W.C. Friday Middle School has been awarded a NC Schools Go Outside (GO) Grant from the NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council. The grant is to construct an on-campus outdoor classroom structure, and the funding from the grant amounts to $15,000. I had the pleasure of informing Jenny Bumgarner, a teacher at the school, that her class received this grant.
GO Grants are $250 to $15,000 grants provided to access field study locations and assist with other expenditures that result from taking students outdoors or to build outdoor classrooms. Qualifying for grants requires classroom instructors to demonstrate how the experience will address topics currently being taught in class and that the experience meets the goals of the Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund plan. The program also allows staff at field study sites to apply on behalf of teachers with their permission. 
The GO Grants are awarded by the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund for Youth Outdoor Heritage Promotion which is administered by the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council. The Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council and Trust Fund were established in 2015 by the North Carolina General Assembly in an effort to expand the opportunities for persons 16 and under to engage in outdoor recreational activities.

As always, if you require assistance, please contact my office, and we will help in any way possible. Please also follow my legislative page on Facebook for the latest news.

It is an honor to represent you and Gaston County in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

All My Best,
John Torbett
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NC Board of Science, Technology & Innovation
Quarterly Meeting

On Tuesday, August 9th, Viddia and I attended the third-quarter meeting of the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation. The meeting was held at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Advanced Technology Center in Kannapolis, NC. The NC Board of Science, Technology & Innovation (NCBSTI) is a State-authorized advisory board administered by the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation at the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Its mission is to improve the economic well‐being and quality of life of all North Carolinians through advancing science, technology, and innovation.
Our day began with a tour of the North Carolina Research Campus. Following the tour, the meeting started with welcoming remarks from Dr. Carol S. Spalding, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President, and Darrell Hinnant, Mayor of Kannapolis. After welcoming remarks, the board spent time on administrative business, followed by Board Chair Michael Cunningham providing an update on the One NC Small Business Program and the Defense Innovation Initiative. Attendees then heard a presentation from Brent Barbee, CTO and Co-Founder of United Protective Technologies, LLC. United Protective Technologies is a grantee of the One NC Small Business Program.
Next were remarks from members of the General Assembly. I addressed attendees on my legislative priorities and thoughts on the role small businesses and innovation play in growing our state’s economy. Also giving legislative remarks to the board were State Senator Carl Ford, State Senator Natasha Marcus, and State Senator Paul Newton. I want to thank the board for inviting me to speak at its quarterly meeting.
NC Chamber Education and Workforce Conference

On Thursday, August 11th, Viddia and I attended the NC Chamber’s Education and Workforce Conference in Durham, NC.

The conference began with remarks from Debra Derr, Director of Government Affairs for the NC Chamber. Laura Ispen, President and CEO of Ellucian Company, L.P., gave the sponsor remarks. Meredith Archie, President of the NC Chamber Foundation, then gave attendees an overview of the Institute for Workforce Competitiveness. Jamie Francis, U.S. Chamber Vice President of Policy and Programs, gave the keynote address. Following a short break, there was a panel discussion on developing a workforce to meet North Carolina’s business needs. Speakers on the panel included individuals from the NC Department of Public Instruction, myFutureNC, and District C. Susan Gates, Special Advisor on Education for the SAS Institute, moderated the discussion.

Diana Hurtado, Strategic Partnership Manager for WGU North Carolina, introduced the next panel in which I participated. My legislative colleagues, State Senator Sydney Batch, State Senator Jim Burgin, and State Representative Ashton Clemmons joined me on the panel. Moderating the discussion was Mebane Rash, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of EducationNC. During the panel, we discussed our state’s goal of having 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or degree by 2030. I spoke on how following years of discussing workforce development, Gaston County has a plan in place that aligns students, parents, educators, and businesses. The moderator then spoke about the implementation of the LETRS program as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 and our hope to see a positive impact on reading test results. Panelists were then asked what the next steps are in staying the course on leading in reading. I stated that we must continue to monitor and demand LETRS delivers the outcome our parents and children deserve.

I want to thank the NC Chamber for hosting the conference. I would also like to thank my legislative colleagues and our moderator for a wonderful conversation on workforce development. I look forward to attending more NC Chamber events in the future.
House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina's Future Meeting

The House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina's Future met on Monday, August 15th. The meeting was held at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh. After calling the meeting to order, I gave opening remarks to committee members and attendees.

The first presentation of the afternoon was from Dr. Eddie Price, Director of the UNC NC Principal Fellows Program (click here to view the slide show). Alongside Dr. Price was Dr. Tony Stewart, Assistant Director of the Principal Fellows Program. The Principal Fellows Program (PFP) provides merit-based scholarship loans for individuals with teaching or relevant experience who want to enter education administration in North Carolina public schools. During his presentation, Dr. Price explained how recent changes to the PFP, and its merger with the Transforming Principal Preparation Program, have solved many of the program's problems.

Dr. Price stated that the PFP is projected to produce 1,000 graduates by 2028. He also noted the program is working to implement a metric to determine its impact. According to Dr. Price, it is hard to calculate impact as it takes 6-7 years for an individual to become a principal. After Dr. Price concluded, committee members asked questions. I asked Dr. Price if there is a way to gauge the success of program fellows. Dr. Price said that there is a formative assessment of the PFP's programs each year and that results will appear in teacher working condition surveys.

Our next presentation was given by Katherine Joyce, Executive Director of the NC Association of School Administrators (NCASA). Ms. Joyce's presentation was on the role of principals. You can view the slide show for this presentation by clicking here. Ms. Joyce stated that today's principals are required to serve in two overarching roles: a CEO (i.e., the daily business manager of the school) and an instructional leader (i.e., leading teachers and focusing on student growth). The primary focus of both these roles must be student success.

The State Board of Education (SBE) has adopted 21 competencies for principals to be evaluated (can be seen on slide four). In addition to these competencies, SBE has adopted eight standards for school executives (slides five through seven) that are currently being piloted in NC. Ms. Joyce stated that the NCASA believes these competencies and standards fit well in the principal's role as CEO and instructional leader. At the end of her presentation, Ms. Joyce provided the NCASA's proposed legislative and policy changes. During the question-and-answer period, I asked Ms. Joyce what she felt was the most compelling reason teachers leave the classroom and become administrators. Ms. Joyce said that the reason has been to pursue higher salaries.

The third presentation of the meeting was from Leah Sutton, Vice President of Policy and Engagement for BEST NC. You can view Ms. Sutton's slide show by clicking here. BEST NC represents over a hundred North Carolina business leaders that care very deeply about education in our state. Ms. Sutton stated that ¼ of a school's impact on academic achievement could be attributed to the principal. She then gave an overview of statistics on North Carolina principals. While we do not know the reasoning behind it, data shows that the number of years a principal leads a public school decreases when that school has a higher poverty level. Ms. Sutton stated that BEST NC had identified four key challenges facing principals: an insufficient leadership pipeline, too many direct reports, limited access to resources, and too many responsibilities. She then went into detail about these challenges' conditions and what BEST NC's recommendations are to solve these issues. After Ms. Sutton concluded her presentation, she took questions from committee members.

Our last presentation of the meeting was from Thales (THAY-LEEZ) Academy Senior Administrators Ashley Bahor (Grades 6-12) and Heather Brame (Grades K-5). Thales Academy is a private school with campuses in five counties in North Carolina and other campuses in Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Following a synopsis of Thales Academy's mission and statistics by Mrs. Brame and Ms. Bahor, they went over their organizational structure. The academy is managed with elements of running a business with one administrator and one assistant administrator serving at the building level. System-wide support for campuses includes a senior administration team, Thales management team, and the Thales curriculum team. Ms. Bahor also stated that in addition to teaching students academics, Thales Academy teaches their students values and how to be productive citizens. Ms. Bahor and Mrs. Brame finished with questions from committee members. You can view the slide show for this presentation by clicking here.

I want to thank the presenters who spoke in front of the committee and gave members great information. The next meeting of the House Select Committee will be on Monday, August 29th. Please check to see the meeting scheduled on the legislative calendar and for information on how to view the committee's live stream.
Delegation Meeting with Gastonia Mayor

On Tuesday, August 16th, I attended a meeting of Gaston County’s legislative delegation and Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid. I was joined at the meeting by State Senator Kathy Harrington, State Representative Kelly Hastings, State Representative Donnie Loftis, and State Senator-Elect Brad Overcash. Also attending the meeting was Gastonia City Manager Michael Peoples.

The meeting began with Mayor Reid thanking the delegation for helping secure funding for the City of Gastonia in the 2021 and 2022 state budgets. We then discussed projects that the City of Gastonia would like Gaston County’s legislative delegation to support. I want to thank Mayor Reid and City Manager Peoples for hosting this meeting. I am proud to have secured funding for the City of Gastonia and look forward to attending future meetings with city officials.
Our Education System: Standards - Part 1

Since moving my focus in the North Carolina General Assembly to education (serving as Chairman of the House Education, K-12 Committee, the House Appropriations, Education Committee, and the House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future), I felt I should start providing information in my newsletter on components of North Carolina’s education system. Our state’s education system is vast and complex, and I hope the information I am providing will give individuals a condensed and clear overview of some pertinent education-related topics. The first topic we will cover is North Carolina’s STANDARDS.
Since 1955, state law has given the power to revise North Carolina’s STANDARDS to the State Board of Education. The law states, “[t]he Board shall develop a comprehensive plan to revise content standards and the standard course of study….” This means under the direction of state law, SBE has the ability to develop procedures for revising STANDARDS (You can read SBE’s manual by clicking here). Under their procedure, SBE will review standards for each content area every five to seven years. The content areas covered by the STANDARDS includes:
The State Board of Education (SBE) is composed of the Lieutenant Governor, the State Treasurer, and eleven other members appointed by the Governor to serve eight-year terms. Working with SBE to revise STANDARDS is the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Division of Academic Standards. The division is led by Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michael Maher, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Mary Hemphill, and Office of Academic Standards Director Dr. Kristi Day.
In my next newsletter, we will delve further into the procedure of revising standards. If there is an area of our Education System you wish me to cover in a future newsletter, please get in touch with me at [email protected].
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