Monday, April 06, 2009

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The Triangle Area Schools and Education

The Triangle Area Schools and Education
Probably one of the biggest perks of living in the Triangle is the educational opportunity the region affords. Beyond many excellent public school systems in the region, there are top-notch independent schools, cutting-edge research universities, and highly rated community colleges.

The Triangle’s unique layout features the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and Duke University as the cornerstones, feeding many of its graduates to careers in Research Triangle Park.

The web of knowledge is a large one around here, and we are lucky that we have so many options from which to choose in regard to where we send our children.

Public Schools
The public school systems in the Triangle are consistently ranked among the best in the state as far as end-of-grade test scores and college enrollment. The public systems in the Triangle include Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), Durham County Public Schools (DCPS), Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools (CCPS), and Johnston County Schools (JCS).

WCPSS is the largest public school system in North Carolina as of 2008, with 137,706 enrolled students in 159 schools. It is also the eighth largest district in the United States.

DCPS, the second largest school district in the Triangle and eighth largest in the state, consists of 46 schools. A public school system with two elementary Montessori schools, a health sciences academy, its own school of the arts, and many more offerings, DCPS is a leader in the state for its small high school options.
CCPS is an independent school system that continues to rank at the top of the school systems in the state in measures of student achievement. CCPS recently received a “Gold Ribbon” designation for being one of the nation’s top performing schools by Expansion Management magazine.

JCS is also a rapidly growing system and one that ranks in the top 20 percent of North Carolina school districts as far as test scores. In fact, JCS prides itself on its curriculum and unique programs that help each student achieve success.

“Johnston County Schools offers differentiated instruction, which means that every child’s learning style is addressed,” said Terri Sessoms, public information officer at Johnston County Schools. “Additionally, a Middle College was opened last year to provide an academic program for students wanting to earn their high school diplomas and matriculate to higher education without the extracurricular offerings of a traditional high school. Middle College is located at Johnston Community College, and it is administered by Johnston County Schools’ staff.”

Higher Education
The entities of NCSU, Duke, and the UNC are widely regarded as world-class educational and research institutions. UNC is the oldest public university in the United States, which NCSU is currently the largest public university in North Carolina. Duke, a private school in Durham, recently had its undergraduate program ranked by U.S. News & World Report as eighth best in the country behind the likes of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Other colleges and universities in the area include Campbell University, Central Carolina Community College, Durham Technical Community College, Johnston Community College, Meredith College, North Carolina Central University, Peace College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College, and Wake Technical Community College.

Independent Schools
There are many independent schools that offer parents the opportunity to customize their child’s education by enrolling them in a school that matches their own values and beliefs. Independent schools, although obviously more costly than public schools, are also known for a higher teacher-student ratio and higher college acceptance rates.

The following are just a few of the independent schools in the Triangle.

Cresset Christian Academy
Cresset Christian Academy is a private, Christian, educational institution dedicated to the purpose of fostering students’ spiritual gifts and talents, developing academic skills necessary for college preparation, developing critical thinking skills in students, facilitating computer literacy, encouraging social and personal growth, and developing leadership skills and respect for authority.

“In my 30 years in education, I have not known a school as unique as Cresset,” said Gail Murphy, head administrator of Cresset Christian Academy in Durham. “We are small enough to provide a friendly, family atmosphere and individual attention yet have been able to provide all the benefits you would only expect to find in a very large school! Academically, we have AP & Honors classes and numerous electives. In sports, 85 percent of our upper school students play on at least one of our over 20 sports’ teams. In fine arts, we have strong programs including a yearly musical that is second to none. In the lower school, our students have many special classes including PE, art, choral and instrumental music, Spanish, library, and computer, as well as intramurals. We also have a ‘Wings’ program that includes therapy for students with learning difficulties as well as enrichment for advanced students. Bible study is the foundational part of our curriculum, and our weekly chapels are specifically geared to each of five different age groupings. We are a culturally diverse community dedicated to excellence in the training up of the next generation of Christian leaders.”

St. David’s School
St. David’s School, formerly known as St. Timothy’s-Hale School, enrolls students in kindergarten through grade 12. Founded in 1972 as Hale High School, the school graduated its first class in 1973. With the addition of the fifth grade in 1994, the school encompassed grades 5-12. In November 2002, the Board of Trustees voted to add grades K-4 for the fall 2003. In the spring of 2003, the school was renamed St. David's School and was expanded to include all grades on the same campus.

“St. David’s School is an Episcopal school, which offers students in grades K-12 a faith-based, yet academically rigorous curriculum which includes 17 AP courses, an honor code and student honor council, and a 100 percent college acceptance rate,” said Teresa Wilson, director of admissions for St. David’s, which is located in Raleigh. “Students in the Upper School also take courses on ‘The Bible and the Ancient World’ in the ninth grade and a senior seminar in the 12th grade. These courses allow students to explore where their core values and beliefs are contrary to the world at large, or in agreement with it and openly discuss this in the classroom. Our mission statement proclaims that St. David’s school ‘provides challenging opportunities to excel in the vital areas of faith, virtue and knowledge’ that, we believe, prepares our students for college and life.

“St. David’s School offers students small class sizes (St. David’s has a 1:7 faculty to student ratio in the high school), opportunities for independent studies, a senior trip to Greece, other curriculum supporting trips such as a trip to Washington, D.C., for eighth grade students, after they have completed a year’s study of U.S. History, weekly Chapel services, and more personal relationships with faculty and staff,” Wilson said. “Graduation requirements include 80 hours of community service, which makes students aware of the needs of their community.”

Relocation to the Triangle

The Triangle Communities

Welcome to the Triangle! You will soon find that you have made one of the best decisions of your life by choosing to relocate here. An economy that has thus far withstood the financial storm, a quality of life that is unmatched, and fairly-priced real estate are just a few of the assets the Triangle has to offer.

According to Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, the diversity of the population is also a major driver in making the Triangle one the most wonderfully cultural cities in the Southeast.

“The diversity of our population is one of the leading features that makes the Triangle the interesting, exciting and vibrant place to live that it is,” Meeker said. Meeker was elected to his fourth consecutive two-year term as Raleigh’s mayor in 2007. “I welcome you as a neighborhood if you are considering moving to the area or have recently done so, and I encourage you to immerse yourself in our community. Share with us your culture, your heritage and experiences. Embrace those that we offer. Doing so enriches us all.”

“Enriching” is an appropriate word for what has become known as one of the hottest relocation destinations in the country. The Triangle, including the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, Apex, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, and even the more outlying region of Chatham County, makes frequent appearances on “best of” lists in the national media. Check out just a few of the recent kudos the Triangle and its cities have piled up over the past few years:

• No. 2 Metro Area Entering Slow Period with Most Positive Momentum (Raleigh),,
November 2008
• No. 1 Best City for Doing Business (Raleigh-Cary),, July 2008
• No. 2 Best City to Live, Work, and Play (Raleigh), Kiplinger’s, July 2008
• No. 5 Recession Proof City (Raleigh),, April 2008
• No. 1 Best Place to Live in the United States (Raleigh),, June 2008

According to the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, 96 percent of newcomers who moved to the Triangle area would do so again if faced with same decision. Obviously, this is a strong indicator of just how popular the Triangle is and why visitors often decide to stay.

One big reason that so many people decide to move here is the relatively stable economy. The Triangle never experienced the real estate bubble as many regions did across the country. Even in the current economic climate, unemployment in the Triangle remains lower than the national average. In November of 2008, the Triangle’s jobless rate was 6.1 percent, which is much lower than the state average of 7.9 percent and the national average of 6.7.

Many reports indicate that significant increases in employment, earnings, personal income and retail sales are projected over the next 15 years. Part of the reason the economy has stayed so strong, according to Meeker, is because it is highly diversified.

“[The Triangle’s] has no weak spots and that is unique,” Meeker said. “But if I had to choose just one unique asset, I would choose its diverse economy. This area has as sound an economy as is possible in this time of severe economic stress. Whether it’s research, technology, pharmaceuticals, education, medicine, government, or the arts, this is the place for the committed professional to launch their career.”
To help those committed professionals launch or even re-launch their careers the Triangle offers many nationally renowned institutions of higher learning.

Colleges and universities in the area include Campbell University, Central Carolina Community College, Durham Technical Community College, Johnston Community College, Meredith College, North Carolina Central University, Peace College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College, and Wake Technical Community College.

The Triangle also offers an impressive array of public school systems. The counties of Wake, Orange, Johnston and Durham, and the independent system of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, have traditionally been ranked near the top of the state’s pubic school systems.

The dynamic combination of Research Triangle Park (RTP) and all of the feeder institutions, especially Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provide an economic engine that attracts business and industry from across the globe.

In fact, even during the recent economic downturn, many companies are still expanding their facilities at RTP. The region’s growing high-technology community includes such companies as IBM, SAS Institute, Cisco Systems, NetApp and Credit Suisse First Boston. In addition to high-tech, the region is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the U.S. with concentration in life science companies. Some of these companies include GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen Idec, BASF, Merck & Co., Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, and Wyeth.

Healthcare is also a big draw to the Triangle, as the region has cutting-edge medical centers and research universities, as well as many fine hospitals and smaller facilities that provide Triangle residents access to quality healthcare.

Just a few of the larger healthcare facilities that serve the Triangle are Duke University Health System, UNC Health Care, WakeMed and Johnston Health.

The Triangle offers every possible cultural activity you can imagine throughout the year, from art galleries, museums, indoor and outdoor concert venues, a planetarium, and theater productions. Plus, the North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Ballet offer top-notch entertainment.

Sports fans will be elated about the Triangle because it’s home to both collegiate and professional teams. The area is college sports fan’s dream, as the teams of N.C. State, Carolina, and Duke are blood rivals and passion runs especially high for the sports of basketball and football.

In fact, the schools’ men’s basketball teams have won a combined nine national championships in NCAA Division I play. North Carolina holds four titles, Duke holds three and N.C. State holds two. Because Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest is just two hours away in Winston-Salem, many refer to the college hoops scene in North Carolina as “Tobacco Road.”

Minor league baseball is also big in the Triangle as two local teams have a big following. The Durham Bulls, made famous by the Kevin Costner movie “Bull Durham,” along with the Carolina Mudcats, a class AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, usually play host to packed crowds on weekends in the summer. Also, the RBC Center in Raleigh is the home ice for the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions, the Carolina Hurricanes. And, for NFL fans, the Carolina Panthers are only a two-hour drive away in Charlotte.

If you prefer to be a part of the action, the Triangle is a virtual playground for those who like hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and water skiing. And many towns and cities throughout the region have Parks and Recreation Departments that maintain parks, swimming facilities, community centers, and soccer and baseball fields.

For shopping, many of the state’s largest shopping malls are located in and around the Triangle. Raleigh’s newly built Brier Creek and Triangle Towne Center, along with a redone North Hills mall and the venerable Crabtree Mall, have lots to offer the weekend shopping warrior. Don’t forget to check out Durham’s Brightleaf Square and the Streets at Southpoint along with Cary’s Crossroads Plaza and the Cary Towne Center. Each of these popular malls has something unique to offer even the most discriminating shopper.

So, no matter what you are looking for in a place to relocate, the Triangle is sure to meet your every desire. From a stable economy and job opportunities to housing to healthcare to recreation and entertainment options, everything for you is waiting here. Come join the residents of the Triangle and help us continue to carve out an excellent quality of life.