LUMBERTON — A panel discussion with the two organizations that have submitted bids to manage Southside-Ashpole Elementary School has been scheduled for Jan. 5.
A time and place for the discussion will be announced later, according to Eric Hall, superintendent of North Carolina’s Innovative School District. The ISD faces a Jan. 12 make-or-break decision from the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education on taking control of the low-performing school in Rowland.
Hall said the panel will consist of seven to 11 members representing a broad spectrum of local stakeholders.
“This meeting is not required by state law,” Hall said in a recent interview. “I don’t believe we can go the state Board of Education in February with a recommendation of who will run the school without community input.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to make this process as transparent as possible.”
Two national charter school management organizations have submitted proposals to manage Southside-Ashpole, a school with an enrollment of about 200 students. SchoolWorks, a national educational consulting company, is analyzing the bids and will be represented at the panel discussion.
The bids, from the nonprofit Achievement for All Children of Forest City and the for-profit Romine Group of Utica, Mich., were received on Dec. 5. Nine organizations had expressed interest in running the school’s day-to-day operations.
Hall has confirmations from Rowland Mayor Michelle Shooter, the Rev. Shawn Mitchell and Melissa Ocean, parent of a Southside-Ashpole student, to join the panel. Hall said he will invite a member of the county school board, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, North Carolina Association of Educators, the county schools superintendent and other stakeholders.
“I consider this to be a big step in the process,” Hall said. “Both proposed operators will make presentations, and there will be a question-and-answer session.”
The Board of Education is set to decide at its Jan. 12 meeting to accept the five-year takeover or to close the school. Those are the choices mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly when it created the Innovative School District as a model to turn around low-performing schools.
Southside-Ashpole would be the first of five schools across the state to be run by the ISD. By definition, it will not be a charter school because management cannot select students.
Hall has met several times with the school board, the school community and Rowland residents. After initial resistance to the takeover, leaders and residents of Rowland have asked the school board to keep the school open.
The school board passed a resolution unanimously opposing the takeover, but the county Board of Commissioners did not sign off on it. The resolution did not call for the school’s closure.
The proposals and budgets from The Romine Group and Achievement for All Children are online. For more information about the panel discussion, contact the ISD at 919-807-3435 or by email at email@example.com.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow may be reached at 910-644-4497 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.