Education – Smart Town, Safe Town

ECPPS

Elizabeth City and Camden, NC are known for many things: our Southern hospitality, the U.S. Coast Guard base, the ever-popular Potato Festival, and more. Now there are new academic credentials to add to the list: high-technology approaches for keeping our school-aged children safe and a progressive and rigorous, experience- based secondary education program.

Safe Town

In 2013, in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school tragedy, Andy and Karin Montero, owners of Montero’s restaurant, saw a security need in the city school system. The Monteros understood that although the local schools needed to upgrade their security systems, federal and state budget constraints would make that
a difficult task. Their answer to the problem was to create the
Safety Assurance for Everyone (SAFE) Schools Fund so that local businesses and residents could donate the much-needed money to provide a safer learning environment for the children. 

In February of 2013, after many meetings with the school superintendent and the Board of Education, a partnership with the Education Foundation of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools (ECPPS) began, and the schools incrementally began their security makeover at seven elementary, two middle, and two high schools.

Phase I provided security doors, security cameras, and intercom systems at the front entrance of each of the local schools. Phase I was completed by the start of the 2013-2014 school year and its $56,000 cost was funded 100% through community gifts and support. 

Phase II will install video cameras on all 90 school buses which will include band buses, activity buses, and special needs buses in addition to the fleet of daily-use buses. The estimated cost of the second phase is $175,000. While this dollar figure may seem large, with continued support from the community, the SAFE Schools Fund is well on its way to meeting its goal in conjunction with the ECPPS board and the funding approved by Pasquotank County.

From the start, the goal of the SAFE Schools Fund has been to provide a safer learning environment for the area children without putting an additional burden on the county school system budget. “We wanted the Board of Education to be able to spend their funds on classroom needs and technology,” states SAFE Schools Fund creator Andy Montero. “I feel we have been successful in this.” By working hand-in-hand with community members and education leaders, the SAFE Schools Fund is improving the safety of the Elizabeth City area schools, one step at a time.

For more information about the SAFE Schools Fund: safeschoolsfund.org

Smart Town

Camden County’s claim to educational fame is CamTech, a publicly funded and progressive secondary school offering college-level courses. Established in 2006 with 61 freshmen, CamTech now offers project-based learning to 160 students in grades 912.

HONORS LEVEL: Not only are all classes honors level, meaning they offer rigorous, in-depth study of the subjects, but the students are also encouraged to take at least two courses for college credits. When asked what makes CamTech different from other high schools, Ina Lane, former principal and one of the original founders, will quote the school motto: “Rigor, Relevance, Relationship.” And with a 1:1 computer-to-student ratio, the tech-savvy teenagers excel and complete projects that mirror the demands of their future careers. CamTech-5081-JRI

Hands-On: Project-based learning is another hallmark of CamTech’s philosophy.  With fewer didactic lesson plans, students are often working in groups to learn and solve problems. A recent assignment at CamTech included the creation of “Cell City,” a 3-D model where functions of an urban environment mirrored the parts and roles within a cell. CamTech philosophy values the tactile environment over passive learning styles offered by textbooks, note-taking, quizzes, and more traditional teacher-student models. 

Higher Ed: Keeping the school small has allowed teachers to develop a personal relationship with each student and has fostered strong study skills for their future years in higher education. Current principal Amber Davis is actively looking at building a stronger bond with local colleges. One future goal for CamTech students is the ability of juniors and seniors to take college courses on local campuses. “We want to give our students as many options as possible when they graduate, whether they choose a four-year university or pursue other career or educational opportunities.” says Davis. CamTech graduates can
be found in many esteemed universities, from venerable in-state colleges to more distant campuses such as Brigham Young University and the U.S. Naval Academy.

History Of CamTech: In 2004 Camden school leaders attended a New Schools Project workshop where they were inspired by learning of a new progressive high school, one that would allow project-based learning. After passing a bill to establish a small high school and getting a planning grant approved, CamTech was established in 2006.

Article By: Tracy Anderson
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