AHEC means ‘tools’ and upgrades at Highlands School

At Monday’s regular meeting of the Macon County School Board, Board Member Stephanie McCall updated board members about the Advancing Highlands Education Committee (AHEC). AHEC is a recently formed group made up of members of the community who have come together with the goal of raising private funds to improve education at Highlands School.

Working alongside administration and faculty, the committee has identified specific needs at Highlands School. The goals and the direction to achieve those goals is two-fold; the committee is raising money to improve the infrastructure at Highlands School, and secondly, the group is also working to meet the needs of teachers in the classroom.

The group has set a goal of raising $2.8 million dollars for facility needs at Highlands School. One priority of the building improvement initiative is to expand the school library. A large donation of $200,000 has been given to the group with the specific purpose of enlarging the library/media center. Improvements to the library include providing a quiet room that could be used for testing, separate elementary and high school areas and space for reading specialists to do one on one reading with students.

Over the last several months the group has been involved with the community, the school administration, and the teachers of Highlands School directly to identify needs in the classrooms at Highlands School. After polling teachers, technology was identified as a top need in the classrooms. McCall stated one of the goals of the AHEC is to put an iPad into the hands of each student at Highlands School.

 With a large donation from the Swift Family Foundation, AHEC has made great progress toward reaching this goal to address technology needs by students and teachers. In addition, the committee has also received donations from other community donors to help meet technology goals.

A generous donation of $5,000 by the Swift Family Foundation to AHEC was used to help support the Literacy Council’s goal to purchase iPads for elementary students through 3rd grade. The donation funded the purchase of protective covers for the new iPads which allowed the Literacy Council to use the money saved from buying the covers to also purchase iPads for 4th graders. Future projects of AHEC will continue to raise funds needed to pay for iPads for elementary students in 5th through 8th grades.

After donors visited the classrooms, they also identified a need to replace outdated active boards for all the classrooms. Other projects of AHEC will include building a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) closet at the school to properly store STEM research material properly and purchasing virtual reality headsets and viewers allowing students to explore the world from the classroom.

In addition to raising money for the actual school building and technology needs, McCall stated AHEC would like to help Highlands School in other ways. The committee would like to help fulfill teachers’ wish lists in the classrooms supplying the funds for individual classroom needs.

“We also would like to help fund continued education for our teachers,” said McCall. “That’s a difficult thing for teachers to do since North Carolina has taken a lot of our money away for that.”

“AHEC wants to be an arm to the PTO,” added McCall. “The PTO helps teachers when they need something in the classroom, and we want to be able to also give them the opportunity to come to us with their needs.”

“We have formed this committee to raise funds for the advancement of education at Highlands School,” said McCall. “We have raised money for education, so let’s get it into the hands of the educators.”

Founding members of the AHEC include; Melissa Delaney, Stephanie McCall, Jody Pierson, Janice Raby, Jim Tate, Derek Taylor, Jeff Weller, and Hilary Wilkes.

McCall stated that the board will recognize donors at the May board meeting to be held at Highlands School.

Pictured at the top of the article is the media center/library at Highlands School.

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