Leadership Wilmington: The Power of Education
When walking the halls at Howe Pre-K, I noticed a large quote on the wall stating, “Work hard, play nice, stay kind.” This was how I got to start my day during Leadership Wilmington’s Education Day in November. I was lucky to spend the morning learning about the Pre-K education system across North Carolina and the many Pre-K options accessible to families throughout New Hanover County (I also learned many Pre-K schools have waitlists though and that we need to grow school capacity to meet the needs of all students). Principal Lauren Nalepa provided my group a tour of Mary Washington Howe Pre-K that included meeting teachers and interacting with students. Overall, this was a humbling experience. This is an amazing school with a principal who is dedicated and thoughtful.
Following my visit, I headed to the Chamber of Commerce where program participants gathered to continue learning about the education pipeline across our community, including early childhood education, secondary education, and post-secondary education opportunities. We were joined by the following leaders:
Jane Morrow, Executive Director, Smart Start
Dr. Charles Foust, Superintendent, New Hanover County Schools
John Downing, Vice President for Economic & Workforce Development, Cape Fear Community College
Dr. Donyell Roseboro, Interim Chief Diversity Officer, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Each presenter shared insight into their work, how it impacts education, and how education connects to our economy and overall community well-being. Here are a few highlights from our afternoon:
Dr. Foust shared a new initiative that would provide every student access to an individual electronic device (this speaks to technology access – think laptop for every student) and for every classroom to have a mounted projection/smart device (and that professional development would be included so that teachers will learn how to use these new devices and how they can improve the learning experience). He also shared how the county is focusing on recruiting educators and developing future principals (he called this, “building the bench”).
Jane Morrow reminded us how challenging it is to recruit early childhood educators because of pay and responsibilities. She shared that currently only 37% of children are in licensed childcare centers while the remainder of kids could be with a family member, parent, neighbor, etc. Jane also shared how expensive childcare is – with the average annual infant care costing $9,500.
Dr. Roseboro from UNCW introduced us to the many diversity initiatives on campus – from diversity recruitment to student resources and the diversity breakdown of faculty and staff. She shared how students have advocated for additional resources and support and how the administration has worked collaboratively with student groups, faculty, and staff to grow programming and increase resources.
John Downing from Cape Fear Community College provided information on the many training and academic programs available to students and how those programs connect directly to well-paying jobs in the region. Mr. Downing also educated us on CFCC’s Small Business Center and how the Center has provided resources and support for new and existing businesses as they’ve responded to COVID (including the fact that most services are free) and how the college’s truck driving training program is in high demand due to the transportation and logistics issues currently impacting the nation.
The education pipeline in our community is critical to the success of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and beyond. We understand how interconnected education and economic development are and that the community benefits when both work towards a common goal. Because of programs like Leadership Wilmington – Education Day and the support of the Chamber of Commerce, 34 leaders and rising leaders from across the region have a better understanding of the education landscape and how they can have a positive impact on this important work. Together they can believe in the power of education and follow the advice from the quote at the local Pre-K school as they lead others: “Work hard, play nice, stay kind.”