2 2019 Annual Review
From the Superintendent
As the Superintendent of Union County Public Schools, I am incredibly proud of the many
successes and accomplishments we have earned over the past school year.
Clearly, our school system is committed to ensuring that all of our 41,000-plus students come
first and that quality instruction is at the forefront of everything we do.
We have the best administrators and teachers in the state of North Carolina. Our educators
and support staff are committed to making sure all students have the skills they need to be
successful after high school. Everyone associated with Union County Public Schools embodies
the principles and traits that support the notion of #TEAMUCPS.
As a high-performing school system, it can be a challenge to improve proficiency and growth
from year to year. This past school year, our team put effective strategies in place that led
to UCPS outperforming the state’s largest school systems in several areas, more schools
improving letter grades and more schools exceeding growth. We are seeing great returns on
our proven recipe for raising the bar on student and school performance.
Our efforts around safety and social and emotional learning continue to be a major focus. We
are committed to doing all we can to keep our schools safe and provide students and parents
the resources they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
I want to thank our Board of Education, community and business partners and parents for
their continued support. Each of you play a critical role in our school system’s success and I am
grateful for your partnership.
I encourage you to read this publication in its entirety and learn more about what makes
Union County Public Schools the very best school system in the region, the state, and the
Andrew G. Houlihan, Ed.D.
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UCPS board of education members
Melissa Merrell - Chair Kathy Heintel - Vice Chair Christina Helms
District 4 District 6 At-Large
Matt Helms Travis Kiker Joseph Morreale
District 2 At-Large District 5
Gary Sides Todd Price Candice Sturdivant
District 3 At-Large District 1
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we are THE champions
With more than 40 team and individual state championships earned during the 2018-
19 year, UCPS student athletes throughout the county are continuing their tradition of
dominating on the court and field.
2018-19 state championships • Boys 300-Meter (Emerson Douds; Weddington High)
• 3A Girls 4X800 Indoor Track Relay (Kaitlyn St. Hilaire,
• 3A Boys Cross Country (Weddington High)
• 3A Girls Cross Country (Cuthbertson High) Leah Helms, Madeline Hill, Gabriella Castro;
• 3A Volleyball (Marvin Ridge High) Cuthbertson High)
• 3A Tennis Doubles (Marvin Ridge High) • Girls 200-Yard Freestyle (Ellie VanNote; Marvin Ridge
• 3A Football (Weddington High) High)
• 3A Girls Cross Country (Madeline Hill; Cuthbertson High) • Girls 100-Yard Butterfly (Ellie VanNote; Marvin Ridge
• 3A Boys Indoor Track (Weddington High) High)
• 3A Girls Indoor Track (Cuthbertson High) • Girls 200-Yard Individual Medley (Maddy Flickinger;
• 3A Boys Swimming and Diving (Marvin Ridge High) Weddington High)
• 3A Wrestling Individual Team (Piedmont High) • Girls 100-Yard Backstroke (Maddy Flickinger;
• 2A Wrestling Individual Team (CATA) Weddington High)
• 2A 106 lb. Wrestling (Kyle Montaper; CATA) • Girls 100-Yard Breaststroke (Kaylee Hamblin;
• 2A 160 lb. Wrestling (Cade Haines; CATA) Parkwood High)
• 3A 113 lb. Wrestling (Tripp Collins; Piedmont High) • 3A Boys Lacrosse (Weddington High)
• 3A 132 lb. Wrestling (Josh Blatt; Piedmont High) • 3A Boys Track and Field (Weddington High)
• 3A Boys 200-Yard Freestyle Relay (Marvin Ridge High) • Boys 4x100 Relay (Parkwood High)
• 3A Boys 400-Yard Freestyle Relay (Marvin Ridge High) • Boys 4x800 Relay (Weddington High)
• 3A Girls 200-Yard Freestyle Relay (Weddington High) • Boys 4x400 Relay (Weddington High)
• 3A Girls 400-Yard Freestyle Relay (Weddington High) • Boys 100-Meter (Emerson Douds; Weddington High)
• 2A Girls Wrestling (Amber Parker; Parkwood High) • Boys 200-Meter (Emerson Douds; Weddington High)
• 3A Girls High Jump (Netanya Linares; Cuthbertson High) • Boys 800-Meter (Kyle Duurham; Weddington High)
• 3A Girls Pole Vault (Lainie Baumgardner; Cuthbertson • Boys Shot Put (Alec Mock; Weddington High)
• 3A Boys Triple Jump (Trevor Grant; Cuthbertson High)
High) • 3A Girls Pole Vault (Ava Studney; Cuthbertson High)
• 3A Girls 1600-Meter (Leah Helms; Cuthbertson High) • 3A Boys 1600-Meter (Kyle Stamper; Cuthbertson High)
• 3A Boys 1600-Meter (Kyle Durham; Cuthbertson High)
• 3A Boys 1000-Meter Run (Kyle Durham; Cuthbertson
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MAKING THE GRADE
During the 2018-19 school year, UCPS set a five-year record under the state’s
School Performance Grade (SPG) model.
From a historic increase in the number of schools that earned a grade of an A
or B to significant gains in academic growth, UCPS is continually raising the
bar on academic excellence in our school system.
2018-19 Accountability Data Highlights
• 17 schools earned a SPG of an A, which is the highest number since
schools have earned performance grades
• 18 schools earned a SPG of a B
• 90 percent of schools earned a SPG of a C or higher
• No school received a SPG of an F
• 10 schools improved one letter grade as compared to the previous year
• 23 schools exceeded growth, which is the highest number in the last five
• In total, 43 schools met or exceeded growth for the 2018-19 school year
• Five out of six elementary focus schools witnessed an increase in Math
Grade Level Proficiency
• Out of the state’s 12 largest school systems, UCPS has the highest
percentage of students meeting Career and College Ready and Grade
Level Proficiency on state-administered assessments
• 5th grade science proficiency rates increased 8.2 percentage points
while 8th grade science proficiency rates increased 4.8 percentage
• Overall, UCPS outperformed the state’s 12 largest school systems on 44
out of 51 indicators as measured by the state of North Carolina
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CELEBRATING OUR #UCPSGRADS
In June 2019, more than 3,000 UCPS 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.
UCPS Class of 2019 highlights
• The UCPS Class of 2019 earned a record 2,982 scholarships, the highest
number of scholarships earned in district history. This figure represents a 32
percent increase over the number of scholarships offered to the UCPS Class
• The UCPS Class of 2019 also earned nearly $131 million in scholarships,
with the following six high schools receiving more than $10 million in
scholarships: Marvin Ridge High ($22.8 million), Piedmont High ($21.2
million), Cuthbertson High ($17.5 million), Sun Valley High ($15.1 million),
Weddington High ($15 million) and Porter Ridge High ($12 million).
• The district’s 2019 graduation rate is 93 percent, up from 92.6 percent in
2018. This marks the sixth consecutive year that the UCPS graduation rate
exceeded 92 percent.
• Nine of the 12 comprehensive high schools earned a graduation rate of
90 percent or higher. Central Academy of Technology and Arts and Union
County Early College earned a 100 percent graduation rate.
• Out of the 3,339 UCPS Class of 2019 graduates, 60 percent reported plans to
attend a four-year school, 25 percent planned to attend a two-year school, 11
percent announced plans to enter the workforce and four percent enlisted
in the military.
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ENHANCE academic programs
to meet the needs of
intensive math tutoring
UCPS offers intensive math tutoring to fourth, seventh and ninth graders at
eight high-priority schools. This expanded strategy is proven to help improve
academic performance and connect students to additional quality academic
resources and support. During the 2018-19 school year, math proficiency on
end of grade exams increased 26 percent for fourth graders and 72 percent
for seventh graders as compared to the 2016-17 school year.
agtech academy at east union middle
Agriculture is the top industry in NC and Union County ranks third in the
state for agricultural business production. That’s why, with an eye towards
the future, East Union Middle introduced agriculture technology as its new
school focus. Through partnerships with Wingate University, Share Space
and the Aldrin Family Foundation, NC Cooperative Extension and other
professional agriculture and STEM organizations, East Union Middle students
will learn about the growing world of agriculture technology by participating
in hands-on, STEM-focused learning activities.
dual language immersion
UCPS is home to the most schools with dual language immersion programs
in the state, with Spanish or Mandarin programs offered at 14 elementary
schools and three middle schools throughout the district. These rigorous
programs support bilingualism, biliteracy and cross-cultural awareness. In
2019, the UCPS Dual Language Immersion program was featured as part of
the International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education,
ultimately attracting dozens of educators who traveled to Shiloh Valley and
Unionville elementary schools to learn best practices.
leader in mE
Offered at nine UCPS schools, The Leader in Me program creates a schoolwide
culture of leadership and student empowerment. Seven leadership principles
are embedded into the school’s curriculum and culture, providing students
with the tools to better achieve their goals and develop leadership skills.
Through Leader in Me, every student has the ability to develop the skills and
self-confidence they need to be successful in school and beyond.
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Expand all levels of
college and career readiness
UCPS offers a variety of coursework and academic programming to students
across all grade levels to ensure their success in college.
Twenty East Union Middle and Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle
eighth graders were inducted in the 2019 class of the Wayfind program, a first-
of-its-kind partnership between UCPS and Wingate University that pairs middle
and high school students with Wingate University mentors to prepare them for
college. Upon successful completion of the five-year program, each student
will be eligible to receive $140,000 to cover the school’s four-year tuition cost
– a $2.4 million investment into the inaugural Wayfind Class of 2019. As new
eighth graders enter the Wayfind program each year, that investment will only
continue to swell as it opens doors for students.
College Board Assessments
In a rare move for school districts across the state, UCPS covers the cost for students
to take the PSAT and SAT during the school day. In fact, UCPS juniors accounted
for 93 percent of North Carolina’s SAT school day test takers in 2018. By removing
financial and/or transportation barriers for students who otherwise may not have
been able to take the exams, there has been a significant increase in the number of
students who have participated in the College Board assessments, a move which
now provides all students with more access to higher education opportunities.
College Resource Readiness Center
The College Readiness Resource Center is a free resource to middle and high
school families who need guidance on college applications, high school course
planning and information about College Board assessments. During the 2018-
19 school year, more than 150 UCPS families visited the College Readiness
Resource Center -- a move that is ultimately helping to ensure UCPS families
have the resources they need to plan and apply for college.
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Every year, UCPS middle and high school students fill more than 60,000
classroom seats in Career Readiness courses designed to help them prepare
for future careers.
At the middle school level, students explore a number of in-demand industries
including robotics and computer science, agriscience, biotechnology and
neuroscience, flight and space and more.
At the high school level, 22 pathways and 12 career academies offered
throughout the district provide students with the opportunity to participate in
rigorous, in-depth and hands-on coursework in fields such as electrical trades,
veterinary assisting, culinary arts, nursing, carpentry and more.
career readiness certifications and credentials
During the 2018-19 school year, UCPS Career Readiness students earned 8,345
credentials and certifications in construction, nurse aid, mechanical safety,
firefighting, ServSafe food protection and more.
More than 7,000 of those credentials are currently recognized in many in-
demand industries. In fact, students who have earned Career Readiness
credentials and certifications have even attracted the interest of several local
and state firms who recruit them for skilled trade positions upon graduation.
Through exposure to rigorous and hands-on coursework in a number of
industries, UCPS Career Readiness alumni have gone on to pursue full-time
careers as chefs, veterinarians, entrepreneurs, mechanics, doctors, nurses and
In 2019, the Career Readiness department hosted its inaugural Career
Signing Day to recognize students who will enter the workforce in their
chosen industry after graduation. In front of their future employers, peers
and district staff, the students signed letters of commitment to work full-time
jobs for industry partners Barefoot and Company and Helms Heating and Air
Conditioning after graduation.
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ENGAGE parents and community
superintendent’s parent advisory council
Throughout the school year, the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council
meets with Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan to provide feedback and input
on various district programs and initiatives. Comprised of one representative
from each of the district’s nine clusters, the advisory council provides a parent
voice to topics such as safety, increasing parent engagement and more.
UCPS regularly hosts a variety of workshops and sessions throughout the
county to help caregivers identify ways they can provide academic and
emotional support to their students. These workshops include topics such as
supporting healthy technology use in the home, preparing and applying for
college, identifying signs of toxic stress in students and more.
facebook live: Connect and chat
Technology is constantly changing the way people communicate and receive
information. That’s why UCPS is taking the lead in connecting with current and
prospective UCPS families in a new way: virtual Facebook Live sessions. In fact,
UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan also connects with UCPS families
through his own series of Facebook Live sessions to provide updates on social
and emotional learning and more.
Read with U
Read with U is a community-based initiative that pairs first-grade students with
community members with a goal of helping them to develop a lifelong love of
reading. Since its 2017 launch, more than 1,200 people have signed up to be
reading buddies at elementary schools throughout the district.
ucps mobile book bus
Every summer, the UCPS Mobile Book Bus crosses every corner of the county
providing elementary-aged students with books to build their home libraries.
With the help of UCPS staff, volunteers and community members, the mobile
book bus has made more than 175 stops at centralized locations throughout
the county -- ultimately providing 20,000+ books to nearly 10,000 students
since its 2018 launch.
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FOSTER positive learning
experiences for all students
At the beginning and end of the 2018-19 school year, State Superintendent
Mark Johnson visited UCPS to discuss school safety and security.
He praised UCPS’ increased focus on physical, emotional and mental health
while simultaneously citing the school district as a “shining example of what is
going right around school safety.”
social-emotional learning and school safety highlights
• Video doorbells are being added at all 53 UCPS schools
• A Union County Sheriff’s Office partnership resulted in the addition of
nine elementary school resource officers in 2018-19 and an additional two
elementary school resource officers in 2019-20
• In 2018-19, a collaborative partnership with the Union County Department
of Human Services added nine social workers as well as five mental health
therapists throughout the district. During the 2019-20 school year, an
additional 10 mental health therapists and five school social workers were
added as part of the collaboration with UCPS.
• More than 200 UCPS support staff received specific training in suicide
By the end of 2020-21, UCPS will have 30 social workers, one lead social worker,
16 mental health therapists, five school-based counselors as well as three lead
counselors at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Additionally,
personnel in these positions will receive training on topics that include
anxiety and stress management, bullying prevention, cultural competency,
mental health, school counseling/school counseling leadership and trauma.
Through these partnerships with Union County and the Union County Sheriff’s
Office, students are being provided with equitable access to critical mental
health and safety resources.
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SUPPORT and develop
UCPS is committed to not only celebrating outstanding employees but also
providing cost-effective professional development opportunities that will
help them grow their skillsets.
beginning teacher support
UCPS’ #NewToTheU three-day professional development sessions provide all
new teachers and counselors with the opportunity to explore digital resources,
connect with district and school leaders, learn new instructional strategies
and more. As an additional layer of support for teachers in their first three
years in the classroom, UCPS has several Beginning Teacher Support District
Facilitators who spend their days in and out of schools supporting teachers in
their schools and classrooms, facilitating access to resources, aligning support
and resources and answering questions.
To provide UCPS employees with the opportunity to advance their careers,
UCPS recently offered a unique cohort partnership with Wingate University.
Through the low-cost programs, UCPS staff members had the opportunity
to earn their master’s degree and teaching license. Teachers also had the
opportunity to earn their master’s degree in school administration, enabling
them to become certified as principals and assistant principals. As an added
benefit, all cohort classes were taught on UCPS campuses in coordination
with UCPS and Wingate University staff. Since the program began in 2017, 19
employees have earned master’s degrees and many have already started their
professional careers as UCPS teachers and school administrators.
Educator Performance Incentive and Career Pathways (EPIC) GranT
UCPS is now in its third year of implementation of EPIC, a $27 million grant to
support, train and reward excellent teachers and school leaders at the district’s
13 high-priority schools. Through a series of incentive programs, performance-
based systems, mentoring opportunities and professional development
sessions, highly effective school staff members at high-priority schools have
had the opportunity to earn stipends for strong attendance, mentoring
beginning teachers, sponsoring academic clubs, and achieving growth on
state accountability measures.
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In November 2016, Union County residents approved $54 million in school
bonds, which included funding for renovations and additions at six schools
as well as the construction of a new transportation facility.
Construction at the following 2016 bond projects is expected to be completed
IN PROGRESS sun valley high
24 2019 Annual Review New stadium, HVAC and bathroom
upgrades, four new classrooms, new
administration suite and cafeteria/
kitchen, repurposed administration
suite for flexible use or classrooms
monroe high porter ridge middle
Six additional classrooms, new elevator and Three additional classrooms, two additional
improved circulation resource rooms and an auxiliary gym
porter ridge high western union elementary
Additional dining space and circulation New connecting corridor for buildings, new
canopies, architectural fencing
COMPLETE transportation facility
piedmont high Additional 12 service bays, offices/training rooms
and storage area
Renovation of six existing science classrooms
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Our year in photos
Graduations Academic Signing Day
beginning teacher of the year teacher of the year sprint 1million project
rocky river elementary named leader in me lighthouse school
shiloh valley schools career signing day
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books and brackets
nc supt mark johnson visits ucps principal of the Year
assistant principal of the year teacher externships
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400 North Church Street
Monroe, NC 28112
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In compliance with federal law, UCPS administers all educational programs,
employment activities and admissions without discrimination against any person
on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or marital
or parental status.