Southside Ashpole Elementary is one step closer to having an Innovative School District operator.

Monday, March 19, ISD Superintendent Eric Hall recommended Achievement for All Children — a charter management organization — to operate the low-performing school during a brief conference call. State Board of Education members will vote on the recommendation at the April monthly meeting.

The Robeson County school was chosen last November as the first school to join the ISD, formally known as the Achievement School District. In 2016, lawmakers set up the new program, which would place low-performing elementary schools under charter or education management for five years.

Only two groups applied for the ISD operator position: Achievement for All Children and the Romine Group, a charter school management group based in Michigan.

Hall was expected to make a recommendation during the February SBE meeting, but opted instead to delay the decision and gather more information on the two applicants.

Schoolworks, an education consulting group, reviewed and evaluated the two applicants. The applications, five-year budget plans, third-party evaluations, and additional information on both AAC and TRG are available on the ISD website.

AAC is located in Forest City and is closely linked to TeamCFA, a national network of public charter schools. TeamCFA currently operates 13 public charter schools in North Carolina and is AAC’s proposed curriculum partner.

“They show a very strong commitment to implement a comprehensive system of support to serve the needs of all students at Southside Ashpole,” Hall said. “They have a strong focus on improving outcomes for achievement for the students at Southside.”

Hall said AAC has committed to work closely with the local community and proposes a rigorous, research-based curriculum.

“I am confident of their curriculum plan as presented,” Hall said. “I expect that it will not only help us to move forward and deliver high outcomes for students, but it will also serve not only the students but the parents throughout the educational experience for their children at the school.”

Hall also pointed out some lingering concerns with AAC, which include finalizing a contract between AAC and TeamCFA. Another concern is a lack of specificity in how AAC will serve at-risk students and deliver specialized programs. According to Schoolworks’ evaluation, AAC didn’t initially include money for psychological services. The revise budget includes contracted support services, but Schoolworks says it is unclear whether AAC set aside enough money to meet students’ needs.

Hall said these areas need to be addressed before April, when the board will make its final decision.