Justin Hill

Kinston Free Press

June 6, 2012

usdeNorth Carolina’s Eastern Region — specifically Lenoir and Craven counties — hosted U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier Wednesday as she toured several STEM East facilities and participated in a roundtable discussion with students, teachers and public and private partners.

“We need to find out what’s happening on the ground,” Dann-Messier said of the reason for her visit. “We don’t have the answers in Washington — they are on the ground with those of you doing this work on a daily basis.”

The day started with a tour of Contentnea-Savannah K8 Schools’ math center — one of the first in the state. During the tour, she spoke with students and instructor Kenny McNeil about the innovative approach on math education.

The project-based center is housed at the school’s computer lab and will allow students to have hands-on experience with Math 1 — which replaces Algebra 1 in the new common core standards. Modules will be based on topics such as sports statistics, unsolved mysteries, climate change and projectile motion. Dann-Messier called the lab “phenomenal.”

The assistant secretary also had the opportunity to meet with community leaders about the way STEM has caught hold in the area.

Tom Vermillion, who has been involved with STEM East since its inception in 2009, told the assistant secretary the effort came about through several groups deciding to work together.

“You were in your own little bubble and we’ve tried to bring those groups together,” he said. “Just two years ago, we were trying to find places that were doing this (STEM) and now people are coming to us, which is kind of neat.”

Craven County School Director of Career-Technical Education Chris Bailey also participated in the discussion. He led a tour of STEM Career Investigation’s Lab — which was implemented by the N.C. Eastern Region, through the Golden LEAF Foundation.

“I think it is highly important for her to see how we have made our program more rigorous,” Bailey said. “(The students are) more in tune to STEM-type careers … and that makes our area more attractive to business and industry because we’ve made our students more employable.”

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