News: CJ Exclusives

Wayne County school picked as second addition to Innovative School District

Carver Heights Elementary in Goldsboro might be the next school to join the Innovative School District if the State Board of Education approves the recommendation.

David Prickett, a spokesman for the ISD, confirmed Carver Heights was selected. The state education board will get the opportunity to approve or reject the recommendation at the November SBE meeting.

Created in 2016 by the General Assembly, the Innovative School District allows the state to try to turn around continuously low-performing schools. The law lets the ISD pick up to five schools and match them with an education management operator for five years.

Before adding Carver Heights, though, the state board and the ISD may have to overcome local opposition to the inclusion of Carver Heights, much as the ISD did with Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County, the first school to join the ISD.

Southside Ashpole just started its first school year under new management — Achievement for All Children, a TeamCFA-supported organization.

Since becoming part of the ISD, Southside Ashpole has seen many changes. The school got a new principal, Bruce Major, who served 12 years at Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte. Students at Southside Ashpole began the new year with school uniforms and a new academic curriculum.

Like Southside Ashpole, Carver Heights Elementary was picked because of its low academic scores. The Wayne County school earned an F on its 2016-17 N.C. school report card and has a 31 as its performance grade score. The school also failed to meet growth benchmarks.

An overwhelming 90 percent of students at Carver Heights are economically disadvantaged, compared with the state average of 49.2 percent. High levels of economically disadvantaged students tend to track with low school performance.

The news that Carver Heights may join the ISD has been met some pushback, as NC Policy Watch reports.

After Southside Ashpole was chosen, local school officials entertained the idea of closing Southside Ashpole instead of allowing it to become part of the ISD. Public Schools of Robeson County issued a joint resolution Nov. 9 with the Robeson County Board of Commissioners denouncing the ISD. But the Robeson County Board of Commissioners later said it never agreed to the resolution. The local school board eventually approved the transfer to the ISD with an unanimous vote.

“The pushback is similar to what we saw in Robeson County when we first selected Southside Ashpole as a school,” Prickett said. “A lot of the questions were the same and the concerns were similar. I think it’s a matter of educating the stakeholders and parents and the rest of the local community on what we’re about and what we’re trying to do and try to clarify some of the misconceptions that surround the ISD.”

Prickett said the ISD will spend the next few weeks talking with local residents and holding conversations with various groups which may oppose the ISD.

“We went through a very similar thing with Robeson. We’re talking about change and change is scary, especially when you might not understand what is happening,” Prickett said. “Those conversations really turned around that community and we anticipate the same thing will happen here.”

Wayne County Public Schools may face the same choice as the Public Schools of Robeson County did with Southside Ashpole. If the recommendation is approved by the state education board, WCPS would decide whether to go forward with the ISD or shutter Carver Heights for good.