News: CJ Exclusives

Carver Heights will join Innovative School District despite community objections

The State Board of Education voted — albeit reluctantly — to approve the transfer of Carver Heights Elementary into the Innovative School District.

The vote Thursday, Dec. 6, comes with stipulations.

The state education board, by statute, had to select a school this year. Legislators approved the ISD program in 2016 and require a total of five continuously low-performing schools to be selected. Since the ISD selected Carver Heights in October, Wayne County Public Schools, the Goldsboro community, and Carver Heights officials have vocally opposed the decision.

Concerns have ranged from claims the decision was based on faulty data to arguments the timeline to select the next ISD school is too short.

The issue of the timeline was raised again, with SBE member Wayne McDevitt calling the selection process unfair.

The ISD must select the next school from a qualifying list shortly after school performance grades are released in September. The SBE must then approve the recommendation by Dec. 15, and an operator must be chosen no later than Feb. 15.

Several education board members echoed the sentiment made Wednesday by SBE member J.B. Buxton, who said the ISD selection is a competition no one wants to win.

Despite the concerns, the board voted to approve the ISD recommendation, but not before stipulating the ISD must take every legal avenue to “respect, uphold, and maintain” the positive changes under way at Carver Heights. Additionally, the board voted to direct the ISD to engage with WCPS, families, students, parents, educators, and the community when making decisions the affect the school.

Principal of the year Tabari Wallace said the community has to be more involved with the ISD.

James Ford said the move feels like a takeover for the Carver Heights community, no matter how the ISD is described.

SBE members raised the possibility that WCPS could become the ISD operator for Carver Heights. Senate Bill 469, a technical correction bill making its way through the General Assembly, would allow a local education board to act as an operator for an ISD school.

If the bill fails to pass, Carver Heights stands to be transferred to an outside operator for a five-year contract. Southside Ashpole, the first school to be transferred to the ISD, is run by Achievement for All Children, a charter school operator. Carver Heights could have a similar setup. The state education board has until Feb. 15 to select an operator for the Goldsboro school.

“If the board picks Carver Heights, we own it, it’s our school,” SBE Chair Eric Davis said. “Not to take anything away from Wayne County, but we’re in the game with you 100 percent.”