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Superintendent's Message


At the February meeting the Board of Education approved the traditional calendars for the 2017-2018 school year. The Board requested that I schedule and host a calendar discussion meeting for each of the elementary districts. The intent for these meetings is to provide residents from each community with an opportunity to ask questions, share concerns, and learn more about the possibility of a seasonal calendar in future years.  

Those meetings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, March 14th 6:00 p.m. Nebo Elementary Multi-purpose Room
Monday, March 20th 6:00 p.m. North Cove Elementary Multi-purpose Room
Tuesday, April 18th 6:00 p.m. PG Elementary Multi-purpose Room
Thursday, April 20th 6:00 p.m. West Marion Elementary Gym (PTO night)
Monday, April 24th 6:00 p.m. Eastfield GMS & Marion ES EGMS Auditorium
Monday, May 1st 6:00 p.m. Glenwood Elementary Auditorium
Tuesday, May 2nd 6:00 p.m. Old Fort Elementary Auditorium

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have. You will find information about the calendar options:

News & Announcements

West Marion Receives Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant

Ashley Greene holding grant letter

West Marion Elementary School was selected to receive a 2017 Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant in the amount of $4500 for the project called Time for an Update from the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation. Ashley Greene, the Media Coordinator at WME, applied for the grant will be using the money to update the technology in the Media Center. Congratulations Mrs. Greene!

71% of the World is Water. Children Are 100% Curious.

YMCA Pool with kids learning to swim

Teaching children how to be safe around water is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Y-Splash is a program that teaches every second grader in our county essential water safety skills. Lead by certified lifeguards, swim instructors and community volunteers, Y-Splash teaches children skills that reduce the risk of drowning and give them confidence in and around water. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for kids ages 5-14. By participating in a formal water safety program, we can reduce this risk of drowning by 88%.

Local Impact: Between March and May, every second grade class in McDowell County participates in the YMCA water safety program. This year they served a total of 440 children. Y-Splash is often the first opportunity many students are exposed to water safety skills including: the basics of swimming, how to use a personal flotation device, the importance of adult supervision while in or around water, and how to react in an emergency situation. For some students, this field trip to the Y is the first time they have ever been in a swimming pool. While some are excited about the opportunity to swim, others are hesitant and often scared of the water.

Old Fort Elementary School came to the YMCA. In one particular class, there were two autistic students who were extremely afraid of the water. Initially, both of the students refused to get in the pool. Our skilled Y-Splash volunteers didn’t try to force these students to swim, instead they encouraged them to start slow – to begin by putting their feet in the water. After a few minutes, one of the students made the decision to get into the pool. To his surprise, he loved it! He ended up participating in all of the skill stations. He especially loved the swim lessons station which allowed him to swim and float with the assistance of a volunteer. The other hesitant student, still dangling his feet in the water, noticed how much fun was being had by his classmate. Inspired by the other students, he decided that he wanted to test the waters for himself. By the end of the session, neither of the two boys wanted to get out of the pool. Their classroom teachers were surprised and amazed at how both of the students thrived in this environment.

Superintendent Announces Four New Principals

Retirements at two schools resulted in the shuffling of four school administrators for the coming school year. Joyce Poplin at Nebo and Charles Gaffigan at East Middle announced their retirements earlier in the spring. Ms. Poplin is retiring after 40 years of service at Nebo Elementary. She started her teaching career at Nebo in August 1976 and was named principal at the school in July 2002. Mr. Gaffigan began his teaching career at McDowell High in May 1988. He was named principal at Old Fort in July 2004, and was reassigned as principal at East Middle (then East Junior High) in July 2010. Both retirements are effective on 30 June. Mr. Garrett shared “We are very thankful to both Joyce and Charles for their many years of distinguished service to the students of McDowell County Schools, and we wish them nothing but the best as they embark on this next chapter of their lives.”

Replacing Mr. Gaffigan at East Middle will be MHS assistant principal Jennifer Croymans. Ms. Croymans began her career as a teacher of Exception Children in August 2007. She served in that role for six years and was named assistant principal at McDowell High in July 2013. She has served specifically as the Titan Academy (for Freshmen) administrator since July 2015.

Nebo’s next leader will be current North Cove principal Desarae Kirkpatrick. Ms. Kirkpatrick began her career as a NC Pre-K teacher at Glenwood Elementary in August 2002. She left the county in 2003 to teach 3rd Grade in Madison County, and then returned to MCS as an assistant principal at MHS in July 2006. Kirkpatrick was named principal at North Cove in 2008, and was reassigned to West Marion in August 2012. She returned to the helm at North Cove in 2015.

Current Marion Elementary principal Rod Slagle will be the next principal at North Cove. Mr. Slagle began his career as a teacher at East Junior High in 1992. He was elevated to assistant principal in 2005 and later served in the same role in Burke County. Mr. Slagle relocated to Mitchell County in 2009 to serves as principal at Bowman Middle School and later at Harris Middle. He returned to McDowell County as principal at Marion in 2013.

MHS assistant principal Ashley McCartha will be the next principal at Marion. She began her career as a science teacher at MHS in 2006. She served in that role until being selected as a NC Principal Fellows in 2010. She completed the fellowship program in 2012 and then served as assistant principal at both East and West Junior High. She was reassigned to her current role at McDowell High in 2014.

“We are very confident in all of our new principals, and I have high hopes for next year and many years to come” stated Garrett. The new principal assignments will be effective on 1 July.

Mike Brown Ford-Subaru of Spruce Pine announces: The Michael and Janet Brown Appalachian State Walker College of Business Scholarship Winners for 2017/2018

We are excited to announce that Avery Wilkerson and Isaiah Daniels, both graduating seniors at McDowell High School are recipients of The Michael and Janet Brown Appalachian State Walker College of Business Scholarship. We wish both Avery and Isaiah the best and know they will excel and enjoy their college experience at Appalachian State.

Pertaining to our scholarship, a qualified student shall be awarded $5,000 to be paid over two years: $2,500 in the freshman year and $2,500 in the sophomore year. Scholarship minimum requirements must be met in order to have the scholarship renewed for the sophomore year; minimum GPA for renewal is 3.0. There will be two scholarships awarded each year through 2021.

This commitment is a continuation of our efforts to help students in achieving their long term goals. The Michael and Janet Brown Appalachian State Walker College Business Scholarship is now in it’s 6th year of fulfilment. Since 2014, Mike Brown Ford-Subaru and Mike and Janet Brown have also supported other local education efforts by providing the “Mike Brown Ford-Subaru Ride with Us Award” to the County Teacher of the Year for one the counties within our area of responsibility: Avery, McDowell, Mitchell or Yancey county, and have provided numerous scholarships to graduating seniors from these 4 counties counties; as well as supporting the Presidents Advisory Council of High Point University.

Janet Brown and Zach Brown are both graduates of Appalachian State University.

“Education was a major priority in my house growing up, and Mike and I have strived to put the same emphasis on education in raising our own children,” says Janet.

“Janet and I are excited to be able to help these scholarship winners seek out and find their dreams.  Investing in our youth is a very wise decision,” said Mike Brown. “We wish all recipients the very best.”

For any additional information, contact:
Jenna brown at:

Summer Meals for Kids and Teens

Summer meals for kids and teens will be served in our community. Open to all children 18 and younger at NO COST. Please visit for locations and times.

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Events Photo
Camp Opportunity
Date: 6/27/2017
Camp Opportunity
Date: 6/28/2017
Camp Opportunity
Date: 6/29/2017
No School-Teacher Workday
Date: 8/21/2017
No School-Professional Development Day
Date: 8/22/2017