2 2018 Annual Review
From the Superintendent
Union County Public Schools is one of the leading school districts in North Carolina and I could
not be more pleased with the accomplishments we made during the past year.
I am particularly proud of our progress on Strategic Plan 2022, the five-year framework that
outlines UCPS’ long-term outcomes, strategic themes and action items that guide all of our
planning, decision making and achievement efforts.
Free in-school College Board examinations have allowed us to expand opportunities and
support for college readiness, while academic programs, such as the intensive math tutoring at
our high-priority schools, are meeting the needs of our students.
Newly implemented quality staff development programs are helping our employees grow their
skillset. The districtwide prioritization of safety and security in every cluster provides students
with equitable access to critical mental health and safety resources, ultimately allowing us to
foster positive learning experiences for all of our students.
Additionally, our collaboration with businesses, community partners and residents like you
have played an integral role in the success of our school system.
This publication not only provides a highlight of these achievements and more but also
discusses our opportunities for growth. I encourage you to read through this annual review
to learn more about our journey of continuous improvement as we continue to work towards
being the best school district in the nation.
UCPS depends greatly on the support of the Board of Education, students, employees, parents
and community partners. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we make our
school district a great place for the thousands of students who walk through our doors every
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 Vacant Candice Sturdivant
District 3 At-Large District 1
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Union County Public Schools (UCPS) is the sixth largest public school system in
North Carolina. It serves more than 41,000 students and has approximately 5,000
students 70of schools
A or B
o l s 3 school
41,500 Nearly 8,000%
30 Elementary 3 Special performance credentials
9 Middle 1 Early College grade earned in
10 High 20+ Career
92.6% FreeHighest graduation rate $27M
examBoinaardtions Teacher and
14 dual Incentive Grant
among the state’s language
10 largest school systems programs 1
Leader in Me
Career-advancing 2,400 scholarships =
cohort fooprpsotarﬀtunities $135 million earned by class of 2018
BY THE NUMBERS 2017-18 Demographics
20+ Career Readiness Pathways White - 62.10%
9 athletic state championships in 2017-18 African American - 12.52%
1:1 technology for students in grades 3 - 12 Hispanic - 17.82%
22,244 meals served daily Other - 7.56%
5 million bus-driven miles annually AIG - 16%
Exceptional Students - 11%
Free/Reduced Lunch - 31.7%
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MAKING THE GRADE
Historic gains. Improved academic measures. Record statistics.
All of these UCPS accomplishments and more are included in the state Board
of Education’s 2017-18 Accountability Report, the annual report that examines
school performance grades, grade level proficiency, state assessments and
• Nearly 70 percent of UCPS schools earned a School Performance Grade
of an A or B.
• Approximately 70 percent of schools either exceeded or met academic
• For the first time since the 2013-14 school year, no school received a
School Performance Grade of F.
• Monroe High and Walter Bickett Elementary exited low-performing
status, and Walter Bickett Elementary exceeded growth.
• Of the 12 largest school systems in NC, UCPS leads in more than 20 Key
Performance Indicators, including reading, math, biology and English II.
• UCPS leads the 12 largest school systems in 3-12 Grade Level Proficiency.
Did You Know?
Since the adoption of the current School Performance Grade Accountability
Model, UCPS has its fewest number of schools receiving a School Performance
Grade below C.
For the second consecutive year, UCPS has not had an increase in the number
of schools designated as low performing by the state of North Carolina.
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EXPAND opportunities and
support all levels for
college and career readiness
From a dedicated after-hours resource center designed to guide students
through the college application process to advanced coursework in in-demand
career fields, UCPS offers a wide variety of college and career options to ensure
every student who graduates is prepared to enter college or the workforce.
All middle and high school students have access to Naviance, a free comprehensive
college and career readiness software that helps them identify their strengths,
explore career interests, and create education plans for high school and beyond.
Free, in-school College Board assessments
UCPS covers the cost for students to take the PSAT 8, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT
during the school day. 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
College Board assessments – a move that now provides all students with more
access to higher education opportunities.
College Readiness Resource Center
The College Readiness Resource Center provides a free resource to help middle
and high school families with guidance on college applications, high school
course planning and information about College Board assessments. Held at the
Monroe Library, UCPS staff members provide one-on-one sessions with parents
and students on how to become college ready.
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The Career Readiness department provides students with technical training
and high-level problem solving skills through real-world applications.
Rigorous coursework in veterinary assisting, culinary arts, aerospace, and
engineering are just a few of the programs available to students throughout the
district. With more than 20 career academy pathways, thousands of students
are participating in courses designed to prepare them for some of the most in-
demand career fields. In fact, demand for courses in automotive, robotics, public
safety, drafting and accounting have grown so much that additional courses are
being added throughout the district to accommodate the increased demand.
The Pre-Apprenticeship Program helps students develop the necessary
technical skills for a successful career in a variety of industries. Students are paid
for approximately 20 hours of work each week and also have the opportunity to
take relevant coursework at South Piedmont Community College at absolutely
no cost to their families.
Career readiness options aren’t only limited to high schools.
UCPS middle schools have a focus on science, technology, engineering and
math (STEM), which allows them to explore robotics and computer science.
Additionally, the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle introduces
students to health sciences, medical investigating and neuroscience coursework
while Project Lead the Way curriculum introduces middle school students to
engineering and robotics.
Did you know?
• UCPS Career Readiness students earned nearly 8,000 credentials and
certifications during the 2017-18 school year
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ENHANCE academic programs
to meet the needs of
In 2017, UCPS unveiled EmpowerED, its Tier I framework for instruction.
Widely practiced throughout the district, EmpowerED hinges on three major
tenets of highly engaging instruction -- connect, collaborate and create – to
better prepare UCPS students for college and future careers.
CONNECT - Learning is driven by highly effective instruction, aligned to the
standards, while engaging students in meaningful experiences.
COLLABORATE - Students work together in an energized culture driven by high
expectations while encouraging risk-taking and mutual respect.
CREATE - Natural curiosity is fostered as students lead their own relevant
learning and produce original artifacts.
Digital Leadership encompasses the meaningful connections,
collaboration and creation that are taking place in classrooms -- ultimately
transforming instructional practices, classroom culture and authentic
learning and assessments.
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ENHANCE academic programs to
meet the needs of
Intensive Math Tutoring
In 2017, UCPS launched an intensive math tutoring program for fourth and
seventh graders at four elementary and two middle high-priority schools.
As a result, fourth-grade math proficiency increased by an average of 12 points
at the four elementary schools while seventh-grade math proficiency increased
by an average of 11 points at the two middle schools.
The program is now being expanded to ninth graders who attend Forest Hills
and Monroe high schools.
Classroom libraries are now available in every third through fifth grade class,
which means every UCPS elementary school student now has access to quality
literature and resources.
East Union Middle and Marshville and Wingate elementary schools are
implementing the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.
This in-school academic support program will help the schools enhance learning
opportunities, prepare students for college, and provide the high expectations,
access and support students need to succeed in rigorous courses.
Books and Brackets
Patterned after the March Madness basketball competition, the district’s annual
five-week Books and Brackets reading challenge has far-reaching benefits. In
2018, third and fourth graders throughout the district read a cumulative 12
million minutes, which roughly translates to 200,000 hours. This initiative not
only served its purpose of highlighting the importance of literacy but also
helped to instill the love of reading in students.
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Local businesses, community members and nonprofit organizations play an
integral role in the success of our students and school system. From volunteering
to serve as a reading buddy to partnering with the district on literacy initiatives,
UCPS regularly engages with parents, community members and partners to set
students up for success.
Read With U
Read with U, a reading buddy program that pairs first grade students with
community members, aims to help students develop a lifelong love of reading.
As part of the program, community volunteers and UCPS staff read 30 minutes
each week with a first-grade student.
UCPS Mobile Book Bus
During the summer of 2018, Union County Public Schools launched its Mobile
Book Bus, a literacy initiative designed to provide elementary-aged students
with books throughout the summer. With the help of UCPS staff, volunteers
and community members, the mobile book bus made 77 stops throughout the
county and provided 8,000 books to 4,000 students.
Parent and Family Workshops
UCPS regularly hosts parent sessions to help caregivers identify ways they can
provide academic and emotional support to their students. These sessions
include Family Technology Nights with UCPS families as well as proactive Safe
Schools meetings with law enforcement and county leaders to discuss the
Did you know?
UCPS has more than 9,500 active volunteers. Many of our volunteers include
parents, who lend their time, resources and talents to support their local schools
and serve as Career Day speakers, office and classroom assistants, mentors,
tutors, reading buddies and more.
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FOSTER positive learning
experiences for all students
UCPS rolled out several initiatives for the 2018-19 school year that focus on
social and emotional learning as well as school safety and security. These new
initiatives are designed to provide students with equitable access to critical
mental health and safety resources while also continuing to prepare them for
college, careers and life after high school.
Social and emotional learning
• UCPS has hired additional social workers, mental health therapists and
school-based counselors who will provide social and emotional support to
students in each of the district’s nine clusters. Personnel in these positions
provide students with critical support on a variety of issues, including
anxiety and stress management, bullying, mental health, trauma and more.
• By the 2020-21 school year, 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.
School safety and security
• Through a partnership with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, UCPS now
has school resource officers serving its elementary schools. In years past,
school resource officers primarily served middle and high school campuses.
• All UCPS elementary schools have a video doorbell system to identify
visitors before buzzing them into the building.
• Additionally, all UCPS schools use a consistent visitor management system
that requires all guests to provide front office staff with valid identification
which is used to run on-the-spot background checks upon entering a
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SUPPORT and develop
Quality staff development is key to long-lasting school improvement.
UCPS is committed to not only celebrating outstanding employees but also
providing cost-effective professional development opportunities that will
help them grow their skillsets.
With a five-year recruitment plan in place, UCPS regularly participates in local,
regional and national career fairs to recruit, retain and maintain a workforce
of highly qualified and effective employees.
UCPS partners with Wingate University to offer educational cohorts
exclusively for UCPS employees. Classes are held at a local high school for a
reduced price, providing teacher assistants and teachers with a cost-effective
way to advance in their careers.
Educator Performance Incentive and Career Pathways Grant
In 2017, UCPS received a three-year $27 million grant to support, train and
reward excellent teachers and school leaders at the district’s 13 high-priority
schools. The grants are currently being used to implement a performance-
based compensation system that promotes more effective teaching and
Through teacher externships, UCPS teachers have been able to spend time
learning about local careers with industry partners that include South
Piedmont Community College, Henn Automotive, Union County Government,
Atrium Health and more.This experience allows teachers to make a connection
between their curriculum and real-world examples, ultimately bringing local
industry-related problem solving to UCPS classrooms.
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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.
In 2017, the Board of Education voted to adjust the scope of these bond
projects. This decision was made due to changes in cost from initial or early
bid estimates and an updated school enrollment forecast completed by Dr.
Jerome McKibben and Mr. Matthew Cropper.
Today, construction and/or bid processes are underway at many of the bond
project locations. The new transportation facility as well as the previously
identified UCPS schools are well on their way to receiving much-needed
renovations, safety repairs and additions.
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Our year in photos
Graduations Computer Science Education Week
Academic Signing Day
Community Partnerships Global Ready Teacher of the Year
Books and Brackets Health Sciences Academy
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400 North Church Street
Monroe, NC 28112
Layout and Design provided by: UCPS Communications Office
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.