SANFORD — Lee Early College students felt Cobra pride as Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss presented them with banners for achieving School of Distinction and High Growth during the 2009-10 school year.
“Good morning, leaders of North Carolina,” Moss addressed the students gathered in the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center for the presentation. “There is no doubt that the state will be in good hands with the preparation you are making to lead us.”
Each year, in October, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction releases its annual School Report Cards, which provide information on student achievement, attendance, teacher quality, graduation rates, and other indicators of success for all public schools in the state.
Lee Early College was the only public high school in Lee County to earn the School of Distinction designation. It earned that designation by its success on the indicators. Between 80 and 90 percent of its almost 300 students perform at grade level, including their college-level studies.
In addition, every student within designated Adequate Yearly Progress testing subgroups (race, ethnicity, economically disadvantaged, etc.) met the state AYP achievement goals in reading/language arts and math, earning it the High Performance ranking.
“Receiving these recognitions is an honor, a great privilege,” said senior Shakeel Harris, who served as the 2009-10 student body president. “All our hard work has come to fruition.”
Lee Early College opened in the fall of 2006 as an educational collaboration between Central Carolina Community College and Lee County Schools. It is the local response to the call by then-Gov. Mike Easley for school districts and colleges and universities to work together to expand educational opportunities for high school students.
This statewide initiative is known as the New Schools Project, which is overseen by the governor’s office with partial funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the NCDPI’s High School Innovation Project.
LEC is Lee County’s third high school, but it is unique in that it is located at CCCC’s Lee County Campus. Both high school teachers and college instructors teach the students.
The students receive a high quality, rigorous academic experience that enables them to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree or two years university transfer credits in four to five years. The first graduates received their diplomas and degrees in May 2010.
Moss pointed out that the highest distinction awarded by the NCDPI, School of Excellence, was missed by Lee Early College by just 1 percentage point. The students took this challenge to heart.
“Imagine what we can do if we work harder — just 1 percentage point,” said Gloribel Vanegas, the current student body president. “It’s all about improving. It’s all about our making our school a great school.”
Principal Robert Biehl said the school earned the recognitions because the students took school seriously and LEC has a staff and faculty second to none. He said the goal now is to become a School of Excellence, the first in Lee County.
CCCC President Bud Marchant praised the students for their accomplishments.
“We are so proud of you,” he said. “Everyday you amaze us with what you can do. Give yourselves a round of applause — you deserve it.”
And the Lee Early College students did so enthusiastically.