Chatham Schools tout music, STEM programs

30-year vet Rodney Barker recognized for his service


Chatham County was cited by the NAMM Foundation as one of America’s Best Communities for Music Education, an award revealed at the Chatham County Schools April 15 board meeting.

The award acknowledges schools and districts with a commitment to and support of music education, and this is the 6th consecutive year Chatham has received the designation.

“We are excited that we were honored with the best communities for music education once again this is our sixth year in a row and this year there were only two districts in the state of North Carolina and we were one of those,” said Amanda Moran, assistant superintendent for academic services & instructional support. Some 1,000 schools and districts are recognized every year.

Robotics and computer science programs at CCS also got a shout out during the meeting, with Superintendent Anthony Jackson telling the board about a visit to the school by a mobile STEM lab.

“We had Betabox, a gaming and technology company with a lot of artificial intelligence and interactive robotics, bring their mobile lab down to our OneAcademy and our students were allowed to spend time with that,” said Jackson.

CCS educators and staff were also recognized by the board, with Kirsten Berger of Seaforth High School named the Excellence and Opportunity Champion for April. Berger is advisor to the Black Student Union at Seaforth, which has become more visible under her tutelage. “Coach K” was praised for the strong relationships she builds with students and for providing a safe and understanding space while helping them succeed.

Rodney Barker, lead custodian at Bennett Elementary School and thirty-year Chatham Schools vet, was awarded April’s Power of One award — a citation the school board gives out monthly to a staff member within the district.

“He often fills in as a father figure for those students that might not have that special someone in their lives,” read a portion of his nomination letter. “He is a very special part of Bennett School.” Barker attended Bennett as a child, and students at the school invented a “Dress like Mr. Rodney Day” in his honor.

“For the students, Mr. Rodney stops to speak and interact, and for many is an adult they trust to keep them safe and always show kindness. He is patient and soft-spoken, but also quick witted and a friend to all. As a student and an employee with many years of service to CCS, he exemplifies the mission of "One Chatham," a second nomination letter read.