Editor’s Note: Please find photos of Sharon L. Contreras, Johnette McCain, Bilal Issifou attached to this email.
For Immediate Release: July 9, 2018
Contact: Tina Firesheets (336) 370-8307
Media Desk (336) 574-5730
District Leaders Recognized with NAACP Awards
Superintendent, science supervisor and Middle College N.C. A&T graduate
honored for service
Greensboro, N.C. – Three GCS leaders received awards for their service to the community at the NAACP’s 53rd Annual Freedom Fund Banquet on June 30.
Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras received the Community Service Award, which is presented to an individual with cumulative support and action addressing issues and concerns of the African-American community within the framework of the mission and vision of the NAACP in civil and human rights.
Contreras made history in August 2016 when she was sworn in as the first woman and the first Afro-Latina superintendent of Guilford County Schools. During her two years as superintendent, the district has achieved its highest-ever graduation rate of 89.8 percent and the lowest-ever dropout rate of 1.87 percent.
She led efforts to get students back in school just one week after a tornado damaged three GCS schools this past April. Contreras has also advocated for higher pay for teachers and principals and implemented plans to recruit and retain the highest performing teachers to the lowest performing schools. She also worked to increase transparency and communication with parents, staff and the broader community with the implementation of online data dashboards and communication forums, as well as several meetings in schools throughout the year.
“It is a great honor to receive this award,” she says. “It’s been more than 60 years since Brown v. the Board of Education stated that it was unconstitutional for state laws to establish separate schools for black and white students. In that time, there have been great strides to provide more educational opportunities to all students. But there’s so much more still to do. I will continue to work toward eradicating achievement and opportunity gaps to ensure that all students have the same opportunities for success in life after their time with us in GCS.”
Johnette McCain, GCS science supervisor, received the Outstanding Citizen award for her 18 years of work in the district. She was recognized for her commitment to youth throughout the community, most importantly through her role as director of the early college program at Dudley High. She has also worked with youth at New Light Missionary Baptist Church, which was named the NAACP’s Church of the Year.
McCain says she’s drawn to helping marginalized and disenfranchised youth.
“I’m passionate because I’ve always had a special interest for those who are left out and looked over,” she said. “We’re at an age where financial, political and social gain overshadows the things that matter like public servitude and civic interest. I try to teach my kids to replace apathy and complacency with hope and excellence. I always taught them to refuse to be defined by the stereotypical characterization of what they might be considered.”
McCain, whose parents were educators, also has a sister and husband who are GCS principals. She initially intended to become a medical doctor, but says God changed her trajectory.
“Education is in my blood,” she says.
Bilal Issifou, a graduate of the Middle College at N.C. A&T University, received the Mae Cynthia Lee Youth Award. Issifou, who is taking summer courses at N.C. A&T, will enter as a sophomore in August. He was accepted to the Accelerated Pathway to Law School program, a partnership between N.C. A&T and Elon universities. Graduates of the program will earn their law degree in five-and-a-half years.
The NAACP recognized Issifou for his work with Kiser Kings, a mentoring program for black males at Kiser Middle. Issifou was a mentor for two years with his Middle College peers and two students from Dudley High. He said he didn’t have a mentor who met with him weekly, but he did have role models at his mosque and at school. The students Issifou mentored wanted to know what high school was like and how to juggle grades and playing sports.
“We would give them real answers to real situations (we had faced),” Issifou says. “I feel like it’s easier to listen to someone closer to your age because you feel more of a connection and that they really understand what you’re going through.”
About Guilford County Schools
Guilford County Schools, the third largest school district in North Carolina, the 47th largest of more than 14,000 in the United States, and serves more than 73,000 PK-12 students at 126 schools. With approximately 10,000 employees, GCS works in partnership with parents, businesses, colleges and the community to deliver an education that connects student interests and skills with the careers and economy of our future here and around the world. We provide educational choices to meet individual student needs in a culturally diverse citizenship and new opportunities to help our students Soar to Greatness. For more information, visit the district’s website at www.gcsnc.com
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