Fresh Look for Ocracoke School

Crystal Canterbury
Jeff Schleicher and Walt Padgett pose with the new sign….
Jeff Schleicher and Walt Padgett pose with the new sign….

This school-year has brought many changes for Ocracoke School, and it got started on a great note.  

Mr. Walt Padgett, the Principal for the Ocracoke Dolphins, said, “in all my years of being a principal this has been the smoothest start,” thanks to the students, staff, and community of Ocracoke.

Over the summer Mr. Padget and Mr. Jeff Schleicher, the vocational education teacher, planned and implemented many exciting upgrades, and the results look great! While getting new siding and new roofing is still being planned, new lockers were brought in and painted blue, new tile was laid in the “commons” area and front office (replacing carpeting), and a new marquis was added to the Back Road side of the school.

New sodding was put down to help maintain the back field and playground areas (this also helps prevent dirt and sand from being dragged into the school), and all of the wooden walkways between buildings were pressure washed. Whew! That’s a lot! And still more has been done!

Some of the students were able to contribute to the upgrades, and they did a fine job! A student designed and crafted a mural which is located in the “commons” area in the main building, and a wooden fence, which replaced an old chain-link fence, was added to the rear with the help of some of Mr. Scheicher’s vocational education students. They even build flower beds at the front of the school, adding a nice variety of colors, plus they are responsible for helping to maintain the school grounds and other completed school projects. These tasks and responsibilities allow the students who are enrolled in vocational education the opportunity to receive practical, real-life learning and experiences.

Now, you may be asking, “Why all these upgrades?” Mr. Padgett believes, “Ocracoke School is a great school with great students. We’re proud of them and what they accomplish each year, and we felt we needed to give them a school they could be proud of.”

Both Mr. Padgett and Mr. Schleicher wanted the building and its surroundings to look great to represent how fantastic the school is as a whole. They feel that since the school, as Mr. Schleicher put it, “had a face-lift,” the general appearance reflects positively on the student body. Too many times visitors assume that because the school is tiny it won’t have much to offer, but they couldn’t be more wrong. There’s been an outpouring of compliments from visitors, who many times are educators, and often wishfully state how nice it would be to work at Ocracoke School. Upon entering the school, the guests are always impressed with the lay-out of the buildings, the classrooms, and technology used to further learning experiences, and talk about how attractive the school is after touring the property. The community has also been very complimentary of the school, and frequently positive comments are made regarding its refurbished appearance.

…. and enjoy a scud in Hunter's senior project golf cart
…. and enjoy a scud in Hunter's senior project golf cart

The vocational education program really got a jump-start when Mr. Schleicher began working at Ocracoke School a few years ago. He brought with him a variety of talents and skills, many of his own tools and equipment, plus has gotten grants to increase supplies and equipment in order to expand the educational experience for his students. Over the past few years the vocational education program has grown exponentially, and his students are accomplishing marvelous projects. Throughout the year his students make seasonal decorations out of wood that are sold in the community or put up for auction, all in an effort to earn money so the school can continue to provide this wonderful program.

Some of his students also use their skills learned at Ocracoke School to begin apprenticeships at local businesses, such as Jimmy’s Garage. The students, along with Mr. Schleicher, also have plans to help out the community. They have already completed putting hand-rails at the medical clinic to make going up the stairs a bit easier, and some projects in the works include building prayer benches for the Ocracoke United Methodist Church and table for the church's Rec Hall. Once those are completed both Mr. Schleicher and Mr. Padgett hope to clear out an area behind the elementary building (near the medical clinic) and construct walkways for easier access to the school grounds, along with benches so the students can enjoy a nice shaded seating area.

Another project Mr. Schleicher looks forward to offering is evening adult classes (even for beginners!) after the turn of the year. He has been able to conduct his school classes in the former Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department building, and hopes to host and teach the adult classes in the same location. He would also like to raise enough money so the program can purchase a laser machine. This would allow his students to make personalized memorabilia, such as Ocracoke School prom glasses, and would be a nice way for the students to have something to commemorate their time at the school. Schleicher said, “since the students are so fluent and comfortable with computers and technology, using a laser machine would be easy for them to learn.” This would give the students another and new learning opportunity, expanding their skills and opportunities.

High school senior Hunter Belch had a huge success building a gas-powered golf cart for his Senior Project! And this thing doesn’t just putter along. It can get up to 19 miles per hour! I saw it go myself! Congratulations to you, Hunter!

Next time you’re wandering the village, check out Ocracoke School and how nice it looks. And always remember: Fear the Pod!


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