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With 89 schools serving more than 52,000 students, educating the youth of Cumberland County is no small challenge. As 2010 comes to an end and a new year lies ahead, we spoke with Dr. Frank Till, superintendent, about the “state of the schools” and the accomplishments and challenges of the school system.

According to Till, the county schools have much to be proud of in 2010.

“We had a good year. Achievement was up signifi cantly. And, we have begun to be recognized for our global initiative, which was even highlighted by the State Department. We feel good about that recognition and our future opportunities,” said Till.

Of course, the focus of the school system is still on making sure our students get the basic skills — science, math, languages — to make them competitive to get into colleges and careers. Achievement in those areas went up signifi cantly. Many subject areas were above the state average and 56 of 89 schools became high growth schools. But the global studies initiative takes the basic education up a notch, preparing students to work in a global economy and be competitive for jobs worldwide.

“Through several partnerships, we are exposing our students to international opportunities, and exposing them to languages such as Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.”

Although Cumberland County celebrated many achievements in 2010, the year ahead offers many challenges.

“I think we’ve made good progress. But we can’t be satisfi ed with where we’re at; We have to keep growing. We can’t be complacent. We have to keep moving in the right direction.”

One of the biggest challenges is to implement a new technology plan to go completely wireless in the next three years. This includes every facility in the district, plus new devices for all teachers. In some subject areas, if funds allow, there will also be new devices for students.

And of course, with the state of the economy, funds are a challenge. “Logistically, the state is still going through some tough times so we have to sort out our budget cuts. We hope, from some things we are implementing, to minimize the impact on the children and the classroom,” says Till.

And then there is BRAC. The community has been abuzz about the Base Realignment and Closure and the infl ux of new people to Fort Bragg. Naturally, those people will be bringing families and school-aged children to our area. But Till is certain that we are prepared for them.

“In the short term, we’ll have more students, but we are prepared facility wise. We opened a new elementary school this year, and will open a new middle school in 2012. A new college-type high school program will start next year around international studies,” explained Till. “We believe we have enough capacity in the short term. We’ll be ready when it occurs.”

As Till completes 2010 and his 19 months with the Cumberland County School System, he is excited about the future.

“I think the real key is just continuing to put things in place to continue growth in student achievement. We want to be above the state average. Our goal is to be among the top school districts in the state in achievement and opportunities for children,” he said. “We want Cumberland County to truly be a place where any student who works hard can achieve their dream. We’re proud of our young people and our staff and we think together we’ll create a good future for Cumberland County.”

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