By: Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief
The Town of Pembroke is now home to the newest charter school in Robeson County, Old Main STREAM Academy. The school still operates under the Public Schools of North Carolina, but the school is unique in that it decides its curriculum.
Named after Old Main, the oldest building on UNCP’s campus, Old Main STREAM Academy hopes to bring an innovative approach to education. Something that has traditionally not been afforded to students in rural communities.
The curriculum is heavily rooted in six core disciplines that make up STREAM: science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math.
The school uses a lottery to decide which students to accept. The software that facilitates the lottery is called Lotterease. Parents submit their child’s application, and the software selects the school’s students completely at random.
“By us being a charter school, we fall under DPI (Department of Public Instruction), and we still teach the same standards that public schools teach. We still participate in the same testing programs that they do. We have a little bit more freedom as far as deciding our curriculum, creating our own pacing guides, and implementing various programs,” said Joshua Locklear, Ph.D., the school’s principal.
Locklear’s education background has deep ties to UNCP. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and his masters in school administration here at Pembroke. He received his doctorate in education leadership at East Carolina University.
Locklear is a seasoned educator and administrator, teaching various science courses at Purnell Swett high school for six years. While obtaining his doctorate degree, Locklear was an assistant principal at Prospect Middle, Magnolia Middle and Carroll Middle schools.
Despite the name, Old Main STREAM Academy is located at 200 S. Odum St, and is currently K-4, but the five-year plan, as stated by the school’s Principal Locklear, is to become K-8. The school will increase one grade level each year. Next academic year the school will teach K-5.
The academy is currently practicing what they call place-based education. The faculty take the students outside the school walls, into the Robeson County community. This affords the students the ability to explore various educational opportunities. For example, visiting a local farm and being able to collect soil samples and identify various plant and wildlife.
The school also brings in community members who have a particular craft or trade and has them teach the students about said craft or trade.
“This expands the opportunities for our kids. Shows them what the various communities in Robeson County have to offer,” said Locklear.
Coby Scott, the father of a third grader at Old Main STREAM Academy, is a believer in the school’s method of teaching.
“We felt like the public school wouldn’t help my son progress with pushing his mind. We love the way the school and teachers are able to focus on each child’s level of intelligence and push them even further,” said Scott.
“Our goal was 200 students. We stopped accepting applications about three weeks ago,” said Locklear.
Currently Old Main STREAM Academy has 206 students, with a total of 28 faculty and staff.