Rodney D. Pierce released a statement on his decision to run for a seat on the Halifax County Schools Board of Education.
“I currently serve as a middle school teacher and community historian. In 2013, I was named a Local African American Hero by Halifax Community College. In 2018, I received the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Keeper Award from the Roanoke Valley Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with the Halifax County Schools Most Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award. I was recognized as the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 2019.”
Pierce said, “In the classroom, I specialize in place-based education, which is content that exposes students to local histories, cultures, heritage, landscape and experiences. For example, during my tenure as a teacher at William R. Davie Middle STEM Academy, I supervised a district wide team of middle and high school social studies teachers that created a curriculum for our county’s historic community of Tillery.”
But, Pierce said, “Facilitating the design of that course of study and providing place-based instruction wasn’t enough, so over the past four years, I have successfully applied for four historical markers in our county — two through the State Highway Historical Marker program — Louis Austin in Enfield and Keys v. Carolina Coach Company in Roanoke Rapids — and the other pair through the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission’s Civil Rights Trail — Johnson v. Branch and Halifax County Voters Movement in Enfield.
“Immersion in place-based content not only empowers students, but instills a sense of pride in who they are and in the communities they come from. Halifax County is the most historic county in the state and our district curriculum does not reflect enough of that. I intend to work with our curriculum and instruction team to change that if elected.”
His statement continued: “As an advocate at the city level, I successfully lobbied in 2019 for the Roanoke Rapids City Council to adopt a resolution honoring the life and legacy of the late Dr. James E. Cheek Sr., a city native who served as the former president of HBCUs Shaw University and Howard University. In 2020, I persuaded the county commissioners to remove a memorial honoring Confederate Brigadier General Junius Daniel from the front lawn of the Historic Courthouse in Halifax, a marker that had stood for close to 90 years.”
Statewide, Pierce said, “I’ve built long standing relationships with education advocacy organizations like the Center for Racial Equity in Education, Carolina Public Humanities and the Public School Forum of NC. My network also includes groups like We Are, Every Child NC, the NC Teacher Cadet Program, the NC Justice Center, and the NC School of Science and Mathematics along with educators and administrators at colleges and universities.
“I’ve worked as an education consultant with the NC Museum of History and was the only Black male K-12 teacher on the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Writing Team for new Social Studies standards and unpacking documents.”
Said Pierce: “I’ve sat on advisory boards for Carolina Public Humanities and the NC Association for Gifted and Talented. I now have the distinct honor of serving as a member of Governor Cooper's Teacher Advisory Committee, advising the governor on the impact of state, local, and federal education policies for Pre-K through 12th grade; the state budget, and proposed or pending state or federal legislation, policies, and regulations. I also sit on the National Advisory Council for the NC Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Initiative.
“These are all partnerships that the students and staff members in our district can and will benefit from if I am elected. If I were a board member, I’d find it highly disappointing that students from our district are not consistently taking part in the free Step Up To STEM Summer Program offered by NCSSM or that staff members are not participants in the teacher workshops offered by Carolina Public Humanities nor the fellowships through the Center for Racial Equity in Education and the Public School Forum.
“Additionally, teachers in our district should be certified in the NC Teacher Cadet Curriculum so that if a student expressed interest in becoming a teacher, we could provide instruction to prepare that young man or woman for the profession as part of a Grow Our Own Initiative that would supply HCS with a pipeline of teachers from the same communities they’d serve.”
Pierce said, “Board members should also be ardent state level advocates for more district resources and press legislators for passage of the Leandro Plan, as the Leandro v. State lawsuit was originally filed by board attorney Larry Armstrong in Halifax County Superior Court in 1994. These resources along with passage of the plan could go towards improved infrastructure and equitable funding for teachers and students.
“Our district should have more community partnerships with local industries and agencies to steer our students who are interested in these fields to careers in them. These partnerships should not only benefit students, but employees as well. Why doesn’t HCS have an initiative similar to the BOSS (Businesses Offering Schools Support) Program in Dare County Schools where employees receive discounts at local merchants and service providers?
“If HCS Superintendent Dr. Eric Cunningham sits on the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, that should give the district an advantage to possibly start something similar to BOSS. With HCS having some of the worst teacher mobility and attrition rates in the state, that program could be an enticing recruitment and retention tool for highly qualified staff.”
He said, “The sum of all of my experience and expertise places me in the unique position to not only champion the cause of our district’s students, families and communities, but also to give voice to our teachers, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, student services staff, school nutrition staff, maintenance staff, Central Administration staff, and others who hold a stake in providing to our students that ‘sound, basic education’ guaranteed by our state constitution’s Declaration of Rights.
“Out of all candidates, I am the only active classroom teacher and the only one whose children currently attend the district: One at the early college, one in middle school and one in elementary school. I not only want to look after my investment, but yours as well as we share a collective interest in the success of our students.”
Pierce continued, “Not only will I bring into discussions the perspective of current classroom teacher and district parent, but that of a former district employee from my tenure as a teacher in HCS, along with that of a former student as a proud alumnus of Northwest Halifax — now Northwest Collegiate Technical Academy. A vote for me is a vote for a new voice, new vision and new leadership for changing times. Noted writer and social critic James Baldwin said, ‘For these are all our children. We will profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.’ I want to ensure that we profit by what our children become in Halifax County Schools.”