ISD plans community meeting Friday

By Scott Bigelow - Staff writer
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ROWLAND — The state’s Innovative School District, which is seeking to take over Southside-Ashpole Elementary School, will hold a public meeting on Friday during which the public can get acquainted with the two entities vying to manage the school.

The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 to 3:45 p.m. in the New Hope United Methodist Church at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. St. in Rowland, but weather could cause a delay until another day. A decision on whether or not to reschedule the meeting was to be made late Wednesday evening, after The Robesonian published this edition because of an early deadline. The Robesonian will update the public in Friday morning’s edition and online Thursday.

At the meeting, two school operating companies that are seeking to manage the low-performing elementary school will make presentations. The bidders are Achievement for All Children of Forest City, a nonprofit, and The Romine Group of Utica, Michigan, for-profit.

The meeting comes just days before Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, during which its decision on whether to close the school or turn it over to the ISD will be made public.

On Friday, each school management organization will make a 30-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute discussion period with a panel comprised of local stakeholders and then take questions from the public. Also at the meeting will be a representative from SchoolWorks, a national company tasked with analyzing the proposals and making a proposal on which entity should take over the school.

The panel consists of Michelle Shooter, mayor of Rowland; the Rev. Shawn Mitchell, pastor of the New Hope United Methodist Church; Melissa Ocean, parent of a student at Southside-Ashpole; Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, school board member; Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, school board chair; Shanita Wooten, schools superintendent; and Ricky Harris, Robeson County manager.

Eric Hall, the ISD superintendent, said the purpose of meeting is to enable the local community to meet and discuss issues with the two entities.

“We are conducting the community panel in the interest of transparency and to gather input as we seek to identify a strong partner for the operation of Southside-Ashpole Elementary,” Hall said. “It is an open meeting, and we invite the public to attend. The public will be given the opportunity to submit questions as well.”

The school board’s two options were mandated by state statute. The takeover would span five years and serve as a model for turning around failing schools.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Rowland over the past few months, and it is clear to me that the general sentiment is that the students and the Rowland community will be best served by keeping the school open and allowing the ISD to partner with the Public Schools of Robeson County and the local community to improve student performance,” Hall said.

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By Scott Bigelow

Staff writer