Decision could come today on who will manage Southside

Staff report
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LUMBERTON — A decision could come today on which management entity will lead Southside-Ashpole Elementary School for five years beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Eric Hall, the superintendent of the North Carolina Innovative School District, of which Southside is its first and only school, is expected to tell the North Carolina Board of Education his recommendation between two entities that have made a bid. The state board has the final say.

The Board of Education of the Public Schools of Robeson County in early January voted to turn over management of Southside-Ashpole to the Innovative School District. Southside was the lone school out of more than 2,600 in North Carolina selected for the pilot program, a Republican initiative to try to get better student performance out of low-performing schools.

The issue was debated for months late last year, with the school board initially protesting the takeover try. Hall, however, was able to muster community support to change minds, but the school board had few options: Close the school and transfer its students to other schools in the system, or surrender the school.

“This process did start off rough in September,” said Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, the board member who represents the Rowland, at the meeting during which the board voted unanimously to turn the school over. She made the motion for that to happen.

“I changed my mind several times, but I want to thank Dr. Hall for the excellent job he’s done communicating with us, and I want to thank the school board for working so well together,” Fairley-Ferebee said.

The final two bidders are Achievement for All Children, of Forest City, N.C., and The Romine Group, of Utica, Michigan, which both operate several charter schools. Both are nonprofits.

Hall on Jan. 6 led a community meeting in Rowland during which the entities were questioned about their plans and also were invited to make a presentation on how they would turn the school around.

The management entity will hire a principal for the school, who will then hire staff. Staff will be paid by the state. Current staff are not guaranteed their jobs, but can apply.

The school will operate much like a charter school, except that it will serve the existing student body. It will have flexibility in hiring as well as the school calendar and how many hours school will be in session each day.

SchoolWorks, a national consulting firm on education issues, was represented at the community meeting and provided input. The recommendation, however, will come from Hall.

Hall has said if he is not pleased with the final two bidders, he could reopen the process.

The ISD will partner with the county schools for food service, transportation, maintenance and possibly other services.

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Staff report