County schools continue to move ahead with STEM academy

By Lauren Williams Staff Writer

March 27, 2014

The Sampson County Board of Education unanimously approved the one-year memorandum of understanding for a new, soon to be established Sampson STEM Academy, a project the county school system and Sampson Community College are partnering to create.

The new academy, a public high school program to be housed on the community college campus, will serve both 11th and 12th grade students who wish to pursue a curriculum focused on Animal Science and Biotechnology.

Back in November, Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent of Academics and Student Services, and Ginger Stone, director of Career and Technical Education, explained to school board members that the project’s partners honed in on this curriculum because it is one of the areas identified as an area of need locally and in the southeastern region. It is also a curriculum focus that the school system feels it can support and for which the community college has appropriate facilities. The school system also surveyed its students — rising juniors and seniors — to see where their specific interests lie and Animal Science and Biotechnology was among the top three.

In early 2014, school officials shared with the school board what the new academy’s curriculum will look like and described its three Career and College Promise (CCP) pathways. Two of the pathways can lead to an Associate in Applied Science degree in Animal Science. With one pathway, students will earn an Applied Animal Science Technology Certificate; with another, an Applied Animal Science Multiple Species Certificate. All of the courses — such as ANS 115: Animal Science Feeds and Nutrition and ANS 130: Poultry Production — that students will take as they pursue these pathways will earn them high school and college credit, ultimately counting towards a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree in Animal Science Technology.

A third CCP pathway will be offered for pursuing an Associate in Arts or Science degree. Like with the other two pathways, students following this third CCP pathway will take Agriscience Applications, Biotechnology and Agriscience Research, and CTE Advanced Studies/Internship. However, instead of taking other Animal Science courses, students will take classes like ENG 111, PSY 150, or SOC 210, classes that can count towards an Associate of Arts or Science degree from Sampson Community College and will also be transferable to any UNC-system school.

According to information provided by school officials, “if they (academy students) take a course during the spring of thier senior year they could have 12-13 hours of degree credit completed tuition free…the equivalent of 20 percent of their two year degree.”

The academy will serve a total of 28 students to begin with, with each district allowed seven student spots. Interested students will have to apply for a spot in order to attend the new academy, much like students have to apply to attend Sampson Early College High School. There will be no tuition costs, but students may have to pay for textbooks and related materials, and they will be required to purchase a college parking pass.

During last week’s work session, school board member Mary Brown questioned who would be available to advise the students in the new academy. Macon explained that, while the community college will provide instructors for the CCP courses, the county schools will provide a part-time teacher for the Agriculture Education courses; this faculty member will be able to advise students, he said, as well as the student’s guidance counselor at their high school base.

Both G.H. Wilson and Glenn Tart expressed interest in a larger STEM program with more offerings. “I would like to see four of five or six good programs,” said Wilson.

Macon agreed, explaining that school officials hoped to expand the STEM Academy and its offerings in the future.

“I see this as a pilot program,” said school board vice chairwoman Faye Gay, ” a way to get started.”

The Sampson Community College Board will vote on the memorandum of understanding on April 8. The memborandum will take effect July 1. The Sampson STEM Academy is expected to start in the fall of 2014.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at