New Torrence Creek principal knows challenges of overcrowding
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Brian Schultz comes from a family of educators.
His mother and sister work as a teaching assistant and media specialist at schools in Indiana, and his wife teaches English-as-a-Second-Language in Cabarrus County. Schultz himself has taught third-graders and served as principal and curriculum director.
In two weeks, Schultz will continue his family legacy to Mecklenburg County, by taking the helm of Torrence Creek Elementary School.
“It’s a great school, and I’m looking forward to the challenges that are ahead,” said Schultz, who takes the reigns from former Principal Chuck Nusinov.
Schultz holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in urban education from UNC Charlotte.
He comes to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from Cabarrus County, where he served as principal of Royal Oaks Elementary, in Kannapolis, for four years beginning in 2002, and the county’s director of elementary instruction for more than five years.
Schultz began his career in education as a third-grade teacher in Indiana before moving to North Carolina. Young students’ “positive energy” and “excitement about learning” drew him into the elementary education field.
“I think as kids get older, that excitement diminishes, and I’m not sure exactly why that is,” Schultz said. “Kindergarten students come in so excited to learn and so happy that they’re at school, and it just seems, in my experience, that students lose that excitement as they get older.
Along with the challenge of learning the names and faces of hundreds of new students, once school begins Aug. 25, Schultz must adjust to leading a school exceedingly above capacity. Opened in 2005 for about 750 students, the school will begin its new year with more than 1,300 students, and school officials expect enrollment numbers to exceed 1,400 for the 2013-14 school year, if a planned elementary school on Stumptown Road remains unfunded.
Schultz can do little about that challenge, aside from joining parents and Huntersville town officials in urging county commissioners to approve construction funding by next April, in time for an August 2013 opening date. But he feels prepared to deal with overcrowding.
When Shultz oversaw elementary instruction in Cabarrus County, one of the schools he worked with had enrollment numbers bordering about 1,400 students.
“In areas where there are quality schools, because parents seek that out, there does tend to be some overcrowding,” Schultz said. “I was surprised at the delay there’s been in providing relief for it, but with the economy and the way things have gone the past couple years, I can see how it happened.”
Some unused mobile units at the school should help cushion additional growth Torrence Creek will likely see before Stumptown Elementary’s tentative completion. The biggest concern, he said, is making sure that long walks to and from mobile units do not interfere with instructional time and safety.
While he can cite many high points in his career, his favorite came when he served as principal of Royal Oaks Elementary. A low-income student serving as the school’s representative in the countywide spelling bee placed second, even though the boy was one of the youngest spellers and a local gang shot up his home just a week before the contest.
“It was just one of those things that is a testament to teachers and the great learning environment they can create and how a school can really help students overcome some of those issues at home,” Schultz said.
Now, Schultz will take over one of the area’s highest achieving schools. Torrence Creek Elementary was one of less than 25 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that met federal improvement benchmarks, or Annual Yearly Progress, standards last school year. The standards divide students into ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups and, in an all-or-nothing approach, require that each subgroup meet improvement standards. With 21 subgroups to work with, meeting the federal standard is no small feat for Torrence Creek.
However, for the school to continue its history of high achievement, Schultz said, teachers and staff must continue to place emphasis on literacy, especially before third grade, when research shows reading deficiencies create life-long problems.
“The reading rate in third grade has been linked to incarceration and dropout rates, and that’s all linked to prosperity, in terms of both individual prosperity and the country’s prosperity,” Shultz said.