By Andrew Houlian
Last week, more than 3,000 Union County Public Schools seniors earned their high school diplomas.
These outstanding graduates have broken barriers, continued the tradition of shattering district records and made significant accomplishments throughout their time in our school system. As I talked to many of them this year, it was clear to me that no matter their post-secondary plans, our graduates are ready and prepared for their next stage in life.
Closing the door on another graduation season provides me with the opportunity to not only congratulate our seniors but also reflect on what has been another incredible school year.
During the past year, we’ve expanded college and career readiness experiences for our students and strengthened our EmpowerED framework for Tier One instruction.
Through a partnership with Union County Government, we’ve added nine social workers and five mental health therapists to provide social and emotional support to students throughout the district. Video doorbells are now at every elementary school and a Union County Sheriff’s Office partnership resulted in the addition of nine elementary school resource officers.
Due to the strong leadership of the UCPS Board of Education, the 2019-20 budget proposal continued to build our focus on ensuring our students have access to the resources they need. Nine additional school counselors will be added across all comprehensive high schools and instructional assistants will receive market salary increases.
Additionally, the progress we continued to make with literacy, technology and student achievement was exceptional.
For the first time since the 2013-14 school year, UCPS did not have any low-performing schools. Walter Bickett Elementary not only exited low-performing status but it also exceeded growth.
Also, our athletics program earned more than 35 team and individual state championships this year, keeping UCPS in the spotlight for its top-notch coaching, statistics and sportsmanship.
One of my personal highlights of the year was the implementation of the Wayfind Scholars program at East Union Middle and Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle. Through this partnership with Wingate University, each of the 20 first-generation students selected for the program will be eligible to receive scholarships to cover the four-year cost of tuition at Wingate University.
This is just another example of how our collaboration with businesses and community partners are opening doors for UCPS students.
It is because of the continued support of our outstanding board of education, principals, teachers, support staff, parents and community that our graduates leave our school system each year ready to positively impact their communities, enter a career or pursue higher education.
Union County, it is an honor to serve our 41,000-plus students, thousands of employees and this community. Working together, we will continue to move forward and make UCPS the best school system in the region, state and nation.
Andrew Houlihan works as superintendent of Union County Public Schools.