COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BERTIE COUNTY SCHOOLS FEATURED IN NEW DOCUMENTARY
Bertie County is being thrust into the national spotlight with the release of a new documentary that focuses on how architectural design can transform public education. Now, 9 On Your Side is digging deeper into the film and the feud it caused with the local school board.Back in 2010, then-superintendent Chip Zullinger brought in two architects from California, Matt Miller and Emily Pilloton, to revamp the curriculum at Bertie Early College. Their goal: to teach students how to design, prototype and build projects that have a positive social impact. The film, directed by Patrick Creadon, captures the year-long experimental class dubbed "Studio H", focused on design initiatives in humanity, habitats, health and happiness. Students start small by designing and building corn hole boards and chicken coops. Their creations culminate with a student-designed-and-constructed 2,000 square foot farmer's market for the town of Windsor."It was so exciting because I had never seen something like that come to life," recalls former Bertie student Erick Bowen, who’s now enrolled at ECU. Windsor Mayor Jim Hoggard says the market launched several part-time businesses and inspires people to shop locally. They’re steps he says make a big difference in a county that ranks among the poorest in the state."It’s an economic engine and I’m very pleased with that,” Hoggard says. “I'd love to have 100 more projects just like it."But Studio H almost ended as quickly as it began, caught in the middle of a bitter battle between Zullinger and the Bertie County School Board. Board members accused him of misrepresenting certain issues and violating board policies before forcing him to resign.