Category Archives: Local Issues

UCPS Media Release: Central Academy of Technology and Arts is named National Blue Ribbon School

Monroe, NC—Central Academy  of Technology and Arts has been named a 2016National Blue Ribbon School. U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. made the announcement today. This prestigious award recognizes high-performing public and non-public schools that are making great strides in education. Schools are honored for overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

CATA is one of 329 schools recognized nationally for the 2016 award. Now in its 34th year, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized more than 8,000 schools nationally with this coveted award.

“CATA is honored to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School,” said Dr. Kim Fisenne, principal of CATA. “Our staff, parents and students work hard each day to make sure we remain committed to high academic standards. Our goal is to prepare students to become effective citizens and provide them with tools to be college and career ready.”

CATA is a comprehensive magnet high school that incorporates rigorous academic and technical education using an innovative academy concept. In addition to core subjects, students are enrolled in the following academies: Information Systems, Medical Sciences, Performing Arts, Pre-Engineering and Transportation Systems.

Since opening in 2006, CATA has received numerous awards for academic excellence and performing arts. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, CATA earned a 100 percent graduation rate. The school also received an A+ rating from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. In 2016, CATA received state and national awards in theater and music, including winning four Blumey awards.

“It is our goal to help students grow and excel academically while they are here at CATA,” Fisenne said. “Our teachers work together to make sure there is a certain level of rigor that is consistent throughout our school.”

In addition to academics, CATA has a variety of programs and clubs that provide students with social and emotional support. The school’s character development program was named “Culture of Respect” by the student council. Its main focus areas are awareness, kindness, acceptance and respect. Students participate in activities that show respect for other beliefs, promote healthy living and leadership skills.

“Congratulations to the students, staff, and parents at CATA on being named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan. “This is an exceptional award and it speaks to the leadership, rigorous instruction and collaborative work between teachers, parents and students.”

CATA will be formally recognized on Nov. 7 and 8 in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony. CATA joins Weddington Middle and Shiloh Elementary as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

About CATA:

  • A UCPS comprehensive magnet high school with a focus on technology and arts
  • Enrollment: Approximately 800 students
  • Demographics (2015-16 school year): Approximately 74 percent  white students, 11 percent African American students, 11 percent Hispanic students and 4 percent students of other ethnicities
  • 100 percent graduation rate for 2014-15 and 2015-16
  • Designated as A+ school by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
  • Received national and state awards for performing arts
  • State recognition for Transportation Systems Academy

(Article courtesy of UCPS)cata-blue-ribbon-rotator

UCPS releases accountability measures for 2015-16

Math scores increase in several grade levels, graduation rate remains above state average

Monroe, NC—The state of North Carolina and Union County Public Schools released several accountability measures for the 2015-16 school year. Union County Public Schools continues to make gains and outperform the state average in reading and math. In 2016, the district earned its second highest four-year graduation cohort rate of 92.8%. The state’s four-year graduation rate is 85.8 percent.

Two high schools, Central Academy of Technology and Arts and Union County Early College, earned a 100% graduation rate. Eight of the school district’s 12 high schools had a graduation rate of 90% or higher. Schools that scored above 90 percent are Marvin Ridge (99.7), Weddington (99.1), Cuthbertson (97.4), Piedmont (95.8), Parkwood (94.5) and Porter Ridge (93.2).

“The graduation rate results show that there is a commitment to academic achievement in Union County Public Schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan. “Our entire community should applaud our students, teachers, school leaders and parents for staying focused and working hard.”

This is the third year public and charter schools have received a letter grade under the General Assembly’s A-F School Performance Grades legislation. School Performance Grades are based on 80 percent of the school’s achievement score and 20 percent on students’ academic growth.  Fifty schools in UCPS were scored using this model. Five elementary and four high schools earned an A+(ng) distinction. The schools are Antioch, Marvin, New Town, Sandy Ridge and Weddington elementary; Cuthbertson, Piedmont, Union County Early College and Central Academy of Technology and Arts high. Six of these schools earned this distinction for the first time.

Eight schools improved their School Performance Grade. Piedmont High earned a B in 2014-15 and an A+ in 2015-16. Monroe High’s grade rose from a D in 2014-15 to a C in 2015-16. Rock Rest, Sardis and Western Union elementary schools earned a C in 2014-15 and a B in 2015-16. Sandy Ridge Elementary’s grade rose to an A in 2015-16, from a B in 2014-15. Walter Bickett and East elementary schools earned a D in 2015-16, up from a F in 2014-15.

In addition, 44 (88%) received a C or higher, 5 (10%) received a D. UCPS has one school with an F grade. Three schools, Wolfe, Walter Bickett Education Center and South Providence, were not scored because they do not fit the NC Performance Grades model. School grades are provided on a 15-point scale.

“I am very proud of our school leaders, students and teachers,” Houlihan said. “We know that a single letter grade does not tell the entire story about a school. Many of our schools met or exceeded growth and that is an important factor. We now need to take a closer look at our resources, professional development and other tools to help more students grow and excel academically.”

UCPS outperformed the state in several grade levels of End-of-Grade reading and math proficiency. While district scores decreased in third- and fourth-grade reading, third- and fifth-grade math scores increased. Fourth-grade math decreased by 2.2 percentage points, but remains 15 percentage points above the state average. Scores in fifth-grade science rose from 74 percentage points to 77.5.

Scores in middle school math increased in sixth and seventh grade, while eighth-grade math remained steady at 60.5%. Sixth-grade math rose from 67.8% in 2014-15 to 70.3% in 2015-16.

2015-16 READY Accountability Data Highlights:

  • 2016 graduation rate is 92.8%.
  • 8 schools earned A+ (ng) distinction under School Performance Grades Model.
  • 12 schools exceeded growth compared to 15 in 2014-2015.
  • Overall, Grade Level Proficiency dropped 1 percentage point (72.1% in 2015-16 to 71.1% in 2015-16)
  • More students met ACT requirements. 74.5% in 2014-15 compared to 77.1% in 2015-16.
  • While reading and math proficiency levels decreased in some elementary grades, UCPS still out performs the state in third- fifth-grade reading, math and science.
  • High school End-of-course proficiency levels dropped one percentage point in 2015-16.

For additional district and state data, visit

Union County Considers Bond for Schools

On Monday night, the Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners met to discuss the bond proposal for Union County Public Schools. The focus of the plan is to provide stability to keep students in their schools and clusters, provide equity so that needed capital improvments and repairs are made, and to eliminate mobile classrooms.

A bond must first be approved by the Commissioners to be placed on the November ballot where it will then be voted on by the citizens of Union County. Commissioners expressed a lack of support for a stadium for CATA (the only high school without its own stadium). They also expressed a lack of support for a proposed new Sun Valley High School which would include an Advanced Technology Center providing a wide variety of Career & Technical Education options for students county-wide. Finally there were questions about the need to eliminate mobile classrooms with brick and mortar expansions due to the cost. There was mention that perhaps the bond could wait another two years, but BOE Member Melissa Merrellpointed out that some schools simply cannot wait for needed repairs or expansions. 

Here is the video of the presentation. I will post the slides on uchomeroom’s website and post the link in the comments. There certainly will be additional discussions, but a decision to place the bond on the ballot must be made quickly. Please reach out to County Commissioners to have your voice heard:
4-283-3853 is the phone number listed for all the commissioners.
Stony Rushing
Frank Aikmus
Richard Helms
Jerry Simpson
Lance Simpson

Here is the link to the presentation given by Board Chair Leslie Boyd.

Union County BOE Bond Presentation

The Sandbox Annual An Evening of Believing℠ Prom Prep Begins with Kick-Off Party

Around this time each year, there’s a flurry of activity for The Sandbox, an organization that supports families in the region with a child diagnosed with cancer or a life-altering illness. That’s because they have their party-planning hats on, getting ready for the annual Kick-Off Party for the An Evening of Believing Prom this September.

The Kick-Off Party, which is held on May 5 this year, is an opportunity to official launch the preparation for the big soiree, known as the An Evening of Believing℠ Prom, this fall. The event helps to raise the needed financial support for Honorees and their families to attend the Prom. But, there’s another reason it’s an important day for The Sandbox. It marks the day they introduce the 2016 class of Youth Mentors and Youth Ambassadors, young high school students from Mecklenburg and Union counties who have been chosen through an application and interview process to help support Sandbox families.

“We can’t wait to introduce these remarkable, service-minded young people to the community,” said Mara Campolungo, Executive Director of The Sandbox. “We couldn’t do what we do without the faithful support of volunteers, and our Sandbox families and Honorees benefits tremendously from the support of Youth Mentors, which serve as their buddies during the year.”

Attendees to the Kick-Off Party on May 5th will also enjoy great food, entertainment, prizes, and a silent auction – proceeds from which go directly to supporting families in our community facing these difficult situations.

One of the most meaningful aspects of the Kick-Off Party is meeting families served by The Sandbox. Each year, families are on hand to share about the impact The Sandbox, and the army of community volunteers behind them, has on their physical and emotional well-being. Kick-Off Party 02 - Conner and Queens (1)

If you want to learn more about The Sandbox and this Kick-Off Party, visit You can purchase tickets online.