PINEVILLE, N.C. -- Three fifth graders stand outside the front doors of Sterling Elementary school with their principal, Nancy Guzman, hours after the school day has begun, but they are not in trouble.
The students are dressed in white shirts and blue pants, the outfit of school ambassadors.
The three are part of a group which will act as hosts for the morning.
Photographers and people wearing suits also stand outside with the young hosts, all waiting for the arrival of a "very special guest."
"I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that the Secretary of Education would be coming to visit me here." said Guzman.
Within a few minutes Gov. Bev Perdue, CMS superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan greet the children, as the cameras whirl away.
Secretary Arne came to visit Sterling Elementary School in Pineville because he says Sterling is a success story, both for CMS and for schools across the country.
"Frankly, so much is going right here," said Arne, as he spoke to about a hundred board members, parents and other educators in the school's resource center.
Arne says it's important that we continue the gains made at schools like Sterling Elementary and the programs that are showing results in classroom.
"We just have tremendous confidence in this state," he said. "Courage, capacity and commitment to get dramatically better results in its schools."
Governor Perdue says that North Carolina must make sure that "all students are ready for college or work when they graduate school."
She went on to say that she is committed to making sure all children have the chance to succeed in our schools.
"Arne Duncan, and the department in Washington, is trying to give all of us the tools, but also the challenge to more with what we have,” says Perdue.
In the two years that Guzman has been at the helm of the underperforming school, Sterling Elementary has seen its test scores in math and reading increase dramatically.
She was one of the original seven principals that CMS choose to move into underperforming schools in order to replace underperforming principals.
The principals were then given the power to remove five underperforming teachers and bring along five teachers, one assistant principal and one counselor.
That decision now stands as an example of the district's staffing initiatives.
"We have really made great strides in increasing student achievement in just two years," says Guzman.
She thanks her staff for all the success in the classroom and says it's their motivation and attitude that have resulted in the gains.
Gorman said at one point in time the district only had 16 high-performing schools, now 108 of its 176 schools meet that classification.