RSS Receives Golden Leaf Foundation Grant

Rita K. Foil
Public Information Officer
Rowan-Salisbury School System
PO Box 2349
Salisbury, NC 28145-2349 (Mail)
314 North Ellis Street (Location)
Office: 704-630-6103
Cell:   704-213-9406
Fax:    704-630-6129 

Thursday, December 3, 2009 (Salisbury, NC) – The Rowan-Salisbury School System has received a grant for the “Learning on the Go – Anytime-Anywhere” technology project at North Rowan High School. This project received support from the Golden LEAF Foundation by awarding RSS a grant in the amount of $199,605.16.  

With receipt of this funding, the school system will be in a position to rapidly expand the iPod touch program at North Rowan High School by providing an iPod touch to every 11th-grade student at North Rowan High and equip every 11th-grade classroom with a MacBook Cart and wireless internet access.  Phil Hardin, Executive Director of Technology for the school system and author of the grant, received this exciting news in a letter signed by Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation.  In this letter, Mr. Gerlach stated, “We trust that this support will further your work to the benefit of North Carolinians.”   Following receipt of the letter, Mr. Hardin and Tara Trexler, the system’s Chief Financial Officer, participated in a teleconference workshop to become acquainted with the policies governing the grant as outlined by the Golden LEAF Foundation.  

Rowan-Salisbury School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom expounds on the exciting news of what this grant means to the school system by stating, “At a time when our school system is experiencing a very tough budget year and where funds for technology were drastically cut by our state, we have managed to secure funding to continue to move our system forward by providing our students with the technology that they must have to compete in the job market. I commend Mr. Hardin for his outstanding work in seeking this funding and for leading the charge in assuring that our staff are trained in the use of technology tools.”  Dr. Grissom continues to say that, “As a school system, we owe our students the opportunity to learn from and about technology so they will be prepared for their future.”

Mr. Hardin explained in the grant application that, “The school system realizes that our students live in an on-demand, technology-centric world and the way our students learn and their expectation of school is different from the students of previous years.”   Mr. Hardin continues to write that, “Most students report that dropping out of high school is a gradual process of disengagement that results in the lack of connection to school.  We believe that student disengagement can be addressed in this project by making teaching and learning relative through the incorporation of 21st century tools, skills, and activities.”

The Rowan-Salisbury School System is pleased with the partnership that has been developed with Apple, Inc. in providing 21st century tools and skills to students at North Rowan High. North Rowan High was chosen for this project because of a number of growing challenges that include improving student academic achievement, increasing student enrollment, and increasing the graduation rate.  In a school that has a free and reduced lunch percentage of 63%, changes are being made to engage students in learning so they can enter the work force or continue their education at an institute of higher learning equipped with the necessary skills to be successful in their endeavors.   

The iPod touch digital learning environment was introduced to North’s 9th-grade students in the spring of 2009, with plans to provide each new 9th-grade class with the iPod touch until the entire school was involved in this project.  Now, this grant, along with two additional funding sources received from the “Stimulus” grant and the “Enhancing Education Technology Teaching” grant, will allow all students at North Rowan High to be using an iPod touch this current school year.  Dr. Grissom comments that, “A project that began less than a year ago, with an expectancy of taking several years to fully implement, will now realize completion in just one year.  I am very very proud of our administrators, excited for the staff and students at North Rowan High, and grateful for the support and funds received in making this project a reality for our students.”

Since implementing the iPod touch project at North Rowan High last year, staff has noticed that student engagement and student attendance has increased and student discipline has decreased.

Parental involvement is a key component to the success of the iPod touch project at North Rowan High.  Parents are encouraged to attend a meeting and to sign a contract assuring their support in assisting their child’s understanding in the use of the iPods in teaching the state curriculum.   

With the iPod touch being a new and unique program, and one of very few across the nation, Apple Inc. recently sponsored an Open House and invited superintendents, technology administrators, principals and teachers from across the state to observe several schools in our district, including North Rowan High, that provide digital learning environments for students. Approximately 65 attended, including the NC State School Board Chair Dr. Bill Harrison, and they were amazed at the use of technology in engaging students in learning along with the creativity of staff and students.  “Teachers are embracing the new tools very quickly and principals are seeking funding from fundraisers and matching fund projects to writing numerous grants” says Dr. Grissom.

The mission of the Rowan-Salisbury School System is to develop globally competitive schools that will inspire, challenge and empower students to meet high academic standards. “When you see the direction of the school board coming to fruition, you know we are on track and doing what we need to be doing” states RSS School Board Chair Dr. Jim Emerson.  “We are doing not only what needs to be done, but we are leaders in how to move forward making the necessary changes to keep our students engaged and on track to graduate from high school.  I could not be more pleased and happy for the North Rowan High School students and staff and I applaud Dr. Grissom and her staff. This is great news.”  

The funds received from the Golden LEAF Foundation will enhance student learning at North Rowan High School by allowing the classrooms to reflect the learning environment that today’s students need, want, and expect in order to stay in school, acquire skills, and graduate from high school as they move on to a successful future.