By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Teachers and principals in Edgecombe County Public Schools welcomed students into their schools with open arms Thursday afternoon as open houses were held countywide.
Aarion Pearce, an eighth-grader, and Alaysia Brinson, a seventh-grader, greeted Lisa Howell, principal of Phillips Middle School, with a hug when they walked in the door. Howell was Pearce’s assistant principal last year at Bulluck Elementary School.
“It’s good because I know her,” said Pearce, of having Howell as a principal.
He said his goal for the new school year is “staying out of trouble.”
“I’m very excited to be here,” Howell said. “Probably 99 percent of these children I have known from Coker-Wimberly or Bulluck.”
Before coming to Phillips as principal, Howell was principal at Coker-Wimberly Elementary School and prior to 2009, she was at Bulluck.
Tamkio Brinson felt a sense of familiarity as she walked through the halls of Phillips with her children.
“I went to school here when it was kindergarten through eighth,” she said. “I loved the school. I like the fact that it’s close to my home and the teachers do care. They don’t mind calling you and working with you.”
“We’ve had quite a few parents coming through and the kids are excited. Most of them have smiles on their faces,” Howell said.
Blythe Phillips, a sixth-grader at Phillips, had a smile on her face as she entered Tammy Hedgepeth’s math classroom at open house. Monday will be Phillips’ first day of middle school.
“It’s exciting and I feel that I can still be comfortable even though I’m not with all my friends. They’re coming to Phillips, but we might not all be in the same classrooms,” Phillips said.
She had one question for Hedgepeth:
“Are we going to have a lot of homework?”
Hedgepeth required that she would give “quality homework” that would help her students excel.
“We’re going to have a great year,” Hedgepeth said. “Edgecombe seems like the place to be.”
Hedgepeth comes to ECPS from Halifax County, where she was the Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012. She said she likes Phillips because it is a “community school.”
Another teacher new to ECPS, and Phillips, is eighth-grade math teacher Will Fredo Alambra. Originally from the Philippines, Alambra comes to ECPS from Halifax County.
“I feel at home,” he said, as he greeted students in his classroom Thursday.
One of those students was Taye Jones, who met his new teacher with his godfather, Antoine Brown. Jones has some goals for his last year at Phillips:
“Be good this year, get my grades right this year, and stay focused.”
Down the road at Coker-Wimberly, principal Stephanie Alston and her school administrators were greeting students and parents. Alston comes to Coker-Wimberly from Stocks. Alston was thrilled with the response from parents at open house.
“They seem really excited that we’re here, and it makes us feel really good and welcome,” Alston said. “We’re ready for a new start-up.”
Alexis Barnes, a fifth-grader, expressed her eagerness to go back to school during open house.
“I’ll be glad to start a new school year with a different teacher, starting out fresh,” she said. “The teachers (here) will help you find out anything you need.”
Barnes’ mother Nancy O’Neal said she likes Coker-Wimberly because of the friendliness of the staff.
“We have a year-long plan to get parents out (at the school) more,” Alston said.
Building relationships with the community is a goal of Superintendent John Farrelly, as well. He made his rounds to all the open houses Thursday, and commented that Stocks Elementary had a “great community expo” at its open house.
“I’m really pleased with the turnout at all the settings,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of positive energy.”