The vice president of the Elkin City Schools Foundation is also one of the first two major contributors.
Jim Westbrook, who served on the Elkin City Schools Board of Education for 16 years (from 1996 to 2012), said, “The purpose of my original donation was to help get it publicized. That’s our goal right now is to make sure that the word is out there, that people become aware of its significance.
“We’re going to start having much more presence,” he said. “We’re going to start via social media and school and social events, getting the word out about our purpose.”
Money raised by the foundation money will be used for continued advancement of academics, art and technology in the school system, Westbrook said, as well as to underwrite educational programs for which state funding is no longer available. “Our successes are very evident and lengthy,” he said, “and I want us to maintain that.”
Westbrook, who grew up in central Pennsylvania, said it was a job opportunity that led him and his wife, Deborah, a graphic artist, to Elkin in 1981. “Then we also found out what an unbelievable place it is,” he said. “There’s an overwhelming sense of community, great school system, very dedicated people … It’s a perfect town.”
Their two sons, Elliot and Cooper, attended the Elkin City Schools, Westbrook said, “and have done well as a result. It’s just a superb school system. It’s where you’d want your children to attend.”
Elliot is a career National Guardsman in Louisburg, and Cooper works in customer service sales and the performing arts in Washington, D.C.
Every time new statewide rankings are released, Westbrook said, Elkin City Schools are typically in the top three or four percent. The school systems which usually rank higher are university-centered communities like Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Watauga County, he said.
Through the years, Westbrook said Elkin has earned a strong reputation for having one of the best school systems in the state. “People are always asking me what makes Elkin schools so successful,” he said.
Among the factors he said he thinks contribute to the success of the school system are its small size, dedicated superintendent and staff and the fact that it’s a community school system.
“It’s just an outstanding testimonial to the Elkin community,” Westbrook said. “That’s why we very frequently hear of people moving to town because of the school system. The Elkin community has historically been very dedicated to supporting the school system.
“It’s a very integral part of the community.”
Westbrook said it was the strong belief in the importance of education instilled in him by his parents that led him to run for the Elkin City Schools Board of Education. “They were raised during the Great Depression,” he said, “and realized the importance of an education to being a well-rounded person and to being successful.”
It was probably intimidating to his sons for him to be on the school board so long, Westbrook said, “but now that they’re out, they very much appreciate what I did for them.”
Westbrook works full-time as a physician’s assistant in the Forsyth Regional Medical Center emergency department and part-time with Elkin Pediatric and Adult Medicine.
Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.