News: Quick Takes

Innovative School District shrinks list to four candidates

Four schools remain candidates for the Innovative School District, but that list no longer includes Lakewood Elementary in Durham County and R.B. Dean Elementary in Robeson County.

The final four, ISD Superintendent Eric Hall announced during October’s State Board of Education meeting, are:

  • Durham Public Schools: Glenn Elementary
  • Nash-Rocky Mount Schools: Williford Elementary
  • Northampton County Schools: Willis Hare Elementary
  • Robeson County Schools: Southside Ashpole Elementary

The ISD grants charter or education management operators control over some of the state’s lowest performing schools for five years. After their contract ends, control of the schools returns to the local districts, unless the local school board, ISD superintendent, and state board choose another option.

Student performance at these schools rank among the lowest 5 percent in the state. In the four remaining schools, three of four students aren’t considered academically proficient.

“We’re seeing proficiency rates that are quite concerning,” Hall told board members.

In November, Hall will recommend to the education board two schools for the 2018-19 school year, and the board will decide on them the next month. Three more schools will be recommended for the program next year.

The program isn’t a takeover but rather a partnership between local school districts and charter school operators, Hall said during the meeting. He said the public schools chosen aren’t becoming charters.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there about the Innovative School District and about the strategies that we are trying to adopt,” Hall said.

The Durham County Board of Education plans to fight the board’s decision, should it affect that district.

“You cannot put an arbitrary grade or test score on our school. We educate children in Durham,” Durham County Board of Education chairman Mike Lee told WRAL. “You cannot degrade public schools and then point and complain about the performance that you’re seeing.”

Schools that fail to comply will have to close for good.

“It is a tough conversation,” Hall said. “While it is unfortunate that we have a situation where we have to have this ISD model, what it is doing is creating conversations across the state that people are now starting to engage in saying, ‘What can we do aside from putting a school on a list year after year after year without saying something else is needed?’”