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Cannon School News

Coach Jim Baker

Cannon School Interim Athletic Director Danny Scurlock announced June 6 that acclaimed Central Cabarrus head coach Jim Baker will lead the boys’ basketball program at the school, following the departure of Ché Roth in May.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Coach Baker join the Cannon community,” said Scurlock. “Jim’s commitment to investing in students and growing them to their fullest potential is exactly what Cannon is all about. He knows what winning looks like and he has the passion and vision to develop our student-athletes into champions.”

Baker is an experienced coach with a demonstrated history of success in men’s basketball. He comes to Cannon after spending seven seasons as the head coach at Central Cabarrus High School, where he transformed the basketball program into a state powerhouse. He most recently led the Vikings to winning the 2023 and 2024 NCHSAA 3A State Championships and a record 65 straight wins, culminating in a three-year record of 95-1. The Vikings have the longest active win streak in high school basketball nationally.

“I am excited to work alongside this incredible community in developing not only our basketball program, but also building our community outreach initiatives within the athletics department,” said Baker. “I immediately saw that Cannon’s mission and values perfectly aligned with my method of mentoring students and nurturing talent from within an institution.”

With roots in neighboring Rowan County, Baker was a well-known figure on the local basketball scene from an early age and played collegiately at Catawba College under Coach Sam Moir. After beginning his career as an assistant coach at Davidson College, Virginia Tech University, and Virginia Military Institute, Baker returned to Catawba College as its head coach in 1994. During his 20-year tenure at Catawba, Baker guided the Indians to the NCAA II Tournament nine times, won six South Atlantic Conference Championships, and won six South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championships. He produced three conference Players of the Year and three All-Americans, while graduating 60 of 64 seniors. During his time there, Baker recruited and worked with standout players like Dominick Reid and Kelvin Drakeford, both of whom work in Cannon’s basketball program today.

Baker’s coaching philosophy reflects Cannon’s culture of teaching valuable life skills that go beyond the classroom. “Coach Baker invests in his athletes on and off the court,” says Dominick Reid, assistant basketball coach at Cannon and a former Catawba College player coached by Baker. “He is tenacious in working with his team to achieve the goals set for the program. His teams play an exciting brand of basketball that can level up Cannon’s program into what we know is possible.”

Kelvin Drakeford, girls’ basketball program director at Cannon School, applauds his former coach’s relational approach to coaching. “Coach Baker is an outstanding coach and an even better man,” says Drakeford. “His core values align with Cannon School’s. This is shown through his coaching on the sideline, relationships with his current and former players, and with his family. I look forward to working with him.”

Baker comes from a strong sports family. His father Walt coached him in basketball at North Rowan High School, where the field house is named after him. His brother Chip is a recently retired baseball coach and director of operations at Florida State University. Baker and his wife Tina live in Concord and have four children, Jamie, Madison, Hannah, and Jacob.

He will begin his new position at Cannon School on August 1, where he will direct the boys’ basketball program and provide instructional support to students in Cannon’s middle and upper schools.

Yaks

Cannon’s Middle School robotics team Brainy Yaks recently competed at the international level and took home an award for their Innovation Project. Comprised of 6-10th graders, the team participated in the Western Edge First LEGO League Open held May 31-June 2 in Long Beach, California and was recognized as a Finalist for developing a program that helps the visually impaired community learn facial expressions.

This year’s First LEGO League challenge, themed ‘Masterpiece,’ required teams to merge art and technology to solve an identified problem. The Brainy Yaks, after insightful discussions with a representative from a school for the visually impaired, identified a significant challenge: blind students struggled in theatrical performances due to their inability to perceive and control their facial expressions. This barrier not only limited their participation in the arts but also affected their daily interactions and confidence.

In a focused effort to find a solution and bridge this issue successfully, the Brainy Yaks partnered with Visage Technologies, a provider of specialized face tracking, analysis, and recognition solutions. Visage Technologies’ face analysis software helped the team fully implement their idea by making it possible for ExpressED, their final product, to receive and analyze expressions along with providing feedback. This adaptation transformed the technology into a more inclusive tool, enabling ExpressED to analyze facial expressions and then provide real-time auditory feedback to the visually impaired community. While Visage Technologies’ software primarily provided visual feedback, the Brainy Yaks further adapted it to include audible feedback, tailor-made for the visually impaired.

The finished product ExpressED bridged the gap in theatrical arts for the blind by using FaceAnalysis’ emotion recognition software to teach facial expressions to visually impaired individuals. ExpressED users learn facial expressions through three main steps: 

  1. Choose the emotion you’d like to learn about.
  2. Get audio explanations on how to position certain parts of your face.
  3. Practice and master the emotions using a live face analysis demo. 

Beyond the stage, ExpressED has the potential to aid in professional presentations, everyday interactions, and boosting self-confidence. With plans to expand its reach and evolve into a mobile application, ExpressED stands as a testament to the limitless possibilities when technology is harnessed for social good. The program has now been used in over 30 countries and received over 10,000 hits in its first 30 days. To learn more, visit https://cdn.coredoes.dev/.

Special thanks to Visage Technologies for their assistance and innovative technologies. To read the full article on this partnership, visit https://visagetechnologies.com/case-studies/cannon-school-robotics/.

Commencement 2024

On Friday, May 24, the 26th graduating class of Cannon School officially joined the ranks of Cannon alumni when 101 seniors turned their tassels and joyfully threw their caps into the air.

Students and faculty gathered in the Gossage Building before the procession, sharing last-minute embraces and reflecting on shared memories from their time together. Commencement took place outside on Bryant Green and featured an accomplished line-up of speakers who spoke of the lasting impact their Cannon experience bestowed upon them.

As the graduates prepared to receive their diplomas, Interim Head of School Matt Gossage reminded them of the resilience and adaptability this class demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Upper School journeys started amid social distancing restrictions and Zoom meetings but ended under blue skies and with group hugs. “Class of 2024, you worked your way through change and challenge, and you prevailed,” Gossage stated. “Cannon should use your example of perseverance as a teaching tool for other classes.”

In his commencement address to the Class of 2024, Salutatorian Rayyan Syed ’24 reminded graduates to hold tight to their passions during their lifelong learning journeys. “Welcome whatever sets your heart ablaze. And welcome every obstacle, puzzle, and respite, along the way,” he urged his classmates. “We’ve all learned throughout the course of high school that the mind can reach capacity, but the heart can never be too full. Welcome the unconventional idea of educating our hearts first, before our minds.”

Co-Valedictorians Ashmi Trivedi ‘24 and Nicole Ratterman ’24 each encouraged the class to speak up to effect change in the world. Trivedi spoke of the immense power and privilege of using one’s voice to make a positive impact. “Each one of us possesses a unique perspective formulated by our experiences, triumphs, and tribulations,” Trivedi noted. “I urge you all to cast aside doubts, insecurities, or fears you may hold, advocate for yourself and others, listen with empathy, challenge the status quo, speak out against injustice, and embrace the diversity of perspectives surrounding us. For it is only when we share our stories can our voices be amplified, and we can truly make a difference in the world.”

Ratterman described the Class of 2024 as “natural leaders and leaders who found their voices through the things they were passionate about during their time here.” She urged graduates to “appreciate your story— every part of it – because no one will ever be able to share the same story, advice, lessons, or memories that you can.”

Laura Huffman, Upper School history teacher, delivered the commencement keynote speech. She shared with students how the legacy of her mother shaped her and lives on in her, much how Cannon’s legacy of values is carried forth through its graduates, like a parent-child relationship. “Once you graduate, Cannon will become your alma mater, a Latin term that means ‘nurturing mother,’” Huffman noted. “You will never truly lose the nurturing arms of your mother… ‘The last trace of her won’t be swept from the world until the last trace of me is.’ You will carry your Cannon experience with you, wherever you go, for the rest of your lives.”

Huffman advised students to keep the faith in their abilities, even when facing uncertainties, and asked them to consider the question: why not you? “Put yourself out there – for the opportunity, or the job, or internship, or the house, or the partner,” she urged graduates. “Why? Because you’re lovely and amazing and smart and most of all, kind…  other people will see that, too.”

Other highlights from commencement included a musical performance by Upper School orchestra members and a collective performance of the school’s alma mater “O, Cannon.” At the end of the celebration, the new Cannon alumni proudly threw their graduation caps into the air to mark the transition from student to graduate. Family members, friends, faculty, and staff gathered to greet the new grads with hugs and handshakes.

Congratulations to the Class of 2024! Cannon School will always welcome you home with open arms.

Ada Hicks '25

Ada Hicks ’25 has ambitious plans for the Spanish-speaking Cannon community heading into her senior year. She’s enthusiastic about working with fellow students and staff to continue growing El Periódico, the school’s first Spanish newspaper where students from all backgrounds can learn about and appreciate Spanish language and culture.

Hicks, who founded El Periódico in 2023, said the idea came to her while searching for a project she could sink her teeth into for her Independent Study Spanish class. Having studied Spanish since fourth grade, she says “I have always enjoyed writing in Spanish. I think it’s a great way to connect to the language.” Hicks proposed creating a student-led online newspaper entirely in Spanish to her teacher Claudia Velandia and the project took off.

Faculty and students were immediately receptive to the idea and responded enthusiastically when she put out a call for submissions last fall. The first issue of El Periódico was published in April 2024 and featured profiles of Spanish-speaking Cannon staff, travels abroad, cultural studies, and sports coverage. The response, Ada notes, was overwhelmingly positive, not only from the readers but also from the student journalists who participated. “It’s a really proud moment to present your published writing to your family,” she says.

Hicks hopes to continue to grow her mastery of Spanish by taking AP Spanish next year and plans to study abroad in college. She expects to publish at least two issues of El Periódico during her senior year and hopes to grow in readership and content submissions. To read the latest issue, visit https://el-periodico.weebly.com/.

Middle School Students

You are invited to attend Cannon's Virtual Open House. You will have opportunities to hear from the Heads of our Lower, Middle and Upper School divisions, virtually tour our campus, and discover why you belong here.

Once registered, you will receive an email containing a link to our Virtual Open House webpage. Visit as often as you would like!

Register for the Virtual Open House today!