Like many other New Hanover County citizens, I was blindsided when New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust and his administrative staff made a sudden announcement immediately after last Thanksgiving that the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley (commonly called “Mosley”) is being closed and the students enrolled there will be forced to transfer to other schools throughout the county.
Then last Wednesday, at a joint meeting between the New Hanover County Commission (of which I am a member) and the NHC Board of Education, Dr. Foust acknowledged, after I asked him, that one of the possibilities following Mosley’s closure would be to replace it with a “newcomers school.” I want to make it very clear, as a New Hanover County commissioner, that I want no part of either proposal. I write to express my full support for keeping Mosley open for all its enrolled students as well as my full opposition to opening up a newcomers school in Mosley’s place or anywhere elsewhere in our County.
Mosley is a one-of-a-kind public school in New Hanover County that offers custom-tailored education to local students who require special learning. Newcomers schools may be called schools, but they are more akin to migrant resettlement and assimilation facilities. The purported mission of these facilities is not to educate students in the traditional sense but to allegedly help entire immigrant and refugee families integrate into the local community where they are relocated. Such facilities certainly aren’t anything like Mosley and would be an entirely new type of institution run by our county’s education system.
My view on all this is straightforward. New Hanover County Schools should prioritize one thing above all: the students who live in New Hanover County and attend our schools. The undeniable truth is that a newcomers school is outside the purview of our education system and would rapidly become a magnet to migrant families from outside of the county. My concerns about a newcomers school becoming such a magnet are not imagined or unwarranted. They are very real.
According to a WUNC article published on Oct. 11, 2023, Guilford County Schools elected to pioneer the newcomers school concept in North Carolina. Guilford County has subsequently experienced a “rapid influx of immigration” and has become “a hub for refugee resettlement.”
What happened following this growth in refugee resettlement in Guilford County? Well, another newcomers school was just opened there last October. Notably, a little over a month later, on Nov. 17, 2023, representatives from New Hanover County Schools went to Guilford County to visit Guilford County’s latest newcomers school. Then, just two weeks later, New Hanover County Schools administration publicly announced they were shutting Mosley down. Our system’s administration has since publicly acknowledged that the newcomers school option for New Hanover County would be modeled partly on what Guilford County has done.
While Dr. Foust has insisted, including at the joint meeting last week, that Mosley has failed to meet expectations, I don’t agree, based on what I’ve seen and heard. Indeed, if you simply listen to Mosley students talk about their experiences, you will hear that the school has been tremendously successful from their perspective. If there are ways to improve the program at Mosley, then let’s discuss them. But any attempt to downplay Mosley’s record is a disservice to the school’s students and faculty.
After all these revelations, I now have serious questions about how long any plans to close Mosley and open a newcomers school have been in the works, especially after hearing Dr. Foust’s staff disclose that this plan has been on the table since as early as 2021. I hope the Board of Education will explore these questions and get clear answers. I am also gravely concerned that Dr. Foust and his administration unilaterally decided to announce the closure of Mosley without seeking the Board of Education’s prior approval. Discussions and decisions of this magnitude should be had and made by our elected Board of Education, not by staff behind closed doors. Furthermore, the public should always have the opportunity to weigh in every step of the way.
In sum, my position is that any plan or consideration to shutdown Mosley and replace it with a “newcomers school” is flat out wrong and should be opposed by all members of our community. Mosley has been a remarkable success and meets a critical need that is not currently served elsewhere in our school system. Mosley has been a life-changing school for many students. It has been heartbreaking to listen to students, parents, and community members plead with New Hanover County Schools to save Mosley. But it doesn’t have to be closed. It isn’t too late to save Mosley. In my role as a county commissioner, I am committed to funding Mosley so that all students currently enrolled will have the opportunity to graduate from their beloved school.
New Hanover County still has scars from when Williston Senior High School was closed, and I refuse to allow another shortsighted school closure to create new scars for generations to come. And, as the county searches for solutions to critical issues like school capacity, traffic, infrastructure, and affordable housing, the introduction of a newcomers school in our county will only make finding those solutions impossible. To that end, I call on all members of our community to join me in protecting the students at Mosley and stopping all plans for any newcomers schools in New Hanover County.