SparkNC Lab could bring future tech employment opportunities to Chatham students


PITTSBORO — The technologies of the future will soon be in Chatham County. 

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and software development may seem like things only seen in “The Jetsons,” but these emerging industries are quickly becoming necessary to understand for employment opportunities.

That’s why Chatham County Schools officials were excited about a potential opportunity available to the district: SparkNC Lab. 

According to the district, “SparkNC is a transformative new initiative through The Innovation Project consortium (TIP) that will accelerate learner progress along pathways to careers in high-tech fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning, software development, computer systems engineering and cybersecurity.” 

Chatham would be one of 18 districts participating in a pilot version of the SparkNC Lab program and, if successful, would serve as a model for expansion. 

Dr. Amanda Moran, CCS assistant superintendent for academic services and instructional support, shared an informational presentation to the Chatham County Board of Education at its April meeting Monday at the George Moses Horton Middle School multipurpose room. She said this program is in the early stages and not all details are known at this time.

Initial plans would be to implement the Spark Lab at the Siler City Center for Innovation so it could serve both the Chatham School of Science & Engineering and the One Academy.

SparkNC will provide funding for furniture for the space, paint and branding materials, technology equipment, and funds to support a lab facilitator position for the first year of the program. The facilitator would be a Chatham employee trained by the SparkNC program.   

“There are quite a few unknowns at this time, but we feel that the possibilities of this partnership could bring opportunities to our students and the district,” Moran said.

Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson also said he was excited about this opportunity because of the companies coming to Chatham and surrounding areas.

“This is tied into the regional economic development of our area,” he said. “Apple, Toyota, Vinfast, etc. All of these companies want us — and our students — at the front end of this.”

Jackson said the lab could be used as a way to expose and prepare Chatham students to these future-oriented technologies that will become important skills for employment when they graduate. 

The SparkNC Lab pilot program would be partially funded through grants from the N.C. General Assembly. No action was taken on this item. For more information visit

Other business

• Tabitha McLeod, the child nutrition manager at Chatham Middle School, received the Power of One Award for her powerful impact on shaping the direction of someone else’s life. 

• Jennifer Saylor, school counselor at Chatham School of Science & Engineering, earned the Excellence & Opportunity Champion award for her work understanding the importance of meeting the needs of all of our students.  

The district honored state science fair winners, arts award winners and all-district band members.

• Dr. Amanda Moran provided an update on the year-round school study group. No action was taken on this item. She shared the district received more than 800 survey responses from parents, staff and community members. The presentation was similar to that provided at community input sessions, which took place at three Siler City area feeder schools: Virginia Cross Elementary, Siler City Elementary and Chatham Middle. 

At last month’s school board meeting, teachers and families from Siler City schools pushed back against the proposal saying there had been unclear communication and that it would upend current schedules for working families. 

The full presentation provided to the board is available below:

Moran said there would be further analysis and more definitive data would be shared with the school board about the feasibility of a year-round school calendar, and feedback gathered from the survey. The survey is still available at

• The board unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to N.C. House Bill 219, “Charter School Omnibus.” They said the bill would “create an unfair advantage by requiring local districts to share funds” with charter schools. The resolution claimed the bill would be harmful to Chatham County Schools and to public schools across the state.

“Allowing charter schools access to funding that was raised specifically for traditional public schools is unfair and would put traditional schools at a disadvantage by depleting supplemental resources needed to offer extra and co-curricular opportunities and resources for students,” the resolution said.

Chatham County Board of Education Member Jane Allen Wilson was absent from the meeting.

The next scheduled school board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 8, at the George Moses Horton Middle School multipurpose room in Pittsboro.   

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at or on Twitter @b_rappaport

SparkNC Lab, Chatham County Board of Education, education, year-round school, Siler City, House Bill 219