Friday, December 11, 2015

Explaining the Advantages of the Upper School at Gaston Day

The Gaston Day School upper school administration has taken several steps recently to make sure we explain the advantages of our upper school. We have produced five short videos that present the upper-school advantages and dispel inaccurate myths. The first of these has been sent to our
8th-grade families, and the rest of the middle and upper school will soon receive the same thing. We plan to send out one new video for each of the next five weeks of school.

Carolyn Senter and I appear in two of the videos. Carolyn talks about the myth that it easier to get into a state university from a public school than Gaston Day because their grade point scale is higher than ours. Not true. Colleges and university admissions offices always recalculate grade point averages so that they can make fair comparisons between applicants from different schools. (If you don't believe this, then call any college admissions office and ask them.) 

A second video discusses the advantage of college counseling as part of the Gaston Day School upper-school education. Most public schools do not have the resources to provide the in-depth college counseling that we do at Gaston Day. Here at GDS, Mrs. Senter oversees a thorough and coordinated college counseling program that begins in a small way in the 9th grade and then increases in time and attention as our students proceed through upper school. Gaston Day School, we believe, does a better job of helping our students with their college essays than any school, public or private, in the area.

Gaston Day parent Leslie Hodnett appeared in a third video describing the difference in college preparation that her son Kieran received at Gaston Day as compared to her two older children who did not attend school here. All three Hodnett children went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The difference is in preparation. Leslie sees Kieran enjoying his freshman year, excelling academically, and taking advantage of the full college experience because he was so well prepared. Her other two children, in contrast, spent their freshmen years trying to survive academically and to figure the whole thing out.

The last two videos are just me. I talk about my professional experience and the way in which I have benefited from being part of a powerful GDS network. So will any of our graduates who return to this area. I also reject the common assertion that Gaston Day School is not "the real world" experience that a student gets at a larger public school. Gaston Day prepares our graduates for success in college and in their professional lives. Our graduates compete and excel in the real world of college and life. Isn't this the real world that matters?

I hope you will view our videos, let us know what you think, and share them with others who might be interested. As a way of introducing this subject, we also invited all 8th-grade parents to come to a recent evening meeting in the upper dining hall of the Henry Center. There we discussed some of these same issues and others. 

Why are we going to such great lengths to discuss our advantages? The answer is we want everyone to understand just how much this school does for its upper school students. We want everyone who attends Gaston Day to graduate from here, be well prepared for college, successful in life after college, and part of the powerful GDS network. We believe so strongly in what we are doing. We want everybody to know. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Officer Brown and the Tour de Sparta

This Thursday, November 12, 2015, Gaston Day School celebrates the Tour de Sparta event in honor and support of our beloved Officer Jack Brown.  Jack has been the campus safety officer for a number of years here, has kept us safe and secure, and also endeared himself to everyone. One of Jack's most visible roles is that he helps with carpool drop off in the morning. There he helps our youngest GDS students out of their cars and into the school to begin their days. The younger ones adore Officer Brown. In fact, many of the very youngest just assume that any male authority figure at Gaston Day School is named Jack Brown. When they see me, for example, they say, "Hey Officer Brown!"

Jack will be traveling to the Duke Medical Center for treatment of kidney cancer that has spread to his arm. For the last five years, Officer Brown has either been in remission or received treatments that have allowed him to continue his duties. The Tour de Sparta will involve all GDS students either riding their bikes or walking around the school for twenty or thirty minutes at break time in support of Officer Brown as he begins his newest treatment. Jack Brown will be riding his bike too, just as he does so often when he is patrolling the campus. 

If you don't know Officer Brown, I want to introduce him to you. He retired after a long career with the North Carolina Highway Patrol and then came to Gaston Day. His long and distinguished career in law enforcement included the most serious and dangerous types of duty. So Jack Brown is fully capable of doing whatever it takes to keep us safe. But that is not what we see when we are interacting with Jack Brown. Instead, we come face to face with one of the kindest, happiest, most encouraging human beings in the world. Jack Brown may be one of the nicest people I know. So not only does Officer Brown keeps us safe, he makes us happy and treats us with consummate kindness. 

Jack Brown is not the only remarkable staff person at Gaston Day who balances competence with caring. I think about people like Kathy Connor and Hal Carpenter who meant so much to this community. There are so many other folks currently at the school who are similarly special. I believe that their goodness rubs off on others in our community, making the rest of us better people. People like Jack boost our spirits. 

So have your children bring their bikes on Thursday. Or if they prefer just to walk, that is outstanding. The GDS community will be circling the campus in support and appreciation of Officer Jack Brown. He is a man we all admire.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Musings and Happenings

Several important things have happened in the last week and I want to thank those involved. The first is we had another fantastic FallFest. The weather--this go round--was beautiful, and the Parents' Association continues to add new games and attractions that make Fall Fest better and better. The most devious was the padded mechanical arm that sweeps around a circular enclosure knocking down anything in its way. The children in the enclosure jump and duck out of the way or risk being decked. They thought it was great fun. At my age, it looked like something straight out of the Spanish Inquisition. 

To my tremendous joy (sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek statement--be forewarned, gentle reader), we brought back the dunking both after a one-year hiatus. Yes, Dr. Rankin did his thirty minutes in the dunking booth. If the satisfaction that the children get from dunking us is in proportion to the misery that the dunkees experience, then this must have been great for the dunkers. Water up your nose, cold plunge, bruises from hitting the sides, and the climb back onto the seat after you have been dunked. Yes, yes, it is for a good cause.

Caroline Letts and all her lieutenants deserve such heartfelt thanks for Fall Festival! The event is just good, clean entertainment and fellowship, and it is a tremendous way to market to visitors the fun we have at Gaston Day!! Thank you, Fall Fest team. I know everyone had a great time!!

This past Tuesday, we had our annual Kimbrell Society Dinner at the Gaston Country Club. This is our chance to thank our largest donors to the Gaston Day School Fund and enjoy a fine meal together. This year, we were honored to have Mrs. Dot Kimbrell and Kimbrell family friend and Gaston Day School grandparent George Barnette in attendance. The Kimbrell Society is named for Mr. W. Duke Kimbrell and Mrs. Kimbrell. Mrs. Kimbrell was the first president of the Mother's Association (as it was originally called) at Gaston Day School in the late 1960s. It is such a privilege to have had Mrs. Kimbrell's support and contributions all these years!! Thank you, Mrs. Kimbrell!

At the Kimbrell Society Dinner, we also recognized our three longest, consecutive donors to the Gaston Day School Fund: the Howe Foundation, represented by William Howe (26 years in a row), John and Kathy Connor (23 years), and Ada Frank (21 years). We are so grateful to these fine folks and everyone who belongs to the Kimbrell Society. 

Finally, Gaston Day School is undertaking an intensive self-study to determine what we want a Gaston Day graduate to look like and be. A "Portrait of the Graduate" Committee is leading this effort. Karen Ellison, librarian, chairs this group. We are grateful to her and her committee for all their hard work. The outcome will be a clearer understanding of the things that set apart a
Gaston Day School graduate. Agreeing on these qualities and characteristics will provide great focus in our efforts to graduate the best prepared students. Stay tuned as we share the work of the Portrait of the Graduate Committee with the larger community.

I hope everyone is doing well and studying hard. Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is a little more than a month away. Tempus fugit! How about that, Mrs. Wilkerson!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Random Thoughts and Musings

(photo by The Gaston Gazette)
This past Saturday, Gaston Day School and Gaston Christian School participated in "The Battle for the Bell." The event involves nine athletic contests and whichever school wins the most gets to keep the Gaston Day School Bell for a year--so winning the Bell entitles either school to bragging rights for at least a year. Coach Field and I came up with the idea of the Battle of the Bell last year, pitched it to our friends at Gaston Christian, and everyone liked it. Our hope was that the Bell would become an important symbol and source of the two schools' friendship and healthy rivalry. Last year in the inaugural event, the two schools tied. Gaston Day School therefore retained the Bell.

This year Gaston Christian hosted the competition, and every contest that I attended was incredibly exciting and close. Yes, Gaston Christian prevailed 6-3 in the overall competition and, for the first time, they won the Bell. Congratulations to them and to athletes from both our schools who competed so hard and so well!!

No one is more competitive than I am--possibly with the exception of Athletic Director Casey Field. The prospect of reclaiming our Bell makes me look forward to the next year's Battle for the Bell. 
But--and I know this may sound hard for some people to understand--it's good that Gaston Christian won the Bell. Their victory makes next year's competition even more important and exciting. Now we have an honest-to-goodness rivalry, and we have got to figure out a way to bring our Bell back to its home!! I sure hope we win it back next year, don't you?? Won't it be sweet when we do!!

On a completely different front--I told you this was random thoughts and musings--the GDS administration is thrilled with the feedback we are receiving from parents about our efforts to achieve balance and proper limits in student life. Many of our parents obviously share our concern that Gaston Day School be a fun place to learn. That doesn't mean that the academics are going to be any less rigorous. But it does mean that all GDS educators are trying to be more efficient with their teaching and eliminate anything that is just busy work. Thanks to those of you who are recognizing the difference this is making in our students lives. Parents, special thanks to those of you who are encouraging your children to be focused in their studies at home and careful not to spend too many hours texting and tweeting (Yes, I said "hours." The average American high school student spends 2.5 hours a day texting!! That doesn't count other forms of screen time. You can get a lot of homework, recreation, and family time done in 2.5 hours! You can even sleep more.) In all seriousness, teachers and parents have to work together to encourage our students to set priorities and use their time wisely.  

Is there really such a thing as too much homework? Yes. Yes. Yes. Is there really such a thing as
spending too much time doing your homework? Yes. Yes. Yes. Does texting and other social media devices consume great amounts of student time that could be spent more productively on other things? Yes. Yes. Yes. 

If GDS students really are going to be well prepared for college, then part of that preparation is teaching them how to study efficiently and effectively. There really is such a thing as studying too much or too long. If your children are doing that consistently, then they need to be talking to their teachers and figuring out why. Study skills are just as important as content mastery.

O.K. No more preaching from the Head of School. But the conversation about balance and limits is not going to go away. I will be talking more about it in the future. But enough already for right now.

Have you seen the Henry Baseball Field? Oh my goodness, the grass is down on the infield and the whole complex looks spectacular!!! Wonder who will hit the first home run? Strike out the first batter? Complete the first double play? I can't wait to find out.

In closing, remember: Gaston Day School, a great place to learn and have fun! Talk to you soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ping Pong Challenge

How I came to play Vincent Liu in ping pong on the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Visual and Performing Arts Center stage in front of most of the school's student body yesterday (September 2, 2015) requires a little explaining. First, Vincent and Tom Wang are both eleventh grade international students from China, where ping pong is one of the most popular sports, and both are fine players. Vincent's father donated a ping pong table to Gaston Day School so that Vincent and Tom could start a ping pong club, which is exactly what they did. Perhaps not surprisingly, Vincent and Tom have emerged as the two best ping pong players on the GDS campus. 

I too am a ping pong player and, at one time, was pretty good. One of the few individual championships I have ever won was in graduate school program in which I entered a ping pong tournament and won it all among a fairly large field of students from a consortium of graduate schools. Through the years, I have continued at times to play lots of ping pong, and then go for long stretches in which I do not pick up a paddle. One of the places I have played annually over the last few years is at the Junior-Senior Retreat in Valle Crucis Episcopal Conference Center, which has two ping pong tables. I have taken great pride in announcing to the students upon arrival that I would challenge whomever was the best ping pong player to a match. Until about three years ago, I remained undefeated in my challenge. I probably should have quit while I was ahead. 

Recently, word reached me that Vincent and Tom were the real deal, and they wanted to play me. The ping pong table resides in Wade Glaser's classroom, and I decided to play some with Mr. Glaser as a warm up. The games were very competitive, and Wade told me he could barely score a point on either Vincent or Tom. Uh oh.....

Finally, I got a chance at this year's Junior-Senior Retreat to volley with both of them. Things seemed pretty even. But, ominously, each of the boys explained that they were playing without their personal, custom paddles. I do not own a ping pong paddle. 
Dean Lutkus concocted the idea of the challenge match. He is always coming up with great ideas to create school spirit, and he reasoned that seeing either Tom or Vincent beat the Head of School would be exciting. He kept the event secret, and the table was placed behind the curtain on stage. Most of the school was assembled as the curtain rose on me and Vincent with Sparty the School Mascot holding both of our hands aloft in anticipation of crowning a new champion. The theme music from Rocky played in the background. 

Are you ready for the anti-climax? Vincent is much better than me and he beat me 15-9. At one point, I pulled to within two with a score of 9-11, but, alas, it was all downhill from there. Yes, Vincent had his personal, custom paddle. 

The student body really seemed to enjoy our match.

Now, for maybe the best part of all. After the match and later that morning, I went to the lunchroom. A Pre-K student came up to me and with utter and complete sincerity said the following to me, and I quote: "Dr. Rankin, I'm sorry you lost at ping pong. Keep working hard and practicing. You will get better."

Some parent or teacher should be really, really proud. That Pre-K students has already figured out compassion, encouragement, and resiliency. That's the kind of school this is. 

Click the time lapse video to watch all the ping pong action.  (video by Sidney Bing)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Convocation Address 2015

Welcome, everyone, back to school. I particularly want to welcome all our new teachers and students. Will you please give all our newcomers a round of applause. Veterans, please do everything you can to make our new members feel welcome. We love new people!!

I have a new motto or slogan for this year: "Gaston Day School, a great place to learn and have fun!" I have chosen my motto quite deliberately and with lots of thought because it expresses the importance of maintaining balance in our school lives. Academics are a huge piece of the whole school experience that we are balancing--but academics are not the only thing. Extra-curriculars, family time, recreation and sleep are also big parts of our lives that must be properly balanced. 

Part of what I most value about my own education at Gaston Day was the fun that we had outside the classroom. Nothing symbolizes the rich social experience I had at Gaston Day in the early seventies better than the log cabin we built. One of the upper school boys owned some family land just off Crowders Creek towards Kings Mountain. Somebody got the idea of building a log cabin by hand and from scratch out there. For whatever reason, the idea caught on, and that is exactly what we did. Most of the upper school boys participated. We built an approximately 15' x 15' log cabin out of trees we sawed down on the property. The cabin had a pot bellied stove, a floor with stones from the creek, a tin roof, and mud chinking between the logs. It slept about five teenage boys comfortably. 

Building the cabin was a bonding experience. We were really proud of the finished structure, and we should have been. It was a first-rate log cabin--and we had done it all by ourselves. The cabin became the social center of Gaston Day School. Many bonfires and gatherings happened at the cabin. I recollect it all with great fondness. The cabin became our clubhouse, and the entire school used and enjoyed it. Everyone was welcome at the cabin.

What are your log-cabin experiences at Gaston Day School? Is it being part of the Blutopia staff and producing a great publication? Is it being part of the iGEM Team and working together on exciting scientific research? Is it being a part of an athletic team? Whatever it is, being part of a group that works and plays together outside the classroom is fun and a really important part of your education. 

Balance is not easy. Is it possible to over study? Is it easy to take on too many commitments and not do any of them well? I urge you to work hard on your studies and be focused when you do. That way you should have other time for recreation, extra-curriculars, family, and, yes, sleep. 

"Gaston Day School a great place to learn and have fun!" I hope everyone has a great school year, and we keep the balance right in our personal lives and our lives together. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Graduation Charge

Number 1:  Start strong and fast at college.  Go to every class your first semester, turn in your
assignments on time, and commit right now to working hard that first year.  If you do, you will be operating from a position of strength.  If you don’t, you will dig yourself a deep hole. Maybe with lots of hard work you will dig out of it. Maybe you won’t. Why put yourself in such a miserable position when you don’t need to. Start fast. Stay focused. Be committed to success from the outset.

Number 2:  Hang in there!  Do not be surprised if your adjustment to college
during the first semester is difficult emotionally or socially. You are well prepared academically and will do well if you apply yourself. But don’t assume that you must be blissfully happy from the first day in college for it to be OK.  Part of life is making it work when it doesn’t feel so great.  A verse from Romans in the Bible says “We rejoice in suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  If you experience suffering, do not go it alone.  Use every counselor, friend, text message, teammate, soul mate, sensitive stranger, and stuffed animal you can find to make it through.  Build a support network of family, friends, and professionals to get through the suffering on onto the hope.  Work to be happy too.  Join clubs.  Exercise.  Enjoy a healthy social life.  For some of us, happiness comes naturally.  For many of us, it is earned.  Don’t give up and don’t be surprised next year if the happiness comes gradually. Remember, struggle and pain are not necessarily bad things if they prepare the way for better things ahead. Hang in there and stay hopeful!

Number 3:  Your are not smarter than the system.  College is full of hoops and hurdles that you must jump through or over to graduate.  If you think that deadlines and attendance policy requirements don’t apply to you, but only to the slow learners and less gifted, get ready for an ice bucket dose of reality.  Get ready for some frustrated professor or some angry registrar to teach you a lesson. My best advice is follow the rules, read the syllabus, do what they ask you to do. They don’t care how smart you are if you don’t do what they say.

Number 4:  Cherish and maintain the friendships you have made here and those you will make in college. They will bring joy to your life.  Texting, Facebook, and whatever else is the most current, newfangled social media du jour let you stay connected.  Stay connected to old friends.  I don’t know if the person with the most, true friends wins in life, but his or her life is definitely the sweetest.

Finally, I end with the same invitation I give every year.  I invite you to return to this area after you finish your education and begin your careers.  We want you to go away now, but come back after your education is complete.  Come back home to a place where everybody knows your name and you are part of a network of successful people who care about you and want you to join them in leading responsible, productive lives. Whether it is Gastonia, Lake Wylie, Shelby, Belmont, or Charlotte, this place is alive and we need your help extending and enlarging its vitality. The Charlotte region’s economy is one of the strongest in the country. This is the land of opportunity. Come back home.

Thank you, graduates, for all that you have meant to Gaston Day School.  You know how proud we are of you.  You know how much we will miss you.  We wish you well as you continue your adventure at college.  Godspeed Class of 2015.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Kathy Connor Day

Monday, April 27, was officially declared "Kathy Connor Day" at Gaston Day School. For those of you who don't know, after twenty-five years of incredible service, Mrs. Connor has decided to retire at the end of this school year. It is so hard to imagine Gaston Day School without Kathy or to thank her properly for all she has meant to the School. Kathy Connor Day was our attempt to say "Thank You" in a big, public celebration.

For all her time here, Kathy has served as the receptionist and school secretary. Really, however, she has also been the mother to the School. She touches the lives of everyone here regularly. She dispenses cough drops, gives out bandages, delivers forgotten clothes and books, communicates messages from home, oversees admission to class when a student is late, coordinates the driver's education paperwork, orders caps and gowns, deposits checks in our bank account, and helps organize the Head of School. She knows everything about the School. Want to know how to register for summer camp? Ask Mrs. Connor. Confused about why the printer is jammed? Ask Mrs. Connor. Sometimes her office has five people in it, all wanting something at once from Mrs. Connor. Somehow she takes care of everyone's needs and smiles the whole time!!

Let me tell you some of the things that make Kathy Connor a remarkable colleague and person. First is her determination to complete anything that she is asked to do. If a parent brings Mrs. Connor a lunch box left at home by a student, Mrs. Connor will not rest until it is in proper hands. If I am supposed to sign a document, Kathy hands me the pen and makes sure that the task is complete. If a student is unaccounted for, Mrs. Connor will tactfully, but persistently, investigate until she finds out where they are.

A second remarkable quality that Kathy Connor possesses is her discretion. Mrs. Connor and I have worked together now for fourteen years. I have never heard her say anything bad about anyone. She does not share confidential information. She will not gossip. How many people do you know about which the three previous sentences can truthfully be said? Kathy Connor may be the only person I know who consistently and faithfully practices the age-old adage: "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." 

Other things that make Mrs. Connor so special. She is so kind and caring. Children big and small feel safe and secure with her. She knows how to reach out to someone in a time of loss and distress. She knows how to laugh heartily at a good joke and, especially, at herself. She is a constantly cheerful and considerate. 

So for all these reasons and for all her years of faithful service, this past Monday was officially declared "Kathy Connor Day." Kathy's husband John and son Mike brought Kathy over to the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Auditorium at 10 o'clock. The whole school was assembled. We brought Kathy on stage to give her flowers, other gifts symbolic of how she helps us each day (bandages, cough drops, etc.), and then reigning Homecoming Queen Gray Heath crowned Mrs. Connor as Queen for the Day. The lower school chorus sang Mrs. Connor a special song that made her cry. Then we all sang "Happy Birthday" to Kathy because it also happened to be her birthday. Nobody has ever gotten a louder standing ovation. I eventually had to stop the applause so we could continue our program. Kathy wore her crown for the rest of the day, even when husband John took her to lunch off campus.

Thank you, Mrs. Connor, for serving Gaston Day School so well for so long. We are really, really going to miss you. Your goodness and dedication have made such a huge difference in all of our lives. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spectacular Presentation Skills

Last Thursday I visited the 6th grade Social Studies Class (John Nussbaumer's). Unknown to me, it was presentation day. Five teams of students--two or three students to a team--were reporting about African countries. Several things struck me immediately. First, the way the students used technology was impressive. They had prepared power point presentations carefully and well. While they gave their oral reports, Mr. Nussbaumer acted as their technical support. The power point presentations were slick, visually appealing and well produced. The content was excellent.

If this had been all that I saw then I would have been impressed. But what absolutely floored me was the poise and the polish of the presenters. As I watched the first presentation, I wondered how in the world these 6th graders could be so good at presenting. Then I learned how and why. Immediately after each team finished its presentation, Mr. Nussbaumer pulled them in a corner for discrete feedback about what they had done well and what needed improvement. His critique was based on a printed presentation rubric that the 5th and 6th grade teaching team prepared several years ago. (See it below.) He carefully went over each of their presentations and graded them according to how well they satisfied the rubric. 

Students take the rubric and the constructive criticism seriously. They are very familiar with the expectations of the rubric and prepare for their presentations with it in mind. When Mr. Nussbaumer made suggestions for improvement afterwards, they knew exactly what he was talking about because they knew the rubric. Over the course of their two years in 5th and 6th grades, students work hard to improve their presentation skills based on expectations defined in the printed presentation rubric. Mr. Nussbaumer told me that their progress is remarkable. Just as the rubric suggests, they learn not to fidget nervously, to make good eye contact with their audience, to smile when their partner is speaking, and to speak audibly and not too fast. 

The result is a group of 6th grade students with spectacular presentation skills!! No kidding, the very best of them are more poised, captivating and informative than most adults who I hear make presentations. Several of them reminded me of game show hosts with their charm, presence and command of their audience!!

Wow!!! I was so excited after hearing the presentations and so proud of what we are accomplishing with our student presentation skills that I told everyone I saw!! Now I am telling you!! Even more impressive, presentation skills are integrated throughout the entire curriculum from the lowest grades to seniors. How important do you think it is for our children to be confident, competent, relaxed presenters? What does it mean in school or the workplace to be able to make a quality presentation and impress your audience (or your boss)? Does any school do a better job teaching presentation skills than Gaston Day? 

Gaston Day School's mission is "to educate our students and prepare them for academic success and responsible, productive lives." Teaching presentation skills is one way that we are doing that. I hope you get a chance to see your students make a presentation here at school or elsewhere. When they dazzle you with their presentation skills and leave you wondering how they could be so good, the answer is that Gaston Day has taught them to follow the rubric to excellence.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Snow Days, Canceling School, and Make-Up Days

With all our recent snow days, I want to blog about how GDS decides whether or not we will have school when there is snow or freezing precipitation. The night before or early in the morning (4:30 am) I routinely consult Jeff Booker, Gaston County Schools Superintendent, Marc Stout, Gaston Christian Headmaster, and David Fleenor, GDS Director of Finance and Operations, to get their thoughts. David Fleenor, in turn, contacts Harvey Maners, who oversees our bus fleet, to see what he is hearing from our bus drivers. Although the advice and plans of the Gaston County Schools and Gaston Christian influence our decision, Gaston Day ultimately makes its own choice. Sometimes it is the same as the Gaston County Schools and Gaston Christian. Sometimes our choice is different.

Our decision is complicated because our students come from a five-county area and because we have buses. I automatically check local weather reports throughout the night and also what the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is recommending. Honestly, if the NCDOT is recommending a travel warning or advisory for our area, I tend to comply with their recommendation, even if the roads look ok to me. From a liability, safety, and patriotic perspective, I do not feel I can ignore what the NCDOT is asking citizens of the state to do in our area. With buses and student drivers, Gaston Day tries to err on the side of safety in making our decision. But we hate to miss school.

There are two types of especially difficult calls. The first are those in which the inclement weather is predicted to begin close to the start time of school and/or the weather forecaster is unsure whether or not it is really going to happen. The second difficult call is when the snow has largely melted and the roads look safe enough to have school, but there may be re-freezing.

It is easy to make a cancellation call when there is already snow accumulating the night before and the forecast says that it is going to continue all night and stay below freezing all the next day. But sometimes there is a 30% chance of snow or maybe rain, and it is supposed to start at 6 am. That really is a tough call. Those unpredictable forecasts are the ones that occasionally cause us to start school in the hope that we will dodge bad weather, only to have snow start after we get to school. In that case, Kristin Paxton-Shaw, Director of Public Relations, sends out a Hypertext notice to tell everyone to come pick up their students. Those are not happy days for the Administration at Gaston Day.

Or sometimes NCDOT says the roads are going to be frozen until 10 am, but thawed after that. That's when we consider a two-hour delay.

The hypertext notice system really works well. Thank you for being so vigilant in looking for GDS alerts. We really have gotten to the point that everybody gets the message and almost nobody brings their children to school when we have cancelled.

Determining whether we are going to have make-up days is really an art, not a science. We have to attend 170 days a year to satisfy state requirements. We typically go almost 180 without missed snow days. So we can tolerate three or four missed days. But more misses than that and we start to consider make-up days. So far we are only reclaiming a single half-day scheduled for later this month. If it snows more, we may consider more make-ups.

Are we through with bad weather? I never feel safe until April 1. Some of our worst snows have come late in March. Nobody hates freezing precipitation more than I do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bill and Frances Henry and Our Field of Dreams

The timber cutting crews have arrived and begun to clear the land as a first step in the construction of the new baseball field in the back of campus. In case you missed the Gazette and GDS E-News articles, Bill and Frances Henry have made an extraordinarily generous commitment necessary to build a new baseball field. Until now, the GDS baseball team has been practicing in Steele Creek--a long way from Gaston Day. By next year, the GDS baseball team will be playing on campus in a beautiful new athletic facility. 

Gaston Day can never thank Bill and Frances enough for their generosity. This is the third time that they have been involved in an ultimate gift to the school. First, they joined with other family members to pay for the construction of the James H. Henry Activity Center to honor the memory of their brother Jim. Next when we had the Campaign for Academic Excellence in the early 2000s, Bill and Frances gave a gift to renovate the main academic building, which was renamed the William S. Henry Family Academic Building in their honor. Now, they are making it possible to build the new baseball field. Because Frances Henry has meant so much to the baseball program, it is so fitting that she be a part of making the field a reality. She coached the baseball program into existence and remains its biggest volunteer and fan. Frances loves baseball, and she loves Gaston Day. The new baseball field grows out of those twin loves. Son William is a first baseman on our team.

The baseball field is part of a larger athletic complex that has been planned for the back of campus for more than fifteen years. Back then, the school purchased 25 acres from the Gastonia Municipal Airport and developed the master plan for a major athletic complex to be placed there. We have been waiting all these years to secure the funds to begin. Now we can. Other parts of the plan call for a new soccer field and track, a softball field, concession stand, and tennis courts. Some of these facilities are not as great a priority as they once were. Our partnership with Southampton Swim and Racket Club, for example, provides great tennis facilities close to school. And we won't need a girls softball field until there is enough interest in that sport to form a team. But oh how we would love to have a new soccer field and track!! Both of those sports are strong at Gaston Day. Benefactors are welcome!!

How exciting!! The baseball field is the first new construction on this campus since I have been here. It is going to be such a beautiful addition to our campus. The schedule is for the field to be completed by the end of this summer. The GDS baseball team should be playing on it the spring 2016. I can't wait for the first pitch!! Baseball is a growing sport at Gaston Day, and the new field only adds to the program's momentum. Who will get the first hit? Who will pitch the first victory? Who will hit the first home run? In a year, we will witness the answers to those questions. 

"Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks! I don't care if we ever come back. For it's root, root, root for the Spartans! It's a shame if they lose! For it's one, two, three strikes your out at our new ball field!" 

What a great time to be a Spartan baseball fan!! Thank you, Henrys for making our field of dreams come to life!