Congratulations to Dr. William Harrison on his new job — taking charge of the educational needs of North Carolina’s K-12 public school children. This is great news!
   Last week, Gov. Beverly Purdue took action to elevate Harrison to the state’s top education position. Her announcement was swift, to the point  and with a sense of urgency that has rekindled the faith of parents, teachers, administrators and school officials as to the  future of quality public education in North Carolina. Purdue acknowledged the need for hard work and bold and deliberate leadership to rally the once strong educational system that has long since been tarnished and weakened by years of apathy and neglect.
   Will I miss Jane Atkinson, former superintendent of North Carolina Schools? I never even knew Jane Atkinson. Nor have I ever had an opportunity to meet her. That’s pretty unusual considering that in the last three years our homegrown literacy newspaper and educational resource Kidsville News! has been provided “free of charge” monthly to more than 250,000 K-6 grade children in 30 school districts throughout North Carolina.   {mosimage}Our publication has also been used several times by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for EOG testing and evaluation.
   Every copy of the Kidsville News! is provided courtesy of local businesses and organizations that believe strongly that before a child can really learn, he must be able to read. The unique Kidsville News! concept was created  in 1998 shortly after Dr. Harrison came to Cumberland County.
   Though the concept of a countywide community-supported reading and literacy program was a good one, the shear expense of it made the reality doubtful. However, Harrison supported the Kidsville News! vision and within one year, with the help of a grateful community, this “free” fun, family reading resource was in the hands of every elementary school child in Cumberland County, Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force.
Eleven years later it is a staple in the classroom. That’s vision. In 2005, we started allowing other newspapers in North Carolina to make Kidsville News! available in their communities. However, they had to agree to two major stipulations: It had to be published the same way it was done in Cumberland County; and it had to be “free” and available to every child in the community.
   Consequently, this same reading  program Dr. Harrison supported in Cumberland County exploded onto the education scene.
   In three short years Kidsville News! has expanded out to more than 130 communities in 28 states with a circulation of more than 1.25 million per month. This all started with Harrison’s support and a shared vision that young children need to read and can read with quality educational resources in the classroom.
   Sure, we’ll miss Bill Harrison here in this community, but our loss is North Carolina’s gain. Besides, what better compliment to him than to share Kidsville News! and his accomplishments with our state and all children, teachers and parents in educational communities all across this great nation. We’re proud of you Dr. William Harrison and Truman,the Kidsville mascot, is one happy dragon!

Contact Bill Bowman at bill@upandcomingweekly.com

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