Chamber Chat - The Head of Class Project

Oct 01

By Meg Moss

The Lee County Education Foundation (LCEF), founded in 2003, is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation that came about after years of community-wide discussions regarding the need for funds to support innovative, research based educational programs in the Lee County schools.

Since its inception, the LCEF has funded more than $200,000 of programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Lee County public school teachers and students in grades K-12 have benefited from reading, math, social studies, science and career related programs as a direct result of LCEF disbursements. Additionally, the LCEF unveiled the Head of Class Project in 2010, and has funded awards totaling another $300,000.

The Head of Class Project awards $50,000 annually to the faculty and staff of the most improved elementary school in Lee County. The incentive-based model is the first of its kind in North Carolina. Each employee of the winning school – principal, teachers, teacher assistants, librarians, custodians, etc. – receive a portion of the award.

This past Tuesday, the most recent Head of Class winner was announced at a community-wide celebration at the Civic Center. Bill Horner III, Chairman of the LCEF, said that “those of us associated with the Foundation always say that this day – the official recognition of the newest Head of Class winner – is one of our favorite days of the year.”

This year’s winner, Greenwood Elementary School, has won the award three times. Principal Aimee Petrarca was assistant principal when Greenwood won the inaugural Head of Class, and has been the principal the second and third time around. At the awards ceremony, Horner shared “It seems to me that if there’s anyone who really embodies Greenwood, it’s Aimee Petrarca. Her mother, Myra Kessler Bryant, graduated from Greenwood High School in 1968 and spent more than 20 years as a teaching assistant there. Aimee herself attended K-6 grades at Greenwood, and today she’s the mother of children in the second and third grades at the school.

Petrarca graciously accepted the award on behalf of the school.  Attendees at the Head of Class celebration included Greenwood students, staff and faculty, Lee County Education Foundation Board Members, Lee County Board of Education members, Lee County Schools leadership, as well as folks from the community, to include individuals, and business leaders. The following was just a part of what Petrarca shared with the crowd at the Civic Center:

“Fifteen days ago, Dr. Bryan (Lee County Schools Superintendent) asked me to come to his office for a brief conversation. The walk to his office seemed very long, but once I got there, Dr. Bryan immediately shared the wonderful news that we won Head of Class. That same afternoon, I had a front row seat as Dr. Bryan and Mr. Akinosho (Lee County Board of Education Chairman) both took the time to come to Greenwood to share the exciting news with my staff. The teachers erupted in celebration. From there, the word began to spread and the well wishes and congratulations began to pour in. I had a voicemail from a 1951 Greenwood graduate who took the time to call and express her appreciation for the work we are doing for the community. I was contacted by community leaders and partners, and even received a letter from Representative Robert Reives. The Sanford Herald made us the front page of the paper, and our story reached over 1,000 people on Facebook. Those kind words and actions that I have had the privilege of receiving on behalf of our school made me reflect on all that this Head of Class Project provides to support what we do in our schools.

I hope that the members of the Education Foundation leave here today with a renewed sense of purpose and an awareness that I came here today to say more than thank you for the award. I want to say thank you for developing a project that seeks to bring out the best in teachers, students, and schools. A project that believes that in Lee County, there will always be accomplishments to celebrate year after year.”

Since the mission of the Foundation is to mobilize financial resources and fund programs that are highly likely to improve Lee County student achievement; and due to Lee County Schools’ increasingly improved school scores, I believe the best is yet to come, and there will always be accomplishments to celebrate. Congratulations Greenwood Elementary School!

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