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Leadership Raleigh is all about connecting with our community, and a BIG part of that community is our schools. The Wake County Public School System is the largest school district in the state, the 15th largest in the country, and the third largest employer in our county. Our county also is home to 12 traditional universities and colleges, Wake Technical Community College, and numerous satellite campuses and for-profit institutions of higher education. The Raleigh community’s education culture is unusually rich and it was so informative to learn more about it.
Education Day was timed perfectly for our Leadership Raleigh 37 class, since we had heard so many panelists talk about the need for quality educational opportunities from pre-K through college during our Local Economy Day. We started Education Day with a panel discussion at Meredith College on trends and projections for education in North Carolina. Our panelists included deans from the schools of education at local colleges and the director of the Teaching Fellows program. We learned about the looming teacher shortage crisis, the lack of diversity among educators in our state, the rural/urban divide regarding teacher retention, and many other complex issues facing education in our state.
We then toured Exploris Elementary School, one of the oldest charter schools in the state, near downtown Raleigh. Our class participated in student-led tours where we saw student projects, peeked inside bustling classrooms, and heard the big dreams of our fourth and fifth grade tour guides.
From there we toured the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, where students not only work on their high school education, but also can begin taking community college classes on site through a partnership with Wake Tech. Students can earn credits in programs such as biopharmaceutical technology, welding, and cosmetology. Each of the seven credit programs offered was selected because of the high demand for that trade among Wake County employers. While enjoying lunch at Vernon Malone CCA, we heard tips on common sense leadership from Tom Cavanagh, chief customer officer and vice president of the intellectual property solutions division at Eastman Kodak Company.
Finally, we visited the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the most visited attraction in North Carolina. We met with scientists and naturalists who help run the museum’s educational programs, both at the museum and off-site. We also were wowed by the survivalist skills demonstrated on one of the museum’s mobile learning carts. We had fun testing out our science knowledge with a quiz game in the museum’s three-story Daily Planet Theater.
As always, our Leadership Raleigh day was engaging and informative, and we all are now better informed citizens of our education-rich city!