Fort Mill Times

CMS leader: Steele Creek schools, businesses model for others

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark likes what she sees at Steele Creek schools.

“We’ve got to replicate this,” Clark told more than 80 community stakeholders Thursday morning at the second annual Alignment Southwest Charlotte joint strategic partnership event. “Each and every one of you is going to be tapped at some point to talk about how you made it happen.”

The Steele Creek group is a collection of schools, businesses, faith and civic leaders committed to expanding opportunities for students and providing a high-functioning workforce after graduation. Accomplishments in the first year range from a $200,000 advanced manufacturing and technology center at Olympic High School to grants and donations, and science programs and field trips at the elementary school level.

“We talk about it takes a village,” Clark said, “ …but we rarely see a village coming together around …schools the way it’s happened here in the Olympic community.”

Schools are using the expertise and commitment of local companies to improve the skills of graduates, said Charles Wilkerson of Steele Creek Printing, who is part of the Arrowood Business Association responsible for donations in robotics, science competitions and IT grants.

Businesses hiring the skilled graduates get a return on their investment.

“We don’t treat our partners as donors,” Wilkerson said.

Yolonda Holmes, who coordinates school and community partnerships for the district, finds Steele Creek a willing community.

“The work that we do is not in vain,” Holmes said. “It is very important. It is about passion, and it is about intent.”

Kim Odom, principal at River Gate Elementary School, said talk between her school and businesses “hasn’t been just lip service.”

Jaelin Register, a fifth-grader, is going to a Dallas, Texas, competition for model UN on sponsorships. Fifth-grader Isabella Parolini is part of a STEMpossible science program for girls supported by local companies.

“They showed the many girls there that we can do whatever and be whatever we want,” Parolini said.

Several school administrators said connectivity is key, but it can’t just be schools connecting with parents and expecting help from businesses and other sectors of the community.

“We’re committed to the businesses as well as the parents and the students that live here,” said Merita Little, Steele Creek Elementary School principal.

John Marks •  803-831-8166