A Conversation: Carver High School in Winston-Salem, NC
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
Carver High School in Winston-Salem, NC partners with ISA, and we recently asked its principal, Carol Montague-Davis, and her colleague Raketa Ouedraogo-Thomas to tell us about the school, its history, and its work with ISA.
Tell us about your school and the young people there. What might a visitor to your school notice first and foremost?
Carver School was founded in 1936 as an African-American school and became integrated nearly 30 years later. What Carver is best known for is its community ties and history. It bears the growing pains of Winston-Salem’s African-American community and has diversified in tandem with its environment.
When a visitor walks into the school, he or she gets a feeling that this is a family. As with all families, the school has had its successes and its challenges, but as in good families, we celebrate the successes and do not let the challenges stop us. We look at challenges as opportunities to learn and grow and to do things differently.
What would you say are the greatest strengths of Carver — and what have been your greatest challenges?
Carver’s strength is its history of being community-centered. Even as it battled a challenging reputation for student behavior, the community still rallied around the school, and the staff supported one another. Our challenge, however, is bringing more and more of the community into our school so that they can see firsthand the great things that we are doing for our students.
How has ISA helped you and your teachers? What’s been the most valuable part of your work with ISA?
With ISA, Carver’s teachers have an outside team, unrelated to the district, that can provide professional feedback and training in the hopes of bettering the student experience in the classroom. The relationships that have formed between ISA coaches and teacher teams have impacted how our teachers look at their data and the thoughtful ways they integrate the right instructional tools into the classroom. ISA coaches assist school leaders and teachers as we review our goals and plan to reach them. As educators, we all share the same goal of high-quality student learning, and so with our ISA partner, we start with strong commonalities and build together to get the best results.
For new schools partnering with ISA, what advice would you give them?
Before any work with any new partner, the school should take the opportunity to set clear expectations for what future success it wishes to have, facilitating this process with community stakeholders. Both the school and its community need to set the goals and expectations for this new partnership and the future work together.
When the work with ISA begins, keep an open mind and know that ISA is yet another resource to utilize for school improvement. Use ISA’s knowledge, experience, and resources to help meet the goals that were set and use their feedback to ensure that the school is going in the right direction for the most effective results.
Where do you imagine Carver going in the next five years? What does the future hold for your school and its students?
Carver has always held an important place in the community it serves and will continue to do so. In the coming years, Carver will no doubt become even more integral to the community, with greater community involvement on a regular basis. As one example, Carver is in the process of becoming a leader in educational and social/emotional innovation for its students. We see a future where we are one of the higher-performing schools in our zone for both growth and proficiency. With this future, we see even more students filling our halls. We see an active and engaged alumni, one that works with Carver to infuse the building with support and positivity and connects our students to businesses and organizations within the community.