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“Bye, I love you,” a mother yells down the school hallway just after dropping her daughter off at Phillips Middle School in Edgecombe County. It was the first day back to school after summer break.

The school counselor, Angela Jones, said it was hard to sleep the night before, and the principal, Jenny O’Meara, quickly chimed in, “I woke up, and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.”

O’Meara tells me that the night before she had been researching languages in Guatemala. There are 21, she learned. A new student speaks one of them, Popti’, and O’Meara is trying to figure out how to communicate with him.

For Jessica Parker, the assistant principal, it is her first year as a Bulldog, the mascot for Phillips Middle School. She knows many of the students already from her work at a local elementary school. Parker’s excitement is contagious. She is excited to see the students, and they are excited to see her. 

The doors have been painted with black chalkboard paint, and the teachers have put their own mark on them using colored chalk to inspire.

Miracle, a student who wants to grow up and become a lawyer, is a Phillips Bulldog. If you haven’t seen our video about Miracle, take a look. I was there to welcome her — and all of our students — back to school. #iseeUbulldog #bestyearever

From new students to getting the classrooms ready to transportation to learning the school chants to preparing lesson plans to thousands of other details…

Welcome back to school, North Carolina.

Thank you to our teachers, principals, and all other school leaders.


Sunrise before the start of the school day.

Practicing the school chants.

Greeting Miracle and other students as they get off the bus.

All of the students at Phillips Middle gather in the cafeteria to start the school year.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.