Governor's School of North Carolina
|The Governor's School of North Carolina|
|Type||Public boarding school|
|Directors||Lucy Milner (GS West), Michael McElreath (GS East)|
|Location||Winston-Salem, NC (GS West), Raleigh, NC (GS East), North Carolina, United States|
|North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children Division|
|Campus||Salem College (GS West), Meredith College (GS East)|
The Governor's School of North Carolina (GS, GSNC) is a publicly funded residential summer program for intellectually gifted high school students in the state of North Carolina. North Carolina's Governor's School was the first such program in the United States, and has given rise to similar programs for gifted students in many other states.
Governor's School enrolls approximately 600 students each summer, half each in programs housed at Salem College in Winston-Salem (known as Governor's School West, or GSW) and at Meredith College in Raleigh (known as Governor's School East, or GSE). Governor's School is a program of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Governor's School serves students in public, private, and home schools. Most students are rising seniors in high school, though students from the artistic areas may be rising juniors. Students who attend Governor's School are nominated by their school or school system and selected on the basis of grades, test scores, an application essay and, for arts students, an audition. Students are accepted for a primary course of study, known as Area I, in which they will spend most of their class time. Area I disciplines include the following: academic areas of English, Spanish, French, mathematics, natural science and social science; artistic areas of art, choral music, dance, drama, and instrumental music. Each course emphasizes contemporary texts, compositions, artistic expressions, issues, and ideas in their respective disciplines. All students attend two additional areas of study outside of their primary area, not to mention countless optional and required seminars and performances. Area II courses cover a variety of questions and ideas from the epistemological branch of philosophy. In Area III classes, students discuss the psychological and social challenges faced by gifted individuals integrating into a society that often sees them as odd, unconventional, and easily misunderstood.
The program promotes creativity over repetition, theory over rote memorization, and discussions over lectures. The School does not give grades or offer course credit.
Most students who enter Governor's School with an open mind consider the program an incredible, life-changing experience which has helped to set them on a course of intellectual achievement. Some question the program's purpose and curriculum, challenging that it promotes specifically liberal ideas. Those who oppose the program generalize its purpose into a slogan, "Accept Nothing; Question Everything," that the school has never adopted; the program merely urges its students to enter into every situation with an open mind and ready intellect.
Governor's School History
The program began in 1963 as an education initiative promoted by Gov. Terry Sanford and conceptualized by John Ehle, a member of his staff. The idea was based on educational principles concerning gifted education that were prominent in the 1950s. An early consultant in Governor's School's design and curriculum was Dr. James J. Gallagher, author of Teaching the Gifted Child (1951) and over 80 other works on gifted education. Dr. Gallagher's work emphasized the need for different educational methods for gifted students that were not available in public schools, and the importance of creativity and leadership as aspects of giftedness. The goal of Governor's School, therefore, was to advance the education of North Carolina's brightest students, with the goal of encouraging them to become gifted, creative leaders in all aspects of science, mathematics, art, sociology, and literature. This was done partially in hopes of challenging the technological advancements being made in the Cold-War era Soviet Union, but also with an eye to bringing corporations to North Carolina to provide jobs in emerging technologies such as computers, space exploration, telecommunications, and biomedical research.
The first session was funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and an association of business leaders from Winston-Salem, NC. The first Governor's School class of 400 students met in June, 1963 on the campus of Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. Instructors were drawn mainly from college professors. Though North Carolina's public schools would not be officially desegregated until 1968, students of all races have been accepted to Governor's School since its inception.
Establishment and Growth
Governor's School was funded by the Carnegie Corporation and local business for a second year, but received support from the NC Legislature beginning in 1965 and continuing (with a single exception) to this day. While the subject matter changed with the times, the governing philosophies of gifted education remained focused on differential education for the gifted. The early curriculum was expressed in a document entitled Opening Windows to the Future, written by H. Michael Lewis with input from GS instructors.
In 1968, actor, educator, and playwright James Lee (Jim) Bray became Director of the Governor's School, a position he would hold until 1995.
In light of the expanding population of North Carolina and the growing impact of research and development corporations in the state's financial success, Governor Jim Hunt called for Governor's School to be expanded to a second campus in 1978. The second GS program was held on the campus of St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg. This doubled the number of students to 800. With the opening of this campus, the program in Winston-Salem was referred to as GS West, while Laurinburg was GS East. Both campuses held essentially the same program, prompting the NC Department of Public Instruction to declare that Governor's School was one school with two campuses.
Governor's School East moved to Meredith College in Raleigh for the 2000 session, where it is still held.
While faculty and subject matter have changed over time, Governor's School remained basically unaltered from 1978 until 2009.
In response to proposed budget cuts, and in celebration of its 25th year, Jim Bray and the faculty at GS West organized a meeting of GS alumni to show legislators the enduring success of the program. Organized by long-time campus activities director JoAnne North Goetz, several hundred alumni met in 1987 to show their support for the program. During this meeting, they organized the North Carolina Governor's School Alumni Association. The Alumni Association holds annual Alumni Day reunions on both campuses, and supports Governor's School through donations and public awareness.
In 1993, the Alumni Association spun off a sister organization, the NC Governor's School Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that supports the mission of Governor's School through direct financial donations. The GS Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Recent Budget Challenges
With the economic issues of the 2008 financial collapse, the North Carolina legislature began a series of cuts to the Governor's School program. In 2009, the legislature passed a general cut to the Governor's School budget, forcing the program to drop from 800 students to 600, and also began charging a $500 tuition to attend. Prior to that time, Governor's School had been at no cost to the students. Since 2012, the Governor's School Foundation has offered scholarships to economically-disadvantaged students to offset the tuition cost.
Citing continued budget issues, the NC Legislature cut all funding for Governor's School in June, 2011. With this decision, the Governor's School of North Carolina was effectively ended, though the legislature did allow the Department of Public Instruction to keep the School open as a tuition-funded program. DPI made it clear from the beginning that they would not hold GS if it had to be supported by full tuition of about $2100 per student.
This prompted the Governor's School Foundation into action to save the 2012 program and give alumni time to show legislators the economic power of Governor's School and its positive impact on the state's economy. Working with the Governor's School Alumni Association, and with support from the Department of Public Instruction and the NC State Board of Education, the GS Foundation was able to raise $700,000 in less than six months - enough to keep both Governor's School campuses open for the 2012 session with 550 students, although with a reduction in duration to five weeks. At the same time, an outpouring of support from alumni and business leaders across the state urged legislators to restore GS funding. In June 2012, the Legislature voted to restore sufficient funding to keep both GS campuses open with 600 students for a five-week session.
On July 14, 2012, the NC Governor's School Alumni Association held a celebration of 50 years of Governor's School, the culmination of the effort to save the program.
- Richard Alfonsi, Vice-President of Online Sales, Twitter
- Alex Castellanos, conservative political commentator and media consultant
- John Coffey, Curator of American and Modern Art, North Carolina Museum of Art
- Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy.com
- Anoop Desai, singer
- Ben Folds, pianist and musician
- Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner
- Marsha Hammel, contemporary artist
- Ken Jeong, physician, comedian, and actor, The Hangover
- Jeanne Jolly, musician, song-writer
- Rogan Kersh, Provost, Wake Forest University
- John Howell Morrison, composer
- William H. Moser, US Ambassador to Moldova
- Patsy Pease, award-winning actress, (Kimberly Brady on Days of Our Lives)
- Ken Prewitt, anchor for Bloomberg Radio
- Kimrey Rhinehardt, Vice-President of Federal Relations, University of North Carolina
- Charles Ritchie, artist
- Emily Spivey, Emmy-winning screen writer/producer. Writer for Saturday Night Live. Writer/Producer of NBC comedy Up All Night
- Ted Tally, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Silence of the Lambs
- Timothy Westmoreland, Professor of Law and Public Policy, Georgetown University
- Sonja McLean Williams, President, NC Music Educators Association
- Ira David Wood III, actor, playwright, and director
- Matthew Newman, author of The Sandcrest Chronicles
- Melissa Tobias, author of The Diary of Mel
- North Carolina Governor's School Alumni Association
- North Carolina Governor's School Foundation - Non-profit charity
- North Carolina Governor's School Homepage
- Arkansas Governor's School, similar program in Arkansas
- Governor's Program for Gifted Children, similar program in Louisiana
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