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Student-centric approach secret of Board of Education’s success

Midway through her second year as Polk Central Elementary School’s principal, Jan Crump has come to appreciate the student-first approach of the Polk County Board of Education.

“It is an incredible honor and a blessing to work in a county where student needs are at the center of all decision making,” Crump said. “Under the direction of our Board of Education, students are treated as individuals with unique and specific learning needs. As the principal of Polk Central, I am delighted to be part of an organization that truly values children and to work for a school board that strives daily to put students at the heart of everything they do.”

For a combined 79 years, the seven members of Polk County’s Board of Education have followed that student-centric approach in their governance of the district. Such longevity is rare among school boards in North Carolina, a testament both to the group’s effectiveness as well as its dedication.

As the North Carolina School Boards Associaton celebrates School Board Appreciation Month in January, teachers and administrators in Polk County are recognizing the work that members of Polk County’s board – Geoffrey Tennant, Sherry Page, Cindy Allen, Rick Covil, Judy Jackson, Rhonda Corley and Jim Patterson – do every month in support of the district’s motto, “Doing What’s Right for Students.”

“As a principal who deals with students on a daily basis, it is crucial to know that the Board of Education understand and supports the efforts and challenges of teachers and staff,” said Polk County Middle School principal Hank Utz. “We are so fortunate in Polk County to have such a board. Their support, understanding and dedication is greatly appreciated. Educational success in Polk County has not been accomplished by luck. Leadership and direction of a school system begins with the Board of Education.”

“In our teaching profession, the term ‘professional’ seems to be going by the wayside,” said Sunny View Elementary teacher Kellie Bradley. “Polk County’s Board of Educations understands that administrators and teachers are trained professionals and are working diligently to give Polk County’s young people the best foundation possible.”

“Polk County Schools’ Board of Education is proactive, not reactive,” said Polk County High School teacher Chauncey Barber. “I think you can see from our successes inside and outside the classroom that this why our school system is the best of the best.”

Five board members – Tennant (also Board Chair), Page (Vice Chair), Allen, Covil and Jackson – have served for at least 14 years, a tenure that has allowed each member to build a great deal of organizational and community knowledge. That experience, in turn, helps district administrators shape and develop plans that help keep Polk County Schools recognized as one of the state’s best school districts.

The group is also notable for its non-partisan approach to its duties as well as its cordial relationship with Polk County’s Board of Commissioners and local government, fostering an environment in which all parties cooperate for a common purpose.

“Our Board of Education works well together because each member believes they are working to provide high-quality educational experiences for all students,” said Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene. “They do not allow the influence of partisan politics or personal agendas to diminish the importance of their charge or impede their work.

“The Polk County Board of Education buys into the premise that our schools must be led and served by capable and caring people. They spend time setting the course for the district, communicating high expectations for staff and students. Then they afford trust and autonomy to the system’s educators. This results in employees who feel empowered and valued, and who exhibit the same dedication in serving their students.

“We are very fortunate to be led by such an experienced, knowledgeable and student-centered Board of Education in Polk County. Each member is dedicated to serving the students in our district and representing their communities to the best of their ability. The success achieved by Polk County Schools over the years has been due in large part to their vision and leadership.”

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