The students of East Rutherford Middle School (ERMS) come from rural communities with a population of 9,992. The current enrollment of the school is 580.
Numerous textile and manufacturing plants dominated Rutherford County’s economy from the late 1800s until recent years. In fact, in 1990, 48% of the jobs in Rutherford County were in the manufacturing sector. The percentage of employment in manufacturing dropped to 35% in 2002, but was still a significantly higher influence in the local economy compared to 15% of the workforce employed in the manufacturing industry in 2010 (North Carolina Employment Security Commission, 2010). The closing of many manufacturing plants in Rutherford County throughout the past two decades has caused hardships for families. Previously, sixty percent of our students that were served by RCS qualified for free or reduced lunch. Starting in 2014-2015 all students receive free breakfast and lunch as a result of the Community Eligibility Provision Program (CGP) offered through the USDA. Also, we started offering a 2nd chance breakfast for students who missed the first breakfast; this program began in the 2017-2018 school year. According to the report referenced above, the median hourly wage for all occupations in Rutherford County in 2011 was $13.20. The unemployment rate for the county has decreased from 14.8% (2011, North Carolina Employment Security Commission, 2011) to 4.8% (2018, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Rutherford county moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2. Tier 1 counties are generally the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are generally the least economically distressed. Rutherford County’s total population is 66,826 (2018) which is divided by 37% living in urbanized clusters, 1.3% living on farms, and 61.7% living in rural, non-farm classified areas. There has been a 2% increase (79% to 81%) in the county’s population 25 years of age or older have attained at least a high school diploma, and 3% increase (14.6% to 17.3%) have earned at least a Bachelor’s degree (U.S Census, July 2018).
Rutherford County’s motto of “Small Town Friendly” describes the county well. People smile, wave, and speak when you pass by them in the grocery store or on the street.
This rural county is continuing to adapt to the changes brought about by technology. The construction of a Facebook data center, the completion of the Public Safety Fiber Network, and the development of the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center have helped usher Rutherford County into the twenty-first century, providing the necessary tools and infrastructure for the county’s citizens to be globally competitive (Miller, 2010; Golden LEAF, 2009).