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DCS Launches STEAMA During Annual Leadership Retreat



KENANSVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA- August 1, 2018- STEAMA is generating lots of excitement in and around Duplin County Schools. STEAMA- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Agriculture- is Duplin County Schools’ commitment to an innovative approach providing personalized career pathways for all students by connecting curriculum and communities. While many across the nation have added to the well-known acronym and inclusive approach to education “arts" and someone may have added "agriculture," Duplin County Schools (DCS) is proud to add both. The addition of arts and agriculture to STEM provides personalization for all students and is customized for Duplin County.  

“We are here to prepare our students for the world of work and STEAMA helps us make real connections between learning and the workforce,” said Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan. “We want our students, regardless of their dreams and talents, to find themselves in all that we do. We also want them to see how these areas overlap and are connected to one another. When they understand why math or any other subject is important to an artist, doctor, an agronomist or whatever they want to become, then math and other subjects will be seen as something important to them and their future. It is all about relevance.”

The Teacher Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from each school, met with Dr. Obasohan and fully embraces STEAMA because it widens each student’s perspective of local and global communities by providing relevance to curriculum, college and career opportunities.  Dr. Obasohan also emphasizes that the vision is based on student and teacher empowerment and creative freedom.

Duplin County Schools launched the STEAMA commitment during last week’s annual Leadership Retreat.  Hosted this year at the Edwards’ Land and Cattle Company, the retreat was sponsored by Farm Bureau and Smithfield, both of whom are long-time partners with DCS.

Retired educator Tom McMahon delivered the invocation and blessing shortly before Dexter Edwards shared, “We are excited you have put agriculture with STEM. Every child needs to be enthusiastic about what and how they learn. We want our students to be able to come back home and have a good occupation and make a good living. People have asked what is the tie between us and the school system. You are us (business and industry).  You are the county. Without you teaching our children, we would dry up.”

Hans Meeder, former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and internationally recognized author, served as the keynote speaker for the retreat. “I’m excited that you are coming together as a school system to figure out what to do to help all students,” he said before sharing the significant impact of enabling students to purposefully explore career pathways.

Meeder emphasized the importance of developing students’ feelings of connection to what they are learning and to their school in general.  He noted that when school systems make this commitment students are much more likely to attend school, stay out of trouble, achieve academically, earn a high school diploma, obtain a post-secondary degree if needed, and be successful in the workplace.  He also clarified that pathways do not mean students are “locked in” to certain careers and that “developing career interests does not mean developing career decisions.”

Neill Westerbeek with Smithfield Hog Production briefly shared the company’s history with DCS, noting that the “Pigs, Producers, and Pork” curriculum was piloted here. He also explained several other outreach programs such as the “Pig Party” that are designed to teach students where food comes from and the wide variety of agricultural jobs available in Duplin County and around the world.

Middle school chorus members, under the leadership of Special Advisor for Exceptional Children/Global and Cultural Arts Education Cary Powers and the direction of Deann Sholar and Ryan Southerland, sang beautifully, providing the lunchtime entertainment. Afterwards, Tiffany Cassell, Erica Edwards, Christy Johnson, and Nicole Murray explained the benefits of STEAMA to students, schools, Duplin County, and the world.

Representative Jimmy Dixon shared his excitement about STEAMA and thanked the Board and Mr. and Mrs. Edwards.  He also commended Dr. Obasohan and all teachers and staff for choosing such an “honorable and noble” profession and for their commitment to children. “I can remember the first day Dr. O came to Duplin County. It has been an exciting journey and to see the growth and to meet someone with an extraordinary sense of service. He is a big part of the success for the children of Duplin County. Dr. O is on a journey that will last us a lifetime.  We are in very good and very stable hands.”

James Wolfe, Executive Director of the Duplin County Economic Development Commission, said he was really excited to hear about STEAMA.  The school system, he said, has been working toward this for a long time. “I am grateful to be a part of it. STEAMA will give students the skills they need to enter the workforce and it will introduce them to all of the career opportunities in Duplin County.”

Murphy Family Ventures Senior Production Manager Greg Wulf shared enthusiasm and support on behalf of Murphy Family Ventures. “Our intent is to support the program in any way possible.”

Duplin County advocate Joann Stroud said, “If we all get on the same path with the same goals, nothing but good can come from this.”

Board of Education Vice Chairman Reginald Kenan, who also serves on the State Board of Education, said, “There is no better Board than the Duplin County Board of Education. We are excited about STEAMA and we all have a common purpose- our children. Working together is the key.”

DCS Board of Education Chairman Brent Davis said he and the Board are extremely proud of STEAMA.  “STEAMA is opportunity for all students. Incorporating the arts and agriculture into STEM is tailored for Duplin County and it is essential to promote growth and enhance the lives of our students. This is a tremendous opportunity to partner with the private sector. Our Board wants to see this move and provide real opportunities for our students.”

He also thanked everyone present and all who work in DCS. “On behalf of the Board, I want to thank all of you for all you do. I see the time each and every one of you put in every day.  We are extremely appreciative.”

Superintendent Dr. Obasohan provided the closing remarks. “I am grateful to Mr. Dexter and Mrs. Pam Edwards, our Board, and all who helped make today possible. Our Board has given us every resource and support we have ever asked for and we will continue to provide the best possible education for all of our children. This is powerful, serious business. We must try to reach every child. Teaching math, science, and history in isolation is not sufficient. We must tell them why they are important.  STEAMA will make sure each child knows and understands they have a purpose and it will help them discover their career pathway. Ten thousand students are counting on all of us to help them along the pathway. I am so grateful we are united in this effort.”