Vance County Schools

Schools began using Opportunity Culture® models in:


Learn more about the Opportunity Culture® initiative in Vance County by visiting the district website.


Vance County Schools, based in Henderson, N.C., has struggled with teacher turnover and higher pay supplements offered by nearby districts; it joined the national Opportunity Culture® initiative to focus on teacher recruitment and retention. In 2017–18, Vance began implementing Opportunity Culture® models in three elementary schools: Aycock, Zeb Vance, and Dabney. These schools acted as “incubators of innovation” before the district spread Opportunity Culture® models into more schools.

Two North Carolina foundations awarded grants to a partnership between New LeadersPublic Impact®, and the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) to implement Opportunity Culture® roles in Vance and Edgecombe counties and provide training for teacher leaders and school principals. The funding supported temporary transition costs; all teacher pay supplements are funded sustainably through reallocations of regular school budgets.

Public Impact® provides support in designing new teacher-leader roles and school models, while New Leaders provides training and support to develop teacher-leaders, and NELA provides professional development to teacher-leaders interested in becoming a principal.

To make the transition, the Belk Foundation awarded northeastern North Carolina counties $450,000 over three years, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awarded $100,000. Additionally, Vance County Schools was one of six districts to win a state competition for districts to create advanced roles, generating a $125,000 grant.

Vance Demographics

When Vance began implementing Opportunity Culture® models in the 2017–18 school year, the district had 15 schools serving 6,500 students. Of those students, 62 percent were black, 20 percent were white, 13 percent were Hispanic, and 74 percent were eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Learn More:


Teach Boldly: Vance County Schools

Educators in Vance County Schools explain what they love about Opportunity Culture® and the new teaching roles it offers them.

Getting the Most Bang for Our Buck

MCL Willonda Cates-Gillespie describes the benefits of having an RA to help her reach more students with small-group tutoring.

NC Superintendents of the Year on Their Opportunity Culture® Districts

Dr. Valerie Bridges & Dr. Anthony Jackson describe how the Opportunity Culture® initiative has improved student outcomes and increased teacher retention in their districts.

Innovation Does Not Need Permission

Superintendent Anthony Jackson discusses his innovative vision for Vance County Schools.

The Buzz is Opportunity Culture®

Principal Carnetta Thomas discusses how Opportunity Culture® provides teachers with the support they need.

I Wish Every School Had Opportunity

Multi-Classroom Leader Casey Jackson explains why she wishes every teacher and student could experience Opportunity Culture®.

Best of Both Worlds

Casey Jackson, a multi-classroom leader at Aycock Elementary School in Vance County, N.C., explains why she likes  her Opportunity Culture® role.