital learning program is the presence of our digital learning specialists. These specialists are the architects of professional development sessions, the coaches that guide individual teachers and the disseminators of all kinds of teaching tips and lesson plans,” said Lynch, who organized Monday’s celebration along with the superintendent’s executive assistant, Jessie Taylor.
“To become an Apple Distinguished School, you need to be using Apple products to be doing innovative and highly creative things that stand out and are a beacon of light in innovation to the world,” said Dr. Bill Ziegler, worldwide program manager for Apple Distinguished Schools and the celebration’s keynote speaker.
LCPS recognitions are “an amazing accomplishment, a global honor,” Ziegler said. “You’re one of the few school districts throughout the world that has 12 of your schools recognized as an Apple Distinguished School”
Joining Zeigler as Apple representatives at the celebration were Tonia Aldridge, Grey Mull, Dr. Mark Benna, Anthony Johnson and Nancy Kuznicki, an educator and Apple trainer who’s worked with LCPS teachers since the digital learning program began.
Other special guests included:
From the N.C. Department of Public Instruction – Dr. Metcalf, Dr. Kathy Spencer, Candace Heath and Lauren Boucher
From the Lenoir County Board of Education – board chair Hill, Vice Chair W.D. Anderson and members Merwyn Smith, Keith King, Elijah Woods and Michelle Cash.
From Lenoir Community College – Dr. Hunt, Dr. John Paul Black and Dr. Timothy Maddox-Fisher.
From government – William Moore of U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy’s office, Sen. Perry, Rep. Humphrey, Kinston City Manager Rhonda Barwick, Assistant County Manager Adam Short, Lenoir County Sheriff
Jackie Rogers, Felicia Solomon of the Kinston City Council, Lenoir County Board of Commissioners chair Linda Rouse Sutton and member J. Mac Daughety.
Also recognized as special members of the audience were the Rev. Barbara Sutton, president of the Lenoir County Chapter of the NAACP, and Neuse News publisher B.J. Murphy.