Coinciding with American Education Week, the Wilmington Chamber Foundation started a program to take community leaders through New Hanover County schools increasing awareness about school successes and needs.
Of the 180 people invited to participate in the Walk in My Shoes program, about 30 community leaders, ranging from public officials and investors to Realtors and University of North Carolina Wilmington Adult Scholars, visited schools on Thursday, Nov. 21.
David Martin, a member of the Wilmington Chamber Foundation, chose Wrightsville Beach School because of its reputation among friends.
“I had heard a lot of great things,” Martin said. “The main thing I noticed was how attentive and polite the children were. That was not our experience in our elementary school.”
Martin’s two daughters attended Alderman Elementary School and now attend seventh grade at Cape Fear Academy. His son attends New Hanover High School.
Martin said he is aware WBS is on the school bond referendum priority list for significant renovations and additions.
“It needs it,” Martin said. “The building is obviously extremely small, and most of the classes are outside in the trailers.”
The idea for Walk in My Shoes came from superintendent Dr. Tim Markley, who serves on the chamber’s education foundation.
Chamber president Connie Majure-Rhett said members talked during an education foundation meeting about exposing more people to the realities of the public school system.
“Dr. Markley had done another program like this in another system, so we said we will try it,” Majure-Rhett said. “… Next year since we know what to expect, I will try to have even a broader invitation list.”
She went to Lake Forest Academy for the day, and said she walked out of the school so happy with the teachers and administrators in the schools.
“When you asked a question, you got very frank responses,” she said. “But everybody I ran into yesterday said, ‘I have the best job in town.’”
The follow-up breakfast scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26 was cancelled, but program participants will fill out surveys about their experiences.
Jack and Carol Mills, UNCW Adult Scholars alumni, spent the day at College Park Elementary attending classes, having lunch and going to recess.
Jack Mills spoke highly of principal Maria Greene and described the 1960s structure of the school by detailing how the building is separated into pods.
“I chose an elementary school, because those are formative years,” Mills said. “…What we really learned, with all of the new regulations and requirements, … this particular school not only coped with the problem, they made it all positive.”