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Woods Charter School opens new facility in Chatham

By Loyd Little
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008

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Pittsboro, NC - A charter school that began only 10 years ago with fewer than 100 students in a small, then-rural shopping center in Chatham County is opening its own site-built building on Monday, August 25 with more than 485 students.

Woods Charter School

"We know, however, that a school is not a building. It is, instead, a community of people who create a setting where dreams and high ideals matter," said Principal Harrell Rentz.

The new K-to-12 school, which has 65,000 square feet, is near capacity even before opening. It is located on Andrews Store Road, near Fearrington Village which is about half-way between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro.

Last year, seniors at Woods had an average combined math/reading/writing SAT score of 1640, the sixth highest for a public school in North Carolina. Woods is a college preparatory school.

Rentz said, "While we feel it is important to display just how good our numbers are, we also feel that it is equally important to remember the true measure of success: a well-rounded student who has more to offer than just numbers. We equally strive to help our students develop in ways that are not measured by such tests. These traits include character, honor, responsibility, integrity and compassion."
The 19 acres for the school were donated by Newland Communities of San Diego, Ca., which owns the large Briar Chapel development near the new school. The gift came as an outgrowth of negotiations between Newland officials and the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

George Lucier, chairman of the Chatham commissioners, said, "Woods is an outstanding school and this new school expands the educational opportunities for our youth in Chatham." Lucier was previously a member of the Woods school board and a coach for the boys basketball team.

For the first time, Woods will have a gymnasium, a stage for music, theater and other school gatherings, and a soccer field as well as computer, biology and chemistry labs.
Since it was founded in 1998, Woods has been located in Cole Park Plaza shopping center about three miles south of Chapel Hill on U.S. 15-501.

Roger Gerber of the N.C. League of Charter Schools said, "Woods is providing children, regardless of income, the opportunity to access quality education while demonstrating financial efficiency. Because public charter schools receive no public funds for buildings, Chatham County is being provided with an excellent public school that is saving taxpayers' money."

Rentz, who joined Woods this summer, has a BS in math from Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., and a MA in math from the University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky. Most recently, he was dean of faculty and a math and computer science teacher at Bullis School in Potomac, Md.

Cotton Bryan, Woods high school director, continues this year as assistant principal.

Woods' former principal, Simon King, recently accepted a job as chair of the upper school mathematics department at Cary Academy, Cary.

A native of South Carolina, Rentz grew up in Asheboro. He's also been director of Information Technologies at National Cathedral School, Washington, D.C. and supervisor of the Information Center at T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Baltimore, Md.

Here are statements, taken from the Woods' web site, about how each of the school's divisions approach education:

High school: "We create an environment where each student is known well by his/her teachers and peers, challenged as an individual, and taught by teachers who have a deep passion for their subjects and who care about the art of teaching."

Middle school: "We balance two interdependent types of learning: academic and social. We understand that young adolescents are grappling with real issues such as personal identity, peer dynamics, and self-worth."

Elementary school: "We believe the early years of schooling offer a golden opportunity for children to establish a firm foundation for success in life. We create an environment where our students gain knowledge, skills, and habits that engender a genuine love of learning. Students learn to function and contribute as valued members of a community."

Related info:
Woods Charter School
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Woods Charter School opens new facility in Chatham
Cotton Bryan, Woods high school director, continues this year as assistant principal.
Photos by Gene Galin

Related info:
Woods Charter School
News Unofficial Chatham County Schools site

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