Tag Archives: Union County

Bench-Warmers Without a Bench: N.C. Should Fund All K-12 Sports

By Harrison Taylor, Staff Writer

Every day between the hours of seven and nine, my 16-year-old brother practices his extra craft: playing varsity football for his school. He plays because he loves the sport. The activity provides him structure, balance, and, most importantly, something to do.

I can remember when he first started playing when he was in fifth grade. A nosy family member asked one day after his practice, “Why do you spend all this time on this? What’s the point?”

Another relative replied, “Well, you must start somewhere.”

While his school, Cuthbertson High School, has dozens of sports and activities, another school in the same county, Monroe High School (A school located in a poorer part of the county), doesn’t even have a baseball field. Students who play must share a field with another school nearby.

While sports at Monroe are bound and plentiful, some may be cancelled due to no adult volunteer to coach the team. Compared with other schools in the area, Monroe has an average of 25 percent less athletic opportunities than the top three schools in Union County.

The lack of funding schools like Monroe receive for athletics and extracurriculars is no secret. According to Union County Public School’s 2017 Individual School Financial Statements, Cuthbertson had a receipt of $212,944 for their athletic programs, while Monroe had a significantly less receipt of $159,286 for their programs.

When a school has less funding for sports, what happens to kids in places like Monroe? Students are left without equipment, volunteers, and without an activity. Activities can be essential in an adolescent or child’s development and can even predict whether that child is going to graduate high school or go to college.

This point is discussed heavily in Robert Putnam’s book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Putnam’s research points to the impact sports and activities have for developing social skills, a child’s community involvement, and even their future economic success.

Putnam argues that important adult mentors from outside a child’s family come directly from sports, as these ‘have nots’–which Putnam defines as kids who come from lower income areas that struggle with providing extracurriculars–can be excluded from experiences that kids at more wealthy schools are given on an almost daily basis.

My brother gets to play football just by participating in a local fundraiser and paying for his jersey. This may not be the same for the students at Monroe High School. What are the consequences of such experiences for these students? When a kid wants to play lacrosse and is simply told, “We don’t have a coach or the money.”

A few weeks ago, teachers from around the state of North Carolina gathered in Raleigh to demand more funding for education. Last week, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget due to small proposed increases education saw in this budget. Just two days ago, the NC General Assembly voted to override his veto as the new budget passed.

But, there is still time to talk about what goes into a future state budget. Just as teachers have become fed up with being underpaid and underappreciated, perhaps this is an opportunity to look at those who have been underfunded and overlooked.

Our state budget shouldn’t just increase teacher pay and funding for their curriculum. The budget should go beyond the classroom and allow the kids who want to play to do so.

This would increase graduation rates, get kids in poor areas off the streets, and allow talented student athletes to shine regardless of their location. Putnam’s ‘have nots’ can have a lot if we choose to help them.

The kids in Monroe deserve a fighting chance. North Carolina should fund all K-12 sports for the same reason they should buy more textbooks: You must start somewhere.

Edited by: Rachael Robinson

BIGG helps transform Heritage Trail

Celestia Randolph, Staff Writer


Last Friday evening, Bulldogs Into Going Green (BIGG) members assisted Carol Larrimore, master gardener and chief director of the Heritage Project, in her efforts to transform the Heritage Trail into a place for locals to enjoy.

Started roughly two years ago, the Heritage Trail Project, located at the Union County Agricultural Center,  is the concerted result of multiple Union County Boy Scouts of America chapters and Wingate’s Master Gardener’s Association. Its purpose is to educate North Carolinians about their state’s unique ecological systems.

Along the trail, which is cooled by the shade of white oak, pecan, and black walnut trees, are native plants such as wild violets and orange honeysuckle and medicinal plant species including black cohosh and goldenseal.

This recreation of North Carolina’s native ecosystem has provided an educational setting for local elementary schools, and other groups of ecologically minded youth. “All of the plants along the trail were labeled.”  Molly Hutson, BIGG president, related. “It’s really cool to learn what the plants we see everyday are called, and it’s also important to know which invasive plant species threaten them.

“The potential of the Agricultural Center’s additional acreage was recognized by a local gardener years ago,” said Larrimore. “When she moved out of state, I was eager to take to this project.”  Larrimore wishes, more than ever, to involve volunteer and student organizations in her project.

BIGG was grateful to be a part of such a valuable asset to the Wingate area. If any Wingate students are interested in lending a hand to the project, links will be available on the BIGG Facebook page.

Edited By Dustin Kiggins and Rachael Robinson


Local Republicans celebrate Election Night victories

Championing the Conservative Cause

Maggie Smith and Megan Katz, Staff Writers

The members and supporters of the Union County Republican Party gathered at Hilltop on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 8 to celebrate the races and in some cases victories.

As votes were being tallied local representatives dined and mingled with their constituents, friends, and families.

Incumbent Mark Brody, NC House Representative of the 55th District, won his race with 60.5% of the votes. Brody attributed the success for the Republican Party this election to the decision to campaign as a team, as opposed to individuals.

The party was put on by Robert Pittenger, who also won his race for US House Representative of the 9th District with 58.3% of the votes. Pittenger shared his gratitude and praised the great leadership in Union County.

Tommy Tucker ran unopposed and was re-elected as NC Senator from District 35. Tucker was first elected as NC Senator in 2010. Tucker said he is the best for the job because he has the experience, he views government as a business, and he is a small business owner himself.

Tucker got his start in politics when he decided to run for mayor because his city council would not fund youth sports. He lost the race 60-40. Tucker said it sparked his love of politics, and he has since served as mayor, county commissioner, and now state senator.

“This is where I want to be,” Tucker said. “I was born here, I love this state, and that’s why I’m serving.”

Another incumbent present at the party was NC House Representative Dean Arp from the 69th District. He won his race against Democrat Gordon Daniels with 66% of the votes. With a background in structural engineering, Arp got his start in politics on the Union County School Board. Arp served from 2000-2012.

“I would not have been able to become an engineer without my education,” Arp said. “That’s why it was so important to me to be able to have a say in education.”

Arp said he feels that the best measure of future success is past successes. Arp says he and his colleagues have been able to dedicate 67% of the total state budget to education, as well as making North Carolina 29th in teacher pay when you factor in cost of living.

“When you can affect a positive change for someone who is in a difficult environment, that is the joy of serving,” Arp said.

“My belief is you vote your conscience first, you vote your constituents second, and you vote your caucus third,” said Arp. “I encourage people to elect people with the character and the values that represent you.”

Edited By: Sara Gunter


Technology benefits students in the classroom

Technology not just at home but in the classroom

Josh Dominguez, Staff Writer

This month’s Union County Public School Board meeting was hosted at Cuthbertson High School. Cuthbertson has made it a point to prove technology has been emphasized over the years in schools as a learning tool to help students.

Cuthbertson High School has taken the non-traditional approach to enhance the nature of classroom learning for their students with the addition of multiple technological uses.

Over time technology has been criticized for being used in the classroom as “taking the easy way out” Cuthbertson thinks differently from that. Classrooms in Cuthbertson High School are filled with smartboards, laptops, and a lot of digital learning.

Teaching students in a way that they can understand and connect to is an important area in which this particular high school takes pride in.

Some of the things that they use the technology for in class is very interactive. For example, if a student were to be struggling in understanding something the smartboard allows the teacher to highlight the words or section on the screen so that the student can visually see what is being explained.

In addition to the smartboard, the High School has a college feel to it, in that a lot of the classes have their own course website. This allows the students to be on their laptops in class to follow along with the power points or digital notes being explained.

Cuthbertson High School students made a brief video exhibiting the uses of the technology in the classroom. “Having our laptops in class give us the ability to not only see what is up on the board, but have it in front of us so that we can look over it if we did not understand it.” said a current student from Cuthbertson.

The school board praised Cuthbertson for being one of many high schools that have taken the education to the next level by incorporating technology in the classroom.

The UCPS school board is in the efforts of increasing the budget to help the cause of technology in the classroom. “With the potential of us increasing the budget we want to be able to get the best products for our students, being Apple products, and even more software options to provide to our students.”

The school board meets monthly and in these meetings an array of topics are discussed and the board members vote on certain topics, but also allow for local teachers to pitch their ideas about what is needed in the school system. Union County Public Schools is one of the best in the state and the board plans for it to keep growing.

Edited by: Sara Gunter

School bus driver shortage becomes problem in Union County

School Board Members set to discuss issues for parents and students in UCPS system. 

Sara Gunter, Staff Writer

Here in Union County there are over 10 public schools in the School System. This many schools means a high number of students, 31,000 to be exact. With that many schools and students comes a potential for problems.

At the monthly school board of education meeting commissioners sat down to discuss the many items that were of concern to the public.

Gary Sides, school board chairmen, voiced his concerns on a problem he noticed in the current school system. This problem being the school bus shortage.

“The Union County Public Schools Transportation Department currently operates 315 Regular Route School Buses. The buses are scheduled to run nearly 29,000 miles daily,” written on Union County Board Website.

Currently there are 16 vacancies and 8 drivers that are on family, medical leave of absence. This means there are 24 absences when it comes to school bus drivers in Union County.

Transportation Specialist for the Western Region of Union County Schools, Simone Sowell says, “these absences will be filled very soon. Our main priority is the students; we are taking the necessary steps in order to make sure each student is able to come to school in whatever means necessary.”

This means that the students are suffering in ways that the school board might not share. Jane Frankie, parent of a Union County Elementary School Student describes  how this is going to affect her student.

“My student has to get on the bus at 7:00 am over an hour early to get on the bus, she sits next to a student that has been on the bus since 6:30am. To me that’s ridiculous. There is a student that has been sitting on a bus for two hours before school starts in order to go to school.”

With growing concerns coming from parents, there are sure to be lots of comments and concerns prepared for the next meeting. The school board plans on discussing many problem and concerns in the upcoming meeting Nov. 1.


UCPS makes changes to mobile app

Union County Public Schools Launches New and Improved Mobile App

Kendall Sienon, Staff Writer

Union County, N.C. — Finally, connectivity has reached Union County Public Schools in the 21st century. The new and approved UCPS app is now available for students, parents, teachers, staff and administration and it’s FREE! This will allow users to stay connected and up to date on what’s going on with Union County Schools.

This new app has been updated to allow users to customize it by selecting the school(s) they would like to follow. There is a new Activity Stream feature that pulls all social media posts from all the schools. The News feature shows all the stories that are relevant through out the county.

Push notifications allow users to receive alerts on upcoming events or important announcements. This will most likely be most beneficial to parents and students because they won’t have to search through the app to get important information; it will show up right on their screen. But perhaps the best new feature is the Tip Line; this allows users to submit tips to the school or the district in categories such as bullying, kudos, safety, and other feedback.

Becky Swiger, Union County Public Schools Web Communications Coordinator, believes that the new app will “increase access to information because of its ease in functionality and quick access to materials”. The design resembles that of social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

When the app is downloaded and ready to open, the first thing it asks is to select what school(s) that one is interest in. The first page shows the top stories of the county. Other features are set up in an easy, organized fashion in icons that connect a user to exactly where they need to go. Some of these icons include the Calendar, Sports, Lunch Menus, Transportation, Parent Information, Directory, K12 Payment Center, the Tip Line, Settings and plenty other useful information.

Swiger is the administrator of the app and has the ability to customize the icons within the app, how they look, what they link to, how they are ordered, and what feeds are being pulled in. The app was coded and provided by Blackboard. Currently, there are 4,963 downloads.

Edited by: Sara Gunter

Forest Hills Teacher Recognized by UCPS Board of Education

Teacher brings new ideas from Washington after receiving an award. 

Robert Gay, Staff Writer

Lauren Baucom, a science teacher at Forest Hills High School, addressed Union County Board of Education members last week during the monthly school board meeting on Oct. 4. Baucom, was present at the meeting to receive recognition from board members after being selected to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science teaching (PAEMST).

She used this time to challenge board members to consider policy implementations that addressed ‘inequities in the classroom’ following her visit to Washington D.C. during the National Science Foundation Next Generation Forum.

“We know that not all schools are created equal and not all classes are created equal,” said Baucom. “I see that in my own classes when I have 36% Whites and 33% African-American enrolled in a mathematics course yet those numbers drastically change in my Advanced Placement Calculus when it becomes 68% White and 14% for both Latino and African-American. We have to ask ourselves why that is.”

She encouraged the board to consider the importance of active learning in the classroom, job ready computer science skills, and following a STEM education model that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

Board members seemed especially receptive to Baucom’s remarks at the meeting, which was held at Cuthbertson High School. “We want to thank you for putting our children first and bringing innovation and passion into the classroom,” said Melissa Merrell, UCPS Board of Education Member.

Baucom has been teaching math for eight years, three of which have been in the Union County School system. Last year, she served as the Forest Hills Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the UCPS Teacher of the Year.

Staff writer Gabe Kromah contributed to this story

Edited by: Sara Gunter